Friday, October 16, 2009

Alexander Cockburn hopes you're really, really stupid

Alexander Cockburn, we're not stupid.

I was a huge fan of CounterPunch for years and years. That changed in 2008 because Alex wouldn't play fair. He talks about the need for fairness and dissent. But in 2008, he made it CounterPunch's mission to rip Hillary Clinton apart with lies in order to help gift Barack with the nomination. Barack's trash. I knew Barack was trash. I knew he was a liar.

If Alex is so smart he would have already known that as well.

But Alex isn't that smart.

Today, for example, he thinks he can lie to us.

In his latest column, he's praising Hillary for the 'vast right-wing conspiracy' remark. Does he really think we're that stupid? Or maybe CounterPunch has run off that so many readers that Alex feels he has a clean slate?

He repeatedly mocked Hillary over that and not just in the 90s. You can look up the 2003 release of Sidney Blumenthal's The Clinton Wars and find Alex still getting his jabs in.

It's ridiculous and it's shameful but that is Alex Cockburn today.

As C.I. likes to point out, that entire damn family went nutty.

No one was worse than Alex and most days I let it slide. I'll read CP and hope this is the day (CP -- how appropriate, Alex) that he gets it together again.

Humpty Dumpty Cock Burn never does.

I'm no longer in the mood.

He likes to pretend he was a critic of Barack. He was no such thing during the first part of 2008. While Hillary stood a chance at the nomination, he made sure she was ripped apart daily and he made sure Barack got nothing but praise.

I'm sick of it and I'm sick of closet cases. Alex, you once wrote a piece on Nation cruise and noted the readership for the magazine. Why are you unable to offer the same details on your own life that you are on others?


Equally stupid is Alex's efforts to encourage Barack to take on Fox "News." I'll assume that idiocy springs from the fact that Rupert Murdoch fired Alex from the Wall St. Journal?

It certainly doesn't result from any reality. Nor is his praise of Anita Dunn reality based. Check out Bob Somerby from yesterday on Anita's examples of bias. They, she sobs, fact-checked an administration guest on Chris Wallace. The guest appeared and the next Sunday Chris Wallace fact-checked the guest. On air! The horror.

I actually happen to think the press is already under enough assault from the US government without encouraging the White House to engage in a partisan war. As for Alex's idiotic assertion that the press isn't in Barack's pocket (read the Kennedy and Reagan sentence and grasp that if they didn't need a press feud because the press loved them, he's stating that Barack's not loved), what world does he live in. Oh, that's right, one that takes his closeted-lesbian niece Laura Flanders seriously.

Oh, Alex, you may have a career in comedy.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, October 16, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, US House Rep Harry Mitchell asks a VA rep "How are we supposed to believe the assurances you're offering today?," an attack on a Sunni mosque results in multiple deaths, bridge attacks are also back, Moqtada al-Sadr performs a miracle by turning 250,000 people into 1.5 million, and more.

Yesterday the House Committee on Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity met to address the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin called the hearing to order and noted that US House Reps Vic Snyder and Harry Mitchell were joining the committee (she asked for the Subcommittee's consent, which was given) and then explained, "Today we seek to administer our oversight jurisdiction on the VA's implementation efforts of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. I expect that this hearing will provide the VA the opportunity to update us on recent actions taken to address delays in distribution of education benefits and its plan moving forward to ensure the same mistakes do not occur in the future."

In his opening remarks, the VA's Keith M. Wilson stated that the VA was unable to find an outside contractor due to a low number of bids so the computer issues were handled in-house by VA's IT. He declared, "Post-911 GI Bill claims currently require manual processing using four separate IT systems that do not interface to each other. When an application or enrollment certification is received, the documents are captured into The Image Management System (TIMS). The documents are routed electronically to a claims examiner for processing. The claims examiner reviews the documents in TIMS and determines the student's eligibility, entitlement and benefit rate using the Front End Tool [FET]. The FET is used to calculate and store student information to support the Post-9/11 GI Bill claims adjudication process. However, the FET has limited capability for processing the multiple scenarios encountered in determining eligibility and entitlement under the new program." If that was an attempt at an explanation for the delay or even just a whine, the Pity Party's already seated and he needs to join others at the VA table -- the VA designed the system and if it doesn't work (so far it hasn't worked well) that falls back on the VA.

Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin The issue of outreach prior to the fall semester starting starting, we have repeatedly heard from veterans believing that their housing allowance would be issued to them at the beginning of the month or that this would be paid "upfront." What is creating this disconnect?

Keith M. Wilson: We've heard that as well. First let me clarify in terms of how it is paid. The monthly housing benefit is paid in the same manner as VA education benefits are paid under the same existing program -programs in that it is paid in arrays at the end of the month following the month of attendance. There -- and quite honestly this is speculation -- the tuition payment is paid to the school at the beginning of the year, the housing allowance -- I'm sorry the book and stipend allowance is paid to the student at the beginning of the semester. I think it would be logical for some individuals to make a connection between the manner in which those payments were made and the manner in which they would presume that the housing allowance would be paid.

Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin Before recognizing other members and we'll have another round of questions for everybody, yesterday at our full committee meeting when Secretary [Eric] Shinseki was testifying, we heard from several members that were proposing legislative fixes to make your job easier in the future because as you described it in your written testimony, your oral testimony today, I know you're laying the groundwork for your long-term IT solution but you're dealing with legacy systems and we had the recession effecting states and their decisions, and so some factors and some variables which, in a perfect world, we would have liked to have anticipated all of them and had you prepare for every possible scenario. But we do know that, uh, many members are interested in streamlining the administration of all the education benefits. I don't know if you're prepared to say which legislative fixes you'd endorse today or if you're starting to give those thoughts but any suggestions?

Keith M. Wilson: We are giving that a lot of thought. Clearly there are issues that have been discussed that conceptually are very appealing. Paying housing allowances in advance has been talked about as a possibility. Delinking the tuition payment with the schools with the need to get the housing payment out as quickly as possible to students, etc. The -- and I would -- I would agree that those are appealing from a conceptual perspective. The challenge I believe will be making sure that any legislative fixes are immediately implementable, taking into account the-the issues that you rightly brought up considering the legacy systems that we have in place, the limitations in our short term initiative that we are currently essentially locked into process claims. One thing we absolutely don't want to do is make the situation worse.

No, Wilson did not take accountability. Setting aside
Wednesday's testimony to Congress when Shinseki revealed that the VA always knew the system wasn't ready -- which Wilson apparently thought he could ignore, if there are problems with schools or veterans for this new program, who does that fall back on? It's a new program. VA has a million and one excuses for their 'computer' problems. What's the excuse for any misunderstandings? The VA has a budget they are supposed to be spending to get the word out.

And what about when the VA gave out the wrong information? That was pursued at one point in the hearing.

US House Rep Harry Teague: You know we've had a problem with some contradictory information coming out. You know when the checks didn't go out the first of the month, well then we issued the letter that they would be cut on Friday the second. And then there was also some letters sent out that if, like in places like New Mexico, it's 320 miles to the only hospital and the only facility in the state that they would be going to some of the larger universities around and handing the checks out. That didn't happen. At the same time, they got a website up where they could go to but we didn't get that information to people. So I was just wondering if we're streamlining our communications within our office there so that we don't continually jerk the veterans around and have some of them misinformed.

Keith Wilson: I understand your concerns, Congressman. And we-we have, I believe, we have a better process in place to make sure that we are communicating more effectively on that. The issues that we are dealing with was trying to get -- make sure we had something out the gate and-and informed our student population prior to 10-1 [October 1st] -- around the 10-1 time frame. The 10-1 was important because most folks were at that point where they were due their first housing allowance payments. .We thought it was important to get something up as soon as possible. We were dealing -- and continued to deal -- at the time of that press release, with some technical issues concerning how we get to the other locations beyond our 57 regional offices. We very early on wanted a desire to spread this out as much as possible. We felt that the most effective way of doing this was leveraging technology. Taking into account that we've got technology students at thousands of locations across the country. We felt the most effective way of uh getting those folk that weren't within distance of a regional office was to allow technology and so that was the driver for our decision on the follow up --

US House Rep Harry Teague: Yes and I agree with that and I think that the webpage is working good. It's just that during that week prior to that, when I was at New Mexico State University, they were expecting someone to be there with the checks and then, on Friday when there's not, that's when we find out about the webpage.

Keith Wilson: I understand.

US House Rep Harry Teague: Another thing I don't know, I guess it's a misunderstanding on their part and I guess I was wondering where the information came from that so many of the veterans thought that they were going to be paid in advance both for tuition and housing?

Keith Wilson: I-I-I uh -- The advance payment issue has been troubling. We have had, in our outreach material, going back to the winter period -- early spring, winter period, information providing the student experience. In other words, what would the student experience. We have worked very hard to make individuals understand when they will be paid. The example that we used was for the individual who would be having their first day of class toward the end of August, come September 1st, they were only eligible for a partial housing allowance for those couple of days of attendance in September followed by the first full housing allowance paid October 1st. For whatever reason, and again, I would be speculating that didn't seem to be fully understood. Largely it did because most of our current participants are transferees from the Montgomery GI Bill and this past benefit is paid in the same manner but we didn't get that word out to everybody and there were pockets of communication and we need to continue to work hard on that issue.

US House Rep Harry Teague: You know, and you brought up another thing there with the transferring from the Montgomery GI Bill to the Post-9/11 GI Bill and sometimes before they understand the full benefits of both programs, people have committed the Post-9/11 GI Bill and then found out that it really didn't have as many benefits for them individually as the Montgomery GI Bill but they can't switch back. Is there anything that we can do there where they can reconsider if -- through oversight on their part or misinformation -- they want to go back to the Montgomery Bill?

Keith Wilson: The structure of the Post-9/11 GI Bill calls for an irrevocable decision so currently that's a statutory requirement -- is an individual has to revoke, there's no mechanism in the statute allow -- that would allow a person to unrevoke the irrevocable election. Our-our mechanism by which we have been educating people on that is making sure that they can understand the an -- the questions that need to be answered. The answers to the questions themselves are going to be unique to each individual person. You're absolutely right for raising this concern. Individuals do have to be well armed, they have to know what questions to ask and our efforts have been designed towards ensuring they can answer those questions.

