Friday, October 01, 2010

Held hostage

So I am reading Paul Street's latest at ZNet and reminded of many things. Mainly what an embarrassment Howard Zinn's final months were. Street quotes a 2007 column Howard wrote for The Progressive about how we are not politicians. It was a solid message and one of Howard's finer columns.

A real shame that less than a year later, he was disgracing himself as a mindless cheerleader for Barack. Then he would go on to put his name to an inaugural ball for Barack.

He really betrayed all he stood for.

That's really too bad because 2008 could have been about something.

I voted for Ralph Nader. I didn't vote for Nader in 2000. I was not the only voter sick and tired of being held hostage by the two major political parties. 2008, if people hadn't been such scared wusses ("people" refers to opinion makers), we could have had a real movement.

Maybe Nader or Cynthia McKinney would have had some real steam behind them. (I am not insulting their runs or the candidates, I am noting an enthusiasm gap on the left.)

We needed independence and rallying and Howard Zinn acted like a nervous nelly trying to round up support for Barack. (Do not give me the crap about Howard endorsing -- at AlterNet in January 2009, he was talking about his endorsement of Barack.)

It's really sad because he should have led the country down the brave road. Instead, he chose to go out while whoring.

When we find the courage to shake off the two party illusion and show real bravery, we may be able to change our lives and our world. Until then, we're just hostages to Corporatist War Hawks.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, October 1, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate continues even though Nouri gets picked, stories of treatment and benefit battles are heard by Congress, the FBI raids of last week continue to get coverage, Iraq's LGBT community remains targeted, and more.
Starting with the political stalemate in Iraq where there is news. First up, Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reports that today Iraq became the country that went "the longest between holding parliamentary elections and forming a govnerment, experts say. The Netherlands had held the unfortunate honor after a series of failed attempts left the country without an elecected government for 207 days in 1977, according to Christopher J. Anderson, director, of the Institute for European Studies at Cornell University." 208 days.
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted last month, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's six months and twenty-four days with no government formed.
Roula Khalaf and Andrew England (Financial Times of London) report that the US and Iran joining together in their support for the continued reign of Nouri as prime minister has made -- or kept -- him a contender he otherwise might not be due to his being hugely unpopular with the people of Iraq. They quote an unnamed "senior western diplomat" stating, "Some people think Maliki is the only Shia tough guy around, and it starts from the premise that Iraq needs a strong man to ensure security. [. . .] the impact of the American push for Maliki is that it has actually been a solidifying factor for his opponents." A tough guy? Try thug. And many Americans received the latest on the stalemate while listening to the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show today as guest host Katty Kay discussed Iraq with Nadia Bilbassy (MBC TV), Courtney Rube (NBC News) and David Sanger (New York Times).
Katty Kay: A very busy week and a very busy morning. We have a lot of breaking news stories coming in. Nadia Bilbassy, we may have an end to the political stalemate in Iraq finally. How many months has it been since those elections?

Nadia Bilbassy: It's been almost seven months. And I always remember every time I come on this show, the question was when do you think the Iraqis are going to form their government and actually they entered a record in terms of a country without a government after election. So the fact that we have seen so many political moves in the last few days with Ayad Allawi -- the head or Iraqiya Party -- going to Damascus, trying to see what he can do. It seems finally it's the Shi'ite bloc that called the shot. And Moqtada al-Sadr who has been very well known here, obviously been anti-American in his stand, it seems he is the one who gives the final okay for this government for Nouri al-Maliki was, in the beginning, they objected to him as you will remember, Katty, in the old days, he led a campaign against the Shi'ites in the south. And specifically against Moqtada al-Sadr. So it looks like now that he is going to be the prime minister and all the Shi'ites' coalition will be behind him.
Katty Kay: Courtney Kube, one of the concerns as American troops start to withdraw from Iraq at the end of August was, of course, the fact that there was real political uncertainty in the country, to what extent does the news this morning that Nouri al-Maliki is not going to be just a caretaker prime minister but actually looks like he is going to be the prime minister as a political solution, to what extent does that mean the security situation
Well US militaries in Iraq is going to improve?
Courtney Kube: Well US military officials in Iraq and back here in the United States have been increasingly concerned about a growing power vacuum that exists in Baghdad ever since the elections. We've seen an increase in violence despite the fact that US combat operations officially ended a month ago today actually. So I think that people can breate a -- a somewhat of a sigh of relief here but there's still more steps that need to be taken before we know that there's going to be a solid government established in Iraq. The next step will be: Will the Kurdish leaders throw their support behind al-Maliki? There hasn't been any indication yet but this is still all breaking this morning. So hopefully this will indicate the end of this power vacuum, security can begin to stabilize again, civilian leaders can start to build up the institutions, the infrastructure in Iraq and they continue to draw down the troops next year.
Sam Dagher and Munaf Ammar (Wall St. Journal) report, "After a private meeting on Friday between officials from Mr. Maliki's and Mr. Sadr's party, the Sadrists, who had been vociferously opposed to a new term for Mr. Maliki, declared an about-face and said they would support him as their candidate to head a new government." So what comes next? If it holds, Leila Fadel (Washington Post) explains, "Maliki will now need a simple majority in the 325-member parliament to back his chosen cabinet. The Kurdish alliance that has largely been watching from the sidelines will now come into play. If the group, with about 57 seats, backs Maliki, he will have the majority in Iraq's parliament needed to approve his government. The group has made a series of demands that they want their potential partners to agree to." The news is not the end of statlemate or the formation of the government. That may or may not be coming next and it may or may not move quickly. Many previously announced 'done-deals' have quickly fallen apart allowing the stalemate to continue. Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) hails it as "a decisive step" but he does not rush to call it "a done deal." Myers rightly uses qualifiers such as "if" to describe what may or may not happen next. Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) offers, "Attention will now turn to Ayad Allawi, leader of Iraqiya, the grouping which won the most seats in the election. He has said he will not serve under Mr Maliki. Forcing Iraqiya into opposition would risk worsening the sectarian splits in the country." AFP quotes Iraqi voter Haidar Ibrahim stating, "I sometimes regret voting. From the very beginning (after the elections), there were always disputes among the political blocs -- the calls for recounts, the delays to the results. How could I have hope after all these things happened?" What a proud moment for the US government. They've meddled and interfered and done everything to keep puppet Nouri in place -- every undemocratic thing you can think of including fighting the efforts to have the United Nations appoint a caretaker government months ago since Nouri's term long ago expired -- and it has had an effect: It's convincing Iraqis that voting just isn't worth it.
Stephen Farrell has a must read article and, like too many New York Times articles on Iraq, it won't appear in the paper but it is up at the paper's blog At War. Choosing a section of it is difficult and doing it a diservice. If there are awards for newspapers' blog reporting, Farrell's earned such an award with "In Iraq, New Leadership but Same Reality:"
The American surge is long gone; many Sunni insurgents co-opted into the Awakening movement feel marginalized by the Shiite-led government. Furthermore, Sunni Arab voters are unhappy that the moderate cross-sectarian coalition for which many of them voted won more parliamentary seats than any other in the March elections, yet the Shiite incumbent Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki refused to cede real power, and looks increasingly likely to cling to office.
Shiites are just as nervous. Around Sadr City there are mutterings that militia bogeymen, real or imagined, have returned. Other Shiite militia leaders are being released from prison, amid political deal-making. A Shiite friend grumbled to me that, Corleone-style, he had to visit the home of one newly-freed Sadrist leader, to pay his respects.
My friend is leaving Iraq, fearing for his chances of survival in a mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhood if there is more sectarian blood-letting.
It is not an isolated decision. Many of The Times's Iraqi staff members in the Baghdad bureau have already left for the United States on an asylum program, or have applied to go. One journalist friend who chose to stay is now reconsidering the decision. Another got out of journalism because her life was threatened.
Again, amazing report and if the excerpt above doesn't make you want to read it, put it down to I must have selected the wrong portion to excerpt. It's an important and strongly written report. He notes a number of Iraqi journalists are leaving the country. Reporters Without Borders noted this week:

Reporters Without Borders deplores a targeted attack on Alaa Mohsen, the host of the programme "Liqa Sakhen" on state-run Al-Iraqiya television, who was badly injured by a bomb placed underneath his car as he was about to leave his home in the Baghdad suburb of Saydiya on the morning of 27 September to go to work. Rushed to the Yarmouk district hospital, he was reported to be in a critical condition yesterday.

It was the third targeted attack on a TV presenter since the United States announced the withdrawal of its last combat troops on 31 August (,38320.html). Safaa Al-Dine Abdul Hameed of Al-Mosuliyah was shot dead in Mosul, in the northern province of Ninawa, on 8 September while Riad Al-Saray, another Al-Iraqiya presenter, was gunned down in Baghdad on 7 September.

The current climate of terror and impunity has also seen an increase in violence against journalists by members of the Iraqi security forces.

Today on Morning Edition (NPR -- link has audio and text), Kelly McEvers reports that journalists in Iraq are facing increasing problems -- violence has long targeted journalists in Iraq and now they also have the Communication and Media Commission.
MCEVERS: Haidar says not only are reporters being thrown out onto the streets, but it's getting harder and harder for them - well, us - to do our jobs. The government office that oversees the press here is the Communication and Media Commission. It was set up by the U.S., just after the 2003 invasion. The commission recently announced that all news organizations, both Iraqi and foreign, should register, pay hefty licensing fees and sign a pledge that we won't ignite sectarian tensions or encourage terrorism. Human rights groups say this opens the door for people in power to punish their enemies. We put that claim to Ahmed al Abyad, who advises the commission. You signed this thing that says we will not ignite sectarian tensions. But it's like, well, who is to judge that?
Mr. AHMED AL ABYAD: (Through translator) It's true what you are saying, and like, who puts these regulations? And again, who is responsible for applying those regulations? That's the biggest question.
MCEVERS: For now, that who is the nine-member commission, which is appointed directly by the prime minister and not answerable to parliament. The idea is that in exchange for our money and our pledges to abide by the rules, the commission will provide two things that are very important to journalists in Iraq: access and protection. But so far, the commission hasn't held up its end of the deal. In fact, officials use protection as a way to deny access. These days, when a terrorist attack is reported or a military offensive is underway, journalists are kept far from the scene. Here's Ziad al Ajili, who heads a press freedom group here.
Mr. ZIAD AL AJILI (Leader of Press Freedom Group): (Through translator) When we go to those military commanders, they say, no. We don't want to give you access, because we fear for your safety. And, I mean, I want to do the report, even if I die, even if I pay my life for it. It's my life, and I'm free to do anything with it.
Among the many human rights tragedies of Iraq is the blind eye that Nouri, et al and the US government have turned to the assault on Iraq's LGBT community. Michael T. Luongo (Gay City News) is in Iraq and reporting on the LGBT community:

An organization that mostly serves women, many widowed, who have suffered horrifically since the US invasion, OWFI has an open door policy to anyone needing assistance. With my limited knowledge of Arabic, I noticed that the staff used the polite term "mithlee" for homosexual, rather than more offensive labels common among Iraqis.

I met with men on the Sadr City death lists, the postings placed throughout this part of Baghdad by Muqtada Al-Sadr's Mahdi Army. Mohammed was on the list for many reasons, not just his sexuality; the calculus that determines death sentences in Baghdad is jumbled and terrifyingly far-reaching.

My interviews at the women's center were difficult not only because many men were reluctant to fully explain why they faced persecution, but also because of the OWFI's office layout. There was no privacy as people watched interviews; little children sometimes played in the room, climbing into my lap as I tried to make sense of a cacophony of languages -- English, Arabic, and Kurdish.

A loud air-cooler made hearing difficult, but the power repeatedly blacked out, easing the burden until the Badhdad heat became overwhelming. Still, the welcoming staff made the OWFI one of my favorite places in Baghdad.

Mohammed told me he loves Americans, showing me a cell phone picture of himself with American soldiers. It's part of what sparked having his name put on the death list. As I tried to dig deeper, he paused, sighed, and told me, "because I drank and stayed out late" and because of his tight Western clothes that showed off the body he built up at a gym eventually shut by the militias as un-Islamic.

Members of the Mahdi Army "phoned me and threatened me," he said, his words translated by others in the room. Though he never told me why, the militia killed his brother, and his panicked family sent him into hiding. Mohammed told me the name of his brother's killer, someone the women's group is familiar with. On another visit, I watched a video of the killer.

I came to learn that in Baghdad people know the murderers in their midst, but can do nothing to stop them. Because of the numerous grounds on which murder victims are singled out, it is quite possible that the number of gay killings has been undercounted, with families saying other motivations were at play.

