Friday, November 04, 2011

15 set to die

"Iraq: call to halt imminent execution of 15 men" (Amnesty International):
Fifteen set to die after Eid al-Adha holiday on Sunday

The Iraqi authorities must halt the imminent execution of 15 men, Amnesty International said today, following reports that their death sentences had been ratified by the Iraqi presidency on Tuesday.

According to media reports, the Iraqi presidency said that the 15 would be executed after the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, which takes place this Sunday.

All 15 are said to be members of armed groups and were convicted of murdering dozens of people and raping women and girls at a wedding party in a village near al-Taji, north of Baghdad, in June 2006. They were sentenced to death on 16 June by the Central Criminal Court of Iraq after "confessions" by several of them were shown on the Iraqi TV channel Al Iraqiya.

It is thought that the men may not have received a fair trial according to international standards and that the televised "confessions" may have been obtained through duress.

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Programme Acting Director Philip Luther said:

"While the Iraqi government has an obligation to bring to justice those responsible for serious crimes, the death penalty violates the right to life and is the ultimate form of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, and should not be applied even for crimes of the greatest magnitude.

"There is also the very real concern that these men may not have received a fair trial according to international standards. They must not be executed. The Iraqi authorities should commute these and all other death sentences and declare an immediate moratorium on executions."

The 15 were reportedly detained for several weeks incommunicado, without access to their legal representatives or relatives.

Many defendants have been sentenced to death in Iraq on the basis of “confessions” obtained under torture in pre-trial detention, when they were held incommunicado and had no access to lawyers of their choosing. Some have been executed on the basis of such “confessions”.

Some - possibly all - of the men's families were not informed about the start of the trial, which also raises serious concerns. This prevented them from consulting with the defendants on the appointment of legal representatives of their own choosing, a right guaranteed under international standards for fair trial.

Several Iraqi government officials publicly called for the public execution of the 15 men even before the trial had been completed, which jeopardised their right to a fair trial. On 14 June, two days before the 15 were sentenced, the Chairman of the Supreme Judicial Council was reported to have said during a press conference that the men “will be executed as soon as their death sentences are ratified by the Presidency.”

In Iraq the death penalty was suspended after the US-led invasion of Iraq but restored in August 2004. Since then, hundreds of people have been sentenced to death and many have been executed.

C.I. slid this over to me. So 15 people may be put to death. That's the big US accomplishment? Installing a pro-death penalty regime. As a bonus, one that tortures people into false confessions and then puts them to death.

The Iraq War has turned out just as anything does when it starts with a lie.

Even more infuriating is just how much Barack's spin and lies sounds like Bully Boy Bush's.

As if that's not bad enough, then we get the liars, the Robert Parrys, the Tom Haydens. They excuse, they invent cover stories, they whore.

How they think that helps the world, I just don't know.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, November 4, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, some worry what happens to Camp Ashraf residents after 2011, others think the height of political sophistication and dialogue is to liken your opponents to Hitler, the US military announces another death (that's four who have died since Barack's speech of 'War Is Over If You Believe My Spin'), the White House notes the December meet up in DC with Nouri, the victims of Falluja are the topic of a new study, and more.
This morning the Associated Press reported that another US service member has died in Iraq with the military providing "no further details" other than that the death occurred yesterday. AFP declares, "A US soldier has been killed in northern Iraq, the US military said on Friday, the first American service member to die in an attack here since the US announced its forces would depart by year's end."
The need for a 'hook' may leave some insulted. Barack gave the announcement on October 21st. The day before, October 20th, the official Pentagon count -- a government supplied number unlike the 'dabbling' website AFP relies on (AP is the only news outlet that has done their own count throughout the war) -- was 4482 military personnel killed in the Iraq War. You'll find that same number on October 23rd. October 27th the count jumps 3 to 4485. Pfc Steven Shapiro, Sgt 1st Class David G. Robinson and Capt Shawn P.T. Charles all passed and there deaths are Iraq War deaths. Sometimes the media really really is unable to hide their desire to be war pornographers by what they emphasize and what they don't, by which deaths they think count and which ones they don't bother with. Aaron Glantz is a familiar name to the community for his coverag of Winter Soldier, the Iraq War, veterans issues and much more. He reports on Steven Shapiro's death for the Bay Citizen here. Shapiro was the first announced death after the speech. He's also from California and our governor (Jerry Brown) issued the following statement October 26th:
SACRAMENTO -- On behalf of all Californians, Governor Brown and First Lady Anne Gust Brown honor Pfc. Steven F. Shapiro who bravely gave his life in service to our state and nation. The Governor and First Lady extend their deepest condolences to his family and friends at this difficult time.

In memorial, Governor Brown ordered that flags be flown at half-staff over the State Capitol today. Pfc. Shapiro's family will receive a letter of condolence from the Governor.

Pfc. Steven F. Shapiro, 29, of Hidden Valley Lake, CA, died October 21, in Tallil, Iraq. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, TX. Shapiro was supporting Operation New Dawn.

So the death announced today is the fourth death since Barack's speech. Today the White House issued the following:

Statement by the Press Secretary on the Upcoming Visit of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of Iraq

WASHINGTON, DC -- President Obama looks forward to welcoming Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to the White House on December 12. The two leaders will hold talks on deepening the comprehensive strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq. The President honors the sacrifices and achievements of all those who have served in Iraq, and of the Iraqi people, to reach this moment full of promise for an enduring US-Iraq friendship.
Matt Spetalnick, Jeremy Pelofsky and Eric Beech (Reuters) observe, "The administration has left the door open to negotiating a military training assistance agreement after the U.S. troops leave." This is the meeting that Moqtada al-Sadr declared (last weekend) Nouri should not have.
Robert Parry. We've ignored him for some time. Today Parry again gives ammo to those who would argue AP and Newsweek parted ways with him for good reason. That was less clear when Bush was in the White House because suddenly Parry was pratically a peace nik, ready to, in the words of Melanie, "Lay down, lay down, lay it all down, let your white birds smile up at the ones who stand and frown." "Assessing Obama's 'Peace' Moves" reads like a mix of Parry's 'greatest' hits. Sexism and hatred of Hillary expressed? Check! Fantasy passed off as fact? Check! Defense of any and all Democratic males? Check! I actually know Leon Panette and have known him for years. That hasn't meant that I haven't called him out here. But Parry's the one claiming to be a journalist? Seriously?
I don't read Charles Krauthammer and don't know how to spell his last name -- it'll be spelled correctly by the person I'm dictating this too. He is nothing in my world and I'll keep it that way. (And I'm sure I'm nothing in his and that's more than fine.) I skipped Parry's section on that columnist, the second section of his column.. If he's less than honest in that section, I wouldn't be surprised. But in the final section he wants to accuse the "neocons" (but not the neoliberals -- remember, when you whore, you get a little limited in your vision and for Parry that means forgetting all Democratic males who supported the Iraq War and/or voted for the 2002 authorization) of things like, for example, accusing others of being "disloyal or feckless." That might stand as a solid charge if Parry didn't immediately move into comparing them to Adolf Hitler. That's a really strong charge and I don't think it stands up but when you want to whine that some right-wingers are accusing Barack of losing the war and you want to act outraged by that but you also want to respond by comparing these people to Hitler, you're not going to be seen as very rational to most people. [Malou Innocent (New Jersey Star-Ledger), covering much the same ground Parry does, neither feels the need to act as if the war hawks are all on the right nor to compare opponents to "Hitler" in order to establish a solid argument.]
There are many ways that it could be argued that Barack lost the Iraq War. You may not like that, but people can feel that way and not be right wingers and not be a reincarnation of Adolf Hitler. Had Barack immediately drawn the war to a close upon being sworn in -- what candidate Barack led people to believe in the tent revivals for the Cult of St. Barack -- then there would be one and only one way to argue that he lost the war: By ending it. Instead he made the decision to continue the Iraq War. And don't give the lie that he had to follow the SOFA. There was a cancellation clause in the SOFA that he could have exercised.
The thing that would make many real journalists cringe is this statement by Parry: "Finally, the President has gotten rid of many holdovers from the Bush administration, such as Robert Gates at Defense and the old high command in Iraq and Afghanistan." What? Ray Odierno remains. David Petraeus got promoted to the CIA. And Robert Gates? Barack didn't get "rid of" him, Gates left on his own. Barack wanted him to stay and, in fact, Barack was just singing Gates' praises on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno last week. (And, in a senior moment, Barack forgot that Gates had left the administration while speaking to Leno.)
Robert Parry disgraced himself in 2008 and we've ignored him since then but when he comes off as crazy as he does today (including floating conspiracy theories), we call him out. For those who've forgotten his 2008 crazy, we'll drop back to "2008: The Year of Living Hormonally (Year in Review):"
In that month alone, prior to Glen Ford, she'd already offered Robert Parry, apparently enroute to the padded room he now inhabits, insisting that 'evil' Hillary would do just what her husband did because wives behave exactly like their husbands. If, indeed, that's the case, better get the Thorazine ready for Mrs. Parry. There was never an effort made by Goody to stop the foaming at the mouth Parry and say, "Hold on a second. You have spent this decade and the bulk of the nineties writing one article after another in defense of or in praise of Bill Clinton. Why are you suddenly so scared that your deranged fantasy of Hillary being just like Bill will come true?"

