Saturday, December 14, 2013


"NATO's War on Syria Just Got Dirtier" (Tony Cartalucci, Global Research):

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh, who had warned as early as 2007 of US-Israeli-Saudi plans to use Al Qaeda as proxies to overthrow the Syrian government, has published another groundbreaking report titled, “Whose Sarin?” In it, Hersh states (emphasis added):
Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August. In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts. Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack. In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order – a planning document that precedes a ground invasion – citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.
The lengthy report goes on in detail, covering the manner in which Western leaders intentionally manipulated or even outright fabricated intelligence to justify military intervention in Syria – eerily similar to the lies told to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and the escalation of the war in Vietnam after the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

The war on Syria.  Hersh has written an important report.  C.I. covered it in "Sy Hersh's hidden blockbuster?" this morning.

As C.I. notes, Mia Farrow's never corrected her lie about the chemical attack.  She can't stop Tweeting -- about some of the most useless things, but she can't admit she was wrong or re-Tweet.

She was happy to run with the topic when she was trying to get war on Syria but Mia now can't come up with the characters -- less than 150 -- to do a Tweet about being wrong.

I applaud C.I.  As soon as the White House tried to start a war on Syria, C.I. devoted time and attention to the issue -- online and off.  She was out front in calling out the lies, she did so when so many others (Susan Sarandon, for example) couldn't find their voice.

With Mia, however, she was and remains behind the curve.  She needs to issue a correction and she needs to own up to her War Hawk nature because only a War Hawk would have pushed for war.

Mia pretends she's a humanitarian.

Humanitarian's don't scream for war.

Mia's behavior through all of this has seriously damaged the way people see her.

Applause to Hersh for doing the report -- especially when a number of outlets refused to run it.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, December 13, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Sahwa becomes more of a public menace, State of Law says they will only support one person to be prime minister (guess who), US Secretary of State John Kerry insists to Congress that the location of 7 Ashraf community members is classified, the stolen Jewish archives get some attention, and more.

As Stacy Lattisaw observed in "Love on a Two Way Street" (written by Sylvia Robinson and Bert Keyes):

How could I be so blind
To give up love the very first time
To be fooled is a hurting thing 
To be loved and fooled
Is a darn shame

Poor College Democrats, it's such a darn shame to be made such a fool of.

Anticipating their post collegiate years and a lifetime of whoring, College Democrats serves up a ridiculous column in the Badger Herald which includes:

Just more than four years ago, Americans saw no end to the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Thousands of troops remained abroad, although former President George W. Bush had already declared, "Mission Accomplished." In the last four years, President Barack Obama has solidified his role on the international stage as hard on terror, while maintaining a more logical and diplomatic approach.[. . .]. During the Obama administration, we saw the historic end to the decade-long war in Iraq that took the lives of many American troops.

It's a darn shame.

First, Bully Boy Bush did not "declare" mission accomplished.  It was on a sign (that the White House prepared and ordered hung behind him for the cameras).  Second, that had nothing to do with Afghanistan.  Barack has not maintained "a more logical and diplomatic approach" (his many murders with The Drone War alone disprove that claim).  Third, what "historic end to the decade-long war in Iraq"?

David King (Akron Beacon Journal) observes today:

Here's a typical Obama quote on the subject from November 1st, 2012:
"...the war in Iraq is over, the war in Afghanistan is winding down, Al Qaeda is decimated, Osama Bin Laden is dead".
Not quite so, Mr. Obama.
The Iraq War is not over. We are just no longer involved in it. It rages on.
And Al Qaeda is not decimated either. Far from it:
Ten years after the capture of Saddam Hussein, Iraq is at risk of becoming a failed state again as al-Qaeda reclaims vast swathes of the country.

Friday’s anniversary of the Iraqi dictator's arrest sees the country still struggling with his legacy, with al-Qaeda launching a fresh campaign of terrorist atrocities from new territory carved out in western and northern Iraq.

The Iraq War has not ended for the Iraqi people.  How sad that College Democrats elected to be so xenophobic and self-centered.  When I was in college, fair or unfair, we expected that sort of behavior from Republicans.  We weren't xenophobic jingoists.

To be fooled is a hurting thing 
To be loved and fooled
Is a darn shame

And, we were also literate.  College Democrats don't know how to read these days?

Not only does the illegal war continue in Iraq but it does so with US forces.  That 2011 'withdrawal' (drawdown)?  It was followed in the fall of 2012 by what?   note Tim Arango (New York Times) reported in Septmeber 2012 (a year after the 'withdrawal'):

Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence.        

So quick to offer whorish talking points, so slow to recognize facts.

Sad, sad College Democrats.

To be fooled is a hurting thing 
To be loved and fooled
Is a darn shame

It is a darn shame.

But it's also so much worse if you're an Iraqi living in the continued violence of the continued war.

EFE reports, "Eighteen men - 15 of them Iranian - were slain Friday by an armed group while they were working on a gas pipeline that runs from Iranian territory to a power plant in eastern Iraq, a source in the Iraqi security forces told Efe."  CNN adds, "Gunman ambushed the workers with small arms fire, authorities said."  Reuters quotes worker Ibrahem Aziz who as injured in the attack, "Three of them got out of a car and started firing on the workers inside and outside the trench."  Aziz was one of seven workers injured in the attack.  BBC News notes five of the injured were Iranians and two were Iraqis.

But don't worry, College Democrats didn't shed a tear, they were not troubled, they were too busy living in Bliss in the state of Ignorance.

NINA notes an armed attack in Ramadi left 1 police officer dead and another injured, 2 people were shot dead in the al-Shulah section of Baghdad, a Baghdad car bombing claimed 2 lives and left twelve injuted, and a Ramadi car bombing claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers and 1 police officer with ten more people left injured.  All Iraq News notes 1 police officer was shot dead in Beji and 1 corpse was discovered in the streets of Tikrit (shot in head and chest, hand cuffed). Alsumaria adds that today 2 corpses were discovered in the streets of Aldiom (the two were security officers for the province) and a Baghdad home invasion last night left 1 woman dead.

