Saturday, May 24, 2014

Laura Nyro

"What We’re Listening to This Week" (CounterPunch):

Work. All day. Everyday.  But that’s not a complaint.  So this week I stayed pretty much Old School.  Peace, love and happiness music to keep me positive.  My Mother’s Day music mix kicked it off.  Cause who listens to sad music on Mother’s Day? Not me.  Maybe sappy.  But soulful sappy.
For starters, my Mother’s Day mix.  I’m no Bible thumper but I dig traditional gospel.  I began Sunday morning with “No Charge” from Shirley Caesar from her 2003 album “Shirley Caesar – Greatest Gospel Hits” on Rhino Records, “Sadie” from The Spinners’ 1974 “New and Improved” LP on the Atlantic Records label with my main man Philippé Wynne singing lead.  And if you’re gonna listen to “Sadie” you have to listen to Tupac Shakur’s “Dear Mama” which samples the Spinners’ hit. Doubtless, Shakur’s 1995 “Me Against the World on Interscope Records is a classic.  As for the singles they included Bill Withers’ “Grandma’s Hands”, Curtis Mayfield’s “Move on Up”, Cat Stevens’ [Yusuf Islam] “Oh Very Young” and “Peace Train”, Florence and the Machine – “Cosmic Love” (I love Florence Welch’s voice), “Mama Used to Say” (“… take your time young man … don’t you rush to get old … take it in your stride … live your life …”) by Junior, “Mama Said” by The Shirelles, the 1963 Chess Records hit “Mama Didn’t Lie” by Jan Bradley, an Illinois girl who auditioned for Curtis Mayfield soon after graduating high school and “recorded the Mayfield-penned “We Girls”, a Midwest regional hit (on Talty’s Formal Records label).  And no Mother’s Day list would be complete without ‘The Official Black Folks’ Mother’s Day Song!’ “I’ll Always Love My Mama” by The Intruders from their 1973 album “Save the Children” written by Kenneth Gamble, Leon A. Huff, Gene McFadden and John Whitehead on Gamble Records.
Okay, a funny story about my mother who turns 80 on the 18th.  My mum is a proud Canadian.  She’s never applied to become a U.S. citizen and every 10 years she takes the trip to the INS office to renew her “Green card” as a permanent resident.  Over the years she had to travel to Atlanta, then Charleston, then Columbia, all of which are no less than 100 miles from where she lives.  Because of the influx of Latino residents in our state an INS office opened less than 15 miles or so from her house.  So she goes to the INS office and the official says: ”Mrs. Gray, you’ve been in the country so long, why don’t you just apply to become an American citizen?” [As if Canada isn’t in North America]  My mum tells me, “Well I didn’t want to be insulting as the fellow was so nice and I didn’t want any problems.  So I told him that ‘my grandmother lived to be 103.  And my kids have dual citizenship and some live in Canada so I don’t want problems crossing the border. But I’ll think about it when I come back in 10 years.”
My albums this week:
Earth, Wind & Fire, “The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 1.” 1978, Columbia Records.
Tulsa, Oklahoma’s own The Gap Band, “Gap Band IV.” 1982, Mercury Records
The Doobie Brothers. “What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits.” 1974, Warner Brothers Records.
And paying homage to Kool Moe Dee’s “Knowledge Is King” on the on the 25th anniversary of its release in 1989 on Jive/RCA Records.
Kevin Gray’s latest book, Killing Trayvons, (co-edited with JoAnn Wypijewski and Jeffrey St. Clair) will be published by CounterPunch this spring.

I really liked what Kristen Kolb wrote about her selections so it was close, but I'm going with Kevin Alexander Gray.

I did not consider the ridiculous Ron Jacobs.  I did, however, spew my coffee when I read his pick.  If it's not Dylan, it's Springsteen.  He is the most pedestrian and also the most sexist.  Rickie Lee Jones, Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro, Carly Simon and others female singer-songwriters will be ignored while he worships at the cock of tired and mediocre artists like Bruce Springsteen.

"This edition's playlist" (The Third Estate Sunday Review):

1) Tori Amos's Unrepentant Geraldines.

2) Ben and Ellen Harper's Childhood Home.

3) Ben Harper's Both Sides of the Gun.

4) Tori Amos' Under the Pink.

5) Laura Nyro's Christmas and the Beads of Sweat.

6) Ben Harper's Lifeline.

7) Tori Amos' Scarlet's Walk.

8) Jefferson Airplane's Crown of Creation.

9) The Lemonhead's It's A Shame About Ray.

10) Tori Amos' Little Earthquakes.

It was a Tori and Ben week.

Of the non-Tori and Ben on the list, "Beads of Sweat."  That is one of Laura's greatest songs.  When she's pounding on the piano and singing, "Down my neck, beads of sweat," she's summing up all that popular music was at its best in 1971.  The recording also features Duane Allman on guitar.

The bouncy and jauntiness of "When I Was A Freeport And You Were The Main Drag" is something to hear but "Map To Treasure" is probably my favorite of the songs on Laura's fourth album.

Laura was a really huge talent and it's sad that she's not better remembered today.

She made a series of classic albums but a large number of people today who follow music and care about music have never even heard of her.

A detail about this album.  CBS hated the title and begged her to change it.

She would not.

Their reasoning was that the album, due to the title, would not be stocked year round.  People would confuse an album entitled Christmas and the Beads of Sweat with being an album of Christmas songs and so the album wouldn't be in the bins waiting to be purchased.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, May 23, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's War Crimes continue, the Kurds best Nouri on the oil issue, two more Democrats urge embattled VA Secretary Shinseki to resign over the VA scandal, and much more.

Imagine that you woke up this morning to find you were the ruler of a country and that your country had only one high value export while your people lived in poverty and you had to import rice and other basic food staples.

Realizing the importance of your sole commodity, you would most likely attempt to ensure that everything was in order, every 'i' dotted, every 't' crossed.

You'd do that because of the importance of the commodity to your entire country.

And if you didn't do that and the citizens found out, they'd consider you a failure.

Well the commodity is oil, the country is Iraq and the failure is Nouri al-Maliki.

The chief thug of Iraq was put into place by Bully Boy Bush in 2006 with the understanding the Nouri would push through an oil and gas law because 'liberated' Iraq had none.  In 2007, with the US Congress questioning what was being accomplished in Iraq, the Bully Boy Bush administration came up with a series of 'benchmarks' which success would be measured by.  Chief among the benchmarks?  Passing an oil and gas law.

Nouri wanted the US taxpayers money that the US government had been wasting to continue to flow into Iraq, so he readily agreed to the benchmarks.

But he was unable to pass any oil and gas law.

Not in 2006.

Not in all the years he held the post.

Let's not pretend that there weren't problems.

