Thursday, September 30, 2010

Daytime talk shows

Politico reports that Anderson Cooper is prepping a daytime, hourly talk show.

If you needed further proof that Oprah Winfrey is retiring her show Oprah, there it is.

I remember Oprah when it went national.

It was a trashy show. And it got all the push which I saw as part of the reason that the reigning talk show host at the time, Phil Donahue, left the airwaves.

Back when Mr. Donahue was on, you had the likes of Dinah Shore doing a sort of laid back chat show (similar to Ellen DeGeneres' show today) and Mike Douglas and Merv Griffin were doing their entertainment talk shows. Mr. Donahue did controversial subjects (controversial for the time, perhaps). He did an intelligent show. He could interview, for example, a cross dresser and not turn it smutty or make fun of the guest.

Oprah really was the dumbing down of America. She was the cess pool. Had a gay man not been killed (he went on a talk show, Leeza?, to explain his crush and the straight man later killed him), she would have stayed in the trash.

It probably would have been more honest for her.

Ms. Winfrey's lack of intelligence never ceased to shine through. If she could not turn it into an empowerment rant, she was rowing a sinking boat before your eyes.

And that probably made her a little peeved by criticism of her lightweight and trashy show. Oprah Winfrey announced no more 'trash TV.' She then wanted to 'inspire' (sell you things) and empower you (clean out your wallet).

A lot of people are still upset with her over her part in selling Barack Obama; however, for me, it will always be Ms. Winfrey's efforts to sell the Iraq War. Most people have forgotten but not only did she invite the likes of Judith Miller on her show to promote the impending war, she also hectored her audience if they objected to the march to war.

In other words,the apparently forever closeted lesbian Oprah Winfrey sold the illegal war. You do not get to come back from that in my book.

Rosie was very popular on daytime TV, Rosie O'Donnell. And she remained in the closet until after she had announced she was stepping down. That may be the path Ms. Winfrey is attempting to follow.

Along with Ms. O'Donnell, I felt Roseanne Barr did a strong daytime show. Ms. Barr actually tried to do an intelligent show and she had a two-year commitment so she could pursue that. When the show did not storm the ratings, they attempted to get her to cancel her show but she stayed with it all the way to the end. I especially remember a very powerful and intelligent interview she did with Joyce Carol Oates.

On another end of the spectrum, Rikki Lake was popular and, like Tyra Banks, tried to run a show that covered all the bases. I think Ms. Banks and Ms. Lake succeeded.

Many others failed. Geraldo. Maury. And far too many others to name.

So now Mr. Coooper thinks he will be the new daytime talk star.

I doubt he could do any worse than Ms. Winfrey.


This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:

Thursday, September 30, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, talk of Iraqi civil war increases, Congress explores the true costs of war, Congress is informed that current economic problems will continue for 20-to-30 years, Iraq's political stalemate continues, and more.,
Logan Mehl-Laituri. That's the name of the Conscientious Objector whose question led US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to spin so wildly yesterday. Video of Gates' appearance at Duke University is posted online and Logan comes in at approximately 45 minutes and thirty seconds.
Logan Mehl-Laituri: Thanks, Mr. Secretary. My name is Logan Mehi-Laituri and I served in the army as an artillery forward observer from 2000 to 2006. First at Fort Bragg, just south of us, and then at Scofield Barracks, Hawaii I deployed in support of OIF 2 in January '04 and I returned with three combat decorations in February '05 after which I came to the point as a noncommissioned officer where I, for religious, moral and ethical reasons, I could no longer carry a personal firearm. In response to my application to be a noncombat conscientious objector to my unit -- for which I earned the titles of "coward" and "traitor" -- I was involuntarily but honorably discharged in 2006 and I now speak to you as a div[inity] student actually as a master of theological studies, hopefully, I'll graduate in 2012 with a masters degree. My question is, -- My question is as a Christian, I'm concerned that I'm not able to respond to my -- the denominational body that I belong to when they deem certain wars to be unjust as was the case with the Iraq War in 2003. Furthermore, as a Christian, I also must oppose this slavery of moral ambiguity that requires servicemembers for, on the one hand, telling them that -- that they forfeit their moral agency to the commanders and the officers that are appointed above them but then, on the other hand, they're required to refuse to obey these "unlawful orders" which are nowhere defined in the UCMJ leaving incredibly important juridical concept to a commander's discretion. So I'm wondering what your office might do to correct this -- this tarnishment on our national integrity but also on --
Peter Feaver: I think we have that question.
Logan Mehl-Laituri: what can be done.
Peter Feaver: This is hard enough to answer as it is
Robert Gates: I would say, first of all, this goes to the heart of my remarks tonight in an all volunteer army. One does undertake a contractural obligation when enlisting but there is certainly no obligation to reenlist and one should know, anyone who's joined the military since 2002, should know that they're going into war with all the --
Logan Mehl-Laituri: I joined in 2000.
Robert Gates: -- so I think it ultimately it has to be the choice of the individual.
Peter Feaver was a sycophant in the Bush administration who moved over to Duke and has called in favors repeatedly in an attempt to establish an academic reputation -- if one can be built around the 'get' of an hour of softball questions publicly tossed to hero and bedroom wall pinup Karl Rove. Amazingly -- or maybe not so, Feaver went to the trouble to write up a little mash note to Bobby Gates, a little Valentine at Foreign Policy, but chose to ignore the most important part of the evening (the above exchange). Peter did make time, however, to weigh in on his own hair. By contrast, at Vanity Fair, Henry Rollins offers a reality check on Gates' speech:
Since war as we know it has no end in sight if some people get their way, more fodder is needed to shove into that big defense cannon. Without more people signing up for the war without end, the Pentagon's toy will run out of batteries!
"But in reality, the demands on a good part of our military will continue for years to come. And, it begs the question: How long can these brave and broad young shoulders carry the burden that we -- as a military, as a government, as a society -- continue to place on them?"
Oh no! How dare you learn from history and not seek to repeat it! Were you actually reading those books? Don't tell me you're in the invasion-and-occupation-of-Iraq-was-a-catastrophic-mistake-that-killed-perhaps-millions-and-drained-America's-cash-reserves crowd. What a drag! What if the demands on a good part of the military won't continue for years to come? What if we had the guts to find peaceful ways to resolve conflict? Could you handle that? The question begged is: Are you ever going to face the world with something other than a hammer and stop calling every problem challenging America a nail? There is no way forward for Mr. Gates besides more human bodies, more hammers.
We covered Logan Mehl-Laituri's exchange in yesterday's snapshot but didn't quote from Logan or identify him because, honestly, I was half-paying attention during the question and answers until I heard "conscientious objector" (Gates' reply was covered). To the objections noted yesterday of Gates' response (which is an attack on Christianity -- as e-mails from community members and visitors overwhelmingly agree), Ann (and her parents) add, "Gates is claiming contracts trump God. That's not how it works. And that is offensive to a large number of Christians. It is offensive to my parents and it is offensive to me. A contract does not trump your religious beliefs and how dare Robert Gates claim that it does. [. . .] Let me make it really clear for Gates who apparently doesn't know a thing about Christianity: He can vote in every election, he can drive the speed limit, he can pooper scoop after his dog, he can obey every state and federal law, every municipal code and that won't get him into heaven. In the Christian world, which is what the question he was asked was about, God trumps all. If Gates can't grasp that, it's on him. He owes American Christians an apology."
Logan's remarks are deserving of -- and are now part of -- the historical record. It's a shame so many elected to look the other way.
"Let the record show that members in attendence, besides the Chair, are Mr. [Harry] Mitchell of Arizona, Mr. [Harry] Teague of New Mexico, Mr. [Ciro] Rodriguez of Texas, Mr. [Jerry] McNerney of California and I would ask unanimous consent that our collegue, the gentleman from North Carolina, Mr. [Walter] Jones be allowed to sit at the dais and participate as a member of this Committee for the purpose of this hearing," House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Bob Filner declared at the start of today's full committee hearing entitled "The True Cost of the War." He would go on to note that US House Rep and House VA Committee member Zachary Space ("from Ohio") was also present for the hearing and that non-Committee member Jim Moran (Rep from Virginia) was present and that he would also be sitting at the dais and participating, for today's hearing, as a Committee member. US House Rep George Miller (California) also joined the hearing during the first panel. But where were most of the members? What was going on? Congress adjourned today before the hearing. Congress wasn't in session. Those participating stayed on to participate while others in the House rushed to return to their districts and begin campaigning.
We're going to note a lengthy portion of Chair Filner's opening remarks and three things before we do. One, these are his stated remarks, not his prepared, written opening statement. Two, pay-go means that you have to have the money in the budget when you approve the spending. He'll note that the Defense Dept's budget isn't required to do that. That means that department makes a request and gets it even though the money isn't there which is what they mean by "taxing your children" (or grandchildren) because when the money's not there, the bill has to be paid by someone and it falls on the future tax payers. Third, Bob Filner has spoken out against the VA's use of "personality disorder" discharges to avoid covering veterans' needed treatment (he did so most recently in a September 15th hearing). He brought up the topic in a single-sentence today and I'm not sure it's clear in the statement if you're just reading it (the tone of his voice made it clear if you were at the hearing).
Chair Bob Filner: It struck me as I looked at a lot of the facts and data that we-we see across our desks that, as a Congress, as a nation, we really do not know the true costs of the wars we are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. [. . .] We all look at the data that comes from these wars. It struck me one day that the official data for, for example, the wounded was around 45,000 for both wars. And yet we know that six or seven hundred thousand of our veterans of these wars -- of which there are over a million already -- have either filed claims for disability or sought health care from the VA for injuries suffered at war -- 45,000 versus 800,000? This is not a rounding error. I think this is a deliberate attempt to mask what is going on in terms of the actual casualty figures. We know that there is a denial of PTSD -- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It's a 'weakness' among Marines and soldiers to admit mental illness so we don't even have those figures until maybe it's too late. We all know that women are participating in this war at a degree never before seen in our nation's history and, yet, by whatever estimate you look, whether it's half or two-thirds have suffered sexual trauma. The true cost of war? We know that over 25,000 of our soldiers who were originally diagnosed with PTSD got their diagnosis changed or their diagnosis was changed as they were -- had to leave the armed forces, changed to "personality disorder." And not only does that diagnosis beg the question of why we took people in with the personality disorder, it means that there's a pre-existing condition and we don't have to take care of them as a nation. Cost of war? There have been months in these wars where the suicides of active duty have exceeded the deaths in action. Why is that? When our veterans come home from this war, we say we support troops, we support troops, we support troops? 30% unemployment rate for returning Iraqi and Afghanistan veterans. That's three times an already horrendous rate in our nation. Guardsman find difficulty getting employment because they may be deployed. Now a democracy has to go to war sometimes. But people have to know in a democracy what is the cost. They have to be informed of the true -- of the true nature -- not only in terms of the human cost, the material cost, but the hidden cost that we don't know until after the fact or don't recognize. We know -- Why is it that we don't have the mental health care resources for those coming back? Is it because we failed to understand the cost of serving our military veterans is a fundamental cost of the war? Is it because we sent these men and women into harms way without accounting for and providing the resources necessary for their care if they're injured or wounded or killed? Every vote that Congress has taken for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has failed to take into account the actual cost of these wars by ignoring what we will require to meet the needs of our men and women in uniform who have been sent into harms way. This failure means that soldiers who are sent to war on behalf of their nation do not know if their nation will be there for them tomorrow. The Congress that sends them into harms way assumes no responsibility for the longterm consequences of their deployment. Each war authorization and appropriation kicks the proverbial can down the road and whether or not the needs of our soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan will be met is totally dependent on the budget priorities of a future Congress which includes two sets of rules: One for going to war and one for providing for our veterans who fight in that war. We don't have a budget for the VA today as we are about to enter the new fiscal year. We are trying to provide for those involved in atomic testing in WWII -- who were told would be no problems and yet they can't get compensation for cancers. We cannot -- This Committee and this Congress has a majority of people who say we should fully compensate the victims of Agent Orange for injuries in WWII -- I'm sorry, Vietnam. Yet was have a pay-go rule on a bill that's coming out of here. They say it's going to cost ten billion dollars or twenty billion over the next ten years. We don't have it. Why don't we have it? They fought for this nation. We're trying to deal with the Persian Gulf War still -- not to mention all the casualties from this one. So we have to find a pay-go. But the Dept of Defense doesn't have to. So they system that we have for appropriating funds in Congress is designed to make it much easier to vote to send our soldiers into harms way. That's much easier than to care for them when they come home. This Committee and everyone of the people here has had to fight tooth and nail to get enough money for our veterans. We got to fight for it every day. We've been successful in the last few years but we don't know if that will -- if that rate of growth will continue. This is morally wrong in my opinion and an abdication of our fundamental responsibilities as members of Congress. It is past time for Congress to recognize that standing by our men and women in uniform -- meeting their needs -- is a fundamental cost of war and we should account for those needs and take responsibility for meeting them at the time that we send these young people into combat.Every Congressional appropriation for war, in my view, should include money for what, I'm going to call it, a veterans' trust fund that will ensure the projected needs of our wounded and injured soldiers are fully met at the time that their going to war is appropriated. It's not a radical idea. Business owners are required to account for their deferred liability every year. Our federal government has no such requirement when it comes to the deferred liabiilty of meeting the needs of our men and women in uniform even though meeting those needs is a moral obligation of our nation and a fundamental cost. It does not make sense fiscally, it does not make sense ethically. If in years past, Congress had taken into account this deferred fiscal liability and moral obligation of meeting the needs of soldiers, we would not have the kind of overburdened delivery system that we have today in the Veterans Administration. And would veterans and their advocates on Capitol Hill have to fight as hard as they do every year for benefits that should be readily available as a matter of course? Would they have to worry as much as they do today that these benefits will become targets in the debate over reducing the federal budget? Listen to this statement by one of the co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility -- that's trying to figure out how we balance our budget -- former Senator [Alan] Simpson said, "The irony is that veterans who saved their country are now in a way not helping us to save this country in this fiscal mess." That is, they should defer their health and welfare needs because of a budget problem.
Rep Walter Jones would note that he thought the Veterans Trust Fund was a good general first step and one he would be supporting: "I feel frustrated when I sit here, I've seen it for years, I see those kids at Walter Reed with their legs blown off, I see the moms crying, the wives crying. The kids are 19, 21-years-old and, as you said, it's 30 years from now that we've really got to be careful. [.. .] But Mr. Chairman, please know that you have my commitment to join in whatever effort we move forward on because we're not being honest, we're cheating the veterans, if we don't do what is necessary today."
The first panel was composed of professors Linda J. Bilmes and Joseph E. Stigliz (of Harvard and Columbia, economists who wrote The Three Trillion Dollar War) and Disabled American Veterans' Joseph A. Violante. There were three panels. Due to space limitations, we'll focus on the first panel today and return to this hearing in tomorrow's snapshot.
US House Rep Jim Moran: Mr. [David] Obey, myself, Mr. [Jack] Murtha, I think Mr. [Charlie] Rangel, perhaps Chairman Filner, we voted for an amendment that went nowhere but we did it for two or three years running -- it was Mr. Obey's idea -- to have a surcharge to pay for the war. If we were going to pursue the Iraq War, let's just figure out what the cost is and pay for it rather than making that decision to go to war but passing on the cost to our children and grandchildren to pay for it. It went down, I think there were more than 400 people voted against the concept but it doesn't mean it wasn't a legitimate issue to raise and I think it would have been the responsible thing to do. So my first question of two would be would you have been able to estimate what that surcharge would have been when we were actually making the decision? Is that consistent with the thrust of your testimony that that's how we should go about making the decision of whether or not to go to war in the future? Professor Stigliz?
Joseph E. Stigliz: I think it's an excellent idea for a number of reasons. First, I think - I think it's very important to have transparency and accountability in government. That you ought to know what you're doing and what it costs and citizens ought to know that if you want to get something you have to pay for it. Just like shopping. Anything. Secondly, we can calculate it. That's the point that we're making. You can't estimate it perfectly but you can't estimate Social Security perfectly. But you can get a fairly reliable estimate that would be the basis of a surcharge. And how -- whether you express it as a percentage of the defense appropriations or as a tax, a separate tax, you know, express it in a number of different ways. It would be very easy, actually, to do that. And the third point is the point that professor Bilmes made and the Congressman made which is: By doing that you would be setting aside money into a trust fund and that is the only way that you can insulate this money against what I see as the increasing budget stringency that our country is going to be facing and we should recongize that for the next twenty, thirty years we are going to be facing very difficult budgetary problems and they're not going to go away. And there is no easy way -- I have some views about how you could do it -- but there is no easy way out of that. And the reality then is that under the pay-go current framework that supporting these obligations that we've undertaken to our veterans has to compete with every other expenditure. And -- and there will be pressure. And the reference to the Debt Commission, the reference to former Congressman SImpson's testimony is evidence of that kind of pressure that will be put on veterans expenditures.
US House Rep Jim Moran: Well thank you, professor. You've mentioned in your testimony, and Professor Bilmes' as well, the fragmented costs of war. Just one example, in the Defense Appropriations Committee, we put 900 million dollars just for Traumatic Brain Injury and then, in this continuing resolution, I don't think there's two or three members who are aware that we added another 300 million dollars -- was a reprogramming of money for something else -- bringing up to 1.2 million dollars just for Traumatic Brain Injury, just for one year, Fiscal Year 2010. But the other question I wanted to ask -- and then I'll yield back the time and I thank the Chairman -- Senator [Jim] Webb and others in both the House and Senate strongly supported and was passed a GI Bill of Rights. The idea was to basically create a middle class again in the way that we did after WWII -- by enabling returning veterans to get higher education and to be able to lead to fuller, better employment prospects -- as you said, 30% of our veterans returning home are unemployed. But this also extends to the family, the wives and spouses. Do we have an estimate of the cost of that? And I know that [House Education and Labor Committee] Chairman [George] Miller would be very interested as well. What are we paying for that portion of higher education out of the same federal budget? Professor Bilmes?
Linda J. Bilmes: I mean, I don't have an estimate for that but I think it's a good question. And I think it is, like all of these numbers, it's a number that could be calculated. One of our overall points throughout the process of working on these issues has been that there's actually very little attention to getting robust estimates in the veterans field. And when you compare the amount of effort, for example, that goes into studying the Social Security system compared with the amount of effort that goes into studying the longterm costs of veterans -- whether it's the educational, the transition assistance program, the research funding, the benefits, etc. -- it's a tiny fraction, not in scale with the, you know, the actual absolute size of the liability. But unfortunately I don't have that particular number.
US House Rep Jim Moran: No, but it would be interesting to calculate.
Joseph E. Stigliz: Can I just make --
US House Rep Jim Moran: Yes.
Joseph E. Stigliz: -- one further comment about the importance of providing the kind of benefits, GI Benefits. As we move to the all-volunteer army, we are recruiting particular socio-economic groups into the army and other military services and these are often among the parts of our society that are less privileged. And unless we do that we will continue to have the problems of the 30% unemployment, which is a long run problem, for our society. And there's been reference made to high suicide rates, high problems of family -- Those problems are all compounded when people can't get a job and when people don't have the adequate education in a modern economy, it's very difficult to get the jobs. So I view this as part of our social obligation to those who fought for us which we are now really not fulfilling.
US House Rep Jim Moran: Absolutely and one cost -- a very substantial cost -- that we don't factor in is the burden on local, municipal human service programs because these folks -- a vast, a large number -- go back into the community but still have mental health adjustment problems, domestic abuse problems and so on related to their combat experience and its muncipalities responsibilities to care for them and we don't calculate that cost, let alone add it to the full cost of the war.
Again, we'll pick up more on the hearing tomorrow. Staying with Congress, Sam Stein (Huffington Post) reports that Senator Lindsey Graham believes that US service members in Iraq are and should be called combat troops (he also believes they should get combat pay -- which they are receiving) and he thinks the American people are dropping the ball in demanding that Congress focus on the wars (he is not, sadly, stating that more Americans need to be calling for an end to the wars). Still on Congress, Senator Daneil Akaka Chairs the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. His office released the following:
COMPREHENSIVE VETERANS' BENEFITS BILL PASSES CONGRESS.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, praised his colleagues for supporting a comprehensive veterans benefits package now headed to the White House for President Obama's consideration. If signed into law, this bill will expand insurance options for disabled veterans, upgrade compensation benefits and employment protections, authorize VA construction projects,and allow VA to keep using private physicians to quickly and accurately provide veterans with disability evaluations.
"I commend my colleagues for supporting this bill to upgrade the benefits that veterans have earned through their honorable service. I look forward to President Obama signing this important measure into law," said Akaka, a key sponsor of this legislation.
The Veterans' Benefits Act of 2010 (H.R. 3219, as amended), includes the following:

  • Raises an automobile assistance benefit for disabled veterans from $11,000 to $18,900.
  • Authorizes federal grants to provide job training, counseling, placement, and childcare services to homeless women veterans and homeless veterans with children.
  • Substantially increases the maximum levels of supplemental insurance for totally disabled veterans, as well as Veterans' Group Life Insurance and Veterans' Mortgage Life Insurance.
  • Provides retroactive Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance benefits for troops who were traumatically injured between October 7, 2001 and November 30, 2005, regardless of where their injury occurred.
  • Clarifies that the Uniformed Service Employment and Reemployment Rights Act prohibits wage discrimination against members of the Armed Forces.
H.R. 3219 passed the House late last night, after clearing the Senate on Tuesday, September 28. The bill now goes to President Obama for his consideration. A detailed summary of the Veterans' Benefits Act of 2010 is available here: LINK.
The full text of the bill, as amended by the Senate, is available here: LINK.
-END-
Kawika Riley
Communications Director and Legislative Assistant
U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs
Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman
Turning to Iraq where the violence never ends in Iraq. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports, "At least two officers were killed and three civilians were wounded when police and gunmen traded fire in Baghdad on Thursday after an apparent bank robbery attempt, Iraqi Interior Ministry officials said." In addition, Steven Lee Myers and Thom Shanker (New York Times) report that there have been 23 mortar/rocket attacks on the Green Zone so far this month and "the intensity of the attacks has compounded a sense of anxiety here -- and back in Washington -- as Iraq's political impasse drags on almost seven months after parliamentary elections in March."

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted last month, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's six months and twenty-three days with no government formed.

Noting the rumors swirling that Nouri's got the post, Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) observes, "But can he form a government? That is less than clear, as much of the INA has already ruled out participating in a government giving Maliki a second term, and even a small portion of the State of Law bloc is opposing him. The Iraqiya bloc, which has the biggest plurality, has also ruled out working with Maliki." Hurriyet Daily News reports today that Joost Hilterman (International Crisis Group) has stated, "There are two ways in Iraq. Without a government, which is the very bad scenario, it can lead up to the return to civil war." The alternative, as he sees it, is for Iraq to form a government encompassing a wide range of groups. He's not the only one worrying over civil war. Noting Leila Fadel's recent report for the Washington Post about the decision to purge Sahwa ("Sons Of Iraq" and "Awakenings") from Anbar Province's police force, David Bender (Foreign Policy) notes:
The big question is how will the Sunnis respond? Should they decide they have no stake in the success of the next government, what will be their next move? Sunnis could cease their security cooperation with Baghdad, but a return to the sort of civil war we saw between 2005 and 2007 is unlikely. The Iraqi government of today, for all its problems, is significantly more stable than it was in 2005, and Iraqi security forces are dramatically more capable. Still, parallel efforts -- not cooperation but a sharing of similar goals -- by disaffected Sunnis and an AQI looking to reconstitute -- could keep Baghdad and Iraq's west violent and unstable for years to come.
For more on Sahwa, Sam Collyns (BBC News) reports here -- text and video. Spero News reports, "An independent United Nations human rights expert today urged the Iraqi Government and the international community to provide more assistance to internally displace persons (IDPs) in the country and protect their rights, stressing that ending displacement must [be] considered a key element of rebuilding Iraq." But some countries -- such as England -- refuse to take the refugee issue seriously and continue forcibly deporting refugees back to Iraq. IRIN notes, "The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has expressed concern about the growing number of deportations of Iraqi asylum-seekers from Western Europe in the last two months. Special charter flights to take failed asylum-seekers home have increased in frequency, and Iraqis are being returned to parts of the country which are still unsafe, in contravention of UNHCR guidelines for the handling of Iraqi asylum applications, it says."
Meanwhile in the US a grieving mother is angry. US soldiers Gebrah Noonan and John Carrillo died in Iraq last week and are said to have been shot dead (with a third soldier wounded) by US soldier Neftaly Platero. Cindy Horswell (Houston Chronicle) reports efforts to reach the accused's wife and parents were unsuccessful "But neighbors across the street from a home on Birch Creek in Kingwood where he used to stay with family recall him as a quiet, unobtrusive person who didn't draw attention to himself. Military authorities said no charges have yet been filed and would not further discuss the pending investigation." Joe Goldeen (Stockton Record) reports John Carrillo Jr. died the day after the Thursday shooting and that he was "trying to break up a fight between two soldiers" when he was shot. His survivors include Reylene (wife) and two young children, Desiree and John Carrillo Sr. (his parents) and three young siblings. My Record Journal reports that while the Governor of Conn., Jodi Rell, the state's Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and others have contacted the family of Gebrah Noonan, they have not heard from US Senator Joe Lieberman and Gebrah's mother, Ling Noonan, was disappointed in the silence. WTNH adds:

Noonan's mother, Ling Noonan, released a statement thanking the community for all the support, as well as Gov. Rell, Sec. Bysiewicz, Attorney General Blumenthal, and Sen. Dodd and other local politicians for their condolences. But Ms. Noonan says she was disappointed in Sen. Joe Lieberman's response. Gebrah was Jewish and she stated frankly, "from a fellow Jew we expected more."
We're including the above not to pick on Joe Lieberman. His office is actually usually very good at contacting the families of the fallen in his state and he's already made plans to speak with Ling Noonan. But a few weeks back, we pointed out that government representatives in the House, Senate and in governor's offices were dropping the ball on this. We made a point of noting that Governor Jennifer Granholm (Michigan) is among the few whose office always notes the fallen publicly and contacts the families. If you're speaking with any of the families of the recent fallen, you'll quickly hear from them how few elected officials are noting their loved ones' passing. Joe Lieberman, again, is already addressing the issue. Every elected official should be doing a self-check right now on whether or not they are honoring the fallen. In the last few months, this is becoming a big issue with families of the fallen.
We have room for one more thing and I've been trying to work this into a snapshot all week. Libbyliberal is addressing the upcoming elections in her writings. This is from Libbyliberal's "The Secret is Not in Trying to Win a Rigged Game, It's Walking Away From It" (Corrente):

People of conscience need to call out both the rat bastards and the rabid rat bastards. Not protect and enable the Dem rat bastards because they are not as rabid as Repubs and Teapartiers. Which makes them even worse. They have potential still to be rational, humane and sane. Or do they?

I keep trying to figure out how to get farther this time. I also keep trying to figure out why there isn't a bigger tent for the people of conscience. Why the health care single payer folks couldn't have a fire in their collective belly to end the illegal wars and support those people of conscience and vice versa. I mean, I am guessing they do, but how to channel that support formally and effectively? And the climate change folk, and the women's rights folk.

There are so many fresh and not so fresh any more hells ... and we of course can not be fighting on every front. But we need each other collectively. Because so many of us get the travesty to humanity collectively on all of these fronts. But we need to form that effective and loud critical mass.

A lot of small choirs of conscience. How do we rally those with conscience into a focused voice? There is the theory of the 100 monkeys. Once the hundredth monkey gets the message of truth and reality, the entire monkey nation gets it. With Vietnam I think the hundredth monkey was actually Walter Cronkite. When he got it (being in the media helped for sure) the Vietnam War, so late in the game with so much devastation, lost traction. Though some never got it and came back with a vengeance as insane neocons. Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al. Power mad.

We have a window of opportunity here in the next six is it weeks. I hoped we could make demands. But we have the colossal ego of Obama who only seems to know the art of hypocrisy and we piss him off now. Yeah, no drama Obama seems to only have strike back power when it comes to us. Go figure. He must protect his EGO on all of this and we will not enable his EGO. And Obama's vast enablers are fighting for his "brand" and their egos, too, I suppose. Can't admit to the con. Can't see the forest of humanity and are lost among the "team trees".


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Situational ethics

Kendra Marr (Politico) reports that Barack Obama has endorsed Jon Stewart's political rally. (It is not a comedy rally. Mr. Stewart's not up to that these days.) Ms. Marr generally has her ear (to put it mildly) to the White House, so if she says Mr. Obama is endorsing the rally, I believe he is endorsing it.

And I further believe that endorsement is the strongest indictment of the rally. Anyone who accomplishes anything would not be endorsed by a sitting U.S. president. And, think about it, were this 2006 and were a group endorsed by Bully Boy Bush, we would be up in arms and attacking the group.

We would be right to do so.

But so many of us are hypocrites and two-faced and it does not bother us one bit today.

"Situational ethics" is the term.


