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The Common Ills


Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Iraq snapshot

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, September 21, 2011.  Chaos and violence continue, Moqtada al-Sadr accuses Nouri of building a dictatorship, Hoshyar Zebari makes Nouri's s**t list, Zebari also says US troops will remain in Iraq in 2012 as trainers, US Senator Jon Tester calls on Barack to remove all US troops (beyond those that guard the embassy) from Iraq at the end of this year, the Veterans Affair Committees in the House and Senate hold a joint-hearing, and more.
 
"As many of you know," declared Senator Patty Murray today, "my father was a World War II disabled veteran who was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds he suffered during the invasion of Okinawa. I grew up watching his struggles with the knowledge that he had sacrificed for our nation and that he asked very little in return. Then later in my life -- during college -- I worked as an intern in the Seattle VA hospital, providing physical therapy to Vietnam veterans who came home with the visible and invisible wounds of war.  Those personal experiences have given me not only a very real understanding of the consequences of sending our service members into combat, but also a sense of the obligation we have to care for them when they return."  Murray was speaking this morning in DC at a joint-hearing held by the Senate and House's Veterans Affairs Committees.  Murray is Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, US House Rep Jeff Miller is the Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.  The primary witness appearing before them was the American Legion's National Commander Fang Wong.  Also appearing were the American Legion's Tim Tetz, Michael Helm, Verna Jones and Daniel Dellinger. Helm addressed proposed post office closings when asked (and Ava will be cover that Trina's site tonight).
 
Wong testified that the American Legion strongly opposes the recommendation that premiums for TRICARE be increased.  He reminded that US President Barack Obama spoke to the American Legion last month at their 93rd Annual National Convention and swore "that the budget would not be balanced on the backs of veterans."  Wong noted that this promise would be broken if TRICARE premiums were increased -- as the proposal Barack presented to the nation on Monday recommended --  for military retirees because "military retirees are veterans." 
 
In an exchange with US House Rep Timothy Walz, Wong called out reports and reporters who referred to "medical and retirement benefits earned by military personnel as social welfare.  I resent that. We're not here looking for handouts. We earned those rights and you folks should protect those rights."  On employment, he noted that the government says 'Hire veterans, hire veterans!' to private industry; however, approximately 80% of all veterans who now work in the federal government work can be found in the Dept of Defense, the Dept of Veterans Affairs or Homeland Security.
 
US House Rep Silvestre Reyes noted the "tough budget times" the US is in "but like you [Wong], I feel we should take care of the veterans first and foremost" and he then noted he had "signed on" to a piece of legislation on veterans identification cards, a piece of legislation he felt had good intent, but now  he's found out that "there's a proposal to charge the veteran for that identification card. I don't agree with that." Wong went with a joke instead of addressing the issue.  He had many laughing out loud (proposing Congress mandate that all veterans join the American Legion).  But maybe addressing the issue, even only in a "I personally think . .  ." manner would have done a better job of representing veterans' interest?
 
From the hearing, we'll excerpt this section.
 
Senate Committee Chair Patty Murray:  I really appreciate your attention and focus on the employment of our returning heroes and I know Chairman Miller and I are both working on this. I wanted to ask you, you mentioned mandatory TAP and of course seemless transition.  Do you hear a lot from your membership about the lack of certifcations service members receive? That their resumes don't show the true breadth of their skills they have learned in the military?
 
Fang Wong: Madame Chairman, I was fortunate to serve on the Department of Labor Advisory Committee for a couple of years and at that particular period of time TAP was one of our major concerns. We actually conducted field trips by the committee members to various military installations to see how it worked.  And what we find -- this is a couple of years back -- at that time was that TAPS really needs some standardization and repackaging because we find that depending on what installation and service that you attend, they - they do different things. The - the instructions presented were really outdated and the things that they stressed mostly, perhaps it's not really close to what the service member really needs.  There were some service that required mandatory -- I believe the Marines Corps is the only service that requires mandatory training.  A lot of the other posts?  I went to Fort [. . ] the Army post and basically it's open, you should come; however, if you're not there, it's okay. That type of atmosphere.  The committee I served with, we spent a lot of time studying that and we make a lot of recommendations to the Secretary and I guess to Congress that we should do something with TAP and get some standardization because we find out from a lot of success stories of service members that we have opportunity to interview and talk to that TAP, if used properly, actually helped them prepare.  The thing about that is when we take in inductees and volunteers into the service now days, DoD and the government, we, the tax payers, spend millions and millions of dollars to train them to be a professional soldier. And when the time for them to change the uniform and go back to the civilian world, perhaps we're not spending nearly as [much] time or attention to prepare them back to the civilian world where they could seamlessly go back to a normal life. Of course, you know anybody that ever served in the service, especially those great men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, nothing will ever again be normal when they go back to their world.  But we should do what we can to prepare them and make sure that they get the benefit. And a lot of time, with TAP, I beliee we were not providing the opportunity or providing the tools where they could easily equate what they performed, what they were trained in the military as to what's out there in the civilian world for them.  And the civilians license and agency, the certification agency, they're throwing -- I'm not saying they're bad but they're throwing road blocks up there and saying that unless you are getting this piece of paper, you're not qualified. You know, when we -- when we entrust 18, 19, 20 year-old young men and woman that volunteer to serve for our freedom, we entrust them operating machines, planes, tanks that cost millions, million, millions dollar, how can we tell them that you're not qualifed?  We have to understand one thing, when the government trained this particular individaul, he or she, to me, is the most disciplined, most learnable most qualified individual because one thing that we need to understand: They love this country. That's why they serve. And we owe it to them that we do everything we can to make sure they will have a good job, they will have a good career.
 
Senate Committee Chair Patty Murray: Thank you, I really appreciate that. I have a number of other questions but we have a lot of members here so I'm going to turn it over to Chairman Miller.
 
House Committee Chair Jeff Miller: If I could just follow on with the TAP issue, Friday I was the reviewing official at Paris Island, the end of 13 grueling weeks I'm sure for some young Marines, very grueling, right? It's my belief and I want to know if you share the same belief and you talked about TAP needign to be revamped and changed, 13 weeks to make a Marine or the other boot camps, I mean I don't -- I don't think that just having them in classroom for a day or two or however long the TAP program is enough. Do you think there's a way that we can convince DoD to give a substantial amount of time at the end of the service and I know that service member is focused on really one thing and that is reuniting with their family, getting on with their life. But this TAP program is so important to that individual to prepare them for that transition. And I'd like to know what you and the Legion think about the possibility of making it a not only mandatory but a longer program?
 
Fang Wong:  Mr. Chairman, maybe we're talking about two separate issues here. We were looking at TAP. Tap basically, they were provided to members separating from the service. And most of the time it happens at an installation. And you're right,  the members will go there for maybe a week and TAP is maybe part of that one week transistion, training or orientation.  What we learned, again, I refer back to the administriaton or the committee, and what we learned in a lot of institutions, they will provide the TAP training a lot sooner anybody who wants can sign up for it as then that way they can get the basic information.  And then, as they're getting close to the separation day or the retirement day, they will be reinvited back.  By that time, they will have the time in between to learn or figure out what he really needs or what she really needs, and able to ask some more direct questions or recieve more direct help from the instructor. And that when we interviewed some of the recently separated members, they indicated that helps a lot whereas you cram in one day, half a day and the end and the service members have a lot more on their mind to worry about that they don't have time to sit down and allow that to sink in and realize how important in preparing the resume and preparing himself or herself to be interviewed and that may not be the top priority of them.  So give them an opportunity to come back.  And so we do it sooner and then give them the opportunity to come back, I think that would be more helpful. The other scenario I can see is like when we are moving soldiers back from the war zone, a lot of them, we let them go home real quick. And they may still have service obligation left, but we release them and there's different opinions about how do we separate them? We ask questions: Are you okay, do feel anything different? Things like that. And we have to bear in mind, when you're young, you serve and you're away from your loved ones for a  long tif that is the only gate or opportunity that stands between you and your family, I'll bet 99% of the time, that soldier will say, "No, no, no. I just want to be with my family." And so I don't know how to fix it. I don't know whether we should keep them a little bit longer or make it mandatory but that is something we need to look forward to.
 
At the end of the hearing, Mark Begich used his time to note that Alaska has 77,000 veterans which he stated was the highest per capita of any state.
 
 
Turning to Iraq where there's a new president, Tareq al-Hashimi.  Actually, Dar Addustour explains, the Sunni vice president is actually the acting president while President Jalal Talabani is in New York attending the United Nations General Assembly. Though the president may have (temporarily) changed, Nouri and Political Stalemate II remain the same. 
 
Starting with Nouri and his petty nature, yesterday's snapshot noted that MP Sabah al-Saadi was denying there was an arrest warrant sworn out against him and he was stating that Nouri al-Maliki was targeting him, that Nouri was deliberately keeping the three security ministries vacant in an attempt to seize more power and that Nouri was willing "to sell Iraq to maintain his hold on power." The situation continues to develop.  Al Rafidayn reports that the Parliament received an arrest warrant for al-Saadi yesterday and the charges are threatening national sovereignty and integrity."  They also remind that al-Saadi previously lodged the accusation that Nouri had forced Judge Rahim al-Ugeily out as Chair of the Integrity Commission.  These are not separate stories.  Nouri filed a complaint against him for those charges.  Making those charges, Nouri insists, threatened national sovereignty and integrity. Nouri is demanding that parliamentary immunity be lifted. 
 
The story doesn't end there.  al-Saadi held a press conference.  Al Mada reports that the press conference revolved around a document which revealed a plan to kill a number of members of Parliament "including me personally" as well as journalists and tribal chiefs.  Numerous people have received the document including the Ministry of the Interior and security officials in various provinces; however, no one informed al-Saadi of the threat against his life.  Dar Addustour notes that any such vote on lifting al-Saadi's immunity has been pushed back to Monday.  Among those criticizing Nouri's move?  Moqtada al-Sadr.  Aswat al-Iraq quotes al-Sadr stating that the warrant is part of "building a new dictatorship" and "we suggest to Premier Maliki to stop these moves for the Iraqi reputation, because political action is build on partnership, not demotion."
 
And who he can't swear out a warrant on, he still manages to attack.  Salah Nasrawi (Al-Ahram Weekly) reports Nouri is allegedly gunning for the Kurd serving as Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari:
 
Last Tuesday, the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper quoted Yassin Majeed, a close aide to Al-Maliki, as saying that the Iraqi prime minister had threatened to fire Zebari "if he does not improve his ministry's performance."
In addition to accusations of mismanagement and a lack of inter-agency communication and coordination, critics say that the Foreign Ministry is plagued by corruption, cronyism and nepotism.
Iraqi media outlets thrive on reports of corruption inside the ministry and at Iraqi embassies abroad, the latter having acted as channels for hundreds of millions of dollars intended for rehabilitation work in Iraq.
Little has been done to investigate the allegations.
 
 
Meanwhile Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reports that KRG President Massoud Barzani has declared that a few words and airy promises are not enough to resolve the conflict between the KRG and the centeral government out of Baghdad and that he sent a letter to Nouri al-Maliki informing him of that. The disputed issues remain Nouri al-Maliki's failure to implement the Erbil Agreement, Nouri's proposed oil and gas bill and the failure to implement Article 140 of the Constitution which resolves the disputed Kirkuk region.
 
Still on the topic of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the government of Turkey is boasting of another round of carpet bombing today on northern Iraq. AP reports that in addition to carpet bombing the region, the government is using Heron drones to track movement (those drones supplied by the Israeli government) and intelligence passed on by the US government which the US government obtained via "U.S.-operated Predator drones". World Bulletin notes the Turkish boast of hitting "152 targets" since the bombings began on August 17th. The Times of Oman reports, "Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has submitted a list of requests for help from the United States to counter Kurdish separatists, Anatolia news agency said Wednesday." And Erdogan's quoted stating his belief that it will be no problem for Turkey to get those predator drones from the US it requested last week.
 
Turning to other violence, Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing left two people injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer, an attack on a Baghdad cell phone store in which the owner was killed, an attack on a Baghdad supermarket in which the owner was killed, a Udhaim roadside bombing which claimed the lives of 2 police officers, a Kirkuk sticky bombing which injured two people, a Baaj home invasion which killed a police officer and a Balad Ruz mass grave with 27 corpses.
 
What of any request for US forces to remain in Iraq beyond 2011?   Yochi J. Dreazen (National Journal) reports on the negotiations and observes differences in the two governments:


A senior Maliki aide, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the internal discussions, said the premier believed Iraq needed a minimal number of American troops to remain here past the end of the year.
But the aide said Maliki was unlikely to make a formal request unless he has clearer political support from the country's other major parties. So far, only the main Kurdish bloc has been willing to publicly call for extending the American troop presence, with Massoud Barzani, the head of the quasi-independent Kurdish Regional Government, warning a few days ago that a full withdrawal risked triggering a new "civil war" here.
American officials say the Iraqis seem to be playing out the clock. The officials said the U.S. hasn't discussed any specific troop numbers with the Iraqis, and cautioned that the discussions between the two countries have yet to even address basic issues like what specific missions would be entrusted to the holdover American troops.

