Your Ad Here


The Common Ills


Saturday, June 16, 2012
Violence claims 51 lives and leaves 154 injured

Violence claims 51 lives and leaves 154 injured

Wednesday, Iraq was slammed with bombings, it is again today.  Today it was again today, despite all the claims by Nouri al-Maliki of additional security.  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports, "Two car bombs targeted Shiite pilgrims Saturday in Baghdad, killing at least 32 people and injuring 68 others, police said."  Ahlul Bayt News Agency puts the injured toll at "more than 140." As Kitabat noted earlier this week, the pilgrims were taking part in the holy journey on the anniversary of the death of Imam Musa al-Kadhim.  Deutsche Welle notes, "Crowds carried symbolic coffins through the streets as pilgrims beat their chests in mourning as they made their way toward the mosque's two gold domes."

Jamal Hashim (Xinhua) explains, "The pilgrims were marching on foot to return to their homes after they participated in the observation of one of the major Shiite rituals at Kadmiyah's masusoleum of Imam Mussa al-Kadhim the 7th of the most sacred 12 Shiite Imams.  During the past few days, large crowds of pilgrims from Iraqi cities and some Muslim countries flocked to Kadhmiyah to observe the annual commemoration of the Imam's death."  Hsahim also notes that Nouri's security measures included a ban on all vehicles in "and around the district of Kadhmiyah," as well as closing roads, dispatching military helicopters to fly overhead, adding checkpoints and dispatching "dozens of thousands of Iraqi security troops." AP quotes Mohamed Ali who state, "There is no real security, no real searches,"   UPI adds:


Khalad Fadhel, a military analyst, said security officials over-emphasized deploying large numbers of soldiers and police officers without focusing enough on intelligence work to detect terrorist plots.
"It shouldn't be a military parade," Mr. Fadhel said. "We need a security strategy that addresses these shortcomings. I think that what we've really missed after the withdrawal of the United States is intelligence information. They were good providers of this kind of information about possible attacks."



Duraid Adnan and Tim Arango (New York Times) report, "The attacks represented an embarrassment to the army and police, and their top commander, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, and raised questions about the ability of Iraq's security forces to protect the population." And that's what happens when you refuse to name heads to the security ministries.  Nouri was named prime minister-designate in November 2010.


Per the Constitution, he was supposed to name a Cabinet -- full, not partial -- within 30 days.  Failure to do so meant that someone else would be named prime minister-designate.  Instead of following the Constitution, Nouri was allowed to become prime minister in December 2010.

The press assured us that Nouri would quickly nominate people to head the security posts.  Iraqiya, at the same time, warned Nouri would avoid nominating anyone because then he could control the posts.

How it works is if Nouri nominates Tim Arango to be Minister of the Defense and the Parliament confirms Arango, then Arango's in that post.  Arango controls the ministry.  If Nouri doesn't like what he's doing, he can't remove him.  It takes a vote in Parliament to remove a minister.  Just like it takes a vote in Parliament to confirm a minister.

'Acting ministers' do not exist in the Constitution.  Nouri pretends that an 'acting minister,' for example, runs the Defense Ministry.  No.  Nouri runs it.  The person has never been confirmed by Parliament and he does what Nouri tells him to do.  If he doesn't, Nouri replaces him. 

How does a so-called leader not get impeached when two years after he's been sworn in as prime minister he still hasn't nominated anyone to be the Minister of Defense?

Especially at a time when Iraq is seeing increased violence.

 AP quotes Brookings Doha Center's analyst and director Salman Shaikh stating, "Those behind the attacks, they've become more determined now and see more of an opportunity because of the dysfunctional political process." 

Alsumaria reports that Parliament's Commission on Security and Defense Council is insisting that there is "success" in protecting the people from terrorism.  Apparently, those killed and wounded today and the rest of the week are supposed to be swept under the rug because an estimated 6 million people made the pilgrimage.  (AFP's Salam Faraj and Laith Hammoudi report "tens of thousands," not millions.)  That probably won't bring comfort to the wounded or the family members of the dead.  BBC News quotes police officer Ahmed Maati stating, "We rushed to the scene, there were dismembered bodies, shoes, plastic bags, women's robes left all around, and people were screaming everywhere."  Al Rafidayn points out that nine provinces have seen large scale bombings this week (Iraq has 18 provinces).  Moving the focus beyond just Baghdad, Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 51 dead and one-hundred-and-fifty-four injured across the country.

As Iraq explodes, President Jalal Talabani continues to shrink.  Alsumaria reports that he's written an indignant letter to Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi, Iraqiya head Ayad Allawi and KRG President Massoud Barazni in which he belittles Moqtada al-Sadr and in which he insists he'd rather resign than change his opinion and forward the petition with 176 signatures to Parliament (the petition calls for a no-confidence vote on Nouri).  Poor overweight Jalal.  Last month, he'd pictured himself getting his arteries cleaned in the US and the pigging out on Philly Cheesesteaks.   Now his image is in tatters, his political party PUK has asked him to lower his profile (his weakness is hurting the party) and he's been told not to leave the country.  Back on April 28th, he talked big to Moqtada, Allawi and Barzani.  He swore that he could remove Nouri as prime minister all by his lonesome.  Then Nouri did a little pressue, the US did a little pressure, and like a cheap belt, Jalal buckled.  Next year the KRG holds provincial elections.  The PUK is furious with Jalal for his decision not to forward the petition.  It's made Massoud Barzani even more popular in the KRG, it's made him look even more like a leader and Jalal look even weaker and more ineffectual.  (The two main parties in the KRG are the Jalal's PUK and Barzani's KDP.  In the last years, Goran has emerged as a third party.  PUK officials fear that they are losing power not to Barzani's KDP but to the emerging Goran as a result of Jalal's embarrassing moves.)

With or without Jalal, efforts at a no-confidence continue.  Alsumaria reports that Moqtada al-Sadr says there will be a meeting on Sunday to address the issue of questioning Nouri before Parliament.  With Jalal betraying them, Moqtada, Allawi and Barzani are now pursuing another avenue -- one in the Constitution -- in which they bring Nouri before the Parliament, question him and then move towards a vote.

The following community sites -- plus Cindy Sheehan, The NewsHour and the Guardian -- updated last night and today:



At The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdrof has an important article entitled "What Bush's Iraq War and Obama's Drone Strikes Have in Common."  It doesn't lend itself to a pull quote or an excerpt but it's very much worth reading.



The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.


 

Posted at 05:59 pm by thecommonills
 

I Hate The War

I Hate The War

ambassador to swingtown
How important are the unqualified Brett McGurk (above) and the pathetic Gina Chon (below)


the gentlemen's club for journalism





They're pretty important at present.

Brett McGurk is a natural focus for this site and we've been noting his lack of qualifications since Laura Rozen first reported he was going to be the new nominee for US Ambassador to Iraq.  (Laura scooped everyone with that story.)  We began reviewing his qualifications and noted he was not qualified.  Peter Van Buren blogged about about problems with McGurk early on.  We linked to his writing and echoed those points here.  That was before the confirmation hearing.

The day before the confirmation hearing, I knew I'd have to do something in the snapshot to note what was coming.  But even I didn't know what was coming.  I was going to review again the reasons McGurk is unqualified.  Not a problem.  And we did do that.  But while visiting various offices, I was in a Senator's office where a conversation was taking place in whispers about Brett McGurk and some reporter (Gina Chon's name wasn't mentioned -- she was a nobody in most people's eyes at that point).  As I left the office, I searched the web on my iPhone and found them at Cryptome.  (I searched "Brett McGurk" "e-mails" on Google.  At that point on Tuesday, it was the third result.  The other two were on different topics.  Cryptome was the first site to post them -- they had earlier been posted to Flickr.)

Reading them, it was obvious this created a new problem with the nomination: Iraqi women will have to cut themselves off from the US Embassy if McGurk is confirmed.  That's a little over half the country's population.  No one whose mere presence cuts off half the host country's population should be allowed to be an ambassador.

Did anyone care about that?  I didn't see it on my TV, I didn't read it in the newspapers.

Iraqi women apparently are invisible in the US.

They certainly were invisible in Gina Chon's pathetic e-mail yesterday where she pretended to have suffered.  Ask Iraqi women about suffering, Gina Chon, ask them.  The e-mails Brett McGurk exchanged with Wall St. Journal reporter Gina Chon in 2008 while both were in Baghdad are part of the public record.  If Chon doesn't like it, that's too damn bad.  Maybe they shouldn't have written each other about blue balls?  Maybe, since Gina was carrying several devices, she should have used something other than her work phone to e-mail on and McGurk should have used something other than government equipment to e-mail her?

But McGurk was already known in Iraq and now he's known as the man who came to Iraq already married and then engaged in extra marital sex.  A community member in Iraq wrote that it would have been better for Iraqi women if McGurk (Anglo White) had been involved with some White woman from England or the US.  But Chon is a person of color and that sort of leaves open the notion that McGurk might sleep with Iraqi women as well.  And it's that belief that's going to prevent most -- if not all -- Iraqi women from accessing the US Embassy if McGurk is confirmed.  So-called 'honor' killings are not something I've made up.  Each year, in their human rights report, the US State Dept documents them. 

Why the hell would a government send someone to another country as an ambassador if they knew that person's mere presence would prevent half the country from accessing the embassy?

The first week, we covered these issues and more:





We spent three snapshots on the confirmation hearing alone.  He's no qualified.  Iraiqya doesn't trust him.  You've got the most popular political slate in the country (Iraqiya) saying they don't trust him.  And that's who you're going to send into Iraq to (hopefully) 'smooth things over'?  How's that going to work?  No one wanted to ask, on the Committe, about the political impasse.  Not seriously.  How in the world can McGurk address that in any credible manner when he's seen as being too close to Nouri al-Maliki -- the man responsible for starting Political Stalemate I (the gridlock after the March 2010 elections through November 2010) and Political Stalemate II (December 2010 to the present)?

Margaret Carlson wrote a ridiculous column for Bloomberg News that's fairyl typical of the XENOPHOBIC press in the US.  She wanted the world to know:


What you think of the affair between diplomat Brett McGurk and journalist Gina Chon depends in part on your view of professional ethics, in part on your political affiliation, and in part on your e-mail habits. And on your sympathy for the human condition. That might have something to do with it, too.


Thank you, Bwana Margaret.  In Margaret's xenophobic world, Iraqi women just don't exist.  No one would think of them and certainly no one would care what happened to them.

In Margaret's xenophobic world, you might care due to journalism and government ethics, you might care if you were a partisan Republican or Democrat, or you might care because you send out e-mails.  But you'd never care because of the fate of Iraqi women.

I'm not surprised -- please, we all lived through 2008 -- to see women devalued so by the US press.  I am surprised, however, when it's by a columnist who repeatedly wants to be seen as caring and compassionate and has been accused of trotting out family stories solely in order to prop up that image.

Iraq is a nation of widows and orphans due to the illegal Iraq War and the sanctions which came before that.  At some point and time, the US government might want to responsibility for their actions and might want to start thinking how they can help Iraqi women, not how they hurt them further.

Sending Mr. Playboy who can't handle "blue balls" to Iraq is not going to help Iraqi women.  It would appear that Barack Obama has the war on women.  He's the one trying to force Brett McGurk into Iraq.  He's also the one who's now nominated three people to be US Ambassador to Iraq and all three of men.  (And I believe we also stand alone in our criticism of that -- and remember Ava and I lobbied Barack's transitional administration to make a woman the Ambassador to Iraq back at the end of 2008 so it's not like the idea's never been presented to them -- our argument was that a qualfiied person who was a woman would, by her presence alone, lift Iraqi women's boats a little higher.  We're also the only ones making the accurate criticism that, in one term, a president shouldn't be nominating three people to the same post.  That's your first indication that vetting hasn't been done.)

As for Gina Chon.  Go back up to those linked entries.  We were perfectly happy not going into a great deal about Gina Chon.  She got a pass here in part because she was a woman.  But I was repeatedly stating that we weren't going to go into the ethical issues involving Chon because CJR and others would.  They didn't.  When they didn't, we had to step forward.

Gina Chon's as much an Iraq story as Judith Miller.  It's a real shame that Judith Miller can't claim to have married her government sources (Scooter Libby) because then CJR would insist it didn't really matter and was 'too much information' and we all needed to look the other way.

Though it didn't make the snapshots, we did cover many other issues this week -- ones as important as who will or will not be the next US Ambassador to Iraq.  We covered Jalal Talabani's increasingly ineffectual public image.  (Which is in the Iraqi news today again.)  We're the only ones who have probably explored the shrinking Jalal.

This entry's really a reply to three e-mails in the public account.  People claiming to be visitors but more than likely Gina Chon friends or Gina herself.  We have always defended Iraqi women here.  If you want to lie and say you've read this "blog" since day one, you might try checking the archives.

You'd find it's not "a blog."  A blog would be what I want to write about and this site early on ceased to be that.  I write on demand, based on what the community wants covered.  That's Iraq.  In 2006, we created the Iraq snapshot because there was alarm over how little Iraq coverage there was in the MSM.  And as that coverage has vanished, we've continued to cover Iraq.  We cover Iraq related issues like veterans issues.  We cover Congressional hearings and UN presenations.  Check the archives.

And when you do, you'll notice things like Abeer.  We never dropped the story of Abeer.  The young teenager who was gang raped by US soldiers in her own home while she heard her five-year-old sister and bother her parents killed in the next room, shot dead.  When Steven D. Green took 'his turn' in the gang-rape, he also shot Abeer to death.  She had lived in fear of him before the attack.  He'd manned checkpoint in her neighborhood.  He'd stared at her and touched her and made comments that unnerved her.  If the attack had been the next night, she wouldn't have been there becuase her parents had arranged for her to go to a relative because they too were bothered by Green's behavior.  It was a brief flurry in the US press.  Then it was largely forgotten.  The whitewash had already started with Carloyn and Robert of the New York Times.  we covered all this in real time.  And when Green went on trial finally, we covered the trial every day.

So the three of you who are so concerned about Gina Chon and wonder if, in the name of 'sisterhood,' I can just let it go?  No.  No, I can't.  Because Iraqi women have been betrayed enough.  And I will not be silent while the Senate considers confirming a nominee who will make Iraqi women's lives harder by his very presence. 




It's over, I'm done writing songs about love
There's a war going on
So I'm holding my gun with a strap and a glove
And I'm writing a song about war
And it goes
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Oh oh oh oh
-- "I Hate The War" (written by Greg Goldberg, on The Ballet's Mattachine!)


The number of US service members the Dept of Defense states died in the Iraq War is [PDF format warning] 4489.



The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.




Posted at 05:39 pm by thecommonills
 

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Gentlemen's Club for Journalism"

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Gentlemen's Club for Journalism"

the gentlemen's club for journalism
Isaiah's latest The World Today Just Nuts "The Gentlemen's Club for Journalism."  Former Wall St. Journal reporter Gina Chon sprawls across a bed and explains, "After getting fired, I wallowed.  Now I'm ready to make some money.  Some reporters take notes during interviews.  Some make audio recordings.  I videotaped mine.  That's where the big money is!  As a member of the Gentleman's Club for Journalism, you'll receive one DVD a month for just $29.99 a month.  Each DVD will be jam packed with hardcore journalism.  I'll show you how I got deep, penetrating interviews and how to cheer up a source who's feeling blue.  Must be 18 or older."  Isaiah archives his comics at The World Today Just Nuts.









Posted at 08:54 am by thecommonills
 

Friday, June 15, 2012
Iraq snapshot

Iraq snapshot

Friday, June 15, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue,  Gina Chon wants it all to be about her, more Democratic Senators are bothered by Brett McGurk's nomination, the VA is approximately six weeks behind in paying veterans their GI Bill benefits checks (remember in 2009 when that was supposed to have been fixed), OPEC discusses oil prices, War Criminal Tony Blair is heckled again, and more.
 
Today disgraced former Wall St. Journal reporter Gina Chon attempted to shove Jesus off the cross so she could climb up there herself.  Gawker posts her e-mail:
 
I've seen the ugliness in human beings in war zones and natural disasters but I've never seen it up close and personal in the comfort of the U.S. The venom of Washington politics makes Wall Street, which I covered for the last two years, look like a playground.
But underneath the half-truths and outright lies is a fairly simple tale of two people who met in Baghdad, fell in love, got engaged and later married. In the process we formed a strong connection with Iraq, a place where we lost many friends.
I'm not trying to absolve myself of responsibility. People were hurt along the way and for that, I am truly sorry. I made stupid mistakes four years ago in Iraq while working for the Wall Street Journal and for that, I'm also sorry. I had to leave my job at a news organization I love and for that, I am heartbroken.
I want you to know, though, that while I worked in Iraq for the paper, Brett never gave me sensitive or classified information nor did he trade his knowledge for my affection. We were both dedicated professionals too committed to our jobs and had too much respect for each other to do anything like that. And as individuals, it's simply not who we are or how we approach our work. Nor did he need to. He was authorized to speak on occasion on background with journalists and did so with me, the Washington Post, the New York Times and other news outlets.
 
Gina Chon, you were not a 'dedicated professional.'  If you had been, you would have followed the ethical guidelines of journalism as well as the Dow Jones written ethical policy you signed.  If you were a 'dedicated professional,' you would still be working for the Wall St. Journal.  So stop lying.
 
Let's go through some of that.
 
I've seen the ugliness in human beings in war zones and natural disasters but I've never seen it up close and personal in the comfort of the U.S. The venom of Washington politics makes Wall Street, which I covered for the last two years, look like a playground.
 
How typical that all she could recall is the ugliness. Most people would embrace the humanity or see a mixture.  How telling that she chose to wallow in the ugliness.  The glass is always half full, chipped and unwashed for Gina.
 
And what venom?  Most newspapers and outlets have ignored your huge lapse in journalism ethics.  Jokes have yet to circulate about you -- but they are coming, they are.  You did wrong and you got caught. 
 