That's from part two. Part one is here and part three is there. This is planned as an at least four part series.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing attacking Sahwa which claimed the life of 1 and left nine people emerge (two of which were Sahwa), a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier, and, dropping back to Thursday for all that follows, a Baghdad roadside bombing wounded one of Brig Gen Mohammed's body guards, a Baghdad sticky bombing which wounded one person, four bombings in Baghdad apparently to distract from a bank robbery -- unsuccessfully leading to a shoot-out in which 2 police officers were killed and three indiviuals were wounded, a Babil mortar attack which left one man and two women wounded. .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad shoot up in which 1 person was shot dead and two more were wounded and a Mosul attack in which 1 police officer was killed. Reuters notes a Baghdad drive-by in which Lt Col Ahmed Abdul-Wahid Alwan was wounded.
Today Chuck Raasch (Gannett News Services) notes, "Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen said he expects suicide and other post-combat problems to intensify as soldiers return to home and family. And as part of the push to cut federal deficits, the Pentagon almost certainly will face this new front with smaller budgets." Raasch quotes Mullen's stating he's "hoping to avoid any massive cuts." Is he worried about the service members health? (National security comments right after may cast some doubt on that.) Yesterday the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing entitled "The True Costs of the War." Committee Chair Bob Filner noted the efforts to attack veterans benefits. From Filner's opening remarks:
Every Congressional appropriation for war, in my view, should include money for what, I'm going to call it, a veterans' trust fund that will ensure the projected needs of our wounded and injured soldiers are fully met at the time that their going to war is appropriated. It's not a radical idea. Business owners are required to account for their deferred liability every year. Our federal government has no such requirement when it comes to the deferred liability of meeting the needs of our men and women in uniform even though meeting those needs is a moral obligation of our nation and a fundamental cost. It does not make sense fiscally, it does not make sense ethically. If in years past, Congress had taken into account this deferred fiscal liability and moral obligation of meeting the needs of soldiers, we would not have the kind of overburdened delivery system that we have today in the Veterans Administration. And would veterans and their advocates on Capitol Hill have to fight as hard as they do every year for benefits that should be readily available as a matter of course? Would they have to worry as much as they do today that these benefits will become targets in the debate over reducing the federal budget? Listen to this statement by one of the co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility -- that's trying to figure out how we balance our budget -- former Senator [Alan] Simpson said, "The irony is that veterans who saved their country are now in a way not helping us to save this country in this fiscal mess." That is, they should defer their health and welfare needs because of a budget problem.