Lara Jakes (AP) reports Hussain al-Shahristani, a deputy prime minister for energy (and so trusted by Nouri that he made him acting Minister of Electricity after Nouri forced out the Minister), declared that until Iraq passes its budget, they can't take up the issue of "how many troops would be asked to stay, or what exactly they will be doing".  Aswat al-Iraq adds that US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey and Iraq's Shi'ite vice president, Khaudair al-Khuza'i, spoke today about withdrawal and training needs ofr Iraq's forces. But Hoshyar Zebair tells Alistair Lyon (Reuters) today, "Definitely we as a country need these trainer and experts to help and support the Iraqi security capabilities." He states a training agreement will happen but an extension of the SOFA will not.  Even if he's wrong, Michael Tennant (New American) adds:

The last remaining troops are scheduled to leave Iraq by December 31, though the Obama administration has been working hard to ensure that some residual force remains -- anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 troops. But while the official military presence is declining, the number of embassy personnel is set to double to 16,000, about half of whom will be security forces. The State Department will have 5,000 security contractors comprising a private army under the command of the Secretary of State. Meanwhile, the Office of Security Cooperation will get 3,000 armed guards to protect the office's personnel as they enrich U.S. defense contractors to the tune of "an estimated $13 billion in pending U.S. arms sales, including tanks, squadrons of attack helicopters and 36 F-16s," Froomkin reports.

The United States will also have two consulates in Iraq besides the Baghdad embassy, and it plans to have over 1,000 staffers at each consulate. Froomkin argues that "the diplomatic corps" has already taken a "substantial" hit from the staffing of the embassy; adding 2,000 more personnel at the consulates cannot help matters any. Then again, a government whose slogan is "You're either with us or against us" -- a situation that has changed little since Obama took office -- hardly has much use for diplomats, who are trained to negotiate. Anyone can deliver an ultimatum.
 
.
In the US, Dennis Bragg (KPAX) reports  Senator Jon Tester delivered a statement on the Senate floor yesterday calling for the White House to stick to the Status Of Forces Agreement and withdraw all US troops at the end of this year. We'll note this press release from the senator's office:


Tester calls for removal of U.S. troops from Iraq by year's end
Senator: 'Let's end this war for good' by December 31 as planned

Tuesday, September 20, 2011
(U.S. SENATE) -- U.S. Senator Jon Tester today delivered a clear message to Congress and President Obama: America's troops should leave Iraq by December 31 of this year as planned.
Speaking on the floor of the Senate, Tester praised the hundreds of thousands of American troops who "never faltered" and "provided security and Democracy to a nation that had never known it."
"Iraq now has the tools it needs to secure its people and its economy," Tester said. "Iraq's new leaders must solve their problems for their own people. Keeping thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq would needlessly put them in more danger. It would cost American taxpayers more money. And it would further distract us from our core national security objectives of protecting American citizens and further dismantling al-Qaeda and other terrorists groups."
In a letter sent today to President Obama, Tester said U.S. troops "should not be in Iraq one minute more than is necessary."
The Status of Forces Agreement signed by President Bush and the Iraqi government calls for withdrawing Operation New Dawn troops from Iraq by year's end. Although there has been no official announcement, recent news reports suggest the possibility of keeping several thousand U.S. troops in Iraq past the December 31 deadline.
"We cannot afford moving the goal post," Tester told his colleagues today.
"Across Montana, and this nation, people are saying: Come home now."
Tester said U.S. Marines should continue to guard America's embassies, and that the U.S. should maintain a "strong diplomatic presence" in Iraq.
Tester noted that between his first visit to Iraq in 2007 and his second visit earlier this year, Iraq's leaders were "finally moving forward after too many wasted years, too many wasted dollars and too many lives lost."
Tester said the progress is largely due to the fact that "Iraqis were told in no uncertain terms that the United States was leaving," which "galvanized Iraqi politicians to take control of their own country."
"Since 2003, our nation has sent hundreds of thousands of other young men and women to fight in Iraq," Tester said. "We have done so at an enormous cost: 4,474 Americans have given their lives. More than 32,000 have been wounded. And we can't put a number on those who suffer from injuries unseen."
Tester also noted that "the price tag of this war that was put on our children" is approaching $1 trillion.
Tester, a member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, praised efforts to help Iraq veterans transition back to civilian life, such as the Montana National Guard's Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Program.
"I will do my best to make sure we keep up our end of the bargain," Tester said. "Whether it's a college education, health care or compensation for an injury suffered on the field of battle, we will honor our commitment to our heroes."

Tester's floor speech appears below.

Tester's letter to President Obama is online HERE.

###

Floor Remarks
U.S. Senator Jon Tester
September 20, 2011

PREPARED FOR DELIVERY.

Mr. President, during a trip to Baghdad this past January, I had an opportunity to meet with several members of the Montana National Guard's 163rd Combined Arms Battalion.
That day, I told them that I was proud of each and every one of them, from unit commander Lieutenant Colonel T.J. Hull and Sergeant Major John Wood on down the line.
Through courageous service to our country, they were making tremendous sacrifices on our behalf. And they were representing the very best of Montana.
This month, these folks have been coming back to Montana from their demobilizing station in Washington state. Today, I join their families, their friends and their neighbors in welcoming the last group of these citizen soldiers back to Montana. Job well done, soldiers.
And thank you.
For nearly a year, these 600 Montanans served in some of the harshest conditions imaginable -- escorting numerous convoys across dangerous terrain and conducting other critical security missions throughout Iraq.
At one point over the last 12 months, this unit accounted for more than half of Montana's best and brightest serving overseas.
They gave up the comforts of their families, their homes, and their communities to bring stability to a nation on the other side of the world. Through it all, they showed courage in difficult times. They remained strong. And they were always in our thoughts and prayers.
Now that they're home, it is our duty to continue our support by providing the benefits, quality care and services they need as they transition back to their families, their jobs and their communities.
Many Iraq veterans make that transition with success, coming home to good jobs and welcoming communities.
But for others -- making that transition is no easy task.
It's no secret that there is a potential for higher rates of substance abuse. Higher divorce rates. Higher unemployment rates. The effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury can impact entire families.
Thankfully, veterans often look after each other. We should recognize the important role of America's Veterans' Service Organizations, and their willingness to help with that transition.
Montana was one of the first states in the nation to adopt the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Program. It involves entire families of National Guard soldiers and airmen, preparing them for the changes that come before, during and after a deployment. The Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Program is a success. And I'm pleased that in the last Congress, my colleagues gave all states the resources to implement it.
Furthermore, I will do my best to make sure we keep up our end of the bargain. Whether it's a college education, health care or compensation for an injury suffered on the field of battle, we will honor our commitment to our heroes.
We make this promise to the men and women of the 163rd -- and to the Montanans who make up the many other units of the Montana National Guard that were deployed this year, and to the folks who are part of Montana's RED HORSE squadron now in Afghanistan.
To our Reservists and to the folks serving in the active duty military today, we make the same commitment.
Even as we make this commitment, many folks in Montana are wondering what should happen next in Iraq.
Since 2003, our nation has sent hundreds of thousands of young men and women to fight in Iraq. We have done so at an enormous cost: 4,474 Americans have given their lives. More than 32,000 have been wounded. And we can't put a number on those who suffer from injuries unseen.
And let's not forget, the price tag of this war that was put on our children is quickly approaching $1 trillion. And then there's tens of billions of dollars in waste and fraud.
Mr. President, the war in Iraq started with political leaders who had their own agenda. They went there looking for weapons that never existed. But through it all, the professionalism of our military never faltered. They provided security and democracy to a nation that had never known it.
But for far too long, Iraqi politicians did nothing to secure their own future. I first went to Iraq in 2007 and returned there again this January. I was struck by how much had changed in those four years. Iraq was finally moving forward after too many wasted years, too many wasted dollars and too many lives lost.
There are many reasons for the change. The improved security from our military and the training provided by our troops played a big role. But American diplomats and military leaders told me that the biggest reason for progress in Iraq was this:
The Iraqis were told in no uncertain terms that the United States was leaving. Our military presence would end on December 31 of this year.
That, Mr. President, was what galvanized Iraqi politicians to take control of their own country.
Today, I am sending a letter to the President calling on him to stand by his commitment to pull all U.S. Operation New Dawn troops out of Iraq by the end of this year. We should bring the last of them home on schedule.
U.S. Marines will still guard our embassies as they always have. And we will still maintain a strong diplomatic presence in Iraq.
Despite this year's deadline, I know there's talk of possibly keeping a sizeable force of U.S. troops in Iraq into next year. If that's the case, it's not good enough.
We cannot afford moving the goal post. Across Montana, and this nation, people are saying: Come home now.
I know that sectarian violence in Iraq will continue. But we should not be asking American troops to referee a centuries-old civil war. That conflict is likely to continue into the distant future regardless of our presence.
Iraq now has the tools it needs to secure its people and its economy. Iraq's new leaders must solve their problems for their own people.
Keeping thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq would needlessly put them in more danger. It would cost American taxpayers more money.
And it would further distract us from our core national security objectives of protecting American citizens and further dismantling al-Qaeda and other terrorists groups.
That's where our focus needs to be. And that's why I'm saying: "Let's end this war for good."
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
 
 

Posted at 04:49 pm by thecommonills
 

Senator Tester calls for all US troops out of Iraq

Senator Tester calls for all US troops out of Iraq

Dennis Bragg (KPAX) reports US Senator Jon Tester delivered a statement on the Senate floor yesterday calling for the White House to stick to the Status Of Forces Agreement and withdraw all US troops at the end of this year. We'll note this press release from the senator's office:


Tester calls for removal of U.S. troops from Iraq by year’s end
Senator: ‘Let’s end this war for good’ by December 31 as planned

Tuesday, September 20, 2011



(U.S. SENATE) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester today delivered a clear message to Congress and President Obama: America’s troops should leave Iraq by December 31 of this year as planned.
Speaking on the floor of the Senate, Tester praised the hundreds of thousands of American troops who “never faltered” and “provided security and Democracy to a nation that had never known it.”

“Iraq now has the tools it needs to secure its people and its economy,” Tester said. “Iraq’s new leaders must solve their problems for their own people. Keeping thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq would needlessly put them in more danger. It would cost American taxpayers more money. And it would further distract us from our core national security objectives of protecting American citizens and further dismantling al-Qaeda and other terrorists groups.”

In a letter sent today to President Obama, Tester said U.S. troops “should not be in Iraq one minute more than is necessary.”

The Status of Forces Agreement signed by President Bush and the Iraqi government calls for withdrawing Operation New Dawn troops from Iraq by year’s end. Although there has been no official announcement, recent news reports suggest the possibility of keeping several thousand U.S. troops in Iraq past the December 31 deadline.

“We cannot afford moving the goal post,” Tester told his colleagues today. “Across Montana, and this nation, people are saying: Come home now.”

Tester said U.S. Marines should continue to guard America’s embassies, and that the U.S. should maintain a “strong diplomatic presence” in Iraq.

Tester noted that between his first visit to Iraq in 2007 and his second visit earlier this year, Iraq’s leaders were “finally moving forward after too many wasted years, too many wasted dollars and too many lives lost.”

Tester said the progress is largely due to the fact that “Iraqis were told in no uncertain terms that the United States was leaving,” which “galvanized Iraqi politicians to take control of their own country.”

“Since 2003, our nation has sent hundreds of thousands of other young men and women to fight in Iraq,” Tester said. “We have done so at an enormous cost: 4,474 Americans have given their lives. More than 32,000 have been wounded. And we can’t put a number on those who suffer from injuries unseen.”

Tester also noted that “the price tag of this war that was put on our children” is approaching $1 trillion.

Tester, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, praised efforts to help Iraq veterans transition back to civilian life, such as the Montana National Guard’s Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Program.

“I will do my best to make sure we keep up our end of the bargain,” Tester said. “Whether it’s a college education, health care or compensation for an injury suffered on the field of battle, we will honor our commitment to our heroes.”

Tester’s floor speech appears below.

Tester’s letter to President Obama is online HERE.

###

Floor Remarks
U.S. Senator Jon Tester
September 20, 2011

PREPARED FOR DELIVERY.

Mr. President, during a trip to Baghdad this past January, I had an opportunity to meet with several members of the Montana National Guard's 163rd Combined Arms Battalion.

That day, I told them that I was proud of each and every one of them, from unit commander Lieutenant Colonel T.J. Hull and Sergeant Major John Wood on down the line.

Through courageous service to our country, they were making tremendous sacrifices on our behalf. And they were representing the very best of Montana.

This month, these folks have been coming back to Montana from their demobilizing station in Washington state. Today, I join their families, their friends and their neighbors in welcoming the last group of these citizen soldiers back to Montana. Job well done, soldiers.

And thank you.

For nearly a year, these 600 Montanans served in some of the harshest conditions imaginable – escorting numerous convoys across dangerous terrain and conducting other critical security missions throughout Iraq.

At one point over the last 12 months, this unit accounted for more than half of Montana’s best and brightest serving overseas.

They gave up the comforts of their families, their homes, and their communities to bring stability to a nation on the other side of the world. Through it all, they showed courage in difficult times. They remained strong. And they were always in our thoughts and prayers.

Now that they’re home, it is our duty to continue our support by providing the benefits, quality care and services they need as they transition back to their families, their jobs and their communities.

Many Iraq veterans make that transition with success, coming home to good jobs and welcoming communities.

But for others – making that transition is no easy task.

It’s no secret that there is a potential for higher rates of substance abuse. Higher divorce rates. Higher unemployment rates. The effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury can impact entire families.

Thankfully, veterans often look after each other. We should recognize the important role of America’s Veterans’ Service Organizations, and their willingness to help with that transition.

Montana was one of the first states in the nation to adopt the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Program. It involves entire families of National Guard soldiers and airmen, preparing them for the changes that come before, during and after a deployment. The Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Program is a success. And I’m pleased that in the last Congress, my colleagues gave all states the resources to implement it.

