Friday, March 25, 2011

Comic and the unfunny

From Saturday, this is Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Hot Topics Dumpster."

"The Hot Topics Dumpster"

Danny Schechter what a putz.

Not unlike his hero Barack Obma. The US is conducting military operations on another country and the White House wants to claim this isn't a war?

The inability to be honest is what's really destroying Barack.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, March 25, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Iraqis turn out to protest across the country, Nouri attempts to diminish turnout be utilizing his usual tactics, Iraq is facing big water issues, a promise on electricity surfaces, and more.
It's Friday and, yes, protests continued in Iraq. And because the government disrespects the people's right to freely express themselves, roads into Baghdad's Tahrir Square were yet again blocked. Wamith Al-Kassab (MidEastYouth) reports that Iraqi forces shut down the streets around Thrir Square yesterday and encircled them with barbed wire to prevent protesters." Al Mada reports on what the youth movement protesters were saying, that they have been protesting since February 26th to bring about a better Iraq and that the government cannot hide behind the walls of the Green Zone. Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports that despite "heavy rains" and "tight security measures," hundreds of Iraqis protested in Baghdad's Liberation Square. At the Great Iraqi Revolution Facebook page, Hind Burgif wonders, "was it realy rain or baghdad crying and call iraqi people to help her and set her free???" Wedding Shawki and Adham Youssef (Al Mada) report on the demonstrations noting Iraqi security forces (again) used batons and water cannons while protecting themselves with shields (Youssef's photo shows a man with a menacing baton apparently aimed at a woman who is no threat to herself or anyone else). Iraqi women were a highly visible presence in today's protest in Baghdad and the article notes that women have been a part of the recent demonstrations, helping to demonstrate what a true picture of a democratic Iraq could look like. They then speak with women participating in the demonstrations like feminist Hmamonov Yousef Taher who feels the presence of women in protests helps reduce violence ("women's presence can lead the authorities to refrain from violence and it can reduce violence on the part of demonstrators") and is bothered by the inability of some to include women, noting the need to reach out with the message as well as obstacles that prevent women's participation (such as the curfew). She feels that the government's response to the protest with curfews and other repressive tactics has demonstrated the government's own failure and that women will increase their participation in the demonstrations. Sana, who is a poet, tells Al Mada, that women have bee participating in larger numbers in other countries and outlines some factors which may influence participation in Iraq. She also feels that the presence of women can help prevent the authorities from attacking the protesters. The Association of Iraqi Women's Suhaila Alaasm feels that women have been increasing participation throughout the country's provinces. She notes that women have been marginalized in Nouri al-Maliki's Cabinet. Like Sana, she points to the losses women have suffered since the invasion of Iraq and the oppression. The Baghdad Forum Cultural Center's Zainab Kaabi notes that women are oppresed and the Institute of Fine Arts' Precious Hashim notes that women face many obstacles but they will be present more and more in future demonstrations because when you participate and demonstrate for reform of Iraq you develop a taste for it and know that the soul and the connection will provide life and redemption. Mostafa Badr posts a photo of Iraqi women at Liberation Square and notes, "Elderly women demonstrating today in Tahrir Square demanding the release of their sons, husbands and brothers." Nafee Alfatlayi notes, "The mourning father of one of the demonstrators who was killed 4 days ago broke his mourning to attend the demonstration, stating that his son who was an agricultural engineer was killed 4 days ago by government security forces but he is here in Tahrir Square to uphold and support his son's stand." Ibrahim Laebi reports, "Suppression of the press in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, and the injury of 3 members of the press."
Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports on the Baghdad protest and notes that women calling for the "government to release sons and husbands who are in prison awaiting trial or investigation" were often "carrying photos of their loved ones" and that "in Najaf, Diwaniya, Kut and Hilla -- Shiite provinces south of Baghdad -- hundreds of demonstrators rallied Friday against unemployment and corruption, police said." The Great Iraqi Revolution notes Iraqi forces were sent to Ramadi and Falluja but protesters still turned out and demonstrated ("thousands" in Falluja). Mostafa Badr reports, "The people of Tikreet have come out from the Grand Mosque, Tikreet, after Friday Prayers in a large demonstration demanding the release of detainees and the change in government and for the Parliament to go!!!!" The Great Iraqi Revolution reports, "The People of Babil are out in a very large demonstration demanding that Parliament and government resign!" And they report, "The Askeriein Regiment is surrounding the Aisha Mosque in Sammarra'a in an attempt to break the large demonstration taking place now despite suprresion tactics and methods -- the people of Sammarra'a demand the exit of the Parliament and the government as well as are refusing to sell their land around the 'Hathra'. God Save Iraq all Iraqis."

The war in Iraq is supposedly over. The U.S. administration says the occupation, which began on March 20 eight years ago, is ending as well, with the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops. But as the U.S., Great Britain and France begin another military intervention in North Africa, their respective administrations are silent about the price Iraqis are paying for the last one.
Not so the Iraqi, however. Demonstrations have taken place in Baghdad, Basra and Kirkuk, among other cities, calling on the U.S. in particular to stop its escalating military intervention in Libya. Iraqi unions have been especially vocal, linking the U.S. invasion of Iraq with continued misery for its working people. According to one union representative, Abdullah Muhsin of the General Federation of Iraqi workers, "Eight years have ended since the fall of Saddam's regime, yet the empty promises of the "liberators" - the invaders and the occupiers who promised Iraqis heaven and earth - were simply lies, lies and lies."
The GFIW, which supported the recent uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, says the U.S. should "allow the people of Libya, Bahrain and other countries to determine their own destiny by themselves." Falah Alwan, president of the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq, says violence directed against workers and unions is intended to keep a lid on protests against miserable living conditions. "We are still under occupation," he charges. "The new Iraqi army, created by the U.S. occupation, is doing the same job, protecting the corrupt government while we are suffering from the difficulties of daily life."
"There's no electricity most of the time, and no drinking water - no services at all," says Qasim Hadi, president of the Union of Unemployed of Iraq. Eight years after the start of the U.S. military intervention, "there's hardly even any repair of the war damage - there's still rubble in the streets. People are going hungry."
Despite often-extreme levels of violence in the years of occupation, Iraqis have never stopped protesting these conditions. When demonstrations broke out in other countries of the Middle East and North Africa, people in Baghdad, Basra and Kirkuk had been taking to the streets for years. In large part, protests continued in Iraq because living conditions never changed, despite promises of what the fall of Saddam Hussein would bring.

David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award.

There was an attack on detainees in Rassafa Tasfeerat Prison according to The Great Iraqi Revolution, a week lon gattack, where "militias in plain clothes with knives and sharp instruments" attack the detainees and they note, "Journalist, Sa'ad Al-Awsi who has been detained for several months in Rassafa Prison in Baghdad on charges of terrorism, has an hour ago, been kidnapped by armed militias from the prison dressed in their black plain clothes uniform! Please mount a campaign for him -- they plan to liquidate him. Imagine prison officers colluding all the time with militias!"
In news of other attacks on journalists, Aswat al-Iraq reports that today the home of jounalist Majid Hameed (Al Arabiya News Channel) was bombed. In other violence, Aswat al-Iraq reports a Falluja roadside bombing injured 3 people, a Diala roadside bombing injured a Jalawlaa Hospital doctor., and, in Mosul, 46-year-old Yasin Taha apparently took his own life due to being unemployed and unable to support his two wives and five children and six missiles struck the "U.S. base and a headquarters of the Iraqi army's 8th Division in the city of al-Diwaniya"-- the US base is Camp Echo. DPA adds that a Mosul roadside bombing claimed 2 lives and left three more injured and an armed clash in Mosul resulted in 3 deaths . Aswat al-Iraq notes a bus accident outside Kut which resulted in 2 people dying and twenty-seven being wounded.

In other violence news, Al Mada reports that the Baghdad Operations Command has announced the recent wave of assassinations are being carried out by . . . al Qaeda in Iraq. Did you see it coming? That puts you several up on the Baghdad Operations Command, doesn't it?

No word on how many people it took to conduct that 'investigation' or how many 'hours' of 'investigating' before they 'cracked the case.' Al Rafidayn adds that Baghdad Operations Command has also 'solved' the weapons issues: the assassins are using silencers (on guns) and bombs. Shocking. It's only been a pattern for how long now? Al Rafidayn also reports that an intelligence officer with the Ministry of Defence was found shot dead in his Al Muthanna Airport office in Baghdad.