The fact that you were fired and you still can't admit that it was your fault goes to your lack of maturity and your failure to practice your profession ethically.
 
But underneath the half-truths and outright lies is a fairly simple tale of two people who met in Baghdad, fell in love, got engaged and later married. In the process we formed a strong connection with Iraq, a place where we lost many friends.
 
The full truth is you were forbideen to sleep with your sources.  The full truth is you ignored the Dow Jones ethics policy.  The full truth is you violated it.  A lapse?  One tumble might have been a lapse.  But you didn't inform your editor of what happened and a 'lapse' turned into an affair.
 
I don't give a ___ whether you sucked him off to glory or you rode him to ecstatsy, Gina Chon.  I give a damn that you lied to everyone including the readers.
 
You do not sleep with government officials you are supposed to be covering.  You are obviously as stupid as you are unethical to even write such a whine.  The one thing you had going for you was that people respected the fact that you appeared to be taking your lumps without bitching and moaning in public.  You've blown that.  Now you're just another pathetic scandal, someone who gets caught and refuses to take accountability.
 
We have wall between press and state in the US.  Maybe that's news to you, Gina.  But unlike in China, Iran and other countries, we don't have state control of the media. When you're sent to cover Iraq for the Wall St. Journal, readers have a right to believe that you're doing it to the best of your abilities.  When you sleep with a US government official, that throws that belief out the window.  You violated the ethics, you showed your copy to McGurk -- which is what outraged everyone and why they suggested you resign immediately or they could fire you on the spot. 
 
You lost your right to whine about "loss" in the War Zone.  You know why?
 
Because you're the cheater.  Ask John Edwards, the cheater doesn't get to whine.  You cheated on your husband, Brett McGurk cheated on his wife.  While that's not our focus here when you try to play utlimate victim you better grasp that you and Brett can't pull it off.  You're two people who didn't keep your vows.  Public sympathy goes to the spouses you cheated on.  Try another trick, Gina.
 
I'm not trying to absolve myself of responsibility. People were hurt along the way and for that, I am truly sorry. I made stupid mistakes four years ago in Iraq while working for the Wall Street Journal and for that, I'm also sorry. I had to leave my job at a news organization I love and for that, I am heartbroken.
 
You know what, Judith Miller probably would love to still be at the New York Times.  Reporting is not a hobby, you don't dabble in it.  Most people and outlets do not say "Gina Chon reported . . ."  They say, "I heard on NPR" or "I saw an NBC Nightly News" or "I read in USA Today."  You disgraced the Dow Jones with your behavior.  You're going to be in the journalism text books now so you better start trying to come up with a better line of argument than 'My hot loins moistened at the thought of his throbbing member while he texted 'blue balls' to me.'   It was not a "stupid mistake," it was a gross violation of journalism ethics.  You're very lucky this came out in 2012.
 
Had it come in 2008, CJR would be crucifying you, The Nation would forget the name "Judith Miller" as they went to town on you, Greg Mitchell would do non-stop posts about you, speaking to everyone you've ever worked with.  But because Bush is out of office and your husband is Barack Obama's nominee to be US Ambassador to Iraq, these outlets and others are down playing what happened.
 
It's amazing that, as you climb on the cross, and glorify yourself, you forget to apologize for what you did which was not "stupid mistakes."  You weren't a teenager, you weren't an intern.  You were a professional journalist working for a US newspaper with the highest circulation.  When this started, last week, I was reminded of James Brooks' Broadcast News.  Albert Brooks makes a crack.  And I thought, "What is it he says?  It's about  whether you'd tell a source you' loved them to get information --  it's funny, it's . . .  Oh." 
 
"Oh" because the butt of the joke is a woman and when that happens, we always have to wonder, is the joke fair or not? And so I decided not to include an excerpt of the whole would-you-sleep-with-your-source-to-get-a-story bit which ends with Albert Brooks saying, "Jennifer didn't know there was an alternative."  Ha-ha-ha-ha.  And now Gina Chon's name can be footnoted to that joke apparently.  Guess what?
 
Women have not come far enough.  When a Martha Raddatz (ABC News) has to talk on NPR (Tell Me More, February 22, 2011) about covering wars and having children -- not to talk about the juggle that so many of us who work and raise children can relate to but because suddenly the spin for the day is 'maybe women shouldn't be allowed in war zones,' we have not come far enough.
 
Women have not come far enough in our society.  We can't absorb your inability to follow the basic ethics, Gina.  Your actions betray women.  Not because you cheated on a 'sister,' but because you were such an idiot that you have taken the Iraq War, where women came to the forefront of reporting -- and had to pay for that already by having the scapegoat for the war itself be a woman (Judith Miller) -- and put that accomplishment at risk, put it at risk of turning all of the work into a dirty joke.  Women have not come far enough to afford your ethical lapse.
 
Jane Arraf, Lara Jakes, Rebecca Santana, Deborah Haynes, Nancy A. Youssef, Sabrina Tavernise, Alyssa J. Rubin, Tina Susman, Alexandra Zavis, Ellen Knickmeyer, Erica Goode, Deborah Amos, Cara Buckley, Anna Badkhen, Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, Liz Sly, Alice Fordham,  Deborah Haynes, Sahar Issa and many other women have risked a great deal to report from Iraq.  Your name used to be on that list.  Check the archives, earlier this year we were still including you here on that list. 
 
You should be apologizing to women in the profession for you failure to follow the ethics policy.  One woman on the list in the first sentence of the above paragraph has been dogged by false rumors that the US military brass in Iraq fed her stories because she was sleeping with a general.  We've talked about that before here and how her male colleagues were the ones spreading the false rumors.  It wasn't a rival outlet, it was her own colleagues.  Jealous over what she was doing and feeling petty so they spread rumors about her.  She kept her head up, ignored the rumors and continued (and continues now) to do her work.
 
Gina Chon, that woman knows about being persecuted.  She knows about being turned into  a joke.  And she was innocent of the slander her male colleagues spread.  She didn't climb on the cross and play the victim so why you think anyone should give a damn that you wish you hadn't been caught violating the ethics of your profession is beyond me.
 
Now we haven't gone there here.  We've tried to make it about Brett McGurk.  I'd hoped to not write about you at any length.  But when the so-called media watchdogs refused to bark over the fact that you had a sexual relationship in Baghdad with a Bush official while covering Iraq, we had to wade in.  But there are several barriers I still haven't crossed.  For example, we haven't examined your part in the 2008 e-mails here or even quoted from your own 2008 e-mails.  In addition,  I was asked by a Senator on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about your reporting from that period and I tried to play dumb and he pointed out that I was stalling and I said, "I'm just not comfrotable with that question."
 
Gina Chon, if you continue to try to play the world's utlimate victim, I can easily say, "Check out the story filed ___, paragraph three, specifically ___" and you and I both know what I mean.
 
Because of Barack the media watchdogs -- which apparently are partisan as the right has long charged -- aren't doing their job and you're very lucky for that.  But I can do their job for them.  And I will if you don't stop trying to play injured party.  You violated journalism ethics and just as a reporter who plagiarizes gets fired, you lost your job.  Quit trying to make it about love.  You weren't fired for falling in love.  You were fired for sleeping with your source, you were fired for sleeping with someone you let see your copy -- your former bosses say "vet," you say "seek feedback."
 
As Dolly Parton says in Straight Talk, "Get off the cross, honey, somebody else needs the wood."
 
Gina Chon's current husband is Brett McGurk who, at 39, has been nominated by Barack Obama to head the US mission in Iraq.  He would be the US Ambassador to Iraq if confirmed, over the largest US diplomatic mission in the world despite not speaking Arabic, despite lacking management experience, despite his established practice of sending e-mails to women he hasn't slept with about his "blue balls."  HR's going to have a lot of fun in Iraq if McGurk gets to supervise women.
 
McGurk's presence means Iraqi women are not welcome at the US Embassy.  That's going to mean a number of programs are cancelled.  You never heard about those programs because the press never cared enough to write about them.  I'm not sure they ever even reported on one of Brooke Darby's appeareances before Congress in the last eight months (Darby is with the State Dept).  But with the US government having put thugs in charge of Iraq -- to scare the people into submission while various economic programs were put in place -- so-called 'honor' killings are a real threat to Iraqi women.
 
 
 
Honor killings remained a serious problem. Legislation in force permits honor considerations to mitigate sentences.
According to the UNHCR in April, honor killings were prevalent in all parts of the country. For the first nine months of the year, the domestic NGO Human Rights Data Bank recorded 314 burn victims (125 instances of self-immolation and 189 cases of burning), compared with 234 burn victim during the same period in 2008.
 
 
Honor killings remained a serious problem throughout all parts of the country. The penal code of 1969 permits honor considerations to mitigate sentences.
Statistics published by the KRG Ministry of Interior in 2010 stated that there were 102 incidents of women burned in and around Erbil Province alone. Sixty-five percent of these cases were still under investigation during the year. Women who committed self-immolation had been previously victimized, but police investigated only a small number of women's burn cases. The KRG reported that during the year 76 women were killed or committed suicide, while 330 were burned or self-immolated, but a number of NGOs, including the Organization for Women's Freedom in Iraq, stated that such estimates were low.
 
So visiting the US Embassy in Iraq -- for the small business training or any program or concern -- becomes a danger for Iraqi women who will be sneered at for ties to the Americans and now for a US Ambassador known to sleep with women in Iraq other than his own wife.  "You got a micro loan!  What did you do for it?"  Brett McGurk as US Ambassador to Iraq means a threat to Iraqi women -- especially in the KRG that he testified he would be visiting every week if named Ambassador.
 
It's really past time for Americans to be asking what would McGurk's appointment do to help Iraqi women?  The answer is nothing.  It would put them at risk if they visited the Embassy, it would most likely mean many Iraqi women would have nothing to do with the Embassy.
 
It's a real shame that the press won't protect Iraqi women.  It's a real shame that Gina Chon believes she's suffering when she has spent time in Iraq and should know the ultimate victims of the war were and remain Iraqi women.
 
In this community,  Trina's "No to Brett McGurk," Marica's "For the sake of Iraqi women, McGurk should step aside,Elaine's "McGurk needs to withdraw his name," Mike's "Brett McGurk needs to withdraw his name," Mike's "The embarrassing Erika Fry," Rebecca's "how brett mcgurk continues to remain the nominee," Kat's "What about the Iraqi women?," and Trina's "Diana West is wrong" have covered the McGurk nomination this week.  You'll notice the problem was McGurk as you read.  Gina Chon's ridiculous e-mail basically means a cry of "Unleash the hounds of hell!"  And she will have brought it on herself.
 
 
Peter Van Buren is the author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the War for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People and the same  administration that insists Brett McGurk is qualified for the post of Ambassador is attempting to drum Van Buren out of the State Dept for his whistleblowing book.  Peter's been covering the McGurk nomination for some time and has noted at length the various ethical violations McGurk has engaged in -- violations that the State Dept punishes others for but that McGurk gets waived through on.  In his most recent post, Van Buren notes that the bubbling under of the  'underground video' of McGurk getting a blow job on top of Saddam's palace by a woman who is not his first wife or his second wife (watch out, Gina, she may be the one who replaces you!).  He also notes more unethical behavior on the part of McGurk and Chon:
 
 
Meanwhile in sleaze land, the Washington Post reports that McGurk invited his then-mistress Chon to be a guest lecturer at a Harvard course he taught in 2009. Harvard students attending the class had no idea that their teacher was romantically involved with Chon, who spoke to them about her experience reporting getting inside info by sleeping with her sources in Iraq, according to a student who attended.
(Sigh) Needless to say, both the Stickman and Chon were married to others when they arranged to have Harvard pay for Chon to spend some quality time with Brett on the university's dime. Another classy move McGurk!
 
 
No, Gina, that's not "dedicated professionalism."  Try again, Gina.  And here's a little hint, when you trade sexual favors for benefits it's usually considered prostitution. 
 
Earlier this week, 6 GOP Senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent a letter to US President Barack Obama asking him to withdraw the nomination of Brett McGurk.  Though the Committee vote on McGurk's nomination was scheduled for this coming Tuesday, Committee Chair John Kerry has indicated publicly that may not be happening.  In addition, the Washington Post has reported Senator Barbara Boxer has reservations about McGurk's nomination.  Today, Ted Barrett and Paul Courson (CNN) report that two more Democratic Senators on the Committee have questions.  Senator Ben Cardin is quoted stating, "The reports are very serious.  They should be explored before we take action."  Senator Bob Casey notes that "there have been a lot of questions raised and we should weigh them.  We've got a lot more work to do." 
 
Senator Bob Casey was acting Chair for McGurk's Committee hearing.  It was in that hearing, as we noted at Third that:
 

McGurk took credit for the surge.  The only aspect of the surge that was successful was what Gen David Petraeus implemented and US service members carried out.  That was not what McGurk and other civilians were tasked with.  Their part of the surge?  The military effort was supposed to create a space that the politicians would put to good use by passing legislation.  It didn't happen.  McGurk's part of the surge was a failure.
He revealed incredible ignorance about al Qaeda in Iraq and seemed unaware that, in 2011, then-CIA Director (now Secretary of Defense) Leon Panetta told Congress it amounted to less than 1,000 people or that in February of this year, the Director of National Intelligence declared that a significnat number (of that less than 1,000) had gone to Syria.
Though the press has reported for years about Nouri's refusal to bring Sahwa members into the process (give them jobs) and how he refuses to pay these security forces (also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons of Iraq"), McGurk told Congress that Nouri was paying them all and had given government jobs to approximately 70,000.  (For point of reference, in 2008, Gen David Petraues told Congress there were approximately 91,000 Sahwa.)
 
Links go to the three snapshot where we reported on the hearing.  Those issues and more go to his qualifications.  He is not the 'expert' the White House has made him out to be.
 
 
Wednesday, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing on proposed legislation.  Senator Patty Murray is the Committee Chair, Senator Richar Burr  The Committee heard from two panels about proposed bills. The first panel was the VA's Curtis Coy. The second panel was IAVA's Tom Tarantino, Military Officers Association of America's Robert Norton and Student Veterans of America's Peter Meijer.  Wednesday's snapshot covered the burn pit aspect of the hearing and employment rights and  Kat covered Ranking Member Richard Burr's proposed bill.  We didn't have space for it in yesterday's snapshot but there was a great deal worth noting.  One thing we have to note is that veterans are still waiting on their GI Benefits.  Remember that?  Remember when that was supposedly solved?  The US has held mid-term elections since that scandal but the problem continues.  From the hearing:
 
Ranking Member Richard Burr: I need to move to the GI Bill real quick.  And I just want to paraphrase an article which was written [by Tony Burbeck] on June the 12th which was Tuesday in the Charlotte Observer.  It talks about local veterans who are now enrolled in a school that aren't getting their tuition and student housing money as promised from the GI Bill and it's threatening their ability to stay in school and to pay their rent. I won't name the veterans, five of them.  "They say that they're facing the same problems: thousands of dollars in government backed tuition money from their GI Bills plus a monthly basic housing allowance which hasn't come through since they started class May the 7th." Not even a book fee.  Haven't received anything.  "We got out of the United States Marine Corps April 22nd."  "Hall's certificate of eligibility says he's entitled to 100 percent of benefits covered under the GI Bill at an institution of higher education.  He's in school, but his tutition hasn't been paid. Hall says he might have to drop out of if the GI Bill tuition payment doesn't come through.  He added the Department of Veterans Affairs also told him they are six to eight weeks behind processing payments.  Hall is already at the end of the line with rent money that could be paid with the housing allowance.  He said he faced eviction if he didn't receive the money.  Some veterans have taken out student loans they didn't think they needed to.  Others are working all night to make up for those missing benefits.  'I have received zero of my VA benefits,' White said."  And Maxwell said "Nothing."  Does that disturb you?  Because everytime this Committee asks the question of the VA, "Are we late on payments? Is this thing working?," the answer we get is, "Yeah.  It works perfectly.  We're getting them out there."  These are guys who have been in school since May the 7th   They're veterans. It's a pretty reputable media outlet.  Feel fairly certain that this Marine didn't get it wrong, 100% eligable.  But there's no payment going to his school.  There's no housing stipend, there's no book fee that's being made.
 
Curtis Coy: Senator, we're always concerned with any of our veterans who are getting payments late.  We process educational claims in four different sites across the country.  Uh, right now for original claims, uh, Mr. Worley can-can correct me on the, uh, exact number perhaps but on original claims, we're looking at, uh, processing times of 30 to 35 days for supplemental claims, anywhere from 10 to 15 days --
 
Ranking Member Richard Burr:  So is the VA official who talked to this Marine and told the Marine that they were six to eight weeks behind processing payments, was that bogus?
 
Curtis Coy: No, sir.  I don't think it's bogus at all.  There are some that take longer than others.  Uh, what I gave you was an average time, not the range of times.  We've had ranges much higher than that, as you might imagine.  We, uh, track these, uh, claims on a daily basis and so, uh, we take all of those kinds of issues --
 
Ranking Member Richard Burr: What do -- what do the Marines do, Mr. Coy? The school's working with them.  They're keeping them in.  He may be in school but he might be evicted from his place on a beneft that he -- that he's earned.  He deserves.  What are we -- what are we going to do?  I don't think -- And if I thought I was talking about an isolated case, I wouldn't  press this.  I don't think I am.
 
 
Robert Worely II: Ranking Member Burr, I would only say that when these -- when these come to our attention, uh, we find out what happened and we correct them as quickly as possible. 
 
Ranking Member Richard Burr: I'll make sure when you leave you've got this news article.
 
 
Curtis Coy and Worely are with the VA (Worely is the Director of Education Service).  There is no excuse for this and there has never been an excuse.  Let's drop back to the October 19, 2009 snapshot for an exchange during the October 18, 2009 House Committee on Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity hearing.
 