Chair Filner and US House Rep Walter Jones both spoke of the need to create a Veterans Trust Fund to ensure that veterans benefits are not under attack under the current system where they are funded according to how much money is in the budget (as opposed to wars which are funded by passing the bill on to future generations). Among those testifying before the committee was economist Joseph E. Stigliz who stated, "And the reality then is that under the pay-go current framework that supporting these obligations that we've undertaken to our veterans has to compete with every other expenditure. And -- and there will be pressure. And the reference to the Debt Commission, the reference to former Congressman Simpson's testimony is evidence of that kind of pressure that will be put on veterans expenditures."
We covered the first panel in yesterday's snapshot and we'll note panel two and panel three today. Panel two was composed of retired officers, Maj Gen John Batiste, Maj Gen William Nash and Col James McDonough. Panel three was composed of Paul Sullivan (Veterans for Common Sense), Lorrie Knight-Major (mother of Iraq War veterans Sgt Ryan Christian Major who was critically injured by a Ramadi bombing), Iraq War veteran Corey Gibson and Ret Lt Col Donna R. Van Derveer, Iraq War veteran..
From the second panel, we'll note this exchange. Maj Gen John Batiste had spoken of a huge gulf "between resources and the needs of veterans" and "a void between the VA Central Office, the range of VA medical centers and regional state offices and local veteran service organization. Federal and state governments are not aligned to serve veterans and their families."
Chair Bob Filner: I was hoping -- You said some kind words about our great [VA] Secretary [Eric] Shinseki, I thought that he would, from experience be able to impose some stuff on the bureaucracy. It looks like it's working the other way.from my observations. Because, in the army, when he says something, it gets carried out. In a bureaucracy [shrugs] who knows? And besides the people that have to tell you that it's being carried out? [Shrugs.] I don't -- I'll just give you one example of how I had asked General Shinseki in his first meeting, his first appearance here in front of this committee, I asked him about suicide coordinators because we had, you know, that were supposed to be -- 'I've been told that there's a suicide coordinator at every hospital.' And I said, 'You know, I'm only a private and you're a general but let me tell you that you have to look beneath what you just heard or what you've been told. The janitor who has a 10% suicide coordinator thing now by his name is probably in some hospital or a half-time person here or someone untrained there. And you got to go beyond, you know?' If that was an army, his army staff telling him, he could rely on it. But I don't think he could rely on it with -- with the bureucracy here. So how do you get through that to get to some of the stuff you're talking about?
Maj Gen William Nash: Well I know that General Batiste will have some comments on this as well but I would just start out the response is that two years is a very short time when you're trying to overcome years and years of less than brilliant management. And the key to it in my view is not unlike the approach the services have taken and the emphasis on professional development of your workforce in parallel with your day to day working. You know we send off army officers to school all the time. Okay? We take them out of the operating force -- more and more difficult when you're fighting the wars that we've been fighting for the last nine years, there's been a modifcation of that -- but for years, even in WWII, we took people out of the force for purposes of education and, during times of peace, we did it even more so. So if you don't set up a system to develop your work force, you're never going to get better, you're going to keep fighting the same battles day in and day out. And, as administrations change, all too many people turn over. And so the professional force has got to be developed in such a manner that it provides the continuity. So when the Secretary of Veterans Affairs gives an order, there's a reasonable expectation it will be carried out uniformly throughout the force.
Moving to the third panel, Paul Sullivan noted his organization's support for a Veterans Benefits Trust Fund. He also noted that, via Freedom Of Information requests, Veterans For Common Sense had come up with a number of figures such as aprproximately 2.2 million US service members have served in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars thus far and that VA has "treated approximately 565,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran patients at VA medical facilities. The one thing that is surprising is that the numbers keep rising at the same rate even though there are comments that the wars are de-escalating and troops are coming back." The number of disability claims filed by Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans is 515,000 so far. He also stated, "There are 100 new first-time veteran patients treated at VA for each battlefield death reported by the military. A second bullet point, there is one new VA patient every five minutes from these two wars."
Lorrie Knight-Major spoke of her son's wounds and his medical treatment. Stop-loss is referred to as "the backdoor draft." And how it has been carried out is that a service member is informed that he or she is being stop-lossed and, as a result, his/her discharge date has changed and been pushed back. Knight-Major's son Ryan was critically wounded in the Ramadi bombing and that bombing took place "five days after his original discharge date". Stop-loss wounds, stop-loss kills. It's not just a benign policy that Donald Rumsfeld thought up and Robert Gates has continued to implement. Knight-Major spoke of the hardships on the wounded and on the families of the wounded. There were few VA resources that were available to the families. Non-profits were the ones that allowed her son to, for example, have an IBOT (a specialized wheelchair furnished by the Independence Fund) and a dog Theodore (via Paws 4 Liberty), "Theodore is a three-year-old Belgian Shepherd and has truly made the biggest impact on Ryan's independence. Theodore helps Ryan with retrieving dropped items, helps him navigate crowded areas and helps him relieve and mitigate his PTSD symptoms." These resources and others that that would help are resources that families and veterans have to find on their own, Knight-Major explained, noting how she was to learn of Rebuilding Together via "word of mouth." (Rebuilding Together was able to renovate the home, adding an elevator, accessible bathroom,etc.)
Lorrie Knight-Major: If the nonprofit organizations had not provided assistance, would it have been acceptable to the government for my son to have been placed in a nursing home? Would it have been acceptable to the government for my son to have lived isolated in a basement because he didn't have a means to be transported to the main areas of the house? Would it have been acceptable for my son to require sleep medications or someone in his room nightly forhim to sleep? Is this what the government considers to be the true costs of the war?
Iraq War veteran Corey Glass detailed the problems with receiving care including, "Mental health services are paramout for our returning combatants. My interview upon returning from Iraq to decipher whether I needed mental health services or not was to be marched into a gym, separated from my family by a piece of glass, and asked if I wanted to see my family or do I feel I need to talk to someone about my feelings at this time."
Scott Horton: You were one of the peacenik victims of this FBI persecution last week. Is that right?
Jess Sundin: Yes, I was. My home was raided by seven or more federal agents on Friday morning at 7:00 a.m.
Scott Horton: Wow. And was that because you're involved with al Qaeda or Hezbollah?
Jess Sundin: Neither one. Absolutley not. I'm a peace activist and I believe the government doesn't like my ideas and is trying to keep us from speaking out and saying what we believe in. They're not going to find any evidence in any of the things they seized from my house or any of the others that anyone ever gave anything to any terrorist organization. It's not something that anyone in the peace movement does. Nothing that I've ever done.
Jess Sundin is a member of Minnesota's Anti-War Committee. Last Friday the raids took place in at least seven homes -- the FBI admits to raiding seven homes -- and the FBI raided the offices of Anti-War Committee. Jess also noted that many individuals across the country received subpoenas to appear before the grand jury on the same day. As noted last week: Karmically, the news breaks on the same day that the National Lawyers Guild issues a new report, Heidi Boghosian's [PDF format warning] "The Policing of Political Speech: Constraints on Mass Dissent in the US." .One connection Jess knew of between those whose homes were raided was that they participated in some form at protests at the 2008 GOP Convention in Minnesota.
Heidi writes at length about those protests including:
More than 15,000 journalists, bloggers and members of the independent media attended the RNC. According to the Report of the Republican National Convention Public Safey Planning and Implementation Review Commission (After Report), ". .. the lack of clarity as to how law enforcement would treat journalists at the RNC, and the lack of a clear policy toward the media, resulted in disparate expectations and treatment, confusion and some resentment by journalists twoard the SPPD."
The RNC Welcoming Committee and independent media became specific targets of local and federal law enforcement during the 2008 RNC.
On the Wednesday before the RNC, August 27, New York journalists Vladimir Teichberg and Olivia Katz from the Glass Bead Collective were arrested at around 1:30am by Minneapolis police. They had just picked up another collective member and were walking home when they were stopped. The officers detained them for at least 30 minutes and held their possessions, including a laptop computer, cell phones and video cameras, for 14 hours. The property was released and a decision was made to not file formal charges only after the internvention of [National Lawyers] Guild attorneys and public press conferences condemning the police actions.
Bruce Nestor noted that: "The detaining of journalists ties into a pattern and a history here of the Minneapolis police harassing people who are documenting police misconduct. They were seizing video cameras, taking cell phone videos, destroying memory chips, and otherwise interfering with the right of citizens to document police misconduct."
On Saturday, August 30, police executed a search warrant at 951 and 949 Iglehart Avenune in Saint Paul where members of the independent media group I-Witness Video were staying. Police detained the St. Paul homeowner, Michael Whalen, and others present for two hours while they obtained a warrant to search for weapons, computers, hazardous materials, cell phones and firearms. No arrests were made and no items were seized. The search warrant was based on the claim of an undercover informant that 27 boxes of "weapons" had been delivered to the home. The boxes turned out to contain literature promoting veganism, for distribution during the RNC.
Heidi co-hosts WBAI's Law and Disorder Radio (10:00 a.m. EST Mondays -- also plays on other stations around the country throughout the week) with fellow attorneys Michael Ratner and Michael Smith. Ron Jacobs (at Dissident Voice) offers his take on the raids:
The PATRIOT Act was passed on October 26, 2001. Since that passage, the level of law enforcement intimidation and outright repression increased quite dramatically. From little things like protesters being forced to protest in so-called free speech zones or face arrest to the recent approval of the assassination of US citizens by federal death squads, there has been a clear progression away from any concern for protecting civil liberties. Indeed, the concern for civil liberties is usually dismissed by politicians, judges, and other people in power almost as if they were some worthless costume jewelry from your grandmother's jewelry box. As mentioned earlier, this harassment and repression is not new to US history. In addition to multiple murders of Black liberation activists, illegal surveillance, false imprisonment and other forms of harassment, the use of grand juries was essential to the repression of the antiwar and antiracist movements of the 1960s and 1970s. As the NLG document points out, "from 1970-1973, over 100 grand juries in 84 cities subpoenaed over 1,000 activists." However, nowadays there seems to be less resistance to it. Some of this can be attributed to the lack of press coverage, which is quite possible intentional. Much of the lack of concern, however, can be attributed to the state of fear so many US residents live in. This is a testimony to the power of the mainstream media and its willingness to serve as the government's propaganda wing.
To those who argue that the media doesn't always support the government and then cite Fox News' distaste for Obama or a liberal newspaper's distaste for certain policies enacted under George Bush, let me point something out. Like the two mainstream political parties (and the occasional right wing third party movement like the Tea Party), even when different media outlets seem to be opposing each other, the reality is that neither opposes the underlying assumptions demanded by the State. In fact, the only argument seems to be how better to effect the underlying plan of the American empire. The plan itself (or the rightness of the plan) is never seriously questioned.
TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Gloria Borger (CNN), Susan Davis (National Journal), Christi Parsons (Chicago Tribune) and Jeff Zeleny (New York Times) join Gwen around the table. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is "Telling Our Stories." This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Eleanor Holmes Norton, Melinda Henneberger, Tara Setmayer and Kristen Soltis on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And this week's To The Contrary online extra is on whether or not female politicians should call out sexism used to attack them. Need To Know is PBS' new program covering current events. This week's hour long broadcast airs Fridays on most PBS stationsthe Penatgon Papers (Daniel Ellsberg is a guest on the broadcast) and Joe Pantoliano discussesmental illness. Turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

Unfinished Business
Lesley Stahl goes to Iraq to report on the many possible sources of conflict that could erupt there once the U.S. military completely withdraws from the country by the end of next year. Watch Video

The Go-To Guy
He was in charge of the 9/11 victim's compensation fund, and adjudicated claims of Virginia Tech Massacre victims and those of Agent Orange. Now Kenneth Feinberg is tasked with sorting out the thousands of claims stemming from the BP oil spill. Morley Safer reports. Watch Video

Giving Away A Fortune
Scott Pelley catches up with the world's most generous philanthropists, Bill and Melinda Gates, and travels to some of the world's trouble spots their billions are helping. Watch Video

60 Minutes, Sunday, Oct. 3, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

We'll close with this from David Swanson's "The Book the Pentagon Burned" (War Is A Crime -- and that link works, the link I did this morning did not work, my apologies):