In other patterns, Al Mada reports that the Ministry of Electricity has announced a 'plan' to provide 16 hours of electricity come 2012. This sort of thing has been promised before and apparently everyone's supposed to pretend otherwise. Part of what is fueling the protests in Iraq is the refusal to forget all the broken promises of the last eight years.
Meanwhile UPI notes UNICEF's report on Iraq's water issue which includes that at least 1 million Iraqi children get their water from 'open source' and that "water-borne illnesses like diarrhea are the second-largest killer of Iraqi children." Iraq lacks a needed supply of potable water. This is due to the fact that in his five years and counting as prime minister, Nouri has failed to fix the infrastructure so Iraq's water contains sewage and otehr items. The recommendation each summer -- as the yearly cholera outbreak approaches -- is that Iraqis boil their water before drinking. Which is possible for some. It's not, of course, possible for Iraqi orphans living on the streets. A real answer would be for Nouri to spend some of those billions on rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure but you can't prepare for a palatial, post-prime minister life and also ensure that Iraqis' basic needs are met, apparently.

In Iraq, water is a major issue that's only become more of one in recent months. They share a border with many countries. Iran has been a problem with regards to water. There have been accusastions that Iran is building dams to prevent the flow of water. More seriously in the immediate term, the water is becoming too salty for consumption because water flowing into Iraq through Iran has too much saline in it. Not only does that make for problems with drinking water, it can be very bad for fertile land which might otherwise be productive and help Iraq restart their agriculture sector -- Iraq was the bread basket of the Middle East -- the Iraq War changed that as it did so many things. Within Iraq, a new move may heighten tensions. AFP reports that the Kurdistan Regional Government is constructing 11 damns with plans for an additional 28 to be built. AFP notes that "rainfall is now 60 percent below average" and that accusations were already flying in Kirkuk that farmers were being denied needed water due to Kurdistan dams.

Yesterday on Morning Edition (NPR), Mike Shuster reported on the efforts to rebuild the Askariya Shrine in Samarra and how it was contributing to the tensions: "It is over this plan, which is expected to generate millions of dollars, that new sectarian tensions have surfaced. The development project remains firmly in the hands of the Shia community, not in the hands of the city or provincial government, which are dominated by the Sunnis, who make up a majority of Samarra's population. They resent being cut out of what will almost certainly be a very rich project." Many groups are targeted in Iraq and that includes Iraqi Christians. The latest wave of attacks on Iraqi Christians began October 31st with the assault on Our Lady of Salvation Church. Sarah MacDonald (Catholic News Service) reports that Erbil's archbishop, Father Bashar Warda, has stated that the country has "near-genocide conditions" and, "We are living a region which cannot decide if it is for democracy or Islamic law." He notes 66 churches "attacked or bombed" as well as 2 "convents, one monastery and a church orphanage".
Intellectuals in Iraq have also been among the targeted populations. Gumer Isayev is the head of the St. Petersburg Center for the Study of the Modern Middle East, a professor at St. Petersburg State University and has his doctorate in history. interviews Isayev about events in Libya and their relation to Iraq.
Q: Being an expert on the Middle East, how do you assess the recent events in Libya? What's actually happening there, is it a "clash of civilizations", a "crusade', an attempt to protect democracy in Libya, or an attempt to overthrow Gaddafi's regime orchestrated by some countries, or perhaps a war for Libya's natural resources, or still something else?

A: Any attempts to explain the events in Libya drawing on the abstract concepts produced by the West -- such as for instance the "clash of civilizations" -- are doomed to fail just as much as the attempts to come up with a strictly rational explanation. Revolutions, overthrows, and uprisings are irrational by nature and often develop in an unpredictable manner which does not fit any conventional theories. The events in Libya unrolled rapidly and were shaped by a number of factors, and while both Egyptian and Tunisian presidents gave up quite quickly, Muammar Gaddafi made it clear right away that he will fight to the end. Consequently, the internal uprising against Gaddafi which started in February developed into armed aggression against Libya by March, and God knows what it will be like by April… Obviously, the "uprising" in Libya was inspired by popular unrest in the neighboring Arab countries. But unlike the peaceful protests in Tunisia and Egypt, Libya's uprising was armed, and quite possibly relied on some external support.
The revolution bug appears to have bitten a large number of Arab countries, but in Libya it seems to have developed into an acute condition. There are witnesses who confirm that the uprising was pre-planned, that groups of youths attacked police and local authorities' buildings in different towns at the same time. But the crucial role was played by the fact that Gaddafi secured the support of a large share of the population, especially in the country's capital and in the West. There were no massive protests in Tripoli, and the rebellious East has demonstrated the breakaway ambitions of Cyrenaica that Libyan Jamahiriya had already dealt with before (although the number of rebels there did not exceed a few thousand). Gaddafi wisely waited out the critical phase and went on to some successful attempts to re-unite the country but faced serious counteraction from the West.
The attempt to overthrow Gaddafi by "global effort" has been quite cynical.
Libya's business partners, including Italy, France and other European countries, which until recently were signing multi million dollar contracts with Gaddafi now all of a sudden claimed his regime to be illegitimate and openly took the rebels' side. It's no secret that Gaddafi has ceased to be a thorn the West's side over the last decade as he gave up a number of notorious projects related to development of weapons of mass destruction, let the U.S. oil companies in on the Libyan market, paid compensation for the Lockerbie bombing, and started liberalizing the domestic economy. Nevertheless, the colonel didn't entirely "mend his ways": the Americans got hold only of a small share of Libya's oil reserves; the Lockerbie bombing, though paid for, was never admitted guilt for, and the project to privatize the state oil production company also fell through. Gaddafi was actively promoting the idea of African unity and a single currency pegged to gold, and he heavily criticized the West's policies in Asia and Africa. Removal of sanctions in 2003 stimulated economic growth and turned Libya in a rapidly developing economy capable of making Gaddafi's dream come true i.e. turning Libya into the leading power of the region.
Therefore it is not about Gaddafi's Western partners suddenly becoming appalled at his being cruel to the rebels. Western powers simply took advantage of the situation, i.e. a temporary weakness of the Libyan leader, to back up the uprising.
An unstable situation in Libya is in the European and U.S. hawks' opinion better than a strong and ambitious Gaddafi. That is why the desperate West started to stir up the almost gone fire of the civil war. And whereas for the United States, this war would be across the ocean, Europe might harvest some big problems ensuing from it in the very near future. And this tells us that in fact European leaders followed their U.S. counterparts.
Q: How do you explain the fact it wasn't the U.S. but France who was the first to bomb Libya? Is it simply part of the West's overall campaign against Gaddafi's regime, or
maybe France has its own interests and accounts to square?
A: The United States is already running two wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq. The incumbent president, Barack Obama, came to power surfing a wave of anti-war sentiment in American society. He positioned himself as a man to dramatically change U.S. foreign policy and withdraw the troops from Iraq. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in anticipation of his achievements. Therefore Obama hardly stands a chance of convincing the voters that the United States must get involved in yet another war. According to recent polls, the majority of Americans do not support the idea of the U.S. intervening with Libya's affairs in any way. Voters won't forgive their president any more losses. It was no coincidence that as soon as a report of an F-15 fighter aircraft being shot down was released, Robert Gates hurried to make a statement that the active phase of the operation is nearing its end. The U.S. fear getting involved in a war for the same reason Germany had to give up aggression. They fear the public reaction. But that seems to be of no concern to Sarkozy who was never hiding the special nature of his relations with the United States. While the U.S. is biding in the shade, Sarkozy is willing to do the dirty work and take the risks as he has nothing to lose. The French president's ratings are quite low, and he badly needs a "little glorious victory." Neither is Sarkozy concerned with the fact that destabilizing Libya will send off new waves of illegal immigrants straight to France. "After us, the deluge" -- this famous French by-word aptly characterizes the president's demeanor. Under current circumstances, it would be appropriate to recall the events of 1956 when the U.K., France, and Israel attacked Egypt attempting to win back the Suez Canal nationalized by Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein. The initiative belonged to Israel while France and the U.K played peace-makers while breaking into Egypt's territory. The United States stayed out of this, not wishing to mar their reputation with the Arab world.