 
US House Rep Harry Teague: You know we've had a problem with some contradictory information coming out.  You know when the checks didn't go out the first of the month, well then we issued the letter that they would be cut on Friday the second. And then there was also some letters sent out that if, like in places like New Mexico, it's 320 miles to the only hospital and the only facility in the state that they would be going to some of the larger universities around and handing the checks out.  That didn't happen.  At the same time, they got a website up where they could go to but we didn't get that information to people.  So I was just wondering if we're streamlining our communications within our office there so that we don't continually jerk the veterans around and have some of them misinformed.
 
Keith Wilson: I understand your concerns, Congressman. And we-we have, I believe, we have a better process in place to make sure that we are communicating more effectively on that. The issues that we are dealing with was trying to get -- make sure we had something out the gate and-and informed our student population prior to 10-1 [October 1st] -- around the 10-1 time frame. The 10-1 was important because most folks were at that point where they were due their first housing allowance payments. .We thought it was important to get something up as soon as possible. We were dealing -- and continued to deal -- at the time of that press release, with some technical issues concerning how we get to the other locations beyond our 57 regional offices. We very early on wanted a desire to spread this out as much as possible. We felt that the most effective way of doing this was leveraging technology.  Taking into account that we've got technology students at thousands of locations across the country. We felt the most effective way of uh getting those folk that weren't within distance of a regional office was to allow technology and so that was the driver for our decision on the follow up --
 
US House Rep Harry Teague: Yes and I agree with that and I think that the webpage is working good. It's just that during that week prior to that, when I was at New Mexico State University, they were expecting someone to be there with the checks and then, on Friday when there's not, that's when we find out about the webpage.
 
Keith Wilson: I understand.
 
The same problems continue nearly three years later.  Can you pay the benefit or not?  Holding onto the money is not payment.  Veterans shouldn't have to take out short term loans and risk eviction because the VA still can't get its act together.  There is no excuse for this.  Throughout fall 2009 and early 2010, when the press was reporting on this problem, in one hearing after another in the House and Senate the Veterans Affairs Committee were assured by VA officials -- including Secretary Eric Shinseki -- that the problems had been addressed and were now in the past and the VA needed no additional resources.  So why is this again a problem nearly three years later?
 
Meanwhile Iraq is dependent upon oil.  Despite years of cries from Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi for Iraq to diversify its economy, Iraq remains solely dependent upon oil.  It has been pumping out a large amount at a time when OPEC is concerned with a "glut" on the world market.  Abdalla Salem el-Badri is in charge of OPEC (not some Iraqi despite bad press reporting this week). Secretary General el-Badri's spoke at the OPEC seminar in Vienna Wednesday.  We'll note the speech's main point (use the link to read in full):
 
Fossil fuels - which currently account for 87% of the world's energy supply - will still contribute 82% by 2035. Oil will retain the largest share for most of the period to 2035, although its overall share falls from 34% to 28%. It will remain central to growth in many areas of the global economy, especially the transportation sector. Coal's share remains similar to today, at around 29%, whereas gas increases from 23% to 25%.
In terms of non-fossil fuels, renewable energy grows fast. But as it starts from a low base, its share will still be only 3% by 2035. Hydropower will increase only a little - to 3% by 2035. Nuclear power will also witness some expansion, although prospects have been affected by events in Fukushima. It is seen as having only a 6% share in 2035.
[. . .]
In terms of resources, there are more than enough to meet expected demand growth.
And overall, fossil fuels will continue to supply over 80% of our energy needs by 2035, with oil the energy type with the largest share for most of this period.
Finally, given the long-term nature of our industry and the need for clarity and predictability - not only for oil, but energy in general - I would like to leave you with three appropriate words: 'stability, stability, stability'.
Stability for investments and expansion to flourish;
Stability for economies around the world to grow;
And stability for producers that allows them a fair return from the exploitation of their exhaustible natural resources.
Stability is the key to a sustainable global energy future for us all.
 
 
Today Guy Chazan (Financial Times of London) reports, "Iran and Iraq are forming a strenghtening alliance inside Opec, raising concerns among moderate Arab Gulf producers like Saudi Arabia and increasing the potential for discord in the oil producers' group."  El-Badri is Secretary-General through the end of this year.  There are four people currently angling for the job.  Thamir Ghadhban (close ties to Nouri), Iran's pushing for one of their former Ministers of Oil, Gholamhossein Nozari, Equador's putting up Minister of Oil Wilson Pastor-Morris and Saudi Arabia is backing their OPEC Governor Majid al-Munif.  The choice will have a global impact and, in fact, what's going on right now has a global impact.  Amena Bakr and Peg Mackey (Reuters) observe, "Oil prices have dropped from a $128 peak for Brent crude in March to $97, in part because the economic outlook has darkened but also because of increased Saudi output that in April set a 30-year high of 10.1 million barrels a day."   AFP reports, "OPEC members have been divided over how to respond to plunging prices and uncertainties over global energy demand, with kingpin Saudi Arabia recently ramping up production while hawks Venequela and Iran have called for cuts so as to boost prices.  On Thursday, most memebers agreed on an average price of at least $100 per barrel, with Angolan Oil Minister Jose Botelho de Vasconcelos describing this as 'the comfortable level'."   Kay Johnson (AP) notes, "For now, Iraq is backing Iran's push for OPEC to set lower production limits and keep prices high, but Baghdad's own ambitious plans for expansion could cause an overall production growth that might drive down prices."  April Yee (The National) adds:
 
Already this year Iraq has increased its exports by a fifth to pump 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd), enough to help offset the decrease in Iranian supplies caused by sanctions - alongside Saudi Arabia and a recovering Libya.
Iraq's target is to add another 400,000 bpd by next year, all in pursuit of its goal of 10 million bpd in total pumping capacity in 2017- equal to the current production of Saudi Arabia, Opec's top producer.
Although analysts say that goal is not realistic, they do see Iraq overtaking Iran, Opec's second-biggest producer, as soon as next month.
 
 
, ""
 
Iraq and Iran are pushing Iraq
 
Meanwhile the Tehran Times reports, "Iranian Cooperatives, Labor, and Social Welfare Minister Abdolreza Sheikholeslami has said that the ministry is ready to provide Iraq with services in the fields of social welfare, technical and vocational trainings, rehabilitation and job creation."
 
 
In Iraq, the violence continues.  Al Rafidayn carries AFP's report on how, despite Wednesday's attacks which left at least 93 dead "and 312 people wounded," Shi'ites continued their pilgrims Thursday.   Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) notes this took place as 14 people were killed yesterday and another 21 injured.  Today Alsumaria notes 2 corpses discovered in Tikrit (shot in the chest and head), a Baghdad home invasion resulted in 5 family members being shot dead, and 2 Baquba bombings left three Iraqi soldiers injured  as well as one bystander.
 
 
Alsumaria reports that the Sadr bloc states the move for a no-confidence vote is still on.  The way it would work now is summoning Nouri before the Parliament for questioning (which they have the Constitutional power to do) and then, after questioning, making a motion for a vote.  This would cut the treacherous Jalal Talabani out of the picture and he'd be resigned to his ceremonial, do-nothing post that he does nothing in.
 
Desperate to appear to have some strength in a country where perceptions of strength matter, Al Rafidayn reports Jalal is now saying he'll call a national conference to address the political crisis that started as 2010 ended when Nouri ignored the Erbil Agreement.  That US-brokered contract ended the 8 month political stalemate which followed the March 2010 elections.  Nouri's State of Law came in second to Iraqiya but the Little Saddam wouldn't step down.  Little Saddam wanted a second term.  Little Saddam was backed by Tehran and DC so his public tantrum was rewarded.  The US got the political blocs to go along with Nouri having a second term by promising various concessions would be made (such as, in his second term, Nouri will be bound by the Constitution, specifically Article 140 which he refused to follow in his first term).  All political blocs signed off on this contract, Nouri signed off as well (November 2010), the US government swore it was a binding agreement that would be honored.  The next day, Parliament held a session finally -- the first real one since the elections.  They elected a Speaker of Parliament and Jalal named Nouri prime minister-designate.  Nouri immediately refused to implement the creation of an independent national security commission headed by Allawi.  Allawi and the bulk of Iraqiya walked out.  The American officials talked them back into the session, swearing this was temporary, the Erbil Agreement would be honored.

They lied.

In December Nouri went from prime minister-designate to prime minister.  And Nouri made clear that the Erbil Agreement wasn't a priority.  By summer 2011, the Kurds, Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr are calling for the agreement to be implemented.  This is the ongoing political crisis.
 
 
 
 
 

Since the government was formed at the end of 2010, all efforts of power sharing among Prime Minister Maliki and the main Sunni political bloc, Iraqiya, the Kurds, and even some of his Shiite partners has faltered. As a result, the three security ministries that were supposed to be shared among all of the political blocs remain under the prime minister's control.

The cabinet as it functions now allows the prime minister to rule by decree. Those bylaws were supposed to be revised. That has never happened. An oil law was also supposed to be passed, and that hasn't happened. As a result, mistrust has grown on all sides.

Since late April, the primary Sunni bloc--Iraqiya--the main Kurdish bloc, and Sadr's Shiite lawmakers have all come out in favor of a vote of no confidence against Maliki. This effort climaxed last weekend when the president of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, was asked to call for a vote of no confidence in the parliament. But Talabani, who is a Kurd but has very close ties with Maliki, at the end of the day said that there were not enough signatures to call for such a vote. So now Maliki's main competitors--the Iraqiya block, the Sadrists and the Kurds--are trying to gain more signatures to force Talabani to call a vote of no confidence. But if not, they are saying they're still going to call Maliki to the parliament--which technically they can do--for hearings, for questioning, and then after that, they want to call for a vote for no confidence. All of that shows the trust has broken down in Iraqi politics.

 
 
Iraq was destroyed in the illegal war Bully Boy Bush and Tony Blair conspired to launch with multiple lies.  While Bush generally attempts a low profile, Tony's so desperate for cash, he keeps going out in public and the results, as he found out yesterday in Hong Kong, are not good.  Lewis Smith (Independent) reports Tom Grundy attempted to do a citizen's arrest of the man whose lies killed millions, making it "the third occassion in as many weeks in which demonstrators have heckled the former prime minister."  Press TV notes:


Antiwar protesters have repeatedly called for the trial of Blair for war crimes. Last month, a group of demonstrators interrupted a commencement speech by Blair at Colby College in Maine, the US, shouting "warmonger" and "war criminal".
One week later, while Blair was giving evidence at an inquiry into his links with the British media, another protester managed to enter the courtroom and demanded Blair's arrest for war crimes.
In November last, a symbolic tribunal in Malaysia found Blair and former US President George W Bush guilty for committing "crimes against peace" when they invaded Iraq. 


The War Criminal was hoping to funnel more dough into the shell game that is the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.  Interestingly, though the 'Foundation' highlights his speech in Hong Kong, it fails to note Grundy.  For those less familiar with Tony Blair's faith or 'faith,'  Nick Cohen (Guardian of London) described it back in 2002:


During their stay at the Maroma Hotel, a pricey retreat on Mexico's Caribbean coast, Cherie Booth/Blair took her husband by the hand and led him along the beach to a 'Temazcal', a steam bath enclosed in a brick pyramid. It was dusk and they had stripped down to their swimming costumes. Inside, they met Nancy Aguilar, a new-age therapist. She told them that the pyramid was a womb in which they would be reborn. The Blairs became one with 'Mother Earth'. They saw the shapes of phantom animals in the steam and experienced 'inner-feelings and visions'. As they smeared each other with melon, papaya and mud from the jungle, they confronted their fears and screamed. The joyous agonies of 'rebirth' were upon them. The ceremony over, the Prime Minister and First Lady waded into the sea and cleaned themselves up as best they could.

Time Out Hong Kong interviews Grundy hereThe Daily Mail has video of the attempted arrest yesterday.  As does Tom Grundy at his website Global Citizen where he explains:

"This evening, I attempted a citizen's arrest upon Tony Blair, who was speaking at Hong Kong University. I did this in the hope of renewing debate around the solid war crimes case against him, and in order that the campaign to conduct citizen's arrests against Blair continues whenever and wherever he goes. The action was legal under cap. 221 of the Laws of Hong Kong, section 101(2) which allows for citizen's arrest upon suspicion of serious crimes. He mis-led the British public over the 2003 Iraq invasion and caused the deaths of at least 100,000 people. I believe it to be abhorrent that HKU is sponsoring a talk about faith hosted by a man who set religious tolerance back decades."
Blair admitted in 2009 that he would have gone to war regardless of Iraq's alleged WMDs -- international law does not allow a war of aggression in the name of regime change. He stated in 2002 that Iraq's production of WMDs was 'beyond doubt' and thus misled the British people. The use of depleted uranium and cluster bombs may constitute 'aggression' in that they are indiscriminate and cause large civilian causalities.


While Phony Tony tried to use his 'faith' foundation to enrich his pockets and his trashy image, Iraqi Christians face real threats as a result of the illegal war.  Ann Rodgers (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) reports that an Atlanta conference of Catholic Bishops heard a plea yesterday on behalf of Iraqi Christians:


"As leaders of the church in the United States, you bear a special responsibility toward the people and Christians of Iraq. In 2003 your country led the war that brought some terrible consequences," said Bishop Schlemon Warduni, an auxiliary bishop of Babylon of the Chaldeans. His nation has gone from one where Christians and Muslims were friends to one where churches are bombed and clergy kidnapped, tortured and killed, he said.
"No more war, no more death, no more explosions, no more injustice," he told the bishops, who were gathered in Atlanta for their semiannual meeting.
Catholic News Service provides Bishop Shlemon Warduni's plea in full:
 
"As leaders of the church in the United States," he told the bishops, "you bear a special responsibility toward the people and Christians of Iraq. In 2003, your government led the war that brought some terrible consequences. The U.S. government can and must do all it can to encourage tolerance and respect in Iraq, to help Iraq strengthen the rule of law and to provide assistance that helps create jobs for Iraqis, especially those on the margins.

"Many times we ask, 'Where can we find justice and peace?' Our Lord says, "I give you my peace, but not like the world gives." The peace of Jesus is love. This love guides us to unity, because love works miracles, and builds justice and peace. This can be realized when all the church works together in one heart and one thought," the bishop said.

"We beg you to do something for us," he continued. "We want only peace, security and freedom. You can tell everybody Iraq was very rich, but now is very poor, because of the war and much discrimination. We want to cry out to you: we want peace, justice, stability, freedom of religion. No more war, no more death, no more explosions, no more injustice. Please help us talk to everybody. Push the cause of peace.
 
 

Posted at 07:00 pm by thecommonills
 

Biden will get left holding the bag

Biden will get left holding the bag

Al Rafidayn carries AFP's report on how, despite Wednesday's attacks which left at least 93 dead "and 312 people wounded," Shi'ites continued their pilgrims Thursday.   Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) notes this took place as 14 people were killed yesterday and another 21 injured.  Kitabat notes that KRG President Massoud Barzani, Iraiqya leader Ayad Allawi and Moqtada al-Sadr (leader of the Sadr bloc) issued a joint-statement decrying the violence and calling on the government to provide security.

Until Saturday night, Barzani, Allawi and al-Sadr were part of a four-some with President Jalal Talabani, working to replace Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister.  Saturday night, surprising few, Jalal showed his hand and refused to forward the petition for a no-confidence vote to the Parliament.  He insisted 16 signatures were not valid.  He allowed people who had signed it weeks prior to remove their signatures.  That's not how it works but that's how Jalal does.  Now fat boy Jalal and his nearly 400 pounds of girth are all alone.  He's the joke of Iraq with Iraqi social media laughing at him constantly. Both Allawi and members of the Kurdistan Alliance have exposed remarks Jalal made April 28th about replacing Nouri prompting a furious Jalal to deny them (and cite Allawi was wrong but Jalal knew enough not to attack the Kurdistan Alliance and didn't mention them) and his increasingly unpopular political party PUK was distributing explanations from Jalal in an attempt to help Talabani become less of a national joke. 

Alsumaria reports that the Sadr bloc states the move for a no-confidence vote is still on.  The way it would work now is summoning Nouri before the Parliament for questioning (which they have the Constitutional power to do) and then, after questioning, making a motion for a vote.  This would cut the treacherous Jalal Talabani out of the picture and he'd be resigned to his ceremonial, do-nothing post that he does nothing in.

Desperate to appear to have some strength in a country where perceptions of strength matter, Al Rafidayn reports Jalal is now saying he'll call a national conference to address the political crisis that started as 2010 ended when Nouri ignored the Erbil Agreement.  That US-brokered contract ended the 8 month political stalemate which followed the March 2010 elections.  Nouri's State of Law came in second to Iraqiya but the Little Saddam wouldn't step down.  Little Saddam wanted a second term.  Little Saddam was backed by Tehran and DC so his public tantrum was rewarded.  The US got the political blocs to go along with Nouri having a second term by promising various concessions would be made (such as, in his second term, Nouri will be bound by the Constitution, specifically Article 140 which he refused to follow in his first term).  All political blocs signed off on this contract, Nouri signed off as well (November 2010), the US government swore it was a binding agreement that would be honored.  The next day, Parliament held a session finally -- the first real one since the elections.  They elected a Speaker of Parliament and Jalal named Nouri prime minister-designate.  Nouri immediately refused to implement the creation of an independent national security commission headed by Allawi.  Allawi and the bulk of Iraqiya walked out.  The American officials talked them back into the session, swearing this was temporary, the Erbil Agreement would be honored.

They lied.

In December Nouri went from prime minister-designate to prime minister.  And Nouri made clear that the Erbil Agreement wasn't a priority.  By summer 2011, the Kurds, Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr are calling for the agreement to be implemented.  This is the ongoing political crisis.

Who has benefitted the most from it?

Moqtada al-Sadr. 