The Pentagon spent $50,000 of our money to buy up the first edition of "Operation Dark Heart" by Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer and destroy every copy. The second printing has lots of words blacked out. Wikileaks claims to have a first edition, but hasn't shared it. However, reading the bleeped-through version reveals plenty.
Shaffer and others in the military-spying complex knew about U.S. al Qaeda cells and leaders before 9-11 and were prevented from pursuing the matter. Shaffer believes they could have prevented 9-11. He so informed the 9-11 Commission, which ignored him. The Defense Intelligence Agency retaliated against Shaffer for having spoken up. We knew this, but the book adds context and details, and names names.
The bulk of the book is an account of Shaffer's time in Afghanistan in 2003, and the title comes from the name of another aborted mission that Shaffer believes could have and should have captured or killed al Qaeda leaders at that time in Pakistan. Shaffer blames the CIA for screwing up any number of missions, for working with Pakistan which worked with the Taliban and al Qaeda, for counter-productive drone attacks, and for torturing prisoners. He also describes the insanity of General Stanley McChrystal's scheme of sending armed soldiers door-to-door to win hearts and minds and flush out "bad guys."
Shaffer doesn't say whether people he helped capture were tortured, but proudly recounts helping murder people and interrogating people without using torture. He does, however, detail the interrogation he did of a man whom he repeatedly threatened with shipment to Guantanamo. Bleeped out throughout the interrogation are repeated references to what is almost certainly the man's identity as an American.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Iraq: Veterans and the stalemate

"War veterans' care to cost $1.3 trillion" (Shaun Waterman, Washington Times):
The expense of caring for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is an unfunded budget liability for U.S. taxpayers that in years to come will rival the cost of entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, lawmakers will be told Thursday.
The House Veterans' Affairs Committee will hear new estimates of the cost of lifetime medical care and benefits for returning troops disabled by their service — a total of more than $1.3 trillion.

The gang's planning on being at the hearing tomorrow so look for it to be reported in the snapshot but I hope you're paying attention to how many members of Congress are floating notions of cutting veterans' benefits.

Last week, for example, US Senator Jim Webb attacked VA Secretary Eric Shineski's decision to expand the benefits and recognition for Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange and, for months now, Webb has been whining about the costs.

I think it will be much too late before Americans grasp that when Barack says everything is on the table, he does mean veterans benefits. This will become more evident after the mid-terms.

"Politics may be driving some Baghdad attacks" (Steven Lee Myers and Thom Shanker, New York Times):
The heavily fortified Green Zone in Iraq's capital has in recent weeks come under an intensifying barrage of rocket attacks, prompting a senior U.S. military commander on Wednesday to suggest that Iranian-backed militias were behind the attacks in an effort to influence the formation of a new government.
The attacks -- 23 in the last month, including two on Wednesday -- have alarmed U.S. officials and raised questions about the ability of Iraq's security forces to stamp out attacks on the capital's governmental and diplomatic core.

I really find it amazing how few people are following the political stalemate -- or probably even aware of it. C.I.'s been charting it and counting down the days. March 7th, elections were held. It's 6 months and 22 days later and no government formed. In addition, C.I.'s done the math to find out how long it took to form a government following the December 2005 elections: "In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister."

That's what they want to call progress? It is now taking longer to form a government than it did four years ago. That's not progress. Progress would be the formation of a government taking two or three months after the election.

It really is amazing how this is going down and how so few are even commenting on it. What happened to Iraq in left media?