Q: The fact that the Libyan conflict has been broken into by the Western powers means that it's altogether a different story than that in Tunisia or Egypt. Can we say that Libya is going through what Afghanistan and Iraq did? Can we draw parallels between Muammar Gaddafi and, for instance, Saddam Hussein?
A: The recipe for intervening with internal affairs of countries in disfavor is basically the same. The parallels with Iraq are obvious. Aggression was preceded by a media attack whose goal was to justify the necessity to overthrow the ruling regime. In case of Iraq, Hussein's regime was accused of secretly developing weapons of mass destruction, and the media unrolled a massive misinformation campaign. It only takes to recall Colin Powell flashing photographs of Iraq's alleged secret WMD facilities and mobile laboratories to media cameras. In case of Libya, the focus was made on "bloodthirstiness" of the regime, and the story of dealing cruelly with peaceful protesters circled the world. The global community was thus prepared for the news of air strikes and bombings. As soon as it became clear that insurgents have lost the battle, the UN Security Council was called up to pass Resolution 1973 whose ample wordings in their essence granted freedom to the anti-Libyan coalition and resulted in the country being bombed. On top of all the similarities with the situation in Iraq, one more thing might get similar -- the end result. Libya may cease to exist de facto, the way Iraq did. And both Libya and Iraq would degrade into "black holes."
Last Saturday in the US, protests took place to note the 8th anniversary of the start of the illegal war. Military Families Speak Out issued the following:
Dedication of the Jeffrey Lucey chapter of Veterans For Peace
A speech by Gold Star Mother Celeste Zappala, mother of Sgt. Sherwood Baker, KIA April 26, 2004 in Iraq. Sad anniversaries are marked in the faces we see here tonight, this weekend marks 8 years since the disastrous Iraq invasion, nine and a half years ago the official chapter of the misguided war on Afghanistan began – Joyce just told me that today is Jeffrey's 30th birthday, and my son Sherwood will always be 30 years old.
Lobby Weekend in Washington, DC
Members of MFSO traveled to Washington DC from all over the country to participate in a weekend of trainings and grassroots lobby visits. We delivered postcards to 80 Senators and 175 Representatives with the message "Bring our troops & tax dollars home"
Teaneck, NJ: Art Exhibit on the True Costs of War
Military Families Speak Out in Teaneck, NJ launched a month-long art exhibit on the True Costs of War with a cultural event on Sunday, March 20th with a standing-room only crowd.
March 18th, 2011: Cape Cod Veterans For Peace Honors Jeffrey Lucey
On March 18, 2011, the Cape Cod Chapter of Veterans for Peace will dedicate and rename our chapter in honor of Corporal Jeffrey M. Lucey. A 23-year-old Iraq War veteran, Lucey suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD and in his anguish took his own life on June 22, 2004, almost a year after his discharge from active military duty. Jeff's family home is in Belchertown, Massachusetts. His parents have, since his death, become tireless advocates for active duty and discharged military personnel who are experiencing this horrendous and widespread disorder.
War Is NOT a Hollywood Movie: Southern California MFSO
March 19, 2011 - Eleven military family members and veterans were arrested for civil trespass today in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre where they staged a sit in on the 8th anniversary of the occupation of Iraq. They brought with them the photographs and boots of soldiers who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq. The family members brought a block of cement with them when they sat among the hand and footprints of Hollywood legends and pressed the foot prints of an empty pair of combat boots into the cement signing the footprints 'Forgotten Dead.' copying what the stars do when they get their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
MFSO Member Carole Whelan Protests Senator in Maine who Supported Iraq War
MFSO members and other peace activists protested Senator Susan Collins' induction into the Maine Women's Hall of Fame Saturday in Augusta. Shortly after Senator Collins was awarded the honor at the University of Maine campus, a woman stood up in the audience and began speaking, reading a written statement, and saying Senator Collins should refuse the award for her role in helping advance the war in Iraq eight years ago. Senator Collins was among the majority in the Senate that gave then President Bush the authorization to use force against Iraq.
IVAW Connects the Dots in Madison, WI
The Iraq Veteran's Against the War (IVAW) hosted a rally last Saturday, March 19 on the 8th anniversary of the Iraq War. Todd E. Dennis, former nuclear machinist mate on an attack submarine and current Madison Chapter President for the IVAW was one of several responsible for organizing the event. The rally began at the library mall on the campus of UW-Madison. Songs and speeches were shared as people from all over the state assembled. The IVAW then lead a march of several thousand to the Capitol where several speeches were given by both veterans of several wars and union leaders of the state. Attached is a part from that day. Please take the time to view one of the most important speeches that connects the dots between our wars and workers rights.
Through April 7th, we're going to try to note this at least once each day, if you served in the US military and you were stop-lossed, you are owed additional money. That money needs to be claimed. DoD announces the date to file for that additional payment has been extended:

The deadline for eligible service members, veterans and their beneficiaries to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP) has been extended to April 8, 2011, allowing personnel more time to apply for the benefits they've earned under the program guidelines.
The deadline extension is included in the continuing resolution signed by President Obama Friday, providing funding for federal government operations through April 8, 2011.
Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay was established to compensate for the hardships military members encountered when their service was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss Authority between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009. Eligible members or their beneficiaries may submit a claim to their respective military service in order to receive the benefit of $500 for each full or partial month served in a Stop Loss status.
When RSLSP began on Oct. 21, 2009, the services estimated 145,000 service members, veterans and beneficiaries were eligible for this benefit. Because the majority of those eligible had separated from the military, the services have engaged in extensive and persistent outreach efforts to reach them and remind them to apply. Outreach efforts including direct mail, engaging military and veteran service organizations, social networks and media outlets, will continue through April 8, 2011.
To apply for more information, or to gather more information on RSLSP, including submission requirements and service-specific links, go to
And lastly, turning to broadcast TV, CBS' 60 Minutes offers the following:
American companies are finding new overseas tax havens to legally protect some of their profits from the U.S. tax rate of 35 percent, among the highest in the world. Lesley Stahl reports. | Watch Video

One Child At A Time
Wars can literally shatter children's lives and Elissa Montanti is on a mission to make some of them whole again through a network of volunteers. Scott Pelley follows the progress of one of them, a badly maimed Iraqi boy. |
Watch Video

The Sage of St. Anthony
Tiny Catholic high school St. Anthony in Jersey City, N.J., doesn't even have its own gym, but it has Coach Bob Hurley, who has taken the team, now ranked number-one in the nation, to 24 state championships. Steve Kroft reports. |
Watch Video

"60 Minutes," Sunday, March 27, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "She Hulk Wants"

She Hulk Wants

They both just returned to the country today. War Hawk and She Hulk.

I don't blog on Thursdays so I'm doing that comic tonight. Others will note it tomorrow.

Now tonight's journal entry is on voting.

If you want to vote, vote. It is not a big deal to me. I'm not going to terrorize you if you don't and I think not voting can (and does) send a message.

Growing up as I did, during the Cold War, we would hear in school over and over that the Soviet Union had a 95% (or maybe higher) voting turnout at their elections and how we had to do better. I would always be the one to ask, "Didn't you tell us that they don't have freedoms in the Soviet Union?" The reply would be that, yes, they are forced to vote. So I would point out that in America we have the right to vote and we can exercise that or we can chose not to exercise it, that's part of our freedom.

That answer did not go over well with teachers but truth rarely does when someone's attempting to indoctrinate you.

So my point in writing about voting is that a friend called me today and he wanted to know what were the chances that I could vote Republican? He had a list of five candidates. I didn't know two and the other three would never give my vote.

I explained that a pro-choice Republican could interest me. I might possibly for him or her.

He kept on about how I say I won't vote for Barack.

I won't. I didn't in 2008. I voted for Ralph Nader and I'll vote independent or third party in 2012 gladly. But, in terms of a Republican, I'd have to know that Roe v. Wade was safe. It's not safe under a Democratic president. Barack proved that with health care, didn't he? But for me to feel comfortable voting for a Republican, they would have to be a pro-choice one.

Over all other issues, I was asked?

I don't think they listen on any other issues. I don't think they have any real difference on any other issues. Even with the issue of same-sex couples, the Republicans are having to open their arms. I think both parties are filled with War Hawks so I certainly wouldn't believe a thing either said about war. That really just leaves the issue of reproductive rights.