'Too eratic, too radical, too young.'  There was a list of 'toos' attached to the name of the person who wanted to be prime minister.  While Nouri has looked like a dictator and out of control, Moqtada's actually benefitted from Little Saddam's tantrums which provided al-Sadr with the opportunity to show a rational and reasoned side as well as leadership skills that rarely translated prior on the world stage.  It's a more mature Moqtada al-Sadr.

And that's really funny because the US government has always feared "radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr."  True of the Bush adminsitration, true of the Barack administration.

In 2014, new elections are supposed to be held.  If the US backs their puppet Nouri (who has had flunkies state that he would not run for a third term but whose attorney has stated Nouri can seek a third term), not only will it be clear to one and all that he is Little Saddam and 'democracy' in Iraq is a joke, but it will also become clear who has more power in the 'new' Iraq: DC or Tehran?

In 2010, Moqtada was not a viable choice for Tehran which feels closer ties to al-Sadr than Nouri but which was bothered by the 'too' list applied to Moqtada and by the fact that he was seen as divisive among Shi'ites (not to mention most Sunnis weren't crazy about him).  The political crisis has allowed Moqtada to strut as a statesman and he's grabbed that opportunity and used it very well.  He is the political star of Iraq currently.  And, if nothing changes, in 2014, he will likely be backed by Tehran.

Not only did the current White House push Iraq into the arms of Iran, they've now alarmed their national security experts who have long believed that nothing is more dangerous to Iraq's future than Moqtada al-Sadr being in charge.  Way to go, Barack!!!!  What a leader.

But not just Barack, sadly.

US Vice President Joe Biden knows Nouri is a thug but has had to make excuses for him.  Should Nouri hold on in 2014, then he will no longer be Little Saddam, he will be New Saddam.  Meaning that in two decades, the US government will declare another illegal war to again topple the leadership in Iraq.  At that time, Joe probably won't be with us.  If he is, he won't have the strength to defend himself so that will fall to Beau and Beau will be stuck tring to explain how, yes, his father knew Nouri was a thug but the policies of US President Barack Obama insisted the thug be backed (right now Samantha Power is telling everyone to stay with Nouri because, she just knows -- Psychic Sammy -- Iraq's about to be put in charge of OPEC when they elect a Secretary General; this, Sammy insists, is what the US has long been hoping for, control of OPEC via a puppet!).  Beau will be left to explain how someone known to run torture cells and secret prisons was backed by his father.  The things people have said of Bush in the last eight years will be nothing compared to what gets said of Joe Biden and Barack Obama. 

Barack will probably beg off insisting that Joe was the 'foreign policy expert, he was in charge of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee all those years, that's why I put him in charge of Iraq, I was misled.'  Joe will be dead or in ill health and become the fall guy for all the talking pundits on TV.  The chattering class will revisit Joe's turns of phrases to ridicule him to a new generation and everyone will be too busy chuckeling to wonder how the vice president got blamed for what the president did.

And Beau, who loves his father very much, will be left to defend him from the chattering class.  Those will be some hard years for Beau.

Alsumaria reports Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi informed the world today that he refused Joe Biden's request that he meet with Nouri al-Maliki.  He states that Tony Blinken (Biden's National Security Advisor) made the request on Biden's behalf and urged that the opposition to Nouri back down.  Kitabat notes that the US publicly insists it is not biased towards either side of the debate but that it worked repeatedly to undercut the opposition and to save Nouri.  In an effort to distract from the foreign interference that saves his ass, Nouri al-Maliki is pointing fingers at Arab neighbors.  Alsumaria reports that he has accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of trying to overthrow Iraq and Syria.



The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.


 

Posted at 08:08 am by thecommonills
 

The pious War Criminal

The pious War Criminal


blair_peoples_dossier





War Criminal Tony Blair thought he could dash in and out of Hong Kong, getting a few bills tucked in his g-string in the process.  It's not that easy.

Lewis Smith (Independent) reports Tom Grundy attempted to do a citizen's arrest of the man whose lies killed millions, making it "the third occassion in as many weeks in which demonstrators have heckled the former prime minister."  Grundy is quoted stating, "I attempted a citizen's arrest against Tony Blair today because back in 2009 he admitted he would have gone to war with Iraq regardless of the WMD's [Weapons of Mass Destruction], and that means it's in defiance of the Nuremburg Principles, the UN Charter, the Geneva Convention, and a pending International Criminal Court, a Rome Statute."  Press TV notes:



Antiwar protesters have repeatedly called for the trial of Blair for war crimes. Last month, a group of demonstrators interrupted a commencement speech by Blair at Colby College in Maine, the US, shouting “warmonger” and “war criminal”.

One week later, while Blair was giving evidence at an inquiry into his links with the British media, another protester managed to enter the courtroom and demanded Blair’s arrest for war crimes.

In November last, a symbolic tribunal in Malaysia found Blair and former US President George W Bush guilty for committing “crimes against peace” when they invaded Iraq. 




The War Criminal was hoping to funnel more dough into the shell game that is the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.  Interestingly, though the 'Foundation' highlights his speech in Hong Kong, it fails to note Grundy.  For those less familiar with Tony Blair's faith or 'faith,'  Nick Cohen (Guardian of London) described it back in 2002:



During their stay at the Maroma Hotel, a pricey retreat on Mexico's Caribbean coast, Cherie Booth/Blair took her husband by the hand and led him along the beach to a 'Temazcal', a steam bath enclosed in a brick pyramid. It was dusk and they had stripped down to their swimming costumes. Inside, they met Nancy Aguilar, a new-age therapist. She told them that the pyramid was a womb in which they would be reborn. The Blairs became one with 'Mother Earth'. They saw the shapes of phantom animals in the steam and experienced 'inner-feelings and visions'. As they smeared each other with melon, papaya and mud from the jungle, they confronted their fears and screamed. The joyous agonies of 'rebirth' were upon them. The ceremony over, the Prime Minister and First Lady waded into the sea and cleaned themselves up as best they could.


The Daily Mail has video of the attempted arrest yesterday.  As does Tom Grundy at his website Global Citizen where he explains:




“This evening, I attempted a citizen’s arrest upon Tony Blair, who was speaking at Hong Kong University. I did this in the hope of renewing debate around the solid war crimes case against him, and in order that the campaign to conduct citizen’s arrests against Blair continues whenever and wherever he goes. The action was legal under cap. 221 of the Laws of Hong Kong, section 101(2) which allows for citizen’s arrest upon suspicion of serious crimes. He mis-led the British public over the 2003 Iraq invasion and caused the deaths of at least 100,000 people. I believe it to be abhorrent that HKU is sponsoring a talk about faith hosted by a man who set religious tolerance back decades.”
Blair admitted in 2009 that he would have gone to war regardless of Iraq’s alleged WMDs – international law does not allow a war of aggression in the name of regime change. He stated in 2002 that Iraq’s production of WMDs was ‘beyond doubt’ and thus misled the British people. The use of depleted uranium and cluster bombs may constitute ‘aggression’ in that they are indiscriminate and cause large civilian causalities.


Time Out Hong Kong interviews Grundy here.

While Phony Tony tried to use his 'faith' foundation to enrich his pockets and his trashy image, Iraqi Christians face real threats as a result of the illegal war.  Ann Rodgers (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) reports that an Atlanta conference of Catholic bishops heard a plea yesterday on behalf of Iraqi Christians:


"As leaders of the church in the United States, you bear a special responsibility toward the people and Christians of Iraq. In 2003 your country led the war that brought some terrible consequences," said Bishop Schlemon Warduni, an auxiliary bishop of Babylon of the Chaldeans. His nation has gone from one where Christians and Muslims were friends to one where churches are bombed and clergy kidnapped, tortured and killed, he said.
"No more war, no more death, no more explosions, no more injustice," he told the bishops, who were gathered in Atlanta for their semiannual meeting.


The following community sites -- plus Antiwar.com, Chocolate City, The Pacifica Evening News, On The Wilder Side -- updated last night and this morning:







The BRussells Tribunal sends out the following alert:




Ayse Berktay, one of the founders of the World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI), has been held in prison in Istanbul since October 2011. Her trial with others begins on July 2nd, 2012. She was apprehended in a wide sweep of arrests (up to 8,000 people), in an attempt to silence protest and criminalize activism under the guise of fighting terrorism. Read all about it in Ayse’s letter from prison (see below)).
It is very important that there is an international delegation to attend her trial to give a strong signal to the Turkish authorities (via the local press) that the international community is watching. Now that we know that her involvement in the WTI process is being held against her, it is all the more important that we are there. We hope to raise some 2000€ to pay some of the costs of sending a small delegation.
Our account number is: 132-5251479-37 (IBAN: BE35 1325 2514 7937 - BIC: BNAGBEBB), Delta Lloyd Bank, Sterrenkundelaan 23 – B-1210 Bruxelles - Reference: " Ayse Berktay"

For the time being the delegation consists of:
Fabio Marcelli, a lawyer, who represented the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights at the World Tribunal on Iraq
Paloma Valverde & Pedro Rojo, of the Spanish antiwar organisation CEOSI, which has been very active in the WTI endeavour
Lieven De Cauter, philosopher, president of the BRussells Tribunal
Tony Simpson, director of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation

With your help, we will stand in solidarity with Ayse! Thank you!
The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.


 

Posted at 06:58 am by thecommonills
 

Thursday, June 14, 2012
Iraq snapshot

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, June 14, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, War Criminal Colin Powell said his 2003 UN speech was about inspections but today let's slip the decision to go to war was already made, CJR self-embarrasses with a novel concept on journalistic ethics (If you marry, it wipes the slate clean -- quick, someone tell Stephen Glass, Janet Cooke and so many others!), the political crisis continues in Iraq, Senator Patty Murray has some tough questions for Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and more.
 
Collie The Blot Powell continues to plug his bad and co-written (Tony Koltz) book It Worked For Me: Killing and Lying.  It's really amazing the way the liar keeps saying more than he means to.  But a War Criminal, like any other criminal, has a compulsion to confess (as Freud and Theodor Reik both argued).  You can't turn a trick without a john and a whore.  Presumably Colin played the role of the john for Kira Zalan (US News and World Reports).  We learn that Powell sees meaning when an elderly man is unable to pay attention to a discussion both due to age and to illness but to Collie it's a life lesson about division of labor.  As usual, he discusses the blot and for those fearing Colin's suddenly become part of the Neville family, it's not a facial blot.  It's the fecal smear on his public image that won't wipe off.  It's the lies he told the United Nations in an attempt at kick starting the war on Iraq.  Collie first floated the blot on TV in an interview he gave to Barbara Walters for ABC News.  After it aired, September 2005, Ava and I wrote about it:
 
 
 
Walters says, unable to look at him while she does -- oh the drama!, "However, you gave the world false, groundless reasons for going to war. You've said, and I quote, 'I will forever be known as the one who made the case for war.' Do you think this blot on your record will stay with you for the rest of your life?"

Powell: Well it's a, it's a, of course it will. It's a blot. I'm the one who presented it on behalf of the United Nations, uh, United States, to the world. And it will always be uh, part of my, uh, my record.

Walters: How painful is it?

Powell: (shrugs) It was -- it *was* painful. (shifts, shrugs) It's painful now.

Has a less convincing scene ever been performed?

Possibly. Such as when Powell informs Walters that the fault lies with the intelligence community -- with those who knew but didn't come forward. Unfortunately for Powell,
FAIR's advisory steered everyone to a Los Angeles Times' article from July 15, 2004:

Days before Secretary of State Colin L. Powell was to present the case for war with Iraq to the United Nations, State Department analysts found dozens of factual problems in drafts of his speech, according to new documents contained in the Senate report on intelligence failures released last week.
Two memos included with the Senate report listed objections that State Department experts lodged as they reviewed successive drafts of the Powell speech. Although many of the claims considered inflated or unsupported were removed through painstaking debate by Powell and intelligence officials, the speech he ultimately presented contained material that was in dispute among State Department experts.
 
 
 
That's the blot.  His lies that he denies were lies.  A year after his speech, Martha Raddatz (ABC News) observed:
 
 
But instead of discussing Iraq's weapons in terms of "possibilities" or "estimates," Powell spoke before the United Nations last February with certainty.
"These are not assertions," Powell told the Security Council. "What we are giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence."
Powell qualified only one of his remarks during the 75-minute presentation, saying there was some "controversy" over the intended use of high-strength aluminum tubes. On all other issues, Powell left no room for debate. He used the phrase "we know" 32 times.
 
Jonathan Schwarz (Mother Jones) fact checked the lies here.
 
The lies that you tell
will leave you alone
they'll catch you and trip you up,
Keep you hangin' around
-- "Love You By Heart," written by Carly Simon Jacob Brackman and Libby Titus, first appears on Carly's Spy album
 
 
Yes, liars usually will trip themselves up.  Like today when Powell tells Kira Zalan:
 
 
And when I gave it, people stopped and listened. And the president by that time had already decided that combat would be necessary, he decided that sometime in January. And now it's 5 February and I'm simply telling people why it may be necessary.
 
 
Does Collie realize what he just let slip?  It's no surprise to the peace community.  But still he just admitted that the decision by Bully Boy Bush to go to war was made in January -- two months before the Iraq War started.  That wasn't a part of Colin The War Criminal Powell's speech to the UN.  Click here for the full speech at the Washington Post (warning, not everyone has the full speech even when they claim to -- for example, the Guardian's lost the last third of Powell's speech -- specifically the 'human rights' portion -- but insists that it's the 'full text').  Lot of words, none of which revealed that a decision had already been made to go to war.
 
These, these, these are the words
The words that maketh murder.
These, these, these are the words
The words that maketh murder.
-- "The Words That Maketh Murder," written by PJ Harvey, first appears on PJ's Let England Shake 
 
Today Colin Powell tells US News and World Reports that the decision to go to war on Iraq was made a month before his UN speech.  Strange because the day of his speech, CNN reported (February 5, 2003):
 
At a lunch that followed Powell's presentation, diplomats said he responded to the French foreign minister's concerns about the impact war with Iraq would have on the region by saying, "I wasn't talking about war, but about strengthening inspections."
The diplomats said Powell also made clear to Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin that the United States is not ready to go to war immediately, and is interested in hearing France's proposals to strengthen inspections with the added value of the evidence Powell presented.
 
 
So Colin didn't just lie to the citizens of the world in his UN speech, he continued to lie immediately after and lied to diplomats and France's Foreign Minister.  Colin Powell is a liar.  He can pretend all he wants but the record bears out the reality that he has repeatedly misled over and over.  That is lying.
 
And it's really sad that someone known for doing so little on a national level (other than War Crimes) gets so much press attention for a co-written clip job while former US Senator Russ Feingold put real thought and real work into While America Sleeps: A Wake-Up Call for the Post-9/11 Era and the press is far less likely to offer coverage (or swoon).  Randy Hanson (Hudston Star-Observer) provides coverage on a recent book discussion Feingold gave:
 
 
His chapter on the Iraq War is titled "The Iraq Deception."
"What I tried to do in the book is explain what happened because of our general strategy in Iraq,"  Feingold said. "Everything we did was defined on the basis of Iraq. And it was crazy, because Bush actually said in his speeches over and over again that there were 60 or 65 countries where al-Qaeda was operating. His list included Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, the Slavic republics, Ireland, England -- but not Iraq."
He said that while the United States was concentrating on holding Iraq, terrorist groups were expanding in other countries.
"What I thought 9/11 showed us is what happens when we're not alert. We learned what it felt like to be taken completely by surprise," he said, recalling how the big news story during the summer of 2001 had been shark attacks in the country's coastal waters.
 
 
One book is mature and thoughtful, the other pure piffle.  The one with nothing to offer gets the bulk of the media attention. 
 
It's the immaturity that the press repeatedly embraces while pretending to be 'high brow' in order to justify their refusal to cover actual news stories.  One example, refusing to explore serious ethical violations by using matrimony as an excuse:  "But that was in 2008, and they're married now."  Is that Margaret Carlson?  No.  No, it's much worse than columnist Carlson.  That's Erika Fry forced into covering the story for CJR.  I was on the phone earlier today with a CJR friend for a half-hour, it was a pre-emptive call asking me to please understand . . .  No, it doesn't work that way.
 
I will allow that Erika Fry got stuck with the assignment (that's what I was told, I do not know her and didn't speak to her).  But she's an assistant editor and it's Columbia Journalism Review.  I'm real damn sorry that your panties and boxers go dry when you have to critique someone your wet dream Barack loves -- Brett McGurk.  But I'm genuinely sorry that you're such whores that you rush to minimize what took place. 
 
Brett McGurk is Barack Obama's nominee for US Ambassador to Iraq.  He's gotten into a lot of trouble for numerous things but Fry ended up stuck writing about the e-mails.  E-mails became public last week (see the June 5th snapshot) that he had exchanged with Gina Chon in 2008 when both were in Baghdad -- he was working for the US government, she was working for the Wall St. Journal.  The Wall St. Journal let Chon go on Tuesday due to the fact that she had concealed the affair in 2008 when McGurk was not only a US government official but the primary source for her stories and she was let go because she had shared stories she was working on with McGurk to let him alter them (she stated in her defense that she was using him as a sounding board for input). 
 
Columbia JOURNALISM Review.  And they rush to dismiss it.  And they rush to treat it as no big deal.    "But that was in 2008, and they're married now."
 
Who gives a damn?
 
That doesn't change a thing.  You either start having standards or you don't.  Right now, CJR has no standards at all.  Judith Miller could go back to work for the New York Times tomorrow and any argument CJR might make would be pointless.  Because right now, they're telling us, that if you marry the source for whom you cater coverage too, it doesn't matter that you misled readers and your editor and it doesn't matter that your lover got copy approval of anything you turned in.
 
If that's the position CJR wants to take, then they are nothing but a joke. 
 
 
"We get that sex sells," Fry lies.  It's not about sex, it's about ethics.  If it were about sex, we'd talk about the doggie style encounter in a hallway.  We can do that.  Brett McGurk was very 'popular' in Iraq.  Gina Chon wasn't the first woman he cheated on his wife with.  (That may or may not be news to Chon.)  If Fry wants to make it about sex, we can do that.
 