Yet more violence today?  Another prison escape took place.  National Iraqi News Agency explains, "Conflicting stories about the number of escapees from the prison of al-Adalah of the Federal Police in Kazimiyah area at dawn today."  AFP says 22 escaped -- "most were later recaptured" -- and two guards were killed.  Reuers says the Ministry of Interior spokesperson is declaring that all but 3 of 22 escapees have been caught; however, "three police sources told Reuters at least 14" remained on the lam with eleven recaptured and that 1 prisoner and 1 police officer were killed in the prison break.  All Iraq News notes their police source states 30 escaped originally.   Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count notes 370 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.

The prison break today?  All Iraq News notes the Ministry of Justice made a point to issue a statement declaring that they don't run the prison, "The escapees escaped from the intelligent department of the Eighth Brigade of the Federal Police where Adala prison is under the custody of the Ministry of Interior and the MoJ has no relation to it."  For those not grasping the point, Nouri al-Maliki is over the Ministry of the Interior.

Back in July, 2012, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support."   He never has and he won't.  If elections are held at the end of April, Nouri's not going to rush, in the final moments of his second term, to finally nominate people to head those three posts.  This should be a huge issue in the election -- not just that this was a power grab, although it was -- but mainly that while the security situation worsened each year of Nouri's second term, he failed to nominate people to head the security ministries.

We're in politic now, so let's stay here for a bit more.  April 30th, parliamentary elections are supposed to take place in Iraq.  Mustafa Habib (Niqash) offers an analysis of the political groupings today:

Iraq’s Sunni Muslim politicians have re-grouped in preparation for the 2014 general elections. Their main alliance is split and it seems that they’ve left their non-sectarian former leader and turned toward their own kind. The country’s Sunni Muslim voters may well have a new leader in outspoken, high profile MP, Osama al-Nujaifi. 
During Iraq’s 2010 general elections, Sunni Muslim politicians formed one major bloc, which meant that, in effect, they won the elections. [. . .]
 And now, in preparation for the next general elections, slated for April 2014, Sunni Muslim politicians have split their group again
As a result, Iraq’s Sunni Muslims seem to have gained a new political leader in the form of Osama al-Nujaifi, the current Speaker of the House. Over the past fortnight, senior Sunni Muslim politicians have been conducting meetings to decide what will happen with former members of the mostly Sunni Muslim, opposition Iraqiya bloc next year.
The outcome of the meetings: instead of one, there will be three mostly Sunni Muslim alliances competing in the next elections. These are the United bloc, headed by al-Nujaifi, the Iraqi Front for National Dialogue headed by current Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq and then finally the National Iraqiya bloc to be led by the former head of the Iraqiya bloc, Ayed Allawi.
Sources inside the meetings told NIQASH that the reason that negotiations broke down on putting up a cohesive front was Allawi’s insistence that he lead the bloc again. However al-Nujaifi, whose profile has certainly been rising over the past few years, also wanted that position at the head of the table. Additionally neither Allawi nor al-Nujaifi wanted to ally themselves with an increasingly unpopular (with Sunni Muslims anyway) Saleh al-Mutlaq. Al-Mutlaq is seen as far too close to al-Maliki and he has recently been at the receiving end of Sunni Muslim protestors’ dislike for him.
The United coalition, led by al-Nujaifi, will include 14 other Sunni Muslim groups as well as a group of Turkmen politicians. Meanwhile Allawi’s National Iraqiya group is composed of a variety of different political entities from right around Iraq. These include Sunni Muslim, Shiite Muslim and tribal based groups and many of them don’t have major voter support. Allawi has said he is staying with this group because of his ongoing belief in non-sectarian politics. 

On the topic of Ayad Allawi, he posted to his Facebook today a note that he didn't participate in Iraq's current government because the governments of the United States and Iran colluded to give second place Nouri al-Maliki a second term.  He notes that per the Constitution, Iraqiya had the mandate.  In February 2011, Nouri was publicly insisting (to AFP) that he would not seek a third term.  And now?

All Iraq News reports that State of Law MP Ibrahim al-Rikabi declared that Nouri will be their nominee, declaring, "The SLC does not have any nominee for this post except Maliki."  As a leader, Nouri has been an abject failure. Iraq Times points out that Iraq is one of the richest countries in the world yet thousands of Iraqis are homeless.  All Iraq News noted earlier this week that cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr referred to Nouri's talk of distributing plots of land to be "electoral propaganda."  Noting the failures of the current government, Mutahiddon Coalition MP Wihda al-Jumaili tells All Iraq News, that she believes the country should elect more business people -- with successful track records -- in the next election.

Iraqi Spring MC reports protests took place in Baquba, Jalawla, Samarra, Falluja, and Rawa, Protests have been taking place non-stop since December 21st.  Next Friday will be one year of continuous protests.

Ghassan al-Hamid (Alsumaria) reports that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi's coalition noted today that the protesters have been attacked -- most infamously the Hawija attack which left over fifty dead -- by Nouri's forces, that they've endured that and harassment in order to represent the ideals of Iraq, that their voices are only going stronger and that the choice is to be a part of the voice of Iraq or to be someone who cares only for themselves.

Hawija?  That's the April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija which resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported 53 dead  -- indicating that some of the wounded did not recover. UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

That's not the only attack on the protesters, it's just the most infamous one.

National Iraqi News Agency reports:

Sheikh Ali al-Suleiman Amir of Duleim tribes said that Sahwa forces should take out of Anbar province., if the central government want security and stability in the province for the next phase.
He said in a speech in the courtyard of the sit-in north of Ramadi : "At the beginning of the formation of Sahwa forces was to fight terrorism, and has been integrated into the security services , but in these days , Sahwa works in favor of a particular parties. so if the central government want security to preavail in Anbar then must get them out of the province.

That's the smartest request he could make.  Sahwa leaders in Anbar are becoming an embarrassment and a menace.  They are threatening the protesters and this week began telling the press that the way to deal with the protests is to go into the sit-ins and bash heads.

The heads that need to be bashed?  Sahwas.  No one really gives a damn about 'em.  They're part of the mafia in Iraq -- that's why so many leaders hail from the concrete business.  They're whorish little toadies who took money from the occupying power (the US) to spy on and attack other Iraqis.

Now the whores have sold out to Nouri and have become his muscle to attack the protesters.