A friend who is an Iraq War veteran and a veterans' advocate was at yesterday's hearing and wanted it pointed out how the VA is taking no accountability for all of this. He points out what a huge, huge amount of information is required for all of this -- for deciding to go with the Montgomery GI Bill or the Post-9/11 GI Bill just for starters. At this site, we repeatedly referred to the VFW which offered advocates by phone who would explain what was going on and that's because the VFW is going to know what's going on, is going to have explored every facet. And people who called the VFW got information they could use -- the VFW provided that service at no charge -- in determining which plan would be best for them and details of each. But why does the VFW have to do that? It's great that they did. Praise to them for it. They did a wonderful job. But this is the VA's program. This is a government program run by a government department. It shouldn't require a veterans service organization -- which is what the VFW is -- to help veterans sort through the maze.

That was the VA's responsibility, not the VFW's. (And to be clear, the friend I'm speaking is a member of the VFW but his advocacy is not with/for the VFW. It would be fine if it were and if it it were, I would identify him as such.) The VA did not live up to its obligations. A new program is run by the VA. Guess whose job it is to explain that program? The VA's. No one else has that obligation. Many veterans service organizations took it upon themselves to assist their members and that's wonderful. But that's the bonus, that's the added detail. The VA is not supposed to count on or rely on veterans service organizations to do their job.

The VA did not do their job and this is why there is confusion now. The VA has put the blame off on colleges, it's pushed the blame off on individuals. It is a VA program. The VA is responsible for administering it and administering it properly. Now anyone can put a program in place and have it fall apart. That's, in fact, what the VA did. But their role also includes "administering it properly" and that is what they did not do and what they have not taken accountability for. Once Congress made the program law, it was in the VA's court and they were responsible. Having made it a law, the Congress repeatedly asked the VA what they could do to help? Did they need more employees? Did they need more money? What did they need? And the VA led the Congress to believe -- as they led the veterans and as they led the American people to believe -- that there was no problem. But Wednesday, truth emerged when Eric Shinseki informed Congress that the VA always knew there would be a problem, that he had hired an outside consultant who had backed up internal opinions that it wasn't manageable. And until Wednesday, the VA never informed Congress of this problem.

Last night,
Rebecca noted a press release from US House Rep Glen Nye's office about additional questions Nye has submitted to Shinseki since the hearing:

If internal estimates showed that there would be delays in processing tuition payments, why did the Department of Veterans Affairs not seek additional resources or support prior to the start of the academic year?

Nye has additional points and other strong statements but that question above is the main one and it needs to be answered.

US House Rep Harry Mitchell grasps that. Let's jump into his exchange from yesterday. He began by noting that the VA had not yet given out Fiscal Year 2009 bonuses and he strongly suggested that before any "plush bonuses" were handed out, the VA think long and hard about the veterans struggling to receive the benefits that they have earned.

US House Rep Harry Mitchell: Mr. Wilson, this is not your first appearance before this subcommittee. You have appeared before it several times since the GI Bill was signed into law to keep the committee members apprised of the VA's efforts to implement the GI Bill. And you offered assurances that the VA would be ready by August 1st. You even brought in a detailed timeline to show us how the VA would be ready by August 1st. In February, [John] Adler of this Committee asked if the VA needed more tools to accomplish the goal of program implementation and you responded by stating, "This legislation itself came with funding. This funding at this point has adequately provided us with what we need for implementing payments on August 1, 2009." If this legislation provided you with what you needed then why did you go to the VA -- or then where did you and the VA go wrong in meeting the implementation goal? So I'd like to ask two questions. How are we supposed to believe the assurances you're offering today? And, two, knowing how interested Congress is in implementing the GI Bill, once you knew you were running into problems, why didn't you let us know? Why did we have to first hear about it from veterans and read about it in the Army Times?

Keith Wilson: You rightly call us out in terms of not providing timely service to all veterans. We acknowledge that and uh are working as hard as humanly possible uh to make sure that we are meeting those goals. Uh the timeline that we provided to the subcommittee uh I believe was largely met uh in terms of our ability to generate payments on the date that we were required to deliver the first checks -- first payments did go out August 3rd. Uh there were a couple of significant challenges uh that we had not anticipated. One was uh the volume of work created by the increase in applications for eligibility determinations that did not translate into student population dropping off other programs. But we had significantly more work in our existing programs than we would have expected to have to maintain going into the fall enrollment. One of the other primary challenges that we have responded to is uh when we began our ability to use the tools that were developed uh to implement the program in the short term. Uh May 1st is when we began using those tools and it was very clear to us from the get-go that even accounting for our understanding that they weren't perfect, we underestimated the complexity and the labor-intensive nature of what needed to be done. We responded by hiring 230 additional people to account for that.

US House Rep Harry Mitchell: And I read all of that in your testimony. My point is, once you knew you were running into problems, why didn't you come back to us? We heard it first by veterans and through the Army Times that you were having problems.

Keith Wilson: [Heavy, audible sigh] It has been our desire from the get-go to make sure that the subcommittee has been informed all along. If we did not meet those expectations, then we need to be held accountable for that. We provided information that we had at each of the hearings and we have had a long standing mechanism by which we have provided updates to staff on a regular basis. Uh we did notify the Subcommittee at the time of the hiring of the 230 additional people.

Mitchell was obviously not impressed with the response. They had to break to take votes. But everyone should grasp how offensive Wilson's answer is: "If we did not meet those expectations, then we need to be held accountable for that." If? Veterans were in danger of losing their homes, some of those veterans were parents, some were single-parents. They were not getting their checks will into October (and some still haven't gotten their checks). Did Congress hear that and say, "Sure, fine, you do whatever you want." No. Congress would not have taken that attitude and Congress was not informed. There is no "if." Congress was not informed of the problems and Democrat or Republican, every member of the Veterans Affairs Committee -- in Committee meetings and Subcommittee meetings throughout 2008 -- has asked the VA (a) do they need any other resources and (b) please come to us immediately if you have any problems.

There is no "if." The VA did not meet expectations. I'll go further. They lied -- and that includes Wilson -- to the Congress. Repeatedly. Shinseki testified on Wednesday that when he stepped into his role as VA Secretary at the start of this year, he knew. He was told that the VA could not meet the expectations. He then went and hired an outside consultant to determine whether or not that was true. The consultant determined the same thing. Shinseki: "And in order to do that, we essentially began as I arrived in January, uh, putting together the plan -- reviewing the plan that was there and trying to validate it. I'll be frank, when I arrived, uh, there were a number of people telling me this was simply not executable. It wasn't going to happen. Three August was going to be here before we could have everything in place. Uh, to the credit of the folks in uh VA, I, uh, I consulted an outside consultant, brought in an independent view, same kind of assessment. 'Unless you do some big things here, this is not possible.' To the credit of the folks, the good folks in VBA, they took it on and they went at it hard. We hired 530 people to do this and had to train them. We had a manual system that was computer assisted. Not very helpful but that's what they inherited. And we realized in about May that the 530 were probably a little short so we went and hired 230 more people. So in excess of 700 people were trained to use the tools that were coming together even as certificates were being executed. Uhm, we were short on the assumption of how many people it would take." When did the VA share the problem with the Congress? Never.

That's what US Rep Mitchell was getting at in his testimony -- how the Congress had to learn about the problems from veterans and the Army Times. That's ridiculous. As he pointed out, they had multiple hearings, they made requests and the VA never indicated any problems in testimony or in one-on-one discussions.

The VA's failure is an issue. It's an issue that many veterans are still living with as they wait for education benefit checks to arrive. But the issue Congress needs to resolve is why they were misled. If that's not resolved, what is the point?

US House Rep Harry Mitchell: Mr. Wilson, I believe that no veteran, and I'm talking as a former school teacher who values education very, very much, I don't believe any veteran should fall behind even a semester because of the VA's inability to meet the goals that we've set out for them. And I'd like to know what the VA's doing to ensure that future payments will not be delayed? As well as, what assurances can you offer that these measures will work?

Keith Wilson: Everything that we're putting into place right now is designed to ensure that we go into the spring semester fully loaded with what we need to have on board. We will take every step that we need to to make sure that veterans have access to payment. If that means that we have to keep an advance payment mechanism some -- some sort in process, we will do that. But our goal is to make sure that those mechanisms are not needed, that we have this issue resolved prior to the spring semester and we move forward. The Secretary has been very clear that any delay in payment is unacceptable. Everybody in VA agrees wholeheartedly with that. On a personal level, I can say first hand, I know exactly what these students are going through.

Liar. He went to college. On a GI Bill. That doesn't mean he knows what the veteran students are going through today. A program was in place for him and it administered the checks in a timely manner. For him to try to use his 'personal experience' should have resulted in someone on the Subcommittee coming back with, "Well if you know what it's like, why did you and others mislead the Veterans Affairs Committee instead of coming to us and asking for help as we repeatedly requested you to do?"

Stephanie Herseth asked if he needed additional staff at the call center for educational benefits. She also underscored that "we need to be made aware of the problems immediately if there's any complications that arise" and "if you start anticipating problems or start experiencing problems" then let the Committee know. US House Rep John Adler also touched on this repeatedly such as asking Wilson "are there any other tools you need from Congress" and reminding him that "we would like to hear from you as needs arise, before the crisis arise" and "tell us what you need from us."

But here's the thing, these statements? Made throughout 2008. And we know how that didn't work out. There needs to be accountability. There was none. And it was really cheap and dishonest for this man who has worked at the VA since 1989 to pretend he understood what it was like for the veterans who worried (and some still do) that they will be homeless because their education checks have not arrived. Translation: The hearing accomplished nothing. The friend I spoke of earlier stated he felt the Subcommittee made Wilson squirm but he didn't feel that anything else was accomplished: "There was no effort to track down where the accountability was or where the breakdown came in. Even the most basic question was not asked: 'Were you ordered not to tell the Congress that there were problems coming up, problems that the department knew were coming?'"

