Friday, May 15, 2009

Laugh or cry, your choice

Obama Administration To Revive Fatally Flawed Military Commissions (5/15/2009)
Decision Strikes Blow To Due Process And Rule Of Law
NEW YORK – In a striking blow to due process and the rule of law, the Obama administration has decided to revive the fatally flawed military commissions system to prosecute certain Guantánamo detainees, according to news reports.
The following can be attributed to Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union:
"These military commissions are inherently illegitimate, unconstitutional and incapable of delivering outcomes we can trust. Tweaking the rules of these failed tribunals so that they provide 'more due process' is absurd; there is no such thing as 'due process light.' If the administration's proposed rules really bring these proceedings in line with constitutional requirements, there is no reason not to use our tried and true justice system. If they don't, these tribunals have no place in our democracy.
"Despite the administration's efforts to improve the system, the only explanation for reviving it would be to accommodate the damage that has already been done by the Bush administration's policies of torture, illegal detention and denial of fair trials. As unfortunate as it is to inherit that legacy, to accommodate those policies is essentially to ratify them.
"In this case, President Obama would do well to remember his own infamous words during his presidential campaign: you can't put lipstick on a pig."
The ACLU, through its John Adams Project with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, has worked with under-resourced military lawyers to provide legal counsel for several of the Guantánamo detainees in the military commissions system. The cases of these detainees would be included in those the Obama administration plans to prosecute through the revived commissions.

I'm not laughing at the ACLU or even with it. I'm appalled. But I do share C.I.'s reaction to the news today of Barry's latest cave: Loud laughter. Then Ava started laughing. Then they were saying stuff back and forth to each other that was hard to understand because they were laughing so hard. At one point Ava laughed something about coming out of the closet with an endorsement and C.I. replied back "he is the leader on understanding the threat to the Constitution and actually taking action, not just mouthing soundbites, on the need to deny torturers space in our nation and to restore the rule of law." That's when I realized they were mocking crazy ass Naomi Wolf who made a complete ass and total s**t out of herself for Barry O!

I can't believe what a liar Barack is and I was never devoted to him. But even I'm shocked. I wish I could do like Ava and C.I. In fairness, they always said they intended to sit back and laugh if Barack got in the White House. They said and they wrote it repeatedly at Third in their TV commentaries.

Earlier this month, Michael Ratner wrote the following (highlighting it because community member Billie asked for it to be highlighted):

As another one of his earliest acts Obama suspended the military commissions at Guantanamo. He did so for a period of four months. It was better than letting them continue, but not much better. For what was to come after the four months? At CCR we were worried. Why did he not end them, get rid of them all together? After all, they were entirely discredited. In seven years there were only two minor trials and evidence derived from abuse and torture was still permitted. Why should there be any kind of special courts in a democracy with a 225 year history of regular trials in regularly constituted courts—U.S. federal courts. The main reason for special courts is that it is easier to convict people when the rules are made up after the fact: the rules are bent toward conviction.
In a depressing and infuriating revelation in the New York Times on May 2, the revival of military commissions is stated as almost a sure thing. The reason according to some administration lawyers is that it would be difficult to prosecute defendants in regular courts because they had been brutalized and because prosecutors want to use hearsay evidence. That is some reason. Let’s just put it starkly. Such trials would be an abomination, an abomination approved by our new President.

And it's happened Michael Ratner. And if I remember C.I. correctly, the reason Barry made that announcement was to prevent the court from weighing in. A point Michael Ratner 'forgets' to include. And, Michael Ratner, if CCR was worried back then, maybe they f**king should have said something back then?

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, May 15, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Steven D. Green's War Crimes sentencing hearing takes a breather, Dahr Jamail offers some Iraq realities, US installed puppet Nouri gets even more power hungry, a War Hawk lowers his Iraq ambitions (probably to preach war for other regions) and more.

Steven D. Green was convicted two
Thursdays ago in the gang-rape of 14-year-old Iraqi Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, her murder, the murder of her five-year-old sister and the murders of both of her parents. His sentence hearing is ongoing and yesterday was day four. Brett Barrouquere (AP) reports, "U.S. District Judge Thomas Russell told jurors they should have the case for deliberations by Wednesday. He then adjourned court until Monday, when the defense is expected to present more witnesses." Barrouquere has been covering this case for nearly three years and he's the only one who's filed a report on Thursday's court room proceedings.