Furthermore, I will do my best to make sure we keep up our end of the bargain. Whether it’s a college education, health care or compensation for an injury suffered on the field of battle, we will honor our commitment to our heroes.

We make this promise to the men and women of the 163rd – and to the Montanans who make up the many other units of the Montana National Guard that were deployed this year, and to the folks who are part of Montana’s RED HORSE squadron now in Afghanistan.

To our Reservists and to the folks serving in the active duty military today, we make the same commitment.

Even as we make this commitment, many folks in Montana are wondering what should happen next in Iraq.

Since 2003, our nation has sent hundreds of thousands of young men and women to fight in Iraq. We have done so at an enormous cost: 4,474 Americans have given their lives. More than 32,000 have been wounded. And we can’t put a number on those who suffer from injuries unseen.

And let’s not forget, the price tag of this war that was put on our children is quickly approaching $1 trillion. And then there’s tens of billions of dollars in waste and fraud.

Mr. President, the war in Iraq started with political leaders who had their own agenda. They went there looking for weapons that never existed. But through it all, the professionalism of our military never faltered. They provided security and democracy to a nation that had never known it.

But for far too long, Iraqi politicians did nothing to secure their own future. I first went to Iraq in 2007 and returned there again this January. I was struck by how much had changed in those four years. Iraq was finally moving forward after too many wasted years, too many wasted dollars and too many lives lost.

There are many reasons for the change. The improved security from our military and the training provided by our troops played a big role. But American diplomats and military leaders told me that the biggest reason for progress in Iraq was this:

The Iraqis were told in no uncertain terms that the United States was leaving. Our military presence would end on December 31 of this year.

That, Mr. President, was what galvanized Iraqi politicians to take control of their own country.

Today, I am sending a letter to the President calling on him to stand by his commitment to pull all U.S. Operation New Dawn troops out of Iraq by the end of this year. We should bring the last of them home on schedule.

U.S. Marines will still guard our embassies as they always have. And we will still maintain a strong diplomatic presence in Iraq.

Despite this year’s deadline, I know there’s talk of possibly keeping a sizeable force of U.S. troops in Iraq into next year. If that’s the case, it’s not good enough.

We cannot afford moving the goal post. Across Montana, and this nation, people are saying: Come home now.

I know that sectarian violence in Iraq will continue. But we should not be asking American troops to referee a centuries-old civil war. That conflict is likely to continue into the distant future regardless of our presence.

Iraq now has the tools it needs to secure its people and its economy. Iraq’s new leaders must solve their problems for their own people.

Keeping thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq would needlessly put them in more danger. It would cost American taxpayers more money.

And it would further distract us from our core national security objectives of protecting American citizens and further dismantling al-Qaeda and other terrorists groups.

That’s where our focus needs to be. And that’s why I’m saying: “Let’s end this war for good.”

Mr. President, I yield the floor.


That statement should be in the snapshot today in full. There's already a great deal going on today and it may not make it in full. If it doesn't, we'll include it in Thursday's. Yochi J. Dreazen (National Journal) reports on the negotiations and observes differences in the two governments:


A senior Maliki aide, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the internal discussions, said the premier believed Iraq needed a minimal number of American troops to remain here past the end of the year.
But the aide said Maliki was unlikely to make a formal request unless he has clearer political support from the country's other major parties. So far, only the main Kurdish bloc has been willing to publicly call for extending the American troop presence, with Massoud Barzani, the head of the quasi-independent Kurdish Regional Government, warning a few days ago that a full withdrawal risked triggering a new "civil war" here.
American officials say the Iraqis seem to be playing out the clock. The officials said the U.S. hasn't discussed any specific troop numbers with the Iraqis, and cautioned that the discussions between the two countries have yet to even address basic issues like what specific missions would be entrusted to the holdover American troops.


Michael Tennant (New American) adds:

The last remaining troops are scheduled to leave Iraq by December 31, though the Obama administration has been working hard to ensure that some residual force remains — anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 troops. But while the official military presence is declining, the number of embassy personnel is set to double to 16,000, about half of whom will be security forces. The State Department will have 5,000 security contractors comprising a private army under the command of the Secretary of State. Meanwhile, the Office of Security Cooperation will get 3,000 armed guards to protect the office’s personnel as they enrich U.S. defense contractors to the tune of “an estimated $13 billion in pending U.S. arms sales, including tanks, squadrons of attack helicopters and 36 F-16s,” Froomkin reports.

The United States will also have two consulates in Iraq besides the Baghdad embassy, and it plans to have over 1,000 staffers at each consulate. Froomkin argues that “the diplomatic corps” has already taken a “substantial” hit from the staffing of the embassy; adding 2,000 more personnel at the consulates cannot help matters any. Then again, a government whose slogan is “You’re either with us or against us” — a situation that has changed little since Obama took office — hardly has much use for diplomats, who are trained to negotiate. Anyone can deliver an ultimatum.
Meanwhile Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reports that KRG President Massoud Barzani has declared that a few words and airy promises are not enough to resolve the conflict between the KRG and the centeral government out of Baghdad and that he sent a letter to Nouri al-Maliki informing him of that. The disputed issues remain Nouri al-Maliki's failure to implement the Erbil Agreement, Nouri's proposed oil and gas bill and the failure to implement Article 140 of the Constitution which resolves the disputed Kirkuk region.


We'll cover more in the snapshot, I'm rushing this morning, sorry.



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









Posted at 05:59 am by thecommonills
 

The fallen and Turkey continues bombings

The fallen and Turkey continues bombings

Monday media accounts identified Estevan Altamirano as the US soldier who died Sunday in Iraq. Gail Burkhard (Monitor) speaks with his widow, Pamela Altamirano, who states his gunn -- "a .50 caliber machine gun" -- apparently accidentally went off while he was cleaning it due to some malfunction. She also notes he was on his fourth tour of Iraq. From the article:

The sergeant had two sons from his first marriage and a daughter and two stepdaughters with Pamela Altamirano.
His wife remembers asking her husband not to go to Iraq again. The sergeant had back, ankle and knee injuries from his past tours in Iraq, she said.

She tells Melissa Correa (KRGV), "He showed me how to appreciate life. He changed my world forever." Lynn Brezosky (San Antonio Express-News) quotes his sister Loreda Altamirano explaining, "He was funny, he was positive, always thinking positive. He loved what he would do, never let any of his military men down." Stephanie Bertini (KRGV) speaks with his high school Spanish teacher Juventino Segundo:

He describes Altamirano as a quiet, bright and well-behaved student. He says he's one of the most successful alumni this school has seen.
Altamirano graduated from back in 1999. Segundo says Altamirano came to visit him in a uniform shortly after, but the Spanish teacher says he knew that young man’s future was with the military long before that visit. He says he had the makings of a true soldier.
"He didn't put any barriers. He always followed through. I remember him clearly in his uniform because I know he was ROTC," says Segundo.

Meanwhile there's nothing from the governor's office. If running his national campaign is too much for him already, maybe Rick Perry to throw in the towel? Texas is a state that's already lost over 400 residents in the Iraq War. When the media identified the fallen, the governor's office should have issued a statement. It's two days after, where's the statement? Perry made a point to speak to Time magazine about the Iraq War last week. If those weren't just words tossed out in a political campaign, his office needs to issue a statement on the passing of Estevan Altamirano.

And I am a Democrat, yes, but only if you're new here will you think that's the first time I've called out a governor for failure to make the announcements necessary. With Perry, it's the first time I've called out a sitting governor seeking national office. I really don't care who anyone votes for, the reason he's being called out is because Texas is one of the hardest hit states when it comes to deaths in the Iraq War and Perry's been in place as governor long enough to know the drill on what you do when one your residents dies in the war.

Meanwhile the government of Turkey is boasting of another round of carpet bombing today on northern Iraq. AP reports that in addition to carpet bombing the region, the government is using Heron drones to track movement (those drones supplied by the Israeli government) and intelligence passed on by the US government which the US government obtained via "U.S.-operated Predator drones". World Bulletin notes the Turkish boast of hitting "152 targets" since the bombings began on August 17th. The Times of Oman reports, "Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has submitted a list of requests for help from the United States to counter Kurdish separatists, Anatolia news agency said Wednesday." And Erdogan's quoted stating his belief that it will be no problem for Turkey to get those predator drones from the US it requested last week. For an overview of the historical issues at play today, you can read this piece by Moign Khawaja for the Palestine Telegraph.


All of the following except Third updated last night or this morning despite Blogger/Blogspot not reading them:




David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. We'll close with this

This Camera Fights Fascism:
The Photographs of David Bacon and Francisco Dominguez

de Saisset Museum at Santa Clara University
Santa Clara, CA
July 29 - December 4, 2011 and January 14 - February 5, 2012
Tuesday - Sunday 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Opening Thursday, September 22nd, 6PM




David Bacon and Francisco Dominguez have both followed in the tradition of Depression-era photographers such as Dorothea Lange, focusing their cameras on struggle, dissent, immigrants, and workers. Their photographs speak to the global character of contemporary migration. Like the so-called Okies of the Depression, many of today's migrants have been displaced by environmental degradation and wider economic forces.

The title of this exhibition refers to a sign that 1930s folk musician Woody Guthrie often had on his guitar, "This Machine Kills Fascists." These two photographers build a powerful body of visual evidence of the continuing struggle of workers, migrants, and poor people to survive. In this exhibition the photographers responded to images by Dorothea Lange and selected photographs from their own work that draw close connections between the 1930s and today.
David Bacon is a photojournalist who has documented the movements of farm workers, social protest from Iraq and Mexico to the U.S., and the migration of people. He is the author of several books, and many of the images in this show are from Communities Without Borders, Images and Words from the World of Migration.

Francisco Dominguez is a photographer and printmaker. His parents both were farm workers. He documents the struggles of indigenous, immigrant, and poor people in black and white photography.

- Art Hazelwood, Guest Curator

To view the slide show please go to:

This exhibition is taking place at the museum simultaneously with
Hobos to Street People: Artists' Responses to Homelessness from the New Deal to the Present
and
Between Struggle and Hope: Envisioning a Democratic Art in the 1930s
July 29 - December 4, 2011
also curated by Art Hazelwood

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













Posted at 05:19 am by thecommonills
 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Iraq snapshot

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, September 20, 2011.  Chaos and violence continue, Political Stalemate II continues, the return of the Accountability and Justice Committee, suicide bombers target Ramadi, a historic day in the US and more.
 
Wang Guanqun (Xinhua) reports, "Three suicide bombers almost simultaneously blew up their explosive vests outside the provincial council compound and nearby police headquarters in centeral Ramadi" according to police source. KUNA notes, "The complex has been a target for assailants for quite some time now, with attacks on it leading to dozens of deaths and injuries."   Fadhel al-Badrani, Waleed Ibrahim, Aseel Kami, Jim Loney and Myra MacDonald (Reuters) add there were two in vests and 1 in a car and that in addition to the bombers taking their own lives, they also killed 2 people and left fifteen injured. Petra also reports 2 suicide bombers on foot and one in a car.  AFP quotes an unnamed Iraqi military officer who declares, "Three bombs targeted the building of the Anbar provincial government in the centre of Ramadi. The car bomb exploded near the eastern entrance leading to the government offices. Seven minutes later, two suicide bombers wearing explosive belts blew themselves up at the western entrances to the offices."  CNN counts 4 dead and eighteen injured and states all were police officers; however, Press TV says Anbar Province official Khalid Shandoukh al-Alwani is among the dead. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) explains al-Alwani was a Sahwa leader Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) adds the detail that the two bombers on foot were wearing security forces uniforms. Uthman al-Mokhtar and Dan Zak (Washington Post) reports that one of the two suicide bombers on foot was shot dead by the police and that fifteen police offcers that were left wounded received their wounds while engaged in a gun battle with five assailants working in coordination with the three bombers.  CNN adds a Baghdad attack claimed the lives of 3 police officers. Aswat al-Iraq reports a police colonel was shot dead by an unknown group of assailants in Mosul and a bombing aimed at the police commander of Baquba which which left him "gravely wounded" and wounded his three body guards as well.
 
 
And we'll drop back to  yesterday's snapshot to again note the latest US fatality in Iraq:

Sunday, a US soldier died in Iraq. The Dept of Defense hasn't identified the fallen as I dictate this but KRGV and Valley Central's Action 4 News both report it is Estevan Altamirano (citing his family) of Edcough, Texas who was a 1999 graduate of Edcouch-Elsa High School, the father of five and his survivors include his wife. According to the Washington Post's Faces of the Fallen data base, 414 other service members from Texas have died in the Iraq War (there are eight pages with 51 on each page, when you click on page eight, there is no ninth page but there is "next" which contains 6 additional service members -- 8 x 51= 408 + 6= 414 and the search criteria was "Iraq" for theater and "Texas" for state/territory.) Many of the fallen of the current wars come from rural areas and small towns. The 2010 census found the population for Edcouch to be 3,161 and 97.8 Hispanic It's in the southern county of Hildalgo .

Today Gail Burkhardt (Monitor via Brownsville Herald) reports Sgt Estevan Altamirano had spent 11 years in the military and was on his third deployment to Iraq. His survivors include his parents, a sister (Loreda Altamirano), "his wife, Pamela Altamirano, in addition to two stepdaughters. He also has two sons, who live in Kansas".
 
On this week's Law and Disorder Radio -- a weekly hour long program that airs Monday mornings on WBAI and around the country throughout the week and is hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights), topics explored include the medical profession's role in assisting the US military and CIA in torture (guest is Dr. Stephen Soldz) and Guantanamo and its various satellites (guest is CCR's Vince Warren). Soldz is an expert on many things and does a great job addressing the torture.  But Soldz can address othere topics as well.  And it's a real shame that the left isn't calling out counter-insurgency.
 
