Saturday, March 12, 2011

Critical skills

In the March 3rd snapshot, C.I. became one of the first on the left to publicly criticize the 'brilliant' legal mind of Glenn Greenwald. Glenn is not a brilliant mind. He's a hack whose 'analysis' rarely holds up. There's a reason you learned of Greenwald via his bad columns as opposed to his handling a landmark case.

This week, March 8th, Jennifer Van Bergen (CounterPunch) became another one:

I was somewhat surprised to see both Glenn Greenwald and law professor Kevin Jon Heller make inaccurate statements about the charges just filed against Bradley Manning. In particular, the charge being discussed was "aiding the enemy."

Greenwald claims that article 104(b) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) was "almost certainly the provision to be applied." It's true that the charge sheet doesn't specifically say that Manning is charged with violating the second clause of article 104, but it uses the language of that provision, so it NOT "almost certainly" the provision being applied; it is definitely the one being applied.

Glenn Greenwald is only a 'brilliant' legal 'mind' to those who don't know anything about the law. As a legal mind, he's about as proficient as Erma Bombeck would have been.

If you go back several years, you'll find a post at Rebecca's site you'll find a post where she caught Greenwald on Democracy Now and was excited when C.I. avised her to calm down. That's really about all that's been said about Greenwald publicly until this month by this community. C.I. has other things to do and generally just laughs at people like Greenwald. (What prompted C.I. to call Greenwald out finally was that Greenwald was getting the Bradley Manning issues wrong and that the 'great' mind was using an "international law" expert when the case was domestic and needed a military justice expert. Greenwald is not very intelligent.)

But it really is amazing how this idiot has been upheld as one of the country's best minds. Lawrence O'Donnell is someone I know. He is not someone I consider a friend. But watching his exchange earlier this year with Greenwald, I actually felt that, emotional though O'Donell was, he made stronger points than Greenwald. Greenwald's not intelligent. He's got a basic grasp (of the obvious) and little more.

Greenwald is part of the sexist 'legal' left who is glorified but doesn't have a clue. I'm thinking of another one who was disciplined by his university when C.I. made a point to ask the university president why the man in question was presenting himself as a legal expert on a topic he was neither trained in nor taught. Once C.I. raised that issue, it was quickly dealt with and that man no longer promotes himself as he used to in the past. Doing so again would result in the loss of his associate professorship.

But again we should be asking, why is C.I. the only one who catches that stuff? Maybe because others are too busy gobbling up the conventional wisdom that tells them what they want to hear instead of asking questions? Maybe because there are too many fan bois and not enough skeptics?

While Glenn Greenwald never knows what he's talking about, if you look at the history of the last seven years online, C.I.'s been right repeatedly. Yes, she does have legal training and, yes, she does have a firm on retainer. Yes, she does repeatedly explore legal issues with friends who are attorneys, judges and professors. That's obviously more work than Greenwald can handle. But whether it was telling you that the Ehren Watada couldn't face double jeopardy and be court martialed again, C.I. has repeatedly known what she's talking about. I can also name numerous veterans who've faced a legal issue in the last few years that would give a thank you to C.I. You bring up the issue with her and she'll end up citing a case you (and your attorney) probably hasn't heard of. It's that amazing memory she's forever had.