There were problems.

I, for one, was always thrilled watching Nouri's continued failure.

That's because the law the US government wanted, the one Nouri forever pimped, wasn't wanted by Iraqis and especially wasn't wanted by Iraqi labor groups.

When a proposed law is deeply unpopular what do you do?

If you're the leader you can try to ram it through.

It's not democratic but sometimes it can be rammed through.

But you might try that once or even twice.  When you've tried that over and over since 2006?

You're not just a bad leader, you're kind of idiot.

A smart person jettisons the parts that are felt objectionable and refashions a new bill.  A smart person refashions it in a way to get more people on board and uses horse trading on that and other issues to bring others on board.

When your economy has no diversification to speak of and is rooted around only one commodity, you do everything you can to secure that commodity.

If you're not an idiot.

Nouri's an idiot.  Eight years in a row as prime minister and he couldn't even make the most basic move to secure the economy.  And yet the failure thinks he deserves a third term as prime minister.

SPA reports, "Iraq filed for arbitration against Turkey on Friday" and that the filing was "with the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce."

What's going on?

From yesterday's snapshot:

Marina Ottaway offers an analysis for CNN which includes, "Elated by his victory, al-Maliki is sounding uncompromising, and although he has declared that he is open to work with any political party, he has made it clear that it would be strictly on his own terms. For example, he has told the Kurdish party that they are welcome in a government coalition as long as they accept his interpretation of the constitution, thus renounce their ambition to export oil independently."  Apparently while preparing that analysis today, Ottaway missed Sinan Salaheddin's Associated Press report which opens, "Iraq's self-ruled northern Kurdish region on Thursday started exporting crude oil to the international market through the Turkish port of Ceyhan despite objections from the central government in Baghdad, Turkey's energy minister said." 

This morning, Gary Dixon (TradeWinds) noted, "Turkish energy minister Taner Yildiz told Reuters loading of the 1m barrel stem was completed on Thursday."  Selcan Hacaoglu and Ali Berat Meric (Bloomberg News) added, "More than one million barrels of Kurdish oil were shipped from Turkey to Europe yesterday, Turkey’s energy minister and the Iraqi Kurdish administration said, a sale that may trigger legal action by Iraq’s government."

The Kurdistan Regional Government issued the following today:

Erbil, Kurdistan ( - In line with its policy of implementing the 2005 Constitution of Iraq and helping Iraq achieve its oil production, export and revenue targets, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has completed the first sales of crude oil produced in the Kurdistan Region and piped to the port of Ceyhan.
A tanker loaded with over one million barrels of crude oil departed last night from Ceyhan towards Europe. This is the first of many such sales of oil exported through the newly constructed pipeline in the Kurdistan Region.
The revenue from the sales will be deposited in a KRG-controlled account in Halkbank in Turkey and will be treated as part of the KRG’s budgetary entitlement under Iraq’s revenue sharing and distribution as defined under the 2005 Constitution of Iraq.
Meeting Iraq’s continued international UN obligations, five percent of the sales revenue will be set aside in a separate account for reparations.
The KRG has invited independent bodies to observe the sales and export process in line with the KRG’s commitment to transparency. KRG also hopes that officials from SOMO (the federal Iraqi oil marketing organization) accept KRG’s invitation to observe the process. 
The KRG will continue to exert its rights of export and sell oil independently of SOMO but remains committed to negotiate in good faith with its counterparts in Baghdad to reach a comprehensive settlement on oil issues within the framework of Iraq’s Constitution.

  The KRG has worked tirelessly with its international partners and investors to create new pathways to prosperity and economic development for the people of Kurdistan and Iraq and is ready to become a reliable and stable source of energy both for its immediate neighbours and international markets.

The Kurds can sale their oil because (a) they're semi-autonomous and (b) no national oil & gas law has been passed.
Nouri's hands are tied.  It's as though he's finally been placed in the straight jacket he has needed for so long.  If he let's his crazy run loose he could piss off the Kurds.  If he really let's his crazy run free, he could frighten even potential Shi'ite partners.  Nouri, if he's going to have a third term, needs to cobble together a coalition and looking crazy isn't going to help with that.  As BBC News points out, "The tensions come as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki looks to form a new coalition government after falling short of a majority in last month's parliamentary elections.  Analysts say the Kurds could use the negotiations to secure concessions."
So he's suing.
He's suing Turkey over what he insists is Iraqi oil.
Ahmed Rasheed and Isabel Coles (Reuters) reports:

"By transporting and storing crude oil from Kurdistan, and by loading that crude oil onto a tanker in Ceyhan, all without the authorization of the Iraqi Ministry of Oil, Turkey and BOTAS have breached their obligations under the Iraq-Turkey Pipeline Agreement," the government said in a statement.
Both BOTAS and Turkey's Ministry of Energy said they had yet to receive any information about the arbitration from either the ICC or the Iraqi government.
Today's Zaman reports:
The revenue from the sale was deposited into an account of Turkey's state-run Halkbank. The KRG said it remained open to negotiations with Baghdad and would comply with United Nations obligations by setting aside 5 percent of the revenue in a separate account for reparations for Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız said on Friday that the first cargo was sold in to the Mediterranean spot crude market.
In 2009, the northern Kurdish region attempted to ship its oil to the international market via a pipeline controlled by Baghdad connected to Ceyhan; however, the shipments were halted amidst payment disputes. Last year, the KRG began building a separate pipeline to Ceyhan, skirting Baghdad's control. Iraq has the fourth-largest proven oil reserves in the world, and oil revenues account for just under 95 percent of the country's budget.
The Kurds are using their own pipeline but let's jump to the other pipeline to Turkey, the one the central government out of Baghdad controls because there's development there as well.  Ahmed Rasheed and Ziad al-Sinjary (Reuters) note, "Iraqi engineers are at last fixing the main pipeline to Turkey after it was shut down for nearly three months in attacks by an al Qaeda-offshoot cell, causing a total collapse in exports from northern oil fields worth billions of dollars."  For three months, Nouri let that pipeline cease production? What kind of a leader is that?
AFP notes, "Baghdad has warned that it will not give the Kurds their 17% share in the national budget and will sue the buyers if they go ahead with the exports without central government approval. Officials in Baghdad did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment."  Nouri's blackmail hasn't worked and it would probably be beneficial for AFP to include the Kurdish claim that they haven't received a cent of funding from Baghdad since the start of the year.
Rudaw explains, "Erbil opened its new pipeline to Ceyhan in December, but after strong opposition from Baghdad Ankara said it would hold off on allowing the sales until consent from the central government. But after months of bickering and acrimony, including Baghdad freezing Erbil out of the national budget for months, no agreement was reached."

