Friday, September 23, 2011


"The Neocolonial Order is to Stay: A Puppet Government in Libya" (Akbar E. Torbat, Information Clearing House):
Colonialism by the imperial powers gradually ended after World War II. However, a neo-colonial order was created to maintain the same economic relationship without formal political mandate or protectorate of the former colonies. The neo-colonial order since has lingered in most Third World countries and the western powers are at work to continue it for the foreseeable future.
[. . .]
Libya was an Italian colony since 1911until it gained independence in 1951. King Idris ruled Libya after its independence until 1969, at which time Colonel Muammar Qaddafi led a revolutionary movement that overthrew King Idris in a military coup. In early 1970, Qaddafi challenged the oil companies and demanded higher prices for the Libya’s oil, which gained him prestige. Libya’s oil has one of the best qualities among the oil producing countries. Libya’s proximity to Europe gives its oil an important freight advantage over the distant Persian Gulf countries’ oil. Because of its oil wealth, Libya became the most advanced country in Africa as measured by the Human Development Index according to the United Nations Human Development Report.

While Qaddafi collaborated with the Western powers in later years, he wanted to pursue independent policies. That displeased the West and led to his ouster. This also sent a warning to any Third World country’s leader who wants to skip the neo-colonial order and pursue independent policies. The fate of Libya is an example for any Third World regime that wants to be independent from the Euro-American domination.

It really is amazing to grasp that Barack has not only continued the wars Bush started (making them his own) but he's also started new ones. Even worse, the refusal of so many to hold him accountable for his actions.

The left can't afford four more years of Barack Obama. He's completely neutered the left. I will vote Green or independent this go round (I voted Nader last time) and, if I think it will stop a second term, I might even vote Republican.

Because we cannot afford what he is doing. He's establishing drone headquarters throughout Africa. No one really pays attention to what he does. When he gets caught, they rush to excuse him. Certain elements of the left have disgraced themselves.

I can't stand Gloria Steinem anymore. I know her and I can no longer stand her. Sorry.

She's a two-faced sell out.

For the record, that's how I feel about the entire "Democratic" Socialists.

Gloria really needs to retire from public life immediately. She's destroyed her own reputation and then this week, as the charges of sexism in the White House are publicly known, she's doing a fund raiser with Michelle Obama. With the I'm-not-a-feminist Michelle.

Gloria needs to just accept that she's undermining feminism, she's looking foolish and she needs to pack it in. Many a feminist disgraced herself before in her final years. Gloria needs to be told she's destroying her own legacy before it's all gone.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, September 23, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's on another power-grab, Jalal Talabani is in the US and making curious statements, a Republican debate demonstrates how DADT may not be over, and more.
We're going to start in the US because something big happened last night and you might think that with so many people writing online and unable to do any real work of any kind, you just might think they could get the point. But, yet again, they miss it completely. It's hard to believe how collectively stupid The New Yorker and all the rest can be. Last night was a GOP debate. The Republican Party is currently watching to see who they want to support for their party's presidential candidate. This is of grave interest to the stutned left as opposed to the real left. The stunted left can't find a real issue even if you taped it to their ass and let them use both hands.
One of the questions submitted via Google was from Stephen Hill, an Iraq War veteran. He was booed. And for homophobes like Amy Davidson, that's the story. And it's shocking and it's appalling and please vote Democrat!!!!!
Amy Davidson is nothing but a homophobe. If you doubt there are homophobes at The New Yorker, you haven't read very closely. A homophobe looks at a very complex threat to the gays and lesbians and instead reduces it to "mean Republicans booed! Vote Democrat!"
Amy has nothing to offer except, "Teacher! Teacher! They booed! They booed!" As a second grade tattle tale, she's almost gifted but as a grown woman she's an embarrassment. For starters, her little tattles were done yesterday and this morning by others. And I could have called them out then but I didn't take it as seriously until this afternoon when Amy Davidson suddenly 'discovered' the topic and aped everyone else already writing about it.
For those who tremble and sob right now, I suggest you grow the hell up. Anthony Mahchek is an Iraq War veteran, a wounded one. And he spoke at Columbia this year. And he was booed and heckled. It was not the end of the world or even of the end of society. We covered this in "On speaking and being booed in a democracy."
The United States is a democracy. I speak all the time, right after the election (2008) to antiwar audiences, I was booed for refusing to lie that the SOFA meant the war ended in 2011. I was booed, I was cursed. It wasn't the first time in my life and surely won't be the last time. Anyone who gets up to speak better be prepared for that. I have a right to speak, you have a right to boo me. You have a right to speak, I have a right to boo you. If the boos become a problem then something may be done. In most settings, including Columbia, booing after comments is not going to get the booer in trouble. An organized boo, a boo-in, if you will, might result in security doing something because a boo-in would prevent anyone from speaking.
But if you get before an audience -- and I have many, many times -- there's a chance you're going to get booed. If you don't want to be booed, don't put yourself out there.
The veteran took a highly unpopular stand. He was allowed to speak, people were allowed to register their objection.
[. . .]
The outrage, I do want to note, that is being churned is being churned by the Daily Mail and the New York Post. The veteran is not quoted boo-hooing that he got booed. He's been in combat, I don't think he's a cry baby. He's seen a lot worse than a negative reaction to his taking what (he must have known) was an unpopular position.
He obviously believes in his position or he wouldn't have taken it. Why did he face an angry crowd? Because he probably hopes that his remarks would lay the groundwork for them to reconsider. And it might. Or it might make it easier for the next person who speaks out in the same manner. The veteran doesn't seem stupid -- the press does -- I doubt he expected a standing ovation. I would guess his hopes were more along the lines of "I'll plant some seeds and maybe they'll sprout in a few weeks or months."
That's what we all do, regardless of the issue and our position, when we speak out on something that's unpopular. He had every right to speak and those that booed had every right to boo. That's what life is in America. Again, he doesn't seem scarred by it (he may be laughing about the whole thing) or surprised by it. There is no caste system in America. We are all equal. Your opinion is something you can share, but you're not able to pull rank on me and silence my dissent because you did this or that or whatever. That's not how free speech works.

That's fairly straightforward. I would assume most adults and teenagers could follow it. If someone disagrees with you, there's a chance that you will be booed if you speak in public. And someone almost always disagrees with you on something. No one is protectedfrom booing, not a president, not a nun, not a soldier, no one. It's part of the social contract.
Is it good that they booed Anthony Mahchek? Yeah, it is. It shows that they have the strength to disagree if nothing else. And maybe that's true of those who booed Stephen Hill as well? And like Mahcehck, I doubt Stephen Hill shed any tears over it or was surprised that some members of the audience wished he'd hide in a closet for all time. Good for him for getting his question out there.
But Amy Davidson doesn't want to tell you about that.
That seems to be a common element among the press since the 2008 election. Remember how the gas bags just couldn't understand the SOFA? Remember how confusing tht was for them? In November 2008, on Thanksgiving Day, when the White House finally released the SOFA, we were able to figure it out. But then our main concern was the Iraq War not how to spin things for partisan politics. Anyone with even a basic understanding of contract law who took the time to readover the SOFA would have quickly realized it was a three year contract replacing the one year one (the UN mandate). Yes, the SOFA said that all US troops would leave Iraq at the end of 2011. And for those completely stupid, that was the end of it. But there were kill clauses that would allow the SOFA to be killed and that provision about 2011? That was only if nothing replaced the SOFA and the SOFA wasn't extended.
The gas bags misled America on the SOFA. Now they're doing the same on LGBT rights. I'm not in the mood to play.
Don't Ask, Don't Tell wasn't repealed, it was vanished. An important decision on Don't Ask, Don't Tell came from Judge Virginia Phillips of the United States District Court for the Central District of California. She found it unconstitutional. That was her ruling. That ruling needs to stand. As Marcia noted earlier this week, the Justice Department is attempting to get the decision tossed. If the decision is vacated, Stephen Hill's question becomes even more important.
Here's what Stephen Hill asked:
In 2010, when I was deployed to Iraq, I had to lie about who I was, because I'm a gay soldier and I didn't want to lose my job. My question is, under one of your Presidencies, do you intend to circumvent the progress that's been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military?
There was booing. And that's all the Amy Davidson's care about. I believe Stephen Hill's concern, however, was about equality in the US military. I don't think his concern was hurt feelings over what Republicans might do. Had that been his concern, he probably wouldn't have asked his question.
Why did complain about the way Don't Ask, Don't Tell was handled? Because there's nothing on the books in terms of a law. As pointed out here repeatedly, Barack didn't sign a law guaranteeing equality. No law was passed on that. Don't Ask, Don't Tell was simply removed from the books. Therefore it could come back under a different president. If it does come back, one thing that would help gay soldiers would be Judge Phillips' ruling which is why the Justice Dept needs to stop trying to overturn the judge's decision. It hurts the Justice Dept not one bit for that decision to stand. It's a historic decision and one that needs to be cited in other cases. If the decision is vacated, stare decis doesn't apply, no precedent was set via the decision. That matters tremendously and for those who never got why, last night's debate pointed it out. From the official Fox News transcript, this is the response from Rick Santorum to Stephen Hill's question.