That's why when she says, "If you want to help, you should probably . . ." People should listen. Time and again, she's proven right. I really lament the fact that we have so few critical thinkers with logical skills on the left these days but am glad to know that one of the few we have is my best friend.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, March 11, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, protests take place across Iraq, Nouri wasn't able to nominate people for his empty Cabinet posts again, serving on the Integrity Commission means getting beat up by Nouri's thugs, a US House Subcommittee explored the VA's inability to enact the law Congress passed, and more.
"Mr. [Ranking Member Mike] Michaud has a distinguished history of support for our veterans and I look forward to working closely with him to ensure that those who have honorably served our nation receive the highest quality care that they so, so deserve," Chair Ann Marie Buerkle as she brought the US House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health hearing to a start this morning, setting a strong bi-partisan tone. She also recognized Sarah Wade and Patty Horan who are full time caregivers for their husbands who were wounded while serving in Iraq. Chair Buerkle asked the two women to stand and then led a round of applause for them. But she and Michaud had serious concerns that echo those raised in the March 2nd Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.
The Senate hearing was covered in that day's snapshot and Kat covered it in "Burr promises VA 'one hell of a fight'" and Ava covered it at Trina's site with "The VA still can't get it together." In the Senate hearing, the VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and Under Secretary Robert Petzel were the witnesses.
Chair Patty Murray: Mr. Secretary, I have a great deal of respect for the work that you've done on homeless and women's issues and I know you're working diligently in a number of ways. But I wanted to bring up an issue that I'm very concerned about. I've already discussed the caregiver issue with you, I've talked about it with Jack Woo, I've talked with senior staff at the White House and I have spoken directly with the president of the United States. VA's plan on the caregivers issue was overdue and once submitted it hardly resembled the bill that unanimously cleared this Congress. Three weeks ago, my Committee staff requested information on how that plan was developed and to date no information has been provided. Rather than following the law, the administration set forth some overly stringent rules bureaucratic hurdles that would essentially deny help to caregivers. Sarah and Ted Wade who were staunch advocates and worked hard with us to get this passed were invited by the president to attend the bill signing at the White House, they won't be eligible for the program under the plan that the department submitted. We're also hearing a lot from veterans and caregivers from across the country who fall outside of this new line in the sand the VA has drawn, who have been left in limbo and now don't know if this benefit that they advocated and worked so hard for will support them. Mr. Secretary, it appears your that department is not complying with the law as we have written. Can you please tell this Committee why?
And he couldn't. As Kat reported, Ranking Member Richard Burr informed Shinseki that either the law was implemented as written or Shinseki better be prepared for "one hell of a fight." As they should. DAV notes, "The veteran population aged 65 and older is expected to increase from 37.4 percent to 44.8 percent by the year 2020. VA is also treating a new era of younger, severely injured servicemembers. Many veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan will need lifetime care."
The Subcommittee heard from two panels. The first panel was Disabled American Veterans' Adrian Atizado, Wounded Warrior Project's Ralph Ibson, Iraq and Afghan Veterans of America's Tom Tarantino and National Military Family Association's Barbara Cohoon. The second panel was the VA's Robert Petzel (Under Secretary for Health) who lawyered up with Walter Hall and Deborah Amdur. We'll note this exchange from the first panel.
Chair Ann Marie Buerkle: This question is for each of the members on this panel, based on your expertise and all of the investigation and work you've put into this law and looking at its implementation, could each one of you identify for me what it is that you see as the single most serious deficit in the implementation of this law and what your solution would be for that deficit? And if you could just limit your remarks so that everyone could have a chance to respond, I would really appreciate it. We'll start with Mr. [Atizado] --
Adrian Atizado: Chairman Buerkle, I appreciate that question but, again, I have to caution the Committee that eligibility is only one of a number of gateway provisions in this law. Certainly if a service member and their caregiver -- veteran and their caregiver are deemed eligible and meet other gateway provisions that don't allow them the appropriate services then being eligible becomes a moot point in the end. As the other panelists have mentioned, it appears that VA's eligibility criteria does raise the bar that a caregiver and veteran must meet to be entitled or at least considered eligible and my testimony has a specific example of that. But I think in all -- In all fairness, I believe, VA has -- VA clinicians know what they need to do. And I think we know what -- we know what we want them to do. And I think there's -- There may have been a little bit of a misinterpretation on both sides. My point is -- is that we all have to step back a little bit from this very emotionally charged situation, reassess ourselves and come together on equal grounds because I fear that no matter what we say today, if we continue down this path, we will not come to a very amicable solution.
Chair Ann Marie Buerkle: Thank you. Mr. Ibson?
Ralph Ibson: I share -- I share my colleagues -- thank you [to Tom Tarantino, who helped him with his microphone] -- I share my colleagues view that it's difficult to isolate a single factor because there really are a great many flaws but -- but honoring your question, I do think that the imposition of very, very restrictive eligibility criteria that are inconsistent with the law and have the effect of disqualifying three of every four caregivers who probably should be covered under this law is the most profound of the many problems we have discussed this morning.
Chair Ann Marie Buerkle: Thank you. Mr. Tarantion.
Tom Tarantino: I associate myself with the comments of Adrian and Ralph. I think they're absolutely correct. There are multiple issues with the regulation of this law but if we needed to start somewhere, we have to start at eligibility because that's the first gateway. Uhm, and-and if you want to look at how to do it, I would suggest that they read the law because it's very explicit. It is in fact probably the most explicit piece of legislation that I've read since I started working in this field three years ago. But I-I actually do and I share Adrian's concern: We need to caution ourselves that we don't just stop there, that we have to actually look at how this program -- how this program is implemented holisticly and that once, if the elegibility criteria is fixed, that we don't just stop and say "Great!" put a win on the board and then move on. This is a very complicated program and we have to keep looking at it until it is -- We get it right.
Chair Ann Marie Buerkle: Thank you.
Barbara Cohoon: Our association would feel that it has to do with when you're actually going to be starting the benefits. It's not until there's all these other requirements that are met. And so therefore it pushes elegibility to all these benefits until further down the road and while it may be several months or years into veterans status. And we would like to see that start earlier because our caregivers need these benefits much earlier in the process than when they'll possibly be getting them. The VA's also rolling out all the benefits at the same time. So we feel that they should be able to start some of the benefits earlier in the process interjecting them at the time when the caregiver actually needs them so that they have the resources that they need, have the right skills to provide the care that they need and therefore the veteran gets the care -- or the service member's getting the care -- that they need. So our concern is the fact that they're waiting until all the wickets are met before they start any of the benefits and one of the major wickets has to be that the veteran has to be receiving care 100% in home and many of our service members are still going through the recovery phases where they might be having wound revisions or maybe they're having burns taken care of. So waiting until it's 100% in home as far as care, that could also delay either them leaving the military or starting this particular benefit. So that would be our concern. Elegibility also, but that's the biggest for us.
Elsewhere during the first panel, Tom Tarantino brought up what is considered "the signature wound" of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars: Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). If you're new to the topic of TBI, Barbara Mannino (Fox Business News) has a report on the topic, just published today. While the first panel was forthcoming, the second panel was a sad joke. It was the same performance from last week for Robert Petzel who still can't convincingly mouth words allegedly of regret.
Due to a vote about to take place, time was limited on the second panel and the Chair turned the questions over to US House Rep Phil Roe who is also Dr. Roe (medical doctor). We'll note a bit of the exchange.
US House Rep Phil Roe: Quickly, I've watched this now for the third year. It seems like all the programs we see are slow and glacial to get going. And I know it's a very complicated program but as you clearly pointed out, it's not nearly as complicated as having no arms or legs and getting around in your home or with a Traumatic Brain Injury where you can't balance the check book and someone has to be there to help you do that. That's a lot harder, as you just pointed out. I could not agree more. So why is it taking so long? And this program doesn't seem as complicated to me as many of the programs that the VA has.
Robert Petzel: Thank you, Congressman Roe. I will turn to Debbie Amdur to elaborate on this but I think the biggest aspect of this is that it is a completely new concept for us. We have never been in the business of providing a stipend to somebody who is providing caregiving services. And developing the regulations for this, getting all of the correct input before the regulations are actually in place, takes a long time. I-I-I think -- I apologize as I have before for the fact that we are so late in doing this but I think the fact that this was new and it required relatively complex regulations is part, at least of the explanation.
US House Rep Phil Roe: This reason? I mean we have regulations now for home health care people that go in. It looks to me like it would have been fairly simple to look at those and say "There's some criteria there." We've been pretty easy. I think we micro-manage this down to "what if? what if? what if? what if?" until it got to be almost -- and also the intent of Congress was to provide this to as many families. And I think right now, just like in the HUD-VASH voucher program we found out we've got 11,000 vouchers out there with no veterans, homeless veterans. So I think what you're going to find out with this is there's going to be a lot more need than we thought but we don't even know what that is now because it's so hard for people to get in and, as Mr. Tarantino pointed out, the gateway as eligibility, but that's just the first step. So we really don't know right now how many people -- And do you know how many people have applied or how many have to date?
Robert Petzel: Well, of course, there hasn't been application period yet, Congressman, But have an estimate of somewhere between 750 and a thousand people would probably be applying or would be eligible under the way the criteria are presently deliannated.
US House Rep Phil Roe: Well I guess that seems like an awfully small number to me in a country with millions of veterans. It seems to me like I'll be it will be ten or twenty or thirty times that many.
On TBI, Deborah Amdur declared, "And [I] was very concerned to hear the interpretation that we would not be covering veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury. When we put together the eligiblity crtieria we brought forward subject matter experts from across VA including leadership of our Federal Recovery Coordination from our programs our poly trauma programs, Traumatic Brain injury programs and so forth. And there was significant recognition of the challenges that are faced by family members caring for individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury." Dr. Roe wanted Adur to promise that by July, caregivers will be receiving money. And she did. She tried to go with "It is our intention" but she ended up promising. But that doesn't mean the VA will keep the promise, they never do. But we'll go ahead and note that the promise was made and we'll note it if it's kept or if it's broken.
Protests took place across Iraq today. AFP estimates that 500 Iraqis gathered in Baghdad's Liberation Square (Tahrir Square before the protests began last month) and they speak to Layla Saleh Yaseen who explains why she is protesting, "I demand the rights of Iraqis -- more rations and an improvement in services like electricity. I have four children and have to care for a disabled brother by selling simple goods in the streets." And that's the type of person the Iraqi military was advancing on, that's the type of person that scares Nouri so that he orders military helicopters to patrol the air space above Liberation Square. Jonathan Blakley (NPR's The Two-Way blog) reports, "Security forces lined the streets of central Baghdad with riot gear. Authorities didn't bother issuing a curfew or banning traffic in the normally congested city, but entrances into Baghdad province were blocked to motor vehicles. At times, traffic passed through Baghdad's Tahrir Square as the protesters, numbering between 500 and 1,000 shouted into megaphones and waved anti-government banners." Dar Addustour notes that the protesters are calling on Nouri al-Maliki to listen to them. Aswat al-Iraq quotes activist Emad Karim stating, "Dozens of citizens went to streets on Friday billed as 'Friday of Truth', calling for better services and fighting corruption." Yahya Barzanji, Bushra Juhi and Lara Jakes (AP) report protesters decried the way they had been treated by Iraqi forces in previous protests. Sami Majid pointed to the February 25th and explained, "They beat and kicked me, then forced me to sign a commitment that I would not participate in demonstrations or raise riots." Khalid Walid ( reports that riot police descended on the protesters late in the afternoon, using batons to intimidate and disperse them and that Ali Kamal declared that Nouri al-Maliki has stated reforms will come in 100 days and that they will continue demonstrating and that they have little to no confidence in the government.
Dar Addustour reports that protesters in Najaf carried flowers as they called for an end to corruption, improved basic services and ration card items. Aswat al-Iraq notes protesters in Nassiriya are criticizing the way security forces have treated protesters. In Falluja, Dar Addustour reports, protesters called for an end to random arrests. Aswat al-Iraq notes that Falluja saw a crackdown ahead of the protest with "a vehicle and bike ban around the protest region." Yahya Barzanji, Bushra Juhi and Lara Jakes (AP) report approximately 4,000 people turned out to protest in Sulaimaniyah. Saman Mahmoud Mawloud (Reuters) reports one Sulaimaniyah protester attempted to burn himself but was stopped by other activists, notes the protesters chanted for KRG President Massoud Barzani to step down and quotes Nasik Qadir stating, "There has been no response from the government. We are here to change the despotic system, end the corruption in Kurdistan. People feel the corruption and want jobs, justice and services."
Al Mada reports that Hilla saw two protests and the demands included that the govenor of Babel Province (Babylon Province is another term used for it and the term Al Mada uses) be elected directly and not via quotas. They also called for an end to unemployment, all ration card items being available and reductions in the costs of water and electricity. Those were some of the demands of the first group. The second group had overlapping demands and some of their own demands as well. They agree that a new governor is needed and they want qualifications for the office -- including that he or she must hold a bachelor's degree.
In an opinion piece, Al Mada argues that the protests taking place in Baghdad's Tahrir Square have dug a grave for and buried sectarian politics and forced sectarian politics to fall away by pulling sectarian politicians and their constituents apart, and that the biggest victors are young Iraqis who, among other things, trained themselves in something that was not possible in Iraq's previous five decades, protesting the rulers. This training creates a bond between today's Iraqi youths and those of the 1940s and 1950s who also engaged in cross-sectarian demonstrations. Al Mada sees the protests as strengthening the notion of "Iraqi" and of "citizen."
Yesterday, Nouri al-Maliki spoke to Parliament . . . and again heaped scorn on the protesters. Why, oh, why, hasn't anyone apologized for the Iraqi security forces and police who were hurt in protests? When young boys are killed in protests by security forces, that asshole has a lot of nerve trying to grand stand. Nouri's little forces have behaved like the thug they work for. That's reality. Dar Addustour reports one of Nouri's 'finest,' the man in charge of the Rapid Response Brigade got caught by the Integrity Commission in the process of accepting a $50,000 bribe. And? He ordered the forces to attack the Integrity Commission, he ordered the forces to attack them and beat them -- beat nine of them, leaving them all wounded and three of the nine requiring hospitalization. That's Nouri al-Maliki's thugs..
A group of anti-government protesters missing since they were arrested this week in Baghdad are feared to be at risk of torture, after other recently released protestors told Amnesty International they were tortured in detention.