Yesterday's snapshot noted the House Veterans Affairs Committee's Subcommittee On Health hearing and Kat offered her impressions of it last night. The exchange between Subcommittee Chair Michael Michaud and Gary Baker should have included ". . ." after Baker's first lengthy excerpt and before Micahud's next question. My apologies for the error which was most likely my fault when dictating -- I probably wasn't clear. I apologize and claim that error as my own.

Today violence continued in Iraq.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports on a Tal Afar suicide bombing, "Checkpoint security opened fire upon four gunmen in a sedan who refused to stop for searching near al Taqwa Mosque in the town of Tel Afar west of Mosul, Friday. At last the car stopped and three of the four men ran away, while the fourth ran into the mosque just as Friday prayers ended, and shot and killed the imam and a judge who was sitting with him." Issa reveals the man attempted to leave the mosque but was prevented and then set off his bomb. BBC News adds, "The explosion was triggered as people gathered for the main congregational prayers of the week." Timothy Williams and Sa'ad al-Izzi (New York Times) quote Akram Haseeb stating, "I was sitting in the back rows in the mosque when one of the worshipers in the front stood up and loudly interrupted the iman while he was preaching." Al Jazeera quotes eye witness Sahir Jalal on the bomber standing up in the mosque, "Then he took out a small rifle from under his jacket and start to shoot." Jamal al-Badrani, Jack Kimball and Michael Christie (Reuters) quote Qassim Ahmed who was wounded in the attack, "I came to the mosque late and when I went to enter, I heard shooting. Seconds later, a big explosion happened." Sun Yunlong (Xinhua) adds, "Abdul A'al, the mayor of the town told Xinhua that the attacker shot dead Abdul-Sattar Abdul-Hussein, the imam of the mosque and another person believed to be a judge in the town before blowing himself and causing the destruction." Nada Bakri (Washington Post) offers this context, "Tal Afar, 260 miles north of Baghdad and near the Syrian border, has long been the target of suicide attackers and car bombers, but Friday's attack marked one of the few times that a Sunni mosque there was attacked. Security officials said they believe the mosque was targeted because its preacher, Abdel Satar Hassan, who was among the dead, was a staunch critic of al-Qaeda." Timothy Williams and Sa-ad al-Izzi state 15 are dead from the assault and one-hundred more injured. Turning to other violence . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports "a pontoon bridge in Ameriyah" was blown up leaving the "area which is now completely isolated." Those who remember the 2006 bridge bombings and the violence that followed, should take into account that this could be step-one of a multi-violence attack that follows. Reuters notes a Mosul suicide car bombing which claimed the life of the car driver and 1 Iraqi soldier. Dropping back to yesterday, Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left four more injured


Still dropping back to yesterday,
Reuters notes Mosul police attacked an ambulance "killing one civilian inside and wounding two others including a paramedic".

On NPR's
The Diane Rehm Show today, second hour, Iraq was noted by Diane and the panel of James Kitfield (National Journal), Hisham Melhem (Al-Arabiya TV and An-Nahar) and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy).

Diane Rehm: Alright, let's turn to Iraq and the reputed death toll. James Ki , Iraq's Human Rights Ministry said more than 85,000 Iraqis were killed from 2004 to 2008. We really have no idea about the total loss of humanity there.

James Kitfield: No, we don't. And we know it was a very violent war. And it was not only a violent war that we were fighting trying to attack Sunni insurgent groups that were trying to destabilize that government but it devolved almost into an entire civil war, 2006, 2007, where Shi'ite death squads were killing Sunnis and Sunnis were responding with suicide bombings against Shi'ite mosques. You know it really was an awful bloodshed --

Diane Rehm: Judges, lawyers, everybody was being targeted.

James Kitfield: I remember being on the street with a unit there and you would go and there would be piles of bodies every morning lying on the side of the road. It was disgusting.

Diane Rehm: And now you've got a total of how many American troops, Nancy?

Nancy A. Youssef: In Iraq now? It's 120,000 [she stops at one-hundred-and twenty-thou] --

Diane Rehm: Killed.

Nancy A. Youssef: Oh, killed. We're at 4200 for the total.

Diane Rehm: No, a little bit more.

[C.I. note:

Diane Rehm: 4300, something like that.

Nancy A. Youssef: 4300. For the total span of the war. What I thought was interesting with the 85,000, in my mind, it's the minimum because as James was describing at the height of the war, and I was there for it, the group was basing it on documents. People with death certificates and reports to the morgue and sort of official tracks. At the height of the war people were not going through that. If someone was killed, they buried their dead and then moved out.

Diane Rehm: So we don't know.

Nancy A. Youssef: We will never know. We will never know. And so it's this first effort to try to quantify that number which has been uhm, uhm, almost impossible to get. To me what's important is anecdotally, you talk to any Iraqi and they have had a friend a family member killed and that's the real effect of the Iraq War, they've all felt it.

Diane Rehm: What about these parliamentary elections coming up? Is there a chance they could be postponed?

James Kitfield: The chance just got better this week. They missed a Thursday deadline yesterday to uh vote on --

Hisham Melhem: Now it's Monday.

James Kitfield: Now it's Monday and we'll see if they keep pushing it off.

Diane Rehm: The deadline is Monday.

James Kitfield: Yeah they pushed the deadline back but there's major concern amongst the Americans there that if these elections don't happen in January, we can't pull out on the schedule we plan on next year which is very ambitious, we're going down from 120,000 troops in January to just 50,000 troops by the end of August. That is a very ambitious schedule. And oh by the way the troops that Obama's going to need if he does surge 40,000 to Afghanistan are going to be coming out of Iraq or being replaced by units scheduled to go to Iraq. So that needs to go smoothly.

As a note requested by an NPR friend, last Friday, when Susan Paige guest hosted, Iraq was dealt with in the second hour. They had some e-mails complaining that it wasn't featured. I said I'd note it here and also pointed out we quoted from it in last week's
snapshot. (Most likely, people had turned off before the final two minutes of the program when Iraq was raised.) I am noting: Today the panel appeared to get lost in fantasies of go-get-Osama. They were a blood thirsty group and one (James Kitfield) got a little peevish when Diane corrected him of those US drones attacks in Pakistan, they do kill civilians. He dismissed the concern and the whole panel seemed to run on the fumes of the dead and a desire for more dead. The panel was living in a fantasy world of Where Is Osama and We Must Get Osama. (They are all so convinced that he is the biggest issue and that he's in Pakistan that you wanted someone to give the three guests a map and let them put their Xs on the exact spot Osama was at.)

On the election issue, let's first note a primary.
Jenan Hussein and Mohammad al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) report on the primary that took place today for Moqtada al-Sadr supporters. They explain it's an effort to restore luster to the al-Sadr brand and that "there were few safeguards against double voting, and the party claimed far more votes [1.5 million] than the number it had registered [250,000] a few days earlier." They also note that women voted in large numbers "at some polling stations where entire families" went to vote. al-Sadr is thought to be attempting to improve his standing ahead of the 'intended' January elections. Oliver August (Times of London) notes the draft election law is still in a state of limbo and that, "The deadlock on election law concerns whether ballot papers should list only the competing parties or also include candidates' names. Some prominent MPs fear that having their names on display will harm their chances of re-election."

David DeGraw has a new piece entitled "
If You're Not Outraged, You're Not Paying Attention" on how the game is distraction and both of the two major political parties are playing it. Meanwhile Page Gardner, Women's Voices, Women Vote, informs:

I wanted to take a moment to share with you some exciting information. The Center for American Progress (CAP), in partnership with Maria Shriver, has broken new ground with the publication of "
The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Changes Everything." The report takes a hard look at how women's changing roles are affecting our major societal institutions, from government and businesses to our faith communities, and examines how our society is responding to one of the greatest social transformations of our time. I wrote an essay for the report, "Single in a Married-Centered World," exploring the unique challenges facing unmarried women in these times. You can read my essay here and the entire report here at CAP's website. In conjunction with the report, I also sat down for an interview with Heather Boushey, a CAP senior economist and co-editor of the report, to discuss how unmarried women are faring in the economy and the workplace. You can see the video of the interview here at WVWV's website. The kind of monumental change the Shriver Report says government and business need to make to adapt to the realities of the modern American family requires an informed, engaged citizenry willing to stand up and demand it. At WVWV, we are finding ways to both engage and inform women on issues that matter most in their lives. Theirs is an important voice to be heard in the national conversation about modernizing public policies and business practices to better meet their circumstances. I encourage you to read this important report. I am honored to be in such esteemed company as an essay contributor. Please read my essay and view the short video conversation about how unmarried women are affecting and being affected by this social transformation.