It never really mattered, it turns out. They weren't against the Iraq War. They just needed a club to clobber George W. Bush with. He left and they dropped their 'concern' about the Iraq War.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Wednesday, September 29, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Robert Gates gets a tough question from a conscientious objector and the Secretary of Defense replies with what is an attack on Christianity, Senator Daniel Akaka receives an honor for his work on veterans issues, a House Veterans Affairs Subccomittee wonders why -- a year later -- no progress has been made on employment issues for veterans, the British pullout from Basra is examined, new rumors surface that Nouri will remain prime minister in Iraq, and more.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is currently taking questions at Duke University as I dictate this. He's grandstanded on the back of veterans and the military as he always does in that mincing manner he has. (Still crying over the death of PG, Bobby Gates?) We'll note his awful speech later in the snapshot but Gates got a little bit of a surprise when a 2006 Conscientious Objector stood up to ask a question.
The C.O. spoke of the demonization he received when he was going through the process and Gates grew visibly nervous and began shifting from foot-to-foot while his eyes darted wildly around the lecture hall at Duke's Bryant Center. "As a Christian," the CO expalined, "I'm concerned that I'm not able to respond to the denominational body I belong to when they deem certain wars unjust" as they did the Iraq War. He noted that, in contrast to the religious training and beliefs, soldiers are encouraged to "forfeit their moral agency to the officers" above them. And he wondered, "What your office might do to correct this tarnishment on our national integrity?"
By this point, Gates looked as if he was sucking on a lemon. War Hawks don't like being confronted. He began a snippy performance that seemed to prove true the rumors that he does a nasty camp Bette Davis impersonation. "I would say, first of all, this goes to the heart of my remarks tonight. In an all volunteer army, one does undertake a contractual obligation when enlisting. But there is certainly no obligation to re-enlist. And one should know -- anyone who has joined the military since 2002 has known -- that they are going into war with all of the moral challenges that can face people with -- So I think, ultimately, it has to be the choice of the invidivual."
Robert Gates is not a lawyer. He is a spinner. He's a damn good spinner if your goal is to advance illegal war or lies. If it's not, he's just a tired spinner who needs to create a job by retiring.
Volunteer army or not, the conscientious objector status is always recongized as a possibility or is Gates unaware that it remains on the books, has remained on the books since the draft ended, has remained on the books and has remained practiced for over thirty years? Is Gates so stupid that he doesn't know that?
(No, he's just a liar.)
As for 2002, the CO was specifically referring to the Iraq War. The Iraq War had not broken in 2002. All the lies Gates tells, it gets so hard for him to keep facts straight. The Iraq War started in March 2003. That's a fact. Equally true is that the administration lied repeatedly and the press went along with it. Finding out the truth about the Iraq War required real work. Lt Ehren Watada is one example of someone who had to do the work for themselves. In 2005, he was informed he would be deploying to Iraq in the summer of 2006. He began researching the war. He wanted to be able to answer any questions those serving under him might have. In researching the Iraq War, he discovered the realities including that it was an illegal war.
Lt Watada knew what Gates appears to have never learned: His pledge was to uphold the Constitution and he was required to refuse any illegal order. Is Gates unfamiliar with the Uniform Code of Military Justice? Gates does a vicious camp routine but he appears woefully short on the facts.
He also appears hostile to Christianity. Many Christian faiths are based on baptisms and on the Christian receiving the word of the God, a religious awakening. Gates appears completely ignorant of that fact. Anyone who joined before 2002 (or after) could very well have a religious awakening or a deepening of their religious beliefs -- those are core components and beliefs of Christian faith. Gates' bitchy little answer didn't recognize that reality.and showed extreme hostility to -- and prejudice against -- the Christian faith.
In a functioning government, Gates would be called to the carpet and told to issue an apology. That won't happen which will further lead to the suspicion among some Americans that defending religious freedoms only matters to the White House when the religion is Muslim. I'm not saying it's right, I'm not saying it's fair. I'm saying you're an idiot if you're ignoring the public perception of the White House -- demonstrated in multiple polls -- at this late date . And to allow your Secretary of Defense to launch what many Christians will see as an attack on the Christian faith and to not call it out will deepen the perception that some religions enjoy a "most favored nation" status at the White House.
"Some of the witnesses testifying before the Subcommittee may recall that we previously held a Federal Contract Compliance hearing on May 14, 2009," Subcommittee Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin declared this afternoon at the House VA's Economic Opportunity Subcommittee hearing. "In that hearing we received testimony from stakeholders highlihgting several concerns. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs lack the resources to enforce federal laws, the Vets 100 List was not available for public viewing and job listings -- as required by VEVRAA [Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act] -- were not available or easily accessible to veterans seeking employment. Unfortunately, the written testimonies we received for today's hearing express the same sentiments -- such as limited outreach by contracters and a failure to post announcements in the appropriate job listing services."
Herseth Sandlin was chairing a hearing on Federal Contractor Compliance and the two departments most responsible for contracting with regards to veterans are the Defense Department and Veterans Affairs but DoD was 'too busy' to appear before the Subcomittee today. Ranking Member John Boozman noted in his opening remarks "what appears less clear is the government's committment to enforcing the law."
DoD elected to skip the meeting today at a time when veterans unemployment is a serious issue. The full House Veterans Affairs Committee met this morning for a legislative hearing and US House Rep Cliff Stearns explained of his HR 3685, "Unemployment is at a record high today and unemployment in our veteran community is higher than at any time I can remember." This week Laura Clarizio (Examiner) noted of the weekly unemployment data that last week saw "[n]ewly discharged veterans claiming benefits totaled42,633, an increase of 537 from the prior week." Yesterday on PRI's The Takeaway, John Hockenberry and Celeste Headlee were joined by Stand Down's Dr. Casi Crockett and financial contributor Beth Kobliner to discuss the issue of veterans employment. Excerpt:
Beth Kobliner: If you look last year for unemployment for post-9/11 vets, then the general population or the non-vets. The rate was 10.2% for post-9/11 vets versus 9% for non-veterans. But the real story is when you look at young veterans, 18 to 24-year-olds. They have seen last year unemployment at 21% compared to 16% for non-veteran peers. So really, it's clear that the the job prospects for veterans are certainly no better than non-vets and, for young [veterans], they're much worse.
This is a pressing issue. And DoD chose to ignore the hearing. And yet, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the head of the Defense Dept, had the nerve to call out Americans for what he saw as "apathy." Gates spoke this afternoon at Duke Unveristy's West Campus. (Pentagon Channel streamed the speech live.) Completing his speech, Gates reached for a water bottle and proceeded to chug it. You'd probably be parched if you too had trashed Americans. Americans are apathetic, only 1% of them are serving Gates stated, and serving in the military is something the American people see as a task for "other people to do." Really? Well first of all, Gates clearly sees testifying to Congress as something "other people to do" since his lazy and inept ass couldn't send a single representative to the economic hearing today. And his grandstanding on the backs of veterans is rather weak since he and the DoD have done little to nothing to improve the employment rate for veterans. As for whether or not Americans are meeting challenges, the Iraq War is an illegal war. Bush administration hold over Gates has blood on both hands -- once for the last administration, once for the current. He needs to stop grandstanding, he actually needs to leave because he's doing such a poor job. If there's any apathy he's experiencing, it's the apathy that allowed him to remain Secretary of Defense when Bush was replaced with Barack.
21% is the unemployment rate for veterans aged 18 to 24 and Gates wants to offer quotes from letters John Quincy Adams wrote to his son -- yeah, like that'll put bread on the table. Gates needs to answer as to why DoD refused to send a representative to today's hearing.
The first panel was made up of Christina Roof (American Veterans), Joseph Sharpe Jr. (American Legion), Rochelle Webb (National Association of State Workforce Agencies), Richard F. Weidman (Vietnam Veterans of America) and Joe Wynn (Veterans Entrepreneurship Task Force) while panel two was composed of the Dept of Labor's Les Jin and the Dept of Veterans Affairs Jan Frye. Excerpt of the first panel:
Subcommittee Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: I'd like to just start out the questioning with a general one and it may touch on the end of Mr. Wynn's testimony, but I know that some of you have commented either in your testimony today or your written statements about perhaps the need for a compilation, some sort of a national listing, an official listing. For anyone that wishes to respond, who -- who's in the best position to compile and maintain that in your opinion?