But don't dimiss sleeping with a source, letting your lover vet your copy and misleading the public and your editor as it being about sex or as ethical lapses that expire because they two got married.
 
This is embarrassing and shame on CJR for this nonsense.  Again, I had to listen to  half hour of excuses today.  I hadn't even read the piece.  I return a voice mail and suddenly it's "Well we . . . and we . . and we . . ."  Wee wee?  That about sums it up.  CJR has just pissed on journalism ethics.  That's not a proud moment.
 
Nor is Erika Fry's inability to be factual.  Fry writes, "For what it's worth, The Wall Street Journal has said that Chon's relationship did not affect her reporting." That's not what they said.  They said, "At this time the Journal has found no evidence that her coverage was tainted by her relationship with Mr. McGurk."   That's your first clue that Fry knows what happens is much worse than she let on -- the fact that she has to distort what the Wall St. Journal actually said.
 Lisa Dru (Business Insider) reported on the news Tuesday and included the Wall St. Journal's statement:
 

Wall Street Journal reporter Gina Chon agreed to resign this afternoon after acknowledging that while based in Iraq she violated the Dow Jones Code of Conduct by sharing certain unpublished news articles with Brett McGurk, then a member of the U.S. National Security Council in Iraq.

In 2008 Ms. Chon entered into a personal relationship with Mr. McGurk, which she failed to disclose to her editor. At this time the Journal has found no evidence that her coverage was tainted by her relationship with Mr. McGurk.

Ms. Chon joined the Journal in 2005 in Detroit, followed by an assignment as Iraq correspondent in Baghdad from 2007 to 2009. She also reported for the Journal from Haiti in 2010 in the aftermath of the earthquake and has served as a M&A reporter for Money & Investing in New York since April 2010.

 
Erika Fry maybe shouldn't be writing about journalism ethics for CJR when obviously she has ethical problems of her own as evidenced by taking an "at this time" and turning it into something else.  (For the record, the paper only learned of what took place in Baghdad after the e-mails surfaced.  I was told the paper became aware of the problem on  Wednesday of last week.  And that a number of journalists feel burned by Chon's actions and the general consensus is that she didn't give the paper a heads up and let them be completely blindsided.)
 
For the responsibilities that CJR shirked, let's note this from Paul Farhi (Washington Post):
 
The idea is to avoid relationships that could compromise a reporter's judgment or give the appearance of playing favorites, said John K. Hartman, a professor of journalism at Central Michigan University. "Serious journalists know that it is imperative to avoid any conflict of interest and any situation that might taint their reporting perspective," he said. Sometimes, however, reporters "can take cozying up to sources too far."
Similarly, journalists aren't supposed to disclose unpublished stories, lest it compromise the gathering of information.
 
 
See, Erika Fry, serious journalists know that.  How serious do you think CJR looks right now?They're married now, huffs Erika Fry.  So if Bully Boy Bush marries Tony Blair, that excuses the Iraq War?  Matrimony has nothing to do with the ethical violations.  But let's play like we're as stupid as Erika Fry hopes we are.  So if Gina Chon and Brett McGurk stay married another year, it matters even less.  If they make it to ten years then there was no ethical violation at all?  It's funny because Fry should be familiar with the code of ethics for journalism and I see no 'matrimony card' that excuses any violation.
 
 
I learned of the e-mails (overheard in the office of a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) Tuesday June 5th before the hearing.  As I left the office, I was searching on my iPhone for the e-mails and found them at Cryptome. Eli Lake (Daily Beast) offers some background on Cryptome:
 
But what's received less attention is the website that published those emails, and the man who runs it. John Young founded Cryptome, a clearinghouse for leaked documents from the military and intelligence community, in 1996, roughly a decade before WikiLeaks existed. It has since become a must-read for some people who track the intelligence community and the military. "Cryptome has become part of the national security information landscape," says Steven Aftergood, the director of the project on government secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, a nonprofit think tank. "I check it every day," he adds.
 
Yesterday, some Senators weighed in on McGurk.  Sunlen Miller (ABC News) reports, Senators John Barrasso, Jim DeMint, James Inhofe, Mike Lee, James Risch and Marco Rubio wrote a letter to the White House explaining, "As members of the committee, with the responsibility of providing advice and consent, we write to respectfully urge you to reconsider this nomination.  There are strong concerns about Mr. McGurk's qualifications, his ability to work with Iraqi officials, and now his judgment."  The six are Republicans.  Matthew Lee (AP) reports, "Earlier, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the chairman of the committee, hinted that the nomination could be reconsidered. He said he had spoken with Vice President Joe Biden about McGurk."  Lee quotes Kerry stating, "I think there are some very fair questions being asked and they need to be answered."  Ted Barrett and Paul Courson (CNN) report that Kerry is considering delaying the planned Tuesday Committee vote on McGurk and quote him stating, "I need to talk to senators and evaluate where we are.  People have become aware of things they weren't, so we have to evaluate."   Al Kamen (Washington Post) adds, "Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the panel's second-ranking Democrat, is said to have deep reservations about him as well."
 
 
 
Yesterday Baghdad was slammed with bombings and 72 people were known to be dead.  This morning Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports that the death toll has risen "to 93 and 312 people wounded" according to the Ministry of the Interior.  The Voice of Russia reports, "EU High Represenative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton has condemned the series of terrorist attacks in several Iraqi provinces that claimed dozens of lives."  The State Dept had nothing to say yesterday or today in their press briefings.  The White House spokesperson Jay Carney did acknowledge the bombings on Wednesday:
 
Jay Carney:  With regard to the violence, we strongly condemn the recent attacks in Iraq. The targeting of innocent civilians and security forces is cowardly and reprehensible. We offer our condolences to the families of the victims, and support the continued efforts of Iraqi government forces to bring those responsible to justice. I  would simply say that it's important to remember that while we have seen that extremist groups in Iraq are still able to use violence and cause harm, we believe their capabilities have been diminished in recent years. Also, Iraqis continue to reject extremist tactics in support of peaceful methods of resolving their disputes. There have been occasional periods where there have been increases in violence, but overall violence is greatly decreased from the time period that you referenced in particular. Also I think worth noting is that Iraq hosted -- Baghdad hosted an important series of negotiations not that long ago, and their ability to do that in a secure way demonstrates the progress that they've made in that country and in their capacity to provide security in a place like Baghdad.
 
 
 
Moqtada al-Sadr has declared that the government must protect all the citizens and notes that the violence took place as the political differences continuedAlsumaria reports Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi -- still in Turkey while he's tried in abstentia in Baghdad -- also condemned the attacks.  The report also notes that the judges refused the request of the defense to call President Jalal Talabani to the stand.  al-Hasehmi is being tried for terrorism or 'terrorism' in what many see as a political attack on either Iraqiya or Sunnis.  Tareq al-Hashemi is the highest ranking office holder from Iraqiya -- the political slate that defeated Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law in the 2010 parliamentary elections.  al-Hashemi is also Sunni. 
 
The 2010 elections found Iraqiya winning and Nouri digging in his heels and refusing to surrender the post of prime minister despite coming in second.  Because Tehran and DC backed him, Nouri was able to have a public tantrum for 8 months and then get rewarded with a second term.  The US brokered an agreement, The Erbil Agreement, which gave Nouri a second term in return for Nouri making concessions.  The US government told the political blocs this contract would be honored.  Nouri used it to grab a second term as prime minister and immediately tossed it aside.  Since the summer of 2011, the Kurds, Moqtada al-Sadr and Iraqiya have called on Nouri to return to the Erbil Agreement.  He has refused to do so.
 
 

Since the government was formed at the end of 2010, all efforts of power sharing among Prime Minister Maliki and the main Sunni political bloc, Iraqiya, the Kurds, and even some of his Shiite partners has faltered. As a result, the three security ministries that were supposed to be shared among all of the political blocs remain under the prime minister's control.

The cabinet as it functions now allows the prime minister to rule by decree. Those bylaws were supposed to be revised. That has never happened. An oil law was also supposed to be passed, and that hasn't happened. As a result, mistrust has grown on all sides.

Since late April, the primary Sunni bloc--Iraqiya--the main Kurdish bloc, and Sadr's Shiite lawmakers have all come out in favor of a vote of no confidence against Maliki. This effort climaxed last weekend when the president of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, was asked to call for a vote of no confidence in the parliament. But Talabani, who is a Kurd but has very close ties with Maliki, at the end of the day said that there were not enough signatures to call for such a vote. So now Maliki's main competitors--the Iraqiya block, the Sadrists and the Kurds--are trying to gain more signatures to force Talabani to call a vote of no confidence. But if not, they are saying they're still going to call Maliki to the parliament--which technically they can do--for hearings, for questioning, and then after that, they want to call for a vote for no confidence. All of that shows the trust has broken down in Iraqi politics.

 

Jalal?  An angry Jalal is seen at Alsumaria denying reports about him in recent days.  Jalal's upset with the fall out over his actions.  He's pissed that Kurds in the Kurdish Alliance and Ayad Allawi have come forward with how he (Jalal) said he could take out Nouri al-Maliki.  He's ticked off that his stock is falling.  He's upset about rumors that the PUK is exploring new public faces.  (He's 78-years-old, they should have a different public face.)  As Al Rafidayn notes, so many are upset with Jalal that he's had to prepare a public letter for the PUK to distribute to its members.

Alsumaria reports a bombing in Falluja today targeting police -- eight people were harmed (dead and wounded -- there are no numbers for either category).  It was a car bombing and abumlances arrived on the scene, police said.  In other security news today, Alsumaria reports the Ministry of the Interior is telling the media that a small spy plane was shot down today in Baghdad by the First Brigade (Iraqi police).  Since there is  no mention of a pilot being dead, wounded or captured, this was most likely an unmanned drone.  Which means, it was most likely a US drone.
 
 
Today, the White House issued the following statement:
 

The White House

Office of the Vice President
For Immediate Release
June 14, 2012

Statement on National Security Advisor to the Vice President Tony Blinken's Travel

National Security Advisor to the Vice President Tony Blinken visited Iraq on June 13-14 and met with a range of senior Iraqi leaders, including Prime Minister Maliki, Deputy Prime Minister Shahristani, and KRG President Barzani.  He also spoke by telephone with President Talabani, Foreign Minister Zebari, and Council of Representatives Speaker Nujaifi.  NSA Blinken made clear to all his interlocutors that the United States takes no side in the current political situation, but favors any solution that is reached by the Iraqis themselves, in accordance with Iraqi law and the constitution, and is achieved in a clear and transparent manner that does not promote or lead to violence.  He urged Iraqi leaders to move quickly to alleviate current tensions in order to refocus energy on critical state-building challenges, including preparations for provincial and local elections next year.  He underscored that the United States calls on Iraq's neighbors to support Iraq's sovereign right to choose its own government.   He also stressed that the Iraqi and American people have sacrificed greatly for Iraq's constitutional and democratic system, which continues to have our unwavering support.
 
No mention of the fact that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has personally invited and/or urged Nouri and KRG President Massoud Barzani to come to DC for what State doesn't want to be called "peace talks."  (But that's what they would be.)
 
 
In yesterday's snapshot, we noted Wednesday's Senate Veterans Affairs Committee with regards to employment rights and with regards to burn pits.  Last night at her site, Kat covered Ranking Member Richard Burr's proposed bill.  The plan was to continue coverage of the hearing today.  We'll do that tomorrow.  Among the reasons for that is that we included a portion of a news release from Senator Patty Murray's office in yesterday's snapshot and we need to include it in full.  Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Her office issued the following yesterday:


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
Wednesday, June 13, 2012 
CONTACT: Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834
 
Under Pressure from Sen. Murray, Panetta Announces Military-Wide Review of Behavioral and Mental Health Diagnoses Since 2001
 
 
Panetta to Murray: "I am not satisfied either"; "still huge gaps" in how departments diagnose PTSD and other conditions; announces that all branches of military will undergo major review of diagnoses
 
 

 
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, under questioning from Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that he has ordered the heads of every branch of the U.S. military to review diagnoses for the invisible wounds of war going back to 2001. The Secretary's announcement comes after Murray worked to spur a similar review by the Army which arose from hundreds of soldiers being misdiagnosed and in many cases accused of faking the symptoms of PTSD at Madigan Army Medical Center in Washington state.
"The Pentagon and the VA are losing the battle on mental and behavioral health conditions," Murray told the Secretary at today's hearing. Murray also noted that the Army has already begun a system-wide review saying "This is not just an Army disability evaluation system. This is a joint DOD and VA program covering all of the services. Why has the Department not taken the lead in evaluating and making improvements to this system?"
"What I've asked is the other service chiefs to implement the same approach that the Army's taken" Secretary Panetta responded. "…I'm not satisfied either. We're doing everything we can to try to build a better system between the Pentagon, the Department of Defense and VA. But there are still huge gaps in terms of the differences in terms of how they approach these cases and how they diagnose the cases and how they deal with them, and frankly, that's a whole area we have to do much better on."
Secretary Panetta indicated that the Pentagon-wide review will be led by the Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness. At the hearing Senator Murray also highlighted the impact that mental health care shortcomings are having pointing to statistics that show that military suicides are outpacing combat deaths.
A full transcript of the exchange between Senator Murray and Secretary Panetta at today's hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee follows:
 
 
MURRAY: Mr. Secretary, I want to continue the thought process of Senator Murkowski. I, too, am very alarmed by the suicide rate of our service members and our veterans. New analysis is showing us that every day in 2012 one of our service members committed suicide and you just commented on outpacing combat deaths. In our veteran population, we know a veteran commits suicide every 80 minutes. Every 80 minutes.
Now, I think we can agree on two things. First of all, our service members and their families have risen to the challenge. They've done everything that their countries asked of them throughout the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we're all eternally grateful.
Secondly, the Pentagon and the V.A. are losing the battle on mental and behavioral health conditions that are confronting a lot of our service members, loved ones, and as we just talked about is resulting on such extreme things as suicide.
Secretary Panetta our service members and veterans can't get needed treatment access to needed resource without correct diagnosis. This has been a problem for soldiers in my home state of Washington. At Madigan to date, over 100 soldiers and counting have had their correct PTSD diagnosis restored after being told they were exaggerating their symptoms, lying, and accused of shirking their duties.
So understandably, a lot of our service members trust and confidence in the disability evaluation system has been seriously shaken in the wake of these events. As you know, I have continually raised concerns about the consistency and accuracy of behavioral health evaluations and diagnosis within the entire disability evaluation system, and have offered my recommendations on how to improve the system. And as you also know the Army has taken some critically important steps forward and beginning to address these concerns.
Secretary McHugh has announced a sweeping, comprehensive Army wide review of behavioral diagnosis back to 2001 to correct the errors of the past and to make sure the service members get the care and services that they need and that they deserve.
But I wanted to ask you today, but this is not just an Army disability evaluation system. This is a joint Department of Defense and V.A. program covers all of the services.
So I wanted to ask you why the department has not taken the lead in evaluating in taking the lead to the entire system?
 
 

PANETTA: Senator, we are. What I've asked is the other service chiefs to implement the same approach that the Army's taken here...
 
MURRAY: To go back and go back to 2001 and review all cases?
 
PANETTA: That's correct.
 
MURRAY: Throughout the entire system?
 
PANETTA: That's correct.
 
MURRAY: OK, so they are all following the Army's lead and we are told the evaluation and the progress of that. Who is heading that up?
 
PANETTA: Our undersecretary for personnel and for health care. That's the individual that you need to...
 
MURRAY: I would very much like to be kept inform as all of our members of Congress would. I think this needs to be transparent and clear. We need to make sure that people are accessing the system, getting back if they need it and the only way to get that is to be clear, open and honest with everyone.
So I didn't know we were looking at all of the other services and I would like more information and to be informed on that as soon as possible about how that's taking place and what the timetable is and how that's going to occur.
 
PANETTA: I appreciate your leadership on this, Senator. I'm not satisfied either. I think the misdiagnosis that took place, what's happening in this area between -- we're doing everything we can to try to build a better system between the Pentagon, the Department of Defense and V.A. But there are still huge gaps in terms of the differences in terms of how they approach these cases and how they diagnose the cases and how they deal with them, and frankly, that's a whole area we have to do much better on.
 
MURRAY: You can't imagine what it's like to talk to a soldier who was told he had PTSD, his family was working with him, and then when he went to the disability evaluation system, was told he was a liar or malingerer. He was taken out of it and he went out in the civilian world not being treated. That's a horrendous offense.
You know, I chair -- I am chair of the veterans affairs committee and I held a hearing on the joint disability evaluation system, and I just have to tell you I am really troubled by what with I'm hearing.
Enrollment is continuing to climb, the number of service members cases meeting timeliness goals is unacceptably low, the amount of time it takes to provide benefits to the service member who is transitioning through the system has risen each year since we began this.
In response to these problems we heard from the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs together about how five years after -- five years after the Walter Reed scandal, they are just now beginning to map out business processes to find room for improvement. You know, that's just unacceptable.
The public, all of this really believed this was being taken head-on, that we were dealing with it and five years out. Unacceptable numbers we're seeing.
So I wanted to ask you what you are doing at your level to deal with this, five years into this program and we're still hearing statements from Army leaders about how the disability system is fundamentally flawed, adversarial, and, tell me what I'm going to do.
 
PANETTA: Let me do this. Secretary Shinseki and I have been meeting on a regular basis to try to do what we can to implement improvements and frankly, we're not satisfied either by the progress being made here. Part of it is bureaucratic. Part of it is systems and part of it is the complicated...
 
MURRAY: You can't imagine what it sounds like to hear that.
 
PANETTA: Pardon me?
 