Meanwhile, Tom Hayden composes his most useful piece in two years, "
Will We Stay 50 Years In Afghanistan?" (link goes to CBS News' reposting) which is a contribution for the section on the war on the native people counter-insurgency:The counterinsurgency doctrine is promoted as being "population-centric" as opposed to "enemy-centric," leading some to think it means a combination of Peace Corps-style development and community-based policing. Indeed, counterinsurgency differs sharply from "kinetic" war, which is based on conventional use of combat troops and bombardment. This is why Kilcullen disapproved of the ground invasion of Iraq and is critical of the current use of Predator strikes from the air, which alienate the very civilian populations whose hearts and minds must be won. The central flaw in Kilcullen's model is his belief in the "accidental guerrilla" syndrome. Drawing partly on a public-health analogy, he defines Al Qaeda as a dangerous virus that grows into a contagion when its Muslim hosts face foreign intervention. The real enemy, he thinks, is the global network of hard-core Al Qaeda revolutionaries who want to bring down the West, overthrow Arab regimes and restore a centuries-old Islamic caliphate. Like Obama, Kilcullen hopes to "disrupt, dismantle, and eventually defeat al Qaeda" without provoking the contagion of resistance from the broader Muslim world. The "accidental guerrillas" who fight us, he writes, do so not because they hate the West and seek our overthrow but because we have invaded their space to deal with a small extremist element that has manipulated and exploited local grievances to gain power in their societies. They fight us not because they seek our destruction but because they believe we seek theirs. But of course, these accidental guerrillas are no accident at all. They inevitably and predictably emerge as a nationalist force against foreign invaders. Their resistance to imperialism stretches back far before Al Qaeda. In fact, Al Qaeda was born with US resources, as a byproduct of resistance to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and earlier oppression of hundreds of Islamic radicals in Egyptian prisons. Kilcullen would like to believe that the "accidental guerrilla" syndrome can be avoided by a surgical counterinsurgency combined with Western liberal reform, as opposed to a ham-fisted, knock-down-the-doors combat approach. But he admits that imposing law and order American-style in Afghanistan is a "temporary" form of neocolonialism that will produce violent popular resistance. The strategic dilemma is created when this neocolonialism fosters a corrupt regime of warlords, drug lords and landlords, as it has in Kabul. The first priority of Kilcullen's counterinsurgency doctrine is "a political strategy that builds government effectiveness and legitimacy while marginalizing insurgents, winning over their sympathizers, and coopting local allies." Obama's recent surge in Afghanistan, whose purpose was to protect Afghanistan's presidential election process, had the opposite result: sending Americans to fight for an unpopular Kabul machine that committed fraud on a massive scale.

TV notes.
NOW on PBS begins airing tonight on most PBS stations and examines the expected nursing shortage that looms in the near future. On Bill Moyers Journal, Bill Moyers sits down with Maurice Sendak. Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Melinda Henneberger, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Tara Setmayer and Genevieve Wood to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

H1N1 Scott Pelley reports on the H1N1 flu - which is increasingly targeting young, healthy people - and how the government plans to fight the flu pandemic.
The Kanzius Machine John Kanzius fought his leukemia head on, inventing a machine that may someday offer effective treatment for cancers without the debilitating side effects of radiation and chemotherapy. Lesley Stahl reports. Watch Video
Drew Barrymore The remarkable former child star, actress and now director is profiled by CNN's Anderson Cooper.
60 Minutes, this Sunday, Oct. 18, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

iraqreutersjamal al-badranijack kimballmichael christie
mcclatchy newspaperssahar issa
jenan hussein
mohammed al dulaimy
the washington postnada bakrixinhuatimothy williamsthe new york times
nprthe diane rehm show
the times of londonoliver august
tom hayden

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Who does she think she is? The queen of England?

"UK Service Of Commemoration Marks End Of Iraq War" (AP, CBS News):
At a memorial service honoring Britons who died during the Iraq war, the Archbishop of Canterbury said Friday it will take time for historians and moralists to decide if the conflict was justified.

But the Iraq War is not over. "It is for the Brits!" Says who?

As Rebecca's "gordo even screws up a withdrawal" last night pointed out, the British are going back into Iraq, at least 100 of them.

I didn't cover that nonsense last week. That's when the ceremony in the headline took place.


I am not really keen on promoting the queen as a voice of peace.

Reality, Queen Elizabeth could have stopped the illegal war before it started. She did not.

Reality, Canadian legislatures have not given asylum to US war resisters because of Queen Elizabeth. Canada is subject to approval by the Queen of England for all their laws. That's why the House of Commons does their song and dance and pretends to be attempting to do something but the House of Lords does nothing and intends to do nothing.

Queen Elizabeth approved of the Iraq War and she's not about to let US war resisters stay in Canada. We saw this with the same Queen Elizabeth during Vietnam. There were a few, early on, US war resisters who were granted safety in England but then Her Royal Highness got a little uncomfortable and began her crackdown. England was not officially involved in Vietnam. There was no reason for Her Royal Ass to be offended or interject herself in it against US war resisters.

But she did.

She also proved that she's unable to learn from mistakes.

Mainly, she proved she was a War Hawk.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
October 14, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Congress hears from VA Secretary Eric Shinseki who explains that the VA always knew the Post-9/11 GI Bill would be 'problematic,' three senators stand up for a family who's loved one died serving in Iraq, and more.

Today Veterans Affaris Secretary Eric Shinseki appeared before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs for a hearing entitled "Update of the State of the VA." Shinseki was the only witness appearing before the committee.

Ranking Member Steve Buyer made an idiot out of himself repeatedly.
Kat will be grabbing most of that at her site tonight (and I agree with her 100%) but to claim, as Buyer did, that Congress is responsible or equally responsible for the VA backlog on the Post-9/11 GI Bill is beyond uninformed. It goes to Buyer not paying attention to what Congress did do. We'll address that tomorrow when the Committee hears about the VA backlog on education benefits but the fault lies with the VA and that was clear to anyone attending hearings over the summer. Buyer apparently has no long term memory. He can take comfort in the fact that the press was snoozing as well. But the VA was offered additional help and the VA turned it down.

June 25th, US House Rep Harry Teague chaired the US House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity (filling in for US House Rep Stephanie Herseth Sandlin). He and Ranking Member Boozman noted the VA needed to step forward immediately if there were any problems with the Post-9/11 GI Bill with Boozman especially stressing that if problems came up, let the committee know immediately so they can assist. July 29th Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing found Senator Jon Tester suggesting that -- due to the VA's huge backlog on claims -- the VA might need to add some employees. The VA's Patrick Dunne insisted more employees weren't needed and that they would mean more administrative duties which would cause even more delays. This was echoed by the GAO's Danile Bertoni who 'said', "We have reported that an infusion of a large number of staff has the potential to improve VA's capacity. However, quickly absorbing these staff will likely pose human capital challenges for VA, such as how to train and deploy them. The additional staff has helped VA process more claims and appeals overall, but as VA has acknowledged, it has also reduced individual staff productivity. . . . According to VA, this decline in productivity is attributable primarily to new staff who have not yet become fully proficient at processing claims and to the loss of experienced staff due to retirements. VA expects its productivity to decline further before it improves, in part because of the challenges of training and integrating new staff."

"Said"? It's part of his prepared statement but his time ran out before he completed reading it. It is part of the record.

And Buyer and the press should be familiar with and Shinseki should have been asked about this. Did the VA refuse to ask for the help they needed? Maybe the question will come up tomorrow when a hearing on the Post-9/11 GI Bill is held?

Reading a statement today at the start of the hearing, different from the prepared one, Shinseki did note, briefly, the problems with the education bill.

Eric Shinseki: Complications in implementing the Post-9/11 GI Bill required VA to make advance payments to effected veterans to cover their expenses and to relieve their uncertainty and stress. There are many reasons for those complications but the delays were unacceptable. Advance payments remain in effect -- that's the emergency procedure we put in place two weeks ago. Advance payments remain in effect as we mature our IT tools to assure timely delivery of checks in the future. And I'm hopeful that early November, we'll have the Phase III automated tool for our use.

IT? The VA's had a lot of IT problems. Equally true is that the VA attempted to blame colleges for the delay. Or are we all supposed to forget that? Now Congress is told that it was an IT problem?

Buyer wasn't the only one looking foolish, US House Rep Corrine Brown, informing that she was "watching television" yesterday morning, insisted that the media had it wrong and the delays in veterans receiving their checks wasn't the VA's fault it was the institutions who weren't verifying adds and drops for their colleges. Brown doesn't know what she's talking about. She then wanted a response from Shinseki. Chair Bob Filner attempted to move on and she stopped him asking if she could get a response?

Shinseki avoided it. Brown couldn't take a hint so she brought it up again, "Can you discuss the VA's wonderful program that we're having some challenges with? But it's a win-win for the veterans, you know the community, especially with these hard times, the opportunity to go back to school and retrain is a win-win." Does she grasp how uninformed and/or insulting she sounds? You have veterans across the country who have still not received payment. Some of them are single-parents. Several are single mothers with small children and the press has covered this and covered how they are taking out loans as they wait for the VA to get it together, how they fear they may end up homeless. Is Corrine Brown that out of touch?

She waited for Shinseki to back her up. He didn't.

Eric Shinseki: I've-I've-I've been very clear about how important this is. Not just to the VA but to me personally. Uh, it is, uh, a you know an aspect of myself coming back although not in a program like this. Coming back from Vietnam and having the opportunity to go back and do graduate schooling, I understand the importance of this program. But it's even more important to the country. The potential that will come out of this -- we go back and look at what came after WWII, what that country provided to our country in terms of leadership for the second half of the 20th century, that's what we're about to realize here. And the VA has an important role to make sure this happens.

As he continued to speak, he said a number of things that should have been red flags.

Erick Shinseki: A plan was written, very quickly put together, uh, very short timelines, I'm looking at the certifcates of elegibility uh being processed on 1 May and enrollments 6 July, checks having to flow through August. A very compressed timeframe. And in order to do that, we essentially began as I arrived in January, uh, putting together the plan -- reviewing the plan that was there and trying to validate it. I'll be frank, when I arrived, uh, there were a number of people telling me this was simply not executable. It wasn't going to happen. Three August was going to be here before we could have everything in place. Uh, to the credit of the folks in uh VA, I, uh, I consulted an outside consulatant, brought in an independent view, same kind of assessment. 'Unless you do some big things here, this is not possible.' To the credit of the folks, the good folks in VBA, they took it on and they went at it hard. We hired 530 people to do this and had to train them. We had a manual system that was computer assisted. Not very helpful but that's what they inherited. And we realized in about May that the 530 were probably a little short so we went and hired 230 more people. So in excess of 700 people were trained to use the tools that were coming together even as certificates were being executed. Uhm, we were short on the assumption of how many people it would take. We based our numbers on the Montgomery GI Bill which is about a 15 minute procedure. The uh chapter thirty-three procedures about an hour on average, maybe an hour and 15 minutes. So right off the bat, we had some issues with assumptions. Uh, we are still receiving certificates of enrollment. This week alone, we received 36,000 certificates of enrollment coming from schools who are working through the process and we put them into the execute of providing those checks -- three checks.