They thought -- as did Nouri -- that they could take the heat of SWAT and other of Nouri's forces -- forces that are primarily Shi'ite.  But the Sahwa in Anbar?  Those are Sunnis.  Sunnis attacking Sunnis, they and Nouri thought, would be able to pull off violence.

It doesn't work that way.

And if Sahwa can't be put on a tighter leash, Iraq's really going to erupt.

The State Dept, the White House and US Ambassador to Iraq Stephen Beecroft need to explain this to Nouri real quick.

Call them militants, call them rebels, call them insurgents, call them terrorists -- it doesn't matter one damn bit.

What happens if Sahwa doesn't sit its ass down?  What happens if they go after the protesters?

The resistance/the terrorists/the militants/the insurgents suddenly and immediately get street cred in Anbar because they're the only ones who will be seen as standing up for the Sunni population.

If you think things are bad in Iraq right now, you're right.  But if Sahwa launches a violent attack on the protesters, things will get much worse and militants will be able to move much more freely because they will have many people in Anbar aligned with and/or sympathetic to them and their cause.

Nouri can't protect the Iraqi people, he can attack them -- as he's attacked the Camp Ashraf residents all along.  There are 7 Ashraf members who were kidnapped this fall.  Where are they?

Last month,  Brett McGurk, the State Dept's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, appeared  Wednesday before the  US House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa (see the November 13th  "Iraq snapshot," the November 14th "Iraq snapshot" and  the November 15th  "Iraq snapshot").  In that hearing, this exchange took place.

US House Rep Sheila Jackson Lee:   [. . .]  But there are hostages in Iraq that we must have now.  There's documentation that those hostages are there by our French allies, by the United Nations and other supportive groups and information.  I can't imagine with the wealth of sophisticated intelligence authorities that we have, that we have funded who have a vast array of information about Americans  cannot pinpoint where starving Iranians, loved ones [are] whose families are trying to save their lives after being on a hunger strike for 73 days.  And so I would ask this question of you, already knowing about your heart and your concern, I will not judge you, I already know that you're committed to getting this right/  Will you -- will you demand of Maliki, not next week or months from now, but can we expect in the next 48 hours a call to the head of the government of Iraq demanding the release of these hostages and demanding their release now?  Or the documented, undeniable evidence that they are not held in Iraq?  Second, would you be engaged with -- or  the Secretary [of State John Kerry] be engaged with -- and I have spoken to Secretary Kerry, I know his heart -- with Maliki to demand the security of those in Camp Ashraf  for now and forever until a relocation to a homeland, a place where their relatives are or where they desire to be? [. . .]

Brett McGurk:  [. . .] We can pinpoint where the people are and I'd like to follow up with you on that.  The seven are not in Iraq.  But I will guarantee in my conversations with Maliki on down, the safety and the security of Camp Ashraf, Camp Liberty, where the residents are, the government needs to do everything possible to keep those poeople safe  but they will never be safe until they're out of Iraq.  And we all need to work together -- the MEK, us, the Committee, everybody, the international community -- to find a place for them to go.  There's now a UN trust fund, we've donated a million dollars and we're asking for international contributions to that fund for countries like Albania that don't have the resources but are willing to take the MEK in.  And we need to press foreign captials to take them in because until they're out, they're not going to be safe and we don't want anyone else to get hurt.  We don't want anymore Americans to get hurt in Iraq, we don't want anymore Iraqis to get hurt in Iraq  and we don't want any more residents of Camp Liberty to get hurt in Iraq and until they're out of Iraq, they're not going to be safe.  This is an international crisis and we need international help and support. 

US House Rep Sheila Jackson Lee:  May I follow -- May I just have a minute more to follow up with Mr. McGurk, Secretary McGurk?  And I hear the passion in your voice but let me just say this. We're in an open hearing.  You know where they are.  Who is going to rescue them?  Whose responsibility will it be to get them from where they are into safe haven?  Because otherwise, we're leaving -- we're leaving Maliki now without responsibility.  We're saying, and you're documenting that they're not there.  Let me just say that when my government speaks, I try with my best heart and mind to believe it.  But I've got to see them alive and well to believe that they're not where I think they are, they're in a pointed purse.  I'm glad to here that but I want them to be safe but I want them to be in the arms of their loved ones or at least able to be recognized by their loved one that they're safe somewhere.  So can that be done in the next 48 hours?  Can we have a-a manner that indicates that they are safe?

Brett McGurk:  I will repeat here a statement that we issued on September 16th and it's notable and I was going to mention this in my colloquy with my Congressman to my left, that within hours of the attack, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Score issued a statement praising the attack.  We issued a statement on September 16th calling on the government of Iran to use whatever influence it may have with groups that might be holding these missing persons to secure their immediate release.  And I can talk more about details and the status of these individuals.  And I've briefed some members of the Subcommittee. I'd be happy to follow up. 

Brett McGurk and the US government are not believed on this statement and, as we noted when we reported the above exchange, the whereabouts shouldn't be classified.

If the US was physically protecting the 7, that might -- briefly -- be a reason for not giving their whereabouts.  That is not what the government has suggested. So if they're being held against their will by the Iranian government or a proxy for the Iranian government -- or by Nouri or a proxy for Nouri's government -- newsflash, the ones doing the holding no where the 7 are being held.

It's not classified and kept from the holders.  So why the need for the State Dept to play like the location cannot be spoken of?

Tuesday Secretary of State John Kerry appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  It was a testy hearing.   John needs to stop being so damn combative in hearings.  He also needs to stop insisting over and over that he get to yammer on.  There's a five minute rule in House hearings.  He was often rude (but at least he spread it around -- he was rude to Republicans and to Democrats). .

US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: And lastly, two issues.  Regarding Camp Ashraf, are the Ashraf 7 being held in Iran or are they in Iraq?  And, Mr. Secretary, [. . .]

He went on and on.  I'm not including it.  I'd love to include the insult to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (and I agreed with him 100% on that), for example that took place in the exchange that followed Ros-Lehtinen, but I don't have the time.  As it is, I'm pushing back coverage of another hearing to Monday's snapshot.  So we'll ignore all of his words that had nothing to do with Camp Ashraf and pick up here.