During Vietnam, the left knew it was wrong.  (As did the social science fields of study.)  Counter-insurgency is a war against the native people. Counter-insurgency is used today.  In violation of oaths of any serious social science field of study.  Psychologists and anthropologists abuse their field, disgrace it, by assisting the military in 'pressure points' for locals.  That is a misuse of the science and it's a War Crime.  And during Vietnam, the left grasped that and that it was wrong if was used to kill or bring about a killing of an individual but it was wrong if it just tricked and deceived a native population.
 
Many years have passed.  And the left has failed to call out counter-insurgency with regards to Iraq (Stephen Soldz has called it out.  We've called it out.  Tom Hayden has called it out once very powerfully).  And the attitude is, "Oh, well, if its not death squads, it's okay."  No, it's not.  And we're failing to stress and pass on ethics as a result.  We need to have this conversation.  We are not having it on the left.  I know Michael Ratner especially has worked on the torture issues and Guantanamo and the discussion on those topics with Soldz was important and powerful.  But we've had those conversations, we have them regularly, we have them every year in fact.  Good, they're needed.  But we do not get the exploration of counter-insurgency.  We need it too. Maybe more than the torture discussion because there's a think tank and there's the Carr Center advocating for counter-insurgency and, within the administration, there's Samantha Power, Sarah Sewall, John Nagl, Michele Flournoy and others advocating for it.  It is now US policy.  And this has happened while we on the left have refused to address the issue.
 
Scott Horton (Antiwar Radio) spoke with Antiwar.com's Kelly B. Vlahos about the surge, the counter-insurgency movement and myths and much more. Excerpt.
 
Scott Horton:  They all knew that they were lying basically because the entire set-up for 'the surge worked' theory is that he took command, David Petraeus took command, of the Iraq War just as the civil war was ending after they helped for years on end, they had helped Shi'ites wage this civil war against the Sunni Arabs of Baghdad and so-called cleanse them to where an 85% Shi'ite city right around the time he got there and then all he did was accept the same surrender that the Sunni-based insurgency had been offering since 2003 which is if you'll just let us patrol our own neighborhoods, give us a little bit of money and some guns, we'll stop fighting you.  So that was his 'brilliant' victory in war, is that he bribed the enemy to stop shooting him.  And even then waited until they were in the very weakest position of all not because of his efforts but because of all the generals that came before him helping Moqtada al-Sadr and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim put drills in the Sunni Arabs' skulls, to death, and eventualyl force them all of Baghdad. I mean, everyone in the military knew that as well as everybody at Antiwar.com knew that, right?
 
Kelley B. Vlahos: Right.
 
Scott Horton: That the surge didn't do anything. It was just a coincidence and timing.
 
Kelley B. Vlahos: Well you know the surge, the idea of the surge with a capital "S" is developed into a template for a counter-insurgency strategy when in reality now people like Douglas Ollivant -- who I point out in my piece -- you know, he's a National Security Fellow at the New America Foundation but he was once an advisor to Petreaus, he points out that this isn't a strategy, these were tactical decisions made by the generals mostly to get our fannies out of Iraq and with some semblance of, you know, pride and integrity left. This was not a strategy that could be later on overlayed onto the Afghanistan War.  And so he's pointing out that if we're looking at this as a strategy, we have lost. And he points out that it has not worked, you know, COIN or counter-insurgency, as molded by this surge in Iraq has not worked in Afghanistan nor will it because, like as you pointed out, the dynamics are completely different and they were mostly out of our control whereas the mythology has Petraeus riding in on a white horse with his, you know, 30,000 additional troops.  He comes in.  He starts laying down all these counter-insurgency tenents and the place just magically, you know, becomes safer for Iraqis, safer for political resolution.  And, you know, the next thing you know is that you have Thomas Ricks and you know all of the other punditry class talking about how we won the war thanks to David Petreaus. And what Ollivant points out, rightly, is that's just not what happened. A lot of the dynamic are out of our control and the United States, including Petraeus, and, you know, Crocker and others were sort of help mates to bringing the violence down but the political solution is not there and it's still a mess and we're seeing all of that today.
 
And if you thought things couldn't get worse in Iraq's ongoing Political Stalemate II, you were mistaken. Hossam Accomok (Al Mada) reports a group is preparing to enter the mix: the Justice and Accountability Commission. For those who've forgotten, this committee had remained in the shadows for most of 2009 and many members of Parliament assumed that since legislation had not been passed keeping the committee active, the committee was no more. But then it popped up and began doing Nouri al-Maliki's bidding by smearing various politicians (primarily Sunnis and primarily Iraqiya members, but not just them) as "Ba'athists" and declaring them unfit to run for office. A month prior to the elections, the Los Angeles Times editorial board offered from the Los Angeles Times' editorial "Baath-bashing in Iraq:"
 
 
Iraq's upcoming parliamentary elections should be about jobs, public services and government competence. Candidates should be focused on the country's security and on reconciliation among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.
Instead, the national vote once again is turning into a sectarian brawl in which Shiite parties jockeying with one another for dominance are stirring populist fears of a return of Saddam Hussein's Sunni-led Baath Party. Never mind that Hussein was executed in 2006 or that the discredited Baath Party already is outlawed. The Accountability and Justice Committee, led by Ahmad Chalabi, the Shiite politician and onetime darling of the George W. Bush administration, has been purging candidates who were members of the Baath Party and, in the process, fueling minority Sunnis' suspicions that the real motive is to further reduce their power.
 
Ahmed Chalabi and his boy pal Ali al-Lami ran the thing (Ali al-Lami was gunned down in Baghdad May 26th) and it was thankfully dead. But now it's back and Nouri's Dawa wants control of it. How frightening is it? Even the Sadr bloc is voicing cirticism (they state it demonstrates the primacy of political parties as opposed to national unity).

De-Ba'athification was a policy the exiles wanted and the US implemented. British intelligence agencies and military strongly called out the de-Ba'athification process during testimony before the Iraq Inquiry. One of the White House proposed benchmarks of 2007 (signed off on by Nouri) was a reconciliation (de-de-Ba'athification). It was supposed to be implemented. Instead a weak law was passed and there was no follow up (as most observers guessed would happen). In 2010, critics of the Justice and Accountability Commission were repeatedly told this was its last breath. As if this excused the targeting and smearing by the Commission or as if this would bring back Iraqiya's Suha Abdul Jarallah or any others killed in this witch hunt climate Chalabi and al-Lami created. But the commission cleary hasn't take its last breath and it is now set to continue to be a body that will launch smear campaigns against political enemies.

The Kurds and Nouri al-Maliki remain at logger heads over the Erbil Agreement (the political deal that ended Political Stalemate I and the deal Nouri reneged on as soon as he got what he wanted out of the deal), Article 140 of the Constitution (guarantees that a census and referendum will be held to resolve the issue of disputed Kirkuk -- the Constitution mandated that be held by 2007 but Nouri's long refused to follow the Constitution) and Nouri's proposed oil & gas bill. The Kurds have publicly floated the possibility of a vote of no-confidence. If a vote of no-confidence succeeded, it would trigger a new vote in the Parliament for prime minister. Speark of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi visited the KRG yesterday to discuss the situation with the Kurds.

What was discussed? Dar Addustour reports that this morning al-Nujaifi wasn't saying but that the meeting with the KRG president reportedly lasted at least two hours and that al-Nujaifi is now supposed to meet with Nouri to convey the Kurds' viewpoint. Aswat al-Iraq reports, "Nujaifi said that his initiative to solve political bloc's differences, starting with solving inter-conflicts among the parties, including the differences between Baghdad and Arbil, according to a statement issued by his office. The statement, as received by Aswat al-Iraq, added that the initiative has new trends that will eliminate all obstacles that hinder the bases for new Iraq."  Al Sabaah reports that a lower level meeting took place in Baghdad yesterday to discuss implementing the Erbil Agreement (participants included Saleh al-Mutlaq and Deputy Prime Minister Ruz Nuri).

Meanwhile there is the Integrity Commission. Nouri recently forced its chair to resign (he did that during his first term as prime minister as well). Al Mada reports that Iraqiya is supporting the reinstatement of the chair over Nouri's objection. This comes as Dar Addustour reports the Integrity Commission is teaming up with Parliament's Integrity Committee and the Supreme Judicial Council to address open files on corruption (files that have not been followed up on). There is talk of as many of 11 arrest warrants possibly coming about from the open files. Meanwhile Dar Addustour reports MP Sabah al-Saadi is stating there is no arrest warrant out against him and that the claims of one stem from Nouri al-Maliki attempting to cover up his own corruption and he states Nouri has deliberately kept the three security ministries vacant and he charges Nouri is willing "to sell Iraq to maintain his hold on power."  Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) observes, "The increasing violence is likely to be taken as a further sign of political gridlock in the Iraqi government, in particular the inability of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki to name permanent ministers for the key security posts 18 months after the March 2010 elections."

Meanwhile Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi (Daily Star) reports on findings from documents leaked by WikiLeaks:


One notable case that has come to light from these cables involves the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. On April 3, 2003, as Saddam Hussein's regime was on the point of falling, the moderate and non-sectarian Shiite cleric Abdul Majid al-Khoei, who had been in exile in the United Kingdom, returned to his home city of Najaf. Just one week later, Khoei was beaten and hacked to death by a mob. According to witnesses, he was first dragged to Sadr's office and then to a nearby roundabout where he was killed.
Although Sadr denies accusations of involvement in the atrocity, a senior Iraqi judge, Raed al-Juhi, issued an arrest warrant against him in April 2004, on suspicion of ordering Khoei's murder. One can of course ask why Sadr does not simply go to court if he is so confident of his innocence. In fact, there is a plausible motive for his role in the murder. As Hayder al-Khoei, Abdul Majid's son and a researcher at the Centre for Academic Shi'a Studies in the United Kingdom, has pointed out, Sadr and his followers, whom Hayder's father opposed, wanted to assert themselves as a political force in post-Saddam Iraq.
Today, it can be more easily understood why Sadr is not held to account over the arrest warrant. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki depends on the Sadrists as allies, along with the Kurdish factions, to maintain his coalition government in place. However, until the release of the diplomatic cables it remained unclear why the arrest warrant was not enforced during the tenure of the non-sectarian Iyad Allawi. He was interim prime minister before Iraq's elections of 2005.


And we'll close noting Foreign Policy's Josh Rogin's commentary on Barack's plan or 'plan' to reduce the deficit:
 
 
 
 
In the US,  Kevin Douglas Grant (Global Post) reports on Iraq War veteran Lt Dan Choi:

But his time in Iraq began to turn Choi's mind against the American war effort there. Corruption and mismanagement of the rebuilding process was rampant, and as a member of the Commanders Emergency Response Team (CERP), Choi himself had the authority to vet and authorize contracts with almost no oversight. He often paid cash.
"Every week I would fly from Green Zone to the 'Triangle of Death' area and then pass out money," Choi explained, his ready smile on display. "I'd have a million dollars in hundred-dollar bills in my backpack. I was like, 'Wow, I have more than my life is worth.'"
By May, two major forces in Choi's life were waging war on his psyche. On one hand, he had a military career he was fully dedicated to. On the other hand, he had met the love of his life but most of his inner circle still didn't know he was gay. So he started telling them.
"That was probably the hardest time," Choi said. "Being in the military with a boyfriend that I wanted to marry. I thought, 'How am I going to be able to keep being in the military this way?"


Dan Choi joined the fight for equality and became a public face for the movement and what may have still been, for some people, an abstract notion. The courage he demonstrated and the courage of others in the movement is why Don't Ask, Don't Tell has been overturned.
 
Don't Ask, Don't Tell was a response to the Reagan administration. With the military having failed in the courts to kick out a man for being gay (Sgt Leonard Matlovich whom US District Court Judge Gerhard Gessell ordered the Air Force to reinstate in the fall of 1980), the Reagan administration showed their usual vindictive nature and responded with a 1982 Defense Dept directive forbidding gays and lesbians from serving and this combined  with the increased homophobia resulting from fears over the emerging AIDS crisis and a packing of the courts with conservatives resulted in a harsher climate where discharges based on sexuality became policy and legal recourse appeared to have vanished.  From Rachel Martin's report today for Morning Edition (NPR -- link has text and audio):
 
 
STACY VASQUEZ: I like to say that I'm a government-certified homosexual.
 
MARTIN: Vasquez was a 30-year-old Army sergeant first class when she was discharged under "don't ask, don't tell." Someone claimed to have seen her kissing a woman at a gay bar, and that was the end of her career.
 
VASQUEZ: Yeah, it ended right in front of my eyes that day. That was a hard day.
 
MARTIN: But it was the beginning of her very public role in the movement to repeal "don't ask, don't tell." She became an activist, appearing with Lady Gaga at the Video Music Awards.
 
LADY GAGA: My friend Stacy here was discharged after 12 years in the Army, and it's...
 
MARTIN: And giving countless speeches calling for an end of "don't ask, don't tell."
 
VASQUEZ: How many veterans do I have in the audience? Raise your hand. Yeah, raise them proud.
 
Gays and lesbians (and bi-sexuals) were demonized throughout the 20th century.  They were seen as mentally ill, as sick, as stunted, etc.  This was taught to generations not as hate or ignorance but state of the art science.  In addition, beginning with silent films, Hollywood studios worked overtime to churn our stereotypes of what a gay man or a lesbian woman was in order to allow their gay actors and actresses to remain above public suspicion.  All of this came together to make gays and lesbians both targets and pariah.  The story of the 20th century is the story of many movements towards equality.  And one thing to remember about the prejudice of past generations -- whether it was against sexuality, race or gender -- it was not taught as hate or fear (though that's what it actually was by the insitutions teaching it), it was taught as state of the art science.  People who thought a race was inferior or a gender or person based on their sexuality were often up on the 'science' of their day.
 