At least 10 people were detained on Monday while returning home from a Baghdad protest against unemployment, government corruption and poor social services.

The arrests came as other protesters who were detained last month told Amnesty International that they were tortured in detention.

"We fear there is a real risk of torture for those arrested on Monday, especially as their whereabouts in detention is yet to be disclosed. This seems to be following a pattern of protesters being detained and tortured as the Iraqi government tries to crackdown on demonstrations," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"The authorities must immediately reveal where these latest detainees are held and release them if they have been detained solely for exercising their legitimate right to protest."

Those detained on Monday include Ala' Sayhoud, Ma'an Thamer, 'Ali Abdel Zahra' and Muhammad Kadhim Finjan. They were arrested by Iraqi security forces in Baghdad's al-Batawin area after they participated in a demonstration in the city's Tahrir Square on Monday.

Two recently released activists have told Amnesty International that they were tortured or otherwise ill-treated in detention after they were arrested in connection with recent protests.

Abdel-Jabbar Shaloub Hammadi, who was detained without charge for 12 days following his arrest on 24 February, the day before a planned 'Day of Rage' protest in Baghdad, was beaten and tortured throughout his first five days in detention.

"They beat me a lot and kept me suspended every day for nearly 15 hours. In one method they tied my hands and legs together behind by back and left me hanging by a rope; in the other they suspended me from the wrists and left me standing on the tips of my toes on a chair - both were very painful," Hammadi told Amnesty International.

Journalist Hadi al-Mehdi, who was arrested on 25 February, told Amnesty International he received electric shocks to his feet and was threatened with rape during his interrogation by police.

"The Iraqi authorities claim that they are stamping out torture but as these testimonies show it continues to be used against detainees and the perpetrators appear to believe they can act with impunity," said Malcolm Smart.

"The authorities must order an immediate independent investigation into all allegations of torture and those responsible for torture must be exposed and brought to justice."

As calls for reform persist in the country, Amnesty International has also called on the Iraqi authorities respect the right of assembly and freedom of expression.

Read More

Today, four of at least ten protesters were released. Amnesty International notes:
Amnesty International has welcomed yesterday's release of four anti-government protesters reported missing since their arrest in Baghdad on Monday and called on the authorities to free others still in detention.

The four were among at least 10 people detained while returning home from a protest against unemployment, government corruption and poor social services.

"While the release of these four detainees is a welcome step, the authorities must reveal where the remaining detainees are held and release them if they have been detained solely for exercising their legitimate right to protest," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"The Iraqi authorities must also ensure that those still in detention are not tortured or ill-treated and order an immediate independent investigation into all previous allegations of torture, bringing those responsible to justice."