You don't ask those questions. To you or me, those questions may seem basic. It's not every day, for instance, that journalist Robert Parry morphs into nutty Christopher Hitchens. But what you're forgetting is that adolescence is all about recreation. It's all about finding another identity. New hair styles are tried, new clothes, new friends, it's all about reinvention. And who but a sane person would attempt to deny Bobby Parry his shot at a second adolescence? And there were so many more important questions to ask.

Is she really going out with him?
Well, there she is. Let's ask her.
Betty, is that Jimmy's ring you're wearing?
Gee, it must be great riding with him
Is he picking you up after school today?
By the way, where'd you meet him?
I met him at the candy store
He turned around and smiled at me
You get the picture? (yes, we see)
That's when I fell for (the leader of the pack)
-- "The Leader of the Pack," written by Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry and Shadow Morton
He's still writing as the love struck Bobby Parry. You sort of picture him penciling "BOBBY LOVES BARRY" all over his spiral notebooks.
Robert Parry may want to argue that revisionary tactics will set in on the Iraq War -- they certainly did on Vietnam -- and further argue that by calling people "Hitler," he's attempting to stop the revisionary tactics.
The Iraq War was illegal. It was built on lies and there was never a second authorization from the United Nations. It was continued with non-stop lies. And we can go into all of that and allt he damage that was done. But if we want to stop revisionary tactics from taking hold one of the first things we should probably do is not compare our political enemies to Hitler.
Kelley B. Vlahos ( runs down various Iraq remarks of those seeking the GOP's presidential nomination (only US House Rep Ron Paul favors ending the war -- excuse me, of all those running on the Republican and Democratic side, only Ron Paul favors ending the war which means no enduring occupation via the State Dept or any other US vehicle). Vlahos notes:
Critics say Republicans are digging themselves into a hole on this issue, and that might not be such a bad thing. "The polls show overwhelming opposition to the Iraq War, and if the Republicans want to say that 'Obama lost Iraq,' Lord let them," quipped Conn Hallinan, a writer for the liberal Institute for Policy Studies.
A phrase I learned to stop saying in 2008: I have never heard anything so stupid in my life.
As Democrats and Communists and Socialists in the alternative media demonstrated very quickly, the minute you say that you've never heard anything so stupid, another one pops up to pipe off something even more stupid. Conn Hallinana's remark is very, very stupid.
As we know, if we paid attention in 2007, Barack Obama stated he had no problem, even after withdrawal, sending US troops back into Iraq.
What could make US troops go back into Iraq?
Well with Samantha Power in charge, we all know the response to 'humanitarian crisis' is bombs and bullets and not aid and medicine. So should a blood bath take hold in Iraq or, more likely, should efforts be made -- strong and possibly violent efforts -- to take down the despot Nouri al-Maliki, it's possible the US would go back in. Some, like Allan Gerson (Huffington Post) feel that the most likely immediate humanitarian issue will be what happens to the Iranian dissidents who now reside in Camp Ashraf:
On Dec. 31, 2011, the day that the last American soldier is due to leave Iraq, Camp Ashraf is under orders by the Iraqi regime to close down and for its residents to be dispersed to prisons or concentration camps, or to the tender mercies of Iranian executioners. Two unprovoked armed assaults by the Iraqi Army on Camp Ashraf in 2009 and last April resulted in over forty dead and hundreds injured by Iraqi soldiers carrying US-made weapons. There is no reason to hope that the impending closure will be either peaceful or humane, despite the fact that the Ashraf residents were granted protected persons status under the Fourth Geneva Convention by the US military.
Following the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Ashraf residents were provided with written guarantees by US authorities that, in return for disarming voluntarily, the US would protect them. But, since early 2009, when the US handed over responsibility for the security of Camp Ashraf to Iraqi forces, that guarantee has become a cruel hoax as the Iraqi Army continues to impose a punishing blockade, depriving residents of basic services, including access to medical care.
Camp Ashraf residents were welcomed into Iraq by Saddam Hussein in the 80s. The US invasion of Iraq in 2003, led for calls (from the US) for the residents to surrender all their weapons. They did so after being promised that the US would protect them. Bernd Debusmann (Reuters) picks up the story there:
After being vetted for possible involvement in terrorist activities, the PMOI members at Ashraf were granted "Protected Person" status under the Fourth Geneva convention and the U.S. military assumed control of the camp. That was a bizarre twist even by the standards of the Middle East because the PMOI remained on the U.S. government's list of terrorist organizations.
American protection of the camp ended in January 2009, when the U.S. transferred control to the Iraqi government. According to testimony to a Congressional hearing, that transfer followed an explicit and written assurance by the Iraqi government that it would respect the protected status of Ashraf residents.
Just seven months later, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp, whose inhabitants include around 1,000 women. In the ensuing clashes, at least nine residents were killed and scores injured. On April 8, 2011, Iraqi security forces moved into the camp again, using what Amnesty International termed "grossly excessive force and live fire." Thirty-six residents were killed and more than 300 wounded.
So much for respecting assurances to the Americans.
Repeating, Barack's stated that he would be fine with sending troops back into Iraq. Are you prepared for that possibility?
Are you prepared for the fact that insta-polling is complete bulls**T. I just want to scream when dumb ass like Conn speak. I can remember, for example, a number of people gloating in 1991. They insisted that they were right and that Anita Hill wasn't believable. That was an insta-polling result. But people need time to think and come to their own conclusions. And not only did the polling shift after the media found a new topic to gossip about while pretending they were investigating but the outrageous treatment of Anita Hill set the stage for the gender quake of 1992.
Insta-polling is pretty much meaningless with one exception: 15%. If someone below 52% doesn't get at least a 15% bounce in insta-polling, there's no victory in sight. When the news media obsesses over one thing -- be it an economic plan or a budget cut or whatever -- it can and does shape opinion but that's for a brief time. If the best it can turn out is a 15% increase, that's going to vanish in less than three months. That's the only thing to study in an insta-poll.
The news media has (falsely) sold ALL US TROOPS LEAVE IRAQ. They have failed to adquately convey what the State Dept will be doing. It's no surprise that people are embracing what the media and the government's selling. But things change. And as George H.W. Bush found out with a war bump of his own, public opinion can change very quickly.