For gays and lesbians, many credit WWII service with helping strides to be made as men and women who might have stayed in the areas they were born in instead relocated and were able to form diverse communities that helped refute the 'scientific' claims of the day. New York City was one city a diverse community formed and went up against the earlier movements which saw itself as a little more refined although it was a lot more closeted and a lot more self-loathing.  The WWII group was boisterous and not caught up in the trappings of the upper class which allowed for a vibrant movement to develop. The 60s saw Stonewall most famously but many other efforts as well and one of the areas targeted was psychiatriaty to get homosexuality out of the DSM [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders] as a mental disorder. This was successfully lobbied and a huge step for future legal issues. Throughout the battle for equality, there would be foes (Anita Bryant, anyone?) who would emerge and attack. Which is why a Dan Choi is so important (and why coming out is).  Decades of demonizing gays and lesbians left a false image.  Studies on acceptance and tolerance in the 90s repeatedly found that those most likely to know someone who was gay or lesbian were more likely to be accepting or tolerant. 
 
So Dan Choi is part of a movement that's gone on in this country for over a century and, on the military aspect, he follows other leaders who put a public face on the issue like Margarethe Cammermeyer who was forced out in 1992 for revealing in 1989 (during a security clearance interview) that she was a lesbian. Her story and others were bubbling up in the media and then came the October 27, 1992 murder of Petty Officer Third Class Allen R. Schindler Jr. by his military colleagues and it became a big campaign issue in 1992.  Bill Clinton campaigned for the presidency that year with the pledge to allow gay men and women to serve openly in the military.  Then Joint Chief of Staff Colin Powell was having none of it and made highly homophobic statements repeatedly and with Senator Sam Nunn and others in Congress -- and in the Democratic Party -- went along with these attacks and began making efforts to turn Reagan's 1982 DoD directive into a law, Clinton came up with the compromise of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.  (During this period, the press fanned the flames of homophobia --  it was far from an 'enlightened' press and still suffering their self-inflicted third degree sex burns resulting from their prurient and pseudo-moralistic coverage of Madonna's Sex book, Body of Evidence film, "Justify My Love" video and Erotica album),
 
This was supposed to stop the witch hunts and allow gay people to serve.  The deal was you didn't talk about your personal life at work and the military could no longer ask you if you were gay.  That deal was never really followed as it was supposed to have been and, in addition, being in the military for most is not a job you leave.  You live in a military facility or on a ship or whatever.  When do you get your personal life away from that?  In addition, we've come far enough as a society to see that as crumbs and grasp that it's asking someone to deny who they are and force them in the closet and imply there's something wrong about who they are by asking them not to talk about it.
 
At American Progress, Crosby Burns offers his take on the historic nature of today.  Iraq War veteran Nicolaas Koppert shares his story at NPR (text only):
 
I thought a life in the closet was something I could do, something I had to do in order to be happy. I was dating girls and laughing along with jokes that should have upset me, just to be one of the guys. I didn't want to be gay, in fact, I hated it.  It felt like it made my whole life more difficult than my fellow soldiers.
I thought it wasn't fair that I had to be this way. I wondered why I was the only one in my company that was this way, or even if I was the only one. I've seen the worst of war but I know I would never have the courage to come out to my battle buddies. We were within eyesight of each other 24/7 but they thought they were seeing a straight guy.
 
Tim Mak (POLITICO) reports Dan Choi plans to re-enlist and states that military benefits will not be extended to the spouses of same-sex couples, "There is time for some well-intended criticism here -- the parties that have been going on.  I think they misrepresent the meaning of this event. People who believe that discrimination is somehow all erased will have a rude awakening." And sadly, no law insisting on equality has replaced Don't Ask, Don't Tell. (Which is why the Ninth Circuit decision was needed despite the administration's successful efforts to overturn it.) A law could have been put in place declaring equality.  Barring that, allowing the Ninth Circuit decision to stand would have allowed a precedent to be set and stare decisis to provide protection. Tony Lombardo (Marine Corps News) reports:

The "don't ask, don't tell" policy banning gays from serving openly will be stripped from the military's rulebook on Tuesday. The occasion could pass quietly. President Obama and the Defense Department have no plans for press conferences or major addresses, and DoD stopped enforcing it in July.
But for gay Marines, official repeal will be a historic day, comparable to the moment 63 years ago when President Truman ordered the services to end racial segregation.

NPR's Rachel Martin reports on the end of Don't Ask, Don't Tell on Morning Edition today. This is a day of pride for the LGBT community who still have battles to fight for full equality.  One non-gay man who deserves applause today is former US House Rep Patrick Murphy.  He has a column at Huffington Post where he writes of the struggle.  He doesn't take his proper credit in that post and is far too modest.  He notes he came into Congress in 2007 with the plan to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell.  He does not go into how he was humored and misled.  At one point, he was told that Senator Ted Kennedy would be leading the effort in the Senate and when he repeated that publicly, we noted here that it was a lie and that Ted was far sicker than the public knew and that it was terminal. Murphy was jerked around repeatedly.  And then came the 2010 elections and he lost his seat.  He could have washed his hands of the matter.  But he didn't.  He kicked it into overdrive, called in favors and, with the help of others who supported repeal, was able to get repeal voted on in both houses of Congress. Murphy is running for Attorney General in Pennsylvania.


 

The more than $1 trillion in defense "savings" that the White House claims is based on a projection the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) put out last March, which found that war costs would top $1.7 trillion over the next ten years. However, that projection was never meant to accurately forecast the costs of the wars over the next decade. The report just took this year's costs for Iraq and Afghanistan ($159 billion) and added inflation for every year in the future.

In other words, the CBO number was the projection if the United States kept the current number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan until 2020. However, nobody ever thought that was the plan. The CBO was required to do the math that way, as they do with all such projections.

At today's White House briefing, reporters were quick to point out that Obama never planned to keep that many troops in Iraq and Afghanistan for the next ten years. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Jack Lew's response was to point out that the House GOP had used the same faulty logic in Paul Ryan's budget plan.

 
 

Posted at 03:55 pm by thecommonills
 

Political Stalemate II gets worse

Political Stalemate II gets worse

If you thought things couldn't get worse in Iraq's ongoing Political Stalemate II, you were mistaken. Hossam Accomok (Al Mada) reports a group is preparing to enter the mix: the Justice and Accountability Commission. For those who've forgotten, this committee had remained in the shadows for most of 2009 and many members of Parliament assumed that since legislation had not been passed keeping the committee active, the committee was no more. But then it popped up and began doing Nouri al-Maliki's bidding by smearing various politicians (primarily Sunnis and primarily Iraqiya members, but not just them) as "Ba'athists" and declaring them unfit to run for office. Ahmed Chalabi and his boy pal Ali al-Lami ran the thing (Ali al-Lami was killed not that long ago) and it was thankfully dead. But now it's back and Nouri's Dawa wants control of it. How frightening is it? Even the Sadr bloc is voicing cirticism (they state it demonstrates the primacy of political parties as opposed to national unity).

De-Ba'athification was a policy the exiles wanted and the US implemented. British intelligence agencies and military strongly called out the de-Ba'athification process during testimony before the Iraq Inquiry. One of the White House proposed benchmarks of 2007 (signed off on by Nouri) was a reconciliation (de-de-Ba'athification). It was supposed to be implemented. Instead a weak law was passed and there was no follow up (as most observers guessed would happen). In 2010, critics of the Justice and Accountability Commission were repeatedly told this was its last breath. Clearly that wasn't the case and it is now set to continue to be a body that will launch smear campaigns against political enemies.

The Kurds and Nouri al-Maliki remain at logger heads over the Erbil Agreement (the political deal that ended Political Stalemate I and the deal Nouri reneged on as soon as he got what he wanted out of the deal), Article 140 of the Constitution (guarantees that a census and referendum will be held to resolve the issue of disputed Kirkuk -- the Constitution mandated that be held by 2007 but Nouri's long refused to follow the Constitution) and Nouri's proposed oil & gas bill. The Kurds have publicly floated the possibility of a vote of no-confidence. If a vote of no-confidence succeeded, it would trigger a new vote in the Parliament for prime minister. Speark of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi visited the KRG yesterday to discuss the situation with the Kurds.

What was discussed? Dar Addustour reports that al-Nujaifi isn't saying but that the meeting with the KRG president reportedly lasted at least two hours and that al-Nujaifi is now supposed to meet with Nouri to convey the Kurds' viewpoint. Al Sabaah reports that a lower level meeting took place in Baghdad yesterday to discuss implementing the Erbil Agreement (participants included Saleh al-Mutlaq and Deputy Prime Minister Ruz Nuri).

Meanwhile there is the Integrity Commission. Nouri recently forced its chair to resign (he did that during his first term as prime minister as well). Al Mada reports that Iraqiya is supporting the reinstatement of the chair over Nouri's objection. This comes as Dar Addustour reports the Integrity Commission is teaming up with Parliament's Integrity Committee and the Supreme Judicial Council to address open files on corruption (files that have not been followed up on). There is talk of as many of 11 arrest warrants possibly coming about from the open files. Meanwhile Dar Addustour reports MP Sabah al-Saadi is stating there is no arrest warrant out against him and that the claims of one stem from Nouri al-Maliki attempting to cover up his own corruption and he states Nouri has deliberately kept the three security ministries vacant and he charges Nouri is willing "to sell Iraq to maintain his hold on power."

Meanwhile Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi (Daily Star) reports on findings from documents leaked by WikiLeaks:


One notable case that has come to light from these cables involves the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. On April 3, 2003, as Saddam Hussein’s regime was on the point of falling, the moderate and non-sectarian Shiite cleric Abdul Majid al-Khoei, who had been in exile in the United Kingdom, returned to his home city of Najaf. Just one week later, Khoei was beaten and hacked to death by a mob. According to witnesses, he was first dragged to Sadr’s office and then to a nearby roundabout where he was killed.
Although Sadr denies accusations of involvement in the atrocity, a senior Iraqi judge, Raed al-Juhi, issued an arrest warrant against him in April 2004, on suspicion of ordering Khoei’s murder. One can of course ask why Sadr does not simply go to court if he is so confident of his innocence. In fact, there is a plausible motive for his role in the murder. As Hayder al-Khoei, Abdul Majid’s son and a researcher at the Centre for Academic Shi’a Studies in the United Kingdom, has pointed out, Sadr and his followers, whom Hayder’s father opposed, wanted to assert themselves as a political force in post-Saddam Iraq.
Today, it can be more easily understood why Sadr is not held to account over the arrest warrant. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki depends on the Sadrists as allies, along with the Kurdish factions, to maintain his coalition government in place. However, until the release of the diplomatic cables it remained unclear why the arrest warrant was not enforced during the tenure of the non-sectarian Iyad Allawi. He was interim prime minister before Iraq’s elections of 2005.


And we'll close noting Foreign Policy's Josh Rogin's commentary on Barack's plan or 'plan' to reduce the deficit:

The more than $1 trillion in defense "savings" that the White House claims is based on a projection the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) put out last March, which found that war costs would top $1.7 trillion over the next ten years. However, that projection was never meant to accurately forecast the costs of the wars over the next decade. The report just took this year's costs for Iraq and Afghanistan ($159 billion) and added inflation for every year in the future.

In other words, the CBO number was the projection if the United States kept the current number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan until 2020. However, nobody ever thought that was the plan. The CBO was required to do the math that way, as they do with all such projections.

At today's White House briefing, reporters were quick to point out that Obama never planned to keep that many troops in Iraq and Afghanistan for the next ten years. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Jack Lew's response was to point out that the House GOP had used the same faulty logic in Paul Ryan's budget plan.


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










Posted at 05:39 am by thecommonills
 

The fallen and the end of DADT

The fallen and the end of DADT

From yesterday's snapshot:

Sunday, a US soldier died in Iraq. The Dept of Defense hasn't identified the fallen as I dictate this but KRGV and Valley Central's Action 4 News both report it is Estevan Altamirano (citing his family) of Edcough, Texas who was a 1999 graduate of Edcouch-Elsa High School, the father of five and his survivors include his wife. According to the Washington Post's Faces of the Fallen data base, 414 other service members from Texas have died in the Iraq War (there are eight pages with 51 on each page, when you click on page eight, there is no ninth page but there is "next" which contains 6 additional service members -- 8 x 51= 408 + 6= 414 and the search criteria was "Iraq" for theater and "Texas" for state/territory.) Many of the fallen of the current wars come from rural areas and small towns. The 2010 census found the population for Edcouch to be 3,161 and 97.8 Hispanic It's in the southern county of Hildalgo .


Gail Burkhardt (Monitor via Brownsville Herald) reports Sgt Estevan Altamirano had spent 11 years in the military and was on his third deployment to Iraq. His survivors include his parents, a sister (Loreda Altamirano), "his wife, Pamela Altamirano, in addition to two stepdaughters. He also has two sons, who live in Kansas".