Those detained on Monday include Ala' Sayhoud, Ma'an Thamer, 'Ali Abdel Zahra' and Muhammad Kadhim Finjan.

They were arrested by Iraqi security forces in Baghdad's al-Batawin area after they participated in a demonstration in the city's Tahrir Square.

As calls for reform persist in the country, Amnesty International has also called on the Iraqi authorities to respect the right of assembly and freedom of expression.
Nouri has disappeared protesters and he had the never to stand up in front of the Parliament yesterday and trash the protesters. Dar Addustour reports that the al-Sadr bloc heard the speech (the same one Shuster's praising) and have demand that Nouri apologize to Iraqis. They were offended by his labeling groups supporters of Saddam or Ba'athists. They note he had little to offer other than demonization. Other Arabic articles note the snide tone of the speech and generally emphasize Nouri's insistence that the government in Iraq will not be changed except by elections. It was a thuggish speech by a pompous ass who history needs to take down.

Al Mada notes that MP Sabah al-Saadi was not impressed by Nouri's song and dance yesterday and asserts that the measures Nouri has proposed do not get to the root of the problems, that instead of offering "frank talk," Nouri's plan proposes cover ups of the corruption.

Do we remember the other reason why Nouri was meeting with Parliament? Right that Cabinet he's never been able to fill. DPA reports, "Top appointments at Iraqi's key defence, interior and national security ministries have been pushed back a week due to disagreements among the country's political blocs, an Iraqi lawmaker said Friday."

Moving over to some of the violence reported in today's news cycle, Al Rafidayn reports late yesterday there was an attempt to rob a Baghdad jewelry store and 6 people ended up being killed -- four police officers and two bystanders. Aswat al-Iraq reports a man killed his father today in Mosul .Also, Aswat al-Iraq reports a Kirkuk car bombing left eleven people injured.
Turning to the US . . .
Get on your pony and ride
Get on your pony and ride
No one to catch up to you
If you try
No one to catch up to you
If you try
'Cause I tried
'Cause when the mind that once was open shuts
And you knock on the door, nobody answers anymore
When the love and trust has turned to dust
When the mind that once was open shuts
When you knock on the door, nobody answers anymore
When the love and trust has turned to dust
- "Too Late," written by John Phillips, first appears on The Mamas and the Papas' The Papas & The Mamas.
A few got on their pony's this week. Shocked! Simply shocked! By the lack of coverage of the wars. In one case, they were noting service members -- for the hour! -- and expressed their shock and outrage that the people don't follow the wars. The people don't or the talk shows hosts don't? Ava and I waited all week to see what would happen for one woman when Friday rolled around. Having hopped on her pony earlier in the week, would she suddenly remember Iraq today? Uh, no. And we'll be assisting two who rode their high horses early in the week off of them -- with a hard push -- at Third on Sunday. Yesterday's snapshot covered the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing (on threats to the US) and Ava covered the hearing at Trina's site last night in "Senate Armed Services Committee." The hearing also tossed out a brief nod to WikiLeaks. March 29th, Frontline (PBS) airs a report on Bradley Manning. Last night, The NewsHour (PBS) offered excerpts focusing on Brian Manning, Bradley's father. Who is Bradley?

Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning has been at Quantico in Virginia, under military lock and key, for months. Earlier this month, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. David E. Coombs is Bradley's attorney and he provided a walk through on Article 104. Like many, Sophie Elmhirst (New Statesman) emphasized the possibility of the death penalty.
Brian Manning believes his son is innocent. Bradley may well be. The only 'evidence' offered to the public thus far comes from a convicted felon (whose record actually goes back to pre-18 y.o. though the press hasn't been interested in that) who became a government snitch to protect his own ass. That's a reliable witness?
Bradley may be innocent. In the US, you are innocent unless you are proven guilty. Those writing pieces on Bradley to help him? Kevin Zeese, you and your friends need to stop convicting Bradley in your badly written columns. You're doing the government's job for them and you're showing no respect for Bradley or for the presumption of innocence. Bradley is not a political football. He is a very, very young man facing very serious charges. He should not be treated like Laura Dern's character in Citizen Ruth. There's far too much at stake for Bradley. Whereas, we've seen this movie before. We saw a number of the same participants pretend to care about Ehren Watada but write pieces that helped no one but their own pet causes. We saw a 'reporter' whine about herself and how Ehren -- who was actually facing charges -- wasn't clearing her name.
If you're supporting Bradley, you need to support him. That means he's innocent unless he says otherwise or is convicted. That means you stop doing the government's work for it by writing these ridiculous pieces where you explain -- YOU EXPLAIN -- why he did it. YOu don't know that he did a thing. Stop writing those bad, bad pieces. And stop linking to Julian Assange because that's what the US government is trying to do. You're not helping Bradley and you're not helping Assange.
BBC News' Philippa Thomas (currently on sabbatical) reports at her website that yesterday at MIT, US State Dept spokesperson Philip J. Crowley was asked and commented that the actions the Defense Dept has taken against Bradley are "ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid." Yet he wasn't calling for Bradley to be released because he quickly added, "Nonetheless, Bradley Manning is in the right place." And that sort of thinking goes along way towards explaining how the US government can continue supporting a despot like Nouri al-Maliki -- rationalize that away, rationalize the brutality aimed at Bradley who has not been convicted of a damn thing. But he's where he belongs, according to Crowley.
Are US troops where they belong too? Because seems like this never ending illegal war was supposed to have ended sometime ago. Adrian Hairapetian (Clark Chronicle) observes, "The war in Iraq. Merriam-Webster defines war as a 'struggle or competition between opposing forces or for a particular end.' This impels me to ask: what end? It's been almost seven years, and we still haven't seen this end." The ongoing Iraq War has an anniversary coming up and there will be protests in the US. A.N.S.W.E.R. and March Forward! and others will be taking part in this action:

March 19 is the 8th anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Iraq today remains occupied by 50,000 U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of foreign mercenaries.

The war in Afghanistan is raging. The U.S. is invading and bombing Pakistan. The U.S. is financing endless atrocities against the people of Palestine, relentlessly threatening Iran and bringing Korea to the brink of a new war.

While the United States will spend $1 trillion for war, occupation and weapons in 2011, 30 million people in the United States remain unemployed or severely underemployed, and cuts in education, housing and healthcare are imposing a huge toll on the people.

Actions of civil resistance are spreading.

On Dec. 16, 2010, a veterans-led civil resistance at the White House played an important role in bringing the anti-war movement from protest to resistance. Enduring hours of heavy snow, 131 veterans and other anti-war activists lined the White House fence and were arrested. Some of those arrested will be going to trial, which will be scheduled soon in Washington, D.C.

Saturday, March 19, 2011, the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, will be an international day of action against the war machine.