MURRAY: It's bureaucratic. I mean that -- if you're in the system, that's not the word you want to hear.
PANETTA: You know, I see it every day. I'm in charge of a very big bureaucracy. And the fact is that sometimes just the bureaucratic nature of a large departments prevents it from being agile enough to respond and do what needs to be done. And so a large part of this is making sure people are willing to operate out of the box and do what needs to be done in order to improve these systems. What I would offer to you is let Secretary Shinseki and I sit down with you and walk through the steps we're taking to try to see if we can try to shake the system...
 
MURRAY: I really appreciate that commitment. I know you have not been there the entire five years, but I will tell you this, we've been told for five years that the DOD and V.A. are sitting down on a regular basis addressing this.
And I'm talking to soldiers that are stuck in the disability evaluation system. There are bureaucratic delays. The people that are supposed to be helping them they're training them because they've been in the system longer than the trainers that are supposed to work with them. Their families are facing you know horrendous challenges as they try to figure out what the future brings months on end.
You know people at the top are saying that this is fundamentally fudged, you want to hear who the people at the bottom who are in it are saying.
 
PANETTA: Right.
 
MURRAY: I totally appreciate your saying that to me today, but sitting down and talking with Secretary Shinseki is something we've been hearing for a long time. We need some recommendations and we need to move forward and we need to be a top priority out of the Pentagon as we transition now out of Afghanistan, this is not going to get more simple.
Add to that the complexities of now going back and reviewing all of these PTSD and behavioral health cases, you have people who are in the IDES (ph) system right now who are saying what's going to happen to me while you go back and review all these people? Are we putting personnel into deal with this? Or now am I going to take another back seat while we deal with that?
This is complex, it's hard. It's problematic, but it needs every single effort from top to bottom.
 
PANETTA: Listen, I share all of your frustrations, and my job is to make sure that we don't come here with more excuses and that we come here with action.
 
MURRAY: I truly appreciate that comment. I want to work with you. All my efforts are at your disposal. We do a fantastic job of training on you are men and women to go into the service. We still today have not gotten this right in making sure that we transition back home.
We have families and soldiers and Airmen and -- throughout the service who are really stuck in a process they shouldn't be stuck in. We've got to get this right and we've got it get it right now and we need every effort at it and I will sit down with you the minute we tell you you're available, but I want more than a meeting.
 
PANETTA: OK, I agree.
 
###
Matt McAlvanah
Communications Director
U.S. Senator Patty Murray
202-224-2834 - press office
202--224-0228 - direct
 
 
 

Posted at 05:31 pm by thecommonills
 

The violence and the political crisis continue

The violence and the political crisis continue

Yesterday Baghdad was slammed with bombings and 72 people were known to be dead.  This morning Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports that the death toll has risen "to 93 and 312 people wounded" according to the Ministry of the Interior.

Such is the news cycle that it's already forgotten?

No, don't blame it on the news cycle.  Hurricanes, tsunamis and many other disasters stay in the news for days after with that kind of death toll.  The difference is that Iraq is the war the US government started.  And so the Iraq War becomes the elephant in the room.  Barack decreed it 'over' so let's all pretend that peace has eupted throughout Iraq.  Then we don't have to deal with our own guilt. 

So Iraq warrants a tsk but isn't kept around long enough even for a tsk-tsk.

It's as though we ran over the kid down the street.  And we swear it was an accident and we didn't mean it.  But every time we see his mother in the store, we turn and hurry down another aisle.


Moqtada al-Sadr has declared that the government must protect all the citizens and notes that the violence took place as the political differences continued.  He states that government must not scapegoat the people, it must defend them. Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi has also condemned the attacks.  We're not linking to the story.  I'm not in the mood.  The story wants to open (several paragraphs) about what was said in a trial.  Then later on, they want to get around to telling you that the witness may not have told the truth.  They never tell you that the witness was held (and most likely tortured) for months, that human rights groups issued alerts on this very witness.  I'm not in the mood for that nonsense.  People ought to be ashamed of themselves.  We can link to an Alsumaria report on al-Hashemi condemning the attacks.  (Alsumaria really puts a a western outlet to shame.)  They also note that the judges continue to deny the defense request to seek testimony from President Jalal Talabani.  (al-Hashemi is being tried in absentia on 'terrorism' charges.)

Jalal?  An angry Jalal is seen at Alsumaria denying reports about him in recent days.  Jalal's upset with the fall out over his actions.  He's pissed that Kurds in the Kurdish Alliance and Ayad Allawi have come forward with how he (Jalal) said he could take out Nouri al-Maliki.  He's ticked off that his stock is falling.  He's upset about rumors that the PUK is exploring new public faces.  (He's 78-years-old, they should have a different public face.)  As Al Rafidayn notes, so many are upset with Jalal that he's had to prepare a public letter for the PUK to distribute to its members.
Alsumaria reports a bombing in Falluja today targeting police -- eight people were harmed (dead and wounded -- there are no numbers for either category).  It was a car bombing and abumlances arrived on the scene, police said.  In other security news today, Alsumaria reports the Ministry of the Interior is telling the media that a small spy plane was shot down today in Baghdad by the First Brigade (Iraqi police).  Since there is  no mention of a pilot being dead, wounded or captured, this was most likely an unmanned drone.  Which means, it was most likely a US drone.

Scott Peterson (Christian Science Monitor) reports on the crackdown on the Iraqi press.  International Crisis Group's Joost Hiltermann is quoted stating of Nouri, "What drives him is fear and mistrust and paranoia."


In the US, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Her office issued the following yesterday:


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
Wednesday, June 13, 2012 
CONTACT: Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834

Under Pressure from Sen. Murray, Panetta Announces Military-Wide Review of Behavioral and Mental Health Diagnoses Since 2001
Panetta to Murray: “I am not satisfied either”; “still huge gaps” in how departments diagnose PTSD and other conditions; announces that all branches of military will undergo major review of diagnoses


(Washington, D.C.) – Today, under questioning from Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that he has ordered the heads of every branch of the U.S. military to review diagnoses for the invisible wounds of war going back to 2001. The Secretary’s announcement comes after Murray worked to spur a similar review by the Army which arose from hundreds of soldiers being misdiagnosed and in many cases accused of faking the symptoms of PTSD at Madigan Army Medical Center in Washington state.
“The Pentagon and the VA are losing the battle on mental and behavioral health conditions,” Murray told the Secretary at today’s hearing. Murray also noted that the Army has already begun a system-wide review saying “This is not just an Army disability evaluation system. This is a joint DOD and VA program covering all of the services. Why has the Department not taken the lead in evaluating and making improvements to this system?”
“What I've asked is the other service chiefs to implement the same approach that the Army's taken” Secretary Panetta responded. “…I’m not satisfied either. We're doing everything we can to try to build a better system between the Pentagon, the Department of Defense and VA. But there are still huge gaps in terms of the differences in terms of how they approach these cases and how they diagnose the cases and how they deal with them, and frankly, that's a whole area we have to do much better on.”
Secretary Panetta indicated that the Pentagon-wide review will be led by the Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness. At the hearing Senator Murray also highlighted the impact that mental health care shortcomings are having pointing to statistics that show that military suicides are outpacing combat deaths.
A full transcript of the exchange between Senator Murray and Secretary Panetta at today’s hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee follows:
MURRAY: Mr. Secretary, I want to continue the thought process of Senator Murkowski. I, too, am very alarmed by the suicide rate of our service members and our veterans. New analysis is showing us that every day in 2012 one of our service members committed suicide and you just commented on outpacing combat deaths. In our veteran population, we know a veteran commits suicide every 80 minutes. Every 80 minutes.
Now, I think we can agree on two things. First of all, our service members and their families have risen to the challenge. They've done everything that their countries asked of them throughout the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we're all eternally grateful.
Secondly, the Pentagon and the V.A. are losing the battle on mental and behavioral health conditions that are confronting a lot of our service members, loved ones, and as we just talked about is resulting on such extreme things as suicide.
Secretary Panetta our service members and veterans can't get needed treatment access to needed resource without correct diagnosis. This has been a problem for soldiers in my home state of Washington. At Madigan to date, over 100 soldiers and counting have had their correct PTSD diagnosis restored after being told they were exaggerating their symptoms, lying, and accused of shirking their duties.
So understandably, a lot of our service members trust and confidence in the disability evaluation system has been seriously shaken in the wake of these events. As you know, I have continually raised concerns about the consistency and accuracy of behavioral health evaluations and diagnosis within the entire disability evaluation system, and have offered my recommendations on how to improve the system. And as you also know the Army has taken some critically important steps forward and beginning to address these concerns.
Secretary McHugh has announced a sweeping, comprehensive Army wide review of behavioral diagnosis back to 2001 to correct the errors of the past and to make sure the service members get the care and services that they need and that they deserve.
But I wanted to ask you today, but this is not just an Army disability evaluation system. This is a joint Department of Defense and V.A. program covers all of the services.
So I wanted to ask you why the department has not taken the lead in evaluating in taking the lead to the entire system?
PANETTA: Senator, we are. What I've asked is the other service chiefs to implement the same approach that the Army's taken here...
MURRAY: To go back and go back to 2001 and review all cases?
PANETTA: That's correct.
MURRAY: Throughout the entire system?
PANETTA: That's correct.
MURRAY: OK, so they are all following the Army's lead and we are told the evaluation and the progress of that. Who is heading that up?
PANETTA: Our undersecretary for personnel and for health care. That's the individual that you need to...
MURRAY: I would very much like to be kept inform as all of our members of Congress would. I think this needs to be transparent and clear. We need to make sure that people are accessing the system, getting back if they need it and the only way to get that is to be clear, open and honest with everyone.
So I didn't know we were looking at all of the other services and I would like more information and to be informed on that as soon as possible about how that's taking place and what the timetable is and how that's going to occur.
PANETTA: I appreciate your leadership on this, Senator. I'm not satisfied either. I think the misdiagnosis that took place, what's happening in this area between -- we're doing everything we can to try to build a better system between the Pentagon, the Department of Defense and V.A. But there are still huge gaps in terms of the differences in terms of how they approach these cases and how they diagnose the cases and how they deal with them, and frankly, that's a whole area we have to do much better on.
MURRAY: You can't imagine what it's like to talk to a soldier who was told he had PTSD, his family was working with him, and then when he went to the disability evaluation system, was told he was a liar or malingerer. He was taken out of it and he went out in the civilian world not being treated. That's a horrendous offense.
You know, I chair -- I am chair of the veterans affairs committee and I held a hearing on the joint disability evaluation system, and I just have to tell you I am really troubled by what with I'm hearing.
Enrollment is continuing to climb, the number of service members cases meeting timeliness goals is unacceptably low, the amount of time it takes to provide benefits to the service member who is transitioning through the system has risen each year since we began this.
In response to these problems we heard from the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs together about how five years after -- five years after the Walter Reed scandal, they are just now beginning to map out business processes to find room for improvement. You know, that's just unacceptable.
The public, all of this really believed this was being taken head-on, that we were dealing with it and five years out. Unacceptable numbers we're seeing.
So I wanted to ask you what you are doing at your level to deal with this, five years into this program and we're still hearing statements from Army leaders about how the disability system is fundamentally flawed, adversarial, and, tell me what I'm going to do.
PANETTA: Let me do this. Secretary Shinseki and I have been meeting on a regular basis to try to do what we can to implement improvements and frankly, we're not satisfied either by the progress being made here. Part of it is bureaucratic. Part of it is systems and part of it is the complicated...
MURRAY: You can't imagine what it sounds like to hear that.
PANETTA: Pardon me?
MURRAY: It's bureaucratic. I mean that -- if you're in the system, that's not the word you want to hear.
PANETTA: You know, I see it every day. I'm in charge of a very big bureaucracy. And the fact is that sometimes just the bureaucratic nature of a large departments prevents it from being agile enough to respond and do what needs to be done. And so a large part of this is making sure people are willing to operate out of the box and do what needs to be done in order to improve these systems. What I would offer to you is let Secretary Shinseki and I sit down with you and walk through the steps we're taking to try to see if we can try to shake the system...
MURRAY: I really appreciate that commitment. I know you have not been there the entire five years, but I will tell you this, we've been told for five years that the DOD and V.A. are sitting down on a regular basis addressing this.
And I'm talking to soldiers that are stuck in the disability evaluation system. There are bureaucratic delays. The people that are supposed to be helping them they're training them because they've been in the system longer than the trainers that are supposed to work with them. Their families are facing you know horrendous challenges as they try to figure out what the future brings months on end.
You know people at the top are saying that this is fundamentally fudged, you want to hear who the people at the bottom who are in it are saying.
PANETTA: Right.
MURRAY: I totally appreciate your saying that to me today, but sitting down and talking with Secretary Shinseki is something we've been hearing for a long time. We need some recommendations and we need to move forward and we need to be a top priority out of the Pentagon as we transition now out of Afghanistan, this is not going to get more simple.
Add to that the complexities of now going back and reviewing all of these PTSD and behavioral health cases, you have people who are in the IDES (ph) system right now who are saying what's going to happen to me while you go back and review all these people? Are we putting personnel into deal with this? Or now am I going to take another back seat while we deal with that?
This is complex, it's hard. It's problematic, but it needs every single effort from top to bottom.
PANETTA: Listen, I share all of your frustrations, and my job is to make sure that we don't come here with more excuses and that we come here with action.
MURRAY: I truly appreciate that comment. I want to work with you. All my efforts are at your disposal. We do a fantastic job of training on you are men and women to go into the service. We still today have not gotten this right in making sure that we transition back home.
We have families and soldiers and Airmen and -- throughout the service who are really stuck in a process they shouldn't be stuck in. We've got to get this right and we've got it get it right now and we need every effort at it and I will sit down with you the minute we tell you you're available, but I want more than a meeting.
PANETTA: OK, I agree.
###
Matt McAlvanah
Communications Director
U.S. Senator Patty Murray
202-224-2834 - press office
202--224-0228 - direct



The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.


 

Posted at 07:46 am by thecommonills
 

The unsuited and unsuitable Brett McGurk

The unsuited and unsuitable Brett McGurk



ambassador to swingtown





That's Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Ambassador to Swingtown."  Brett McGurk is Barack Obama's nominee for US Ambassador to Iraq.  As opposition mounts to his nomination, Ryan Crocker, Chris Hill and James Jeffrey pen an embarrassing and, yes, offensive letter endorsing McGurk where they declare, "Brett is the right man for the job."

The right man?

In 2012, they want to tell the world Brett's the right man.

So it's not just the White House attempting to screw over women, it's Crocker, Hill and Jeffrey rushing in to help?

The uniquely unqualified McGurk is Barack's third nominee for US Ambassador to Iraq.  Try to grasp that Barack has not yet completed his fourth year as president.

That's alarming.  Clearly, the White House has been unable to pick a stable or suited nominee.  For those late to the party, the previous two (Hill and Jeffrey) were confirmed.  And they didn't stay on the job.  Now it's McGurk.

Are you noticing that all three of Barack's nominees are men?

Iraqi women are served by every US Ambassador to Iraq being a man?  How so?

Three nominees and Barack Obama can't think of one damn woman to serve as US Ambassador to Iraq?

It's not like the bar is that high, not after Chris Hill and his mid-day naps.  As Brett McGurk demonstrates, you don't even need to speak Arabic.  You'd think speaking the language of the country you were going to be ambassador to was kind of a given.

Jeffrey, Crocker and Hill want you to know that "Brett is the right man for the job."

Because he can't keep it in his pants.  Or are we still pretending Gina Chon was his only booty call in Iraq?  So Sex On The Job becomes US Ambassador to Iraq and that means what to women in Najaf, Baquba, Kirkuk, etc?

Presumably it means that the US Embassy becomes off limits to them.  Unless they want to be hanged, stoned or set on fire in an 'honor' killing.  Are there any adults in the administration?  They're trying to send a nominee to Iraq whose very presence will prevent women from accessing the embassy.  How many times in the last 8 months has the State Dept sent Brooke Darby to a hearing to testify about all the work they're doing on women's rights in Iraq?

What was the point of that?

I don't think anyone ever saw any results.  But the lip service at least gave the appearance that the same government which destroyed the lives of Iraqi women now had some concern about them.  That flies out the window, Brooke's talk about business opportunities, about the need for human rights and, especially with regards to the Iraqi police, the need for additional training so that women are protected.

All that's out the window.

I'm not calling Brooke a liar.  I repeatedly gave her a pass when we covered those hearings.  I repeatedly noted she was a lower-level flunkie and I wasn't going to hold her responsible for the answers of her superiors.  (I would -- and did -- hold her accountable when she couldn't answer a question.)

So not only do Iraqi women get screwed over, Brooke Darby gets to be the first female US government employee to be screwed over to put the ass who puts his dick everywhere into a position he's not qualified for?

Max Boot cries for McGurk at the neo-con bible Commentary.  I'm missing one word -- of compassion or recognition -- that this nomination would not help Iraqi women, that it would hurt them.  It's all about sex, whines Max, as he recounts married McGurk's clandestine affair with former Wall St. Journal reporter Gina Chon (the paper terminated her employment on Tuesday).  No, it's not all about sex.  McGurk is unqualified.  That was known ahead of time.  Last week's hearing may have been treated superficially by the press but we devoted time in three consecutive snapshots -- Wednesday, Thursday, Friday:

And what did we learn?

McGurk wanted to steal credit that then-Gen David Petraeus and those serving under him deserved.  McGurk doesn't understand al Qaeda in Iraq and his testimony conflicts with that of Leon Panetta's (former CIA Director, now the US Secretary of Defense) and the public remarks of the National Director of Intelligence James Clapper.  And he flat out lied about Sahwa.  I thought this would have gotten reported.  He stated 70% of Sahwa had received government jobs.  That was his biggest Sahwa lie, it was his only one.  (Sahwa is also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons of Iraq" and "Daughters of Iraq.")

He lied or revealed his ignorance pretty much every time he opened his mouth.  When that happens, what's an unskeptical, go-along-to-get-along press to do?  Why focus on the prepapred statement, the written statement submitted ahead of time for the record.  So the few quotes from McGurk that the press did carry (very few outlets covered the hearing) were from that prepared statement.