If Republican candidates want to argue against what Barack's done or that he's lost Iraq, the better argument for them would revolve around the March 2010 elections and the White House's decision to back Nouri al-Maliki for a second term. They pressured Ayad Allawi to go along with it, they pressured the Kurds to go along with it. Without that pressure, Nouri wouldn't be prime minister. And after noting that, they could talk about how Nouri's a dictator and they could quote to back it up. Quote Nouri? Americans don't know Nouri. They do know Hillary Clinton. They do know Joe Biden. They do know Barbara Boxer. They know them and a lot of others and that's who they should quote. In fact, they should quote Joe Biden on how the US was being asked to recognize a government that's not even a real one and doesn't even exist.
By refusing to honor the will of the Iraqi people, by backing Nouri al-Maliki and doing deals behind the scenes to ensure Nouri remained in office, you could argue -- and history probably will -- that Barack and his advisors made a huge, huge mistake.
When Joe Biden called out Nouri and Nouri's government, Nouri at least had a full Cabinet. The State Dept wants to spend milliions of US tax payer dollars to train the Minry of the Interior. Almost a year ago, Nouri was allowed a second term as prime minister. He's still not nominated a minister for that ministry. But the US tax payer is supposed to do without and go through budget cuts so that a headless cabinet can get training?
The Iraq War was wrong from the start. It could go on for forty more years and it would still be wrong. It was very, very stupid of the administration not to immediately end the Iraq War. They could have announced the end of it when Barack came in by sending the SOFA to the Senate where it would not have passed. They could have then said there was no treaty since the Senate didn't approve it. If that seemed to be too quick, Barack could have notified Baghdad that he wanted to cancel the SOFA. He could have done that immediately upon being sworn in. That means the Iraq War would have ended one year later in January 2010 -- something many who voted for him thought Barack had promised.
Some will argue that he couldn't cancel it. That's because those who never read the SOFA liked to make a lot of claims. But Article 30, section 3 explains how to cancel the SOFA:
This Agreement shall terminate one year after a Party provides written notification to the other Party to that effect.
Know how else people could argue Barack 'lost' Iraq? By allowing the US State Dept to be unresponsive and hidden. Josh Rogin (Foreign Policy) observed yesterday:
The Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) -- led by Stuart Bowen -- has been embroiled in a fight with the State Department, which has blocked SIGIR inspectors from assessing State's multi-billion dollar Iraqi police training program.
The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) reported last week that SIGIR managed to complete the report, which stated that the State Department "does not have a current assessment of Iraqi police forces' capabilities ... such an assessment is essential for effective program targeting."
"The SIGIR audit berated [the State Department] in its first sentence for failing to cooperate in the investigation, which 'resulted in limited access to key officials and documents,'" POGO noted. "The IG was still able to complete the investigation however, through 'limited discussions' and 'documents obtained from other sources.'"
Professor Chris Busby, from the School of Biomedical Science, University of Ulster, believes that the United States severely overstepped the boundaries of international law and is the likely suspect in the use of not just deadly depleted uranium, a growing subject in the world, but actual U-235 enriched weapons-grade uranium from a neutron bomb.
Those are the weapons that kill biological life but leave structures and landscape otherwise intact. You could call it the ultimate irony; discovering that illegal nuclear weapons were used in Fallujah, Iraq by the United States; the country that led the world down the trail of deceit by falsely declaring that Iraq had 'weapons of mass destruction'.
Nothing like full-blown hypocrisy for a new national image. And we thought the world already didn't like us, this new understanding will be life changing if it is half of what it seems to be. has reported the extraordinary rate of heart defects in Fallujah,
and we have also reported the widespread problems in war torn countries connected to depleted uranium.
Now a
new report from Bob Nichols published by Veterans Today exposes the dirty reality of this evolving story.
The Canadian adds, "A new paper published in Conflict and Health has analysed hair samples from parents of children born with congenital malformations in Fallujah. The hair had high levels of Calcium, Magnesium, Strontium, Aluminium, Bismuth, Mercury and Uranium. Of these, only Uranium is associated with cancer and birth defects. Uranium levels were significantly higher than expected on the basis of published measurements of uncontaminated populations. The levels were highest in the distal ends of the longest hair, which would have been growing in 2005." Did the second battle of/on Falluja make the war 'worth it' and legal? No. Not even with the decepitve 'reporting' of Dexter Filkins.
Last week Salahuddin Province's council voted in favor of becoming semi-autonomous like the KRG. They notified the central government in Baghdad of their decision and it is now, per Article 119 of the Constitution, time to schedule a referendum to allow the citizens of the province to vote on whether or not to become semi-autonomous. Al Sabaah reports MP Mohammed Kayani is declaring that the final say will go to the Federal Court. For those who've forgotten or missed it, Nouri controls that court. Per the Constitution, the Federal Court has no say in the matter. If you don't have a Constitutional framework, you don't have a rule of law. If you've gone to the trouble of drafting a constitution and passing it and you then proceed to ignore it at every opportunity, you're not a democracy and you've wasted everyone's time on a Constitution that is meaningless.

To pull together a Constitution, the drafters had to recognize the rights of all. Now that Little Nouri is the New Saddam and has resorted to one power grab after another, any thoughts of sacrifice for the greater good or making concessions have left his and apparently his party's radar. It's all about grabbing more and more power. So a Constitution that recongized the rights of all Iraqis is no longer something that Nouri or Dawa feels vested in.

Al Sumaria TV reports that the tribal government in Kirkuk has declared it supports the right of self-determination for all provinces. Alsumaria TV also notes that Iraqiya is pointing out Nouri's lack of leadership on the issue and how his actions are only increasing divisions in the country. As if dying to prove how right Iraqiya is, Nouri opened his big mouth again. Al Mada reports that he was in Dhi Qar Province and made remarks about how 'some' political parties are actually havens for terrorism. He's never learned how to be stately but he can do the most bitter partisanship twenty-four seven.

And he's fueling divisions with his crackdown on political opponents as he cries "Ba'athist!" in his never-ending witch hunt. How does that play out to the Sunni population? We'll note this from Ayub Nuri's report for Rudaw:

Aseel al-Nujayfi, the Sunni governor of Nineveh and head of the Hadba bloc, came out in support of the arrested Baathists and warned that Iraq is returning to "sectarian violence."
Nujayfi said, "We have to benefit from these people's professions, to let them participate in civil and political life and use their expertise to rebuild the new Iraq."
He added, "The Iraqi government is sticking to its promise to eradicate Baathism in Iraq."

Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Her office notes this on veterans employment:

Washington, DC -- Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Max Baucus (D-MT) unveiled the "VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011," which combines a key component of President Obama's jobs bill with a related, bipartisan initiative to boost employment opportunities for veterans.

After serving our country honorably, all veterans deserve the chance to earn a paycheck and support their families. Unfortunately, the unemployment rate for veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan remains stubbornly high. Borrowing from the American Jobs Act proposed by the President, the bill unveiled Friday would offer a tax credit for companies that hire unemployed veterans, and will increase existing tax credits for companies that hire veterans with service-connected disabilities. In addition, following negotiations with House Republicans, the legislation contains bipartisan provisions to ensure that all service members transitioning to civilian life receive the job training skills they need to find a job.

Cost estimates for the fully paid-for legislation were expected to be available Monday after the bill is filed. It is expected to be offered as an amendment to separate legislation that eliminates a withholding requirement for government contractors.

"The bill we are introducing is a bipartisan and comprehensive approach to getting our nation's veterans back to work," said Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs. "It includes Republican and Democratic ideas because getting our veterans the financial security and dignity a job provides should never be partisan. For too long in this country we have patted our veterans on the back for their service and then pushed them out into the job market alone. With this bill we are giving our veterans the job skills to get their foot in the door and incentivizing employers to make sure that door is open to them."

"No veteran should stand at the back of any unemployment line," Senator Debbie Stabenow said. "When we say 'support our troops' that can't just be lip-service, we must support them through action. Congress shouldn't just pass a resolution honoring Veterans Day next week, it needs to take real action to help America's one million unemployed veterans get back to work."

"Our commitment to our service members shouldn't end when they return home as skilled, experienced civilians. Today, the unemployment rate for young veterans is 27 percent—which is simply unacceptable. That means more than one in four of these young veterans can't find a job to support their family or to ease the transition to civilian life," Senator Sherrod Brown said. "Our veterans' service to our country does not stop when they leave the military. From leadership experience to technical and scientific skills, veterans are key to our nation's economic competitiveness."

"It's unacceptable that veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have a higher unemployment rate than the rest of America, and we owe them better than that," Senator Jon Tester said. "We have a responsibility to empower all veterans with the tools they need to find good-paying jobs. And this plan incorporates bipartisan ideas to ease the transition between military service and the civilian workforce."

"The unemployment level we are seeing among our veterans is a disgrace, and hits home especially hard in Montana, because we have more vets per capita than almost anywhere else. That's why it's so important we pass this legislation to give tax credits to businesses that hire veterans and make it easier for veterans to translate the valuable skills they learn in combat to civilian employment. I'm also committed to continue working to cut down on red tape and make it even easier for businesses to take advantage of this tax credit. Creating jobs is our number one priority, and there is no better place to start than with our veterans - especially right now with thousands of troops set to return home from Iraq by the end of the year," said Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus.


Tax credit of up to $5,600 for hiring veterans who have been looking for a job for more than six months, as well as a $2,400 credit for veterans who are unemployed for more than 4 weeks, but less than 6 months.

Tax credit of up to $9,600 for hiring veterans with service-connected disabilities who have been looking for a job for more than six months.

Makes the Transition Assistance Program (TAP)—an interagency workshop coordinated by Departments of Defense, Labor and Veterans Affairs—mandatory for service members moving on to civilian life to help them secure 21st Century jobs through resume writing workshops and career counseling.

Expands education and training opportunities for older veterans by providing 100,000 unemployed veterans of past eras and wars with up to 1-year of additional Montgomery GI benefits to go towards education or training programs at community colleges or technical schools.

Provides disabled veterans up to 1-year of additional Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Benefits.

Allows service members to begin the federal employment process prior to separation in order to facilitate a truly seamless transition from the military to jobs at VA, Homeland Security, or the many other federal agencies in need of our veterans.


Veterans Account For Approximately 9.5% Of The Adult U.S. Population. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), in 2010, 20.2 million men and 1.8 million women in the civilian population were veterans. Of them, 2.2 million were veterans who served in the Gulf War-ear II, which is any time after September 2001, and approximately two-thirds of these recent veterans are under 35 years old. Women account for 17% of Gulf War-era II veterans. Furthermore, according to BLS, about 25% (530,000) of Gulf War-era II veterans reported having a service connected disability, whereas only 13% of all veterans have reported a service-connected disability. [BLS Employment Situation of Veterans, 10/20/11.]

* You can access state-by-state veterans statistics for 2010 HERE.

* You can access county-by-county veterans statistics for 2010 HERE.

Although The Overall Unemployment Rate For Veterans Is Lower Than The National Figure, The Unemployment Rate Among Veterans Returning From Iraq and Afghanistan Has Risen to 12.1%. The national unemployment rate for October was 9.0%, while the overall veterans' unemployment rate was 7.7%. However, the joblessness rate for Gulf War-era II veterans, of which two thirds are younger than 35 years old, is 12.1%, up from 10.6% at this time last year. Within this group of returning veterans, 240,000 are now unemployed, up nearly 30,000 in the last year. The youngest veterans are the ones having the hardest time finding work. According to BLS, "Young male veterans (those ages 18-24) who served during Gulf War-era II had an unemployment rate of 21.9% in 2010." [BLS Employment Situation, 11/4/11; BLS Employment Situation of Veterans, 10/20/11; BLS Veterans Employment Figures, 11/4/11.]

Although We Are Making Progress, Veterans Are Over Represented in the Homeless Population, Accounting for 11.5% of All Homeless Adults. During a one year period, an estimated 144,842 veterans spent at least one night in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program, according to a recent report released by the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Veterans Affairs (VA). While that figure is down 3% from last year, it is still an unacceptably high number. Veterans comprise roughly 9.5% of the total U.S. population, but account for approximately 11.5% of all homeless adults in America. In 2010, 1 in 150 veterans were homeless, and 1 in 16 veterans had an income below the poverty line. On a given night in 2010, over 76,000 veterans were homeless. Furthermore, in line with the high unemployment rate for younger veterans, "Young veterans in poverty are almost four times more likely to be homeless than their non-veteran counterparts in poverty." [HUD's 2010 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR), 10/28/11.]

  • You can access state-by-state statistics on veterans' homelessness from 2010 HERE.