Protest and resistance actions will take place in cities and towns across the United States. Scores of organizations are coming together. Demonstrations are scheduled for San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and more.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Back to you

"Military Commission Report For Dropping Combat Restrictions" (Feminist Wire Daily):
The Military Leadership Diversity Commission released a report that recommended that the Pentagon change its policies to allow women in combat. The Commission reported that despite official military policy, women's participation in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has increasingly included direct combat. The military's failure to allow women to serve in these positions therefore limits women's chance of promotion and would ultimately enable the military to increase the number of women in its ranks.
Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, stated, "The artificial, so-called exclusion of women from military combat has resulted in the military accepting less-qualified men in its ranks. This has not only limited opportunities for women but has injured the capabilities of the military."

I believe everyone should have the same options available. That said, the thought of the US government having more bodies to deploy in endless wars of choice does not thrill me at all.

In "Ted Koppel explains they died for oil (and natural gas)" this morning, C.I. had far too many kind words for me. I would say that if either of us made a sacrifice, it was C.I. who has been on the road all but four or so weeks a year speaking out against the Iraq War since February 2003 and that alone is crushing. City to city. Speech after speech. Up at the break of dawn every morning. Jet lag. Travel jonesing. That's before we get into 2004, when C.I. starts The Common Ills and writes (at length) every day, day after day. She has not missed a day since she started. There has been no day off.

Again, if anyone's given all they have in the hopes of ending the Iraq War, it is C.I.

I really wanted to write at length about C.I. To note, for example, that she takes no payment for her speeches on campus or to groups. That she doesn't accept lodging or travel pay. That for eight years now, she's paid all the expenses.

But I'm so tired that from the corner of my eye, it just looked the walls bent. I'm got the flu and I'm really wiped out.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Wednesday, March 9, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, protests continue, the US House and Senate VA Committee leaders call on President Barack Obama to stop the VA from short changing veterans and their caregivers, Nouri plans to announce nominees for his leader-less ministries tomorrow, and more.
For most of us in the United States, imaging a loved one injured in the Iraq or Afghanistan Wars (or any future wars) is a mental exercise detached from reality. How fortunate for us if we (that includes me) do not have to picture someone in their immediate family who could be wounded, return home and require that we become the primary caregiver. Again, for most of us, we're very lucky -- most, but not all. And addressing the realities of what a caregiver caring for a wounded veteran and what the veteran has to face is something that the Congress has spent several years working on. The House and the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee have held hearings, taken testimony, worked up proposals
And after all of those many hearings and many meetings with the effected populations, both houses of Congress agreed upon the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 (May 5, 2010) which was to go into effect January 30, 2011. This bill had support from both political parties -- and support from independent Senator Joe Lieberman, Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders. In the Senate it passed by 98 votes (all present voted for it). In the House, it passed by 419 votes with all present voting in favor of it. President Barack Obama signed it into law May 5, 2010. It shouldn't have caused any problems because of the huge Congressional support it had -- universal support -- and because the Congress took so much care in investigating the issues, in taking testimonies from stakeholders, in evaluating and re-evaluating before they wrote the bill. But as the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee made clear March 2nd, there were huge differences between what the Congress passed and what the VA was planning to do with the law. This afternoon the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee released the following statement:
Leaders of the Senate and House Veterans' Affairs Committees call on President Obama to stop the VA from severely limiting a benefit for those who are forced to leave careers, health care behind to care for their loved ones

(Washington, D.C.) – Leaders of the Senate and House Veterans' Affairs Committee sent a bi-partisan, bi-cameral letter to President Barack Obama yesterday calling on him to ensure that eligibility for a law Congress passed to support veterans caregivers is not limited and that the law is implemented in a timely manner. In the letter, the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Congressional Committees that oversee the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) expressed their frustration over VA and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) delays in moving forward with caregivers support, and with additional criteria that will severely limit the ability for some family caregivers to access the benefit. Specifically, the Congressional leaders asked the President to direct OMB to "ensure that the regulations or other elements of the program's implementation comply with the specific eligibility criteria that are set out in the law."
"It's simply unacceptable that the VA would limit a program Congress designed to support family members of veterans who have left behind careers, lives, and responsibilities to see that their loved one can recover at home," said Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Patty Murray. "We are calling on the President to make sure that the will of Congress and the needs of these veterans are not being ignored. Caring for our veterans is part of the cost of war. This program is part of the cost of war."
"When he signed the Caregiver Law, President Obama stood with wounded veterans and caregivers in promising that they'd be getting the help they needed," said House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller. "We're now calling on him to fulfill that pledge and direct his administration to hear the will of Congress, veterans, and caregivers to get this program right."
"This legislation was originally designed to provide a path forward for caregivers who are already sacrificing their own aspirations in order to make the lives of severely wounded veterans easier to bear," said Senator Richard Burr, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. "I urge the President to work with VA to get this bill right so that caregivers in dire need of assistance can receive the benefits promised to them,"
"VA's continued delay in the implementation of such a vital program is inexcusable. Many of these caregivers have wiped out their savings, have had to forego their own health care coverage and have given up their careers in order to care for their loved one," said Rep. Bob Filner Ranking Member of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee. "Last year, Congress saw fit to extend critical benefits to the Caregivers of our nation's veterans and we will not stand idly by as VA prolongs the process. Too much time has passed already."

We'll note the letter in full at the end of the snapshot. But I'm having to juggle things to make this the opening -- and it's important enough that it should be the opening. Today
Christopher Caskey (Auburn Citizen) reports on a send-off ceremony in Auburn (upstate New York) yesterday for 15 members of the Auburn National Guard Armory who are part of 115 soldiers with the 105th Military Police Company of the New York Army National Guard deploying to Iraq. Before deploying to Iraq, the soldiers will receive additional training at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station. The Iraq War hasn't ended. And, as noted in yesterday's snapshot, on Tuesday's Talk of the Nation (NPR), Ted Koppel explained why the Iraq War continues (and continues and continues and . . .):