If Max Boot wants to talk about qualifications, then he needs to talk about qualifications.

If he doesn't think hiding an affair you conduct on the taxpayer dime is an issue, then he should talk about something else.  But that would require actual knowledge and apparently Max Boot has none on McGurk.

Maybe before you talk about what you think someone is "owed," you should familiarize with the issue or is that just too much damn work in the age of instapundit?

Six of nine Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are asking that Barack withdraw the nomination of Brett McGurk.  You know this because the press is reporting on a letter.
It's amazing how, reporting on the same letter, so much is ignored.

Here's Reuters.   Here is AFPMatthew Lee's AP story is probably one the best along with Sunlen Miller's piece for ABC News.

The following community sites updated last night and today:



We'll close with this from David Coombs' "A Message from David Coombs, Bradley Manning's Attorney" (World Can't Wait):




Over the past two years, thousands of individuals have either donated to the defense fund or given freely of their time to support PFC Bradley Manning.  The support provided has come in many forms:
1)  Signing petitions (standwithbrad.org);
2)  Standing up to say “I am Bradley Manning” (iam.bradleymanning.org);
3)  Writing to military/government authorities;
4)  Writing letters to the editors of local and national newspapers;
5)  Attending marches, rallies, and other public events to raise awareness about Bradley Manning;
6)  Using social media to write about the case and the events of every hearing;
7)  Contacting government representatives;
8)  Sending messages of support to my law office;
9)  Donating to the legal defense fund; or
10)  Volunteering with the Bradley Manning Support Network and Courage to Resist.

At every court hearing, I am given the opportunity to witness this support first hand.  The attendance by supporters during these hearings as been nothing short of inspiring.  Although my client is not permitted to engage those in attendance, he aware of your presence and support.
At every court hearing, I am given the opportunity to witness this support first hand.  The attendance by supporters during these hearings as been nothing short of inspiring.  Although my client is not permitted to engage those in attendance, he aware of your presence and support.


The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.


 

Posted at 06:56 am by thecommonills
 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Iraq snapshot

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, June 13, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue as Iraq is slammed with bombings which leave over 70 dead, the issue of burn pits is raised in the Senate, modern day sob sisters try to turn Brett McGurk and Gina Chon into a modern day King Edward VIII and Mrs. Wallis Simpson, Republicans ask Barack to withdraw the nominee, and more.
 
"The second bill I'd like to mention," declared Senator Patty Murray this morning, "is the Servicemembers Rights Enforcement Improvement Act of 2012.  This is a bill that I wish wasn't necessary but one that circumstances demand.  It builds on current protections put in place to help shield our nation's heroes from unemployment and foreclosure.  These protections have been violated in a disturbing number of cases within the past several years.  This bill would strengthen the ability of the Department of Justice and Office of Special Counsel to investigate and enforce the employment protections of USERRA, which are so important to members of the National Guard and Reserve.  And it would improve the protections of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act as well as how they are enforced.  I introduced this bill because we as a nation owe it to the men and women who serve with dignity a guarantee that the protections put in place to ease their burden will be enforced when they return home.  This legislation will ensure the Departments charged with enforcing these valuable protections have the tools they need to get the job done."
 
She is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and was presiding over today's hearing on various veterans bills.  The one above, in addition to home issues, goes to additional resources to pursue those employers who illegally are refusing to allow Guard and Reserve members to return to the civilian jobs that they have to leave when they are called up for trainings and deployments.  They cannot be fired because they have been called up by the military.  This is not a new legal standard.  But employers are regularly breaking the law and firing Guard and Reserve members.  Most recently, Home Depot had a store in Arizona which had done that.  To the corporation's credit, Home Depot did not attempt to fight the charges or drag it out  but instead immediately settled with the Justice Dept which noted, "Under the terms of the settlement, embodied in a consent decree that has been submitted for approval to the federal district court, Home Depot will provide Mr. [Brian] Bailey [Army National Guard soldier] with $45,000 in monetary relief and make changes to its Military Leaves of Absence policy.  The settlement further mandates that Home depot review its Military Leaves of Absence policy with managers from the district where Mr. Bailey worked."   This is only one example, there are many others. 
 
Here's a summary of the bill Chair Patty Murray introduced (third paragraph begins covering the employment issue):
 
Servicemembers Rights Enforcement Improvement Act of 2012 -- Amends the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (the Act) concerning the protection of servicemembers against default judgments to require a plaintiff, before filing an affidavit, to conduct a diligent and reasonable investigation to determine whether or not the defendant is in the military service, including a search of available records of the Department of Defense (DOD) and any other available information.
Makes a private right of action for a violation of the Act retroactive to December 19, 2003.
Allows a veteran on whose behalf a complaint of a violation of employment or reemployment rights is made by the Attorney General (AG) to intervene in such action, and to obtain appropriate relief.  Requires the AG, within 60 days after receiving a referral of an unsuccessful attempt to resolve a complaint relating to a state or private employer, to notify the person on whose behalf the complaint is submitted of either the decision to commence such an action or of when such decision is expected to be made.  Requires, in the latter case, such decision to be made within an additional 30 days.  Requires the AG to commence such an action when there is reasonable cause to believe that a state or private employer is engaged in a pattern of practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of such employment and reemployment rights and benefits, and that the pattern or practice is intended to deny the full exercise of such rights and benefits.
Provides the Special Counsel with subpoena power to require the attendance and testimony of, and production of documents from, federal employees, to be enforced through the Merit Systems Protection Board.
Authorizes the AG to issue and serve a civil investigative demand for the production of documentary material relevant to an investigation under the Act.
 
 
The Committee heard from two panels about proposed bills. The first panel was the VA's Curtis Coy. The second panel was IAVA's Tom Tarantino, Military Officers Association of America's Robert Norton and Student Veterans of America's Peter Meijer.  Bills are proposed legislation that, if passed by both Houses of Congress, go to the President for his or her signature and are signed into law or vetoed.  A two-thirds majority of Representatives and Senators can override a presidential veto.  And this is explained at the Kids in the House website (which I promised a friend I'd link to over a month ago).  The House Leadership and the Office of the Clerk are responsible for the Kids in the House website and it's a strong (and free) resource for kids, parents, teachers, people who would like to learn more about the way the House works.
 
Each session finds many bills buried in committees, a smaller number being passed on for a floor vote of the full house (House or Senate) and a smaller number being referred to the other chamber after passage.  It is very important to get the bill out of Committee and that's why you will see lawmakers who do not sit on a Committee show up for that Committee's legislation hearing.  Senator Frank Lautenberg, for example, testified to the Committee today about his concerns that efforts must be made to preserve the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill.  He has proposed the GI Educational Freedom Act of 2012 (co-sponsors are Senators Richard Blumenthal, Scott Brown, Tom Harkin, Jeff Merkley and Marco Rubio.
 
 
Senator Frank Lautenberg:  I was proud to work with Senator Webb and former Senators [Chuck] Hagel and John Warner to create a new GI Bill for the 21st Century.  The new GI Bill is making a real difference for thousands of veterans and their families every year.  As our veterans return home from war, we must work to make sure that this important benefit is protected for years to come.  That's why I am outraged to hear that bad actors in the education community are taking advantage of our heroes.  By using misleading advertising, they rope veterans and their G.I. Bill benefits into an education that does not adequately prepare them for employment.  The VA offers counseling services to help veterans navigate the educational process.  But the services are available only to veterans who specifically request educational counseling.  One thing is clear: The VA's current approach is not sufficient.  Last year, out of the hundreds of thousands receiving VA educational assistance, fewer than 6,500 beneficiaries requested this counseling.
 
 
There were four other non-Committee Senators who spoke about bills.  Our focus today is one one bill.
 
 
Senator Mark Udall:  Sitting in the audience today is Master Sergeant Jessey Baca a member of the New Mexico Air National Guard and his wife Maria.  [to them] Just give everybody a waive here, you two.  Master Sgt. Baca was stationed in Balad, Iraq and exposed to burn pits. His journey to be here today was not easy.  He has battled cancer, chronic bronchitis, chemical induced asthma, brain lesions, TBI, PTSD and numerous other ailments. Maria has traveled that difficult road with him.   They know first hand the suffering caused by burn pits and they need to know the answers.  It is because of them and so many others like them that we are here today.  Last year, I introduced S. 1798, the Open Burn Pits Registry Act with Senator Corker.  Representative Todd Akin introduced it in the House.  It is not a partisan issue.  We have each met with veterans and active duty members of the military and they have told us how important it is that we act now.  In both Afghanistan and Iraq, open air burn pits were widely used at forward operating bases.  Disposing of trash and other debris was a major challenge.  Commanders had to find a way to dispose of waste while concentrating on the important mission at hand.  The solution that was chosen, however, had serious risks.  Pits of waste were set on fire -- sometimes using jet fuel for ignition.  Some burn pits were small but others covered multiple acres of land. Often times, these burn pits would turn the sky black.  At Joint Base Balad Iraq, over 10 acres of land were used for burning toxic debris.  At the height of its operations, Balad hosted approximately 25,000 military, civilian and coalition provision authority personnel.  These personnel would be exposed to a toxic soup of chemicals released into the atmosphere.  According to air quality measurements, the air at Balad had multiple particulates harmful to humans: Plastics and Styrofoams, metals, chemicals from paints and solvents, petroleum and lubricants, jet fuel and unexploded ordnance, medical and other dangerous wastes.  The air samples at Joint Base Balad turned up some nasty stuff. Particulate matter, chemicals that form from the incomplete burning of coal, oil and gas garbage or other organic substances, volatile organic compounds such as acetone and benzene  -- benzene, as you all know, is known to cause leukemia --  and dioxins which are associated with Agent Orange.  According to the American Lung Association, emissions from burning waste contain fine particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and various irritant gases such as nitrogen oxides that can scar the lungs. All of this was in the air and being inhaled into the lungs of service members.  Our veterans have slowly begun to raise the alarm as they learn why -- after returning home -- they are short of breath or experiencing headaches and other symptoms and, in some cases, developing cancer.  Or to put it more simply, by Maria Baca, when she describes her husband's symptoms, "When he breathes, he can breathe in, but he can't breathe out.  That's the problem that he's having.  It feels like a cactus coming out of his chest.  He feels  these splinters and he can't get rid of them."  The Dept of Army has also confirmed the dangers posed by burn pits.  In a memo from April 15, 2011, Environmental Science Engineering Officer, G. Michael Pratt, wrote an air quality summary on Baghram Airfield.  And I would respectfully ask that the full memo be included in the record.  Referring to the burn pits near Baghram Airfield,  he said there was potential that "long-term exposure at these level may experience the risk for developing chronic health conditions such as reduced lung function or exacerbated chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, atherosclerosis  and other cardio pulmonary diseases.  Many of our service members are coming home with these symptoms.  I believe, like you do, Madam Chair, that we are forever in debt for their service, so we must ask the question, "How did these burn pits impact the health of our returning heroes?"  This bill is a step towards finding the answers we owe them.  The legislation will establish and maintain and Open Burn Pit Registry for those individuals who may have been exposed during their military service.  It would include information in this registry that the Secretary of the VA determines is applicable to possible health effects of this exposure. develop a public information campaign to inform individuals about the registry and periodically notify members of the registry of significant developments associated with burn pits exposure.  It is supported by numerous groups including BurnPits 360, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Association of US Navy,  Retired Enlisted Association, the Uniformed Services Disabled Retirees and the National Military Family Association.  Madam Chair and Ranking Member Burr, thank you for your attention to this important issue.  I look forward to working with both of you and members of your distinguished Committee on this important legislation.  Thank you and a pleasure once again to be with you today. 
 
Chair Patty Murray:  Thank you very much, Senator Udall.  And thank you for your critical work on this.  I really appreciate it.
 
Senator Mark Udall:  And I would also ask to be excused unless there are questions from the Committee.
 
Chair Patty Murray:  Absolutely.  I appreciate it very much. 
 
Senator Mark Udall:  Thank you very much.
 
Chair Patty Murray:  Senator Nelson?
 
 
Senator Bill Nelson: Madam Chairman, Senator Burr, members, I want to second what Senator Udall just said.  We've had a number of cases of the burn pit exposure in Florida and it is horrific.  So thank you, Senator Udall, for that testimony.
 
 
 
Senator Nelson and Chair Murray spoke highly of the bill Senator Udall is sponsoring.  Certainly, any time the Committee Chair considers your bill important, that's a good thing. 
 
And S. 1798 has a great deal of support in the Congress.  For example, along with Senators Udall and Corker, the bill has the following Senate co-sponsors: Senators Lamar Alexander, Jeff Bingaman, Richard Blumenthal, Bob Casey, Dean Heller, Claire McCaskill, Jeff Merkley, Bill Nelson, John D. Rockefeller IV, Bernie Sanders, Chuck Schumer, Olympia Snowe, Jon Tester and Mark Udall.  In the House, the co-sponsors of H.R. 3337 are Representatives Joe Baca, Roscoe Bartlett, Dan Benishek, Shelley Berkley, Earl Blumenauer, Madeleine Bordallo, Russ Carnahan, Andre Carson, Kathy Castor, Judy Chu, David Cicilline, Gerry Connolly, John Conyers, Joe Courtney, Mark Critz, Peter DeFaio, Bob Filner, J. Randy Forbes, Trent Franks, Tim Griffin, Raul Grijalva, Luis Gutierre, Richard Hanna, Vicky Hartzler, Joseph Heck, Martin Heinrich, Randy Hultgren, Steve Israel, Hank Johnson, Walter Jones, Marcy Kaptur, Larry Kissel, Tom Latham, Barbara Lee, Daniel Lipinski, Fran LoBiondo, Billy Long, Blaine Luetkemeyer, Ben Ray Lujan, Tom Marino, Jim McDermott, Jim McGovern, Mike Michaud, Tim Murphy, Elenor Holmes Norton, Richard Nugent, Alan Nunnelee, William Owens, Steven Pearce, Chelle Pingree, Bill Posey, Charlie Rangel, Scott Rigell, David Roe, Jon Runyan, Tim Ryan, Adam Schiff, Allyson Schwartz, Adam Smith, Pete Stark, Mike Thompson, Paul Tonko, Michael Turner and Robert Wittman.
 
 
That's a lot of support for proposed legislation. 
 
 
But remember this?
 
I am here today to testify about a tragedy that took place in 2003 on the outskirts of Basra in Iraq. I am here on behalf of Lt Col James Gentry and the brave men and women who served under his command in the First Battalion, 152nd Infantry of the Indiana National Guard. I spoke with Lt Col Gentry by phone just this last week. Unfortunately, he is at home with his wife, Luanne, waging a vliant fight against terminal cancer. The Lt Col was a healthy man when he left for Iraq. Today, he is fighting for his life. Tragically, many of his men are facing their own bleak prognosis as a result of their exposure to sodium dichromate, one of the most lethal carcinogens in existence. The chemical is used as an anti-corrosive for pipes. It was strewn all over the water treatment facility guarded by the 152nd Infantry. More than 600 soldiers from Indiana, Oregon, West Virginia and South Carolina were exposed. One Indiana Guardsman has already died from lung disease and the Army has classified it as a service-related death. Dozens of the others have come forward with a range of serious-respiratory symptoms. [. . .] Mr. Chairman, today I would like to tell this Committee about S1779. It is legislation that I have written to ensure that we provide full and timely medical care to soldiers exposed to hazardous chemicals during wartime military service like those on the outskirts of Basra. The Health Care for Veterans Exposed to Chemical Hazards Act of 2009 is bipartisan legislation that has already been co-sponsored by Senators Lugar, Dorgan, Rockefeller, Byrd, Wyden and Merkley. With a CBO score of just $10 million, it is a bill with a modest cost but a critical objective: To enusre that we do right by America's soldiers exposed to toxic chemicals while defending our country. This bill is modeled after similar legislation that Congress approved in 1978 following the Agent Orange exposure in the Vietnam conflict.
 
 
That's then-Senator Evan Bayh speaking to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on behalf of the Burn Pit Registry October 21, 2009.  Just like Senator Udall did today.
 
And Bayh believed there would be action on it.  He believed in the issue and he had support in Congress.  But the person who killed Bayh's bill is still on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  He's not running for re-election (he can't after that and after his fit over the benefits Secretary of the VA Eric Shinseki extended to the victims of Agent Orange).  But he's still on the Committee.  And as I watched Senator Jim Webb in the hearing, I saw the same bored look he gave when Bayh spoke of the importance of this proposed legislation in 2009.
 
I support the registry.  I think it's needed.  I supported when Bayh proposed it and I applaud Evan and former-Senator Byron Dorgan for all the hard work they did highlighting the burn pit issue, educating the Congress and we the American people on this issue. 
 
I find it appalling that there's been no leadership on this issue from the White House.  Barack Obama has repeatedly lied about the American people with regards to Vietnam.  Most recently, he did so on Memorial Day.
 
If the veterans of Vietnam were betrayed (I believe they were), it was the government that betrayed them.  It betrayed them first of all by sending them to Vietnam.  It further betrayed them when they returned.  We can list one example after another but the one that's pertinent here is the Agent Orange registry.  It was not until the 90s that it was created.  Agent Orange was a destructive agent used in Vietnam and the effects on people exposed to it were severe. 
 
It was not the American people that ordered Agent Orange to be sprayed.  It was not the American people that fought one legal battle against Vietnam veterans after another denying that Agent Orange did any harm.  It was not the American people that did not support an Agent Orange Registry which could be used to ensure medical care and medical benefits. 
 
It was the American government.  And it's the American government today -- the one he heads -- that's refusing to allow a Burn Pit Registry.  Let's hope everyone following the issue registers that.  And registers how hollow his words are when he starts talking about 'turning your back on veterans' if he's refusing to champion the Burn Pit Registry.
 