I'm unclear on the constitutional or legal principle that allows Nouri to refuse to give regions their share of federal monies -- I'm unclear because the Iraqi Constitution doesn't allow for it nor does any Iraqi law.  AFP notes a fact but it's a partial fact.  They don't note that Nouri's blackmail is illegal.  But they will carry his claim that what the Kurds are doing is wrong.
Seeking Alpha notes, "Oil companies with a Kurdistan presence include global majors Exxon Mobil (XOM), Chevron (CVX), Marathon Oil (MRO), Hess (HES) and Total (TOT), as well as wildcatters such as Gulf Keystone (GUKYF) and Genel Energy (GEGYF)."  Mike Whitney (CounterPunch) develops that theme further:
If it sounds like the big boys are dividing the spoils among themselves; it’s because they are. Exxon, BP, Shell; they’re all here. They all have their contracts in hand, and they’re all drilling their brains out thanks to the American servicemen and women who gave their lives for some trumped up baloney about WMD. Isn’t that what’s going on?
Sure it is. And even now–after all the reasons for going to war have been exposed as lies–the farce continues. Nothing has changed. Nothing. There’s still no talk of reparations, no official investigation, no indictments, no prosecutions, no trials, no penalties, no nothing. Not even a stinking apology. Just a big “up yours” Iraq. We’re way too important to apologize for killing a million of your people and reducing your five thousand year old civilization to a pile of rubble.  Instead, we’ll just screw you some more and paper it over with a little public relations, like Obama did a couple weeks ago when he promised to “leave behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people”.
Oh yeah. Obama’s all about sovereignty and stability, everyone knows that.  That’s why Baghdad is the terror capital of the world, because Obama’s so committed to security.
These PR blurbs are effective though, they provide the necessary cover for leaving enough troops behind to protect the oil installations and pipelines.  That’s the kind of security Obama cares about. Security for the oiligarchs and their stolen property.  Everyone else can fend for themselves, which is why Baghdad is such a bloody mess.  
At yesterday's US State Dept press briefing, the oil issue was raised to spokesperson Jen Psaki.

QUESTION: Thank you. Today Turkish energy minister stated that Turkey began shipping Kurdistan Regional Government’s oil to the world market. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve seen these reports and we’ll discuss their implications with our partners in Turkey and in the Iraqi Kurdistan region. Our most immediate concern is for Iraq’s stability. We’ve had a longstanding position on this issue, as you know, that has not changed. And Iraq is facing a difficult situation. We’ve been clear that it’s important for all sides to take actions to help the country pull together and avoid actions that might further exacerbate divisions and tensions. So we’ll be in touch with both sides.

QUESTION: Have you talked to Baghdad over this recent decision?

MS. PSAKI: Have we talked --

QUESTION: -- talked to the Maliki government on this particular issue?

MS. PSAKI: We will be in touch, I’m certain, with them as well. We’re in touch with them on a regular basis. But again, I don’t have any specific updates on contacts. But go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you see this shipping to the world market of Kurdistan Regional Government’s oil – is this a factor for division, contribute to division of Iraq? Is this your assessment?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our position has long been that we don’t support exports without the appropriate approval of the federal Iraqi government, and certainly we do have concerns about the impact of those continuing.
Actually, that's incorrect, the position of the State Dept changed in that press briefing, the one where Psaki insisted there was no change.  We've long argued here that the position Psaki presented Thursday is the true US government position.  However, until yesterday, the State Dept like to pretend they weren't taking sides.  They also liked to repeatedly note, "That said, you know that for many years, in fact, the United States has been urging all parties in Iraq to enact the necessary national laws that can govern the oil and gas sector because the sooner they do that, the sooner companies can invest in a legally viable way."
That quoted statement?  It's at random.  Then-State Dept spokesperson Victoria Nuland made it in the November 22, 2011 State Dept press briefing but you can find it almost any of them.
Psaki's made clear that the US government is not neutral on this issue and is taking sides.  She's also failed to include the historical detail that the State Dept spokesperson usually includes regarding there being no national law at present.
Hopefully, the Kurdish government caught what happened in that press briefing as well and will remember the US government is no friend of the Kurds -- and hopefully they will remember that when the US government attempts to counsel them on how to form the next government.
Can someone counsel Paul Waldman?
Free Speech TV reposts his American Prospect piece -- a deeply stupid and deeply embarrassing piece. Before we get to the stupidity, let's note a few things.
The VA scandal has some on the right arguing that this is proof of a failure of socialized medicine and various people are being ridiculed who have suggested in the last 15 years or so that the VA system be opened wide for all Americans.
Our focus is the VA scandal.  And I've never written about expanding the VA medical system for all Americans.  So I could take a pass on this and get away with it.  But I have been speaking around the country about war for so many years and one thing that comes up is this.  I have no problem stating -- or now dictating -- that I do think the expansion of VA would be a good thing.  I have no problem with socialized medicine.  The VA's current scandal isn't about socialized medicine.  
I don't want to get to deep into this because it's not a main point (we can touch on it tomorrow in "I Hate The War").  But certainly, true socialized medicine would not have to factor in profit motive.  And yet two sets of lists -- one real, one fake -- were kept at least in part because certain officials got bonuses and high performance appraisals (which means raises) by doctoring the books.
There may be reasons to argue against or for socialized medicine but the VA scandal currently is not one of them.
Unless you want to treat an issue like a political football.  Gun control advocates who immediately start screaming after a public shooting never get how tacky and outrageous to most Americans.  A tragedy has taken place and a group is stepping forward to try to hijack the grief for their own political goals.  It's unattractive.  It's also unattractive when the right or the left tries to use the current VA scandal as a political football on the issue of socialized medicine.
So let's try to stay focused on reality.
Veterans are suffering.
They're suffering because a number of officials in the VA are crooked and dishonest and have participated in crimes.  House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi this week expressed the possibility that crimes may have been committed and, if so, would need to be addressed via the legal system.
Nancy's talking about big crimes -- and she's right.  But I'm talking about basic fraud.  And fraud was committed and people need to be charged with it.
They defrauded the government, they defrauded the taxpayer.
They kept two sets of lists.  The false one promoted the lie that veterans were getting medical appointments within fourteen days of requesting them.  The real one showed that veterans were waiting weeks and months for these appointments.
Paul Waldman writes:
This scandal isn't about the quality of care. While there are surely some veterans who have gotten poor care, just as there are plenty of patients at private hospitals who get poor care, the V.A. actually has an excellent record on this score.
No, Paul, it is about the quality of care.  And nobody gives a damn about what some stupid poll says about customer satisfaction.  Those polls are rarely accurate -- as anyone knows who knows a thing about polling.  Whether it's a grocery store, a fast food place, a zoo or the VA, most respondents try to be kind and take into account that people tried to help them.  A small number of respondents fear their responses will come back to haunt them (they don't trust that the feedback will be anonymous).  There are many issues at play here but no one ever believes -- except the uninformed -- a customer satisfaction survey really conveys customer satisfaction.
Barry Coates is a victim of the current scandal.  The long delays allowed his cancer to reach stage-four before being diagnosed.  His story is part of the scandal.  If the VA hadn't kept two sets of books, they wouldn't have been able to drag out the long time between appointments for Coates.  Equally true, the VA failed to recognize his symptoms early on when he did get a medical appointment.  Trina went over all of this last night at her site:

In the  April 9th "Iraq snapshot", C,I. reported on that day's House Veterans Affairs Committee.
Veteran Barry Coates appeared before the Committee to explain how he had blood from his rectum and went to the VA for medical attention.  He was palmed off on one doctor after another.  He was not given the needed exams.  For a year, he waited and waited for tests that were not ordered and treatment that did not come.
Mr. Coates had cancer, colon cancer.  It was in the early stages.
Had the basic procedures been followed, it would have been diagnosed in the early stages.
Instead, as he waited for a year for proper medical treatment, the cancer went undiagnosed and untreated.
When it was finally discovered, Mr. Coates had stage-four cancer.
Outside of prayer, Mr. Coates' prognosis is not a pleasant one, as he himself noted.
He has stage-four cancer because the VA refused to schedule him for appointments.
Because the VA refused to recognize his symptoms.
Barry Coates' story is not uncommon.  And before the next Paul Waldman makes an idiot of themselves in public, let's also point out what those of us who attend the VA Committee hearings in Congress damn well know but the Chattering Waldmans don't: VA doctors are not the best.  Some are very good.  But if you practice at San Francisco General Hospital or Santa Ana's Western Medical Center, you have to be licensed with the State of California.  That's true in all the states.  But it's not true with the VA.  Their doctors don't meet those standards and are not held to those standards. So before the next chattering idiot from my side (the left)  extols the great excellence of the VA, stop.  Because what you're actually pimping is less regulation.  Again, the VA has some very good doctors.  They also have some doctors who couldn't work in a county hospital because they can't meet the state requirements.
AP reports Michelle Nunn (Sam Nunn's daughter who's running in the Democratic primary for the open Senate out of Georgia) and Alison Lundergan Grimes (running for the US Senate out of Kentucky) have both called for VA Secretary Eric Shineski to step down.  Nunn is quoted stating, "It has become increasingly clear that we need new leadership to build confidence, focus and accountability at the VA to fix what is wrong with the agency.  I hope that Gen. Shinseki will step aside to allow for fresh leadership to tackle these pressing issues and support the veterans that the general is deeply committed to serving."
The two women are part of a building chorus.  From yesterday's snapshot:
Bret Hayworth (Sioux City Journal) reports Iraq War veteran Jim Mower, who is running for Congress, publicly called today for Shinseki to resign:

"I am appalled by the actions of the president and the V.A.," Mowrer said.
Mowrer is a veteran who served in Iraq for 16 months with an Infantry Battalion out of Waterloo, Iowa. He said Obama only reacted after weeks of media outcries about veterans hospitals, so he sees "a rudderless ship approaching disaster."
Mowrer is not worried about any fallout from his criticism of Obama, who is a fellow Democrat.
"I don't care who the president is, it needs to be fixed," he said.

Jim Mower isn't the only Democrat making the call for Shinseki to step down.  As noted in yesterday's snapshot, US House Reps John Barrow and David Scott (both Democrats) called yesterday for Shinseki to step down.   In addition, Andrew Johnson (conservative National Review -- link is text and video) notes Bob Kerry appeared on Hardball last night and called for Shinseki to step down.  (Disclosure, as noted before, I know and like Bob Kerrey.)  The Vietnam veteran, former Governor of Nebraska and former US senator told Chris Matthews, "In this case I think there's an urgency for General Shinseki, who is honorable man and served his country honorably, but he needs to step aside."

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America issued the following yesterday:

IAVA Meets with Senator McCain on VA Scandal

CONTACT: Gretchen Andersen (212) 982-9699 or


IAVA Meets with Senator McCain on VA Scandal
Leaders applaud his strong leadership on VA accountability

Washington DC (May 22, 2014) – Today, leaders from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), including IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff, met with Senator John McCain (R-AZ), one of only two combat veterans in the Senate, about the ongoing crisis of confidence in the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). Senator McCain and IAVA have lead the charge for reform and accountability at VA since the news first broke four weeks ago. 

“Since this scandal first broke, Senator McCain has had our back. While others have followed, delayed and made excuses, he has stepped out in front. We applaud his strong leadership, tenacity and demands for real accountability. As a fellow combat veteran, and the father of a post-9/11 veteran, Senator John McCain uniquely understands the outrage that IAVA members feel as this crisis at the VA continues to escalate.” said Paul Rieckhoff, IAVA Founder and CEO. “Just days before Memorial Day, it was an honor to stand with Senator McCain to call for strong leadership, action, and results. He more than anybody understands that our veterans deserve nothing but the best from their elected leaders. Together, we will fight to ensure they get it.”

From left to right: Paul Rieckhoff, Senator McCain, Lauren Augustie and Alex Nicholson

Senator McCain and IAVA also discussed effective measures to combat suicide among America’s troops and veterans, IAVA’s top priority for 2014. 

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America ( is the nation's first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 270,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Celebrating its 10th year anniversary, IAVA recently received the highest rating - four-stars - from Charity Navigator, America's largest charity evaluator.

As Laura Flint (of right-wing media watchdog Newsbusters) notes, IAVA's Paul Rieckhoff appeared yesterday on MSNBC's The Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd and discussed the House passage of the VA Management Accountability Act and whether it would pass in the Senate:

TODD: I imagine it'll fly.

RIECKHOFF: Well, it probably will. And that's been the problem throughout this. Is that the House has continued to be aggressive on veterans' issues and the Senate's been pretty silent. The oversight on the Senate's Veterans' Affairs Committee by Bernie Sanders has not been aggressive and they've really got to step up their game because they're at fault here too. Both committees, the president, everybody in Congress, they can't just throw Shinseki under the bus alone. Everyone knew this was happening. There have been GAO reports and IG reports and hearing after hearing after hearing. So if you're not outraged already, you haven't been paying attention.

Rieckhoff's opinion on the Senate and Chair Bernie Sanders is not a minority view.  As noted in last Friday's snapshot, after I shared my thoughts the day prior on a Senate Veterans Affairs hearing (see the Thursday prior snapshot), five veterans who were at the hearing wanted to weigh in.  They felt I was wrong and missing some key observations.  They made their case well and I stated in that snapshot that I was wrong.  There is tremendous disappointment with Bernie Sanders especially.  And this was before Chris Cuomo told Sanders, live on CNN, that he was sounding like a schill for the VA.