US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:  If you could answer the Ashraf and the Cuba question?

Secretary John Kerry: Beg your pardon?

US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:  If you could answer the question about Ashraf --

Secretary John Kerry:  The question of Ashraf was where-where are they?

US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:  Iran or Iraq?

Secretary John Kerry:  Well they're in Iraq.

US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:  They're in Iraq?

Secretary John Kerry:  The people.

US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: The seven hostages that were taken from Ashraf?

Secretary John Kerry:  I-I-I . . .

US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:  They have not -- We have not known where they are.

Kerry spoke with the people sitting behind him, then returned to the microphone.

Secretary of State John Kerry:  Uh, I can talk to you about that in classified session.

We're talking about the Ashraf residents so, before we note one more exchange, let's include the overview on the Ashraf community.  As of September, Camp Ashraf in Iraq is empty.  All remaining members of the community have been moved to Camp Hurriya (also known as Camp Liberty).  Camp Ashraf housed a group of Iranian dissidents who were  welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. This is key and demands the US defend the Ashraf community in Iraq from attacks.  The Bully Boy Bush administration grasped that -- they were ignorant of every other law on the books but they grasped that one.  As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp repeatedly attacked after Barack Obama was sworn in as US President. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out."  Those weren't the last attacks.  They were the last attacks while the residents were labeled as terrorists by the US State Dept.  (September 28, 2012, the designation was changed.)   In spite of this labeling, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."  So the US has an obligation to protect the residents.  3,300 are no longer at Camp Ashraf.  They have moved to Camp Hurriyah for the most part.  A tiny number has received asylum in other countries. Approximately 100 were still at Camp Ashraf when it was attacked Sunday.   That was the second attack this year alone.   February 9th of this year, the Ashraf residents were again attacked, this time the ones who had been relocated to Camp Hurriyah.  Trend News Agency counted 10 dead and over one hundred injured.  Prensa Latina reported, " A rain of self-propelled Katyusha missiles hit a provisional camp of Iraqi opposition Mujahedin-e Khalk, an organization Tehran calls terrorists, causing seven fatalities plus 50 wounded, according to an Iraqi official release."  They were attacked again September 1st.   Adam Schreck (AP) reported that the United Nations was able to confirm the deaths of 52 Ashraf residents.  It was during that attack that the 7 hostages were taken.

US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher:  I am introducing a bill today that will allow 3,000 refugees from Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty -- now Camp Liberty -- status --refugee status and thus will permit them to be able to come to the United States.  Hundreds of these people have been slaughtered.  They live under constant threat of being murdered, we know that.  And, uh-uh, will this administration be supporting my legislation to prevent these people from being slaughtered by this pro-Mullah regime that we have in Iraq now?

Secretary John Kerry: Well Congressman, I've gone to the lengths of appointing a special representative to work exclusively to get the, uh, -- 

US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher:  I'm just asking about my legislation.

Secretary John Kerry:  Well I need to see the legislation but  in principle we're trying to find a place for -- 

US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher:  So in principle -- you would agree with letting these refugees have status -- refugee status so they can come here

Secretary John Kerry:  Uh, we are -- We're trying to find a place for them to go now.

US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher:  Okay, so in principle --

Secretary John Kerry: In principle, I'd like to see the legislation but I can't speak for the President. 

Turning to the topic of the Jewish archives that Saddam Hussein stole from the Jewish community and that the US government paid to restore, the ones the White House insist should be handed over to the Iraqi government despite the Iraqi government's lack of legal claim to this stolen property.  Ruth's already noted the column David A. Andelman wrote for U.S.A. Today:

At the end of World War II, there were more than 130,000 Jews in Iraq—a quarter of the population of Baghdad. By the time of the Six Day War in 1967, that number had dwindled to barely 3,000. Today there are at most seven Jews left — each fearful even of disclosing his identity — indeed not even a minion, the minimum number (ten) required for Jewish worship. But abroad, they constitute an enormous community, united under the banner of the World Organization of Jews from Iraq, according to its president, Maurice Shohet who himself fled Iraq in 1970 at the age of 21. The largest single Iraqi Jewish community, outside of Israel, is in the United States. And this is where the Iraqi diaspora wants these artifacts to remain.
Just why the Iraqi government wants these items returned is an open question—likely a pastiche of the public position authorities have expressed to Urman, that it wants to showcase the "contributions of the Jewish people to Iraq," and the reality that they are aware of their enormous and unchallenged value.
"From our point of view, they were taken from us and as a result we are the official heirs of the material," Urman observes. "This is not like material looted from national museums. It was taken by force by intelligence agents."
And now, some substantial force is being brought to bear on their behalf. On November 13, a bipartisan group of 47 House Democrats and Republicans signed a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging the State Department to "facilitate the return of these items to their rightful owners or their descendants, and not to the government of Iraq." Why? "The government of Iraq has no legitimate claim to these artifacts," the letter concludes.

And they don't.  There's nothing in the law that allows the government to claim stolen property stolen by a previous government.

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:An exhibit on now at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. features books, manuscripts and photographs taken from generations of Iraqi Jews that were found in Saddam Hussein's intelligence headquarters in 2003.  Cynthia Kaplan Shamash and Edwin Shuker were childhood friends in Bagdad. They escaped from Iraq in the early '70s and they're both members of the World Organization of Jews from Iraq. They're with us now. 

That's Jeremy Hobson speaking on Here and Now (NPR -- link is audio and text) Thursday.  Let's note an excerpt.

SHAMASH: We took the train from Bagdad to the North, to Kirkuk, to make it over the mountains in Iran, and we were caught and we were imprisoned. I was eight; I was interrogated separately, being the youngest in the family.
As a matter of fact, I have the doll here that was ripped apart. They took the intestines out that says Mama and that would be proof of espionage device. And then we were transported to Bagdad and separated with my sisters; my mother and me separated from my father and brother. We didn't know each other's fate and that went on for like five weeks.
Eventually we applied for passports. We got the passports after like two months and we left as if we're leaving on a vacation, because you, of course, cannot say that you're leaving for good, even though they knew how to read between the lines. And so we left to Turkey and eventually we ended in different countries abroad.