Ted Koppel: We're there because of U.S. interests, and those U.S. interests can be summarized quite simply in one or two words: oil and natural gas. The stability of the Persian Gulf is of enormous national interest to the United State. No politician wants to send young men and women to die for oil. But the fact of the matter is that it is one of the politically most - no pun intended - inflammable issues. When the price of gasoline goes up, as it is going up right now, to $4 a gallon, if we were to leave before there is genuine stability in Iraq, if that area no longer had the oversight of American military, I think you could very easily see the price of oil go up to seven, eight, nine dollars a gallon. And the fact of the matter is then you would have all kinds of political yelling and screaming on Capitol Hill, all kinds of pressure being raised by the American public, which would not want to see that happen to its economy.
Jane Arraf: This is what's left of the Rasheed family's alcohol store, one of the few that was still open in Baghdad. It was bombed, along with seven others recently just after Aid Rasheed closed up for the day. Aid is a Yazidi -- an ancient religion here. Yazidis and Christians have always owned liquor stores in Iraq. But as the government embraces a stricter interpretation of Islam, Aid says there's no room for them anymore
Aid Rasheed: Especially the Christians and the Yazidis, we don't know how we will live. In the north if we open a restaurant, no one will come to it. In the south, we have these shops they attack us and steal from us and kill us.
Jane Arraf: It's not just drinking that's under threat. The cultural heart of Baghdad, al-Mutanabbi Street, has been rebuilt since it was bombed in 2007. But many of the cities writers, artists and intellectuals have left the country Baghdad has always been known for its diversity, for its cultural tolerance. It's a part of the national identity but many people fear it's being crushed. Hadi al-Mahdi is an out spoken radio host but his criticism of the government has cost him dearly. He was one of dozens of media people arrested and beaten after a recent protest. Iraq is at a crossroads he said between freedom and dictatorship. Zena Hatab is a television presenter. She felt free enough to enter and win a local beauty pagent. That could be harder if a new warning seen in the al-Kadhimiya district is heeded. The display warns women of the dangers that await them if their bodies aren't covered head-to-toe.
Abass Ali Hussein: This shows this life and behind it is the after life. Being tortured by fire for those who are unveiled or wear too much make up. The Koran says we have to cover the chest and the arms. Only the face and the hands should show.
Jane Arraf: Many Iraqi Muslims dispute that reading of the Koran but it's a sign of changing time that few in this neighborhood will openly say so. Jane Arraf, Al Jazeera, Baghdad.
Religious minorities have been among the targeted groups in Iraq since the start of the illegal war. "Among" -- there is a long, long list of targeted groups in Iraq. Aswat al-Iraq reports that the country's Journalistic Freedoms Observatory released a statement today: "A total of 160 attacks took place against journalists throughout the country, including 60 in Kurdistan region. Security authorities waged a big campaign on media institutions in Baghdad and other provinces, and arrested journalists and ceased al-Diyar satellite channel." Sunday, Nouri al-Maliki sent police and military forces to throw the Communist Party out of their headquarters. The Party also produced their newspaper at the headquarters and were most likely targeted because they've been strong supporters and organizers of the protests. Al Mada reports that Hamid Majid Moussa held a press conference today in Baghdad, not far from where the Party's Newspaper By The People was produced, and declared that the government cannot justify the eviction of the Communist Party because the Party is not terrorists but they are instead being punished for their politics in violation of their Constitutional guarantees so the government must immediately return the Party's property. Patrick Martin (WSWS via Global Research) provides an overview of some of the recent attacks on the press, "Journalists covering an anti-government protest March 4 in Basra, in southern Iraq, were seized and beaten by police. Gunman in military uniforms raided an independent radio station in the Kurdish town of Kalar. The station's director, Azad Othman, told the Associated Press the volunteer station had been reporting extensively on demonstrations in Sulaimaniyah against the two ruling parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. These attacks follow nationwide raids the previous Sunday, in which Iraqi police detained 300 people, mainly journalists, artists, lawyers and other intellectuals [. . .]"
The National Newspaper's editorial board observes, "Iraq's democratic exuberance is in tatters. A year ago this week, the US president Barack Obama praised elections as an 'important milestone in Iraqi history'. Today, diplomats cross their fingers that the country's mounting protests don't spiral out of control. More than anything, though, Iraq's popular uprisings underscore that an unhappy public is no longer content idly watching a kleptocracy emerge. Iraq's leader should take heed." Al Mada reports that the US government expects protests to continue but that the US government -- citing Michael Corbin, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq -- does not feel the protests will call for the overthrow of the (puppet) government in Iraq. Alsumaria TV quotes Corbin declaring, "People are protesting not for regime change, but for services, against corruption, for better government response to their needs."
Along with the press, protesters have also faced the crackdown and Aswat al-Iraq reports that the protesters in Ninewah who have been demonstrating demanding the release of 'detainees' saw 12 protesters released from police custody. Al Jazeera reports that today in Baghdad, "hundreds of Iraqi workers rallied in central Baghdad, calling for improved salaries and better economic conditions. The demonstration came after thousands of Iraqis had taken to the streets in recent days to protest against corruption, unemployment and the lack of public services." Meanwhile Aswat al-Iraq reports that Barham Saleh, Prime Minister in the KRG, has declared if the Kurdistan Parliament asks him to resign, he will do so and quotes him stating, "Acts of violence that accompanied the protests should not be repeated again."
Protests have been taking place in the Kurdistan Region as well; however, Kirkuk is not (or not yet) part of the KRG. Sean Kane's "Iraqi protests and the need for a political strategy on Kirkuk" (Foreign Policy):

Somewhat lost in the wave of protests sweeping through the Middle East, which are now washing up on Iraq's shores, has been the recent deployment of two brigades of Kurdish peshmerga troops in the disputed province of Kirkuk in northern Iraq. There has been a peshmerga presence in Kirkuk since 2003, but stationed north of the provincial capital of Kirkuk city. However, following Iraq's own "Day of Rage" on Feb. 25, peshmerga forces moved to take up positions along a line south of the city. Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) officials have stated that the deployment is needed to protect Kurdish populations in the disputed areas from the threat posed by what they claim are terrorist-infiltrated demonstrations. The Iraqi government's response to the move has so far been muted, but local Arab leaders in Kirkuk and some of their Turkoman counterparts are expressing alarm that the move will fuel intercommunal tension and requesting intervention by the national government. Underscoring the potential seriousness of the situation, on Sunday, U.S. Ambassador James Jeffrey and U.S. Forces Commanding General Lloyd Austin met with KRG President Massoud Barzani to discuss security arrangements in Kirkuk.

The status of Kirkuk and other disputed territories in northern Iraq is perhaps the major unresolved potential political driver of conflict in Iraq as American troops prepare to withdraw later this year, and at various points since 2008 the Iraqi Army and the Kurdish peshmerga have come close to an armed confrontation. The current situation in Kirkuk is likely to be defused without further escalation, but it raises important questions about the consolidation of U.S.-backed conflict-prevention mechanisms aimed at forestalling the use of military units to resolve territorial disputes as well as the lack of a viable Iraqi political process to begin to resolve the core elements underlying the territorial conflict. Without any political road map or vision existing for addressing the fate of the disputed territories, there is the risk that parties are tempted to take matters into their own hands and that moments of social unrest, such as the current demonstrations around poor services and unemployment, quickly degenerate into ethnic tension.
Meanwhile Aswat al-Iraq reports that Talabani spoke Monday in Sulaimaniya and declared Kurkuk to be "Kurdistan's sanctity." The problem with interpreting that comment is that (a) Talabani was before a crowd and (b) he always goes back on his statments -- especially when it comes to Kirkuk. That hasn't prevented many from attempting to decipher where Talabani is leading. The Brookings Institution's Michael E. O'Hanlon has a new column where he (as usual) advocates for the US to stay in Iraq and notes:

But the most vivid way to understand the continued desirability of a calming U.S. military presence is to focus on the contested city of Kirkuk and its environs in the north of the country, just below the autonomous region of Kurdistan proper. This is the oil-rich and history-laden city where Kurds, Turkomen and Arabs come into contact - and compete for claims to the land and its resources. According to the Iraqi constitution, written with American help and passed in 2005, there is supposed to be a referendum on Kirkuk's future. In fact, it was supposed to have happened by 2007, but disputes over who should be allowed to vote and what options should be presented to voters have continued to delay the resolution of the matter.