This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" from today:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Robert Gates gets a tough question from a conscientious objector and the Secretary of Defense replies with what is an attack on Christianity, Senator Daniel Akaka receives an honor for his work on veterans issues, a House Veterans Affairs Subccomittee wonders why -- a year later -- no progress has been made on employment issues for veterans, the British pullout from Basra is examined, new rumors surface that Nouri will remain prime minister in Iraq, and more.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is currently taking questions at Duke University as I dictate this. He's grandstanded on the back of veterans and the military as he always does in that mincing manner he has. (Still crying over the death of PG, Bobby Gates?) We'll note his awful speech later in the snapshot but Gates got a little bit of a surprise when a 2006 Conscientious Objector stood up to ask a question.
The C.O. spoke of the demonization he received when he was going through the process and Gates grew visibly nervous and began shifting from foot-to-foot while his eyes darted wildly around the lecture hall at Duke's Bryant Center. "As a Christian," the CO expalined, "I'm concerned that I'm not able to respond to the denominational body I belong to when they deem certain wars unjust" as they did the Iraq War. He noted that, in contrast to the religious training and beliefs, soldiers are encouraged to "forfeit their moral agency to the officers" above them. And he wondered, "What your office might do to correct this tarnishment on our national integrity?"
By this point, Gates looked as if he was sucking on a lemon. War Hawks don't like being confronted. He began a snippy performance that seemed to prove true the rumors that he does a nasty camp Bette Davis impersonation. "I would say, first of all, this goes to the heart of my remarks tonight. In an all volunteer army, one does undertake a contractual obligation when enlisting. But there is certainly no obligation to re-enlist. And one should know -- anyone who has joined the military since 2002 has known -- that they are going into war with all of the moral challenges that can face people with -- So I think, ultimately, it has to be the choice of the invidivual."
Robert Gates is not a lawyer. He is a spinner. He's a damn good spinner if your goal is to advance illegal war or lies. If it's not, he's just a tired spinner who needs to create a job by retiring.
Volunteer army or not, the conscientious objector status is always recongized as a possibility or is Gates unaware that it remains on the books, has remained on the books since the draft ended, has remained on the books and has remained practiced for over thirty years? Is Gates so stupid that he doesn't know that?
(No, he's just a liar.)
As for 2002, the CO was specifically referring to the Iraq War. The Iraq War had not broken in 2002. All the lies Gates tells, it gets so hard for him to keep facts straight. The Iraq War started in March 2003. That's a fact. Equally true is that the administration lied repeatedly and the press went along with it. Finding out the truth about the Iraq War required real work. Lt Ehren Watada is one example of someone who had to do the work for themselves. In 2005, he was informed he would be deploying to Iraq in the summer of 2006. He began researching the war. He wanted to be able to answer any questions those serving under him might have. In researching the Iraq War, he discovered the realities including that it was an illegal war.
Lt Watada knew what Gates appears to have never learned: His pledge was to uphold the Constitution and he was required to refuse any illegal order. Is Gates unfamiliar with the Uniform Code of Military Justice? Gates does a vicious camp routine but he appears woefully short on the facts.
He also appears hostile to Christianity. Many Christian faiths are based on baptisms and on the Christian receiving the word of the God, a religious awakening. Gates appears completely ignorant of that fact. Anyone who joined before 2002 (or after) could very well have a religious awakening or a deepening of their religious beliefs -- those are core components and beliefs of Christian faith. Gates' bitchy little answer didn't recognize that reality.and showed extreme hostility to -- and prejudice against -- the Christian faith.
In a functioning government, Gates would be called to the carpet and told to issue an apology. That won't happen which will further lead to the suspicion among some Americans that defending religious freedoms only matters to the White House when the religion is Muslim. I'm not saying it's right, I'm not saying it's fair. I'm saying you're an idiot if you're ignoring the public perception of the White House -- demonstrated in multiple polls -- at this late date . And to allow your Secretary of Defense to launch what many Christians will see as an attack on the Christian faith and to not call it out will deepen the perception that some religions enjoy a "most favored nation" status at the White House.
"Some of the witnesses testifying before the Subcommittee may recall that we previously held a Federal Contract Compliance hearing on May 14, 2009," Subcommittee Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin declared this afternoon at the House VA's Economic Opportunity Subcommittee hearing. "In that hearing we received testimony from stakeholders highlihgting several concerns. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs lack the resources to enforce federal laws, the Vets 100 List was not available for public viewing and job listings -- as required by VEVRAA [Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act] -- were not available or easily accessible to veterans seeking employment. Unfortunately, the written testimonies we received for today's hearing express the same sentiments -- such as limited outreach by contracters and a failure to post announcements in the appropriate job listing services."
Herseth Sandlin was chairing a hearing on Federal Contractor Compliance and the two departments most responsible for contracting with regards to veterans are the Defense Department and Veterans Affairs but DoD was 'too busy' to appear before the Subcomittee today. Ranking Member John Boozman noted in his opening remarks "what appears less clear is the government's committment to enforcing the law."
DoD elected to skip the meeting today at a time when veterans unemployment is a serious issue. The full House Veterans Affairs Committee met this morning for a legislative hearing and US House Rep Cliff Stearns explained of his HR 3685, "Unemployment is at a record high today and unemployment in our veteran community is higher than at any time I can remember." This week Laura Clarizio (Examiner) noted of the weekly unemployment data that last week saw "[n]ewly discharged veterans claiming benefits totaled42,633, an increase of 537 from the prior week." Yesterday on PRI's The Takeaway, John Hockenberry and Celeste Headlee were joined by Stand Down's Dr. Casi Crockett and financial contributor Beth Kobliner to discuss the issue of veterans employment. Excerpt:
Beth Kobliner: If you look last year for unemployment for post-9/11 vets, then the general population or the non-vets. The rate was 10.2% for post-9/11 vets versus 9% for non-veterans. But the real story is when you look at young veterans, 18 to 24-year-olds. They have seen last year unemployment at 21% compared to 16% for non-veteran peers. So really, it's clear that the the job prospects for veterans are certainly no better than non-vets and, for young [veterans], they're much worse.
This is a pressing issue. And DoD chose to ignore the hearing. And yet, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the head of the Defense Dept, had the nerve to call out Americans for what he saw as "apathy." Gates spoke this afternoon at Duke Unveristy's West Campus. (Pentagon Channel streamed the speech live.) Completing his speech, Gates reached for a water bottle and proceeded to chug it. You'd probably be parched if you too had trashed Americans. Americans are apathetic, only 1% of them are serving Gates stated, and serving in the military is something the American people see as a task for "other people to do." Really? Well first of all, Gates clearly sees testifying to Congress as something "other people to do" since his lazy and inept ass couldn't send a single representative to the economic hearing today. And his grandstanding on the backs of veterans is rather weak since he and the DoD have done little to nothing to improve the employment rate for veterans. As for whether or not Americans are meeting challenges, the Iraq War is an illegal war. Bush administration hold over Gates has blood on both hands -- once for the last administration, once for the current. He needs to stop grandstanding, he actually needs to leave because he's doing such a poor job. If there's any apathy he's experiencing, it's the apathy that allowed him to remain Secretary of Defense when Bush was replaced with Barack.
21% is the unemployment rate for veterans aged 18 to 24 and Gates wants to offer quotes from letters John Quincy Adams wrote to his son -- yeah, like that'll put bread on the table. Gates needs to answer as to why DoD refused to send a representative to today's hearing.
The first panel was made up of Christina Roof (American Veterans), Joseph Sharpe Jr. (American Legion), Rochelle Webb (National Association of State Workforce Agencies), Richard F. Weidman (Vietnam Veterans of America) and Joe Wynn (Veterans Entrepreneurship Task Force) while panel two was composed of the Dept of Labor's Les Jin and the Dept of Veterans Affairs Jan Frye. Excerpt of the first panel:
Subcommittee Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: I'd like to just start out the questioning with a general one and it may touch on the end of Mr. Wynn's testimony, but I know that some of you have commented either in your testimony today or your written statements about perhaps the need for a compilation, some sort of a national listing, an official listing. For anyone that wishes to respond, who -- who's in the best position to compile and maintain that in your opinion?
Rochelle Webb: Madame Chairwoman, NASWA believes that a accurate list is needed and that it needs to be through a collaboration of all the federal agencies that are involved in contractor compliance. So we would look for not only OFCCP [Dept of Labor] to be involved but agencies such as ODEP [Labor's Office of Disability Employment] dealing with disability employment as well as representatives from the state work force agencies through our association, through the veterans program for DVETs [Directors for Veterans' Employment and Training] -- we also believe needs to be involved. One part of the puzzle will remain one part of a puzzle. We need all pieces working together to have a comprehensive solution that will work for both state and federal level agencies. Thank you.
Joe Wynn: Madame Chair, I'd just like to say that between the Veterans Employment Training Service Dept and Labor OFCCP -- between the two, they should be maintaining a list of federal contractors who are required to submit information about employment opportunities for veterans. And it's very important, too, that we get information included in that listing -- or if it needs to be in an additional listing -- on subcontractors. There are a lot of employment opportunities available through subcontracts. There are thousands of subcontracts tied in to each prime federal contractor. But that list needs to be compiled, made readily available and made available throughout the year -- not just at one time when the submission of the Best 100 [yearly Vets 100 Report due out each September] is done. Thank you.
Subcommittee Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Well thank you, Mr. Wynn. Any -- Ms. Roof?
Christina Roof: Just a really quick comment. AMVETS is looking forward to seeing the outcome of the presidential executive order bringing these agencies together: DoL, OFCCP, SBA [Small Business Administration] so that they can get a good understanding and stop doing things like duplication of efforts, taking this knowledge -- this wealth of knowledge and building a data base. So we're looking forward to seeing what comes out of that as well. Thank you.
Subcommittee Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: That's a good point. We know how important the interagency collaboration is in so many other areas. But I think, in addition to the collaboration, if we're going to make this happen, one -- somebody needs to ultimately have the -- bear the responsibility of maintaining it, right? And being the point of communication. And that leads me to my follow up question in terms of the Vets 100 Report. A number of you made different suggestions. Mr. Wynn just made mention of subcontractors. I think,, Dr. Webb, you may have in your written testimony as well. What kind of oversight and verification is needed over the Vets 100 Report to make it a meaningful exercise?
Rochelle Webb: Madame Chairwoman, NASWA believes that the oversight needed is first of all to review, and perhaps a study would be useful here, to see what type of information reported on the Vets 100 could actually help increase the effectiveness of contractor compliance. The way the Vets 100 Report is now, it's an annual report, it's a static snapshot in time. It's immediately outdated once it's submitted and, as Mr. Wynn has indicated earlier, it's very difficult for state agencies to know within your state who are the entities that receive subcontracts because the major contract could have been in another state. But there are employment opportunities that are lost unless they are uncovered by our DVOPs [Disabled Veterans' Outreach Program] and our LVER [Local Veterans' Employment] staff within the states on their outreach. But in Arizona where we have over 140,000 employeer, it's very difficult for a staff of just over 60 veteran staff to outreach that many employers to try to uncover which of those jobs are out of compliance or should be listed and are not.
Brief excerpt of panel two -- again composed of the Dept of Labor's Les Jin and the Dept of Veterans Affairs Jan Frye.
US House Rep Gus Bilirakis: Mr. Jin, what are your concerns with regards to NASWA's job central system?
Les Jin: Congressman, I think that the key thing is that we want to make sure that there's a system in place so that the priority referral provision for veterans is-is-is handled in a way that works for everybody, works for the veterans, works for the state and local organizations that put this together. So I don't have a specific concern but I think that we got a system in place that was developed and, you know, we would be happy to have conversations with the organization about any issues they want to raise. As far as I know, we have not done that and they have not reached out to us in that regard. One thing that I want to mention is that we have regulations, proposed regulations, as I mentioned, and during that process, we took a lot of comments from a lot of different stakeholders. My Director [Patricia] Shiu met with a lot of organizations, she had a webinar where she talked with over a thousand organizations and individuals concerned about veterans issues. She did townhalls in New Orleans and Chicago and San Francisco. She's got a lot of input and we just want to make sure that whatever changes we make are fully reviewed and-and-and everything is integrated into that decision.
Subcommittee Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin pointed out to Jin that NASWA recommended last year that "an official list of federal contractors" be generated by his department and she wondered if that had taken place? Jin danced around the topic in his immediate reply leaing to a redirect by the Chair ("Well, it was a recommendation made a year ago.), Jin stated "I was not hear until the last few months." But, in those months, he had no conversations on that topic.
From the US government to efforts in Iraq to form a goverment, Syria's Day Press reports, "President [Bashar] al-Assad's received on Wednesday a delegation from the Iraqi List led by Iyad Allawi. Talks dealt with the latest developments in Iraq and the ongoing efforts and negotiations among different Iraqi blocs to form an Iraqi government." DPA adds, "Allawi's meeting in Syria comes as a coalition of Iraqi Shiites, known as the National Alliance, are due to hold a third day of talks Wednesday evening after they failed to meet their own deadline to nominate a candidate for the position of prime minister." While that meeting was going on, Alsumaria TV notes, "Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al Moallem discussed with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon the situation in Iraq. [. . .] The Syrian Foreign Minister affirmed that Iraq's security is bound to the country's national unity stressing the necessity for all Iraqi components to take part in shaping up Iraq's future."
And if you're late to the ongoing stalemate, March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted last month, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's six months and twenty-two days with no government formed.
Suadad al-Sahly and Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) note that "despite increasing acrimony," the talk is Nouri will be nominated by the Iraqi National Alliance (State Of Law already has him as their nominee) and he will be Iraq's 'next' prime minister. Hurriyet Daily News reports, "A group of prominent Iraqi nongovernmental groups have gone to court to try to break the political deadlock that has left the war-torn country adrift without a government and, according to many, vulnerable to insurgent attacks and worsening social conditions, a report said." Brian Murphy (AP) reports that US Brig Gen Rob Baker states that the continued stalemate is not only encouraging violence among 'insurgents' but could lead other Iraqis not to report suspect behavior to the Iraqi forces or the US forces. Youchi J. Dreazen (CongressDaily) reports similar concerns expressed today by the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm Mike Mullen: "I'm extremely concerned about their inability to stand up this government. The politics there are from my perspective too slow . . . and the longer that lasts, the more I and others worry about what does the future hold."
It takes a lot of stupid for the US government to deny their own involvement in all of this. I'm not just referring to their continued backing of the unpopular Nouri al-Maliki. I'm also referring to their allowing him to push back the elections to begin with. This first happened under Bush and was okayed by Barack when the elections were pushed back to fall/winter of 2009. Once Barack was sworn in, other push backs took place. Nouri intentionally dragged his feet. That was obvious to all international observers. Which is how Iraq repeatedly missed one deadline after another -- all the while the US government insisting that elections would take place before the end of 2009 -- and that is how elections which should have taken place in mid-2009 did not take place until March of 2010. The six months and counting spectacle is shameful. But never forget that the US encouraged it and allowed it by repeatedly allowing Nouri to push back the date and to interfere with the passage of needed legislation by Parliament that would have allowed the elections to take place in 2009.
It takes a lot of stupid to hail 'progress' in Iraq when they have no government, when elections took place over six months ago and the results were not honored. When Nouri's term long ago expired but he remains in office, not as a 'caretaker,' but as a tyrant. And if you're missing the point, Alsumaria TV reports, "The Iraqi cabinet Tuesday approved a $733 million deal for Leighton Offshore Private Ltd. Singaporean Oil Company to build a new oil export terminal in the southern city of Basra, a spokesman for the Iraqi government said." That's not the actions of a caretaker government. A caretaker government ensures that electricity is supplied, that trash is picked up -- all the things Nouri's government has FAILED to do. A caretaker government does not negotiate a multi-million dollar contract.
The violence continues.
Bombings?
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing wounded two people, two Baghdad bombings (one after the other) left five people injured, a mortar attack on the Green Zone and, in Beshdar, a man crossed over the border from Iran to Iraq and was reported to Kurdish intelligence who attempted to detain him but he set off a bomb taking his own life and injuring two Kurdish intelligence agents. Reuters notes a Saqlawiya home bombing which injured "three woman and a man" and, dropping back to last night for the following, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured six people and a Kirkuk roadside bombing which injured a police officer.
Shootings?
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Samarra home invasion in which police chief Major Saeed was shot dead (it was his home). Reuters notes that last night 1 "tribal leader" was killed when his Mosul home was invaded.
Turning to England and its role in the Iraq War, Defence Management Journal reports:

The British withdrawal from Basra in 2007 was "a huge mistake" and a "defeat" for the British Army, according to senior American commanders.
In the BBC's Secret Iraq documentary, one US General said the move by British troops from Basra Palace in the city centre to Basra International Airport left local people to be "terrorised" by militias.
General Jack Keane (ret'd) told the BBC's Secret Iraq programme: "I think it was a huge mistake to pull out of Basra and to go out to the airfield and to leave the people of Basra to be subjected to the Iranian surrogates who brutalised them, intimidated them, terrorised them."

In real time, we noted the regional withdrawal and then the Basra one and how embarrassing it was for the British military. Since, we've noted how the Iraq Inquiry has bent over backwards to avoid exploring those realities. (Known realities. Shortly before the Basra pullout, there was the abandoned base in the area, abandoned due to attacks, which the British military fled and which was torn apart by attackers in less than 24 hours.) Few outlets noted the reality on the British military mission in Iraq -- and even fewer of US outlets noted it. The Telegraph of London always covered it and today their Thomas Harding reports:

Some of the evidence in BBC Two's Secret Iraq was not given to the Chilcott Inquiry into Iraq. The comments will revive debate about whether the British pull-out from Basra in September 2007 was a prudent tactical move or a humiliating retreat.
The retired US general Jack Keane says: ''I think it was a huge mistake to pull out . . . and to leave the people of Basra subject to the Iranian surrogates who brutalised them, intimidated them, terrorised them."
A US colonel, Peter Mansoor, who was executive officer to the US commander Gen David Petraeus, says Basra was in "dire straits". "I don't know that you could see the British withdrawal from Basra in 2007 in any other light other than a defeat," he said.