SANTORUM: Yeah, I -- I would say, any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military. And the fact that they're making a point to include it as a provision within the military that we are going to recognize a group of people and give them a special privilege to -- to -- and removing "don't ask/don't tell" I think tries to inject social policy into the military. And the military's job is to do one thing, and that is to defend our country.

We need to give the military, which is all-volunteer, the ability to do so in a way that is most efficient at protecting our men and women in uniform.


And I believe this undermines that ability.


KELLY: So what -- what -- what would you do with soldiers like Stephen Hill? I mean, he's -- now he's out. He's -- you know, you saw his face on camera. When he first submitted this video to us, it was without his face on camera. Now he's out. So what would you do as president?

SANTORUM: I think it's -- it's -- it's -- look, what we're doing is playing social experimentation with -- with our military right now. And that's tragic.

I would -- I would just say that, going forward, we would -- we would reinstitute that policy, if Rick Santorum was president, period.

That policy would be reinstituted. And as far as people who are in -- in -- I would not throw them out, because that would be unfair to them because of the policy of this administration, but we would move forward in -- in conformity with what was happening in the past, which was, sex is not an issue. It is -- it should not be an issue. Leave it alone, keep it -- keep it to yourself, whether you're a heterosexual or a homosexual.

I don't want to debate Santorum on this issue. I cleary believe he's wrong and we could play Dumb Ass one step above Amy Davidson and go into all the ways in which Santorum's wrong. But if we're going to be adults and not homophobes, because we're going to pay attention to what he said in relation to what Stephen Hill asked.
Would President Rick Santorum "circumvent the progress that's been made for gays and lesbian soldiers in the military?" And Santorum's answer is: Yes, he would reinstate Don't Ask, Don't Tell. By his own words. (I actually would guess he'd do far worse. Were he president, I think he would go back to the 1982 directive from Reagan which barred gays from serving.)
How is that possible?
No, the answer isn't, "Because Rick Santorum's an idiot." Whether he's smart or not, he's intelligent enough to grasp what the next president can do: Refuse to allow gays and lesbians in the military.
That might make Rick Santorum a mad genius, that he sees what so many refuse to. This is exactly what we pointed out repeatedly on Don't Ask, Don't Tell. You don't vanish it, you overturn it. If you vanish it, if you just wipe it away, there's nothing to prevent it from coming back.
Congress should have gone with an equality law. The White House didn't want that. And currently the White House wants to destroy Judge Virginia Phillips' ruling -- even as we now know that at least one Republican wanting to get into the White House plans to ban gays and lesbians from serving if he becomes president.
Judge Phillips' ruling needs to stand. And it was a huge, huge mistake on the part of the Congress and the White House to act as if they did something amazing. They didn't. And if you're concern is equality and not scoring partisan points for one side or the other, that's what you address. You address the realities that Stephen Hill and so many others could be facing. But The New Yorker and Amy Davidson want to play you and waste your time. I'm sorry, I don't tolerate or embrace homophobia. I call it out. I did so when Barack Obama put homophobes on stage at campaign events. When an 'ex-gay' preached hate at an official campaign event, I didn't play dumb and stupid. Amy Davidson is a homophobe because she only cares about homophobia when she score points against a Republican. Furthermore, she'll deliberately confuse the issue and waste everyone's time while risking the hard earned rights of the LBGT community in order to avoid addressing the real issue, the real question Stephen Hill was asking which is that Don't Ask, Don't Tell got erased but nothing was put in to protect gays and lesbians in the military from future discrimination.

Until you'r ready to deal with that, you don't need to weigh in on the issue. You're just causing problems. The same way those who insisted the SOFA meant US forces all leave Iraq at the end of 2011. That end is approaching but the US is engaged in engaged in negotitations to extend the US military presence. Maybe had a lot of uninformed idiots not lied and whored, those of us who believed in "OUT OF IRAQ NOW!" would have stayed focused on the issue and troops would already be out of Iraq.
December 21, 2010 was an important day. Iraq is currently in Political Stalemate II which began December 21st when Nouri al-Maliki's inability to follow the Constitution and nominate a Cabinet which Parliament signed off on was overlooked and he was illegally moved from prime minister-designate to prime minister. In the nine months, two days and counting since, Nouri's been unable or unwilling to fill the security ministries. Acting ministers are not real ministers. They've never been voted on by Parliament so they have no real powers and can be dismissed by Nouri at any time without any oversight from Parliament. The puppet has puppets.

The Political Stalemate largely results from the failure of Nouri to abide by the Erbil Agreement -- the understanding which ended Political Stalemate I. Nouri got what he wanted out of the agreement (to remain prime minister) and then trashed the agreement. Ayad Allawi and his Iraqiya political slate have been highly critical of Nouri over this. More recently, the Kurdish voice calling for a return to the Erbil Agreement has grown stronger. Currently, Nouri and the Kurds are at logger heads. Earlier this week, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi traveled to the Kurdistan Regional Government to meet with Kurdish officials.

Al Sabaah reports that while al-Nujaifi did carry a few ideas or proposals with him, they were verbal and nothing in writing. Both sides were in agreement that the Constitution needed to be followed and, the paper reports, there are plans for a meet-up between the Kurds, Iraqiya and the National Alliance. New Sabah spoke with the National Alliance's Hassan al-Jubouri earlier this week and he stressed the need for a consensus to be reached.

Al Mada reports that al-Nujaifi will visit Iran and Turkey to raise the issues of their bombing northern Iraq. In addition, al-Nujaifi told the press that the Constitution must be followed and any oil and gas law must result from dialogue and discussions. One of the Kurds chief complaints is Nouri's proposed oil & gas bill. Kurds have strong reasons to complain, Nouri's staged yet another power grab and gone back on an agreement. Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) reports that the 2007 agreement has been pushed aside, "The amended law would give the oil ministry authority to hold bidding rounds for most oil and gas fields, leaving currently producing fields and discovered but undeveloped fields close to them in the hands of a newly created Iraqi National Oil Company (INOC). The 2007 draft version restricted the ministry to auctions for discovered, undeveloped fields. The changes could result in the inclusion of Kurdish fields in future auctions, which the Kurds say they will not accept." Reuters also provides an overview of past oil laws and bills. As Nouri attempts this power grab, maybe it's worth noting how Shell Oil got a pending deal under his 'leadership'? Ben Lando and Ben Van Heuvelen (Iraq Oil Report) utilize WikiLeaks cables to demonstrate that Shell was laughing and mocking Iraqi officials, bragging about how they were so stupid Shell had to teach them basic economics. The reporters notes that "in contrast to the transparent and competitive bidding rounds that the Iraqi Oil Ministry held in 2009 and 2010 for oil and gas contracts, the Shell deal has been brokered behind closed doors. Critics have charged that the noncompetitive and secret process has put Shell's prerogatives -- particularly its desire to export gas -- ahead of Iraq's interests. And although the draft contract that now stands before the Cabinet is substantially different than the agreement that first drew widespread opposition, the deal remains haunted by its shadowy history."
So Nouri's hand-picked team was a laughing stock to Shell? At what point does this start to reflect on Nouri? He's not a newbie. He's been prime minister since 2006. That's five years. In that time he has repeatedly demonstrated little concern for the needs of the Iraqi people and he has refused to listen to other politicians.
Al Mada quotes Ayad Allawi stating that he urges dialogue and that Iraq has entered into a "crisis" period which must be resolved. But it's another Al Mada article today in which Allawi voices his thoughts at length including that the only thing the Erbil Agreement achieved was to inaugurate Nouri as prime minister. The article notes that Iraqiya met yesterday and quotes their spokesperson as she states that Iraqiya has repeatedly provided Nouri an opportunity to return to the Erbil Agreement and that this is the last time they will urge him to do so. Whether or not this means Iraqiya will move for a no-confidence vote is not addressed in the article. Since it's not addressed in the article, either it's not being planned or it's being kept a secret plan. And Al Mada notes the Kurdish bloc is denying that any secret deal has been made between political blocs, that the only deal is the Erbil Agreement.
Meanwhile Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is out of the country. He's in the US and today he spoke to the United Nations. Many things about his visit trouble some observers but maybe what should be most eye brow raising is this series of remarks from his speech to the UN:
Iraq is concerned about the tragic situation of the Palestinian People which is the result of Israeli Practicis which are incompatible with international laws and customs and international humanitarian law. Iraq is doing everything in its capacity to support the struggle of Palestinian People in getting all its inalienable rights, in particular establish its independent state on their homeland, with its capital Jerusalem, and inthis regard, Iraq endorses and supports the direction of the Palestinian Authority to go to to the United Nations to achieve full international recognition of a Palestinian state during the meeting of the current session of the General Assembly, and calls on the international community and all peace-loving forces to stand by the Palestinian people in their legitimate struggle to achieve its goals, and demanding the Israeli government to fully withdraw from all Arab territories occupied in 1967. This would contribute to the settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and to bring comprehensive fair peace in this vital region of the world.
Those are laughable statements coming from Talabani. Not only because of Iraq's own problems with human rights, but also because, golly molly jolly gee who could it have been that had Palestinian refugees trapped on the border for almost seven years? Oh, that's right. Iraq. Yeah. It wasn't until February 2010, when Syria agreed to take them in, that these stranded persons were finally given something other than a desert prison posing as a 'refugee camp.' And, stay with me, it gets worse, which country was it that saw the Palestinian Human Rights worker kidnapped? Oh, right again, Iraq. Wednesday it was reported that "gunmen wearing the attire of the Iraqi Ministry of Interior" kidnapped Qusaia Abdul-Raouf. International Middle East Media Center reports:
The foundation said that, on Wednesday evening, Qusai Abdul-Raouf was on tour documenting the increasing attacks carried out by the Iraqi Forces against the Palestinian refugees in Al Baladiyyat neighborhood in Baghdad.
During his documentation tour, a black tented shevorleh parked near him, and three gunmen wearing the attire of the Iraqi Forces, operating under the Ministry of Interior, violently placed him in their vehicle and drove away. His whereabouts remain unknown until the time of this report.
Palestinian refugees are subject to kidnap and murder in Iraq as some groups accuse them of being supporters of the former Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein.
Dozens of attacks were carried out against the Palestinian refugees since the war on Iraq in 2003 leading to the death, injury, and abduction of hundreds of refugees.