HOBSON: And you still have that doll?

SHAMASH: Yes, I have it with me right here.

HOBSON: What does it mean to you?

SHAMASH: It means something, now it's darkness, and it brings darkness and despair when I look at it. And I show it to my children. Like, when I came on the train to the studio, I held onto it for dear life. For me, this is more than gold. It is a part of my heritage. It is an evidence that I have where I came from and what oppression we had to go through to be where we are and not take for granted our safety.

HOBSON: Edwin, do you have something like that?

SHUKER: I do. I have something like that in the (unintelligible) exhibition.

HOBSON: Your school certificate?

SHUKER: My school certificate. This is my doll and my doll is behind glass and I can't touch it, and I'm waiting for the day, just like Cynthia did, to actually hold my doll.

HOBSON: Well, tell us the story of that certificate and how it was found, first of all.

SHUKER: Well, back in 2003, the American Army was informed that there was a cache of Jewish artifacts and documents, and what they saw was a huge collection of books and artifacts and documents, but unfortunately, because of the bombing, the water system had collapsed and the whole cache was under a meter and a half of water. So that was really the vast collection of our identity sitting underwater. Eventually the water was drained and they were transported to Texas, to America, and for the past 10 years they've been lovingly restored, preserved, digitalized, and a small collection of it is exhibited in Washington at the moment.

HOBSON: Do you think that it should stay in Washington, or do you think it should go back to Iraq or what?

SHUKER: Well, quite honestly, I have to tell you that when I looked at that certificate for the first time, my heart stopped. I just felt I have left this, but more than a certificate, this was the community's identity. That collection is much more than its intrinsic value. I just looked at that certificate and I saw that little boy staring at me, that picture of Edwin Shuker when he was 12, and I just felt connected back to him after 43 years, a little boy that was abandoned back home with his certificates, with his identity, with his toys, with his stamp collection. We just left him behind in Baghdad. And last month I got reconnected with him, and just as Cynthia described her doll, that was my identity, and boy, do I want it to be with me, do I want it to stay for my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. And no, I don't want it to go back.

 bbc news


mohammed tawfeeq

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Ditzy Jase gets it wrong again

"Deeply Disappointed with Obama" (William Pfaff, ICH):
It was a curious speech because it implied that the Iraq War had been won and finished – sectarian and regional conflict ended, which is not true -- and that the same soon would be true in Afghanistan. In the Afghan war, his administration has already widened the war (without congressional consultation) so as to include frontier regions of Pakistan, employing drone missile attacks and commando raids. This has intensified anti-Americanism and undermined Pakistani political stability to no one’s advantage.

He has bargained with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to keep some American troops in the latter’s country long after the originally scheduled withdrawal of the bulk of U.S. forces at the end of 2014. (The new agreement remains subject to national elections and Mr. Karzai’s whims).

Since Mr. Obama spoke at the Pentagon, there have been major redeployments of American forces in Asia (where in November 2011 he confirmed U.S. forces’ “pivot” to Asia, and told the Australian parliament that Asia’s security is America’s “top” security priority). Currently, the U.S. is developing a network of some 100 “lily-pad” African bases to facilitate interventions there, on still another continent.

President Barack Obama’s foreign policy “pivot to Asia” has never been given a complete explanation. The apparent justification is apprehension at the rise in China’s economy, its military development, and China’s expanding claims with respect to disputed waters and territories. Is this really considered a threat to the American nation?

The Iraq War is not over.  It's good to see someone besides C.I. make that needed point.

Meanwhile the stupid Jason Ditzy of faux wants you to know al Qaeda in Iraq is carving out a state!

Poor Ditzy. is supposed to worship Ron Paul.

Ron Paul's The Daily Paul frequently highlights Thomas Mullen and he's saying al Qaeda is a myth.  Thomas Mullen argues at the Washington Times:

However, the pledge of allegiance actually supports the alternative narrative, not Washington’s. It is apparent from the reports on the pledge that the Syrian group had no previous connection to al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. It came immediately following an announcement by the Islamic State of Iraq that al Nusra was part of its network.
The ISI is one of many militant groups that filled the vacuum left after the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and which had no active presence before Saddam Hussein’s regime was toppled. ISI similarly pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda in 2004 while fighting U.S. forces in Iraq.
According to The Telegraph’s April 10, 2013 report, Syria’s al-Nusra pledges allegiance to al-Qaeda,” al-Joulani (al Jawlani) was quick to clarify the relationship with ISI:
“’We inform you that neither the al-Nusra command nor its consultative council, nor its general manager were aware of this announcement [the announcement by ISI]. It reached them via the media and if the speech is authentic, we were not consulted,’” Jawlani said. ‘We reassure our brothers in Syria that al-Nusra Front’s behaviour will remain faithful to the image you have come to know, and that our allegiance (to al-Qaeda) will not affect our politics in any way,’ he added.”
In other words, the Syrian rebel group al Nusra was a group organized around toppling the Assad regime in Syria. It pledged allegiance to what Washington calls “al-Qaeda in Iraq,” but which is really the ISI. The ISI in turn was a group organized to fight U.S. forces in Iraq, with the long term goal of establishing an Islamic state there after U.S. forces withdrew.

Poor Ditzy.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, December 11, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, for the third day in a row an attorney is assassinated in Iraq, another Iraqi Jew discovers their personal property into the Jewish Archives (stolen from the Jewish community by Saddam Hussein) and these are the archives that the White House insists should be handed over to the Iraqi government, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee holds a hearing, Jalal Talabani is 'seen' in another set of  carefully posed photos, and more.


hero and jalal

The above is from a series of photos, said to have been taken this month, to demonstrate Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is 'healthy' or at least still breathing.  Click here for the series of photos at his website, click here for the series at the Patriotic Unino of Kurdistan's media office.  The PUK Media office claims the photos are from "two days ago during a visitation of Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, Iraqi First Lady, to President Talabani in Germany."

For those confused, last December,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17th (see the December 18th snapshot) and resulted in Jalal being admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20th, he was moved to Germany.

AFP has two articles.  This one is embarrassing.  This one is solid. Reuters is just embarrassing all the way -- including links that don't work and running a 2010 photo of Jalal.  If the news is these photos, these new photos, why aren't you running them?