Turning to some of today's reported violence, Aswat al-Iraq reports a Baghdad bombing claimed 1 life -- Brig Taha Mohammed who was "director of the Iraqi air force training department director," another Baghdad bombing injured one person, another Baghdad roadside bombing targeted a US convoy (no reports of any wounded), a Mosul bombing injured police Col Abad Etweiba and a bodyguard was wounded as well, a Falluja assault on a home left 1 man dead and his wife wounded, and 3 Baghdad IEDs left three Iraqi soldiers injured, one police officer and one civilian wounded and a police officer. Reuters notes a Taji truck bombing claimed the life of the driver and, dropping back to Tuesday for the rest, 1 man was killed in Baghdad's Ghadir district and 1 man was killed in Baghdad's Mashtal district (silencers on guns in both incidents) and a Kirkuk rocket attack resulted in 1 pesh merga being injured.
Hisham Rikabi (Al Mada) reports that Nouri al-Maliki will, according to whispers, offer up some names to fill empty Cabinet posts when he joins Parliament tomorrow. There are rumors on top of the rumors including that the names he proposes have no consensus behind them and that Nouri will be pushing his job off onto the Parliament (which will allow him an out, now won't it?). Among the names being whispered as nominees are Ahmed Chalabi, Lt Gen Abboud Qanbar and Turaihi Aqeel who, supposedly, will be competing for the post of Minister of the Interior. Citing Kurdish press reports, Rikabi notes rumors that Nouri intends to toss out ten names for the posts of Minister of Defense, Minister of Interior and Minister of National Security (and Intelligence). Dar Addustour adds that an unnamed person with the State Of Law political slate (Nouri's slate) has stated ISCI, Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr's supporters will not be voting on the names due to the lack of political consenus. If that's true, who will be voting? That's a huge chunk of the MPs. Iraqiya won the most seats. The other two hold a significant number of seats and came together to back Nouri as prime minister-designate last year. If the rumor is true about withholding votes being planned for Thursday, that would explain why Moqtada al-Sadr was all over Iraq yesterday -- Sadr City in Baghdad as well as Kadhimiyah). Kadhim Ajrash and Nayla Razzouk (Bloomberg News) report State Of Law's Ali Shlah has gone on record and told them that Nouri "will present his candidates for the defense, interior and national security ministries to parliament" on Thursday.

In other news of Parliament, the National Alliance held a press conference today. Al Mada reports that they are threatening to walk -- all 80 of them -- if Parliament doesn't stop 'reading speeches and statements and failing to legislate.' The report also notes that although Parliament was to go into recess April 14th, they've extended the session to run through May 14th. Yesterday's snapshot included this: "Aswat al-Iraq reports that a member of the Iraqiya slate is stating over '200 draft laws are defunct inside the Iraqi parliment'." This is the inaction that the National Alliance is objecting to.
Aswat al-Iraq notes that the President of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, made congratulatory statements yesterday towards Iraqi women in observance of International Women's Day. Sally Jawdat (Al Mada) reports from Irbil on the day and notes that Massoud Barzani, President of the KRG, congratulated women (all women) and then moved on to note women in the Kurdistan region and spoke of the role that they have played in the liberation of Kurdistan. He declared that the KRG is always a defender of women's rights. Meanwhile, Al Rafidayn reports that there has been an increase in the number of suicides among Karbala women who are the victims of assault. Dr. Amer Haidar is quoted stating that al-Hussein Hospital is receiving at least two women a week who have attempted suicide and that the women display fractures, burns and other signs of abuse. Dr. Sana Abdul speculates that some women may see suicide as the only way to be free of physically abusive husbands. Suha Alsaikli (Al Mada) reports on Iraqi women who gathered in Baghdad yesterday to mark International Women's Day including women with the Iraqi Communist Party, the Association of Iraqi Women and Peace and Solidarity Organization. Passing out sweets, the women drew attention to the status of women in Iraq, particularly widows and divorcees. Umm Ammar, with the Communist Party, decried Nouri's orders to seize the Party's headquarters on Sunday and noted that other parties were not targeted.
Larisa Epatko (PBS' NewsHour) writes this introduction to a photo essay at the website, "Women came together on March 8 to express a message of soldiarity on International Women's Day by dancing in Iraq, protesting in Ivory Coast and dressing as men in Lebanon. This year marked the 100th anniversary of the designated day, bringing with it a theme of 'decent work for women.' Events are planned throughout the month." One of the women of Iraq is Haifa Zangana who was born in Baghdad, raised there, attended Baghdad University, received her diploma in 1974 and continued her political activism as a member of the Communist Party. Escaping imprisonment and execution, she left Iraq. Since the start of the Iraq War, she's returned to Iraq twice. She's also an author of many books and, March 19th, she speaks at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. She shares her memories with Tahira Yaqoob (The National Newspaper):

At that time, everything was indicating that the Baath regime was a fascist party so I joined a faction of young people, who represented socialism with democracy, everything we thought we were missing. My mother did not say much but whatever I did, she would be in tears and one time, she begged me to give up. She said it was going to lead us into trouble and worried about the whole family being affected but I was a stubborn woman. [. . .] The Seventies were great. It was a time when we had the liberation movement, a time of hope and aspirations. You felt if you took part in this movement you were taking part in changing things. We were full of hopes. I was not unique. Most people were involved politically, it was part of daily life. You could not lie back and rest. [. . .] Dreaming of Baghdad is part of our collective memory. It was very important to document that part for the group of people involved and was very painful to write. When I had the time in the 1980s to look back at what happened in the early 1970s, even then it was really painful. I spent more than a decade trying to bury it. I wanted to come to terms and seek to forget. [. . .] I thought, this is an important part, not just of my life, but of the group of people I was involved with. It was an important experience as a woman. For a few years I was the only one. Some people suggested while I was writing the chapters that it was going to help me on a personal level as a kind of therapy.