I'm not planning to vote Republican. But I was asked the question and I have a feeling that others are being asked the same questions so I thought I'd share that.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Wednesday, March 23, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, displacement continues in Iraq, Moqtada al-Sadr tries to angle Ahmed Chalabi into a cabinet post, Iraqi children are born with birth defects in numbers higher than the normal average, and more.
Today the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre released [PDF format warning] "Internal Displacement: Global Overview of Trends and Developments in 2010." Across the globe, the number of displaced person grew to 27.5 million ("the highest in a decade"). Iraq joins Columbia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somolia and Sudan as one of the five countries with "over a million people identified as IDPs" -- Internally displaced Persons -- and "over half the world IDPs" are in those five countries. Of the five, Iraq ranks third on the largest internally displaced populations scale with approximately 2.8 million people in Iraq. The graph on page 16 of the report shows a steady climb in the number of IDPs in Iraq throughout the decade with 2008 being a high point, 2009 a slight dip and 2010 returning to the same level as 2008. Approximately 9% of Iraq's population (in country) is IDP which translates as approximately one Iraqi in every ten is internally displaced.
Page 25 features a photo of an Iraqi male missing a portion of his left leg who, along with others, now lives "in a garbage dump in the neighbourhood of Al-Mushraf" in Mosul as a result of being an IDP who has had to flee his home as a result of violence. Page 78 deals specifically with Iraq. From page 78:
By 2010, people from the same sectarian or religious group had been concentrated into the same locations as IDPs fled to areas where their group was dominant. About half of the total number came from the ethnically diverse governorates of Baghdad and Diyala. As a result the country was more ethnically and religiously homogenous than at any time in Iraq's modern history. Iraqi society remained deeply divided along sectarian lines, with many minority groups facing particular threats, including Christians of various denominations, Fae'eli Kurds, Yazidis, Palestinian refugees, and Sunni and Shi'a Muslims where they were in the minority.
Tensions remained high in 2010 yet increasingly confined to the disputed areas of the ethnically diverse northern governorates of Kirkuk and Ninewa. While the security situation in Baghdad remained fragile, it had improved tos ome extent because the major political parties had renounced violence to jockey for political influence. The only identified pattern of new displacement in 2010 was that of Christians from Baghdad and Mosul: following threats and targeted bombings, an undetermined number were displaced to the three northern governorates under the authority of the Kurdistan Regional Government.
Internally displaced children and women were particularly at risk, and faced widespread gender-based violence and labour exploitation. In a country that gives women fewer opportunities than men, internally displaced women and families headed by women had significantly greater needs than other displaced people in the same area.
Many of the vulnerabilities faced by IDPs were shared by non-displaced groups who all suffered from high rates of unemployment, limited access to basic food rations and clean water, and a declining standard of living. However, IDPs faced the additional challenge of the constant threat of eviction as most displaced families were living in rented or privately-owned houses, in collective settlements, or in public buildings.
The report notes that the number of returnees (of IDPs -- not returnees from outside the country) dropped in 2010 and those who did return largely returned to either Baghdad or Diyala. (Yes, we noted this reality back in 2010 when fools like Thomas E. Ricks' online spouse couldn't get it correct.) Kelley B. Vlahos explores the realities of what's been done to the land and future of Iraq in "Children of War" (American Conservative). Scott Horton discussed the article with her on Antiwar Radio. Excerpt:
Scott Horton: This is a very hard hitting piece there in the American Conservative magazine which is the flagship magazine of the anti-war right in this country and often times it's worth reading in depth but this article was really great and especially timely since it's now the 8th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. And primarily this article is concerned with the pollution of various kinds and the disastorous effects that this pollution has had for the people of Iraq. So that, I think as you even say in the piece, "Even though the American people would prefer to just pretend the Iraq War is ancient history or something, it's still going on for the people there." Can you tell us a little bit about the consequences and maybe some of the likely causes that we're talking about here?
Kelley B. Vlahos: Sure. I mean I -- I basically would call this if you're going to look at something that crystalized the US invasion of Iraq, I would say this is the greatest, you know, singular example of the tragedy of our invasion of Iraq -- if not the thirty year relationship we've had, the US has had with Iraq. This was a very difficult piece to write. But just to drill down a bit, basically it talks about the impact of, like you said, the pollution -- the impact of 30 years, really of war in Iraq beginning with the Iran and Iraq war in which we supplied monetarily and with weapons Saddam Hussein in the Iraq war and against Iran in which thousands and thousands of pounds of munitions were dropped, tanks and chemical weapons. Then you fast forward to the Persian Gulf War, another anniversary that was reached this week, the end of the Persian Gulf War 1991in which, again, we used heavy artillery and tanks notably with depleted uranium that still sits out in the deserts of Iraq. And then the more recent US invasion of Iraq and the last 8 years. So the impact of that on the landscape of Iraq has been devestating. And the greatest example we have right now is the increase of birth defects in places like Falluja, for example, and Basra which were very, very heavily hit -- both in this war, specifically Falluja, and in the Persian Gulf War, Basra. And what they're finding in a recent study that I -- that I mention in the piece, in Falluja they, scientists, have determined a 15% incident rate of birth defects among babies born in their General Hospital in 2010. And to sort of bring this into perspective, you know, an estimated 3% of every live birth in the US is effected -- is effected by birth defects and 6% worldwide. So we're talking a huge, auspicious number here. We're talking birth defects --

Scott Horton: Well hold on a second, Kelley. I was going to say if -- if people have young kids riding along in the back of the minivan right now, you might want to turn it to music before Kelley starts describing some of the birth defects we're talking about being found at the Falluja General Hospital.
Kelley B. Vlahos: Oh, yeah. I mean, as a mother, this is a particular difficult story for me to do because every time that I went to do research, Googling "birth defects Falluja" I would indiscriminately get photographs of these babies that were born and we're talking everything from congenital heart defects to what you would call skeletal malformations which could be pieces of the skull missing, missing eyes, missing limbs, additional limbs where there shouldn't be limbs, babies who are just lying there lifeless and limp because their heads are three, four times the size they should be. Things that you don't even want to see or ever hope to see, that will give you nightmares at night. And there are pictures and pictures and examples upon examples on the internet that, you know, I think most of us would probably -- not ignore, but never see unless we were investigating it ourselves. And this is sad because the evidence is there and we have basically, like you said earlier, have decided that the war is over but this is occuring. And they're looking for help and their own government isn't giving them help and we certainly aren't doing it. Now what are the causes? This is -- this is the big investigation that's going on. There's been -- There's many theories. One being that depleted uranium that I had mentioned earlier. Our depleted uranium basically is -- is a dense heavy metal that is used in both an armored plating on our tanks as well as in our munitions. Now the extent of how much we've used in this war is pretty much a secret because the military knows it's controversial. It's been controversial since the Persian Gulf War when it was used and our own soldiers were being exposed to it in friendly fire fights with tank battles. And they came home and complained of all sorts of illnesses but also birth defects in the babies that their wives were having. There had been many studies and many surveys done but the Department of Defense -- surprise, surprise -- has denied that depleted uranium has anything to do with incidents, increased incidents, of cancer birth defects among our soldiers so you can imagine that they don't want anything to do with anything that's happened among Iraqis. But anyway, so the use of depleted uranium is controversial but they're still using. The Air Force uses it, the Army, the Marines. And in places like Falluja which had been unbelievably pounded by US air power during 2004 and 2005 if you can remember, this was a big hot bed of Sunni resistance. They were the ones that hung the Blackwater contractors off the bridge, the Sunnis in Falluja. And so the Marines went in there and basically tried to basically restore order there, to take it out of control of the insurgents' hands. They managed to do that. They put -- They put the security in the hands of local uh-uh Fallujans and left and then they had to come back after George Bush -- the minute George Bush was re-elected in 2004. He -- He started another air campaign. So we're basically talking about large areas of the city just leveled. We're talking about GPS guided bombs just like plucking buildings out, plucking insurgents out. You know strafing going on. I mean, just -- you can imagine. Looking at pictures of Falluja today, it's a wasteland. But they managed to "pacify" them in the end. But anyway, so what's left there? And we can only imagine. So the babies that are being born today are, like I said, 15% of them in 2010 were being born with these birth defects. Is it the depleted uranium? Is it the fact that there's no sewage or clean water in Falluja? All sorts of -- I mean, the burning of the trash on the forward operating base, a little bit about that in the article. So we basically destroyed the ecology of Iraq. But we need to find out exactly what's causing the birth defects and also the high levels of cancer among Fallujans as well as the people in Basra which I mentioned earlier was also heavily hit too. The studies are there but they need the help not only to bring it to light and to do something about it. And we are-are so far ignoring the plight of these people. For all obvious reasons. It is -- It is an embarrassment and a humiliation. And it is anathema to everything we were told: we went into Iraq to save and to liberate these people.
About 75,000 children in Iraq are now living in camps or shelters, having lost their homes due to the war or been forced to evacuate because of threats of violence.
Hundreds of kids have been injured, or even died, from war-related violence. Many, many others have lost family members to the war. One twelve-year-old girl was shot repeatedly by US soldiers who burs into her home. The soldiers shot and killed the girl's uncle and injured her aunt. They even killed all of the family's chickens before they left, to lessen the family's chance of survival.