So what we have is photos and a claim, at his own site, that his medical team that Jalal's "on the road to a full recovery."

Oh, the lovely liars.

PUK claims the photos are two days old, Jalal's website says they were taken on December 6th and December 8th.

The liars can't even get the basics right.

Let's briefly note the outlets -- AFP and Reuters.  It might be a good idea, if you're noting that 'road to recovery' spin, to also point out that this has been stated repeatedly.  Next week, it will be a full year since Jalal stopped doing his job.  Iraq will have been without a president for a full year.

He's on his road to recovery just doesn't cut it!

Nor do photos a heavily made up Jalal Talabani.

Hint to those behind the fraud, next time you ply pancake on Jalal's face?  Put him in gloves or put make up on his hands.  His hands and his face need to match or you look like idiots.

And you look like idiots.

A heavily made up Jalal appears in a series of new or 'new' photos.

And who knew he was going through a Mariah Carey phase?

Remember when Mariah would only be photographed from her right side?  Until husband Nick Cannon told her she looked fine from the left as well?

Can we send Nick to Germany to talk to Jalal?

Jalal is not on the road to full recovery.

Like the May photos, he is shown only from the right side.

That would indicate that he still doesn't have control over the left side of his face.

Not that he has control over his right.

If you look at the latest photos, the first thing that stands out after the heavy facial make up is the mouth.  It can't smile.  It can't move.  The lips remain in the same position in every photo.

That's not from the current crop of photos.  It's from the ones they released months ago in May.  Jalal's still being photographed from the right, he's still unable to smile, his mouth apparently can't move because, in the new photos, Hero's all over the place acting like she's keenly listening to what he's saying but his mouth never moves in one photo after another.  It's always the same tight line, always drooping down at the end.

Jalal's a fat man.  He's also a vain man.  When he travels to the United States, for examples, he takes luggage, lots and lots of luggage.  He doesn't like repeating even a tie when he's doing official visits.

So for two days this month, he was fine with being photographed in the same jogging suit?

That really doesn't sound like Jalal.

The photos yet again look posed.

The photos yet again indicate Jalal has not recovered and does not have full control (or partial) over his body movements.  If you missed the photos in May, click here.

Jalal may be improving slightly.

Road to recovery?

He's been on it for nearly a year.  He's not moving at a fast pace.

He's clearly unable to do his job duties.

The Constitution called for him to be replaced back in January.

Article 75, Third Clause, "The Vice President shall replace the President of the Republic in the event that the post of the President becomes vacant for any reason whatsoever.  The Council of Representatives must elect a new President within a period not to exceed thirty days from the date of the vacancy."

Instead, the Talabani family has pulled the wool over the Iraqi people's eyes, played them for fools.

Questions need to be asked including when did Jalal stop receiving his presidential salary?

Or is he still receiving it?

In 2013, he has not performed one presidential duty.  In 2013, he has not set foot in Iraq.

The Iraqi people have been lied to, they need to now know the Talabani family has not also committed economic fraud in 2013.

The fraud also demonstrates that Iraq is not a Constitutional republic.

The Constitution is meaningless in Iraq.

By the end of 2007, Article 140 of the Constitution was supposed to be implemented -- per the Constitution.  Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki didn't do it in 2007 and has refused to obey the Constitution since.  The 2010 parliamentary elections demonstrated that the Constitution did not matter as US President Barack Obama ordered the brokering of a contract (The Erbil Agreement) to go around the Constitution and give second place Nouri a second term as prime minister.  As 2011 drew to a close, Nouri began his attack on Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi which included charges against him and a kangaroo court trial -- this despite the fact that Parliament refused to strip al-Hashemi of his office.  Per the Constitution, he has to be stripped of his office to stand trial.

There's talk of amending the Constitution, there's talking of tossing it for a new one.

Why bother?

No one's following it currently.

The Iraqi Constitution allows free speech and the right to assembly but Nouri's forces attack protesters for protesting.  The Iraqi Constitution allows freedom of speech but Nouri's forces attempt to strong-arm journalists into signing statements declaring that they won't report.

Let's move over to a group of Iraqis visiting the US -- a group the State Dept still has Thursday to publicly note and highlight (though they've ignored them so far).   Samantha Glickman (Raleigh News Observer) reports on the three Iraqi coaches and eleven girls who were visiting North Carolina:

The first all-girl soccer team to visit the United States as part of the State Department’s Iraq Soccer Visitor Program has spent much of its 10-day trip in the Triangle. The high-school-age girls from Baghdad, Kirkuk and Irbil watched the NCAA Women's College Cup tournament in Cary over the weekend and had a clinic Sunday with two-time Olympic gold medalist Cindy Cone, who works with the women's soccer program at the University of North Carolina.

Read more here:

16-year-old Iraqi Sarah Sameen Yasen explains, "Every girl and every woman stays away from sports because of security issues.  I want to prove to the others that this is not a reason to stay away from sports." 17-year-old Afiaa Kareem Taresh Chnani states, "That's why I'm here, because I want to learn how to be able to teach. I learned new skills, new exercises, new techniques I can take back with me to my home country and implement them so my other teammates who are still in Iraq can benefit from the skills that I've learned here in the States."

Read more here:

From soccer to football, last night Gen Ray Odierno was honored with the National Football Foundation's Distinguished American Award.  The former top US commander in Iraq (fall 2008 to fall 2010) appeared today on Fox & Friends (link is video).

Brian Kilmeade:  If you had a residual force, do you believe things would be better in Iraq?

Gen Ray Odierno:  I think -- It's hard to say.  I think it probably would have been if we were allowed to have a residual force. 

Brian Kilmeade:  Does it -- does it hurt you because you spent so much of your life there and know so many people who lost their lives there.  Your own son [Capt Tony Odierno]  lost an arm there.  Does it disturb you to see where it is right now?

Gen Ray Odierno:  Well I just think -- I haven't give up hope yet.  And maybe that's reaching a little bit.  But it is -- it is concerting to see the violence at the levels it's been and how it's grown throughout the year and it's really because of political disagreement and mistrust between the parties in Iraq, the fact that they simply don't trust themselves and they can't get to agreement and so it's allowing others to exploit this and it's increasing the violence.  And it really is difficult to watch.  