And the president of Iraq wanted to get up before the UN today and claim concern about the plight of Palestinians?
Meanwhile Aswat al-Iraq reports that protesters gathered in Baghdad's Tahrir Square today to protest over the large amount of money being spent so Jalal Talabani can be in the US. Of the protest, the Great Iraqi Revolution reports, "Our correspondent in Tahrir Square:: A number of ambulances are seen near the Square. By every one of these ambulances stood four intelligence officers, curiously enough, the ambulances' engines were running and later it became apparent that they intended to abduct some of the activists and protestors." And ambulance 1038 was used in the abduction of Sanaa Aldulaimi overseen "by an intelligence officer called Abdullah Al Rikabi" -- Sanaa Aldulaimi was later released.
Turning to other reported violence, Reuters notes multiple bombs went off in a single Baghdad leaving 4 injured and nine wounded. Aswat al-Iraq notes a Baquba attack left 1 police officer dead and three more injured, and an armed attack in Mosul left 1 Iraqi soldier dead, a second armed assault left 1 woman dead. Alsumaria News notes 1 female corpse was discovered outside of Kut. Three Chrisians were kidnapped on a Kirkuk hunting trip (see yesterday's snapshot). Alusmaira News reports that the ransom for the three is set at 600,000 dollars. Aswat al-Iraq reports Ary Mohammed Ali was kidnapped in Kirkuk yesterday and the kidnappers have stated their ransom is $50,000.
Back to the US, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee. Her office notes:

(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Patty Murray applauded the passage of H.R. 2646, the Veterans Health Care Facilities Capital Improvement Act of 2011. This bipartisan legislation will allow for new construction projects in five states and Puerto Rico and will allow VA programs to operate uninterrupted, including vital assistance to homeless veterans. The bill also includes approval for upgrades at the VA Medical Center in Seattle.

"VA has worked tirelessly to get veterans off the streets and into housing. Their efforts are commendable, but there is still work to be done," said Senator Murray. "H.R. 2646, as amended, contains critical extensions to many of VA's programs to end homelessness among veterans. Our nation's veterans have sacrificed much in their service to this country, we must make sure they receive the care and benefits they earned."

"I'm also delighted that this bill would allow VA to begin a $51.8 million project to seismically strengthen the nursing tower and community living center at the VA Puget Sound Healthcare System in Seattle, Washington. It is vital that this building be upgraded so that the VA Puget Sound Healthcare System can continue to deliver world-class healthcare to veterans in a safe environment."

Specifically, the Veterans Health Care Facilities Capital Improvement Act of 2011 will:

· Allow for seismic corrections for Building 100 at the VA Medical Center in Seattle, Washington, in an amount not to exceed $51.8 million;

· Authorize job-creating infrastructure improvements to VA's facilities;

· Authorize increased funding for the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program, which provides prevention and rapid rehousing assistance for homeless veterans;

· Authorize increased funding for the Grant and Per Diem program, which provides transitional housing assistance for homeless veterans;

· Reauthorize the special needs set aside in the Grant and Per Diem program which provides transitional housing for the frail, elderly, terminally ill, women, and those with children; and

· Reauthorize the Homeless Veterans' Reintegration Program, which provides employment assistance for homeless veterans.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Libyan War and BAR's back

"Obama Hosts International Debut for Libya’s Racist and Thoroughly Non-Revolutionary Regime" (Glen Ford, Black Agenda Report):
Libya’s armed conflict may be described as many things, but “revolution” is not one of them. It is existentially impossible that a coalition comprised of the world’s imperial superpower, the planet’s former colonial masters, and oil-soaked Middle Eastern royalty would sponsor an insurrection that could by any contortion of language be called a “revolution.” In the modern world, of which Libya was an active participant, “revolutionaries” – African revolutionaries – do not name their fighting units [6] “the Brigade for Purging Slaves, Black Skin.” No legitimate claimants to humankind’s revolutionary legacy would parcel out, in advance, their country’s most precious natural resource to foreigners, or partner with the former colonial master that murdered one-third of the homeland’s population and confined most of the rest to concentration camps – Italy’s genocide against the Libyan people. No conceivable revolutionary formation would beseech imperial militaries to pulverize the dearly bought infrastructure of their own country. What Arab revolutionary pays homage to the demagogic, Arab-hating leader of the nation that slaughtered millions of neighboring Arabs in Algeria, just two generations ago, and today maintains himself in power through appeals to domestic anti-Arab and African racism, as does French President Nicholas Sarkozy?
It is difficult even to describe as “insurrectionists” the disparate Libyan gunmen whose (red, black and green!) flag now flies at the United Nations, since they were never the main actors in the conflict that pushed Moammar Gaddafi’s government out of Tripoli. It has been an imperial project from the very beginning, affirmed as such by a United Nations Security Council resolution that effectively transformed the Benghazi uprising into an armed protectorate of NATO. There was no revolution.

The Libyan War continues. It's illegal and Barack wanted the UN to know this week that this was how you do an illegal war, you get every one of the greedy countries on the same side and agree to divy up the spoils ahead of time so that everyone's included and you don't end up with another Iraq War where a major player sits it out and can call you out.

The Libyan War is a sing of just how awful Barack truly is.

The column itself is a strong one; however, the reason I highlighted it tonight is due to the fact that Black Agenda Report is back up and running.