GOP Senators Support Veterans Hiring Incentives:

Sen. Murkowski Said She Was "Proud" To Add Her Name To A Bill That Gives Veterans The Skills They Need To Compete For Jobs "It is tragic our men and women in uniform come back from combat and find that some federal and private sector employers do not appreciate, or question, how veterans' skill-sets and commitment translate to the workplace. I am proud to add my name to a bill that gives veterans the skills they need to compete for jobs, an opportunity for a non-competitive appointment to the federal civil service, and enhanced vocational rehabilitation if they need it. Actions speak louder than words, and I hope this bill empowers our men and women of action with the skills and the support to hear the words: 'You're hired.'" [Press Release, 5/11/11]

Sen. Hutchison Said She Could Support Preferring Veterans for Jobs "Preferring veterans for job creation; we're for that."[WSJ Opinion Journal, 9/15/11]

Sen. Enzi Supported Veterans Hiring Programs. "Helping our veterans turn the skills they learned in the military into a rewarding job not only honors our promise to take care of those who served their country, it helps guarantee all of our cities, towns and counties have the highest quality emergency medical personnel available." [Press Release, 9/13/11]

Sen. Johanns Supported Help For Unemployed Veterans. The unemployment rate of our returning service members is a concerning sign that we are not doing enough to help them assimilate into their communities once they have completed their tours of duty They are more than deserving of our greater efforts to get them back on an even playing field in the job market." [Press Release, 11/12/09]

Sen. Grassley Supported "Financial Incentives" For Veterans Hiring. "These men and women are extremely capable. They have a lot of skills to offer in the workplace. This legislation will clear some bureaucratic hurdles and add a financial incentive to encourage employers to seek out veterans. These steps are a logical follow-up to my effort to increase the IRS' hiring of veterans. The IRS saw the value of this pool of potential workers and followed through on increased hiring of veterans. Other employers, including small businesses, should have similar opportunities." [Press Release, 1/26/11]

Sen. Boozman Supported Funding to Help Homeless Veterans Get Back Into Society and Into Jobs. "While the VA data shows that we are making progress in reducing the number of homeless veterans, there is still a need to get our veterans off the streets and into jobs. … To be successful in returning veterans to full members of society, it is vital that homeless veterans programs offer more than just shelter and meals. Services such as substance abuse treatment, mental health services are needed to lay the foundation for a return to work whenever possible. It is the ability to make one's way in the world - to contribute rather than just take - that gives a sense of self-worth and pride." [House Floor Speech, 3/30/09]


Wednesday, November 02, 2011

TV or not TV

Sunny read an e-mail that had us both laughing. The person e-mailing was very angry and 'knew' me. For example, I don't cover a TV show because I think I'm too good for it.


That's why I don't cover a TV show?

There are a million reasons why I don't cover a TV show, that's not one of them.

One of the main reasons I don't cover one is because I can't commit to a show. Sorry. I can, and do, watch or 'watch' some every week. But most of the time, I'm just vegging out in a waking sleep basically, worn out from the day.

Another reason is C.I. I would do so many spoilers because I don't pay attention. So I'd be thinking, "Oh, this is the show that C.I.'s friend ___ produces/stars in/writes for and this character must be the one that's going to be killed off and . . ." For example, there's a show you do not want me to cover. I was present for C.I.'s end of the phone call. There's a show that its network loves but it did not love the storyline. The producer called C.I. mainly to gripe because the whole season was set and now it was all tossed aside -- after episodes started airing. C.I. said, "They just objected to ____." "Okay, well swing the B story over and give this to ___ and that should do the trick." It was a bit more involved than that. At any rate, the producer hung up and called back an hour later to say the writers loved it and it would let them keep the story because the network was fine with it as long as it wasn't the lead that the storyline happened to.

Equally true, in the 90s, C.I. mentored a lot of creative talent -- more by accident than any effort to mentor -- and a lot of them have TV shows on. So there are some shows that I would pull my punches if I covered just because I knew them via C.I. and knew them as emerging -- which they no longer are -- and would have a hard time treating them harshly even if the work required it.

I am by no means mad at the e-mail. I laughed. But, sorry, to ___, you really do not know me at all.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Wednesday, November 2, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, moves for semi-autonomy continues among provinces in Iraq, Camp Ashraf residents fear a new assault, the US supplies Turkey with military hardware, and more.
Starting with violence, let's look at the past month. October 1st 6 were reported dead and five injured; October 2nd 1 was reported dead; October 3rd 6 were dead and eleven injured; October 4th 3 were reported dead and fifteen injured; October 5th 9 were reported dead and thirty-six injured; October 6th 1 was reported dead and ten injured; October 7th 10 were reported dead and twenty-seven injured; October 8th were reported 2 dead and 16 wounded, October 9th two were reported dead, October 10th 15were reported dead and thirteen injured; October 11th 4 were reported dead and four injured; October 12 were 28 reported dead and eighty-three injured; October 13th 27 dead and forty-five injured; October 14th 3 were reported dead and eight injured; October 15th 2 were reported dead and one injured; October 19th 1 was reported dead and four injured; October 21st 2 were reported dead and fourteen injured, October 23rd 6 were reported dead and twelve injured; October 24th 5 were reported dead and twenty-four injured; October 25th 6 were reported dead and twenty-eight injured; October 27th 24 were reported dead and fifty-three injured; October 28th 21 were reported dead and one injured; October 29th 4 were reported dead and eleven injured; October 30th 7 were reported dead and eight injured; and October 31st 5 were reported dead and two injured. That's 197 dead and 424 injured. Those were the reported dead and wounded we caught here. That's not, by any means, all the dead or wounded. Iraq Body Count 356 Iraqis were killed. Ali al-Saadi (AFP) reports that the official numbers from the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense was 258 killed. As usual, the 'official' number is an undercount. From the start of the month to the end, the number of US military personnel who died serving in the Iraq War increased by 4.
Violence continued today. Aref Mohammed (Reuters) reports 3 bombings "outside three cafes" in Basra today resulted in 8 deaths with dozens more injured. AFP notes they were all motorcycle bombings. Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing claimed 2 lives and a second Mosul roadside bombing left a child injured. Mazin Yahya (AP) notes a Kirkuk bombing claimed the lives of a 12-year-old male and the boy's father.
Al Mada reports that negotiations continue for US military forces to remain in Iraq beyond 2011 and that both the Iraqi government and the US government agree that some US presence is needed for training Iraqi forces. The report also notes that 'trainers' could get immunity via either the arrangement with the State Dept or NATO.

Eli Lake (The Daily Beast) speaks with Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction and reports:

Last month, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Iraq was continuing to negotiate the details of the post-2011 U.S. training mission in his country.
Bowen said the Iraqi army has some important bright spots. "The military and police are better equipped and trained than they have ever been before in modern Iraqi history, but they have a significant way to go before the military is capable of external defense, defending its borders," he said, singling out Iraq's special operations forces in particular. "They are among the best in the Middle East, if not the best."
In the latest report from Bowen's office, released Friday, Gen. Babakir Zibari said Iraq is not capable of providing for the country's external defense now, though he added that the country may be able to suppress internal strife. He also said in an interview published in the report that Iraq's air force will not be capable defending the country's air space until 2020.
"The Iraqi air force is still at a very rudimentary phase," Bowen said. "They have no jet aircraft -- they rely on rotary wing aircraft."