Shinskeki wasn't honest. The 36,000 certificates this week alone? These are not 36,000 new certificates. I asked a friend at the VA and these include a large number of schools refiling in an attempt to help the veterans who are waiting. Each week, some schools are refiling certifications because their students still do not have funding. In addition, there is late enrollment and some of the forms being processed are late enrollments.

As for the employees, Shinseki made a big to do about grasping 530 wasn't enough employees (as claims examiners) so, apparently quickly, 230 more were hired and trained. Quickly? No. June 25th, VA's Director from the Office of Education Service, Keith Wilson, was stating that they expected to have those 230 "on board by August 31, 2009."

Shinseki testified he was told it wasn't possible by the VA and by some outside contractor. I'm sorry, I've attended all the Congressional committee and subcommittee hearings on the Post-9/11 GI Bill and never once did the VA express that to the Congress. Never once did they say, "We won't be able to do it." They stated they were on track repeatedly. They were asked if they were worried about a crunch as deadlines for fall enrollment approached, they never blinked an eyelash, they never raised a concern. Now, after the system falls down in front of the whole country, Shinseki wants to say, 'Oh, we knew back when I started as VA Secretary that it wasn't going to go smoothly.' At what point in the 'planning' did the VA expect to inform of Congress of that?

This add and drop crap? It's getting real old and it's amazing that the VA attempted to lie (and got away with it) when the problem emerged. They blamed the colleges. Shinseki himself blamed the colleges and said that it was an add and drop issue. Did no one ever think to ask about the first checks issued? If you issue a check before the semester even starts, you're not waiting for adds and drops. Did no one grasp that this took place? Did everyone sleep through testimony over the summer when the VA was bragging about how many they had already processed -- before any semester even began?

"But again, we adjusted to the assumptions that didn't bear out and we'll make adjustments in the future," Shinseki declared. Where in that statement do you find "It's the fault of the colleges!"? Only Corrine Brown, watching television at five in the morning, and not liking what she sees, can see that.

John Boozman also rushed to excuse the VA. He's a Republican and, as a result, I may not expect him to be reality based but even he did come off as nutty as Corrine Brown. But this idea that the VA is not responsible for the current mess goes to the Culture of No Accountability in DC. The VA didn't just issue the checks (or not issue them), it also designed the entire system. Columbia in New York, UCLA, etc did not design the VA's programs. If there were problems in the system designed by the VA then that falls back on the VA and there needs to be accountability.

There is none. Despite Shinseki's claim at the hearing that "accountability does count with me." Shinseki admits before Congress that he knew, stepping in as Secretary, that the program wouldn't work as it was being presented. He admits that today. The Congress should have been informed of that long ago. And a Committee less concerned with fawning over a former general and more concerned with serving veterans would have raised the issues noted here. In other testimony, Shinseki stated that he had heard the stories about women arriving for VA appointments and being turned away because they had brought their children: "I know there were a couple of anecdotal incidents in where -- in which women veterans reported not being able to keep their appointments because they showed up with children and I can assure the chairman that guidance has gone out, correct any of that. Uh, women veterans showing up with children will be seen. With the exceptions that uh would make sense here and the exceptions being those settings uh in ICU or mental health where uh it would not be good to have children in that environment. We would find other ways to take-take the child and care for it. But right-right now the authorities are not within the department to be able to provide child care on our own and this may be one of those things that we uh have a discussion with the chairman and the committee on how we might look for some help here."

Al Jazeera notes, "At least 85,000 people have been killed in Iraq by bombs, murders and fighting from 2004 until 2008, Iraq's human rights ministry says." Really? Because Betty noted Aadel Rashid's "Finding Husbands for Iraq's Widows: As Some Iraqis Embrace the Program, Others Say Efforts to Help Widows Remarry Is Exploitative" (ABC News) last night and, as Betty pointed out, "The article tells us that Women and Child Committee head Samira al Musawi states Iraq saw more than 1 million women become widows since 2005. " Widows. To be a widow, your spouse has to die. So that would mean 1 million men have died since 2005. Which ministry is telling the truth? Or did 925,000 Iraqi males die since 2005 of natural causes? That would be a staggering number in a country's whose population is less than 26 million. Reuters notes the first count here. BBC News adds, "The BBC's Gabriel Gatehouse in Baghdad says the numbers may be staggering but they are relatively conservative."
Violence continued in Iraq today and some tried to mask it.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an attack mortars, gunfire and grenades on one Baghdad neighbourhood today was, according to the Defense Ministry's spokesmodel Mohammed al Askari, was "a normal one that could happen in any country." Right. I believe just yesterday, downtown Dulith was shelled with mortars, suffered gunfire and grenades. Hammoudi quotes cosmetic shop owner Maitham Abu Zahra stating, "I was in my shop when I heard the sound of the explosion. It was very loud sound followed by white smoke (that) covered market." Nada Bakri (Washington Post) notes 8 dead and nine injured, "A checkpoint was a few miles away, and many residents said they believed soldiers there had allowed the assailants to pass unhindered." Timothy Williams and Anwar J. Ali (New York Times) add 7 of the sodliers "assigned to the market" have been arrested.

In other reported violence?


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing left Imam Abdul Sattar Abdul Jabbar and his driver wounded, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured three people and three Karbala bombings which claimed 3 lives and left eleven people wounded. Timothy Williams and Anwar J. Ali (New York Times) report the bombs were homemade and that people had gathered for evening prayers. Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports that the death toll has risen by 3 to six (with the injured toll placed at forty-two) and that it "could rise, as many victims were transported to hospitals and medical centers in the city, the source said."


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports one security guard waskilled in a Mosul shooting.

CNN reports fears abound that if an election law is not passed quickly, there may not be national elections in January. Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) has repeatedly reminded that the Parliament has until Thursday to pass the legislation (here and here for Chon's report). Now let's repeat, these elections were supposed to take place in December. US President Barack Obama has used these elections as his 'excuse' for breaking his campaign promise of US troops out of Iraq in ten months (sixteen on the campaign trail until Feb. 2008 when he dropped it down to ten). And there's no law passed. Dow Jones notes that Nouri's cabinet did ratify the 2010 budget -- $67.29 billion. Reuters explains that they came close to making the budget . . . sort of. Iraq's set the budget at $67.29 billion even though that means a $15.3 billion budget deficit. Remember that when the US Congress talks about loaning money to Iraq. (The US needs to make reparations for the Iraq War. Reparations do not need to be made to a puppet government that does nothing for the people.) The US Congress might give Iraq money but if they loan it, don't pretend like (a) Congress knows what they're doing or (b) there's any chance Iraq will ever repay their debt. (Ask Kuwait.)NPR's Quil Lawrence (Morning Edition -- link has text and audio) reports that as Iraqi children return to school, "[m]any of Iraq's schools lack electricity and running water, but they will be getting something new this year: a history book that reflects the enormous changes the country has been through and includes historical events that were once forbidden topics." Quil leaves out what Xinhua and others have been reporting since school started: Overcrowding, lack of desks, lack of supplies, etc. A modern history book? How about a modern school?

While he can't appear to address anything, let alone fix it, to improve the quality of life for Iraqis, Nouri al-Maliki isn't sitting around doing nothing.
Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports Nouri "suspended classes and banned political activities at" Mustraniriyah University and "banned the student union" on campus. Never forget all the blood that was spilled -- Iraqi and foreign -- for the US to install a thug with hopes of becoming the new Saddam.

In England,
Stephen Adams (Telegraph of London) reports, "Parents of soldiers who died in Iraq have accused [former British Prime Minister] Tony Blair of lying to Britain over the decision to invade in 2003 and one said she wanted him indicted as a 'war criminal', in an emotional first day of the Iraq Inquiry." Caroline Davies (Guardian) adds that "it became clear that most, if not all, fingers were pointing to one man -- the former prime minister Tony Blair. And the clapping erupted. They had found a common voice -- and it was demanding 'accountability'." Meanwhile the Brussels Tribunal released the following last week:FOR JUSTICE FOR IRAQ: LEGAL CASE FILED AGAINST FOUR US PRESIDENTS AND FOUR UK PRIME MINISTERS FOR WAR CRIMES, CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY AND GENOCIDE IN IRAQ For immediate release [Spanish] - [Arabic] Date: 7 October 2009 MADRID: Today the Spanish Senate, acting to confirm a decision already taken under pressure from powerful governments accused of grave crimes, will limit Spain's laws of universal jurisdiction. Yesterday, ahead of the change of law, a legal case was filed at the Audiencia Nacional against four United States presidents and four United Kingdom prime ministers for commissioning, condoning and/or perpetuating multiple war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in Iraq. This case, naming George H W Bush, William J Clinton, George W Bush, Barack H Obama, Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Anthony Blair and Gordon Brown, is brought by Iraqis and others who stand in solidarity with the Iraqi people and in defence of their rights and international law. Iraq: 19 years of intended destruction The intended destruction -- or genocide -- of Iraq as a state and nation has been ongoing for 19 years, combining the imposition of the most draconian sanctions regime ever designed and that led to 1.5 million Iraqi deaths, including 500,000 children, with a war of aggression that led to the violent deaths of over one million more. Destroying Iraq included the purposeful targeting of its water and sanitation system, attacking the health of the civilian population. Since 1990, thousands of tons of depleted uranium have been dropped on Iraq, leading in some places to a 600 per cent rise in cancer and leukaemia cases, especially among children. In both the first Gulf War and "Shock and Awe" in 2003, an air campaign that openly threatened "total destruction", waves of disproportionate bombing made no distinction between military and civilian targets, with schools, hospitals, mosques, churches, shelters, residential areas, and historical sites all destroyed.Destroying Iraq included promoting, funding and organizing sectarian and ethnic groups bent on dividing Iraq into three or more sectarian or ethnic entities, backed by armed militias that would terrorize the Iraqi people. Since 2003, some 4.7 million Iraqis -- one fifth of the population -- have been forcibly displaced. Under occupation, kidnappings, killings, extortion and mutilation became endemic, targeting men, women and even children and the elderly.Destroying Iraq included purposefully dismantling the state by refusing to stop or stem or by instigating mass looting, and by engaging in ideological persecution, entailing "manhunting", extrajudicial assassinations, mass imprisonment and torture, of Baathists, the entire educated class of the state apparatus, religious and linguistic minorities and Arab Sunnis, resulting in the total collapse of all public services and other economic functions and promoting civil strife and systematic corruption. In parallel, Iraq's rich heritage and unique cultural and archaeological patrimony has been wantonly destroyed. In order to render Iraq dependent on US and UK strategic designs, successive US and UK governments have attempted to partition Iraq and to establish by military force a pro-occupation Iraqi government and political system. They have promoted and engaged in the massive plunder of Iraqi natural resources, attempting to privatize this property and wealth of the Iraqi nation. Humanity at stake This is but the barest summary of the horrors Iraq has endured, based on lies that nobody but cowed governments and complicit media believed. In 2003, millions worldwide were mobilized in opposition to US/UK plans. In going ahead, the US and UK launched an illegal war of aggression. Accountability has not been established. The persons named in this case have each played a key role in Iraq's intended destruction. They instigated, supported, condoned, rationalized, executed and/or perpetuated or excused this destruction based on lies and narrow strategic and economic interests, and against the will of their own people. Allowing those responsible to escape accountability means such actions could be repeated elsewhere. It is imperative now to establish accountability for US and UK war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Iraq because: Every Iraqi victim deserves justice. Everyone responsible should be accountable. We are before immoral and unlawful acts, contrary to the basis on which the international order of state sovereignty and peace and security rests. Whereas the official international justice system is closed before the suffering of those that imperialism makes a target, through this case we try to open a channel whereby the conscience of humanity can express its solidarity with justice for victims of imperial crimes. Ad Hoc Committee For Justice For Iraq Press contacts: Hana Al Bayaty, Executive Committee, BRussells Tribunal +34 657 52 70 77 or +20 10 027 7964 (English and French) hanaalbayaty@gmail.comDr Ian Douglas, Executive Committee, BRussells Tribunal, coordinator, International Initiative to Prosecute US Genocide in Iraq +20 12 167 1660 (English) iandouglas@USgenocide.orgAmanda Nuredin, +34 657 52 70 77 (Spanish) Abdul Ilah Albayaty, Executive Committee, BRussells Tribunal +33 471 461 197 (Arabic)