National Iraqi News Agency reports that attorney Naser Ali al-Atabi was assassinated in Kut. Monday a Mosul sticky bombing killed a lawyer and left his brother injured. Yesterday  1 attorney was shot dead today in Mosul.  That's three attorneys assassinated in three days.

That wasn't the only violence today.  NINA also notes a Haswa IED left two police officers injured, 1 person was shot dead in Ramadi and another was left injured, 1 Sahwa was shot dead in Ramadi, a Mosul home invasion left 1 police officer dead, a Baghdad bombing killed 1 member of a Sahwa's family and left three neighbors injured, and 1 employee of the Baghdad Mayor's office was shot dead in Baghdad.  All Iraq News adds that two severed heads were discovered in Tikrit -- one belonged to Sahwa leader Nashmi al-Fadam and the other was a relative.  In addition, the outlet notes a Mudkadiya bombing left 2 police officers dead. That's 11 reported dead today and six reported injured. Through Tuesday, Iraq Body Count notes 344 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month which means there was an average of 34.4 murders a day for the first ten days of December.

In Friday's snapshot, we noted this Tweet:

  • That's Iraqi Zeidoun Alkinani and he's at the Pegamon Museum of Berlin noting the Babylonian Ishtar Gate.  Hyacinth Mascarenhas (PolicyMic) notes the Tweeted photo and other artifacts which should go back to their rightful owners including, at number 7, the Iraqi Jewish artifacts:

    The scholar Harold Rhode found thousands of moldy artifacts of Iraq's ancient and mostly dispersed Jewish population in the flooded basement of Saddam Hussein's service headquarters in Baghdad with the U.S. invasion force in 2003. He is now fighting to prevent his findings from being returned to the Iraqi government.
    Likening the return to "giving the personal effects of Jews killed in the Holocaust back to Germany," Rhode has even launched a campaign to halt the transfer and is supported by several American Jewish groups and members of Congress arguing that the findings belong to Iraqi Jews and not the Iraqi government.
    Currently on display at the National Archives in Washington through Jan. 5, the pieces include a 400-year-old Hebrew Bible, a Torah scroll fragment that includes parts of the Book of Genesis, a Zohar from 1815, a Babylonian Talmud from 1793, a lunar calendar in Hebrew and Arabic from 1972-3 and other books, personal papers, and sacred texts.

    So they're going back?  Lauren Markoe (Religion News Service) explains:

    It’s a question many Jews have been asking with increasing urgency as the time draws near — summer 2014 — when the documents, per an agreement between the American and Iraqi governments, are slated to return to Baghdad.
    Global organizations of Jews of Middle Eastern heritage, as well as scores of American Jewish leaders and key members of the House and Senate, have questioned the plan and tried to derail it, arguing that the U.S. never had the right to promise the archive’s return in the first place.
    “The argument was flawed, flawed on the premise that this archive is the cultural heritage of all Iraqis when it is in fact the patrimony of Iraqi Jews; and there is no Jewish community left in Iraq,” said Sarah Levin, executive director of San Francisco-based JIMENA, Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa.
    “I can’t fathom that under any circumstances that material that was taken should be returned to the people who took it,” Levin said.
    Of course, the government of Iraq today is not the government that looted the archive from Iraq’s Jews. But Rabbi Andrew Baker, director of international Jewish affairs at the American Jewish Committee, argues that the archive’s future should be determined in consultation with Jewish organizations and particularly the representatives of Jewish Iraqis — many of whom now live in Israel and the U.S.
    Despite negotiations among the State Department, members of Congress and Jewish community leaders, the latest information is that the archive will return to Iraq this summer, though it is first slated to spend some weeks at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York.

    The property doesn't belong to Iraq and it never has.  As Shmuley Boteach (Algemeiner) has observed, "This is not something that belongs to the Iraqi government. It was looted by Saddam Hussein and should be returned to its rightful owner, the Jewish community of Iraq, who now find themselves mostly in Israel (between 250,000-400,000) and the United States. That the US is even considering returning the stolen collection is incredible. Our government contends that it made a commitment to the Iraqis before they took the documents to restore them. But you can’t make any commitments about property that doesn’t belong to you so the United States is not bound by its commitment." More and more, people are beginning to identify the property -- the rightful owners are stepping forward to identify the property.  Joe O'Connor (National Post) reports:

    Dr. Caroline Bassoon-Zaltzman was an exemplary student at Menahem Daniel Elementary school in Baghdad. She had a 94 in Arabic, 90 in math and science and 100 in English, grades that stood her first overall in her Grade 6 class and a point of youthful, scholarly pride, that the 56-year-old Iraqi-born Jew, now a Canadian physician living in suburban Toronto, had not really thought about for over 40 years until a friend and former classmate, Lily Shor, in Israel, sent her an email on Nov. 20 at 12:55 a.m.
    “Dear Caroline!!” the email reads. “Have you seen this??”

    “This” was a web link. Dr. Bassoon-Zaltzman clicked on it and up popped her Grade 6 report card, along with her school photo, two items that, unbeknownst to the top student at Menahem Daniel were recovered — along with thousands of other Jewish documents and books — from the flooded basement of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s secret police headquarters in Baghdad by American forces in May, 2003.
    [. . .]
    “I really felt violated seeing my report card because I knew the Iraqi secret police had no way of getting it unless they took it from our house,” Dr. Bassoon-Zaltzman says. “All I could think about was somebody being in the house I grew up in and stealing this document and storing it in the basement of the Mukhabarat — the secret police of Saddam Hussein.
    “Sending these items back to Iraq now would be like sending art that the Nazis looted from Europe’s Jews back to Germany. But it’s even worse, because I am nobody. I am not famous, and I am still alive, and there is no inherent value to these items. Nobody in Iraq is going to care about looking at documents and photos of Iraqi Jews that they don’t even know and that have no value to them, or the Iraqi government, or anyone — except the people they were stolen from.
    “It is my report card.”