Dona moderated a roundtable Sunday ("Congress and Veterans") and in it I stated, "So there's this whole group of elements coming together to form a storm.  We're talking about this in terms of Shinseki and that's where the focus should be.  However, I think the way this unfolds will also determine how Bernie Sanders tenure as Chair is seen.   I think they need to get ahead of this, Sanders and his office, because they've lost a lot of support already, in the days since the hearing, as a result of this issue and what is seen as a lack of strong response to it."

That's only become more true. He and his office do need to get ahead of this.

Bernie Sanders is a Socialist.  That's fine.  There's nothing wrong with that and too bad we don't have more in Congress.  But Bernie's the first open Socialist to serve in the Senate post WWII. That means he has obligations as a senator and obligations as a first.  If he can't defend veterans, if he can't stop making excuses for the VA, he's not just giving himself a bad name, he's giving Socialists a bad name.

Socialists like John Nichols have been trying to promote a Bernie For President in 2016 campaign.  Whether that would be a real campaign (truly running for the office) or just one to raise issues, no one's going to care too much if Bernie Sanders won't stand up for veterans and, most importantly, won't stand up to the government. Bernie can't be a lackey and also be seen as some brave maverick politician.

The former Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Patty Murray is now the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee.  Her office notes:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                 CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Friday, May 23, 2014                                                                      (202) 224-2834
MEMORIAL DAY: Senator Murray’s Statement Honoring Fallen Servicemembers
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) released the following statement as the nation prepares to commemorate Memorial Day:
“This Memorial Day, we are united in honoring the American heroes who answered the call to service and made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our nation, our families, and our freedom. It is because of their sacrifice that our children and grandchildren can enjoy a future safe from harm and full of opportunity. And it is because of their selfless commitment that America can remain a beacon for democracy throughout the world.
“Memorial Day is a day of remembrance, but also a day for reflection. When our brave men and women volunteered to protect our nation, we promised we would take care of them and their families when they return home. We must reaffirm our commitment to those still bravely serving and to remember those who gave their lives in service to our country.”
Meghan Roh
Press Secretary | New Media Director
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Mobile: (202) 365-1235
Office: (202) 224-2834


Monday is Memorial Day and that only adds to the importance of the VA's latest scandal.  Media critic Howard Kurtz (Fox News) notes:
President Obama is mad as hell. The media are mad as hell. The veterans are mad as hell. We’re all mad as hell.
The journalistic uproar about the VA hospital mess has been loud and forceful, with even such liberal columnists as Dana Milbank and Gene Robinson saying this is a real, genuine, big-deal scandal—and not letting Obama off the hook.
Once again, we saw the president in reactive mode. Once again, defending an aide who didn’t seem to have control of his department. Once again, saying he didn’t know about some outrage until he heard about it from the media.
Kurtz wonders whether the media will hold Barack accountable or bury the story in the coming days?  It's a question worth pondering.

Back to Iraq where thug Nouri continues to bomb the residential neighborhoods of Falluja.  The latest victims?  National Iraqi News Agency reports that seven family members were injured today when their home was bombed.  And, later in the day, Sheikh Ali al-Basri was injured by one of the bombings while 3 civilians were killed in other residential bombings with five more injured.
In other violence, National Iraqi News Agency reports 2 Aljahash Village bombings left 1 police brigadier and 1 police colonel dead, a Tuz Khurmato roadisde bombing left 2 police members dead and three more injured, a Sharqat mortar attack left 3 family members dead and a fourth injured,  2 Bab-Jideed and Alfarooq car bombings left nine people injured, a Kadhimiyah bombing left 1 pilgrim dead and twelve more injured, 1 police officer was shot dead in Tikrit, 1 pharmacist was shot dead in Basra, a Muqdadiyah bombing left 3 Iraqi soldiers dead, 1 police member was shot dead in Mosul, 1 civilian was shot dead in Mosul, and a Mosul roadside bombing left two people injured.

April 30th, Iraq held parliamentary elections which means in two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine? months, a government will be formed.

Press TV notes, "Iraq's State of Law Coalition has officially named incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as its only candidate for premiership."  All Iraq News reports MP Hussein al-Mansoury with the Sadr bloc declared today, "There are some blocs that reject Maliki's nomination for the third PM Post and he has to avoid the nomination for this post to prevent shedding the Iraqis' blood due to the disturbed security situation."

Thursday, May 22, 2014

VA failures, Superbowl winners -- what's the diff?

As usual, C.I. does the real reporting.  In the "Iraq snapshot," she notes the prepared speech Barack gave about the VA scandal which is harming veterans and putting them at risk.

That speech was 1370 words.

He gave it Wednesday.

1370 words?

To prove how serious he took the issue?

He gave another speech Wednesday, as C.I. points out.

The other speech was congratulating a sports team on winning the Superbowl months ago.

What was that?  The equivalent of cutting the ribbon at a new supermarket opening?

At any rate, Barack spoke.

A prepared speech of 1330 words.

In other words, congratulating a sports team for a win -- a months ago win -- is of equal value and importance to the White House as their own department -- Veterans Affairs -- putting veterans at risk.

It's all the same to them, it's all a big 'what's the diff?'

Barack and his speech writers are shameless.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
May 21, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri wants everyone to accept the voting results, more calls for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign, Barack gives an insulting speech on the VA scandal, in the VA speech he defended Eric Shinseki by name but couldn't note any of the veterans who've suffered such as Barry Coates, equally bad Barack gave a speech praising a sports team today and the prepared remarks were just forty words less than his speech on veterans making perfectly clear how little the White House cares about veterans, all that and much more.

The last time I saw Barack?

You like roses and kisses and pretty men to tell you
All those pretty lies, pretty lies
When you gonna realize they're only pretty lies
Only pretty lies, just pretty lies
-- "The Last Time I Saw Richard," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Blue album.

Pretty lies no longer work as well for US President Barack Obama.  And today he spoke about the latest Veterans Affairs scandal.

“The question is this: if the administration has known about these issues for at least four years, why is it just now taking action?"

That is the question to ask, we'll get to it in a moment.

In the United States, the VA stands accused of cooking the books.  Numerous VA medical centers maintained two sets of appointment lists.  The first one, the official one kept in the computer system, demonstrated veterans received medical attention within 14 days of needing it.  That list is the fairy tale.  The reality was the off books list which demonstrated veterans were actually waiting weeks and months.

The fairy tale list was used to give the impression that VA was doing their job and serving veterans in a timely manner.  It was also used to reward officials for strong performances -- resulting in raises for them and bonuses.  Again, this list was a lie.