Studies on the ground of the war's impact on women and girls come to vastly different conclusions. In October 2002, Saddam Hussein released criminals from Iraqi prisons. This and the soon-to-follow 2003 US-led assault on Baghdad, created conditions for bloodletting, for a sharp increase in organized crime trafficking in drugs, stolen cars, and women and girls; and for the ascendancy of armed Islamist conservatism. Saddam's tightly controlled violence and reign of terror were replaced by unpredictable, widespread violence against Iraqi women. The immediate consequences for women: hejabs worn by Muslim and Christian women alike (and abayas in some regions) to avoid being harassed and beaten in public; an epidemic of women killed in the city of Basra by fundamentalist men, who leave them in the street as a lesson to other women; increased rape, including of women in detention; abduction into prostitution; and a dramatic rise in "honor" killings, or the murder of women and girls by male family members to restore family honor. Muta'a - Sharia law-permitted exploitation of women by men in so-called temporary marriages, which serve as fronts for prostitution - rose after the war began, with men targeting desperate, penniless widows and the Shia militia targeting single girls. The real ruler in Iraq today, according to Iraqi Professor Maha Sabria, "is the rule of old traditions and tribal, backward law" with a US-brokered Constitution based in Islamic law, one which does not assure women basic rights or protections.

The Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), which investigated women's deaths in Basra by visiting city morgues, found that most of the women killed by fundamentalist "vice squads" in Basra were largely professionals, activists and PhDs. The lesson to other women: end any participation in the public, political and social spheres and stay home under male surveillance. By early 2008, only 20 percent of primary and secondary students countrywide were female; the rest were prisoners in their homes. Houzan Mahmoud, who has risked her life to organize a petition against the introduction of Islamic law in Kurdistan, summed up the impact of the war: "If before there were one dictator persecuting people, now almost everyone is persecuting women."

Mary Jane Lavigne (Twin Cities Daily Planet) reports on attorney Suaad Allami whom the US State dept recognized in 2009 as an International Women of Courage and quotes her stating:

I was living under the three wars, 1980, 1991 and 2003. I know what it means for the people. The worst impact of all the wars is on poor people. Since 2003, we had the Sectarian Violence -- how that has displaced people! They leave their homes, structures fall, corruption, violence, many diseases. Cancers are increasing because of the prohibited weapons they used during the war.
I live in east Baghdad. Sadr City has 40 percent of the population, close to 2 million, mostly poor. Fifteen or twenty people, living in a small area, these are small houses, many members of an extended family living in one house.
Fran Kelly: Manal Omar is an activist and scholar working at the US Institute of Peace in America. She lived in Iraq from 2003 to 2005 and wrote a book about her experiences called Barefoot in Baghdad. Manal Omar is in Australia this week. Manal, welcome to ABC Radio National Breakfast.
Manal Omar: Thank you, thank you for having me.
Fran Kelly: And happy International Women's Day.
Manal Omar: Thank you. Likewise.
Fran Kelly: Talking about women in Iraq, Manal, has democracy in Iraq delivered better outcomes for women there?
Manal Omar: Well the jury's still out on what the improvement for women will look like. Iraq has a very strong legacy of women's rights. If you look at the 40s and the 50s, it's something that Iraqi women are very proud of. In 2003, Iraqi women were talking about how they were going to leap forward and ways that they were going to reclaim that legacy of women's rights but unfortunately it has panned out quite like that. They're still struggling and unfortunately they're in a situation of just trying to maintain the status quo. And I'm cautiously optimistic that they'll be able to reclaim that legacy But it's been a very difficult path.
Fran Kelly: And what about improvement in terms of -- clear improvement that you can measure -- women's representation in the Parliament or in the top echelons of that Parliament in Iraq?
Manal Omar: That's a great question. You do have a quota so 25% of the Parliament are women and they are emerging over the last few government formations as being very strong, powerful women that are articulating not only the issues for women but for youth and other important issues that are important to the country as a whole.
Fran Kelly: Well is it true to say that though, in the recent Ministry there were no women ministers?
Manal Omar: That's right and --
Fran Kelly: That's a change isn't it?
Manal Omar: It is a change. In the last Iraq government formation there were no women that were no women that were appointed. And you know, I think it had more to do with the fact that when you're negotiating and looking at the political process it's often that leaders of the political parties who are almost always men that come out an take the seats. And so it wasn't necessarily targeting women but it's a very typical situation where women and in my book, I call it the negotiating chip where they're negotiated away and become assets during these times.
Fran Kelly: Tell me a little more about that. What do you mean the negotiating chip?
Manal Omar: I mean most often a lot of the political parties might not just be against women's rights or anti-women, but they're thinking about their own political interests. And when you're negotiating whether it's with tribal leaders or with the heads of politcal parties and in the case of Iraq religious leaders, what tends to fall through the cracks are women because no one wants to have their position filled by a woman they're going to have the head of the tribe or the head of the political party come and take the seat. And unfortunately and consistently the people who pay the price are the women representatives.
March 2nd, the US Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing to address the differences between the law the Congress passed to aid veterans and their caregivers and the meager and miserly way the VA intended to 'follow' it. The hearing was covered in that day's snapshot and Kat covered it in "Burr promises VA 'one hell of a fight'" and Ava covered it at Trina's site with "The VA still can't get it together." Leadership of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and the House Veterans Affairs Committee have written US President Barack Obama to ask him to prevent the VA from distorting the law Congress passed which would prevent many veterans and their caregivers from receiving the help Congress said they deserved. This is the letter the leadership of the Veterans Affairs Committee -- both houses -- sent Barack:

March 8, 2011
The President
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:
We are writing regarding the family caregivers assistance program established in Public Law 111-163, the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010, which you signed into law on May 5, 2010. To date, implementation of this program is significantly behind the schedule mandated in law. The statutory deadline for the full implementation of this program was January 30, 2011. Our concerns were raised with you about this previously, and after conversations with members of your senior staff, we understand that you are directing your Administration to get this program back on track such that services should commence early this summer.

We ask that you direct the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Office of Management and Budget to implement the necessary interim-final regulations for this program within 60 days of the date of this letter. We also ask that you direct OMB to ensure that the regulations and other elements of the program's implementation comply with the specific eligibility criteria that are set out in the law. VA's reluctance to work with Congress and veterans advocates has led to a situation where caregivers remain unclear if they will receive the support Congress intended for them.

Further delay of this program hurts veterans and caregivers in need of these critical benefits and services. Further, limiting eligibility to arbitrary and stringent criteria, contrary to the intent of the law, creates undue hardship for veterans and family caregivers meant to be helped by the new program. Instruction and training in the provision of care, respite, technical assistance, counseling, and a living stipend for those who are forced to leave their jobs or work fewer hours to provide care to their loved ones are all being withheld as some in VA attempt to stymie this program. VA and OMB need your leadership to implement this program.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman, Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee

Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL 1st), Chairman, House Veterans' Affairs Committee
Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Ranking Member, Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee

Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA 51st), Ranking Member, House Veterans' Affairs Committee