Turning to the US where an woman whose husband was killed serving in the Iraq War may have some good news for herself and their son. Dropping back to the
September 25th snapshot, "While some veterans go homeless, efforts are made to deport the spouses of some deceased veterans. Most recently, the September 17th snapshot, we noted Kristin M. Hall (AP) report Hotaru Ferschke, a military widow. Her husband, Sgt. Michael Ferschke, died serving in Iraq August 10, 2008. They had tried to have children for some time and when they learned she was pregnant, he was already in Iraq so they got married by proxy and the US military recognizes the marriage but the US Immigration and Naturalization Service plays dumb. She and their son Michael "Mikey" Ferschke III, are now facing deportation. INS is stating that the proxy marriage could be a fake because it wasn't consumated. Consumated? He remained in Iraq and they're not counting their long relationship prior to the proxy marriage. Her mother-in-law, Robin Ferschke told Hall, 'She's like my daughter. I know my child chose the perfect wife and mother of his child'."

Michael Collins (Knoxville News Sentinel) quotes Robin Ferschke stating, "I know my son would never want us to stop fighting for what is right. He fought for his country and now we have to fight our country for what is right." WJLA (link has text and video) quotes her stating, "Don't take my family away again. I lost one and I'm not going to lose his son out of my life." Hota, Mikey and Robin Ferschke now have three Senate allies. From Senator Jim Webb's office:

Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) today introduced legislation to recognize the marriage of fallen U.S. Marine Sgt. Michael Ferschke and his Japanese wife who were married by proxy while Sgt. Ferschke was deployed in Iraq. The Ferschkes' marriage is formally recognized by the military but not the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) -- leaving the immigration status of Mrs. Ferschke in jeopardy.
Michael Ferschke and Hotaru Nakama were married by telephone on July 10, 2008, three months after the couple learned they were having a child. Sgt. Ferschke was killed in combat one month later. The couple's marriage is not recognized by DHS because it was never consummated as dictated by an outdated 1952 immigration law passed during the Korean War.
Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee joined Senator Webb in cosponsoring the legislation.
"Every now and then, there comes an issue that tells us a lot about who we are, and how we live up to our promised, great and small," said Senator Webb today in a speech on the Senate floor. "And particularly the promises we make to those who step forward and place their lives on the line in order to carry out the policies that we create."
Senator Webb's bill would allow Mrs. Hotaru Ferschke, who is currently here under a tourist visa, permanent residency in the U.S., a right granted to all military widows. Mrs. Ferschke and their 8-month-old son, Michael "Mikey" Ferschke III, are currently staying at the Tennessee home of Sgt. Ferschke's parents surrounded by photos and memories of the father Mikey will never meet.
The targeted legislation will have no impact on broader immigration policies. It will allow immigration authorities to recognize the Ferschkes' lawful marriage and, according to Senator Webb: "right a wrong for a Marine's family who paid the ultimate sacrifice for his country."

Travis J. Tritten (Stars and Stripes) reports that the bill was introduced in the Senate today. We'll close with this from World Can't Wait's "'The US Military is Out There Spreading Death Right Now':"Death, rather than nation building -- that is what the US army has brought to Iraq and is bringing to Afghanistan according to former US army sergeant and anti-war activist Matthis Chiroux. He shared his views with RT. For some, Matthis Chiroux is a hero. Others label him a US traitor. The 25-year-old is an army sergeant-turned-war-resistor, and one of roughly 8,000 US soldiers who have reportedly deserted the army since 2003. He accuses the US military of having become a corrupt institution built upon spreading death as a response to nations' problems by means of conducting illegal wars. "One hundred per cent, Afghanistan war is absolutely an illegal war under the same conventions that Iraq was an illegal war," Chiroux says."They are virtually the same thing," he continues. "They are both experiments in going in, smashing the country and trying to rebuild it in our own image as a trading partner. They are both about resources. They are both defined as illegal wars of aggression by the UN Charter -- that's something people don't understand."Speaking of President Obama's decision to deploy even more troops in Afghanistan, the activist has said that "more troops in an illegal war aren't going to somehow make it inherently right or even winnable."

abc newsaadel rashid
bbc newsgabriel gatehouse
cnnthe wall street journalgina chon
mcclatchy newspaperslaith hammoudi
nprmorning edition
quil lawrence
xinhuamu xuequan
the new york timesanwar j. ali
timothy williams
the washington postnada bakri
world cant waitmatthis chiroux

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

FSRN, the Idiot Maddow

"Activists campaign against rape in the military; new laws could hold contractors accountable" (Free Speech Radio News):
This week, the anti-war group Veterans for Peace will be campaigning at Armed Forces recruiting stations across the US to demand that military recruiters alert women who are thinking of enlisting about the “high possibility” they will be raped by their peers while performing military service.
Lawmakers and government officials have been concerned about high rates of rape and sexual assault in the military since early this decade, when a 2003 medical study found that one in three women in the military had been raped.

That's the opening of a report by FSRN today. I'm noting that part. I didn't even listen to the rest. Sunny said "Turn!" and I did. We were listening during lunch. I'm just not in the mood for lies. Maybe FSRN got it right? That would be nice.

But I have seen this covered over and over and accuracy hasn't been very common. Jamie Leigh Jones was raped, gang-raped, while she was working as a contractor in Iraq. Last week, a round of press was about how groovy and great Al Franken was. Usually followed by uninformed idiots decrying those evil Republicans.

Jones' family utilized their own House Rep to get her out of Iraq (actually, to first get her out of a pod container that KBR was keeping her in). That Congress member? Ted Poe.

Ted Poe's a Republican. It has been embarrassing to read and hear the garbage. Mother Jones was only the latest to disgrace themselves and flaunt their own ignorance (MJ did so today).

I'm not in the mood for the little, petty wars of Dems and Repubes. I'm an adult, I'm not sitting at a sports match.

I'm so digusted with what passes for informed.

Speaking of, can someone please inform the idiot Rachel Maddow that if she's going to speak about something, make it the thrust of a segment on her show, she needs to learn how to pronounce it.

Ralph Lauren. I've worn the clothes. I've met the man.

His last name is pronounced just as it's spelled.


"lah-REN" is how that idiot Rachel Maddow pronounced it. Repeatedly. Over and over. Did no one have the guts to tell Big Brain that yet again she was speaking about things she knew nothing about?

Will my typing that cause her an on air meltdown or do I just have that ability with her when she's on the radio?

Rachel Maddow is a liar and a bad one. The left never should have adopted her as a 'savior'. She is a joke, she will always be a joke.

She decided to rip apart Ralph Lauren for an ad campaign.

Hey, Big Girl, we know you like to wear boxers and anything fashionable scares you, but you looked like an uninformed idiot devoting an entire segment to the fact that an ad campaign made a head larger than a body.

All the while screeching at Ralph lahREN.

What an idiot, what a tool.

I usually support commentary about nude or scantily clad women being used to sale some product. When we're getting worked out of shape because a fully clothed woman was photoshopped (I believe the effect used is called "pinched" but Rebecca would know because she's big on the visuals), when we're wasting everyone's time with that garbage -- as opposed to addressing the realities of American women or Iraqi women -- then we're already a fool. That's only all the more clear when one can't properly pronounce a common name like "Lauren."

I hate Chachi.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, October 13, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the assault on Iraq's LGBT community garners some press attention, the refugee crisis continues, the British government prepares to force Iraqis out of England, the water crisis in Iraq creates even more refugees, Nouri can't pay his bills and more.