Violence never ceased in Iraq but it's been on an upswing for awhile now. Alsumaria TV notes, "Some Iraqis attribute violence outbreak to rows among political parties while others blame the Parliament which suspended its sessions and delayed the nomination of security ministers. Political analysts in their turn believe Iraq insecurity is due to the delay in security ministers nomination which is getting more and more complicated on account of political parties competition."
Reuters reports a Ramadi roadside bombing injured two police officers, a Mussayab roadside bombing injured two police offiers, a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left seven other people injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed the life of a driver for the Ministry of Electricity and left two people injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing left two people injured, a Kirkuk bombing injured two people and, as fire fighters arrived on the scene, a second bombing left five of them injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed 1 life and a Mosul grenade attack injured on person.
Reuters reports 1 "official in the Municipalities Ministry" was shot dead in Baghdad, a Mosul attack left two police officers injured, and, dropping back to Tuesday for both of these, Iraqi Army Maj Ahmed Obeidi was shot in Baghdad and died after arriving at the hospital and a Mosul police officer was shot dead not far from his home.
Meanwhile Aswat al-Iraq reports that 2 suspected of smuggling antiquities out of Iraq were arrested by police in Anbar Province today. Last week, Douglas Martin (New York Times) noted the March 11th passing of Iraqi archaeoligist Donny George from a heart attack in Toronto:
Dr. George was director of research for the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage when United States troops and their allies invaded Iraq. He fought through blocked bridges, explosions and troops to repor to the museum in the chaotic days afterward, finding he could not persuade American troops to protect it because no order had been issued to do so.
An estimated 15,000 artifacts were stolen, less than a tenth the initial guesses. Working with Col. Matthew Bogdanos of the Marines to investigate the thefts, they recovered half the stolen [. . .] artifacts, partly by granting looters amnesty.
The Telegraph of London, in their obituary, spoke a little more freely than the New York Times:
In the aftermath of the fall of Saddam Hussein, he fought his way through the chaos to report to the museum, but found that he could not persuade American troops to protect it by moving their tanks across the entrance because they had not been ordered to do so. It was a question about the looting that prompted American Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's laconic observation "Stuff happens". Or as General Tommy Franks of Central Command said at a pre-war briefing when the subject of securing cultural sites came up, "I don't have time for this ----ing bulls**!"
More significantly, as the conference was breaking up, Channel 4 News managed to set up a satellite phone link in Baghdad to my old friend Donny George, the director of research at the Iraq Department of Antiquities, and I was able to speak with him directly. I was the first person outside Iraq he had been able to speak to.
Donny was distraught. Looters and vandals had been rampaging unchecked through the museum for two days. Although there was nobody in the building at that time, it was still unguarded and therefore vulnerable. He asked me to pass this information on, and he urged me to come to Baghdad as soon as possible to see what could be done to help.
As soon as it was known that Donny wanted me to go to Baghdad, a number of journalists offered to facilitate my trip. I joined forces with the BBC team and on April 22 flew out to Amman, where we picked up our "protection officers" (a euphemism for hired guns) and drove in a convoy along the desert road to Baghdad.
Once across the Iraqi border we were confronted by stark reminders of the recent war: military convoys, burnt-out vehicles and bombed bridges. Nothing, however, prepared me for the changed appearance of Baghdad. On the outskirts of the city we could see blackened buildings, some with smoke still rising from them. The streets were more or less deserted, and there was an unreal calm and quiet, punctuated by the periodic sound of gunfire, showing that there was still some resistance to the coalition occupation. We made straight for the museum, and our vehicles were allowed through the locked gates.
Donny, Dr Jabr Ismail, the director of the Department of Antiquities, and Dr Nawalla al-Mutawalli, the director of the Iraq Museum, all came out to greet me. It was agreed that we should sleep on the ground on the colonnade. In the morning we were able to start our inspection of the museum. It was a heartbreaking sight. I already knew that, in the build-up to the war, the curators had moved most of the objects from the galleries to a "secret store" in the bowels of the Earth beneath the museum. However, they had left behind all those objects that, for one reason or another, were difficult to move or were simply overlooked, and it was these objects that had been stolen or vandalised. Many of the glass showcases were also smashed, so in some places there was a thick carpet of broken glass on the floor. In addition, every one of the 120 offices in the building had been broken into, usually by smashing a hole in the door.
Files, papers, index cards, photographs, films and computer software had all been swept off the shelves and onto the floor. It seemed that the intention had been to start bonfires, but fortunately this did not happen. All the safes in the building had been broken open. It was also clear that the intruders had broken into the storerooms, but at this stage nobody had been inside to assess the extent of the losses. There has been much speculation as to whether the looting that took place was spontaneous or organised -- and who, precisely, was behind it. Theories have ranged from the involvement of Ba'athist loyalists, determined to cause maximum civilian unrest, to the connivance of international antique-dealers, requesting items to be stolen to order. Five years on, these questions remain unanswered. The whereabouts of looted material is also hotly disputed. There is clearly a black market in Iraqi antiquities, but where the pieces have ended up is not yet known.
George was the first Iraqi Christian to rise to the top of the country's archaeological establishment, but his faith made him a target during worsening sectarian violence. To get to work he would use three different cars (to keep any assassins off his trail), varying his route and never leaving at the same time two days in a row. Several colleagues lost their lives.
The situation took a turn for the worse when, in 2005, a member of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Shiite political faction was appointed minister of tourism and antiquities. George claimed that the new appointee and his acolytes were only interested in preserving art from the country's Islamic history and not from earlier periods, making his job impossible. The final straw was when his 17-year-old son received an envelope containing a bullet and a message that accused the youth of "cursing Islam, teasing Muslim girls" and having a father who was helping the Americans. In 2006 he fled Iraq for good.
CONAN: Give us an example, if you would. Is there a piece that is of particular significance that--or at least significance to you?
Mr. GEORGE: Well, at the beginning, you see, we lost some very, very important masterpieces, like the Warka vase, like the mask of the lady from Warka, but these came back. But now one of the most important pieces that is still missing is the headless statue, half-natural-size, of the Sumerian King Natum(ph), which--we still don't have it. And, by the way, this piece is inscribed on the back shoulder, and it could be one of the rare examples, the first examples, of this mentioning the word 'king' in the history of mankind. So this is -- I mean, every single piece has its own significance.
CONAN: We're talking with Donny George, director of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. You mentioned Sumer; this was an early, maybe the earliest, human civilization...
Mr. GEORGE: That's right.
CONAN: ...speaking a language that appears to have no relation to any language anywhere else.
Mr. GEORGE: That's right. Yeah.
CONAN: This is a great mystery and--but these were the people who first invented the hydrographic civilization that we emerged from.
Mr. GEORGE: That's right. I mean, modern scholars believe that the Sumerians are the descendants of the first people coming to Mesopotamia. Those were the people coming from the Neolithic period. Those were the people who started the villages. Those were the people who actually, with the villages, started the animal domestication and agriculture and a lot of -- villages planning and, you know -- but then, in about 4,500 BC, we learn that these are Sumerians. We don't have the writing then, but in about 3,200 BC we started having the writing, the inscription that they themselves invented at the beginning. It was a kind of pictographic. And, you see, this is the greatness of the people: Out of nothing, they invent something, something very important, something that can exchange ideas and can accumulate ideas between generations and generations. That was the writing. Now we have it here.
The statue he spoke of in 2005 was of the Sumerian King Entemena and other Mesopotamian artifacts noting King Entemena include a silver tripod dedicated to him which is housed in the Louvre. Last September, Barbara Surk (AP) reported on a number of stolen artifcats which had been recovered and that included the "4,400-year-old statue of a Sumerican King" noting, "The most prominent [recovered artificat] was the statue of a Sumerian king discovered in the 1920s at the ancient city of UR in southern Iraq. [. . .] The FBI listed its theft among the world's top 10 art crimes. Experts say the statue, carved from black diorite with cuneiform inscriptions along the back and the shoulders, is the oldest known representation of an Iraqi monarch. Officials with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security located the statue in the United States in May 2006 and handed it over to Iraqi diplomats in Washington two months later."
AFP reported that, March 16th, a tribute was held for George at Baghdad Museum and quoted Deputy Culture Minister Jaber al-Jaber stating, "Donny George was a symbol of this country. With these candles we say goodbye with tears in our eyes."
On the stolen artificats, there was confusion when there return was reported because they'd been returned some time ago and put in Nouri al-Maliki's custody. He apparently 'forgot' to inform others that he was holding the objects. Imagine that. Tom Zirpoli
(Carroll County Times) reflects on Iraq's prime minister:
Under Maliki's direction, the Iraqi high court recently ruled that only Maliki, not members of the Iraqi Parliament, could propose legislation. This is reminiscent of Saddam Hussein's control over the Iraqi Parliament.
Freedom of the press is almost dead in Iraq. Maliki has ordered his security forces to arrest journalists who are frequently subjected to beatings and torture. Newspaper offices are regularly raided and destroyed by Iraqi police.
After eight years of war funded by American blood and dollars, the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein has been replaced with the dictatorship of Maliki, which makes me question why we continue to place American lives on the line to defend the government of Iraq.
Why are scarce American tax dollars spent to financially support this corrupt government? Why are we giving Maliki military equipment to suppress his citizens who want democracy? Why are we paying for prisons in Iraq where innocent Iraqi citizens are detained and tortured because they want democracy?