Why is it needed right now?  Because there's still a small focus in the press on veterans.  Iraq's off the page, Afghanistan's sliding.  Once the attention's gone, it's gone.  And that was part of the problem with the Agent Orange Registry.  Many politicians and officials knew their refusal to implement it wouldn't result in massive press coverage.  Vietnam veterans couldn't afford all the years they had to wait (and many have only received help and recognition since Eric Shinseki became VA Secretary).  Iraq and Afghanistan veterans can't afford to wait years either.
 
 
Turning to the topic of Two and a Half Men . . .  James Jeffrey, Ryan Crocker and adolescent Chris Hill signed a letter.  Josh Rogin (Foreign Policy) reports the three signed a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee insisting that Brett McGurk is qualified to be the US Ambassador to Iraq.  Jeffrey is the outgoing US Ambassador to Iraq.  Chris Hill was the nightmare ambassador.  Prior to Hill's brief stint, Ryan Crocker served as US Ambassador to Iraq.  Rogin writes, "In their letter, the former ambassadors argue that McGurk showed his understanding of the complexities facing Iraq in his June 6 confirmation hearing and said that he has the full trust and confidence of the current leadership team at the embassy. "  I'm sorry, where were they?
 
They weren't at the hearing.  I was.  How can they vouch for his performance at a hearing they didn't attend?
 
They can't.  And this isn't the 1960s.  Meaning forget the press coverage because there was none.  Note to what passes for a press corps: Your 'great job, Brett!' wasn't reporting.  Most outlets ignored the hearing completely (including TV evening news).  Find a report where they report what McGurk said and examine if it was accurate.  You can't find that in the MSM.  We covered it here, the hearing, in three snapshots.  We covered what he said versus reality.  We covered it in the editorial for Third as well:
 
 
McGurk took credit for the surge.  The only aspect of the surge that was successful was what Gen David Petraeus implemented and US service members carried out.  That was not what McGurk and other civilians were tasked with.  Their part of the surge?  The military effort was supposed to create a space that the politicians would put to good use by passing legislation.  It didn't happen.  McGurk's part of the surge was a failure.
He revealed incredible ignorance about al Qaeda in Iraq and seemed unaware that, in 2011, then-CIA Director (now Secretary of Defense) Leon Panetta told Congress it amounted to less than 1,000 people or that in February of this year, the Director of National Intelligence declared that a significnat number (of that less than 1,000) had gone to Syria.
Though the press has reported for years about Nouri's refusal to bring Sahwa members into the process (give them jobs) and how he refuses to pay these security forces (also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons of Iraq"), McGurk told Congress that Nouri was paying them all and had given government jobs to approximately 70,000.  (For point of reference, in 2008, Gen David Petraues told Congress there were approximately 91,000 Sahwa.)
 
It's really easy to pretend someone's 'qualified' when you refuse to do the work required to vet the nominee.  Those links above don't go to MSM reporting on the hearing because there is NO MSN reporting on the hearing.  They go to the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday snapshot (as well as a 2008 snapshot for Petreaus' testimony in 2008).  The press didn't do the job they're paid to.  You can say they're overworked and many are.  But that doesn't excuse anyone filing a 'report' that fails to examine one word of what was said, that fails to provide context.  There's a world of difference a transcript and a report or a 'feelings check' and a report.  No reporting was done by the MSM on McGurk's hearing.
 
AP reported this morning that Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee were drafting a letter that would ask the White House to pull McGurk's nomination.  Aamer Madhani (USA Today) posted the letter which expresses concern over his management experience and his judgment (as well as his ability to work with Iraqis -- remember the political slate that won the 2010 elections, Iraqiya, has asked that he not be made ambassador). 
 
 
Now before the hearing we were reporting on the e-mails.  I say that because I cannot believe the stupidity of so-called professional writers.  Tuesday, June 5th, we were reporting on the e-mails between Brett McGurk and Wall St. Journal reporter Gina Chon who began an affair in 2008 and concealed it from their superiors.  Yesterday, Chon lost her job.  Lisa Dru (Business Insider) reported on the news as well and includes the Wall St. Journal's statement:
 

Wall Street Journal reporter Gina Chon agreed to resign this afternoon after acknowledging that while based in Iraq she violated the Dow Jones Code of Conduct by sharing certain unpublished news articles with Brett McGurk, then a member of the U.S. National Security Council in Iraq.

In 2008 Ms. Chon entered into a personal relationship with Mr. McGurk, which she failed to disclose to her editor. At this time the Journal has found no evidence that her coverage was tainted by her relationship with Mr. McGurk.

Ms. Chon joined the Journal in 2005 in Detroit, followed by an assignment as Iraq correspondent in Baghdad from 2007 to 2009. She also reported for the Journal from Haiti in 2010 in the aftermath of the earthquake and has served as a M&A reporter for Money & Investing in New York since April 2010.

 
 
Dru's done a fine job reporting on the e-mails and the issues.  We're about to get to two who are doing a lousy job.
 
Reality, Chon was asked to resign and given the choice of resigning or being fired.  She opted to resign.  Let's start with Maressa Brown whose work experience is "entertainment and women's magazines." It shows, dear, it really shows. Maressa Brown's "not quite sure Chon should have had to lose her job over the affair itself" -- if your company has a code of ethics, you follow it or your risk losing your job.
 
In addition, those ethics were the same code of ethics of any professional news outlet.  Now I know, in entertainment writing, you're encouraged to sleep with your interview subject.  But in most fields of journalism, you're only paid for the story, not for also granting sexual favors.
 
Maressa Brown might want to consider that and might want to consider that Gina Chon's little love life shouldn't mean a thing to the readers of the Wall St. Journal.  They shouldn't know about it, they shouldn't follow it.  Those rules, ethics, they exist for that reason.
 
The public is supposed to be able to trust that everything is ethical.  Gina Chon's decision to sleep with her source was grounds for instant termination.  Michele Norris is one of the finest radio journalists around.  She's a host of NPR's All Things Considered.  She's got reporting chops and she's earned a reputation of being a fair and accurate journalist.  To ensure that she's seen that way, she and NPR agreed early on that if her husband was working for a campaign, she couldn't cover it.  Last October, Norris went on an extended leave from All Things ConsideredShe explains why here:
 
Hello everyone,
I need to share some news and I wanted to make sure my NPR family heard this first.
Last week, I told news management that my husband, Broderick Johnson, has just accepted a senior advisor position with the Obama Campaign. After careful consideration, we decided that Broderick's new role could make it difficult for me to continue hosting ATC.
Given the nature of Broderick's position with the campaign and the impact that it will most certainly have on our family life, I will temporarily step away from my hosting duties until after the 2012 elections.
I will be leaving the host chair at the end of this week, but I'm not going far. I will be wearing a different hat for a while, producing signature segments and features and working on new reporting projects. While I will of course recuse myself from all election coverage, there's still an awful lot of ground that I can till in this interim role.
This has all happened very quickly, but working closely with NPR management, we've been able to make a plan that serves the show, honors the integrity of our news organization and is best for me professionally and personally.
I will certainly miss hosting, but I will remain part of the ATC team and I look forward to contributing to our show and NPR in new and exciting ways.
My very best,
Michele
 
Again, Michele Norris a well known reporter with a sterling reputation for her work.  And yet, she follows the rules.  She goes out of her way to make sure there is no appearence of a conflict of interest.  She doesn't say, "Oh, well, everybody knows my husband is working on campaigns so since everybody knows, it doesn't matter."  She's a serious journalist who takes her profession seriously.
 
Dow Jones cannot afford the reputation of employing Little Ms. or Mr. Hot Pants who's going to sleep with the source and then possibly cater the news to benefit their lover.  Dow Jones has a reputation to uphold.  Chon probably could have gotten away with what she did -- which wouldn't have made it ethical -- if she'd worked for a different outlet.  But Dow Jones is a considered a trusted name and the reason for that is they don't tolerate unethical reporters.
 
People need to let go of the idea that this is love story or it's a happy ending.  I'm not concerned with whether Chon's found happiness or not.  I'm concerned with the fact that she was the chief reporter on Iraq for the paper in 2008 and she was sleeping with a US government official.  That would be the ultimate embed.  How much did that color what she reported? 
 
I don't know and that's a question that a real news outlet never wants any news consumer to have to ask.  That's why there is a code of ethics.
 
Bonnie Goldstein (Washington Post) wants to talk about the "brutal" confirmation process while, as an aside, noting the e-mails didn't come up in the hearing.  No, they didn't.  As I explained here already, I learned about the e-mails in a senator's office (a senator on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee).  (I overheard a conversation, there was not a leak.)  That was Tuesday afternoon.  The Committee was aware of the e-mails on Tuesday (the day before the hearing), they just weren't aware if they were genuine or not.  (I can say a great deal more about that on the Democratic side but I'll stay silent right now while I wait to see what happens.)  McGurk was fawned over.  In addition, this story should have been all over but it's not.  The Washington Post is covering it.  One of the few papers that is.  CJR has daily blogs and were just posting about 'racy e-mails' last week but they've ignored this story and the ethics involved.  Goldstein writes:
 
 
 
Having read some of the correspondence in an excerpt in the Above the Law blog, I have to say it presents unusual but material evidence of McGurk's qualification to work with the reconstruction team and the Iraqi government.  His sequencing choices notwithstanding, the written correspondence indicates the nominee possesses confidence, sincerity and a lovely sense of humor (a quality I suspect he's needing to call on in great quantities as this painfully personal matter gets sorted out in public ... ).
 
Next time, try reading the e-mails posted, not excerpts and trying paying attention to what you're reading not on how wet it makes you.
 
In the e-mails it is very clear -- and was on Tuesday afternoon when I left the senator's office and pulled up the e-mails on my iPhone.  It wasn't hard, it wasn't difficult.  And maybe next time you should read all of them before weighing in.  Brett McGurk's words are very clear.  Ryan Crocker did not know about the affair.  Whether Crocker wants to take a bullet for him now or not doesn't matter.  It's in writing, Crocker didn't know, McGurk was concealing the affair.  Now he was married and that's one reason he was concealing.  But that doesn't excuse it, it actually adds to more problems because when the government sends you to another country to represent the US, you put your best face forward.  Not your trashy, bootie call face.  But your best face.
 
(Scary thought, what if trolling for women is the best face of Brett McGurk.)
 
It sure is cute to read Bonnie's stupidity and Maressa's as well.  Little girls, grow the hell up and pay attention, we're going to go over it one more time.
 
Iraq is a country.  It's not a mythical place.  People actually live there.  Children are born there.  For children to be born -- pay attention, girls -- women have to be present.
 
The Iraq War has destroyed the rights of women in Iraq.  Now I know, Maressa and Bonnie, that you're both too lazy to have ever attended a hearing in the last year on what the State Dept's doing in Iraq.  But among the excuses they've sent lower-level flunkies in with is that they are working on women's rights.
 
 
Yes, the country that destroyed Iraqi women's rights now will supposedly fix them. 
 
So Bonnie, Maressa, tell me how in a country in which so many males are embracing fundamentalism, in which so-called 'honor' killings regularly take place (women are put to death -- usually by family members -- for so-called crimes against 'honor' -- sex, divorce, being the victim of a rape, etc.), tell me how Iraqi women can comfortably visit the Embassy if Brett McGurk is the Ambassador? 
 
Brett McGurk is all over the Iraqi press.  Kitabat, you name it.  They are covering this story.  No surprise.  And McGurk's got a little reputation now in Iraq.  So tell me please, Bonnie, Maressa, how the hell are Iraqi women going to be served by a US Ambassador they can't be alone with unless they want to risk an honor killing or something more.
 
Let's be really clear, the only males that get killed for these so-called 'honor' killings are ones thought to be gay.  The man that sleeps with a woman or that rapes a woman or that divorces is not put to death.  Just the woman.
 
And you want to tell me that Mr. Can't Keep It In His Pants is the best Iraqi women can hope for?
Bonnie and Maressa, it's time you both woke up and realized that your  little fantasies of romance are something you should save for when you're alone,  Right now you should be focusing on Iraqi women.  No, it won't bring you to orgasm, but less focus on yourself for once in your lives might make you better women.
 
 
Essay topic: What is the connection between thinking and writing?  Short answer: Maressa and Bonnie demonstrate there is none.  They not only ignore the fact that a man who sends out blue balls e-mails to a woman he has not yet slept with probably isn't the one to supervise female employees, they also don't even bother to consider the fate of Iraqi women.  Shame on you both, shame, shame.
 
Here's another tip for those covering it, 'McGurk didn't disclose any classified . . .'  You don't know what he did.  He's never gone on the record about this relationship.  He's avoided the press and it wasn't raised in his hearing.  RT gets it right, "Though the Journal believes that Chon disclosed information on unpublished articles with McGurk, it is not yet clear if he had shared any classified intel with the reporter. " It is not yet clear.  You stumble onto a topic at the last minute, manage to write a few paragraphs and want to pretend like you know what took place when no questions have been asked, let alone answered?  Margaret Carlson writes a column on the topic for Bloomberg here and I'll be kind and leave it at that.  (Tomorrow we may devote several paragraphs to it.)
 
 
 
Today Iraq was slammed with multiple bombings in what's been called the deadliest attack since December 18th (when most US troops left Iraq).  AP offers a timeline of the attacks since thenEmily Buchanan (BBC News -- link is video) notes ten locations in Baghdad alone and that the first bombing struck at five this morning.  In Kirkuk, Buchanan noted, the headquarters of Massoud Barzani's political party was targeted.  (Massoud Barzani is the President of the KRG.  His political party is the Kurdistan Democratic Party.)

Lee Moran (Daily Mail -- link is text, video and photos) reports most of the people targeted in Baghdad were pilgrims while security forces were targeted elsewhere in Iraq.  Kitabat notes that the pilgrims are making the holy journey on the anniversary of the death of Imam Musa al-Kadhim Saturday.   Moran counts 13 bombings across Iraq today.  Alsumaria counts 32 bombings in 8 of Iraq's 18 provinces.  There were also shootings as Mohamad Ali Harissi (AFP) notes, "Gunmen also attacked a house north of Baquba, killing a father and wounding his wife and three children, while a car bomb against a police patrol in the city wounded four people, the [police] colonel said."  Alsumaria notes that Mosul saw a car bombing which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left another and two bystanders injured.  Alsumaria notes the Baghdad bombings included one in the military barracks which injured four soldiers.  In addition, Alsumaria notes 1 Sahwa was killed in an armed attack to the south west of Baquba -- this was a "Daughter of Iraq" (as the female Sahwa are also known).

The Telegraph of London counts 63 dead and notes, "The attacks were the third this week targeting the annual pilgrimage that sees hundreds of thousands of Shiites converge on Baghdad on foot to commemorate the 8th century death of revered Imam Moussa al-Kadhim."  Yes, they were.  And shouldn't someone be noting that, as AP reported early yesterday morning, that Nouri's spokesperson announced he had stepped up security.  He had stepped up security.  Now his plan is to make tomorrow a holiday.  AFP's Prashant Rao re-Tweets his collegue's Tweet on the death toll:
 

Wave of attacks kill 72 people, wound over 250 in #Iraq during Shiite pilgrimage; @AFP journalist wounded by car bomb http://yhoo.it/LU28R0



Haddad Salih (BBC News) observes, "Soon after the attacks, websites of local political parties critical of Shia Prime Minister Nouri Maliki blamed the political crisis in which Iraq has been embroiled for the past few months. But Mr Maliki's State of Law coalition pointed the finger of blame at the recent failure of attempts by the prime minister's rivals to topple him with a vote of no-confidence."  Well Nouri al-Maliki was supposed to appoint a Minister of Defense, Minister of Interiror and Minister of National Security to move from prime minister-designate to prime minister.  He was named prime minister-designate in November 2010.  He was made prime minister in December 2010.  He has still refused to nominate anyone for the posts because this allows him to control them.  So if there's a problem with the violence -- I think most people would agree there was -- that goes to Nouri.  He's the Minister of Defense, he's the Minister of Interior, he's the Minister of National Security.  Why won't he protect the people?  That should be the cry he faces every day.
 
 
Back to the US and the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.  As usual, Kat will cover Ranking Member Richard Burr at her site tonight.  There are other aspects of the hearing that we may cover tomorrow.  If there's interest, we can easily include coverage of the hearing in tomorrow and Friday's snapshot.  We are very limited for space tonight.  So we'll note some of a news release from Committee Chair Patty Murray's office (and we'll note the release in full in tomorrow's snapshot):
 
 
 
Today, under questioning from Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that he has ordered the heads of every branch of the U.S. military to review diagnoses for the invisible wounds of war going back to 2001. The Secretary's announcement comes after Murray worked to spur a similar review by the Army which arose from hundreds of soldiers being misdiagnosed and in many cases accused of faking the symptoms of PTSD at Madigan Army Medical Center in Washington state.
 
"The Pentagon and the VA are losing the battle on mental and behavioral health conditions," Murray told the Secretary at today's hearing. Murray also noted that the Army has already begun a system-wide review saying "This is not just an Army disability evaluation system. This is a joint DOD and VA program covering all of the services. Why has the Department not taken the lead in evaluating and making improvements to this system?"
 
"What I've asked is the other service chiefs to implement the same approach that the Army's taken" Secretary Panetta responded. "…I'm not satisfied either. We're doing everything we can to try to build a better system between the Pentagon, the Department of Defense and VA. But there are still huge gaps in terms of the differences in terms of how they approach these cases and how they diagnose the cases and how they deal with them, and frankly, that's a whole area we have to do much better on."
 
Secretary Panetta indicated that the Pentagon-wide review will be led by the Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness. At the hearing Senator Murray also highlighted the impact that mental health care shortcomings are having pointing to statistics that show that military suicides are outpacing combat deaths.
 
 
 

Posted at 06:49 pm by thecommonills
 


Next Page




<< June 2012 >>
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
 01 02
03 04 05 06 07 08 09
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30


If you want to be updated on this weblog Enter your email here:




rss feed