If you tried recently and were unable to visit it, it is back up and running and has many important articles and commentaries so please make a point to visit it. They were down as part of a retooling and I'm sure in a few weeks time we'll all be grateful for the work they did on that but right now just get the word out that the site is back up and running.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Wednesday, September 21, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Moqtada al-Sadr accuses Nouri of building a dictatorship, Hoshyar Zebari makes Nouri's s**t list, Zebari also says US troops will remain in Iraq in 2012 as trainers, US Senator Jon Tester calls on Barack to remove all US troops (beyond those that guard the embassy) from Iraq at the end of this year, the Veterans Affair Committees in the House and Senate hold a joint-hearing, and more.
"As many of you know," declared Senator Patty Murray today, "my father was a World War II disabled veteran who was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds he suffered during the invasion of Okinawa. I grew up watching his struggles with the knowledge that he had sacrificed for our nation and that he asked very little in return. Then later in my life -- during college -- I worked as an intern in the Seattle VA hospital, providing physical therapy to Vietnam veterans who came home with the visible and invisible wounds of war. Those personal experiences have given me not only a very real understanding of the consequences of sending our service members into combat, but also a sense of the obligation we have to care for them when they return." Murray was speaking this morning in DC at a joint-hearing held by the Senate and House's Veterans Affairs Committees. Murray is Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, US House Rep Jeff Miller is the Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. The primary witness appearing before them was the American Legion's National Commander Fang Wong. Also appearing were the American Legion's Tim Tetz, Michael Helm, Verna Jones and Daniel Dellinger. Helm addressed proposed post office closings when asked (and Ava will be cover that Trina's site tonight).
Wong testified that the American Legion strongly opposes the recommendation that premiums for TRICARE be increased. He reminded that US President Barack Obama spoke to the American Legion last month at their 93rd Annual National Convention and swore "that the budget would not be balanced on the backs of veterans." Wong noted that this promise would be broken if TRICARE premiums were increased -- as the proposal Barack presented to the nation on Monday recommended -- for military retirees because "military retirees are veterans."
In an exchange with US House Rep Timothy Walz, Wong called out reports and reporters who referred to "medical and retirement benefits earned by military personnel as social welfare. I resent that. We're not here looking for handouts. We earned those rights and you folks should protect those rights." On employment, he noted that the government says 'Hire veterans, hire veterans!' to private industry; however, approximately 80% of all veterans who now work in the federal government work can be found in the Dept of Defense, the Dept of Veterans Affairs or Homeland Security.
US House Rep Silvestre Reyes noted the "tough budget times" the US is in "but like you [Wong], I feel we should take care of the veterans first and foremost" and he then noted he had "signed on" to a piece of legislation on veterans identification cards, a piece of legislation he felt had good intent, but now he's found out that "there's a proposal to charge the veteran for that identification card. I don't agree with that." Wong went with a joke instead of addressing the issue. He had many laughing out loud (proposing Congress mandate that all veterans join the American Legion). But maybe addressing the issue, even only in a "I personally think . . ." manner would have done a better job of representing veterans' interest?
From the hearing, we'll excerpt this section.
Senate Committee Chair Patty Murray: I really appreciate your attention and focus on the employment of our returning heroes and I know Chairman Miller and I are both working on this. I wanted to ask you, you mentioned mandatory TAP and of course seemless transition. Do you hear a lot from your membership about the lack of certifcations service members receive? That their resumes don't show the true breadth of their skills they have learned in the military?
Fang Wong: Madame Chairman, I was fortunate to serve on the Department of Labor Advisory Committee for a couple of years and at that particular period of time TAP was one of our major concerns. We actually conducted field trips by the committee members to various military installations to see how it worked. And what we find -- this is a couple of years back -- at that time was that TAPS really needs some standardization and repackaging because we find that depending on what installation and service that you attend, they - they do different things. The - the instructions presented were really outdated and the things that they stressed mostly, perhaps it's not really close to what the service member really needs. There were some service that required mandatory -- I believe the Marines Corps is the only service that requires mandatory training. A lot of the other posts? I went to Fort [. . ] the Army post and basically it's open, you should come; however, if you're not there, it's okay. That type of atmosphere. The committee I served with, we spent a lot of time studying that and we make a lot of recommendations to the Secretary and I guess to Congress that we should do something with TAP and get some standardization because we find out from a lot of success stories of service members that we have opportunity to interview and talk to that TAP, if used properly, actually helped them prepare. The thing about that is when we take in inductees and volunteers into the service now days, DoD and the government, we, the tax payers, spend millions and millions of dollars to train them to be a professional soldier. And when the time for them to change the uniform and go back to the civilian world, perhaps we're not spending nearly as [much] time or attention to prepare them back to the civilian world where they could seamlessly go back to a normal life. Of course, you know anybody that ever served in the service, especially those great men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, nothing will ever again be normal when they go back to their world. But we should do what we can to prepare them and make sure that they get the benefit. And a lot of time, with TAP, I beliee we were not providing the opportunity or providing the tools where they could easily equate what they performed, what they were trained in the military as to what's out there in the civilian world for them. And the civilians license and agency, the certification agency, they're throwing -- I'm not saying they're bad but they're throwing road blocks up there and saying that unless you are getting this piece of paper, you're not qualified. You know, when we -- when we entrust 18, 19, 20 year-old young men and woman that volunteer to serve for our freedom, we entrust them operating machines, planes, tanks that cost millions, million, millions dollar, how can we tell them that you're not qualifed? We have to understand one thing, when the government trained this particular individaul, he or she, to me, is the most disciplined, most learnable most qualified individual because one thing that we need to understand: They love this country. That's why they serve. And we owe it to them that we do everything we can to make sure they will have a good job, they will have a good career.
Senate Committee Chair Patty Murray: Thank you, I really appreciate that. I have a number of other questions but we have a lot of members here so I'm going to turn it over to Chairman Miller.
House Committee Chair Jeff Miller: If I could just follow on with the TAP issue, Friday I was the reviewing official at Paris Island, the end of 13 grueling weeks I'm sure for some young Marines, very grueling, right? It's my belief and I want to know if you share the same belief and you talked about TAP needign to be revamped and changed, 13 weeks to make a Marine or the other boot camps, I mean I don't -- I don't think that just having them in classroom for a day or two or however long the TAP program is enough. Do you think there's a way that we can convince DoD to give a substantial amount of time at the end of the service and I know that service member is focused on really one thing and that is reuniting with their family, getting on with their life. But this TAP program is so important to that individual to prepare them for that transition. And I'd like to know what you and the Legion think about the possibility of making it a not only mandatory but a longer program?
Fang Wong: Mr. Chairman, maybe we're talking about two separate issues here. We were looking at TAP. Tap basically, they were provided to members separating from the service. And most of the time it happens at an installation. And you're right, the members will go there for maybe a week and TAP is maybe part of that one week transistion, training or orientation. What we learned, again, I refer back to the administriaton or the committee, and what we learned in a lot of institutions, they will provide the TAP training a lot sooner anybody who wants can sign up for it as then that way they can get the basic information. And then, as they're getting close to the separation day or the retirement day, they will be reinvited back. By that time, they will have the time in between to learn or figure out what he really needs or what she really needs, and able to ask some more direct questions or recieve more direct help from the instructor. And that when we interviewed some of the recently separated members, they indicated that helps a lot whereas you cram in one day, half a day and the end and the service members have a lot more on their mind to worry about that they don't have time to sit down and allow that to sink in and realize how important in preparing the resume and preparing himself or herself to be interviewed and that may not be the top priority of them. So give them an opportunity to come back. And so we do it sooner and then give them the opportunity to come back, I think that would be more helpful. The other scenario I can see is like when we are moving soldiers back from the war zone, a lot of them, we let them go home real quick. And they may still have service obligation left, but we release them and there's different opinions about how do we separate them? We ask questions: Are you okay, do feel anything different? Things like that. And we have to bear in mind, when you're young, you serve and you're away from your loved ones for a long tif that is the only gate or opportunity that stands between you and your family, I'll bet 99% of the time, that soldier will say, "No, no, no. I just want to be with my family." And so I don't know how to fix it. I don't know whether we should keep them a little bit longer or make it mandatory but that is something we need to look forward to.
At the end of the hearing, Mark Begich used his time to note that Alaska has 77,000 veterans which he stated was the highest per capita of any state.
Turning to Iraq where there's a new president, Tareq al-Hashimi. Actually, Dar Addustour explains, the Sunni vice president is actually the acting president while President Jalal Talabani is in New York attending the United Nations General Assembly. Though the president may have (temporarily) changed, Nouri and Political Stalemate II remain the same.
Starting with Nouri and his petty nature, yesterday's snapshot noted that MP Sabah al-Saadi was denying there was an arrest warrant sworn out against him and he was stating that Nouri al-Maliki was targeting him, that Nouri was deliberately keeping the three security ministries vacant in an attempt to seize more power and that Nouri was willing "to sell Iraq to maintain his hold on power." The situation continues to develop. Al Rafidayn reports that the Parliament received an arrest warrant for al-Saadi yesterday and the charges are threatening national sovereignty and integrity." They also remind that al-Saadi previously lodged the accusation that Nouri had forced Judge Rahim al-Ugeily out as Chair of the Integrity Commission. These are not separate stories. Nouri filed a complaint against him for those charges. Making those charges, Nouri insists, threatened national sovereignty and integrity. Nouri is demanding that parliamentary immunity be lifted.
The story doesn't end there. al-Saadi held a press conference. Al Mada reports that the press conference revolved around a document which revealed a plan to kill a number of members of Parliament "including me personally" as well as journalists and tribal chiefs. Numerous people have received the document including the Ministry of the Interior and security officials in various provinces; however, no one informed al-Saadi of the threat against his life. Dar Addustour notes that any such vote on lifting al-Saadi's immunity has been pushed back to Monday. Among those criticizing Nouri's move? Moqtada al-Sadr. Aswat al-Iraq quotes al-Sadr stating that the warrant is part of "building a new dictatorship" and "we suggest to Premier Maliki to stop these moves for the Iraqi reputation, because political action is build on partnership, not demotion."
And who he can't swear out a warrant on, he still manages to attack. Salah Nasrawi (Al-Ahram Weekly) reports Nouri is allegedly gunning for the Kurd serving as Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari:
Last Tuesday, the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper quoted Yassin Majeed, a close aide to Al-Maliki, as saying that the Iraqi prime minister had threatened to fire Zebari "if he does not improve his ministry's performance."
In addition to accusations of mismanagement and a lack of inter-agency communication and coordination, critics say that the Foreign Ministry is plagued by corruption, cronyism and nepotism.
Iraqi media outlets thrive on reports of corruption inside the ministry and at Iraqi embassies abroad, the latter having acted as channels for hundreds of millions of dollars intended for rehabilitation work in Iraq.
Little has been done to investigate the allegations.
Meanwhile Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reports that KRG President Massoud Barzani has declared that a few words and airy promises are not enough to resolve the conflict between the KRG and the centeral government out of Baghdad and that he sent a letter to Nouri al-Maliki informing him of that. The disputed issues remain Nouri al-Maliki's failure to implement the Erbil Agreement, Nouri's proposed oil and gas bill and the failure to implement Article 140 of the Constitution which resolves the disputed Kirkuk region.
Still on the topic of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the government of Turkey is boasting of another round of carpet bombing today on northern Iraq. AP reports that in addition to carpet bombing the region, the government is using Heron drones to track movement (those drones supplied by the Israeli government) and intelligence passed on by the US government which the US government obtained via "U.S.-operated Predator drones". World Bulletin notes the Turkish boast of hitting "152 targets" since the bombings began on August 17th. The Times of Oman reports, "Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has submitted a list of requests for help from the United States to counter Kurdish separatists, Anatolia news agency said Wednesday." And Erdogan's quoted stating his belief that it will be no problem for Turkey to get those predator drones from the US it requested last week.
Turning to other violence, Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing left two people injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer, an attack on a Baghdad cell phone store in which the owner was killed, an attack on a Baghdad supermarket in which the owner was killed, a Udhaim roadside bombing which claimed the lives of 2 police officers, a Kirkuk sticky bombing which injured two people, a Baaj home invasion which killed a police officer and a Balad Ruz mass grave with 27 corpses.
What of any request for US forces to remain in Iraq beyond 2011? Yochi J. Dreazen (National Journal) reports on the negotiations and observes differences in the two governments:

A senior Maliki aide, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the internal discussions, said the premier believed Iraq needed a minimal number of American troops to remain here past the end of the year.
But the aide said Maliki was unlikely to make a formal request unless he has clearer political support from the country's other major parties. So far, only the main Kurdish bloc has been willing to publicly call for extending the American troop presence, with Massoud Barzani, the head of the quasi-independent Kurdish Regional Government, warning a few days ago that a full withdrawal risked triggering a new "civil war" here.
American officials say the Iraqis seem to be playing out the clock. The officials said the U.S. hasn't discussed any specific troop numbers with the Iraqis, and cautioned that the discussions between the two countries have yet to even address basic issues like what specific missions would be entrusted to the holdover American troops.

Lara Jakes (AP) reports Hussain al-Shahristani, a deputy prime minister for energy (and so trusted by Nouri that he made him acting Minister of Electricity after Nouri forced out the Minister), declared that until Iraq passes its budget, they can't take up the issue of "how many troops would be asked to stay, or what exactly they will be doing". Aswat al-Iraq adds that US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey and Iraq's Shi'ite vice president, Khaudair al-Khuza'i, spoke today about withdrawal and training needs ofr Iraq's forces. But Hoshyar Zebair tells Alistair Lyon (Reuters) today, "Definitely we as a country need these trainer and experts to help and support the Iraqi security capabilities." He states a training agreement will happen but an extension of the SOFA will not. Even if he's wrong, Michael Tennant (New American) adds:

The last remaining troops are scheduled to leave Iraq by December 31, though the Obama administration has been working hard to ensure that some residual force remains -- anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 troops. But while the official military presence is declining, the number of embassy personnel is set to double to 16,000, about half of whom will be security forces. The State Department will have 5,000 security contractors comprising a private army under the command of the Secretary of State. Meanwhile, the Office of Security Cooperation will get 3,000 armed guards to protect the office's personnel as they enrich U.S. defense contractors to the tune of "an estimated $13 billion in pending U.S. arms sales, including tanks, squadrons of attack helicopters and 36 F-16s," Froomkin reports.

The United States will also have two consulates in Iraq besides the Baghdad embassy, and it plans to have over 1,000 staffers at each consulate. Froomkin argues that "the diplomatic corps" has already taken a "substantial" hit from the staffing of the embassy; adding 2,000 more personnel at the consulates cannot help matters any. Then again, a government whose slogan is "You're either with us or against us" -- a situation that has changed little since Obama took office -- hardly has much use for diplomats, who are trained to negotiate. Anyone can deliver an ultimatum.
In the US, Dennis Bragg (KPAX) reports Senator Jon Tester delivered a statement on the Senate floor yesterday calling for the White House to stick to the Status Of Forces Agreement and withdraw all US troops at the end of this year. We'll note this press release from the senator's office:

Tester calls for removal of U.S. troops from Iraq by year's end
Senator: 'Let's end this war for good' by December 31 as planned

Tuesday, September 20, 2011
(U.S. SENATE) -- U.S. Senator Jon Tester today delivered a clear message to Congress and President Obama: America's troops should leave Iraq by December 31 of this year as planned.
Speaking on the floor of the Senate, Tester praised the hundreds of thousands of American troops who "never faltered" and "provided security and Democracy to a nation that had never known it."
"Iraq now has the tools it needs to secure its people and its economy," Tester said. "Iraq's new leaders must solve their problems for their own people. Keeping thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq would needlessly put them in more danger. It would cost American taxpayers more money. And it would further distract us from our core national security objectives of protecting American citizens and further dismantling al-Qaeda and other terrorists groups."
In a letter sent today to President Obama, Tester said U.S. troops "should not be in Iraq one minute more than is necessary."
The Status of Forces Agreement signed by President Bush and the Iraqi government calls for withdrawing Operation New Dawn troops from Iraq by year's end. Although there has been no official announcement, recent news reports suggest the possibility of keeping several thousand U.S. troops in Iraq past the December 31 deadline.
"We cannot afford moving the goal post," Tester told his colleagues today.
"Across Montana, and this nation, people are saying: Come home now."
Tester said U.S. Marines should continue to guard America's embassies, and that the U.S. should maintain a "strong diplomatic presence" in Iraq.
Tester noted that between his first visit to Iraq in 2007 and his second visit earlier this year, Iraq's leaders were "finally moving forward after too many wasted years, too many wasted dollars and too many lives lost."
Tester said the progress is largely due to the fact that "Iraqis were told in no uncertain terms that the United States was leaving," which "galvanized Iraqi politicians to take control of their own country."
"Since 2003, our nation has sent hundreds of thousands of other young men and women to fight in Iraq," Tester said. "We have done so at an enormous cost: 4,474 Americans have given their lives. More than 32,000 have been wounded. And we can't put a number on those who suffer from injuries unseen."
Tester also noted that "the price tag of this war that was put on our children" is approaching $1 trillion.
Tester, a member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, praised efforts to help Iraq veterans transition back to civilian life, such as the Montana National Guard's Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Program.
"I will do my best to make sure we keep up our end of the bargain," Tester said. "Whether it's a college education, health care or compensation for an injury suffered on the field of battle, we will honor our commitment to our heroes."

Tester's floor speech appears below.

Tester's letter to President Obama is online HERE.