The last time we corrected Joel Wing it was not pretty on his end so prepare to cue up Jackson Browne's "Here Come Those Tears Again." Wing writes, "The 2008 Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed between Washington and Baghdad allows for a police training mission past the December 31, 2011 withdrawal date."
How did the SOFA get so screwed up in the coverage? Because people don't know what the hell they're talking about but continue yapping away. Several e-mails came in asking if Joel Wing is correct? Of course not.
Before we get into anything else, let's deal with a basic of contract law. Remember this and you'll never have to wonder when someone makes an idiotic statement whether they're right or wrong: When a contract expires, it expires. If you sign a contract to star in one film for Paramount and also sign a contract to star in one film for Universal and you finishing filming the Paramount picture and begin shooting the Universal one, no one would be stupid -- hopefully, no one would be stupid enough to say -- "The Paramount contract allows for ___ to make the film with Universal." A contract's only good for what a contract's good for. And when a contract's done -- as it appears the SOFA is -- then it's done. The SOFA appears to expire December 31, 2011. Something could change tomorrow and the US and Iraq could decide to extend it. Barring that, the SOFA is set to expire December 31, 2011.
An expired contract is an expired contract. That's so basic that if you can't grasp that, you really need to be checking legal issues with others before writing about them. So now that we've established that the SOFA -- unless it's renewed or extended -- has no say beyond December 31, 2011 when it is currently set to expire, what is the governing document? As we've noted repeatedly, it's the Strategic Framework Agreement. And we could offer many State Department officials testifying to Congress on this topic as reported in earlier snapshots. But to make it real easy for cry babies, we'll instead link to this State Dept page of the Ambassador Iraq Transition Coordinator Patricia Haslach, testifying to Congress (link is text and video) on June 1st of this year and we'll offer this excerpt:
The Strategic Framework Agreement sends a strong signal that our relationship with Iraq extends far beyond miltary support alone. The agreement focuses on seven areas of cooperation: political and diplomatic; defense and security; cultural; economic and energy; health and environment; information technology and communications; and law enforcement and judicial. In 2009, Secretary Clinton hosted Prime Minister Maliki for a Higher Coordinating Committee meeting to lay out our shared vision for this reinvigorated partnership. Ambassador Jeffrey, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, and other U.S. officials in Iraq work to implement this vision on a daily basis. Our partners in the interagency -- including Commerce, Energy, Justice, Transporation, and Treasury -- play a crucial role in sharing expertise. The SFA is the cornerstone of U.S. diplomatic efforts in Iraq, and its vision of parternship pervades all of our efforts and steers our future goals.
Or you can click here -- still State Dept -- for Michael Corbin (Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs) specifically invoking the Strategic Framework Agreement on August 16, 2010 in a press briefing with Colin Kahl. And if all of that doesn't do the trick for you, check out the Special Inspector General on Iraq Reconstruction's October 24th report [PDF format warning] entitled "Iraqi Police Development Program: Opportunites For Improved Program Accountability And Budget Transparency." On page two of the report, you'll find this: "The Strategic Framework Agreement between the United States and Iraq, signed in November 2008, provided a basis for continuing bilateral law enforcement and judicial training. One provision directed cooperation on enhancing law enforcement. The PDP grew out of this agreement." PDP is "Police Development Program."
I hope we're clear on that now. It's no sin to be wrong. We're all wrong at some point and I'm more wrong than anyone else. It's a mistake to pretend you're not wrong. And while we're talking about the Strategic Framework Agreement, there's a reason we've emphasized it so much this year and last: We didn't cover it.
In real time, it's a sentence here, a sentence there. In November 2008, we weren't interested. If you leave out the shoe tossing incident -- that occured when Bully Boy Bush and Nouri al-Maliki were signing both the Strategic Framework Agreement and the SOFA -- you'll find very little of it in 2008 or 2009.
And that's my mistake. I focused on the SOFA because that's what hearings were held on that's what Senators and Representatives -- of both parties -- were objecting to. I never foresaw the possibility that diplomacy would be militarized and the SFA would be used in any way other than it had been in the past. That was my mistake and don't I look like a fool today over that? Absolutely. I was wrong, I was stupid and I was foolish. And copping to all of that? Didn't make the sky fall in. Didn't mean my life ended or I collapsed in tears. It's a fact of life, if you're going to try to cover something, you're going to make mistakes. When you do, the smartest thing is to admit to it.
I don't play on the SOFA and the reason for that is because enough lies were given on that already. Here we told the truth about the SOFA. And those who think the illegal war is really over should grasp that their belief system needs to include praise that Iraq balked at immunity. Because the SOFA didn't mean the war ended ever. And as we always stated it could expire, it could be renewed it could be replaced. If others had bothered to be truthful, the Iraq War might really be ending or it might have ended a long time ago. Instead a number of serial liars provided non-stop spin and declared the Iraq War over. Leslie Cagan, that means you and the leadership or 'leadership' of United For Peace & Justice.
By the same token, the same serial liars -- we were dealing Tom Hayden just yesterday -- are backing spinning again. They're lying and they need to stop. A friend at State explains the announcement Barack made last month as giving him and Nouri a 'victory' for their domestic audiences and then when 'trainers' go in (the friend believes that the negotiations will be successful and trainers will go in), Barack and Nouri will both still insist they ended the war and occupation. I don't know. What I do know is that negotiations are ongoing. What I do know is the Iraqi press is very interested in those negotiations. What I do know is Moqtada al-Sadr is concerned enough that he's called an emergency session of Parliament and stated that Nouri needs to call of his visit to DC next month.
I'm not a psychic. I can't tell you what's going to happen. I can provide a list of possibilities. And we did that with the SOFA and we were attacked for doing that. People who whore themselves to the Democratic Party were really interested in attacking us. And now there's a small group -- including this site -- who are interested in trying to get across that the negotiations have not ended, that the 'lovely' speech was spin. Do I get some great thrill in doing this?
No, I'm damn tired of it and I wish to hell people would start doing the jobs they say they hold -- whether that's reporter or leader of the left.
Here is what we know about the US and Iraq after December 31, 2011. 1) The CIA will maintain its presence. 2) Special-Ops will maintain their presence. 3) The Iraqi Air Force is not trained and cannot patrol its own airspace and really doesn't have the equipment for that at present. 4) The US Embassy in Baghdad will have Marines (as all US embassies do) and they will have soldiers as well. The Iraqi press is concerned with how many. The American press likes to keep repeating the 'all' lie. 5) The US Embassy in Baghdad will oversee 'security' contractors. 6) Negotiations are ongoing between DC and Baghdad on the issue of 'trainers.' 7) Kuwait and others will be used -- as Barack noted they would in 2007 -- as a staging platform for US troops.
That's what we know. There are rumors -- the big one in the Iraqi press today was whispers that Nouri had approved 200 "trainers" -- granted them immunity. But in terms of what is known, that's not what people think they heard in the speech. And on number seven, Lolita C. Baldor (AP) is reporting, "While all but a small number of U.S. troops will be out of Iraq by the end of the year, they won't all be home for the holidays as President Barack Obama promised last month. The Pentagon is poised to move at least 4,000 soldiers from Iraq to Kuwait at the end of the year, pending a final decision expected soon by Pentagon and Kuwaiti leaders, U.S. officials said Wednesday." Somewhere Tom Hayden's clutching the pearls and calling for the smelling salts.