Today on New Hampshire Public Radio's Word of Mouth, Virginia Prescott spoke with Human Rights Watch's Scott Long and Matt McAllester about the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community. McAllester was noted in the October 6th snapshot on this issue, he's written "The Hunted" (New York Magazine) and he discussed the issue with Neal Conan on NPR's Talk of the Nation (here for audio and transcript links).

Virginia Prescott: Well Matt, what's it like to be a gay Iraqi in post-Saddam Baghdad?

Matt McAllester: Well earlier this year it was fatally dangerous potentially and many of them were indeed killed. What happened in 2003 when the invasion happened is that the center of-of power and fear in Iraq in many arenas of life but especially for gay Iraqis shifted from the State which, under Saddam Hussein, was never friendly to put it mildly towards gay people in Iraq. It wasn't actually illegal to be gay in Iraq. You very much kept a low profile if you could. And shifted from the State to the mosque and to the militia -- as did so much in Iraq. And so the power bases were less controlled and more violent and more dangerous.

Virginia Prescott: We mentioned the uptick earlier this year, pretty much focused in February, attacks against gay Iraqis and police harassment of gay men reached a fevered pitch in that time. You've mentioned homosexuality is still not illegal in Iraq, so what prompted this uptick in violence?

Matt McAllester: Well strangely and sort of paradoxically, the down-tick in violence generally prompted the uptick against gay people. What I mean by that is that American soldiers are much less visible to the Iraqi insurgency and militias so there's one target that's all but disappeared. The government of Iraq is much stronger and so this civil war between Sunni and Shia militias that was raging, that's also pretty much -- I wouldn't say "over," but it's not so much a factor. In the course of that last year, one of the main militias, the Shia militia, the Mahdi Army, which is headed by Moqtada al-Sadr, a very radical cleric with-with pretty much sidelined, politically and militarily and he seems to have, although there's no paper trail leading directly to his door, but it was clearly his guys that were doing this in the early part of this year, have decided that. he needed to increase his popularity by picking on the one population group in Iraq that no one likes. And they're-they're -- gays in Iraq are pretty much detested by every ethnic group, nationality, strata of society. So -- and so he thought this would cast his guys and himself as the moral arbiters of Iraq again.

Virginia Prescott: So it was -- it was a power grab mostly.

Matt McAllester: It was. And they -- gays in Iraq were used and manipulated in this way.

Virginia Prescott: Gay men and women looking to flee Iraq don't have many options. Homosexuality is illegal in most of the surrounding countries. The non-profit Human Rights Watch created an underground railroad to help gay Iraqis escape to safety. Joining us now is Scott Long. He's director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights program at Human Rights Watch. Scott, welcome to the program.

Scott Long: Thank you for having me.

Virginia Prescott: What inspired you to create this so-called underground railroad for gay Iraqis. This kind of direct action is a bit of a change for Human Rights Watch.

Scott Long: Well it was necessity really. I mean ordinarily when Human Rights Watch tries to do research on massive humanitarian violations, there are other groups that can provide direct support to people. But in this case, we're talking about folks in Iraq who have no one to defend them. The police won't protect them. Civil society is too weak to offer any effective assistance. They're basically alone and completely vulnerable to violence.

Virginia Prescott: There are, of course, Iraqi lesbians. Also not looked upon kindly but not being persecuted in the same way as gay men. Tell us a little bit more about the process here. How do you identify gay men looking to escape from Iraq?

Scott Long: Well basically we reached out to people through every means possible. Through the internet -- the internet has become a major social tool for men who want to preserve their anonymity and think they can preserve their safety. We reached out to personal contacts. And we just tried to evaluate the level of threat people were facing. But if people were, if people had been threatened directly, if there was reason to think their names were in the hands of the militia, we did everything we could to try to get them out.

Virginia Prescott: I know that you can't disclose the city that is now serving as a safe haven for gay Iraqis, but you have spent time there. Scott, how does it differ from Baghdad in terms of safety or openness for homosexuals?

Scott Long: Well there aren't militias roaming the streets with guns. That's the primary thing. But, as you've said, in all the surrounding countries there's still social prejudice and there's also criminal laws. In the last -- in the last six years, there have probably been more than two-and-a-half-million Iraqi displaced by the violence and of those people, the United States has accepted only about 20,000 as refugees. We're definitely hoping that the US will recognize that people aren't safe even when they flee to surrounding countries and that we have a responsibility to LGBT Iraqis to accept them to safety here as well as other categories of refugees.

Virginia Prescott: And that leads to another question. Matt McAllester, you spent time in this unnamed city as part of your reporting for New York Magazine. Many of the Iraqis living there hope to one day emigrate to the United States or Canada, Australia or Sweden but isn't it unlikely that they'd be accepted by Iraqi immigrant communities in those countries leaving them in a kind of state of limbo. .

Matt McAllester: You're -- you're absolutely right. The prejudice carries from Baghdad to-to Baltimore or where ever they end up. And that doesn't disappear. So they will be embraced, one hopes, by the mainstream gay communities in the United States or Sweden or Norway or Australia or where ever they end up. Some of them don't even want to meet other gay Iraqi refugees. They've been through such traumatic times there, there trust level is almost non-existent. And so they sort of want to disappear into society but I mean that's terribly difficult if your language skills aren't up to scratch initially and perhaps you don't have the work skills and you have -- and you are -- you can't even hang out, go to the cafes and drink tea and smoke shisa with your Iraqi friends.

Virginia Prescott: Many of them have returned to somewhat less dangerous parts of Iraq unhappy with how Human Rights Watch has helped them transition into their new lives as refugees. Matt, what's their complaint?

Matt McAllester: I think that it's terribly hard to be uprooted from your home.
and even if there are militias roaming the streets trying to kill you, it's terribly difficult to one week be living with your family -- albeit living a lie and a very scared lie -- and another
week to suddenly be sort of living in another city. And I think many of these guys have found that terribly difficult and understandably so. This is not specific to gay refugees, this is a thing I've seen happen in many countries -- refugees sort of leaving and moving back, albeit towards, back towards, danger --

Virginia Prescott: Scott. I'm sorry I have to interrupt because I want Scott, we have just thirty seconds for you to respond to that. How about you and other Human Rights Watch? What do you think?

Scott Long: Well it's not easy being a refugee. Being a refugee means being uprooted from everything you ever cared about. And that's, again, why I think it's really incumbent upon the United States and other countries that bear some responsibility for the violence in Iraq to start living up to their responsibilities by helping these folk make a new home.

Virginia Prescott: Scott, Matt, just one second please if you could, anything the Iraqi government could do to protect gay Iraqis or is it even on their radar?

Matt McAllester: They don't want to talk about it, to be perfectly honest. The ambassador in Washington gave me a written statement after -- after quite a long time of asking and it was impossible to get much more than that I'm afraid.

On the topic of Iraqi refugees, last week Human Rights Action and the Human Rights Institute at Georgetown Law Center issued [PDF format warning] a report entitled "
Refugee Crisis in America: Iraqis And Their Resettlement Experience." It documented many obstacles for the small number of Iraqis granted asylum in the US. For example:

When researchers met Farrah, a former physical education teacher with a bachelor's degree, she said that all she and her elderly mother hope for is "enough help to get on [their] own two feet." After fleeing from Iraq to Syria in 2007, Farrah arrived in Detroit in June 2008 and has been trying unsuccessfuly to find a job and enroll at a community college to improve her employment prospects. "We don't want to depend on the government for everything," Farrah said; "we want a foundation to build our own future."
Unfortunately for Farrah, and other Iraqi refugees with whom researches spoke, the USRAP [US Refugee Admissions Program] does not devote enough attention to breaking down key barriers to employment for refugees. Employment services, provided by volags and state agencies, are seriously underfunded and unable to adequately help Iraqi refugees in their job search. Lack of transporation remains a significant barrier to securing and maintaining employment. English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, generally inadequate in both equality and duration, fail to help Iraqis build marketable language skills. In addition, the opportunity to pursue education and re-certification programs, prerequisites for many jobs, is either unavailable or eclipsed by more immediate needs. Given these barriers, it is not surprising that the vast majority of Iraqi refugees interviewed were unemployed despite expressing a strong desire to work.

The report notes that despite the Refugee Act calling for thirty-six months of assistance, most Iraqi refugees are receiving only eight months. On top of that, there are delays in terms of appointments with case workers. There is a thirty-day delay of initial payment after the paper work has been completed appropriately. Along with economic issues such as not providing enough funds to the refugees, the USRAP has a problem when it comes to planning. The report notes, "When the U.S. government announced in 2007 that tens of thousands of Iraqi refugees would soon be arriving in the United States, there was little doubt that Iraqis would seek to be placed in cities with large existing Iraqi and Arab communities like Detroit and San Diego. Even those working in overseas processing predicted as much." So why, when the refugees began arriving, was this a 'surprise'? One of the report's recommendations is for the new procedures to be developed by the lead agency which "outline a common, consistent strategy for the placement of individual refugees, taking into account the needs of each refugee, state and volag resources, and recent trends prior to a refugee's arrival."
Vincent T. Davis (San Antonio Express-News) reports on Iraqi Khalid Ali who had to leave Iraq after threats were made (he worked with CBS News in Iraq). Shortly after his family arrived in the US, his wife Sundas died of breast cancer. He is now raising the children by himself (the youngest is three-years-old) and attempting to find work. Davis reports, "There are moments away from his children when he sits and stares. He misses his wife. Ali relies on the words of the Quran, saying, 'God will enlighten and show the way.' He dreams of his children prospering in their new country, but first he has to help them deal with their loss. 'They miss the tender kindness of their mother,' Ali said. He hasn't told his two youngest girls their mother has died, he can't find the words to tell them the truth; after many hospital stays, the girls think she's still there."