Meanwhile Kevin Douglas Grant (Global Post) reports on Iraq War veteran Lt Dan Choi:

But his time in Iraq began to turn Choi’s mind against the American war effort there. Corruption and mismanagement of the rebuilding process was rampant, and as a member of the Commanders Emergency Response Team (CERP), Choi himself had the authority to vet and authorize contracts with almost no oversight. He often paid cash.
“Every week I would fly from Green Zone to the ‘Triangle of Death’ area and then pass out money,” Choi explained, his ready smile on display. “I’d have a million dollars in hundred-dollar bills in my backpack. I was like, ‘Wow, I have more than my life is worth.’”
By May, two major forces in Choi’s life were waging war on his psyche. On one hand, he had a military career he was fully dedicated to. On the other hand, he had met the love of his life but most of his inner circle still didn’t know he was gay. So he started telling them.
“That was probably the hardest time,” Choi said. “Being in the military with a boyfriend that I wanted to marry. I thought, ‘How am I going to be able to keep being in the military this way?”


Dan Choi joined the fight for equality and became a public face for the movement and what may have still been, for some people, an abstract notion. The courage he demonstrated and the courage of others in the movement is why Don't Ask, Don't Tell has been overturned. Sadly, no law insisting on equality has replaced Don't Ask, Don't Tell. (Which is why the Ninth Circuit decision was needed despite the administration's efforts to overturn it.) Tony Lombardo (Marine Corps News) reports:

The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning gays from serving openly will be stripped from the military’s rulebook on Tuesday. The occasion could pass quietly. President Obama and the Defense Department have no plans for press conferences or major addresses, and DoD stopped enforcing it in July.
But for gay Marines, official repeal will be a historic day, comparable to the moment 63 years ago when President Truman ordered the services to end racial segregation.

NPR's Rachel Martin reports on the end of Don't Ask, Don't Tell on Morning Edition today.

Community sites -- plus Antiwar.com and On The Wilder Side -- updated last night and this morning:


That's all that's showing up on the permalinks. All below (except Third) updated last night or this morning:


We'll close with this from World Can't Wait's "For Ten Years the Richest Country in the World Has Been 'At War' With the Poorest Country in the World:"


Several thousand people have signed up to be at Freedom Square in Washington DC on Thursday October 6. This day was chosen because it's the precise 10 year anniversary of Bush's invasion of Afghanistan and the launching of the whole "Global War on Terror" which has resulted in over a million deaths in Iraq, untold thousands of deaths in Afghanistan and Pakistan, millions displaced from their homes, and institutionalized torture. We will never be at peace with being at war and pledge to the world these crimes will be stopped.

October 6 is a "work" day, and a day we can expect maximum coverage of the war. Join World Can't Wait there! On the October2011.org website:

"I pledge that if any U.S. troops, contractors, or mercenaries remain in Afghanistan on Thursday, October 6, 2011, as that occupation goes into its 11th year, I will commit to being in Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., with others on that day or the days immediately following, for as long as I can, with the intention of making it our Tahrir Square, Cairo, our Madison, Wisconsin, where we will NONVIOLENTLY resist the corporate machine by occupying Freedom Plaza to demand that America's resources be invested in human needs and environmental protection instead of war and exploitation. We can do this together. We will be the beginning."



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












Posted at 05:20 am by thecommonills
 

Monday, September 19, 2011
Iraq snapshot

Iraq snapshot

Monday, September 19, 2011.  Chaos and violence continue, a US soldier dies over the weekend, Jalal Talabani comes to the US, the 8 arrested last week in the investigation of killing 22 Shia pilgrims are released, the governmental gridlock continues in Iraq, Matthew Rotshcild's latest guest is a doozy, and more.
 
Sunday, a US soldier died in Iraq. The Dept of Defense hasn't identified the fallen as I dictate this but KRGV and Valley Central's Action 4 News both report it is Estevan Altamirano (citing his family) of Edcough, Texas who was a 1999 graduate of Edcouch-Elsa High School, the father of five and his survivors include his wife. According to the Washington Post's Faces of the Fallen data base, 414 other service members from Texas have died in the Iraq War (there are eight pages with 51 on each page, when you click on page eight, there is no ninth page but there is "next" which contains 6 additional service members -- 8 x 51= 408 + 6= 414 and the search criteria was "Iraq" for theater and "Texas" for state/territory.)  Many of the fallen of the current wars come from rural areas and small towns.  The 2010 census found the population for Edcouch to be 3,161 and 97.8 Hispanic  It's in the southern county of Hildalgo .
 
As noted Thursday, with no release of death announcements by DoD, the Pentagon's official death count of US military personnel in the Iraq War rose by 2 this month (before Sunday's death).  The Pentagon has not corrected their numbers. I asked a friend at DoD about it on Friday.  The official message back today is, "The numbers are the numbers."  Are they correct?  "We have issued no correction." Which would mean adding one to the count, the number of US military personnel who have died in the Iraq War thus far stands at 4480. (Add 4,421 from "Operation Iraqi Freedom" to 58 from "Operation New Dawn" -- new name for the Iraq War and then add 1 for Sunday's death.)
 
Is Tom Hadyen drunk or crazy?  "You're going to laugh so hard," swore a friend (one of many women the married Tom came onto the 80s who was shot down -- as a general rule, those of us with money rejected Tom while women who thought he might be a stepping stone hopped in bed).  I didn't laugh.  I can't take the sounds of spit washing around in a mouth repeatedly combined with lip smacking.  I'm glad Matthew Rothschild conducted the interview (for Progressive Radio) by phone because I'm sure he'd have been covered with spit otherwise.  Tom goes to a subject that we are not touching here but doesn't it seem like he went there to try to ensure Barack gets re-elected? Yeah, it did. He has no shame.  He will play with anything, toy with any topic, no matter how violent and what might result to get his way.  It's disgusting.  Barack supporters would do well to keep their distance from Tom Hayden. When not raising that, he lied and distorted -- and Matthew let him -- about the man who shot US House Rep Gabrielle Giffords.  Mainly he paraded his own vanity.  No one's ever been obssed with Tom (nor ever more interested in Tom than Tom himself is interested in Tom). But the moment that was saddest (I wish I could have laughed as many women did listening to the ass speak) was when he declared, "I've spent the last two years, I'm sure the White House doesn't like it, just hammering on Afghanistan, Iraq, the . . . [long list of issues] and the only thing I can see is my persistent pressure gradually turning him around."  Yes, Tom, it was your persistent pressure, it was all you.  (He struggles with words throughout and Matthew has to correct his terms elsewhere in the interview.  Again, was he drunk?)
 
That would have been it on Iraq, that aside. The interview had gone on for over 24 minutes and despite Tom's claims of his persistent pressure and despite his idiotic Ending the
War in Iraq book in 2007 (pillars?  I think Tom's got a penis fascination), he ran away from the Iraq War long, long ago. More frightening is that he ran away from reality as well.  What planet does Tom now live on?
 
Tom Hayden: If he -- if he just took the 47,000 troops out of Iraq, which we're waiting on pins and needles what is he going to do?  That would mean 50 billion dollars that could go straight to job creation in the US.
 
Matthew Rothschild: I'm willing to bet you he leaves most of those there --
 
Tom Hayden: No! He won't!
 
Matthew Rothschild: -- if he can get the Iraqi government to agree.
 
Tom Hayden: He won't. It'll be between 47,000 and zero. But it's an insane policy and he knows it. He -- he's not in control of the whole situation.  I mean, the insanity is Bush and the American government installed a pro-Shia, a pro-Iran regime with torture chambers in Baghdad and now is being asked by Saudi Arabia to leave some troops behind, uh, to counter-balance Iran in the conflict between -- the regional conflict between Saudis -- Saudis and Sunnis. If I was a soldier, and I have a close friend who is in Iraq fighting, uh, uhm, I-I would not want to be pinned down in the crossfire between sectarian uh forces with 10,000 or 13,000 of my buddies. So that's the argument against.  Save money, get the troops out, and, you know, don't go to bat for Saudi Arabia in exchange for oil, fighting against a regime that the United States installed so the-the-the issue in Iraq isn't over.  The argument remains.  We shall know in a month!
 
Oh my heavens.  How he slurred his words.  If he wasn't drunk, he needs to get to a doctor to check and see if he's had a slight stroke.
 
Tom -- whom Barack derided on the campaign trail last go round "Tom Hayden Democrats," remember? -- just knows what's in Barack's heart:  "But it's an insane policy and he knows it."  He then insists, "He -- he's not in control of the whole situation."  Oh my goodness, the conspiracy theories never cease from this nutcase. 
 
He is the president of the United States.  Everything he's done, he's meant to do.  He may not have anticipated this or that response, but he decided his own actions.  I am so sick of the groupies who can't grow the hell up after all this time.
 
I believe when Tom was slurring "Saudis and Sunnis" what he actually meant was "Shi'ites and Sunnis."  He's always been obsessed with Saudi Arabia.  Not over human rights issues but over his paranoia of Arabs. (I've written before of that as has Elaine.)
 
But let's move to this stupidity: "I mean, the insanity is Bush and the American government installed a pro-Shia, a pro-Iran regime with torture chambers in Baghdad and now is being asked [. . .]" Tom Hayden, how drunk were you?
 
The Bush adminstraion installed a pro-Iranian regime, yes. They refused the choice of Iraq for prime minister and insisted upon Nouri al-Malik in April of 2006.  Yes.  But, Tom, what happened in 2010?
 
The lesson of the 2009 elections (provincial elections and I'm speaking of the ones at the start of the year so that excludes the KRG which held their provincial elections months later) was that the Iraqi people were rejecting sectarianism and embracing a national identity.  Not that surprising, the sectarian divide was largely encouraged by the US -- Laura Flanders documented this repeatedly in 2004, 20005 and 2006 on her Air America Radio programs The Laura Flanders Show and Radio Nation with Laura Flanders.  Many Iraqis would explain that the first thing Americans would ask them was if they were Sunni or Shia and that really wasn't their first thought.  The theme of the 2009 elections was repeated when Iraqis voted in March 2010.  Even after Nouri stamped his feet and got votes tossed out, even after he whined and threw a tantrum and was given votes he didn't earn to shut him up, Iraqiya still came in first.  Iraqiya was the non-sectarian slate.  You could be Sunni or Shi'ite or anything and be a part of Iraqiya.  Well, you couldn't be Sunni in many cases and run for office.  If you did, Nouri had you disqualified by insisting you were a Ba'ahtists.  But Iraqiya was about a national Iraq identity.  And this is what Iraqis voted for. 
 
After the numbers were juggled for Nouri (who'd already abused his position to try to influence the outcome prior to the elections -- including kicking out popular Iraqiya candidates), the US government had a choice: They could back the Iraqi people or they could go against them.
 
The Iraqi people, you know, the group Tom Hayden forgot in all of his remarks about Iraq? 
 
The US government wasn't concerned with the Iraqi people either.  You had an element within the CIA -- which Leon Panetta ignored and did not advocate for -- who wanted Ayad Allawi.  (Not a big surprise, Allawi was a CIA asset for many years.) You had an element of Big Oil and business that wanted Adel Abdul-Mahdi (until he resigned recently, he was Iraq's Shi'ite Vice President).  A group of what we'll call 'East Coast intellectuals' who had some sway over the White House argued for Ammar al-Hakim and used as one of their talking points that his youth (he's 40-years-old) would be a plus and signifiy a fresh start in Iraq and "a new Iraq" (that's a direct quote from their talking points).  (Ammar al-Hakim heads the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq.) No one argued for a Kurdish prime minister.  Possibly due to the fact that Jalal Talabani had already made clear he wanted to remain president of Iraq.  (Talabani is a Kurd.) There were various factions within the administration. 
 
Samantha Power in her role of foreign policy guru for Barack (she's been that since he was in the Senate) and as National Security Advisor insisted upon Nouri al-Maliki.  Nouri, she pointed out, was already agreeable to extending the US military presence beyond 2011.  If they brought in someone new, he might promise that he'd extend it but would he?  They knew Nouri would because he had so many times before and he'd already agreed on the oil law (see theft of Iraqi oil).  (I'm presenting her argument, I am not agreeing with it.  I think Nouri's the king of the double cross.)  Due to her position of primacy on foreign policy with Barack for so many years, she was able to overide everyone -- including Cabinet heads and Joe Biden.
 
It would be easy to say that the White House based their decision on self-interest.  But the truth is it wasn't just Samantha Power's option that was about self-interest.  All of the options were about self-interest.  No one ever spoke of a strong Iraq, no one ever spoke of the Iraqi people.
 
The 2010 elections were fraught with danger.  Candidates Nouri didn't like were targeted and kicked out of the process.  Some candidates were targeted and wounded, some were killed.  There were threats of violence and there was violence the day of the elections.  But Iraqis turned out to vote.  Despite fears, despite violence, they showed up at the polls.  Yet for all of the grand talk from US officials about "democracy" in Iraq, no one in the current administration gave a damn about "democracy" or the voice of the Iraqi people when it came to who to pick for prime minister.
 
The US shot down suggestions that a caretaker government should be put in place while elections issues were resolved.  Had that been done, Nouri would have lost a lot of power and the Constitution might have been followed. Per the Constitution, Ayad Allawi, leader of Iraqiya, should have had first crack at putting together a Cabinet, he should have been named prime minister-designate and given the 30 days to put together a Cabinet.  But that didn't happen.  The Iraqi people and the Iraqi Constitution were disrespected and the US ended up backing Nouri.  (Samantha Power made cracks about Allawi being Al Gore.  When she made those cracks, she may not yet realize it, she made enemies within the administration who leak on her to the press to this day.  Democrats, Samantha, did not find your cracks about Gore and the stolen 2000 election funny.)
 
The Bush administration may have installed Nouri the first time but, in 2010, there was an opportunity for change.  The Barack Obama administration decided to keep things just as they were.
 