Floor Remarks
U.S. Senator Jon Tester
September 20, 2011


Mr. President, during a trip to Baghdad this past January, I had an opportunity to meet with several members of the Montana National Guard's 163rd Combined Arms Battalion.
That day, I told them that I was proud of each and every one of them, from unit commander Lieutenant Colonel T.J. Hull and Sergeant Major John Wood on down the line.
Through courageous service to our country, they were making tremendous sacrifices on our behalf. And they were representing the very best of Montana.
This month, these folks have been coming back to Montana from their demobilizing station in Washington state. Today, I join their families, their friends and their neighbors in welcoming the last group of these citizen soldiers back to Montana. Job well done, soldiers.
And thank you.
For nearly a year, these 600 Montanans served in some of the harshest conditions imaginable -- escorting numerous convoys across dangerous terrain and conducting other critical security missions throughout Iraq.
At one point over the last 12 months, this unit accounted for more than half of Montana's best and brightest serving overseas.
They gave up the comforts of their families, their homes, and their communities to bring stability to a nation on the other side of the world. Through it all, they showed courage in difficult times. They remained strong. And they were always in our thoughts and prayers.
Now that they're home, it is our duty to continue our support by providing the benefits, quality care and services they need as they transition back to their families, their jobs and their communities.
Many Iraq veterans make that transition with success, coming home to good jobs and welcoming communities.
But for others -- making that transition is no easy task.
It's no secret that there is a potential for higher rates of substance abuse. Higher divorce rates. Higher unemployment rates. The effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury can impact entire families.
Thankfully, veterans often look after each other. We should recognize the important role of America's Veterans' Service Organizations, and their willingness to help with that transition.
Montana was one of the first states in the nation to adopt the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Program. It involves entire families of National Guard soldiers and airmen, preparing them for the changes that come before, during and after a deployment. The Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Program is a success. And I'm pleased that in the last Congress, my colleagues gave all states the resources to implement it.
Furthermore, I will do my best to make sure we keep up our end of the bargain. Whether it's a college education, health care or compensation for an injury suffered on the field of battle, we will honor our commitment to our heroes.
We make this promise to the men and women of the 163rd -- and to the Montanans who make up the many other units of the Montana National Guard that were deployed this year, and to the folks who are part of Montana's RED HORSE squadron now in Afghanistan.
To our Reservists and to the folks serving in the active duty military today, we make the same commitment.
Even as we make this commitment, many folks in Montana are wondering what should happen next in Iraq.
Since 2003, our nation has sent hundreds of thousands of young men and women to fight in Iraq. We have done so at an enormous cost: 4,474 Americans have given their lives. More than 32,000 have been wounded. And we can't put a number on those who suffer from injuries unseen.
And let's not forget, the price tag of this war that was put on our children is quickly approaching $1 trillion. And then there's tens of billions of dollars in waste and fraud.
Mr. President, the war in Iraq started with political leaders who had their own agenda. They went there looking for weapons that never existed. But through it all, the professionalism of our military never faltered. They provided security and democracy to a nation that had never known it.
But for far too long, Iraqi politicians did nothing to secure their own future. I first went to Iraq in 2007 and returned there again this January. I was struck by how much had changed in those four years. Iraq was finally moving forward after too many wasted years, too many wasted dollars and too many lives lost.
There are many reasons for the change. The improved security from our military and the training provided by our troops played a big role. But American diplomats and military leaders told me that the biggest reason for progress in Iraq was this:
The Iraqis were told in no uncertain terms that the United States was leaving. Our military presence would end on December 31 of this year.
That, Mr. President, was what galvanized Iraqi politicians to take control of their own country.
Today, I am sending a letter to the President calling on him to stand by his commitment to pull all U.S. Operation New Dawn troops out of Iraq by the end of this year. We should bring the last of them home on schedule.
U.S. Marines will still guard our embassies as they always have. And we will still maintain a strong diplomatic presence in Iraq.
Despite this year's deadline, I know there's talk of possibly keeping a sizeable force of U.S. troops in Iraq into next year. If that's the case, it's not good enough.
We cannot afford moving the goal post. Across Montana, and this nation, people are saying: Come home now.
I know that sectarian violence in Iraq will continue. But we should not be asking American troops to referee a centuries-old civil war. That conflict is likely to continue into the distant future regardless of our presence.
Iraq now has the tools it needs to secure its people and its economy. Iraq's new leaders must solve their problems for their own people.
Keeping thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq would needlessly put them in more danger. It would cost American taxpayers more money.
And it would further distract us from our core national security objectives of protecting American citizens and further dismantling al-Qaeda and other terrorists groups.
That's where our focus needs to be. And that's why I'm saying: "Let's end this war for good."
Mr. President, I yield the floor.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Tossing Don't Ask, Don't Tell into the garbage doesn't now mean full equality. There's much that the LGBT movement will still have to fight for (including for the military to reward benefits to the spouses of same-sex couples). But it was a pretty historic day.

Today, gays and lesbians in the military no longer live under the threat that they can be forced out of the military for who they are and who they love.

It was a good day for equality and a wonderful step forward for this county.

C.I. covers it in the snapshot and does her amazing job that she always does so well.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, September 20, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Political Stalemate II continues, the return of the Accountability and Justice Committee, suicide bombers target Ramadi, a historic day in the US and more.
Wang Guanqun (Xinhua) reports, "Three suicide bombers almost simultaneously blew up their explosive vests outside the provincial council compound and nearby police headquarters in centeral Ramadi" according to police source. KUNA notes, "The complex has been a target for assailants for quite some time now, with attacks on it leading to dozens of deaths and injuries." Fadhel al-Badrani, Waleed Ibrahim, Aseel Kami, Jim Loney and Myra MacDonald (Reuters) add there were two in vests and 1 in a car and that in addition to the bombers taking their own lives, they also killed 2 people and left fifteen injured. Petra also reports 2 suicide bombers on foot and one in a car. AFP quotes an unnamed Iraqi military officer who declares, "Three bombs targeted the building of the Anbar provincial government in the centre of Ramadi. The car bomb exploded near the eastern entrance leading to the government offices. Seven minutes later, two suicide bombers wearing explosive belts blew themselves up at the western entrances to the offices." CNN counts 4 dead and eighteen injured and states all were police officers; however, Press TV says Anbar Province official Khalid Shandoukh al-Alwani is among the dead. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) explains al-Alwani was a Sahwa leader Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) adds the detail that the two bombers on foot were wearing security forces uniforms. Uthman al-Mokhtar and Dan Zak (Washington Post) reports that one of the two suicide bombers on foot was shot dead by the police and that fifteen police offcers that were left wounded received their wounds while engaged in a gun battle with five assailants working in coordination with the three bombers. CNN adds a Baghdad attack claimed the lives of 3 police officers. Aswat al-Iraq reports a police colonel was shot dead by an unknown group of assailants in Mosul and a bombing aimed at the police commander of Baquba which which left him "gravely wounded" and wounded his three body guards as well.
And we'll drop back to yesterday's snapshot to again note the latest US fatality in Iraq:

Sunday, a US soldier died in Iraq. The Dept of Defense hasn't identified the fallen as I dictate this but KRGV and Valley Central's Action 4 News both report it is Estevan Altamirano (citing his family) of Edcough, Texas who was a 1999 graduate of Edcouch-Elsa High School, the father of five and his survivors include his wife. According to the Washington Post's Faces of the Fallen data base, 414 other service members from Texas have died in the Iraq War (there are eight pages with 51 on each page, when you click on page eight, there is no ninth page but there is "next" which contains 6 additional service members -- 8 x 51= 408 + 6= 414 and the search criteria was "Iraq" for theater and "Texas" for state/territory.) Many of the fallen of the current wars come from rural areas and small towns. The 2010 census found the population for Edcouch to be 3,161 and 97.8 Hispanic It's in the southern county of Hildalgo .