Most recently, Patricia DiCarlo and Scott Bronstein (CNN) reported, "An audit team sent to the Malcom Randall VA Medical Center in Gainesville, Florida, discovered a list of patients needing follow-up appointments that was kept on paper instead of in the VA's electronic computer system."  It is just the most recent addition to a growing list.  Scott Bronstein and Tom Cohen's (CNN) report, "Meanwhile, the number of Veterans Affairs facilities under investigation has expanded to 26, the agency's Office of Inspector General confirmed Tuesday. Last week, the inspector general told a Senate committee that 10 facilities were being investigated."

As the scandal has grown, people have awaited word from Barack.  Monday, the White House said Barack had just learned of the scandal and then it was revealed Barack learned of the scandal right before he was sworn in as president in January 2009.

Stephanie Gaskill (Defense One) reminds,  "In 2008, Sen. Barack Obama vowed to fix the Department of Veterans Affairs if elected president. But over the past 5 years, problem after problem has emerged: a massive case backlog, delayed GI Bill payments, a stalled electronic records system, and now allegations that federal employees have been lying about wait times at VA hospitals."  David Zucchino, Cindy Carcamo and Alan Zarembo (Los Angeles Times) offer the following examples:

 • In Washington state, Navy veteran Walter “Burgie” Burkhartsmeier, 73, had to wait two months to get an MRI exam at a VA facility in Seattle for shooting pains down his left arm. Eighteen months passed before someone read the MRI results — which showed bony projections on his spinal cord that put him at risk of paralysis if he were struck in the back.
• In Texas, Carolyn Richardson, 70, said a VA doctor last year ordered “immediate” chemotherapy for her husband, Army veteran Anson “Dale” Richardson, 66, but a two-month delay robbed him of the chance to fight the throat cancer that killed him Nov. 4.
• In Phoenix, Thomas Breen, 71, a Navy veteran with a history of bladder cancer, waited two months last fall for a follow-up appointment at the VA facility there after discovering blood in his urine. His family finally took him to a private hospital that diagnosed him with terminal bladder cancer. He died Nov. 30.
• In Nevada, Sandi Niccum, 78, a blind Navy veteran, was forced to wait five hours for emergency room treatment at a VA facility in North Las Vegas last year. Niccum, who was weeping and pounding the floor with her cane because of intense pain in her abdomen, died less than a month later after a large mass was found. A VA investigation did not link the care delay to her death, but it faulted the facility for the long wait and for failing to monitor Niccum.

• And in Durham, N.C., two employees were put on administrative leave last week after an internal review uncovered irregularities in appointments, a local VA spokeswoman said.

Today, Barack finally spoke himself about the scandal.

What did he say?

Among other things, "He has put his heart and soul into this thing. At this stage, Rick is committed to solving the problem and working with us to do it."


Yes, Barack finally spoke about the scandal and his primary concern was "Rick" -- Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki.

"Rick," Barack wants the world to know, "has put his heart and soul into this thing."

So forget you, Barry Coates, the VA's failures kept you from getting timely medical treatment meaning your cancer wasn't caught in time and progressed to stage-four.  Your problems are nothing, apparently, when compared to "Rick" Shinseki's "heart and soul."  (Barry Coates shared his story with the House Veterans Affairs Committee on April 9th -- nothing in Barack's speech indicated he was aware of how the VA failed Coates or other veterans in the same situation.)

You can read his remarks in full here -- all 1370 words.

All 1370 words.

I emphasize that for a reason.

Barack made a joke of veterans today.

He thought 1370 words were adequate for this issue?

On the same day he gave a speech "Honoring the Super Bowl Chapmion Seattle Seahawks"?

Really?  Because I think he came off looking like a fool -- and an uncaring and thoughtless fool at that.

1370 words in his VA scandal speech.

We're supposed to take that seriously when he gives a speech on a football team the same day and that speech is 1330 words -- only 40 less than his speech on a VA scandal that threatens the health and well being of veterans?

He should be ashamed of himself.

Veterans health and lives in jeopardy was only worth 40 more prepared remarks than Barack's gushing (and whoring) over a sports team.  He and his speech writers should be ashamed of themselves.

Not surprisingly, Barack's speech did not go over well.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America issued the following statement:

President's Lack of Action Disappoints New Veterans

CONTACT: Gretchen Andersen (212) 982-9699 or
President's Lack of Action Disappoints New Veterans
IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff says public trust with Veterans Affairs is broken, urges Congress to pass VA Accountability Act

Washington DC (May 21, 2014) – Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) today released the following statement from Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff in response to President Obama's remarks on the growing VA controversy:
"The President's remarks today were a tremendous disappointment to America's newest generation of veterans. He did nothing to quell the growing nationwide VA controversy. His long-overdue remarks gave outraged IAVA members no reason to believe anything will change at the VA anytime soon. The public trust with the VA and Secretary Shinseki is broken. As a Washington Post survey recently revealed, nearly six in ten post-9/11 veterans say the VA is not doing a good job meeting the needs of veterans. 
"This controversy is much bigger than Phoenix. And our veterans shouldn't have to wait a month for an investigation into one city as disturbing allegations have emerged in at least nine others. The controversy has now spanned to Fort Collins, Austin, San Antonio, Cheyenne, St Louis, Chicago, Gainesville, Durham, and Albuquerque.
"These issues are not new. Problems surrounding unacceptable wait times, delays and cooked books have been emerging for years. IAVA has been sounding the alarm for over a decade. After numerous GAO reports and dozens of public hearings, if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention. 
"These issues were also predictable and preventable. But as we all learn in the military, failing to plan is planning to fail. 
"Speeches and excuses will not solve this problem. Only decisive leadership, bold change and strong accountability will repair decades of failure. 
"While the President continues to dither, Congress has an opportunity to take bipartisan action today by passing the VA Accountability Act. IAVA calls on all members of both parties to swiftly pass this legislation that is essential to empowering the leadership of the VA." 
Last week, IAVA and the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) announced they are joining together to protect VA staff who come forward with information about agency wrongdoing.
As part of the effort, the organizations have launched a secure website,, where VA employees can get in touch with POGO and IAVA.  The effort combines IAVA’s deep knowledge of the VA system with POGO’s experience working with whistleblowers to expose federal wrongdoing.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America ( is the nation's first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 270,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Celebrating its 10th year anniversary, IAVA recently received the highest rating - four-stars - from Charity Navigator, America's largest charity evaluator.
# # #

Gregg Zoroya (USA Today) speaks with a number of people including IAVA's Paul Rieckhoff:

"I think everybody had high hopes for Secretary Shinseki," says Paul Rieckhoff, founder and executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of American and today one of Shinseki's most vocal critics. "He's gotten more of a benefit of the doubt than any political figure I've ever seen in my life."
Rieckhoff says the reputation that preceded Shinseki into office has ultimately been a liability to the veterans he serves because it has, for many years, taken the edge off holding the secretary to a high standard.
"It's bad for accountability," he says. "And it's bad for the VA because it looks like there's a culture of failure."