    December 2nd, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported on Harold Rhode's efforts to prevent the stolen property from being shipped to Iraq:

    Rhode has launched a campaign to halt the transfer, joined by a growing number of American Jewish groups and members of Congress, who argue that the materials belong to the Iraqi Jews they were taken from and their descendants, not to Iraq's government.
    For years, intelligence operatives working for Hussein and his predecessors apparently seized papers from synagogues and Jewish families, in periodic crackdowns or before the families would be allowed to emigrate.
    Why the materials, most of which document relatively mundane activities of Iraq's Jewish communities, were kept for decades in the security service headquarters is a mystery. Rhode attributes it partly to Hussein's mania for getting back at Israel.
    "By Saddam taking this material, it was like he was personally humiliating the Jews of the world and Israel," Rhode says. "So now are we going to return it to them?"

    In response to Cloud's report, two letters to the editors of the Los Angeles Times argue for the archives being returned to the Jewish community.

    Ethically and legally, the archives belong to the Jewish community.  There's also the common sense issues.  In Iraq, where would the wrongly returned archives go?

    Would they be hidden away.

    That's really all Nouri's Iraq knows how to do.  Just look at Iraq's national museum which is still closed to the public.  Abdul Jabbar Alattaby (Al-Monitor) reports:

    Although more than 10 years have passed since the transformative events of 2003 in Iraq, the fate of the Iraq Museum remains a mystery. News of it has all but disappeared. It is known to open its doors to diplomatic missions, but most Iraqis have never been inside the museum, which has been undergoing construction work, which has itself raised questions. Although there are workers in the museum, and although it was officially reopened in 2009, the museum remains closed to the public. With its director, Amira Edan, sometimes outright refusing to speak to the press, the museum is shrouded in mystery and secrecy. This is where my story of the museum began and enigmatically ended.
    Iraq's national museum isn't even open to the public -- despite multiple stunt openings that the world's press has covered over the last years.  But we're supposed to believe the country can house (stolen) documents of a people the government refused to protect?

    There was a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing today.  We have room for Senator Patty Murray's statement.  Tomorrow, we may cover the nonsense of the hearing -- which includes the nonsense of the Committee.  Alison Hickey's figures don't match the American Legion's.  There's a reason for that.  There's also a reason I'm not in the mood -- I don't feel like going back through the hearing the press ignored -- especially Murray's questions -- which explain how the backlog has 'dropped.'  It's a shell game.  But if we go over today's hearing in tomorrow's snapshot, we will quote Hickey from before when she explained how the shell game would work.  Senator Murray serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and is the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee.  Her office issued the following today regarding the hearing:

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                            CONTACT: Murray Press Office
    Wednesday, December 11, 2013                                                                           (202) 224-2834
    Senator Murray Presses VA Officials on Claims Backlog
    Recent report shows government shutdown forced furloughs of thousands of Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) employees, jeopardized October benefits for millions of veterans and their families, and slowed the VA’s progress on eliminating the claims backlog.
    WATCH hearing.
    (Washington, D.C.) – Today, during a hearing examining the Department of Veterans Affairs claims processing system, senior Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee member Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) expressed her frustration with the progress in reducing the claims backlog and stressed the importance of passing her budget agreement with Chairman Paul Ryan.
    “Ending the claims backlog and building a timely, accurate claims processing system is one of the absolute top priorities for our veterans,” said Senator Murray during the hearing. “So as VA continues to work to bring down the backlog, we can’t prevent them from doing their jobs.  That means keeping the government open.  As you know, Chairman Ryan and I announced our budget agreement last night. I cannot stress enough how important it is for everyone to support this agreement so that we can get away from governing by crisis, prevent another government shutdown in January, and protect our veterans from the serious harm that we saw in October.”
    According to VA testimony, the government shutdown in October forced VA to furlough 7,800 VBA employees, ended mandatory overtime for claims processors, and decreased claims production by an average of 1,400 claims per day.
    Sen. Murray has been a vocal critic of the claims backlog issues facing Seattle Regional Office over the years and continues to hear from veterans frustrated with the timeliness and accuracy problems with their claims. While the latest information seems to be improving, Sen. Murray will continue to push VA to address the underlying issues with staffing and processing at the regional office so Washington state veterans can count on long-term improvement.
    Senator Murray’s full remarks:
    “Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, I appreciate you holding this hearing.  Ending the claims backlog and building a timely, accurate claims processing system is one of the absolute top priorities for our veterans. 
    “And I continue to hear frequently from veterans in my home state of Washington that they are still waiting far too long for their claims to be completed.
    “I know getting this right is a top priority for the Department.  And I understand this is a complex problem that has no single easy solution. 
    “So I am encouraged by the steps VA has taken so far, but we still have a long way to go.
    “For example, VA’s initiative to expedite the oldest claims was a good step.  However, I have heard repeatedly from veterans that they were confused and frustrated with the provisional rating process. 
    “Some believed their claims had been flat-out rejected and others did understand they have a year to submit additional evidence. 
    “Secretary Hickey, we need to hear more from you today about how VA will improve outreach and communication with veterans so that future initiatives do not cause more confusion.
    “And while the numbers are moving in the right direction, we need to know the necessary structural changes are being made as well. 
    “This is especially important in handling the more complex claims.  The recent testimony by the Office of Inspector General shows some examples of these problems. 
    “Though it is not surprising these claims take longer to rate, these are also claims for veterans who need their benefits the most. 
    “So as VA continues to work to bring down the backlog, we can’t prevent them from doing their jobs.  That means keeping the government open. 
    “The entirely unnecessary shutdown a handful of Republican Members forced us into earlier this year: forced VA to furlough 7,800 V.B.A. employees, ended mandatory overtime for claims processors, and as Secretary Shinseki testified, it decreased claims production by an average of 1,400 claims per day.
    “As you know, Chairman Ryan and I announced our budget agreement last night. I cannot stress enough how important it is for everyone to support this agreement so that we can get away from governing by crisis, prevent another government shutdown in January, and protect our veterans from the serious harm that we saw in October.
    “So I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues and with you, Secretary Hickey, towards meeting these challenges and seeing that each and every veteran receives the benefits that they have earned.”
    Meghan Roh
    Press Secretary | New Media Director
    Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
    Mobile: (202) 365-1235
    Office: (202) 224-2834

    RSS Feed for Senator Murray's office