Moqtada al-Sadr is back in Iraq for a bit more and the reason is he's supposed to secure a Cabinet post for Ahmed Chalabi per the Iranian government. Chalabi angled for the spot of prime minister in the lead up to the elections by purging various candidates from the lists but it wasn't enough for Iran to back him as prime minister. So the best he can hope for now is a Cabinet post.

Dar Addustour reports that State of Law (Nouri's slate) is resistant. Al Mada reports it was the National Alliance which joined with State of Law to reject Chalabi while Moqtada al-Sadr's supporters are backing Chalabi for Minister of the Interior. Meanwhile Al Rafidayn reports on Chalabi's attempts to grandstand on larger issues in an attempt to look official. Alsumaria TV notes, "The delay is submitting security ministers names is unjustifiable, State of Law Coalition members said while blaming part of the delay as well on political parties. National Alliance MPs complained in the same regard of their party's delay in agreeing on the Interior Minister candidate while Iraqiya MPs criticized internal rows that delayed security ministers' nominations, a source told Alsumaria."

When protests took hold in Baghdad, Nouri al-Malik and Moqtada al-Sadr joined forces to put up false fronts that would derail public anger. Among the measures they both pushed was 100 days. Corruption? Lack of adequate public services? Give the government 100 days and just you wait! For what? Al Mada reports part two of the 'plan,' demand 100 more days! The latest announcement is that one hundred days isn't enough so the government's going to take 200. That's over half a year. And it's been a year since elections but Nouri still doesn't have a full Cabinet.

Dar Addustour reports that the Ministry of National Reconciliation plans to hold a press conference with "Awakening" Thamer al-Tamimi to announce that he and his 200 person militia will be laying down their arms..
8 years ago today, the US Army convoy was attacked outside of Nasiriyah. Jessica Lynch as among those injured and captured. Today Lynch was at Piestewa Peak for a memorial service held for the woman Lynch has described as "my hero," Lori Piestewa who died of injuries from the attack. Diane Ryan (KSAZ - MyFoxPhoenix) filed a video report.
Diane Ryan: We are here at Piestewa Peak. It is a very moving ceremony. Eight years ago, her friends and family decided to get together and do this special sunrise ceremony and you can see behind me, it's way back in the mountain there and it's just getting under way. I have pictures of what we saw just a few minutes ago as they were getting ready. Lori, of course, a member of the Hopi Nation. She's the first Iraqi female -- war female. She was the first Native American Indian woman to die in combat for the US. Now the mountain was renamed in her honor eight years ago. She left behind two children Carla and Brandon who are taking a bigger part in the ceremony every year as they grow older. The memorial honors her service and also other soldiers as well who died in combat for the United States. Also members of Lori's 507 Maintenance Company are here as well. The first week of the Iraqi War, they were ambushed and 11 soldiers were killed including Piestewa. Lori's best friend Jessica Lynch [. . .] she is here as well. And we talked to Lori's cousin, Barbie [Wyaco] and this is what she had to say.
Barbie Wyaco: It's healing for everybody who's here. We all get to heal a little more year by year and the memories become great memories that we can continue to build off of.
Lori Piestewa was both the first US female service member to die in the Iraq War and the first Native American woman in the US military to be killed in combat. She was 23-years-old when she died.
If you served in the US military and you were stop-lossed, you are owed additional money. That money needs to be claimed. DoD announces the date to file for that additional payment has been extended:

The deadline for eligible service members, veterans and their beneficiaries to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP) has been extended to April 8, 2011, allowing personnel more time to apply for the benefits they've earned under the program guidelines.
The deadline extension is included in the continuing resolution signed by President Obama Friday, providing funding for federal government operations through April 8, 2011.
Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay was established to compensate for the hardships military members encountered when their service was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss Authority between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009. Eligible members or their beneficiaries may submit a claim to their respective military service in order to receive the benefit of $500 for each full or partial month served in a Stop Loss status.
When RSLSP began on Oct. 21, 2009, the services estimated 145,000 service members, veterans and beneficiaries were eligible for this benefit. Because the majority of those eligible had separated from the military, the services have engaged in extensive and persistent outreach efforts to reach them and remind them to apply. Outreach efforts including direct mail, engaging military and veteran service organizations, social networks and media outlets, will continue through April 8, 2011.
To apply for more information, or to gather more information on RSLSP, including submission requirements and service-specific links, go to
Lastly, War Hawk Barack fluttered his wings and flew back to the US today. As Iraq War veteran Adam Kokesh noted Saturday:
Why is Obama in Rio when he's starting a war in Libya!?! He should really be at home polishing that peace prize. 4:10 PM Mar 19th via Facebook
Adam was Tweetin on the anniversary of the Iraq War and also noted:
8 years in Iraq. Still proud, America? 12:06 PM Mar 19th via Facebook

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Isaiah, Libya

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Grim Peace Resister"
the grim peace resister

Katrina vanden Heuvel, the worthless Katty van-van.

Jonathan Allen (Politico) reports:

White House officials told Democratic and Republican congressional aides Tuesday that the U.S. is not at war with Libya and, without laying out a timeline, that the president hopes to hand over control of coalition military operations in the next few days.

Officials present included representatives from the White House Legislative Affairs Office, several members of the intelligence community, a Treasury aide and Gene Cretz, the recently recalled U.S. ambassador to Libya, sources told POLITICO.

Now why are White House officials having to do this? Politico reports:

Now in El Salvador, President Obama is returning to Washington on Wednesday a couple of hours earlier than scheduled.

Obama began his visit to Central / South America in Brazil on Saturday, the same day as the United States launced airstrikes against Muammar Qadhafi's forces in Libya. He also visited Chile.

I'm at a loss for that and for why it's not a huge deal. Barack starts a war and then tours Latin America. His role does include commander-in-chief, remember?