In England,
Owen Bowcott (Guardian) reports, "The UK Border Agency is preparing to send the first, mass deporation flight returning failed asylum seekers to Baghdad and southern Iraq, according to a refugee organisation that monitors expulsions." The group is the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees. They're calling for mass action tomorrow and they quote Iraqi refugee Yousuf stating, "Iraq's not safe for me. I am Shia'a and a Sunni group is after me. The same group has killed both my brothers and now they're after me. The government here won't let me work, and then they give me just [35 pounds] a week to live on, but I've got friends here and I'm safe. Why would they send me back?" Tomorrow in London, there will be a demonstration at 5:00 pm at Communications House: "The Stop Deportation network and the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees call upon all groups, organisations and individuals opposed to this brutal action by the UK government to stand with us in calling for all deportations to Iraq to be stopped. Join us on the first public demonstration against mass deportations to Iraq this Wednesday, at 5pm, at the local immigration reporting centre, where many deportees are first arrested without prior warning whilst signing on (Communications House, Old Street, London, EC1)."

Iraq isn't safe for anyone. Nouri strong-armed a man with the UN in Iraq into stating some parts were and, please note, that man is gone. But the damage he did continues. Iraq is not safe and no government should deport anyone back to Iraq.

Meanwhile Amnesty International's Turkish refugees affairs coordinator
Volkan Gorendag speaks with Today's Zaman:

"There are almost 1 million Iraqi refugees in Syria, and they are able cope with it. Iran has a similar situation. Even in Iraq, there are almost 10,000 refugees there coming from Turkey. A country like Iraq, which has been devastated by war, is able to cope with this. Is Turkey less powerful then these countries?" he asks.
He says that if he had the power to change anything about refugees and asylum seekers in Turkey, he would start by passing a law on asylum and migration.
"There is no law in Turkey in this field. There are only some articles in various laws regarding the issue as well as many regulations. This makes the situation even more complex," he says.
When talking about the history of international regulations regarding refugees, Gorendag says he is saddened by the fact that Turkey was from the very beginning part of these debates but later chose to exclude itself from them.
"When the first international convention on refugees came on the agenda, Turkey was one of the countries which campaigned very hard for it from the beginning. It is one of the authors of the 1951 Refugee Convention. It addressed the topic of refugees because of events taking place in Europe. In 1967 geographical and temporal restrictions were removed, but Turkey kept them," he says.

Violence is among the drivers behind Iraq's refugee crisis -- the largest refugee crisis on the globe. Violence continued today in Iraq . . .

Laith Hammoudi and Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) report a Kirkuk roadside bombing claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers and left four more wounded, a Mosul roadside bombing left two women wounded, another wounded a guard and a third left a police officer injured. Reuters adds that a suicide bombing in Buhriz claimed the life of the bomber and 6 other people with ten more left injured.

Simon Assaf (Great Britian's Socialist Worker) reports on Iraq violence and notes, "The country continues to be plagued by power cuts, high unemployment and ethnic and sectarian conflicts. Now a severe drought has destroyed the agricultural sector." Natalia Antelava (BBC News) notes the MidEast water wars and how the dams Turkey has built have negatively impacted Syria and Iraq. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today announced, "Over 100,000 people in northern Iraq have been forced to evacuate their homes since 2005 because of severe water shortages, a UNESCO study finds. Drought and excessive well pumping have drawn down aquifer levels in the region, causing a dramatic decline of water flow in ancient underground aqueducts, known in Iraq as karez, upon which hundreds of communities depend." UNESCO also identifies 36,000 more Iraqis who may flee their homes in the near future due to the current water shortages. Iran's Press TV reported Sunday, "Iranian ships have started delivering drinking water to Iraq, as a Turkish pledge seems to have had little effect in solving Baghdad's water shortage problem. Tehran has agreed to send 650 thousand liters of water to Iraq by ship two or three times a week to help resolve the water shortage problem in southern parts of the country, the Iranian Tabnak news website reported on Sunday." Iran is shipping for southern Iraq, UNESCO is zooming in on the crisis in the north, to be clear.

Lynne Minion (Brisbane Times) attempts to draw attention to Iraqis few bother to notice. She recounts her time working in Iraq:

And by day I would work with local journalists and edit an online publication that told stories about the conditions for Iraqis, not those of the Western occupying forces. And every now and again, a translator would come to my desk to say that a woman was waiting outside, that she wanted to speak to me.
In a place where many women can't talk to men about their personal struggles, they came to speak to the Australian woman journalist and they asked me to give them a voice.
They told me about the little girl who was dragged into a house and held down on the kitchen table where her clitoris was removed using a dirty knife, without anaesthetic. They told me about the woman who had burned herself alive to escape the shame of divorce, whose ex-husband had instructed her to make sure she did it out in the backyard. They spoke of women paying up to $US400 for backyard "hymen reconstructions" to protect them from honour killings. Meanwhile, the local women's rights campaigner, Ala Noori Talabani, would wear a bulletproof vest for protection.
So if the pen is mightier than the sword, could it help these women to have their experiences told to readers worldwide? Regardless of lofty intentions, can words achieve anything when the powerful won't hear?
This was no peacekeeping mission, after all. The occupying forces with their Humvees and heavy weaponry, whose soldiers were said to be there to liberate the population, did little to liberate the women, quite the contrary. In addition to the estimated 1 million killed since 2003, about 4.5 million Iraqis have fled their homes, while more than 1 million widows and 3 million orphans have been left behind. Desperate women now beg in the streets.

And what has Nouri al-Maliki done to help the refugee crisis? And what has he done to help Iraqi women? To help Iraq's LGBT community? What has Nouri done? Has he done anything?
UPI and Official Wire report that he's "been systemattically amassing control of Iraq's intelligence and security services in the classic mold of Arab strongment." They go on to explain how Nouri's firing people he sees as rivals and controlling the National Security Ministry, how he's imposed a Baghdad curfew to allow for nightly mass arrests and he's "recruited tribal militias that are funded directly by his office." He is said to see Jawad al-Bolani, Minister of the Interior, as a political rival and some are saying "his next target will be Bolani, widely seen as a close U.S. ally." So Nouri's enriched himself. At least there is that. No comfort to anyone but Nouri but he's not just been sitting around slacking. Nouri likes to claim there's no money for public services. He likes to claim money is tight. The New York Times loves to enable and encourage his lies. Today , Timothy Williams informs, "The semiautonomous Kurdish region has reopened a rift with the central government after announcing that it had halted all petroleum exports from Kurdistan until Baghdad pays the international companies that are pumping oil in the region." That's cute. A rift? Reopened by the KRG?Baghdad's not paying the monies they are supposed to pay to the KRG. Grasp that. Grasp that the KRG is saying no more oil through Baghdad until they're paid. It's amazing the way the paper 'reports.' You can be sure that no US business that said "no" to another company or government due to non-payment would be accused of causing a 'rift.' Nouri's the new Saddam indeed. Just as CNN kissed his ass to remain in Iraq back then (as Eason revealed in that embarrassing NYT column sometime back), NYT kisses Nouri ass to remain in his good graces. Don't mistake what appears for reporting. Williams even goes so far to vouch for Nouri: "At the same time, the [Baghdad] government needs all the revenue it can get to pay for a host of pressing needs." A host of pressing needs? Millions on weaponry? That's not pressing. They're not needed, get real. Who's going to attack Iraq?The United States has done so twice. Who else?Iran? While they're so tight with Nouri? While they're apparently providing Nouri with a plane to travel in?They need all these costly weapons to protect them from whom?They don't need these weapons and Nouri has not, in his nearly three year reign, provided Iraqis with potable water or any other basic services that a functioning society has a right to expect. Maybe part of the reason Nouri keeps attacking Syria is because he needs to create an external threat in order to justify the spending? A meeting of Iraq and its neighbors continues for the second day in Egypt. Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports the 'big' thing on Iraq's agenda was again insisting they had evidence. Meanwhile Today's Zaman notes Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan begins a visit to Iraq on Thursday.

Nouri dug his own economic hole by throwing so much money at weapons.
Strategy Page reminds, "Last year, Iraq ordered over $4 billion worth of of American weapons, mainly on the strength of high (over $100 a barrel) oil prices. The price of oil has since plummeted, and Iraq is seeking to get better payment terms. Many of the weapons ordered had to be paid for in advance, or on delivery. Now, many of these orders are at risk, because Iraq has a lousy credit score. Despite all that oil revenue, and a large chunk of global oil reserves, Iraq has very bad credit history with just about everyone. So the country cannot finance the huge weapons purchases. The U.S. weapons firms will not extend credit, and expect to be paid."

Ending with Sunday's DC rally.
Democracy Now! is having some problem with the website currently. But this link should take you to their segment on Iraq War veteran Lt Dan Choi speaking at the equality rally Sunday. Choi is threatened with being drummed out of the military because he chose to tell. He chose not to live in a closet. In the segment, Amy Goodman and Sharif Abdel Koudous speak with Choi and they also play a segment of his Sunday speech. We'll note the speech:

Now, I know that there are many things that are worth fighting for, and I've fought for many of them, and I will tell you that some of those are very, very expensive. But of all those things that are worth fighting for, love is worth fighting for. Love is worth it. Love is worth it. Some of us have come from very far places to be here today. You've sacrificed a lot. But love is worth it. Some of us have just come out of the closet this year. Some of us are still in the closet. But I want to tell you that love is worth it. We've sacrificed so much. Some of us have been rejected by our families and our communities and our churches and our workplaces, but I will tell you that love is worth it. And many of us have been discharged from the service because we told the truth. But I know that love is worth it. We love our country, even when our country refuses to acknowledge our love. But we continue to defend it, and we continue to protect it, because love is worth it. Love is worth it. If you believe it, say it with me, "Love is worth it! Love is worth it! Love is worth it! Love is worth it!" Like so many others, I joined the military because my country beckoned me. "Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country." But when we're telling the truth about our love, our country slaps us in the face and orders us, "Don't ask," and orders us, "Don't tell." Well I am telling you that the era and the time for asking is over. I am not asking anymore. I am telling. I am telling! I am telling! Will you tell with me? Asking is over. We will tell, because in the face of injustice and the face of discrimination, patience is not a plan. In the face of discrimination, silence is not a strategy. My plan today and my plan tomorrow and my plan forever is to tell, is to tell. And we will tell. We will tell! We will tell!

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