Also expressing disappointment?  The Washington Free Beacon quotes Senator Mike Rogers stating, "As a veteran myself, I am horribly disappointed in what I saw today on behalf of the president. He’s very good at the glitz and glamour and the very sternly worded memos, but this is about governance." Senator John McCain's office issued the following:

Washington, D.C. ­– U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) released the following statement on President Obama’s remarks on the VA scandal today:
“While I am glad that after many weeks of refusing to acknowledge this widening scandal, President Obama finally saw fit to speak about it today, but his remarks are wholly insufficient in addressing the fundamental, systemic problems plaguing our veterans’ health care system. According to the latest reports, 26 VA facilities nationwide are now being investigated, and this Administration’s ineffectual response has created a crisis of confidence in our veterans’ community. We need answers, leadership and accountability, none of which we’ve seen from the Obama Administration to date. Further, Congress must act to address the systemic problems at the VA by giving its leaders greater ability to hire and fire those charged with providing care, and by giving veterans far greater flexibility in how they get quality care in a timely manner.”


US House Rep John Barrow's office issued the following today:

 May 21, 2014
Press Release

WASHINGTON – U.S. Congressman John Barrow (GA-12) called on the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Eric Shinseki, to resign his post in the wake of problems at VA clinics across the country. Today, news was reported that 26 clinics across the country, including clinics in Georgia, are under investigation for failing to provide adequate care for veterans. In 2013, issues were raised at the Charlie Norwood VA in Augusta regarding delays in care that led to at least three veteran deaths.
Congressman Barrow said:
“Secretary Shinseki is a decorated veteran who has served this country honorably, and I’ve personally met him on numerous occasions and found him to be devoted to caring for this nation’s heroes.  Unfortunately, this Administration has fallen short in providing the kind of care that our veterans have earned.  While I don’t think a change in leadership will immediately solve the serious problems that plague the VA, I do think it’s time to give someone else an opportunity to lead the agency and begin the rebuilding process to ensure these issues never happen again. Our nation’s veterans deserve the best we can give them, and too much time has passed since this issue was brought to light without anyone being held accountable.  Secretary Shinseki deserves the utmost respect for his service, but it's time for someone new to get to the bottom of what's happened on his watch.”
Congressman Barrow and House Veterans Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) conducted an oversight visit of the Augusta VA following the claims. 

Gordon Lubold (Foreign Policy) notes Barrow's call and that of US House Rep David Scott is also calling for Shinseki to resign.  McCain is a Republican, Barrow and Scott are Democrats.

May 5th, The American Legion called for the resignation of Shinseki.  Today, they issued the following:

Responding to President Obama’s press conference earlier today, American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger released the following statement:
“The American Legion applauds President Obama for committing himself to hold leadership at the Department of Veterans Affairs more accountable for their actions. If this system-wide failure is to be corrected, it is paramount for our commander-in-chief to be personally involved. The president needs to ensure that every veteran who relies on the VA can do so secure in the knowledge that he or she will receive the best and most timely care humanly possible.
“The question is this: if the administration has known about these issues for at least four years, why is it just now taking action?
“Moreover, the president’s decision to keep Secretary Shinseki at his post is an unfortunate one. The VA has been aware for some time that inappropriate scheduling procedures are widespread among its medical facilities. Yet Secretary Shinseki has taken no initiative in correcting the problem. Veterans continue to die waiting for their health care, senior VA executives continue to get their bonuses, and only after all of this is the secretary now pledging to fix what’s wrong.
“So now America’s veterans are told, in effect, wait a while longer and things will get better. Meanwhile, care is delayed or denied and veterans and their families suffer. Words are nice, and even somewhat comforting, but when will the VA’s house be cleansed of those who are soiling it and dishonoring the system?”

Prior to Barack's speech today, many were weighing in.  Florida's News4Jax's Bruce Hamilton (The Morning Show -- link is video and text) spoke with the state's Governor Rick Scott who states, "Now we know there are secret wait lists at our Gainesville facility. Our VA facilities need transparency and accountability. It starts at the top."  Therefore, he says, "Eric Shinseki should resign."    The editorial board for the Delaware News Journal weighed in on the scandal and noted:

For example, a scandal has been bubbling up for days involving VA hospitals around the country, possible deaths of veterans waiting for service, and the claim that government officials falsified records to protect their rear ends. Yet the White House announced President Obama is really, truly angry about it because he saw a report on CNN.
Then the White House claims it has taken decisive action because it fired the person in charge of the VA health program. It turns out the government had announced the official's planned retirement weeks ago.
President Obama promised during his 2008 campaign that he would fix problems with the Veterans Administration. So much for promises. 

Still on veterans, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee and serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Her office issued the following today:

FOR PLANNING PURPOSES                                 CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Wednesday, May 21st, 2014                                                           (202) 224-2834
VETERANS: TOMORROW: Murray to Continue Call for Immediate VA Action
Murray: “What we need from VA now is decisive action and I think this Committee should be clear to the VA what we expect. The lack of transparency and the lack of accountability are inexcusable and cannot be allowed to continue.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. — TOMORROW, Thursday, May 22, 2014, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) will attend the Senate Appropriations Committee’s first Full Committee Markup of the year. During consideration of the Military Construction and Veterans’ Affairs bill, Murray plans to continue her push for immediate action at the VA, and express support for provisions in the Appropriations bill that would address wait times and increase accountability.
WHO:             U.S. Senator Patty Murray
WHAT:          Remarks on the VA at the Senate Appropriations Committee Markup.
WHEN:          TOMORROW, May 22, 2014 at
                        10:30 AM EST/7:30AM PST
WHERE:       SD-106, Dirksen Senate Office Building
Meghan Roh
Press Secretary | New Media Director
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Mobile: (202) 365-1235
Office: (202) 224-2834

Let's stay with the Senate.

Senator Robert Menendez:  Finally, I would like to hear the views of each of our witnesses on the prospect of repealing the Iraq AUMG, which I believe must be repealed.  It's my understanding that, from a legal and operational perspective, there are no barriers to repeal and no deficiencies of needed authorities to assist the government of Iraq in counter-terrorism activities.

Senator Menendez was speaking at this morning's   Senate Foreign Relations Committee  hearing this morning entitled "Authorization For Use Of Military Force After Iraq and Afghanistan."  Senator Robert Menendez is the Committee Chair, Senator Bob Corker is the Ranking Member.  The Committee heard today from two panels.  The first was made up of DoD's Stephen Preston and the State Dept's Mary McLeod.  The second panel was made up of Yale Law School Professor Harold Koh and former US Attorney General Michael Mukasey.