If you don't like those seven realities -- and I don't (although I can live with the Marine half of number four) -- then you need to be objecting now. Not in January, not a year from now. Gallup published a poll today -- they did a random sample of 992 American adults and the survey has a 4% plus/minus margin of error. Asked if they approve of Barack's decision, 75% of "All Americans" say they approve. 21% say they disapprove. But do they know what's going on because the media's done a very poor job of explaining what was going on and so-called voices of peace like Tom Hayden have ignored reality and, when forced to address any of the seven realities we noted two paragraphs up, dismiss it as fantasy. Well Tom used to take joy in the killing of Palestinians as well, I do remember. I'm not really sure he's who we need to go to for ethical advice.
Joel Wing mentions the Interior Ministry, how the US State Dept will be helping to strengthen it. He should do a piece on why?
Why should the US waste their time on the Ministry of Interior? Or the US tax payers money? Nouri was named prime minister-designate in November 2010. He was supposed to name a Cabinet -- not a partial one, a Cabinet -- in order to move to prime minister (per the Constitution). He didn't. It's now one year later.
The Ministry of Interior, that the US government is going to spend millions of tax payer dollars to 'assist' and 'train,' still has no Minister. An 'acting minister' isn't a minister. An acting minister is a puppet. Without him or her going through the Constitutional process, they have no protection and serve only as long as Nouri wants them to. They are his puppets. If you've forgotten our 'brilliant' US press assured us as December came to a close that Nouri would name ministers for Interior, Defense and National Security in a matter of weeks.
He still hasn't. Does anyone know what March is? Yeah, it's the anniversary start of the Iraq War. But it will also be two years after Iraq held elections. Those elections were to determine the national government (citizens voted on members in the Parliament). In four months, it will be two years after those elections and Iraq still doesn't have ministers for the three security ministries. But the US government is willing to throw away tax payer dollars -- during The Great Recession -- on training a department that's so unimportant to Nouri, he won't even nominate a head for it and take that nomination to Parliament for a confirmation (or denial). We'll pick up there tomorrow. Let's stay with the New Saddam.

Nouri's crackdown on 'Ba'athists' has taken a lot of attention off the continued targeting of Sahwa also known as "Sons Of Iraq" and "Awakenings." These are largely Sunni fighters who were paid by the US government to stop attacking US military equipment and US troops. (That's Gen David Petraeus explanation from April 2008.) Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) speaks with Sahwa leader Abu Azzam al-Tamimi who states there are 50,000 Sahwa left in Iraq, 30,000 of which are in Baghdad. (At their height, there were approximately 98,000 according to Petraeus' 2008 Congressional testimony.) When the US turned control of the Sahwa over to Nouri, there were promises of bringing them into the process via government jobs. That never really happened and al-Tamimi notes it is unlikely to happen by year's end when the program is supposed to end. What happens when these Sahwa, who've struggled for pay and have waited not just for checks but also for government jobs, get nothing? Does that increase security in Iraq or does dismissing and ignoring one time armed rebels mean that they rejoin the resistance?

Nouri's never going to be mistaken for a smart person. Back to his crackdown on political enemies. Dar Addustour reports politicians are calling on Nouri to release the over 600 Iraqis he's had arrested recently. And they report that more were arrested yesterday in Basra -- two journalists working for Basra radio: Mohammad Matouk and Zia Albzona. Al Rafidayn carries an article on the "Sons of the General Command of Jihad and Liberation" which is supposedly a Ba'athist group and supposedly distributing pamphlets throughout Nasiriyah demanding people joing them in a coup attempt against Dhi Qar Province. Last week Reidar Visser (Gulf Analysis) pointed out, "Suffice to say in this context that the Iraqi constitution actually offers pro-active protection of former members of the Baath. Article 135-5 explicitly says 'mere membership of the Baath party is not a sufficient basis for transfer to the court'. Article 7 of the constitution outlaws propagation of a number of political ideologies where Baathism is mentioned alongside racism, terrorism and ethnic cleansing, but stipulates the passage of a law by parliament to codify this more precisely, which has yet to be done. In other words, there is no basis whatsoever for prosecuting anyone for simply having been a Baathist member -- and arguably, at the current time, not even for propagation of Baathism since this is not covered by any specific form of legislation."
Dar Addustour also reports that Sheikh Ali Hatem Suleiman states he was at his office last night when the government attempted to harm him either by arrest or by killing him. The government states that they raided his home yesterday and that this was over a property dispute.

Moqtada al-Sadr has called for an emergency session of Parliament to discuss what the US is doing in Iraq and what the plans are. That session is scheduled for tomorrow. (He's also called for Nouri al-Maliki not to go to DC next month.) Dar Addustour reports that a meeting is to be held at Jalal Talabani's home and there's some indication the meeting may take place today, ahead of the emergency session. It's also noted that when the meeting does take place the topics will include US Vice President Joe Biden's scheduled trip to Iraq this month.
Iran borders Iraq and Iranian dissidents came to Iraq, on the invitation of Saddam Hussein, after the fall of the Shah of Iran and the rise of the Ayatollah. Less than 4,000 remain and reside in Camp Ashraf. The US invaded Iraq in 2003 and entered into negotiations (the government and the military -- more so the military but the government oversaw those negotiations and could have stepped in at any minute). In exchange for disarming, certain guarantees were made and, most importantly, international law kicked in making the resident "protected persons." At the start of 2009, the US turned responsibilities over to Nouri al-Maliki who swore the residents would be protected. He has now ordered two assaults on the Camp. He has announced that the camp will be shut by year's end. He has floated publicly sending them back to Iran. He and his government have also spoken of breaking them up and dispersing them throughout the country -- because Iraq's so very good and safe for minorities apparently.

UK Progressive post a transcript of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifying before the US House Foreign Affairs Committee. (The transcript focuses solely on her remarks about Camp Ashraf.) The date of the hearing isn't noted. Presumably this is from her October 27th appearance before the Committee. But this is a typical exchange and it also goes to misreporting that some may remember.

Rep. (Judge) Ted Poe (R-TX): Thank you Madam Secretary, thank you Madam Chair. I will try to make this to the point. Last time you and I talked in this very room, we talked about the safety of camp Ashraf. That was in March and then later in April, Iraqi soldiers came in and killed people in Camp Ashraf. People disagree on how that occurred but people did that. Right now, on 31st [December] United States is leaving, I am not discussing that, but also on 31st, Maleki has made it clear that the camp is going to close. When we were in Iraq this summer, Chairman Rohrabacher, myself and others on this committee, we met with Maleki on the issue of Camp Ashraf. It got very heated. We wanted to go see the camp, he refused to let us see it. And later, we learned when we were flying around in a Black Hawk, that we have been invited to leave the country based upon that discussion with him. But the number one thing he said about the way Iraq treated Camp Ashraf was the US designation of the MEK. He spent all of his time saying this is the reason they are treated the way they are because you, the United States, have designated them as a foreign terrorist organization. My concern, first of all, is the safety of the people in Camp Ashraf when that 31st comes. They are in fear. 85 of those people some are Americans and the others of that 85 that are there among the 2000, are permanent residents of the US. So, my question is, what are we doing through the end to make sure they extend the deadline so the people can do what necessary through the UN to get out of Iraq and go somewhere in the world. And second, the long term issue of the MEK designation. I am encouraged by your words last night that you made regarding that. So, those are my two issues and my two questions to you Madam Secretary.