Today Gail Burkhardt (Monitor via Brownsville Herald) reports Sgt Estevan Altamirano had spent 11 years in the military and was on his third deployment to Iraq. His survivors include his parents, a sister (Loreda Altamirano), "his wife, Pamela Altamirano, in addition to two stepdaughters. He also has two sons, who live in Kansas".
On this week's Law and Disorder Radio -- a weekly hour long program that airs Monday mornings on WBAI and around the country throughout the week and is hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights), topics explored include the medical profession's role in assisting the US military and CIA in torture (guest is Dr. Stephen Soldz) and Guantanamo and its various satellites (guest is CCR's Vince Warren). Soldz is an expert on many things and does a great job addressing the torture. But Soldz can address othere topics as well. And it's a real shame that the left isn't calling out counter-insurgency.
During Vietnam, the left knew it was wrong. (As did the social science fields of study.) Counter-insurgency is a war against the native people. Counter-insurgency is used today. In violation of oaths of any serious social science field of study. Psychologists and anthropologists abuse their field, disgrace it, by assisting the military in 'pressure points' for locals. That is a misuse of the science and it's a War Crime. And during Vietnam, the left grasped that and that it was wrong if was used to kill or bring about a killing of an individual but it was wrong if it just tricked and deceived a native population.
Many years have passed. And the left has failed to call out counter-insurgency with regards to Iraq (Stephen Soldz has called it out. We've called it out. Tom Hayden has called it out once very powerfully). And the attitude is, "Oh, well, if its not death squads, it's okay." No, it's not. And we're failing to stress and pass on ethics as a result. We need to have this conversation. We are not having it on the left. I know Michael Ratner especially has worked on the torture issues and Guantanamo and the discussion on those topics with Soldz was important and powerful. But we've had those conversations, we have them regularly, we have them every year in fact. Good, they're needed. But we do not get the exploration of counter-insurgency. We need it too. Maybe more than the torture discussion because there's a think tank and there's the Carr Center advocating for counter-insurgency and, within the administration, there's Samantha Power, Sarah Sewall, John Nagl, Michele Flournoy and others advocating for it. It is now US policy. And this has happened while we on the left have refused to address the issue.
Scott Horton (Antiwar Radio) spoke with's Kelly B. Vlahos about the surge, the counter-insurgency movement and myths and much more. Excerpt.
Scott Horton: They all knew that they were lying basically because the entire set-up for 'the surge worked' theory is that he took command, David Petraeus took command, of the Iraq War just as the civil war was ending after they helped for years on end, they had helped Shi'ites wage this civil war against the Sunni Arabs of Baghdad and so-called cleanse them to where an 85% Shi'ite city right around the time he got there and then all he did was accept the same surrender that the Sunni-based insurgency had been offering since 2003 which is if you'll just let us patrol our own neighborhoods, give us a little bit of money and some guns, we'll stop fighting you. So that was his 'brilliant' victory in war, is that he bribed the enemy to stop shooting him. And even then waited until they were in the very weakest position of all not because of his efforts but because of all the generals that came before him helping Moqtada al-Sadr and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim put drills in the Sunni Arabs' skulls, to death, and eventualyl force them all of Baghdad. I mean, everyone in the military knew that as well as everybody at knew that, right?
Kelley B. Vlahos: Right.
Scott Horton: That the surge didn't do anything. It was just a coincidence and timing.
Kelley B. Vlahos: Well you know the surge, the idea of the surge with a capital "S" is developed into a template for a counter-insurgency strategy when in reality now people like Douglas Ollivant -- who I point out in my piece -- you know, he's a National Security Fellow at the New America Foundation but he was once an advisor to Petreaus, he points out that this isn't a strategy, these were tactical decisions made by the generals mostly to get our fannies out of Iraq and with some semblance of, you know, pride and integrity left. This was not a strategy that could be later on overlayed onto the Afghanistan War. And so he's pointing out that if we're looking at this as a strategy, we have lost. And he points out that it has not worked, you know, COIN or counter-insurgency, as molded by this surge in Iraq has not worked in Afghanistan nor will it because, like as you pointed out, the dynamics are completely different and they were mostly out of our control whereas the mythology has Petraeus riding in on a white horse with his, you know, 30,000 additional troops. He comes in. He starts laying down all these counter-insurgency tenents and the place just magically, you know, becomes safer for Iraqis, safer for political resolution. And, you know, the next thing you know is that you have Thomas Ricks and you know all of the other punditry class talking about how we won the war thanks to David Petreaus. And what Ollivant points out, rightly, is that's just not what happened. A lot of the dynamic are out of our control and the United States, including Petraeus, and, you know, Crocker and others were sort of help mates to bringing the violence down but the political solution is not there and it's still a mess and we're seeing all of that today.
And if you thought things couldn't get worse in Iraq's ongoing Political Stalemate II, you were mistaken. Hossam Accomok (Al Mada) reports a group is preparing to enter the mix: the Justice and Accountability Commission. For those who've forgotten, this committee had remained in the shadows for most of 2009 and many members of Parliament assumed that since legislation had not been passed keeping the committee active, the committee was no more. But then it popped up and began doing Nouri al-Maliki's bidding by smearing various politicians (primarily Sunnis and primarily Iraqiya members, but not just them) as "Ba'athists" and declaring them unfit to run for office. A month prior to the elections, the Los Angeles Times editorial board offered from the Los Angeles Times' editorial "Baath-bashing in Iraq:"
Iraq's upcoming parliamentary elections should be about jobs, public services and government competence. Candidates should be focused on the country's security and on reconciliation among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.
Instead, the national vote once again is turning into a sectarian brawl in which Shiite parties jockeying with one another for dominance are stirring populist fears of a return of Saddam Hussein's Sunni-led Baath Party. Never mind that Hussein was executed in 2006 or that the discredited Baath Party already is outlawed. The Accountability and Justice Committee, led by Ahmad Chalabi, the Shiite politician and onetime darling of the George W. Bush administration, has been purging candidates who were members of the Baath Party and, in the process, fueling minority Sunnis' suspicions that the real motive is to further reduce their power.
Ahmed Chalabi and his boy pal Ali al-Lami ran the thing (Ali al-Lami was gunned down in Baghdad May 26th) and it was thankfully dead. But now it's back and Nouri's Dawa wants control of it. How frightening is it? Even the Sadr bloc is voicing cirticism (they state it demonstrates the primacy of political parties as opposed to national unity).

De-Ba'athification was a policy the exiles wanted and the US implemented. British intelligence agencies and military strongly called out the de-Ba'athification process during testimony before the Iraq Inquiry. One of the White House proposed benchmarks of 2007 (signed off on by Nouri) was a reconciliation (de-de-Ba'athification). It was supposed to be implemented. Instead a weak law was passed and there was no follow up (as most observers guessed would happen). In 2010, critics of the Justice and Accountability Commission were repeatedly told this was its last breath. As if this excused the targeting and smearing by the Commission or as if this would bring back Iraqiya's Suha Abdul Jarallah or any others killed in this witch hunt climate Chalabi and al-Lami created. But the commission cleary hasn't take its last breath and it is now set to continue to be a body that will launch smear campaigns against political enemies.

The Kurds and Nouri al-Maliki remain at logger heads over the Erbil Agreement (the political deal that ended Political Stalemate I and the deal Nouri reneged on as soon as he got what he wanted out of the deal), Article 140 of the Constitution (guarantees that a census and referendum will be held to resolve the issue of disputed Kirkuk -- the Constitution mandated that be held by 2007 but Nouri's long refused to follow the Constitution) and Nouri's proposed oil & gas bill. The Kurds have publicly floated the possibility of a vote of no-confidence. If a vote of no-confidence succeeded, it would trigger a new vote in the Parliament for prime minister. Speark of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi visited the KRG yesterday to discuss the situation with the Kurds.

What was discussed? Dar Addustour reports that this morning al-Nujaifi wasn't saying but that the meeting with the KRG president reportedly lasted at least two hours and that al-Nujaifi is now supposed to meet with Nouri to convey the Kurds' viewpoint. Aswat al-Iraq reports, "Nujaifi said that his initiative to solve political bloc's differences, starting with solving inter-conflicts among the parties, including the differences between Baghdad and Arbil, according to a statement issued by his office. The statement, as received by Aswat al-Iraq, added that the initiative has new trends that will eliminate all obstacles that hinder the bases for new Iraq." Al Sabaah reports that a lower level meeting took place in Baghdad yesterday to discuss implementing the Erbil Agreement (participants included Saleh al-Mutlaq and Deputy Prime Minister Ruz Nuri).

Meanwhile there is the Integrity Commission. Nouri recently forced its chair to resign (he did that during his first term as prime minister as well). Al Mada reports that Iraqiya is supporting the reinstatement of the chair over Nouri's objection. This comes as Dar Addustour reports the Integrity Commission is teaming up with Parliament's Integrity Committee and the Supreme Judicial Council to address open files on corruption (files that have not been followed up on). There is talk of as many of 11 arrest warrants possibly coming about from the open files. Meanwhile Dar Addustour reports MP Sabah al-Saadi is stating there is no arrest warrant out against him and that the claims of one stem from Nouri al-Maliki attempting to cover up his own corruption and he states Nouri has deliberately kept the three security ministries vacant and he charges Nouri is willing "to sell Iraq to maintain his hold on power." Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) observes, "The increasing violence is likely to be taken as a further sign of political gridlock in the Iraqi government, in particular the inability of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki to name permanent ministers for the key security posts 18 months after the March 2010 elections."

Meanwhile Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi (Daily Star) reports on findings from documents leaked by WikiLeaks:

One notable case that has come to light from these cables involves the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. On April 3, 2003, as Saddam Hussein's regime was on the point of falling, the moderate and non-sectarian Shiite cleric Abdul Majid al-Khoei, who had been in exile in the United Kingdom, returned to his home city of Najaf. Just one week later, Khoei was beaten and hacked to death by a mob. According to witnesses, he was first dragged to Sadr's office and then to a nearby roundabout where he was killed.
Although Sadr denies accusations of involvement in the atrocity, a senior Iraqi judge, Raed al-Juhi, issued an arrest warrant against him in April 2004, on suspicion of ordering Khoei's murder. One can of course ask why Sadr does not simply go to court if he is so confident of his innocence. In fact, there is a plausible motive for his role in the murder. As Hayder al-Khoei, Abdul Majid's son and a researcher at the Centre for Academic Shi'a Studies in the United Kingdom, has pointed out, Sadr and his followers, whom Hayder's father opposed, wanted to assert themselves as a political force in post-Saddam Iraq.
Today, it can be more easily understood why Sadr is not held to account over the arrest warrant. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki depends on the Sadrists as allies, along with the Kurdish factions, to maintain his coalition government in place. However, until the release of the diplomatic cables it remained unclear why the arrest warrant was not enforced during the tenure of the non-sectarian Iyad Allawi. He was interim prime minister before Iraq's elections of 2005.