Chair Robert Menendez:  The US ended its combat operations in Iraq in 2010 and, in fact, withdrew all of its military forces that same year.  Since then, Congress has, on a number of occasions, examined the possibility of repealing the 2002 AMUF authorizing our Iraq operations but the administration has repeatedly opposed those efforts. Starting with you, Ms. Mcleod, can you explain to the Committee, one, whether the administration continues to oppose repeal of the Iraq AMUF and, if so, why?  And I'd like to hear your answer to this, Mr. Preston, as well.

Mary McLeod:  Certainly, Chairman Menendez, and once again, thank you for inviting me to testify here today.  As you said, the United States has ended combat operations in Iraq and we've withdrawn our military forces and I can confirm that we're not relying on the 2002 Iraq AMUF for any military operations -- nor do we intend to do so.  And I am here to tell you today that the administration now supports repeal of the 2002 Iraq AMUF.

Stephen Preston: Mr. Chairman, I agree.  That is certainly my understanding as well. 

Chair Robert Menendez:  Alright, that brings to full circle my view that we shouldn't have been in Iraq in the first place, that's why I voted against it and would be happy to repeal it now.

Ranking Member Bob Corker asked about the 9-11 AMUF and whether it was needed and noted his displeasure that McLeod needed to flip through pages, find a passage and read it out loud and that when he asked her about this a second time, before she would attempt to respond to his question, she was consulting Preston.

Turning to Iraq where Nouri's War Crimes continue.  As he continues to bomb the residential areas of Falluja, National Iraqi News Agency reports 1 adult civilian was killed and 1 child was killed with five more people left injured. Targeting civilians is a War Crime.  Nouri's practicing collective punishment which is a legally defined War Crime.   Jo Wilding (Exaro) notes:

A friend whose family lived in the city told me: "Fallujah is being bombed every day.  Even during the 72-hour ceasefire in February, Fallujah was bombed by the Iraqi forces."
He denies the claims of Iraq's government that a jihadist group is in control of Falluja, which is 42 miles from Baghdad in Anbar province.  The group grew out of al-Qaeda's affiliate in the country.
Another friend in the city -- in the so-called Sunni Triangle -- said that there was no "humanitarian corridor". So there is no way out for civilians.  He asked that aid organisations be told how bad conditions are for them.

In attacking the Iraqi civilians, Nouri is using weapons the US government supplies him with.  And Nouri is again insisting that he needs lethal drones.  World Tribune reports, "Iraq is pressing the United States for a combat unmanned aerial vehicle which it considers more urgent than its request for AH-64 Apache attack helicopters. Officials said the government of Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki has expressed the need for a U.S.-origin combat UAV."

Last fall, Nouri began insisting he needed drones.  Lethal drones.  He came to DC at the end of October making that case.  He asked Barack for drones when Barack received him at the White House November 1st.  The White House said "no."  They even told Congress there would be no drones.  Congress was balking at supplying Nouri with weapons since he was already attacking the Iraqi people.  But the White House insisted drones (predator drones) would not come into the picture.  It will be interesting to see whether that promise now sticks.

Thug Nouri continued his pattern of intimidation.  Little Saddam gave his weekly speech today.  Alsumaria notes Nouri declared any TV channel report that questioned the actions of the Iraqi military was committing treason.

I'm sorry, the White House condemned those remarks when?  Oh, that's right, they didn't.  Nor did the State Dept.

Thug Nouri wasn't done.  Duraid Salman and Ammar al-Tariq (Alsumaria) reports Nouri declared that the announced results of the election must not be questioned.  A) These are preliminary results that have been announced.  B) When the official results of the 2010 voting was announced, Nouri didn't accept them, he stamped his feet and demanded -- and got -- a recount.  C) Even after the recount, Nouri refused to accept the results, refused to step down and brought the government to a halt for over eight months (the political stalemate) until the US brokered The Erbil Agreement -- a legal contract that gave Nouri a second term.

Nouri al-Maliki is a little man, a small man, a tiny man.  But he is a big hypocrite.

Anniston Star publisher Brandt Ayers (at Montgomery Advertiser) offers a look at Thug Nouri:

He threatened to "turn the world upside down" if he is summoned by parliament to account for his actions, unleashing his secretive files on members. Maliki has even resurrected a Saddam-era law against criticizing the head of state.
A consequence of thin-skinned imperial power is a loss of caution. When a Sunni parliamentarian inflamed protestors in Anbar province, security forces surrounded his compound.
Gunfire broke out and troops killed six Sunnis, taking away the Sunni official, even though he had immunity. Soon afterward, troops cleared a Sunni compound in Ramadi and the whole province erupted in turmoil.
Maliki responded by ringing Fallujah and Ramadi with artillery and began shelling. Maybe sensing he had gone too far, he ordered the army away. Into the resulting void streamed trucks flying the black flags of Islamic extremists.

Liz Sly (Washington Post) Tweets:

  • In Iraq, a 4-year term actually is more like 3 years, because they spend about a year arguing about who gets what job (pt)

  • Preliminary results of the April 30th parliamentary elections were announced Monday.  Kitabat notes a sense since then that the elections will not bring about any change and will not solve the problems facing Iraq.  All Iraq News reports the Iraqi National Coalition issued a statement today which included this sentence, "The INC sides called the Independent High Electoral Commission to deal seriously with the complaints against election results."

    Let's note the violence in Iraq today, National Iraqi News Agency reports a Ramadi home invasion left the son of Judge Sabri al-Dulaimi dead,  2 Kirkuk bombings left eleven people injured, 1 civilian was shot dead near Sharif cemetery, a battle "on the road links between Baquba and Muqdadiyah" left one police captain injured, one mayor was shot at near Muqdadiyah and he was left injured, Joint Operations Command announced they killed 10 suspects in Anbar, 1 police officer was shot dead in Falluja, a Jurf al-Sakhar bombing left two Iraqi soldiers injured, an Albu Ajil battle left 2 police members and 5 rebels dead, a Tarmiyah roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left three more injured,  and 1 Iraqi soldier was shot dead in Riyadh.  Alsumaria adds a Qadisiyah roadside bombing left 1 woman dead and two more people injured.  All Iraq News reports a bus carrying soldiers in Tuz Khurmatu was attacked leaving 8 Iraqi soldiers dead and four more injured, secuirty forces say they shot dead 1 sniper in Ramadi, 2 women were shot dead in Baghdad, and Baghdad Operations Command says they killed 8 suspects.  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 610 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.

    the washington post
    liz sly