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Tuesday, March 22, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, at least one police officer is killed during a protest in the KRG, Baghdad activists explain the point of Liberation Square, Nouri claims safety when security incidents beg to differ, the White House continues to refuse to fall Congress' laws with regards to veterans and service members, and more.
Alsumaria TV reports that Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister and thug of the occupation, has declared Iraq to be "the most stable country in the region." Nouri was speaking at an agricultural conference. Nayla Razzouk and Kadhim Ajrash (Bloomberg News) report that Iraq is need of foreign investment in order for "the country [to] become self-sufficient in grains within three years" and they note that Nouri asserted that Iraq currently is able to produce "half of its grain needs." Oops! Nouri didn't pay attention because Alsumaria reports that Sunday the US Embassy in Baghdad's Ron Verdonk was explaining "that Iraq imports 80% of its annual wheat consumption and 90% of its annual rice consumption". UPI adds that the plan is for Iraq to be "self-sufficient by 2014" when it comes to grain. Related, today is World Water Day. AFP reported yesterday that the UN has declared Iraq is wasting 50% of its water resources. Alsumaria TV quotes a UNICEF statement: "Iraq faces difficulties in meeting the target of 91 percent of households using a safe drinking water supply by 2015" and "One in five or around six million Iraqis do not have access to safe water, of which the vast majority are in rural areas." At the start of this month, UNICEF noted:
Unremitting violence not only sets the backdrop of daily life in much of Iraq, it has also weakened governance and crippled the ability of the country to feed, protect and educate its citizenry. Political and economic turmoil has led to the great vulnerabiilty of women and children, who are threatened by poverty, undrenutrition, lack of safe water and sanitation, insufficient educational resources and the prospect of personal violence and abuse. Iraqis must contend with threats of drought, decimated infrastructure and a large population of refugees and internally displaced people. The number of displaced Iraqis is counted in the millions, with a large number of Iraqis seeking refuge in neighouring countries and over a million displaced inside the country since the height of 2006 violence. Reutrn of people to their homes is thwarted by continuing fears and insecurity. Vulnerable Iraqi women and children -- whether in Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon or the Syrian Arab Republic -- require sustained, intense assistance to assure basic living standards and fundamental protection in a context of war, violence and political discord.
Aswat al-Iraq also notes Nouri's claim of stability, "Iraq became one of the most stable countries in the region after a period of violence and divisions." Of course, he leaves not only the violence but the fact that 47,000 or so US troops stationed on Iraqi soil guarantee (thus far) that he can't be toppled. His neighbors can't make the same claim, now can they?

Today Baghdad is slammed with bombings. Aswat al-Iraq notes 2 dead and at least eight injured from five bombings in the capital. Reuters updates that to six bombings with 2 dead and thirteen injured. Hisham Rikabi (Al Mada) reports that an Iraqi military spokesperson, Maj Gen Qassim Atta, is blaming the resurgence of assassinations and liquidations of government and security officials on opponents upon "criminal gangs and terrorists." Noting the recent assassinations of members of the Ministries of Oil and Defense, Dar Addustour reports that the police are stating that the assailants are using silencers and that people are blaming this increase on the fact that there is still no Minister of the Interior or Minister of Defense. (There is also still no Minister of National Security but that's not mentioned in the article.) Reuters reports one or two police officers were killed in clashes with protesters in the KRG village of Halabja.
Dar Addustour reports that a senior citizen took his own life in Baghdad (he hanged himself) because he couldn't afford the cost of providing for his family (which included two children who may have been young or may have been kids). Amer Qaisi pens a column for Al Mada entitled "The Road to Liberation Square." "Liberation Square" is what protesters have re-named Baghdad's Tahrir Square. Qaisi notes that every Friday the government attempts to block demonstrators from arriving at Liberation Square. Qaisi notes that protesters must travel between pits and piles of garbage to approach "Liberation Square" and then they encounter closed bridges and roads roped off with barbed wire to prevent vehicles from going an futher. All of this and the harrassment and abuse of journalists and protesters indicate that the Iraqi government doesn't want to hear the voices making demands. Every Friday, Qasi continues, they must face the same scene all over again as well as the fear mongering of "al Qaeda!" and "Ba'athists!" No one believes Nouri has a magic wand nor that he'll discover Aladdin's lamp but the protests will continue and the protesters will continue to make their demands.
Many voices: Ka-thab.
Jane Arraf: There's a new song in town.
Many voices: Ka-thab.
Jane Arraf: Kathab in Iraqi Abaric means "liar." You hear the chant at every protest in Baghdad -- usually linked with the prime minister's name, Nouri al-Maliki. And when you ask protesters what Maliki's lied about, there's a long list starting with Maliki's claim that Saddam loyalists, Ba'athists, are behind the protests. Yanar Mohammad is a women's activist.
Yanar Mohammad: Mr. Maliki tells us that we are Ba'athists. And our answer to him is that we all suffered under the Ba'ath. Many of us escaped. Many of us went into prisons. And we did suffer in the previous era of the Ba'athists but now in these eight years also millions are suffering, hundreds are being tortured right now in Maliki's prisons. What about those people? Why doesn't he answer to that? He says we're either Ba'athists or we are from al Qaeda. Why is he lying?
Jane Arraf: Mohammad says she's so angry, she wants to storm the Green Zone where the government is based. In Baghdad's Liberation Square, the protests attract all kinds of people. Majdi Abdul Khalif is talented enough to have taught himself English from the movies and how to fix cell phones. But he can't find a job.
Majdi Abdul Khalif: Our patience is finished. To tell you the truth, we've seen the changes in Egypt and Tunisia and we need to try that.
One of the demands the protesters have made is for an end to corruption. Dar Addustour reports that the Integrity Commission informed inspector generals yesterday that they could not hide files and that all reports on corruption in institutions will be turned over to the Commission. Al Rafidayn details a few investigations including one involving Ministry of the Interior employees, one of which was caught blackmailing employees of a Baghdad police station.
As noted in the March 14th snapshot, Gen Numan Dakhil, head of Nouri's Rapid Reaction Brigade in Baghdad was caught by the Integrity Commission investigators taking a $50,000 bribe and ordered his forces to attack the IC investigators, leaveing nine injured, three of which required hospitalization. He was later cornered in a Baghdad shoot out before finally surrendering. Nouri's Rapid Reaction Brigade is back in the news. Al Rafidayn reports that the group is being criticized -- along with the US military -- for raids that have been taking place in Diwaniya Province. The Provincial Council's Deputy Chair has called out the raids noting that contents of homes have been destroyed and the inhabitants terrorized by the joint forces and that these raids have taken place "without the knowledge of the local government." He also expressed his surprise that, Baghdad being 180 km from Diwaniyah Province, the Rapid Reaction Brigade would be utilized. He also accused the US forces of deliberately taking part in the raids in order to antagonize the Sadrists in the province and cause them to retaliate.
From Sardists to Moqtada al-Sadr himself, Xinhua (link has text and audio) reports that while Moqtada condemned the attacks on Libya (by the US, France and England), Nouri al-Maliki's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh read a statement which included, "The Iraqi government supports the international effort that aims to protect the people of Libya."
On the 8th anniversary of the Iraq War KALW was one of the few to do a special and link is audio and transcript. And the eighth anniversary saw protests around the country. We noted some in yesterday's snapshot. KALW reports of the San Francisco protest, "Last Saturday, hundreds of demonstrators gathered at San Francisco's Union Square as a part of the International Day of Action in accordance with the eighth anniversary of U.S. military action in Iraq. The event began with a rally, including speeches from students, labor unions and the ANSWER Coaltion." In Bridgewater, Massachusetts, the Taunton Gazette reports, members of Citizens for an Informed Community held a protest as they do each year on the anniversary of the Iraq War. Jordan Farrar and Joe Bernick (Peoples World) reports:
In Tuscon demonstrators marched and rallied demanding an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well. They also opposed and possible new U.S., military intervention in the region.
The day began with a spirited march from Armory park, through downtown Tucson and on to De Anza Park for an anti-war rally. The most prominent signs in the march were for "Jobs not war", and "Healthcare not warfare."
Dear War Loving (Democratic or Republican) Fraud,

I know many of you don't really care, but in exactly 15 days, it will be seven years since my oldest son (whom I never "abandoned" and raised with his father and three siblings until he went into the Army when he was 21), Casey was killed in this Empire's insane War OF Terror. Was Casey the first, or the last? No--but he was my first and the shock knocked me out of my quiet complacency--which was just as wrong as the Empire's unending wars.

When I began protesting, Bush was president and my protest and the energy that grew around it was used by you Democrats to regain political power in the federal government. Four years later and a change of Executive, this nation is still mired in Arab countries waging a war against Arabs of all, or no, faith. Now brought to us by the Blue Team.

Three days after the current evil Emperor was installed by the oligarchy, he ordered a drone bombing in Northern Pakistan (a country that we are supposedly not at war with) that killed 36 civilians and since then, he has been absolutely mad about drone bombings, increasing Bush's total over 300 percent in far fewer years. Even though I never supported Obama who funded wars as a Senator and who is NOT a peace president, I said at the time: "Three days in and already a war criminal." I was thoroughly attacked by Democrats who once affiliated as "peace" activists for not giving Obama "time."