BBC News adds
that 45 women were killed immediately after the British left Basra and quotes one Basra resident stating, "They started killing unveiled women. I had to buy an Ak-47 for personal protection. They started killing people who sell alcoholic drinks and barbers who shave beards."
There's plenty of news that should be in this snapshot but there's just not room and I note that because we're closing with two press releases. The first one is from Senator Daniel Akaka's office. He is the Chair of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee and he has won an honor. I've called him out in past snapshots so it's certainly only fair that we note he has received an honor:
THE MILITARY COALTION HONORS AKAKA FOR HIS ADVOCACY FOR VETERANS AND THEIR FAMILIES
Washington, D.C. -- Today The Military Coalition (TMC) presented U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) with one of its highest awards in recognition of his leadership on behalf of veterans and their families, especially his role in passing the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act. Akaka received the 2010 Award of Merit at the Reserve Officers Association Building on Capitol Hill.
"I thank The Military Coalition for this honor, and for their service to veterans. I look forward to continuing our shared work on behalf of America's troops and veterans, as well as the families who support them," said Akaka, Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee.
"Senator Akaka has taken the lead on almost every aspect of veterans' benefit improvements this year. We're especially grateful for his leadership in winning compensation and health coverage for caregivers, many of whom have had to sacrifice their jobs and homes to provide full-time care for a wounded loved one," said Joseph Barnes, TMC Co-Chair and National Executive Driector of the Fleet Reserve Association.
The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Service Act was signed into law by President Obama on May 5, 2010. The law includes provisions to establish an unprecedented permanent program to support the caregivers of wounded warriors, improve health care for veterans in rural areas, help VA adapt to the needs of women veterans, and expand support services for homeless veterans.
The Military Coalition represents the interests of more than six million members around the world, including active duty, National Guard Reserve, and retired members and veterans, as well as their families. For more about TMC, click here [.]
Kawika Riley
Communications Director and Legislative Assistant
U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs
Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman
We're closing with a lengthy release by the VA. We're doing that due to the attacks on moves made by VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to ensure that Vietnam era veterans receive what they are owed. If you're late to the attacks -- the Congressional attacks -- on Shinseki, see last week's "Iraq snapshot" and "Iraq snapshot," Ava's "Senator Roland Burris (Ava)," Wally's "Senate Veterans Affairs hearing (Wally)," Kat's "Jim Webb: The new Bob Dole" and The Third Estate Sunday Review's "No friend to veterans." Here's the press release from the VA:
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki today announced the publication of a final regulation in the Federal Register that makes it easier for Veterans to obtain Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care and disability compensation for certain diseases associated with service in Southwest Asia (including Iraq) or Afghanistan.
"This is part of historic changes in how VA considers Gulf War Veterans' illnesses," said Secretary Shinseki. "By setting up scientifically based presumptions of service connection, we give these deserving Veterans a simple way to obtain the medical and compensation benefits they earned in service to our country."
The final regulation establishes new presumptions of service connection for nine specific infectious diseases associated with military service in Southwest Asia beginning on or after the start of the first Gulf War on Aug. 2, 1990, through the conflict in Iraq and on or after Sept. 19, 2001, in Afghanistan.
The final regulation reflects a determination of a positive association between service in Southwest Asia or Afghanistan and nine diseases and includes information about the long-term health effects potentially associated with these diseases: Brucellosis, Campylobacter jejuni, Coxiella Burnetii (Q fever), Malaria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Nontyphoid Salmonella, Shigella, Visceral leishmaniasis and West Nile virus.
With the final rule, a Veteran will only have to show service in Southwest Asia or Afghanistan and that he or she had one of the nine diseases within a certain time after service and has a current disability as a result of that disease, subject to certain time limits for seven of the diseases. Most of these diseases would be diagnosed within one year of return from service, through some conditions may manifest at a later time.
For non-presumptive conditions, a Veteran is required to provide medical evidence to establish an actual connection between military service in Southwest Asia or Afghanistan and a specific disease.
The decision to add these presumptives was made after reviewing the 2006 report of the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine (NASIOM), titled, "Gulf War and Health Volume 5: Infectious Diseases."
The 2006 report differed from the four prior reports by looking at the long-term health effects of certain diseases determined to be pertinent to Gulf War Veterans. Secretary Shinseki decided to include Afghanistan Veterans in these presumptions because NAS found that the nine diseases are also prevalent in that country.
The 1998 Persian Gulf War Veterans Act requires the Secretary to review NAS reports that study scientific information and possible associations between illnesses and exposure to toxic agents by Veterans who served in the Persian Gulf War.
While the decision to add the nine new presumptives predates VA's Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses Task Force (GWVI-TF), the overarching responsibility of the GWVI-TF is to regain Gulf War Veterans' confidence in VA's health care, benefits, and services and reconfirm VA is 100 percent committed to Veterans of all eras. The GWVI-TF began in fall 2009 and is not a static, one-time initiative but will continue to build on its work with annual reports issued every August. The group's focus centers on unanswered Gulf War Veterans' health issues, improving access to benefits, ensuring cutting edge research into treatments, and to make sure Veterans' concerns are heard and addressed. This includes continuing to solicit Veterans, experts, advocates and stakeholders to share their views to better inform the important work of the GWVI-TF. The GWVI-TF Report can be found at www.VA.gov.
Disability compensation is a non-taxable monetary benefit paid to Veterans who are disabled as a result of an injury or illness that was incurred or aggravated during active military service.
Last year, VA received more than one million claims for disability compensation and pension. VA provides compensation and pension benefits to over 3.8 million Veterans and beneficiaries.
Currently, the basic monthly rate of compensation ranges from $123 to $2,673 for Veterans without any dependents.
For information about health problems associated with military service in Southwest Asia and Afghanistan, and related VA programs, go to www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/gulfwar/ and http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/oefoif/index.asp.
For information about how to apply for disability compensation, go to www.va.gov or http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/gulfwar/compensation_benefits.asp.
yochi j. dreazen

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What if it were George W. Bush saying it?

Today on Taking Aim (WBAI), Mya Shone and Ralph Schoenman spent the hour discussing J.F.K., Cuba, Fidel Castro, and other topics using Lamar Waldron and Thom Hartmann's Ultimate Sacrifice: John and Robert Kennedy, the Plan for a Coup in Cuba and the Murder of J.F.K. It was an interesting discussion and included so many topics. Remember you can go to either the show's website or the station's to hear the episode if you missed it (they are archived at the show's website for more than 90 days).

Now, this is what Barack Obama told Rolling Stone, "I said, 'We are going to end the war in Iraq, that was a mistake,' and I have done that." Can you imagine what the reaction -- what the ridicule -- would be if George W. Bush had said that?

Troops are still on the ground in Iraq and will be throughout this year, throughout most of next at best (but may, in fact, go beyond next year) and yet President Obama is claiming he has ended the Iraq War?

As C.I. points out in today's snapshot, 7 U.S. service members have died in the war Mr. Obama 'ended' since he gave his August 31st speech.

Again, if this were Bully Boy Bush, we would be going to town on him right now.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Barack declares the Iraq War ended and brags that he ended it, in the shadow of that huge ego the political stalemate continues, 3 US service members have died in Operation New Dawn in less than a week (7 since Barack announced 'combat' was over), Alsumaria celebrates six years of broadcasting, and more.
In less than a week, 'Operation New Dawn' has claimed the lives of at least 3 US military service members. Yesterday's snapshot noted: "Saturday's news noted that Marc Whisenart was killed in Kuwait while on his second tour of duty in the Iraq War. Middletown Press reports Pfc Gebrah P. Noonan died Thursday in Falluja and that Governor Jodi Rell has ordered that state flags be lowered on Noonan's behalf. Friday USF announced: 'CAMP LIBERTY – Two United States Forces - Iraq service members died of injuries sustained in a non-combat-related incident today. One other service member was injured and evacuated to a military medical facility for treatment'." That's three. And correction, it's Marc "Whisenant." My apologies. Whisenant's death is announced by DoD here. The Walton Sun notes, "The mission of Whisenant's regiment was providing escort security for personnel and equipment from Iraq into Kuwait as part of the drawdown of forces under Operation New Dawn. The unit was deployed January 2010 and is expected to return home December 2010." Noonan's death is covered in this DoD announcement:
The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of two soldiers who were supporting Operation New Dawn.
They died Sept. 24 in Fallujah, Iraq, of injuries sustained Sept. 23 in a non-combat incident. They were assigned to 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.
Killed were:
Spc. John Carrillo Jr., 20, of Stockton, Calif.
Pfc. Gebrah P. Noonan, 26, of Watertown, Conn.
For more information, the media may contact the Fort Stewart public affairs office at 912-435-9879 or 912-435-9874.

Mohammed Tafeeq (CNN) report Spc Neftaly Platero is currently in military custody and suspected of killing Noonan and Carrillo. KCRA (link has text and video) reports that's John's mother Dsiree Carillos was not told her son might have been killed by another US soldier when the military broke the news that her son was dead. She states, "It was very devastating to find out he was shot by a fellow soldier. (It) is unbelievable. The military should be embarrassed." BBC News quotes US military spokesperson Barry Johnson stating that there was a "verbal altercation" which allegedly resulted in Platero shooting the other three soldiers. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) notes Platero is 32-years-old. CNN adds, "Several people posted rest-in-peace messages on what appears to be Noonan's Facebook page. The page of 'Gebrah Noonan' also lists 'Neftaly Platero' -- the same name as the suspect -- as a Facebook friend." Kent Pierce (WTNH) quotes Gebrah Noonan's high school track coach, Dean Street, stating, "He was certainly a patriotic guy. He would mention things about it time to time, big into politics, everything that was going on." On his Facebook page, Gebrah's likes include Rob Simmons and Sarah Palin. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's office issued the following:


Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Stockton Soldier Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today issued the following statement regarding the death of Spc. John Carrillo Jr. of Stockton:
"Maria and I were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Specialist John Carrillo Junior. He was a brave soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country, and we join all Californians in remembering his courage and commitment. Our thoughts and prayers are with John's family, friends and loved ones during this difficult time."
Carrillo, 20, died September 24 in Fallujah, Iraq, of injuries sustained September 23 in a non-combat incident. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, GA.
In honor of Spc. Carrillo, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

So DoD is announcing 3 deaths above in 'Operation New Dawn.' 4425 was the DoD count on Thursday so the count is now 4428. And since Barack announced 'the end of war' and 'combat operations,' 7 US soldiers have died serving in this allegedly ended war. 'End of war'? Yes, that's what Barack and the press attempted to sell the American people. The current liar in chief learned a great deal about linkage from George W. Bush (who loved to link 9-11 and Iraq -- a trick Barack now echoes). Doubt that was the point of Barry's Oval Office minute?
When I was campaigning, I was very specific. I said, "We are going to end the war in Iraq, that was a mistake," and I have done that.
That's Barack purring into Jann S. Wenner's ear for the latest Rolling Stone Interview. "I have done that." He has ended the Iraq War? That's what he brags about. His gross exaggeration is only matched by his preening ego. The Iraq War has not ended. Repeating, since his 'ending' of that illegal war, 7 more US service members have died. 50,000 remain in Iraq. And that should scare the hell out of the Cult of St. Barack.
If you never doubted how likely it was that US troops would remain in Iraq after 2011, grasp that with 50,000 present currently, Barack's telling Rolling Stone he's already ended the Iraq War.
Saturday, Parks & Recreations' Amy Poehler returned to Saturday Night Live as the host and, on Weekend Update, she and Seth Meyers did their "Really" sketch (click here to stream the episode at NBC, click here to stream it at Hulu and click here to stream the Weekend Update clip at Hulu).
Seth Meyers: But you know what else is crazy? Anyone who says we need to attack Iran because we're definitely in two wars already. Yes, two. Because saying combat operations are over in Iraq when they're are still 50,000 troops is like saying, 'Hey, I quit drinking . . . tequila shots!'
Amy Poehler: Really.
Seth Meyers: Really.
Monday, Gabriel Gatehouse (BBC News) spoke with John Hockenberry and Celeste Headlee on The Takeaway (PRI) about the continuing Iraq War and shared the voices of some US soldiers in Iraq.
Capt Paul Cluverius: We have some soldiers, they were a little angry about it, saying, 'Hey, we're still over here. My personal standpoint? I thought it was humorous that they're saying combat operations are stopped because, I mean, combat operations are stopped? And what are we still doing here now? But our families, the people who know us, they know what we're doing. There is no switch that you can throw to say combat operations are stopped. I believe it was more of a media -- It was something built for the media.
Cluverius is correct, the Iraq War continues. You really think he'd find it humorous that Barack Obama's claiming -- to Rolling Stone -- that he has already ended the Iraq War? Really? You think the families and friends of the seven who have died since Barack declared 'combat' over and (in his mind) ended the war think it's cute that Barack's lying to Rolling Stone that the Iraq War is over?
John: I mentioned the combat operations in Afghanistan not to get your commentary on them because, obviously, you're in Baghdad but most Americans are going to wake up this morning and hear the headline from "American's war" -- singular, in Afghanistan. You would say there are two wars right?
Gabriel Gatehouse: I would definitely say that and I think Captain Paul
Tuesday, September 28, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Barack declares the Iraq War ended and brags that he ended it, in the shadow of that huge ego the political stalemate continues, 3 US service members have died in Operation New Dawn in less than a week (7 since Barack announced 'combat' was over), Alsumaria celebrates six years of broadcasting, and more.
In less than a week, 'Operation New Dawn' has claimed the lives of at least 3 US military service members. Yesterday's snapshot noted: "Saturday's news noted that Marc Whisenart was killed in Kuwait while on his second tour of duty in the Iraq War. Middletown Press reports Pfc Gebrah P. Noonan died Thursday in Falluja and that Governor Jodi Rell has ordered that state flags be lowered on Noonan's behalf. Friday USF announced: 'CAMP LIBERTY – Two United States Forces - Iraq service members died of injuries sustained in a non-combat-related incident today. One other service member was injured and evacuated to a military medical facility for treatment'." That's three. And correction, it's Marc "Whisenant." My apologies. Whisenant's death is announced by DoD here. The Walton Sun notes, "The mission of Whisenant's regiment was providing escort security for personnel and equipment from Iraq into Kuwait as part of the drawdown of forces under Operation New Dawn. The unit was deployed January 2010 and is expected to return home December 2010." Noonan's death is covered in this DoD announcement:
The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of two soldiers who were supporting Operation New Dawn.
They died Sept. 24 in Fallujah, Iraq, of injuries sustained Sept. 23 in a non-combat incident. They were assigned to 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.
Killed were:
Spc. John Carrillo Jr., 20, of Stockton, Calif.
Pfc. Gebrah P. Noonan, 26, of Watertown, Conn.
For more information, the media may contact the Fort Stewart public affairs office at 912-435-9879 or 912-435-9874.