Secretary Clinton: Well, congressman, I can assure you that I am personally very focused on trying to make sure that we protect the safety of the residents of the camp. I, and our department and our administration strongly condemned the violence that led to the deaths. Regardless of how that happened, the fact is, you are right, 36 residents died because of the violence on April the 8th. We are monitoring the situation as closely as we can. We see no evidence suggesting that there is any other imminent attack on Ashraf and we continue to urge the government of Iraq to show restraint. As I said earlier, we do have written assurances from the government of Iraq to treat the Ashraf residents humanely, to follow their international obligations which they have, as long as the residents remain in the country, and not to transfer anyone to any country where that person could be persecuted as a result of their political or religious beliefs. And so, we are trying to nail down as much as we can to provide some protective screen for the residents. We know that they have approached; that we have also pushed the UNHCR to have even more of a presence, to do more, to try to move as many of the status determinations as they can. So this is an area of deep concern to us and we are moving on many fronts and we are also going to move as expeditiously as possible to a final resolution on the designation.

If you've forgotten the misreporting, it had the US House members kicked out of Iraq. That was not what happened. As usual Nouri presented a fake front. He waited until after the delegation was on its way out of the country to thump his chest and play the big man for his domestic audience. Poe's remarks are consistent with others on the trip.

James Morrison (Washington Times) notes claims that Nouri's forces are gearing up for another assault on the camp. I have no idea whether that's true or not (nor does Morrison present himself as knowing whether it's true or not). But what is known is that Nouri gave assurances to both the previous and the current US Administrations. And he still assaulted the Camp twice. Certain members of the British Parliament have publicly accused the US government of complicity in the attacks noting that then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq both times when the assaults took place.
Another nation borders Iraq from the north as well, Turkey. Since August 17th, the latest wave of attacks on northern Iraq by the Turkish military have taken place. The military states its targeting PKK -- a group of Kurdish rebels. In the process, they are terrorizing the villagers and damaging the Iraq countryside with their bombing raids. They could attempt to address the reason the PKK has power -- injustice to Kurds in Turkey -- but instead they just 'know' that tomorrow will be peaceful if they just drop enough bombs today. And, of course, if they continue to target Kurds and Kurdish sympathizers within Turkey. Yeah, that'll work out great. Sebnem Arsu (New York Times) reports a crackdown on "pro-Kurdish political activists" in Turkey including over 20 ordered held in confinement by a court yesterday. This comes as the Turkish military continues its assault on northern Iraq. And as it tries to tout its own reputation as a leader in the region. Suppressing freedom domestically won't help its image but refusing to bring to justice the police officer who shot 17-year-old Ferhat Gercek four years ago and left him paralyzed hasn't demonstrated the Turkish government's overly concerned with how they're seen abroad. Nor will blaming European governments for their own problems. Anna Reimann (Der Spiegel) reports as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan prepares to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel:

Yet another problem between the two countries is the PKK conflict, with Turkish politicians repeatedly attacking the German government and accusing Berlin of indirectly protecting the Kurdish terrorists. "Twice as many PKK members live in Germany as in the Qandil mountains in northern Iraq," claimed Cemil Cecik -- speaker of the Turkish parliament and a party colleague of Erdogan -- according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung. The prime minister himself has criticized German foundations and accused them of funding the PKK.
One thing is certain: As a regional power, Turkey is starting to flex its muscles. Erdogan was hailed during a visit to the region following the Arab revolts in Tunisia and Egypt and became the symbolic head of the freedom movement. The moderate Islamists who were victorious in the recent Tunisian elections model their Islamic political framework on that of his governing Justice and Development Party (AKP). Erdogan recently made his country's opinion of its own power unmistakeably clear: "Our interests range from the Suez Canal to the Indian Ocean," he said.

One country rushing in to give the Turkish government a stamp of approval and then some is the US. Craig Whitlock (Washington Post) reports, "The Pentagon has agreed to sell three attack helicopters to Turkey and is trying to persuade Congress to sell highly coveted Predator or Reaper drones to its increasingly influential ally in the Middle East, defense officials said Tuesday." Press TV adds, "Turkey's Mynet news website reported on Tuesday that it has taken a year to build the radar base, which is totally under US control, according to the Press TV correspondent in Ankara." AFP notes that the US is selling Turkey 3 AH-1 Super Cobra helicoptersand that US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta met with Turkey's Defense Secretary Ismet Yildiz yesterday for talks on "maintaining strong security ties."
Iraq War veteran Leroy Torres and his wife Rosie Torres have never stopped fighting on behalf of veterans exposed to burn pits and contiuned to educate the nation on the issue. The Torres have a website entitled BURNPITS 360. They are also on Facebook. It's a personal issue, Capt Leroy Torres was exposed to the burn pit on Balad Airbase. KZTV 10 reports on their trip to DC "to hopefully gain support from lawmakers. They're pushing for health care for victims of burn pits, and asking the government to establish a national registry similar to the Agent Orange registry from the Vietnam War." Rosie Torres explains, "This registry will allow people to start recognizing the association between the toxic exposure from the burn pits and the illnesses that are surfacing now and have claimed the lives of many soldiers." The Torres note that a member of Congress is working hard on the issue.

From: The Honorable W. Todd Akin
Dear Colleague;
Please sign on to be an original cosponsor to legislation that is important to our veterans.  Numerous veterans have suffered serious health problems after exposure to open burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. This legislation will establish a registry, similar to the Agent Orange Registry and the Gulf War Syndrome Registry.  This is the first step toward providing better care for veterans who have been affected by open burn pits.
This legislation is already supported by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), American Veterans (AMVETS) and the Association of the United States Navy (AUSN).  And the issue of burn pits was recently reported on in the October 24th edition of USA Today (which can be found here)
This bill will also be introduced in a bipartisan/bicameral fashion with companion legislation being introduced by Senator Tom Udall (D-NM)
This bill is scheduled to be introduced on November 3rd, so please contact my office soon to become an original cosponsor.
W. Todd Akin
Member of Congress


Rep. W. Todd Akin

Open Burn Pit Registry Act of 2011

Department of Veterans Affairs

Based on recent accounts of health maladies of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and a possible link to toxic fumes released in open burn pits it has become necessary to voluntarily track and account for these individuals. 
This registry will ensure that members of the Armed Forces who may have been exposed to toxic chemicals and fumes while serving overseas can be better informed regarding exposure and possible effects. This legislation
is modeled after legislation that created the Agent Orange Registry and the Gulf War Syndrome Registry.
As drafted, the purpose of the
Burn Pit Registry  (bill text found here) is to:
• Establish and maintain an open burn pit registry for those individuals who
may have been exposed during their military service;
• Include information in this registry that the Secretary of the VA determines applicable to possible health effects of this exposure;
• Develop a public information campaign to inform individuals about the
• Periodically notify members of the registry of significant developments associated with burn pit exposure.
In order to ensure that the Veterans Administration conducts the registry in the most effective manner, the legislation:
• Requires an assessment and report to Congress by an independent
scientific organization;
• This report contains an assessment of the effectiveness of the Secretary
of the VA to collect and maintain information as well as recommendations
to improve the collection and maintenance of this information;
• The report will also include recommendations regarding the most effective
means of addressing medical needs due to exposure;
• This report will be due to Congress no later than 18 months after the date
which the registry is established.
• CBO states that this registry would cost $2 million over 5 years
We learned from this country's issues with Agent Orange that the need to get
ahead of this issue is of paramount importance. 
The establishment of a burn pit registry will help the VA determine not only to what extent the ramifications of burn pits may have on service members but can also be of great use in information dissemination. 
If you have any questions please contact Rep. Akin's office at 5-2561 and speak
Visit the e-Dear Colleague Service to manage your subscription to the available
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