Well, Gitmo is still open, military tribunals will resume for men who have been illegally detained for up to a decade now, US Tomahawk missiles are raining down on innocents in Libya (killing people to save them is the NEW PEACE), dictators are still supported, Israel is still occupying and oppressing Palestine, activists are being targeted by Obama's DOJ while BushCo are being protected, the USA PATRIOT ACT was renewed, the Gulf is dying--and where is the outrage?

That's the opening. Use the link to read in full. One of Cindy's many great strengths is that she never shies from sharing what she's experiencing. Sharing those experiences has helped more people than she will ever meet face-to-face. And it's probably not easy for her to do that but she has a lot of courage. Maj Mark Citarella writes at the New York Times' At War blog about his current deployment and how, shortly after he deployed, his new girlfriend told him via "emial and a text" that it was over. This is something that many will be able to relate to as well including his anguish:
Sometimes the stress causes soldiers to exhibit suicidal behavior. That happened to a sergeant on my last deployment. After the breakup of a relationship, all he wanted to do was go outside the wire on every mission. Take every chance with his life, as if it didn't matter anymore. I also struggled with powerful emotions, even as I was trying to lead soldiers. I wanted to let loose. Sometimes I just wanted to start shooting my rifle. But I had to remind myself that I was a professional with a job to do. Being an officer and a commander, I couldn't let my troops see me fall. For a leader to express any sort of weakness would create doubts among his troops: "If he can't handle himself here, how can he be trusted to keep others safe?" So I tried my hardest to internalize the pain even when all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball.
Suicides in the military continue at an alarming rate. When someone higher up shares, as Citarella has done, it can have an impact on others who are struggling. When 2010's figures were released, the military noted that it was the second year in a row where more service members died of suicide than from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. Kevin Caruso ( offers an overview on military suicides. The Army has a suicide prevention resource page. 1-800-273-TALK (8255) is the Suicide Prevention Lifeline for service members, veterans and their families. Chris Hedges (CounterCurrents) reports on Iraq War veteran Jess Goodell who served in the Marines' Mortuary Affairs unit and, in that capacity, encountered many service members who had taken their own lives in Iraq:
The unit was sent to collect the bodies of the Marines who killed themselves, usually by putting rifles under their chins and pulling the trigger.
"We had a Marine who was in a port-a-john when he blew his face off," she said. "We had another Marine who shot himself through the neck. Often they would do it in the corner of a bunker or an abandoned building. We had a couple that did it in port-a-johns. We had to go in and peel and pull off chunks of flesh and brain tissue that had sprayed the walls. Those were the most frustrating bodies to get. On those bodies we were also on cleanup crew. It was gross. We sent the suicide notes home with the bodies."
"We had the paperwork to do fingerprinting, but we started getting bodies in which there weren't any hands or we would get bodies that were just meat," said Goodell, who in May will publish a memoir called "Shade It Black: Death and After in Iraq." The book title refers to the form that required those in the mortuary unit to shade in black the body parts that were missing from a corpse. "Very quickly it became irrelevant to have a fingerprinting page to fill out. By the time we would get a body it might have been a while and rigor mortis had already set in. Their hands were usually clenched as if they were still holding their rifle. We could not unbend the fingers easily."
Last week we saw the White House lobby to cut health care for active duty and their family members [if you're late to the party on that, refer to this "Iraq snapshot" and this "Iraq snapshot"] and now Kimberly Hefling (AP) reports that the Pentagon is misinterpreting a law Congress passed three years ago in order to deny veterans retirement benefits. Hefling's report comes after Congress has discovered that the VA is deliberately misinterpreting the law they passed on caregivers. Earlier this month, the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee released the following statement:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Murray Press Office – (202) 224-2834

March, 9th 2011 Jon Clark (Miller) – (202) 225 – 3527

Chandler Smith (Burr) – (202) 224-2074

Meredith McFadden (Filner) - (202) 225-8045

Bipartisan Congressional Veterans Leaders Urge President to Block VA's Plan to Limit Support for Caregivers of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans

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."

The full text of the letter follows:

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


Either the White House is intent upon gutting programs that serve service members and veterans needs or the White House is inept. Either way, it doesn't matter, the end result is that veterans and service members (and their families) suffer. A functioning White House would have long ago gotten the VA and the DoD in line. That hasn't happened. And, in fact, the efforts by DoD to push the burden of health care cost off on active duty is part of the White House proposed budget to Congress. For all of Barack's big claims that he would be different than Bush, the result is he's more of the same. And while the White House works to push the burden off onto active duty, retired and veterans, they continue to send service members into war. AP notes that there was a send-off ceremony Sunday for members of the 2219th Brigade Support Ccompany with the Indiana National Guard who are deploying to Iraq. The Iraq War continues and it's Barack's war now. The Son of a Bush is dealt with in Micahel Oplinger column for the Daily Collegian:

On the big issues, Obama has continued the same policies that Bush championed -- the same ones much of the country disapproved of by the end of his eight years in office.
The Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans can now be referred to as the Obama tax cuts as the current law has the Democrat's signature on it.
Despite Obama ordering the closure of Guantanamo Bay, the prison remains open and its controversial tactics likely remain in practice.
Obama has failed to voice strong support for union rights as battles rage on, despite union members making up a large portion of the Democratic voting block.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to drag on, despite their unpopularity and staggeringly high costs.
Now, Obama has announced the United States will engage in military conflict in Libya.
The decision is eerily similar to Bush's decision to enter Iraq, including the announcement eight years to the day after Bush made his announcement.

Today DoD issued the following: "The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation New Dawn. Cpl. Brandon S. Hocking, 24, of Seattle, Wash., died March 21 in As Samawah, Iraq, when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 87th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga. For more information, the media may contact the Fort Stewart public affairs office at 912-435-9879 or after 4 p.m. call 912-767-8666."
Staying on veterans issues: Stop-loss. Stop-loss is the backdoor draft and, supposedly, the US military is now done with it. That remains to be seen. But many service members would be at the end of their service contracts and planning to leave the military when they would be informed thaty had been "stop-lossed" meaning time had been extended on their contract. It's legality was questionable for US citizens but it was flat out illegal when it was done to non-US citizens serving in the US military. If you were stop-lossed, you were owed additional money. That money needs to be claimed. DoD announces the date to file for that additional payment has been extended:
The deadline for eligible service members, veterans and their beneficiaries to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP) has been extended to April 8, 2011, allowing personnel more time to apply for the benefits they've earned under the program guidelines.
The deadline extension is included in the continuing resolution signed by President Obama Friday, providing funding for federal government operations through April 8, 2011.
Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay was established to compensate for the hardships military members encountered when their service was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss Authority between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009. Eligible members or their beneficiaries may submit a claim to their respective military service in order to receive the benefit of $500 for each full or partial month served in a Stop Loss status.
When RSLSP began on Oct. 21, 2009, the services estimated 145,000 service members, veterans and beneficiaries were eligible for this benefit. Because the majority of those eligible had separated from the military, the services have engaged in extensive and persistent outreach efforts to reach them and remind them to apply. Outreach efforts including direct mail, engaging military and veteran service organizations, social networks and media outlets, will continue through April 8, 2011.
To apply for more information, or to gather more information on RSLSP, including submission requirements and service-specific links, go to

The reality is that DoD knows who was stop-lossed. They were the ones doing it. But if they have to contact the people, then the payments will be much more than if they just do these little announcements and then say, "Well we made the announcement." If you were stop-lossed you have until April 8th (at this point) to apply for the money owed you. If you know someone who was stop-lossed, you might want to check with them and be sure they know about this. In a perfect world, CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams and ABC World News with Diane Sawyer would all lead with the announcement on the same night to really get the word out.
Finally in veterans news, Iraq War veteran Jeff Key wrote a play about his experiences entitled The Eyes Of Bablyon. Some portions of it were featured in the 2007 documentary Sempre Fi: One Marine's Journey. Key outed himself on CNN (March 31, 2004) and was kicked out of the military. His play is being performed at the Bristol Riverside Theatre through April 3rd. Gwen Shrift (Philly Burbs) writes a rave review, "In the realm of bravery, some have physical courage, some have moral conviction, and some have creative audacity. Jeff Key, playwright, actor and former Marine, possesses all three in abundance."