Mohammed Tafeeq (CNN) report Spc Neftaly Platero is currently in military custody and suspected of killing Noonan and Carrillo. KCRA (link has text and video) reports that's John's mother Dsiree Carillos was not told her son might have been killed by another US soldier when the military broke the news that her son was dead. She states, "It was very devastating to find out he was shot by a fellow soldier. (It) is unbelievable. The military should be embarrassed." BBC News quotes US military spokesperson Barry Johnson stating that there was a "verbal altercation" which allegedly resulted in Platero shooting the other three soldiers. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) notes Platero is 32-years-old. CNN adds, "Several people posted rest-in-peace messages on what appears to be Noonan's Facebook page. The page of 'Gebrah Noonan' also lists 'Neftaly Platero' -- the same name as the suspect -- as a Facebook friend." Kent Pierce (WTNH) quotes Gebrah Noonan's high school track coach, Dean Street, stating, "He was certainly a patriotic guy. He would mention things about it time to time, big into politics, everything that was going on." On his Facebook page, Gebrah's likes include Rob Simmons and Sarah Palin. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's office issued the following:


Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Stockton Soldier Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today issued the following statement regarding the death of Spc. John Carrillo Jr. of Stockton:
"Maria and I were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Specialist John Carrillo Junior. He was a brave soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country, and we join all Californians in remembering his courage and commitment. Our thoughts and prayers are with John's family, friends and loved ones during this difficult time."
Carrillo, 20, died September 24 in Fallujah, Iraq, of injuries sustained September 23 in a non-combat incident. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, GA.
In honor of Spc. Carrillo, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

So DoD is announcing 3 deaths above in 'Operation New Dawn.' 4425 was the DoD count on Thursday so the count is now 4428. And since Barack announced 'the end of war' and 'combat operations,' 7 US soldiers have died serving in this allegedly ended war. 'End of war'? Yes, that's what Barack and the press attempted to sell the American people. The current liar in chief learned a great deal about linkage from George W. Bush (who loved to link 9-11 and Iraq -- a trick Barack now echoes). Doubt that was the point of Barry's Oval Office minute?
When I was campaigning, I was very specific. I said, "We are going to end the war in Iraq, that was a mistake," and I have done that.
That's Barack purring into Jann S. Wenner's ear for the latest Rolling Stone Interview. "I have done that." He has ended the Iraq War? That's what he brags about. His gross exaggeration is only matched by his preening ego. The Iraq War has not ended. Repeating, since his 'ending' of that illegal war, 7 more US service members have died. 50,000 remain in Iraq. And that should scare the hell out of the Cult of St. Barack.
If you never doubted how likely it was that US troops would remain in Iraq after 2011, grasp that with 50,000 present currently, Barack's telling Rolling Stone he's already ended the Iraq War.
Saturday, Parks & Recreations' Amy Poehler returned to Saturday Night Live as the host and, on Weekend Update, she and Seth Meyers did their "Really" sketch (click here to stream the episode at NBC, click here to stream it at Hulu and click here to stream the Weekend Update clip at Hulu).
Seth Meyers: But you know what else is crazy? Anyone who says we need to attack Iran because we're definitely in two wars already. Yes, two. Because saying combat operations are over in Iraq when they're are still 50,000 troops is like saying, 'Hey, I quit drinking . . . tequila shots!'
Amy Poehler: Really.
Seth Meyers: Really.
Monday, Gabriel Gatehouse (BBC News) spoke with John Hockenberry and Celeste Headlee on The Takeaway (PRI) about the continuing Iraq War and shared the voices of some US soldiers in Iraq.
Capt Paul Cluverius: We have some soldiers, they were a little angry about it, saying, 'Hey, we're still over here. My personal standpoint? I thought it was humorous that they're saying combat operations are stopped because, I mean, combat operations are stopped? And what are we still doing here now? But our families, the people who know us, they know what we're doing. There is no switch that you can throw to say combat operations are stopped. I believe it was more of a media -- It was something built for the media.
From that broadcast, we'll note this excerpt:
John Hockenberry: I mentioned the combat operations in Afghanistan not to get your commentary, on them obviously, you're in 'Bagdhad, but because most Americans are going to wake up this morning and hear the headline from "America's War," singular, the one in Afghanistan. You would say there are two wars, right?
Gabriel Gatehouse: I would definitely say that and I think Capt Paul Cluverius and Sgt Chris Williams would agree with me. I think most of the US soldiers who are based outside of the large FOBs, outside of the large bases, partnering with Iraqis on a daily basis would agree with you. This war is not over yet.
Of course, the people explaining reality? They're not trying to lie, cheat and spin in order to do well in mid-term elections. It's a damn shame that Barack's been able to tell Rolling Stone magazine that the Iraq War ended and everyone and their dog has gone on to comment since the story broke this morning but no one's zooming in on the Iraq comments (we zoomed in this morning as soon as the story went online). And it's not just the mainstream media ignoring Barack's LIE (although over 420 articles have been published by them since this morning), it's also our left 'independent' press.
There's more to point out. Journalist Ann Jones has new book which was just released this month War Is Not Over When It's Over: Women Speak Out from the Ruins of War. She is Matthew Rothschild's guest this week on The Progressive Radio Show and the two discuss wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Sierra Leone and elsewhere. At one point, Matthew Rothschild brings up the issue of rape.
Ann Jones: [. . .] we think of wars as being fought by soldiers -- mostly men -- and they fight with each other and then some sort of peace is concluded at which men sit down at the negotiating table and make a deal -- one that usually involves their coming to some sort of a power sharing agreement so everybody gets a piece of the pie. And then we say 'the war is over and now this country is at peace.' But in fact, all the time the men are at war and all the time they're talking about peace at the negotiating table, they are raping women and girls all over the country all the time. And when this so-called peace is concluded, they continue to do that. And, what's more, because civil structures, judicial structures, law and order have generally broken down during wartime, civilian men say 'Well look what the soldiers did all this time during the war and nothing bad has happened to them.' And they begin to rape as well so that very often the violence against women not only does not stop with the end of the war, but very often it increases. And the one significant thing that changes in many places is that where the militias have actually been disarmed and weapons have been taken away, men are now on their own. And it's easier for a man on his own, without his buddies to do a [. . .] rape, or to force a woman. It's easier for that man on his own to rape a little girl than it is to rape a grown woman who's going to put up a fight.
But that didn't happen. Ann Jones notes that despite the UN, over a decade ago, passing a resolution that women needed to be involved in all parts of any peace proces, that hasn't been happening in any stages in Iraq or Afghanistan. Maybe that's why US troops remain in both?
Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) notes yesterday was the self-imposed deadline that the Iraqi National Alliance announced last week by which they and State Of Law would have selected a nominee for prime minister and that they missed the deadline. Selected a nominee? From two people. Last week, it was also announced that they were choosing between Nouri al-Maliki (State Of Law) and Iraq's Shiite vice president Adel Abdul Mehdi (National Alliance). Supposedly an announcement would emerge today. DPA adds:
Though candidates in the National Alliance want the prime minister to come from their ranks, some are opposed to al-Maliki being head of government and favour his competitor, Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi. In particular, followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al- Sadr have yet to forget al-Maliki's attacks on their strongholds in March 2008, which killed and injured hundreds of Sadrist supporters.
What happens now? Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) states that 14 leaders will vote on one or the other and then there will be a nominee. Has it ever been that easy? Maybe so? Alsumaria TV reported at 5:00 a.m. EST that Hassan Al Sunaid (State Of Law) was insisting that the candidate will be named "within the coming hours." A few hours came and went, then many, many more. No announcement. The political stalemate continues.
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted last month, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's six months and twenty-one days with no government formed.
While the US wants Nouri al-Maliki to remain prime minister -- so much so that they pretend it's normal he's remained prime minister all this time despite his term expiring -- Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) points out, "Iraqis seem far from on-board for a second Maliki term, however, and voted in large numbers for blocs that clash openly with Maliki's. It seems that only foreign force could impose another Maliki government, but the cost to Iraq's fledgling democracy of such a move could be incalculable." The US supports Nouri because Nouri's promised to extend the SOFA (that's not Jason, that's me). AFP reports that US Vice President Joe Biden bellowed over the phone today that an "inclusive" government needed to be formed and that someone needed to speed up. Someone? Allawi. Biden only hectors Allawi. Nouri he feeds out of his own hand -- like a goat at a petting zoo. An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers shares thoughts on the stalemate at Inside Iraq:
We feel so sick because we heard the word MECHANISM for thousands times during the last few days. As normal people, we do not know anything about this word and it looks that our GREAT POLITICIANS also do not know anything about it. The search for this mechanism cost us a lot. Many innocent people die everyday, corruption increases widely and life becomes more difficult.
And the violence never ends.
Bombings?
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing which left police Lt Col Salam Meer wounded, a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded six people, 2 Baghdad roadside bombings going off one right after the other injured four people, another Baghdad roadside bombing exploded as people were exiting the Muhammed Mosque and 2 were killed with eight more wounded and, dropping back to Monday, a Baghdad roadside bombing wounded three people. Reuters notes a Kirkuk home exploded as police and Iraqi military were raiding the house and three Iraqi service members were left injured. ,
Shootings?
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul home invasion in which Sehikh Hussein Ali was shot dead and, dropping back to Monday, 1 military officer was killed in a Mosul roadside bombing and an Iraqi soldier was left wounded.
Last week, Reporters Without Borders issued a statement noting that finally two people believed to be resonsible for attacks on journalists Iraq -- in this case, kidnapping, were sentenced. In 2004, Christian Chesnot, Georges Malbrunot and their unnamed Syrian guide were kidnapped and held for over 120 days:

"We hail this conviction and we hope that the impunity so long enjoyed by the murderers and kidnappers of journalists will cease to be the rule in today's Iraq," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-Fran├žois Julliard said.

"It is good that justice has been rendered," Malbrunot told Reporters Without Borders.

In a report entitled "Iraq War: a heavy death toll for the media 2003-2010" released on 7 September, Reporters Without Borders condemned the failure to punish those responsible for killing so many journalists since the start of the US-led invasion in March 2003.

The report noted that majority of the journalists killed have been Iraqis. Yesterday Iraqi journalist Alaa Muhsin was injured in a Baghdad bombing. In addition, many news outlets have been closed (Paul Bremer was the first official to close a publication in Iraq after the start of the illegal war). In that climate, Alsumaria TV has a right to brag, not just celebrate:
September 27, 2004 was the start of a successful journey that made of Alsumaria today a star turn in the media sector.

Alsumaria celebrates its sixth anniversary. For all the past years, Alsumaria has embraced a moderate speech for One Iraq that stands at an equal distance from all Iraqis. Through its programs and news bulletins, the network continuously strives to promote democracy, freedom as well as political and economic openness.

A competent personnel, experienced anchors, skilled technicians and proficient cadre are the backbone of Alsumaria TV which eyes to present the best for Iraqi families.

Backed by a strong production know-how, Alsumaria TV produces almost all of its 24/7 programs in-house giving the chance for Iraqi actors to rise again in addition to a significant compilation of live entertainment, social, political, and game shows hosted by young Iraqis.

Alsumaria rallies high viewership among Arabs and Iraqis according to accurate statistical studies. Leading the way has not come for granted. Alsumaria earned its success thanks to its objectivity, neutrality and concern towards the Iraqi people.

Alsumaria is dedicated for all Iraqis regardless of their political, religious or social backgrounds. It aims to gather Iraqis all over the world around the same interest.

Alsumaria vows to keep breathing life into Iraqis' homes bringing along new hopes for a bright future.

Happy anniversary!
Congratulations to Alsumaria and all the Iraqi media, forever under the threat of attack from the government, forever under the threat of bombings or shootings (you don't even have to be a journalist to be targeted, you can just answer the phones for a news outlet or be one of their security guards and that's enough to get you targeted), but trying each day to inform their readers, viewers and listeners.
One of Iraq's long running issues has been the PKK -- a rebel group which is housed in northern Iraq and uses that area as a staging platform for attacks on Turkey. AFP reports that Turkey's "mandate for military strikes" on the PKK expires October 17th but they will be reviewing renewing it. If renewed, it will be the third renewal. AP reports that the top US commander in Iraq, Gen Lloyd Austin, is in Turkey where he will discuss the PKK with military officials. Hurriyet reports that Turkish government officials today pressured the US to do more with regards to the PKK including pressuring the Kurdistan Regional Government (which governs the northern area) to crack down on the PKK.
Over the weekend, Ed Milband was elected leader of the Labour Party in the UK. The political party held their conference in Manchester today and Ed gave his first speech (other than acceptance speech) in his new leadership post during which he noted the Iraq War.
Iraq was an issue that divided our party and our country. Many sincerely believed that the world faced a real threat. I criticise nobody faced with making the toughest of decisions and I honour our troops who fought and died there.
But I do believe that we were wrong. Wrong to take Britain to war and we need to be honest about that.
Wrong because that war was not a last resort, because we did not build sufficient alliances and because we undermined the United Nations.
As disclosed before, I know Ed and David Milband. The speech in full will either go down as Ed charting a brave direction for Labour (some are seeing an attack on unions in it, there is a very clear call for a living wage) by speaking of the party's strengths (lifting all boats) and renewing the commitment to that (a comitment New Labour tossed aside) or it will be seen in ten years as pretty words that were never backed up. (Labour is currently the out of power party in England -- the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats formed a power-sharing coalition after the May elections allowing David Cameron to be Prime Minister.) (And to be clear, I don't read Ed's remarks on unions as an attack -- but I'm also aware that Ed has not been elected the head of any union and, as a result, has no say in whether a union strikes or not.) The Iraq comments are receiving worldwide attention and some of the press includes the Gulf Times, Sky News, Manchester Evening News, Iain Martin (Wall St. Journal), Mu Xuequan (Xinhua), The Economist. Amnesty International issued the following:
Amnesty International has welcomed comments on human rights from the new Labour leader Ed Miliband in today's conference speech.

In his party conference speech Mr Miliband said his party had "too often" "seemed casual" about British liberties, in particular identifying attempts by the previous government to introduce 90-day pre-charge detention periods and sweeping use of anti-terrorism powers.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen, who listened to the speech in Manchester today, said:

"We've waited years to hear the Labour leadership say - in effect - that it has got the balance wrong on counter-terrorism and that, from now on, it is going to do more to defend human rights.

"This was an important moment and I was delighted to hear these words from the new Labour leader.

"Mr Miliband should certainly ensure that the opposition mounts a robust defence of human rights, including by calling for 'control orders' to be scrapped and the forthcoming torture inquiry to be rigorous and far-reaching.

"Amnesty has always said that defending this country must also mean defending our country's key principles of liberty and fairness. I look forward to meeting Ed Miliband and his colleagues to see how we can help make these aspirations real."


Amnesty recently made a 17-page submission to the Home Office as part of the Coalition Government's review of counter-terrorism measures. The organisation has also written to the head of the inquiry into alleged UK involvement in the mistreatment of detainees held abroad.

Both interventions come against the backdrop of repeated criticism from Amnesty and other human rights organisations of the previous government's record on counter-terrorism policy and practice. In April, for example, Amnesty described the UK as "the most influential and aggressive" promoter in Europe of the policy of seeking "diplomatic assurances" as a means to deport people it labels a threat to national security. Amnesty has long said that these "no torture" deals are unreliable and unenforceable and endanger those deported under such arrangements.
Tom Walker (Great Britain's Socialist Worker) reports, "Ed Miliband made one important break with Blairism in his conference speech on Tuesday when he condemned the war in Iraq. He said, 'I do believe that we were wrong. Wrong to take Britain to war and we need to be honest about that.' There was nervous applause. But he was strongly in support of continuing the occupation in Afghanistan. Miliband tried to balance between those who want an end to Blairism and those on the right of the party. But trying to balance in practice will mean that the Tories win the ideological battle -- and it won't build resistance."
Another thread of the story is David Miliband's reported reaction to the speech, specifically the critique of the Iraq War. George Eaton (New Statesman) reports, "During the leader's speech, ITV news cameras picked up the elder Miliband, with a look of pure murder on his face, leaning towards Harriet Harman as she happily applauded his brother's condemnation of the Iraq war. According to the station's lipreaders, he said: 'Why are you clapping? You voted for it.' To which Harman is said to have replied: 'I'm clapping because he's leader and, as you know, I'm supporting him'." Helene Mulholland (Guardian) adds, "The exchange suggests that the shadow foreign secretary, who was defeated in his leadership bid by his brother by a narrow margin, may choose not to add his name to the list of nominations for the shadow cabinet ahead of tomorrow's deadline." Iain Martin (Wall St. Journal) offers, "This is expected to be all over the bulletins later, and will be viewed through the prism of the brothers psycho-drama and the elder Miliband's struggle to come to terms with being beaten by his younger sibling. It is also quite funny." And BBC News points out, "BBC political editor Nick Robinson said the unscripted aside from David Miliband illustrated how he, and other former Labour ministers, 'deeply resent' the way in which Ed Miliband used his 'rather less than public opposition to the war' to win the party leadership." We'll be kind and not name the left writer in this country (US) who couldn't get it right (we've named him many times before), the Iraq War does matter in England. As Labour Pary polling confirmed -- which is why Rebecca and I both knew about it to begin with -- the Iraq War -- continuing the Iraq War, was an anchor around Gordon Brown's neck and is part of the reason -- a big part according to internal polling within the party -- Gordon is no longer prime minister. It was also a big reason Ed was able to pull ahead of his brother when few (including me) thought he was sincere about winning when the race for leadership first began. (As I've noted before, I was obviously wrong about Ed beging serious about this race.)