And we'll close noting Foreign Policy's Josh Rogin's commentary on Barack's plan or 'plan' to reduce the deficit:
In the US, Kevin Douglas Grant (Global Post) reports on Iraq War veteran Lt Dan Choi:

But his time in Iraq began to turn Choi's mind against the American war effort there. Corruption and mismanagement of the rebuilding process was rampant, and as a member of the Commanders Emergency Response Team (CERP), Choi himself had the authority to vet and authorize contracts with almost no oversight. He often paid cash.
"Every week I would fly from Green Zone to the 'Triangle of Death' area and then pass out money," Choi explained, his ready smile on display. "I'd have a million dollars in hundred-dollar bills in my backpack. I was like, 'Wow, I have more than my life is worth.'"
By May, two major forces in Choi's life were waging war on his psyche. On one hand, he had a military career he was fully dedicated to. On the other hand, he had met the love of his life but most of his inner circle still didn't know he was gay. So he started telling them.
"That was probably the hardest time," Choi said. "Being in the military with a boyfriend that I wanted to marry. I thought, 'How am I going to be able to keep being in the military this way?"

Dan Choi joined the fight for equality and became a public face for the movement and what may have still been, for some people, an abstract notion. The courage he demonstrated and the courage of others in the movement is why Don't Ask, Don't Tell has been overturned.
Don't Ask, Don't Tell was a response to the Reagan administration. With the military having failed in the courts to kick out a man for being gay (Sgt Leonard Matlovich whom US District Court Judge Gerhard Gessell ordered the Air Force to reinstate in the fall of 1980), the Reagan administration showed their usual vindictive nature and responded with a 1982 Defense Dept directive forbidding gays and lesbians from serving and this combined with the increased homophobia resulting from fears over the emerging AIDS crisis and a packing of the courts with conservatives resulted in a harsher climate where discharges based on sexuality became policy and legal recourse appeared to have vanished. From Rachel Martin's report today for Morning Edition (NPR -- link has text and audio):
STACY VASQUEZ: I like to say that I'm a government-certified homosexual.
MARTIN: Vasquez was a 30-year-old Army sergeant first class when she was discharged under "don't ask, don't tell." Someone claimed to have seen her kissing a woman at a gay bar, and that was the end of her career.
VASQUEZ: Yeah, it ended right in front of my eyes that day. That was a hard day.
MARTIN: But it was the beginning of her very public role in the movement to repeal "don't ask, don't tell." She became an activist, appearing with Lady Gaga at the Video Music Awards.
LADY GAGA: My friend Stacy here was discharged after 12 years in the Army, and it's...
MARTIN: And giving countless speeches calling for an end of "don't ask, don't tell."
VASQUEZ: How many veterans do I have in the audience? Raise your hand. Yeah, raise them proud.
Gays and lesbians (and bi-sexuals) were demonized throughout the 20th century. They were seen as mentally ill, as sick, as stunted, etc. This was taught to generations not as hate or ignorance but state of the art science. In addition, beginning with silent films, Hollywood studios worked overtime to churn our stereotypes of what a gay man or a lesbian woman was in order to allow their gay actors and actresses to remain above public suspicion. All of this came together to make gays and lesbians both targets and pariah. The story of the 20th century is the story of many movements towards equality. And one thing to remember about the prejudice of past generations -- whether it was against sexuality, race or gender -- it was not taught as hate or fear (though that's what it actually was by the insitutions teaching it), it was taught as state of the art science. People who thought a race was inferior or a gender or person based on their sexuality were often up on the 'science' of their day.
For gays and lesbians, many credit WWII service with helping strides to be made as men and women who might have stayed in the areas they were born in instead relocated and were able to form diverse communities that helped refute the 'scientific' claims of the day. New York City was one city a diverse community formed and went up against the earlier movements which saw itself as a little more refined although it was a lot more closeted and a lot more self-loathing. The WWII group was boisterous and not caught up in the trappings of the upper class which allowed for a vibrant movement to develop. The 60s saw Stonewall most famously but many other efforts as well and one of the areas targeted was psychiatriaty to get homosexuality out of the DSM [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders] as a mental disorder. This was successfully lobbied and a huge step for future legal issues. Throughout the battle for equality, there would be foes (Anita Bryant, anyone?) who would emerge and attack. Which is why a Dan Choi is so important (and why coming out is). Decades of demonizing gays and lesbians left a false image. Studies on acceptance and tolerance in the 90s repeatedly found that those most likely to know someone who was gay or lesbian were more likely to be accepting or tolerant.
So Dan Choi is part of a movement that's gone on in this country for over a century and, on the military aspect, he follows other leaders who put a public face on the issue like Margarethe Cammermeyer who was forced out in 1992 for revealing in 1989 (during a security clearance interview) that she was a lesbian. Her story and others were bubbling up in the media and then came the October 27, 1992 murder of Petty Officer Third Class Allen R. Schindler Jr. by his military colleagues and it became a big campaign issue in 1992. Bill Clinton campaigned for the presidency that year with the pledge to allow gay men and women to serve openly in the military. Then Joint Chief of Staff Colin Powell was having none of it and made highly homophobic statements repeatedly and with Senator Sam Nunn and others in Congress -- and in the Democratic Party -- went along with these attacks and began making efforts to turn Reagan's 1982 DoD directive into a law, Clinton came up with the compromise of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. (During this period, the press fanned the flames of homophobia -- it was far from an 'enlightened' press and still suffering their self-inflicted third degree sex burns resulting from their prurient and pseudo-moralistic coverage of Madonna's Sex book, Body of Evidence film, "Justify My Love" video and Erotica album),
This was supposed to stop the witch hunts and allow gay people to serve. The deal was you didn't talk about your personal life at work and the military could no longer ask you if you were gay. That deal was never really followed as it was supposed to have been and, in addition, being in the military for most is not a job you leave. You live in a military facility or on a ship or whatever. When do you get your personal life away from that? In addition, we've come far enough as a society to see that as crumbs and grasp that it's asking someone to deny who they are and force them in the closet and imply there's something wrong about who they are by asking them not to talk about it.
At American Progress, Crosby Burns offers his take on the historic nature of today. Iraq War veteran Nicolaas Koppert shares his story at NPR (text only):
I thought a life in the closet was something I could do, something I had to do in order to be happy. I was dating girls and laughing along with jokes that should have upset me, just to be one of the guys. I didn't want to be gay, in fact, I hated it. It felt like it made my whole life more difficult than my fellow soldiers.
I thought it wasn't fair that I had to be this way. I wondered why I was the only one in my company that was this way, or even if I was the only one. I've seen the worst of war but I know I would never have the courage to come out to my battle buddies. We were within eyesight of each other 24/7 but they thought they were seeing a straight guy.
Tim Mak (POLITICO) reports Dan Choi plans to re-enlist and states that military benefits will not be extended to the spouses of same-sex couples, "There is time for some well-intended criticism here -- the parties that have been going on. I think they misrepresent the meaning of this event. People who believe that discrimination is somehow all erased will have a rude awakening." And sadly, no law insisting on equality has replaced Don't Ask, Don't Tell. (Which is why the Ninth Circuit decision was needed despite the administration's successful efforts to overturn it.) A law could have been put in place declaring equality. Barring that, allowing the Ninth Circuit decision to stand would have allowed a precedent to be set and stare decisis to provide protection. Tony Lombardo (Marine Corps News) reports:

The "don't ask, don't tell" policy banning gays from serving openly will be stripped from the military's rulebook on Tuesday. The occasion could pass quietly. President Obama and the Defense Department have no plans for press conferences or major addresses, and DoD stopped enforcing it in July.
But for gay Marines, official repeal will be a historic day, comparable to the moment 63 years ago when President Truman ordered the services to end racial segregation.

NPR's Rachel Martin reports on the end of Don't Ask, Don't Tell on Morning Edition today. This is a day of pride for the LGBT community who still have battles to fight for full equality. One non-gay man who deserves applause today is former US House Rep Patrick Murphy. He has a column at Huffington Post where he writes of the struggle. He doesn't take his proper credit in that post and is far too modest. He notes he came into Congress in 2007 with the plan to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. He does not go into how he was humored and misled. At one point, he was told that Senator Ted Kennedy would be leading the effort in the Senate and when he repeated that publicly, we noted here that it was a lie and that Ted was far sicker than the public knew and that it was terminal. Murphy was jerked around repeatedly. And then came the 2010 elections and he lost his seat. He could have washed his hands of the matter. But he didn't. He kicked it into overdrive, called in favors and, with the help of others who supported repeal, was able to get repeal voted on in both houses of Congress. Murphy is running for Attorney General in Pennsylvania.

The more than $1 trillion in defense "savings" that the White House claims is based on a projection the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) put out last March, which found that war costs would top $1.7 trillion over the next ten years. However, that projection was never meant to accurately forecast the costs of the wars over the next decade. The report just took this year's costs for Iraq and Afghanistan ($159 billion) and added inflation for every year in the future.

In other words, the CBO number was the projection if the United States kept the current number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan until 2020. However, nobody ever thought that was the plan. The CBO was required to do the math that way, as they do with all such projections.

At today's White House briefing, reporters were quick to point out that Obama never planned to keep that many troops in Iraq and Afghanistan for the next ten years. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Jack Lew's response was to point out that the House GOP had used the same faulty logic in Paul Ryan's budget plan.