Rochelle Webb: Madame Chairwoman, NASWA believes that a accurate list is needed and that it needs to be through a collaboration of all the federal agencies that are involved in contractor compliance. So we would look for not only OFCCP [Dept of Labor] to be involved but agencies such as ODEP [Labor's Office of Disability Employment] dealing with disability employment as well as representatives from the state work force agencies through our association, through the veterans program for DVETs [Directors for Veterans' Employment and Training] -- we also believe needs to be involved. One part of the puzzle will remain one part of a puzzle. We need all pieces working together to have a comprehensive solution that will work for both state and federal level agencies. Thank you.
Joe Wynn: Madame Chair, I'd just like to say that between the Veterans Employment Training Service Dept and Labor OFCCP -- between the two, they should be maintaining a list of federal contractors who are required to submit information about employment opportunities for veterans. And it's very important, too, that we get information included in that listing -- or if it needs to be in an additional listing -- on subcontractors. There are a lot of employment opportunities available through subcontracts. There are thousands of subcontracts tied in to each prime federal contractor. But that list needs to be compiled, made readily available and made available throughout the year -- not just at one time when the submission of the Best 100 [yearly Vets 100 Report due out each September] is done. Thank you.
Subcommittee Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Well thank you, Mr. Wynn. Any -- Ms. Roof?
Christina Roof: Just a really quick comment. AMVETS is looking forward to seeing the outcome of the presidential executive order bringing these agencies together: DoL, OFCCP, SBA [Small Business Administration] so that they can get a good understanding and stop doing things like duplication of efforts, taking this knowledge -- this wealth of knowledge and building a data base. So we're looking forward to seeing what comes out of that as well. Thank you.
Subcommittee Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: That's a good point. We know how important the interagency collaboration is in so many other areas. But I think, in addition to the collaboration, if we're going to make this happen, one -- somebody needs to ultimately have the -- bear the responsibility of maintaining it, right? And being the point of communication. And that leads me to my follow up question in terms of the Vets 100 Report. A number of you made different suggestions. Mr. Wynn just made mention of subcontractors. I think,, Dr. Webb, you may have in your written testimony as well. What kind of oversight and verification is needed over the Vets 100 Report to make it a meaningful exercise?
Rochelle Webb: Madame Chairwoman, NASWA believes that the oversight needed is first of all to review, and perhaps a study would be useful here, to see what type of information reported on the Vets 100 could actually help increase the effectiveness of contractor compliance. The way the Vets 100 Report is now, it's an annual report, it's a static snapshot in time. It's immediately outdated once it's submitted and, as Mr. Wynn has indicated earlier, it's very difficult for state agencies to know within your state who are the entities that receive subcontracts because the major contract could have been in another state. But there are employment opportunities that are lost unless they are uncovered by our DVOPs [Disabled Veterans' Outreach Program] and our LVER [Local Veterans' Employment] staff within the states on their outreach. But in Arizona where we have over 140,000 employeer, it's very difficult for a staff of just over 60 veteran staff to outreach that many employers to try to uncover which of those jobs are out of compliance or should be listed and are not.
Brief excerpt of panel two -- again composed of the Dept of Labor's Les Jin and the Dept of Veterans Affairs Jan Frye.
US House Rep Gus Bilirakis: Mr. Jin, what are your concerns with regards to NASWA's job central system?
Les Jin: Congressman, I think that the key thing is that we want to make sure that there's a system in place so that the priority referral provision for veterans is-is-is handled in a way that works for everybody, works for the veterans, works for the state and local organizations that put this together. So I don't have a specific concern but I think that we got a system in place that was developed and, you know, we would be happy to have conversations with the organization about any issues they want to raise. As far as I know, we have not done that and they have not reached out to us in that regard. One thing that I want to mention is that we have regulations, proposed regulations, as I mentioned, and during that process, we took a lot of comments from a lot of different stakeholders. My Director [Patricia] Shiu met with a lot of organizations, she had a webinar where she talked with over a thousand organizations and individuals concerned about veterans issues. She did townhalls in New Orleans and Chicago and San Francisco. She's got a lot of input and we just want to make sure that whatever changes we make are fully reviewed and-and-and everything is integrated into that decision.
Subcommittee Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin pointed out to Jin that NASWA recommended last year that "an official list of federal contractors" be generated by his department and she wondered if that had taken place? Jin danced around the topic in his immediate reply leaing to a redirect by the Chair ("Well, it was a recommendation made a year ago.), Jin stated "I was not hear until the last few months." But, in those months, he had no conversations on that topic.
From the US government to efforts in Iraq to form a goverment, Syria's Day Press reports, "President [Bashar] al-Assad's received on Wednesday a delegation from the Iraqi List led by Iyad Allawi. Talks dealt with the latest developments in Iraq and the ongoing efforts and negotiations among different Iraqi blocs to form an Iraqi government." DPA adds, "Allawi's meeting in Syria comes as a coalition of Iraqi Shiites, known as the National Alliance, are due to hold a third day of talks Wednesday evening after they failed to meet their own deadline to nominate a candidate for the position of prime minister." While that meeting was going on, Alsumaria TV notes, "Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al Moallem discussed with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon the situation in Iraq. [. . .] The Syrian Foreign Minister affirmed that Iraq's security is bound to the country's national unity stressing the necessity for all Iraqi components to take part in shaping up Iraq's future."
And if you're late to the ongoing stalemate, March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted last month, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's six months and twenty-two days with no government formed.
Suadad al-Sahly and Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) note that "despite increasing acrimony," the talk is Nouri will be nominated by the Iraqi National Alliance (State Of Law already has him as their nominee) and he will be Iraq's 'next' prime minister. Hurriyet Daily News reports, "A group of prominent Iraqi nongovernmental groups have gone to court to try to break the political deadlock that has left the war-torn country adrift without a government and, according to many, vulnerable to insurgent attacks and worsening social conditions, a report said." Brian Murphy (AP) reports that US Brig Gen Rob Baker states that the continued stalemate is not only encouraging violence among 'insurgents' but could lead other Iraqis not to report suspect behavior to the Iraqi forces or the US forces. Youchi J. Dreazen (CongressDaily) reports similar concerns expressed today by the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm Mike Mullen: "I'm extremely concerned about their inability to stand up this government. The politics there are from my perspective too slow . . . and the longer that lasts, the more I and others worry about what does the future hold."
It takes a lot of stupid for the US government to deny their own involvement in all of this. I'm not just referring to their continued backing of the unpopular Nouri al-Maliki. I'm also referring to their allowing him to push back the elections to begin with. This first happened under Bush and was okayed by Barack when the elections were pushed back to fall/winter of 2009. Once Barack was sworn in, other push backs took place. Nouri intentionally dragged his feet. That was obvious to all international observers. Which is how Iraq repeatedly missed one deadline after another -- all the while the US government insisting that elections would take place before the end of 2009 -- and that is how elections which should have taken place in mid-2009 did not take place until March of 2010. The six months and counting spectacle is shameful. But never forget that the US encouraged it and allowed it by repeatedly allowing Nouri to push back the date and to interfere with the passage of needed legislation by Parliament that would have allowed the elections to take place in 2009.
It takes a lot of stupid to hail 'progress' in Iraq when they have no government, when elections took place over six months ago and the results were not honored. When Nouri's term long ago expired but he remains in office, not as a 'caretaker,' but as a tyrant. And if you're missing the point, Alsumaria TV reports, "The Iraqi cabinet Tuesday approved a $733 million deal for Leighton Offshore Private Ltd. Singaporean Oil Company to build a new oil export terminal in the southern city of Basra, a spokesman for the Iraqi government said." That's not the actions of a caretaker government. A caretaker government ensures that electricity is supplied, that trash is picked up -- all the things Nouri's government has FAILED to do. A caretaker government does not negotiate a multi-million dollar contract.
The violence continues.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing wounded two people, two Baghdad bombings (one after the other) left five people injured, a mortar attack on the Green Zone and, in Beshdar, a man crossed over the border from Iran to Iraq and was reported to Kurdish intelligence who attempted to detain him but he set off a bomb taking his own life and injuring two Kurdish intelligence agents. Reuters notes a Saqlawiya home bombing which injured "three woman and a man" and, dropping back to last night for the following, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured six people and a Kirkuk roadside bombing which injured a police officer.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Samarra home invasion in which police chief Major Saeed was shot dead (it was his home). Reuters notes that last night 1 "tribal leader" was killed when his Mosul home was invaded.
Turning to England and its role in the Iraq War, Defence Management Journal reports:

The British withdrawal from Basra in 2007 was "a huge mistake" and a "defeat" for the British Army, according to senior American commanders.
In the BBC's Secret Iraq documentary, one US General said the move by British troops from Basra Palace in the city centre to Basra International Airport left local people to be "terrorised" by militias.
General Jack Keane (ret'd) told the BBC's Secret Iraq programme: "I think it was a huge mistake to pull out of Basra and to go out to the airfield and to leave the people of Basra to be subjected to the Iranian surrogates who brutalised them, intimidated them, terrorised them."

In real time, we noted the regional withdrawal and then the Basra one and how embarrassing it was for the British military. Since, we've noted how the Iraq Inquiry has bent over backwards to avoid exploring those realities. (Known realities. Shortly before the Basra pullout, there was the abandoned base in the area, abandoned due to attacks, which the British military fled and which was torn apart by attackers in less than 24 hours.) Few outlets noted the reality on the British military mission in Iraq -- and even fewer of US outlets noted it. The Telegraph of London always covered it and today their Thomas Harding reports:

Some of the evidence in BBC Two's Secret Iraq was not given to the Chilcott Inquiry into Iraq. The comments will revive debate about whether the British pull-out from Basra in September 2007 was a prudent tactical move or a humiliating retreat.
The retired US general Jack Keane says: ''I think it was a huge mistake to pull out . . . and to leave the people of Basra subject to the Iranian surrogates who brutalised them, intimidated them, terrorised them."
A US colonel, Peter Mansoor, who was executive officer to the US commander Gen David Petraeus, says Basra was in "dire straits". "I don't know that you could see the British withdrawal from Basra in 2007 in any other light other than a defeat," he said.

BBC News adds
that 45 women were killed immediately after the British left Basra and quotes one Basra resident stating, "They started killing unveiled women. I had to buy an Ak-47 for personal protection. They started killing people who sell alcoholic drinks and barbers who shave beards."
There's plenty of news that should be in this snapshot but there's just not room and I note that because we're closing with two press releases. The first one is from Senator Daniel Akaka's office. He is the Chair of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee and he has won an honor. I've called him out in past snapshots so it's certainly only fair that we note he has received an honor:
Washington, D.C. -- Today The Military Coalition (TMC) presented U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) with one of its highest awards in recognition of his leadership on behalf of veterans and their families, especially his role in passing the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act. Akaka received the 2010 Award of Merit at the Reserve Officers Association Building on Capitol Hill.
"I thank The Military Coalition for this honor, and for their service to veterans. I look forward to continuing our shared work on behalf of America's troops and veterans, as well as the families who support them," said Akaka, Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee.
"Senator Akaka has taken the lead on almost every aspect of veterans' benefit improvements this year. We're especially grateful for his leadership in winning compensation and health coverage for caregivers, many of whom have had to sacrifice their jobs and homes to provide full-time care for a wounded loved one," said Joseph Barnes, TMC Co-Chair and National Executive Driector of the Fleet Reserve Association.
The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Service Act was signed into law by President Obama on May 5, 2010. The law includes provisions to establish an unprecedented permanent program to support the caregivers of wounded warriors, improve health care for veterans in rural areas, help VA adapt to the needs of women veterans, and expand support services for homeless veterans.
The Military Coalition represents the interests of more than six million members around the world, including active duty, National Guard Reserve, and retired members and veterans, as well as their families. For more about TMC, click here [.]
Kawika Riley
Communications Director and Legislative Assistant
U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs
Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman
We're closing with a lengthy release by the VA. We're doing that due to the attacks on moves made by VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to ensure that Vietnam era veterans receive what they are owed. If you're late to the attacks -- the Congressional attacks -- on Shinseki, see last week's "Iraq snapshot" and "Iraq snapshot," Ava's "Senator Roland Burris (Ava)," Wally's "Senate Veterans Affairs hearing (Wally)," Kat's "Jim Webb: The new Bob Dole" and The Third Estate Sunday Review's "No friend to veterans." Here's the press release from the VA:
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki today announced the publication of a final regulation in the Federal Register that makes it easier for Veterans to obtain Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care and disability compensation for certain diseases associated with service in Southwest Asia (including Iraq) or Afghanistan.
"This is part of historic changes in how VA considers Gulf War Veterans' illnesses," said Secretary Shinseki. "By setting up scientifically based presumptions of service connection, we give these deserving Veterans a simple way to obtain the medical and compensation benefits they earned in service to our country."
The final regulation establishes new presumptions of service connection for nine specific infectious diseases associated with military service in Southwest Asia beginning on or after the start of the first Gulf War on Aug. 2, 1990, through the conflict in Iraq and on or after Sept. 19, 2001, in Afghanistan.
The final regulation reflects a determination of a positive association between service in Southwest Asia or Afghanistan and nine diseases and includes information about the long-term health effects potentially associated with these diseases: Brucellosis, Campylobacter jejuni, Coxiella Burnetii (Q fever), Malaria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Nontyphoid Salmonella, Shigella, Visceral leishmaniasis and West Nile virus.
With the final rule, a Veteran will only have to show service in Southwest Asia or Afghanistan and that he or she had one of the nine diseases within a certain time after service and has a current disability as a result of that disease, subject to certain time limits for seven of the diseases. Most of these diseases would be diagnosed within one year of return from service, through some conditions may manifest at a later time.
For non-presumptive conditions, a Veteran is required to provide medical evidence to establish an actual connection between military service in Southwest Asia or Afghanistan and a specific disease.
The decision to add these presumptives was made after reviewing the 2006 report of the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine (NASIOM), titled, "Gulf War and Health Volume 5: Infectious Diseases."
The 2006 report differed from the four prior reports by looking at the long-term health effects of certain diseases determined to be pertinent to Gulf War Veterans. Secretary Shinseki decided to include Afghanistan Veterans in these presumptions because NAS found that the nine diseases are also prevalent in that country.
The 1998 Persian Gulf War Veterans Act requires the Secretary to review NAS reports that study scientific information and possible associations between illnesses and exposure to toxic agents by Veterans who served in the Persian Gulf War.
While the decision to add the nine new presumptives predates VA's Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses Task Force (GWVI-TF), the overarching responsibility of the GWVI-TF is to regain Gulf War Veterans' confidence in VA's health care, benefits, and services and reconfirm VA is 100 percent committed to Veterans of all eras. The GWVI-TF began in fall 2009 and is not a static, one-time initiative but will continue to build on its work with annual reports issued every August. The group's focus centers on unanswered Gulf War Veterans' health issues, improving access to benefits, ensuring cutting edge research into treatments, and to make sure Veterans' concerns are heard and addressed. This includes continuing to solicit Veterans, experts, advocates and stakeholders to share their views to better inform the important work of the GWVI-TF. The GWVI-TF Report can be found at
Disability compensation is a non-taxable monetary benefit paid to Veterans who are disabled as a result of an injury or illness that was incurred or aggravated during active military service.
Last year, VA received more than one million claims for disability compensation and pension. VA provides compensation and pension benefits to over 3.8 million Veterans and beneficiaries.
Currently, the basic monthly rate of compensation ranges from $123 to $2,673 for Veterans without any dependents.
For information about health problems associated with military service in Southwest Asia and Afghanistan, and related VA programs, go to and
For information about how to apply for disability compensation, go to or
yochi j. dreazen