Last week, Nouri was publicly attacking his political rival Ayad Allawi whose Iraqiya bested Nouri's State of Law in the March 7, 2010 elections. Nouri's insisted that Allawi has no place in the government.

Other participants in the government begged to differ before Nouri made those remarks and since then it does not appear Nouri's incendiary speech has scared anyone away from Allawi. Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reports that Allawi and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani have agreed that the country needs a national partnership and to move away from one monopoly of power. The two met and discussed various issues including the refusal by Nouri al-Maliki to implement the Erbil Agreement agreed to last November (and the partnership agreement signed off on by all political blocs to end Political Stalemate I). Acommok reports on the rumors that the Kurds will push for a no-confidence vote in Parliament -- rumors which result in warnings from State of Law. What happens next is said to wait until Talabani returns from the US.  Aswat al-Iraq reports, "Iraq's President Jalal Talabani flew to New York on Monday to attend the meetings of the UN General Assembly in its 66th session, a Presidency statement reported."
 

Before he departed for the US, Al Sabaah notes, Talabani also met with Nouri al-Maliki and the discussions included the Kurds demands (Talabani is a Kurd) which include a return to the Erbil Agreement and opposition to Nouri's gas and oil bill. It's noted that when Kurdish representatives meet Nouri in the near future, they will be bringing along copies of the Erbil Agreement as a reminder of what was agreed to by all parties. (The Kurds have also threatened to make this document public.) In yet another blow to Nouri, Ehsan al-Awadi, an MP with the National Alliance, has declared that they support the Erbil Agreement and call for it to be implemented as soon as possible. (However, 'new agreements' appears to be about the oil & gas bill and, if so, that means the National Alliance is not joining with the Kurds in decrying that proposal.)

The Iraqi Bar Association began in 1933 and has become the country's largest organization for attorneys.  Baghdad is the location of its central headquarters.
Al Saabah notes Nouri gave a speech to organization on Saturday (its their 78th anniversary) and that he spoke of the need for the Constitution to recognize the role of the courts. If that puzzles you, it's because US media ignored what that's in reference to. They haven't even reported on Allawi and Nouri's feud. From Tuesday's snapshot:

Asharq al-Awsat interviews Ayad Allawi (Iraiqya leader who's been meeting with the Kurdish leaders -- Iraqiya won the March 7, 2010 elections) and their first question for him is about his recent comments that there was a need for early elections and a need for a vote of no confidence on Nouri al-Maliki, has his opinion changed? He replies that nothing has changed and unless the Erbil Agreement is followed, as KRG President Barzani is insisting, then early elections need to be held. He states that they should be transparent and follow the election laws. (They put it is either/or. Allawi rejects that in his first answer and again near the end of the interview when he explains that first you do the vote of no-confidence in the current government and then you move to early elections.) Asked if he doesn't find it strange that 8 years after the end of Saddam Hussein's regime, Iraqi decisions are still spoken of in light of what the US wants or what Iran wants, Allawi replies that it is clear the government (Nouri) was negotiating with Iran on how to form a government -- down to the smallest details. He states that when he met with Bashar al-Assad, president of Syria [presumably in 2010], al-Assad stated he would be speaking with Iranian officials and what was the response to Adel Abdul al-Mahdi being prime minister. The point is to indicate that Iran was being catered to. (I'm sure the US was as well, however, Allawi focuses on Iran.) Adel Abdul al-Mahdi was, until recently, one of Iraq's two vice presidents. He's a member of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council. Big Oil supported him in 2006 for prime minister and they also wanted him in 2010. His announcement that he was resigning as vice president earlier this year may have been setting up another run for prime minister.
Allawi states that the Erbil Agreement needs to be implemented, that the meet-up in Erbil and the agreement itself took place in a spirit to work together for Iraq and build something sincere but now "the other party" [the unnamed is Nouri] repeatedly finds excuses not to implement. Asked if the problem is the agreement, Allawi clearly states that the problem is "the other party" and that the agreement is clear. He rejects the notion of one-party rule and specifically names Nouri when rejecting it, stating that this is a private scheme of "Maliki" and not something with wide support even within Dawa (Dawa is Nouri's political party, State of Law is the slate Nouri ran with).


It's that interview that enrages Nouri and leads him to declare that Allawi has no place in the Iraqi government. And it's in that interview that Allawi offers the legal opinion that Nouri's use of the courts to advance his agenda is problematic due to the fact that Constitutional issues cannot be changed by the courts because, according to Allawi, the Constitution came before the Courts. Nouri controls the country's Supreme Court and has repeatedly used it to reinterpret the Constitution in his favor especially as he battled to remain the prime minister. Allawi argues that this is illegal and unconstitutional because the Constitution is the basis for all so, therefore, the Courts can't alter the Constitution. (If you carry this legal argument out, only Parliament could alter the Constitution as represenatives of the people and any alteration, like any law, would require the presidency council -- Iraq's president and vice presidents -- to agree to the change.)

That was probably the main thing that ticked Nouri off about the article. Sunday, Dar Addustour reported the Kurds echoing the point about the Constitution being supreme. They have to support that position because if it's not supreme than an act by the Nouri-controlled courts could render Article 140 (which promises how the issue of disputed Kirkuk will be resolved) obsolete. The article also notes that the political situation is seen as "a crisis" (where are the US reports on this, it has been building all week) and notes the Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi is traveling to the KRG tomorrow to talk with leaders there about the Erbil Agreement and other issues.
 
Aswat al-Iraq reports al-Nujaifi was to meet with Barham Saleh, KRG Premier, to discuss the ongoing governmental issues -- the failure to implement the Erbil Agreement, the oil and gas bill proposed by Nouri al-Maliki. Al Mada notes that the Kurds are "fed up" with Nouri's style of governing and with being marginalized while their demands are ignored. Some do believe that it would be difficult to replace Nouri currently (a no-confidence vote in Parliament) but as this situation continues to build, who knows? Dar Addustour notes some Kurdish insiders see Nouri's window of time closing and that current demands are the last chance. But Aswat al-Iraq reports rumors that al-Nujaifi would be proposing a new agreement.  Al Mada notes Nouri's specific failure to proceed on the section of the Erbil Agreement revolving around the national council (security committee that was to be headed by Ayad Allawi) is also harming his standing. And they note that Sadrists are bothered by State of Law's militia Knights of Law. (State of Law is Nouri's political slate.)
Over the weekend, Al Rafidayn covered what may be read as a step back by Nouri (I don't think it is), his agreeing with al-Nujaifi that his oil & gas bill is only a draft and that Parliament can change it. He uses the term "amend." That's why I don't see it as a step back. Nouri has insisted that Parliament does not have the power to right laws, that it can only accept proposals from Nouri's Cabinet and vote up or down on them. This move strikes me as more of Nouri backing up his belief that laws cannot originate within the Parliament and I base that call on the language Nouri uses.

While the governmental crisis continues, Fadhel al-Badrani (Reuters) reported Saturday on the brewing sectarian crisis. 22 Shi'ites were killed his week, pilgrims taken off a bus. al-Badrani misses what created the original tension or resentment following the killings. As we've noted Arab social media was inflamed over the response of a huge sum of money offered to find the killers (offered by Sunni Sawha leaders -- that didn't change the anger or resenment in Arab social media -- possibly because Sawha were already seen as turncoats) and Nouri sent in the military to investigate. It was repeatedly pointed out that the killing of Iraqi Christians and other minorities didn't result in that and, after that point had been made repeatedly, the next point emerging (primary point) was that no one could recall that sort of effort being made when Sunnis in Iraq were killed.

8 Sunnis were quickly arrested, al-Badrani notes, and public outcry forced Nouri to release four of them. (Click here for Al Rafidayn's report on the decision to release four.) Without that missing step, the one documenting the reaction to the reactions to the killings, you really can't grasp why resentments built. Al Rafidayn is currently reporting that four more -- which would be all eight -- are being released because there is no evidence against any of the eight. Reuters reports that Iraqi officials announced Sunday that last Monday's attack on a bus of Shi'ite pilgrims, 22 of which were killed, was carried out by "Arab foreigners." Reuters is apparently too kind or shy to point out that last week saw the arrests of eight Iraqis in Anbar Province for the killings, four of which were quickly released with reports on Saturday stating the other four would be released as well. Alsumaria TV notes, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki ordered the release of all the detainees from Al Ratba District on account of Al Nukhaib incident, Anbar Province said."

If you're not familiar with Iraqi 'justice,' the release of those arrested doesn't just happen and never that quickly. If you're arrested, you disappear into a hole and maybe a year or so later you are able to climb out or maybe you stay disappeared.  Nouri's hand was forced and it was forced because this quickly became a major incident. Al Mada notes the release of the eight arrested resulted not from "legal procedures" but a political deal.
 
 
In the US, Ian Wilder (On The Wilder Side) has a great piece refuting the New York Times misportrayal of the Green Party. And we'll close with this from the War Resisters League:

For Immediate Release
Contact: Liz Roberts
Phone: (212) 228-0450 x 17
Email: liz@warresisters.org

CALENDAR SPANNING OVER 5 DECADES OF PEACEMAKING & ART ANNOUNCES ITS FINAL EDITION

War Resisters League (WRL), a 98-year-old secular pacifist organization in the United States, announced today that their 2012 Peace Calendar, Organize This! A 1955-2011 Retrospective (ISBN: 0-940862-24-7), will be the final volume in a 57-year calendar series. For the first decade of its existence, the WRL peace calendar was the only progressive political calendar available.

This last edition is full-color with a foreword by Noam Chomsky. The pages of Organize This! include the covers of the 56 previous peace calendars which featured the writing and images of a wide range of renowned peacemakers and artists such as Pete Seeger, Dr. Benjamin Spock, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, John Sayles, A. Philip Randolph, Ben Shahn, Ed Asner, Ruby Dee, Mary Frank, Dick Gregory, Grace Paley, Vera B. Williams, Ivan Chermayeff, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Coretta Scott King, and Howard Zinn.

"WRL builds awareness of, and organizes against, every facet of militarism, working with civilians, GI resisters, and veterans' groups throughout the United States," Chomsky writes in his foreword. "For the last 57 years, the WRL Peace Calendar has been a vital part of this consciousness-raising and activism."

Liz Roberts, Organize This! editor and WRL Membership and Development Coordinator, said, "The 2012 peace calendar is not just a retrospective of previous WRL calendars. It's a keepsake of a long-running publication focused on anti-militarist organizing and peacemaking efforts for nearly 60 years. WRL's Peace Calendars recorded the times in prose, poetry, lyrics, recipes and art."

"Having begun work on peace calendars 40 years ago, I must say the final volume truly represents what WRL strives to achieve: the removal of all causes of war. The 2012 calendar unites WRL's anti-war message with its long tradition of partnering with social justice movements" said former staff member Wendy Schwartz, who wrote the calendar's afterword.

WRL ends this long tradition with a retrospective that shows the breadth of themes and vibrant artwork of every previous volume. In addition to the 56 pages of color artwork, the calendar's date pages note events vital to the history of the movement for peace and social justice. There is also a directory of peace and justice organizations and publications in the United States, and a list of international contacts. Spiral bound, 144 pages, 5.5 x 8.5, Organize This! A 1955-2011 Retrospective retails for $14.95. It is available directly from the War Resisters League (www.warresisters.org/store) and at better bookstores everywhere.

Declining sales have made the calendar increasingly less effective as a fundraiser, and the digital age has made the paper datebook obsolete for many. Still, ending WRL's long tradition of producing the peace calendar was not an easy decision, in part because of the calendar's popularity as a holiday gift. Thus the organization has pledged to begin offering different items suitable for gift giving in the coming years.

War Resisters League, headquartered in New York City, is affiliated with War Resisters' International, which is based in London. WRL believes war to be a crime against humanity, and advocates Gandhian nonviolence as the method for creating a democratic society free of war, racism, sexism, and human exploitation.

-- Liz Roberts
Development& Membership Coordinator

War Resisters League
339 Lafayette St.
New York, NY 10012


(212) 228-0450 x 17
liz@warresisters.org
warresisters.org
 
 
                                                                    
 
 
 
 
 
 
We started with Tom Hayden, now we move to Danny Schechter, yes, all the crazies are out.  Know how to jump start Danny's heart?  Trash the government of Israel.  If you can do that, he loves you big smoochies.  It doesn't matter what else you do.  You can be a tyrant and he'll support you.  Which explains his ZNet valentine to Turkey and its prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogen. His stupidity explains the column's 'facts.'  Recep Tayyip Erdogen is prime minister -- a post elected by the Turkish Parliament.  Erdogen is not elected by the people and therefore -- pay attention, Danny -- he never "won an amazing 50% of the votes in a recent election."  Click here for BBC's sketch of Erdogen which includes his 1998 conviction for inciting religious hatred (he was released early -- apparently for good behavior). Click here to watch him in 2010 insisting, on CNN, that there was no Armenian Genocide ("not at all").  Click here for more on the Armenian Genocide, also known as the Armenian Holocaust.  As CNN notes, "Historians have extensively documented the Ottoman military's forced death-march of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Armenians into the Syrian desert in 1915. Every April 24, Armenians worldwide observe a rememberance day for those killed. The deaths decimated the Armenian population in what is now eastern Turkey."  Click here for a critique of Erdogen creating a police state made by political rival and former judge Emine Ulker Tarhan.  Click here for Amnesty International on Turkey.  I've been to Turkey, I like the country, I like the people.  My point in noting the above is pointing out that Danny's fallen in love with not with Turkey or the people of Turkey but with the government of Turkey because he and they share a common enemy.   Erdogen is not Ghandia and Turkey is not paradise. Probably a good idea not to fall in love with a politician. And we never look sillier on the left than when we fall in love with any foreign government.  We really should refrain from repeatedly making that mistake.  I also wonder how his valentine to the Turkish government plays to Amernian readers?  Or is he attempting to run them off as well?
 
Danny gushes about Turkey today and ignores it's assaults on northern Iraq.  Somehow Danny missed that as well. Is he aware his hero asked the US government for predator drones?  Is he aware innocent farmers and shepherds have had to flee their homes due to the nonstop bombing of northern Iraq by Turkish war  planes? Is he aware that along with wounding innocent Iraqis, the bombings have also killed them?  Is he aware that northern Iraq is being physically destroyed with these bombings?  Or that this might be the intention of the Turkish government in bombing northern Iraq to begin with?
 
 
 
 
(Like Tom, Danny tried to make money off of the war.  He did a documentary film on it and then turned that into a book with transcript of the screenplay.  You'd think people who tried to make a buck off the war would at least try to remember it but you'd be wrong.)
 in Iraq
 

Posted at 03:32 pm by thecommonills
 

Continued disintegration in Iraq

Continued disintegration in Iraq

Reuters reports that Iraqi officials announced yesterday that last Monday's attack on a bus of Shi'ite pilgrims, 22 of which were killed, was carried out by "Arab foreigners." Reuters is apparently too kind or shy to point out that last week saw the arrests of eight Iraqis in Anbar Province for the killings, four of which were quickly released with reports on Saturday stating the other four would be released as well. Alsumaria TV notes, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki ordered the release of all the detainees from Al Ratba District on account of Al Nukhaib incident, Anbar Province said."

Though Nouri and his goons need little help in perverting 'justice,' if they were aided in it last week and are this week, it might be due to what many detect/suspect is the hand of Sahwa majordomo and Iraqi mafia king pin Ahmed Abu-Risha who has had his own bloody fingers in the mix since day one, first grand standing immediately after the killing with the announcement of a huge reward for the capture of the killers. Over the weekend, he began making noise that the Saudis were connected to the killings. Abu-Risha wants to make himself indispensable to Nouri because he's already made himself useless to most Sunnis and his 'concrete' business won't escape the eyes of the law forever.

Al Mada notes the release of the eight arrested resulted not from "legal procedures" but a political deal. If that's news to you, drop back to Saturday's "Government in crisis." On Sunday, Al Rafidayn reports, the Defense Ministry's secretary was announcing that four of the eight had confessed to the killings. Never take a confession in Iraq seriously, the authorities use torture to garner them. But it is worth noting to point out that the secretary is not the Minister of Defense. Iraq has no Minister of Defense.

Though required by the Constituion to nominate a full Cabinet and have it approved by Parliament to move from prime minister-designate to prime minister, as December drew to a close, Nouri al-Maliki was waived on through and US officials (with the US press echoing them) maintained it was okay because Nouri would quickly fill the posts of Minister of Interior, Minister of National Security and Minister of Defense. (How very telling about the current White House that they were not only okay with but justified the breaking of a country's constitution.) It is now almost exactly nine months into Political Stalemate II and Nouri still can't fill the posts. Putting 'acting' ministers in those spots is not filling them. 'Acting' ministers are not approved by Parliament. Without Parliament approval, they have no Parliament protection and serve at the will of Nouri so better be good puppets or expect to be fired.

Dar Addustour reports that Jawad al-Bolani is again asking to be taken off of the list of candidates for Minister of the Defense. al-Bolani was backed by Iraqiya. In his latest comment, al-Bolani offers thanks for the support but the hope that by withdrawing his own name, there might be some forward movement of selecting a Minister of Defense finally.

Al Rafidayn reports that a prison fire in Baladiyat resulted in the deaths of 3 prisoners with another thirty left injured. At present, the fire is blamed on an electrical problem.

Meanwhile Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi is in the KRG, Aswat al-Iraq reports, to meet with Barham Saleh, KRG Premier, to discuss the ongoing governmental issues -- the failure to implement the Erbil Agreement, the oil and gas bill proposed by Nouri al-Maliki. Al Mada notes that the Kurds are "fed up" with Nouri's style of governing and with being marginalized while their demands are ignored. Some do believe that it would be difficult to replace Nouri currently (a no-confidence vote in Parliament) but as this situation continues to build, who knows? Dar Addustour notes some Kurdish insiders see Nouri's window of time closing and that current demands are the last chance. Al Mada also notes Nouri's specific failure to proceed on the section of the Erbil Agreement revolving around the national council (security committee that was to be headed by Ayad Allawi) is also harming his standing. And they note that Sadrists are bothered by State of Law's militia Knights of Law. (State of Law is Nouri's political slate.)

Bonnie reminds that last night Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Plan." On this week's Law and Disorder Radio -- a weekly hour long program that airs Monday mornings on WBAI and around the country throughout the week and is hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights), topics explored include the medical profession's role in assisting the US military and CIA in torture (guest is Dr. Stephen Soldz) and Guantanamo and its various satellites (guest is CCR's Vince Warren). And we'll close with this from the War Resisters League:

For Immediate Release
Contact: Liz Roberts
Phone: (212) 228-0450 x 17
Email: liz@warresisters.org

CALENDAR SPANNING OVER 5 DECADES OF PEACEMAKING & ART ANNOUNCES ITS FINAL EDITION

War Resisters League (WRL), a 98-year-old secular pacifist organization in the United States, announced today that their 2012 Peace Calendar, Organize This! A 1955-2011 Retrospective (ISBN: 0-940862-24-7), will be the final volume in a 57-year calendar series. For the first decade of its existence, the WRL peace calendar was the only progressive political calendar available.

This last edition is full-color with a foreword by Noam Chomsky. The pages of Organize This! include the covers of the 56 previous peace calendars which featured the writing and images of a wide range of renowned peacemakers and artists such as Pete Seeger, Dr. Benjamin Spock, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, John Sayles, A. Philip Randolph, Ben Shahn, Ed Asner, Ruby Dee, Mary Frank, Dick Gregory, Grace Paley, Vera B. Williams, Ivan Chermayeff, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Coretta Scott King, and Howard Zinn.

“WRL builds awareness of, and organizes against, every facet of militarism, working with civilians, GI resisters, and veterans’ groups throughout the United States,” Chomsky writes in his foreword. “For the last 57 years, the WRL Peace Calendar has been a vital part of this consciousness-raising and activism.”

Liz Roberts, Organize This! editor and WRL Membership and Development Coordinator, said, “The 2012 peace calendar is not just a retrospective of previous WRL calendars. It’s a keepsake of a long-running publication focused on anti-militarist organizing and peacemaking efforts for nearly 60 years. WRL’s Peace Calendars recorded the times in prose, poetry, lyrics, recipes and art.”

“Having begun work on peace calendars 40 years ago, I must say the final volume truly represents what WRL strives to achieve: the removal of all causes of war. The 2012 calendar unites WRL’s anti-war message with its long tradition of partnering with social justice movements” said former staff member Wendy Schwartz, who wrote the calendar’s afterword.

WRL ends this long tradition with a retrospective that shows the breadth of themes and vibrant artwork of every previous volume. In addition to the 56 pages of color artwork, the calendar’s date pages note events vital to the history of the movement for peace and social justice. There is also a directory of peace and justice organizations and publications in the United States, and a list of international contacts. Spiral bound, 144 pages, 5.5 x 8.5, Organize This! A 1955-2011 Retrospective retails for $14.95. It is available directly from the War Resisters League (www.warresisters.org/store) and at better bookstores everywhere.

Declining sales have made the calendar increasingly less effective as a fundraiser, and the digital age has made the paper datebook obsolete for many. Still, ending WRL’s long tradition of producing the peace calendar was not an easy decision, in part because of the calendar’s popularity as a holiday gift. Thus the organization has pledged to begin offering different items suitable for gift giving in the coming years.

War Resisters League, headquartered in New York City, is affiliated with War Resisters’ International, which is based in London. WRL believes war to be a crime against humanity, and advocates Gandhian nonviolence as the method for creating a democratic society free of war, racism, sexism, and human exploitation.

-- Liz Roberts
Development& Membership Coordinator

War Resisters League
339 Lafayette St.
New York, NY 10012


(212) 228-0450 x 17
liz@warresisters.org
warresisters.org






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









Posted at 05:23 am by thecommonills
 

Veterans issues: Burn pits, homeless and jobs

Veterans issues: Burn pits, homeless and jobs

Bill Zlatos (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review) reports on Iraq War veteran Bethany Bugay who now has chronic myelomonocytic leukemia. In Iraq, she worked in the notorius burn pits and she feels that it was this exposure was the source of her cancer. (This isn't an a wild assumption. In testimoney to the Democratic Policy Committee, doctors and veterans repeatedly established connections between the burn pits and various illness -- many of them life threatening.) The Defense Dept insists that their decision to (finally) close burn pits in Iraq in 2010 and to close them in Afghanistan by the end of 2011 prove they are "concerned" (DoD spokesperson Cynthia Smith). And while the government commissions studies, Susan Burke is leading the legal effort:


Some veterans are not waiting for government studies to prove a link. Burke filed a lawsuit last year in U.S. District Court in Maryland on behalf of hundreds of plaintiffs, including the families of three veterans who died of cancer. The plaintiffs were Houston-based contractors Kellogg Brown and Root and its former parent company, Halliburton. They operated many of the burn pits for the military.
"It's an environmental hazard that seriously impacts the health of our active-duty soldiers and veterans," Burke said. "It's led to the permanent destruction of pulmonary function, and it's also led to cancers that have caused death."

Thursday Jessica Jones (NPR's Morning Edition -- link has audio and text) reported on female veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars (there are over 200,000 of them) make up a large percent of today's homeless veterans. And while the national average is "between 3 and 6%," in Fayetteville, home to Fort Bragg, female veterans account for 18% of homeless veterans. Excerpt:

JONES: Siniyai is eight and Clarice is six. Their mother, Shawn McLean, has struggled to find a job since she got out of the Army three years ago. They left their last rental after another resident threatened them. McLean hasn't been able to find a place she and her daughters can afford.

SHAWN MCLEAN: It's hard, not knowing if you're going to be able to feed them, if it's going to rain, if it's going to be too cold outside. It's just hard.

Meanwhile Hilary Gowins (Northwest Herald) reports on young (male) veterans struggle to find employment in the Great Recession? Male? There is a figure for females. As I've noted several times before, one report after another ignores it. Both figures (the one used -- which is men -- and the one not) come from the government's labor board. Equally true, we've had updates every time the labor board issues a monthly employmnet report. So I'm not really sure why someone's using a 2010 figure.

Yesterday economists Linda J. Bilmes and Joseph E. Stiglitz had a column in the Los Angeles Times on the financial costs of the ongoing wars:

Many of these costs were unnecessary. We chose to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan with a small, all-volunteer force, and we supplemented the military presence with a heavy reliance on civilian contractors. These decisions not only placed enormous strain on the troops but dramatically pushed up costs. Recent congressional investigations have shown that roughly 1 of every 4 dollars spent on wartime contracting was wasted or misspent.
To date, the United States has spent more than $2.5 trillion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon spending spree that accompanied it and a battery of new homeland security measures instituted after Sept. 11.
How have we paid for this? Entirely through borrowing.

Bonnie reminds that last night Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Plan." On this week's Law and Disorder Radio -- a weekly hour long program that airs Monday mornings on WBAI and around the country throughout the week and is hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights), topics explored include the medical profession's role in assisting the US military and CIA in torture (guest is Dr. Stephen Soldz) and Guantanamo and its various satellites (guest is CCR's Vince Warren). And we'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "WHY AMERICA NEEDS TO DISMANTLE ITS 'SECURITY' APPARATUS" (Centre for Global Research):


The best way for America to become more secure may well be to dismantle its vast security apparatus. This means eliminating the Department of Homeland Security, closing down our 800 military bases on foreign soil, and slashing armaments spending by the War Department, the one euphemistically called the Department of Defense but which is, in fact, the spearhead of today’s naked American aggression in six countries. Real security begins with creating a policy of peace, meaning non-intervention, in the affairs of other states. It means when the U.S. sends its sons and daughters abroad on official business, it sends the Peace Corps to help and not the Pentagon to obliterate. It means returning to the lost arts of diplomacy, restoring the State Department to its original relevance; it means scrapping the posture of arrogance that is known as American exceptionalism and not acting as the self-appointed policeman of the world; and it means settling disputes with other nations in the World Court, not on the battlefield; and lastly, and not the least, it means having the courage to put some trust in the organization to keep the peace in whose creation America played so large a role in founding, the United Nations.
“We are not the policeman of mankind,” syndicated columnist Walter Lippmann once remarked. “We are not able to run the world and we shouldn’t pretend that we can. Let us tend to our own business, which is great enough as it is.” This complemented the words of founder Thomas Paine, who wrote in “The American Crisis”, “Not a place on earth might be so happy as America. Her situation is remote from all the wrangling world, and she has nothing to do but to trade with them.”




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
















Posted at 04:58 am by thecommonills
 

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Plan"

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Plan"

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "A Plan"


Isaiah's latest The World Today Just Nuts "The Plan." Barack, standing in front of Valerie Jarrett, declares, "Hey everybody, I'm back form my vacation and ready to do a little posing and speechify-ing! So I figured out how to save the country $3 trillion. Over 10 years. Don't you love politicians who announce cures that come in the future, after they're out of office? Me too! Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go meet with my travel agent to plan my next vacation." Isaiah archives his comics at The World Today Just Nuts.






Posted at 12:07 am by thecommonills
 


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