If the defense continues to present witnesses as late as Wednesday morning they will have offered 7 days of testimony for the sentencing phase. The trial itself, to determine guilt or innocence, lasted only 8 days. The defense began their presentation May 4th and concluded it May 5th. They offered two days of witness testimony when the jury was to determine whether Green was guilty or innocent. (The jury found Green guilty on all counts.) By contrast, they have already spent twice that amount of time calling witnesses this week.Away from the jury, the defense suffered a setback this week. They'd filed a motion arguing that some of the counts Green was convicted of should be dropped. Judge Russell considered their motion and the motion filed by Marisa Ford arguing the prosecution's case.Yesterday Judge Thomas ruled, "Defendant has moved the Court to (1) dismiss and/or preclude sentencing on counts 3-10, alternatively to (2) dismiss and/or preclude sentencing on counts 13-15, and alternatively to (3) permit sentencing on one murder count per victim. The United States has responded (DN 247). This matter is now ripe for adjudication. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion is DENIED."The motion by the defense was a head scratcher since the time to make such a motion (which most likely would have been denied) was before the conviction, not after. Not after the jury made a determination. The motion continues the pattern of the defense doing more work in the sentencing phase than they did when the jury was determining guilt or innocence.Green is facing the death penalty and to be sentenced to death, every person on the jury must vote in favor of a death sentence. Should the jury be unable to make a determination, the judge would sentence Green and, should that happen, the it would be a life sentence of imprisonment.

Wikileaks posts [PDF format warning] the US Military's Public Affairs Guidance memo on the case from back in 2006 and Wikileaks notes that they refer to Abeer as "a young woman" (at one point the US military was insisting Abeer was 24-years-old). The document identifies its target audience as Iraqis first and foremost.

"We have an update now on
Monday's shooting rampage at a US military stress clinic in Iraq in which a soldier gunned down 2 military doctors and 3 other servicemen," declared Jeff Glor last night on The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric (here for video, and Ruth noted this last night). "CBS News has learned the suspect, Sgt. John Russell, was furious with doctors at the clinic, complaining they didn't believe he was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The bodies of three victims arrived at Dover Air Force Base last night." The shooting was a topic on the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show and while Barbara Slavin (Washington Times) was commenting, things were fact based. But Jonathan S. Landay (McClatchy Newspapers) and the 'delightful' Demetri Sevastoulo (Financial Times) had to get creative and, for Demetri, sexist.

Diane Rehm: He was a 21-year Army veteran, Barbara, accused of gunning down five fellow US troops. What were the circumstances?

Barbara Slavin: Well not entirely clear yet. A Sgt John Russell, I believe he was on his third tour in Iraq, and he apparently was very concerned that he was not able to keep up with the mortgage payments on his home in the US --
Which is why he re-enlisted in order to make money.

Barbara Slavin: Yeah. He clearly had mental problems. Unfortunately he was sent, I think, against his will to a mental health facility at Camp Liberty outside Baghdad and that's where he executed five people.

Diane Rehm: He had apparently gotten into a fracas with his controlling officer.

Demetri Sevastoulo: Yeah he did but I think the broader point that needs to be made here is that the military in the last two years has seen a spike in suicides or mental health related incidents like that and it's becoming a big problem. Until about a couple of years ago, the level of suicides in the military or -- or people shooting each other -- wasn't that high compared to the rest of the population. But in the last couple of years, we've seen a spike and you've seen a big push by Adm [Mike] Mullen the chair man of the Joint Chiefs [of Staff] to get people to go for treatment when they have mental health problems.

Diane Rehm: But it's the extraordinary stress that these people are under no matter what their ages generally. Jonathan?

Jonathan S. Landay: The -- the man who's been accused of this shooting in -- in Baghdad in fact according to what I understand, has never been in combat.He was an electronic specialist and attached to an engineering unit. Apparently one of his tasks was to go and salvage electric components from vehicles that had been hit by IEDs by -- bey explosives. And in doing so witnesses the gory aftermath of -- of these attacks. He was on -- nearing the end of his third tour in Iraq.

Diane Rehm: He had also been in Bosnia, Herzegovina.

Jonathan: And Kosovo. That is correct. And I think Demetri hits on the bigger point. There was a study done last year by the RAND Corporation which found that a full 20% of the 1.6 million US service people who have been through Afghanistan and Iraq are suffering from symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that only about half of them seek treatment because they see it as a stigma attached to this --

Diane Rehm: Exactly.

Jonathan S. Landay: Even those half that do seek treatment don't get adequate treatment.

They just make up what ever they want to, don't they? For example, resident pig Demetri Sevastoulo would bring up a general whose name he didn't know who he thought sought treatment (but there's no way to check that, is there Demetri) and went public "to say to the younger guys" -- Demetri, you are aware that women serve in the US military, right?
Or are you still too busy lusting for a cat fight between Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni to grasp that? Jonathan S. Landay declared "only about half of them seek treatment because they see it as a stigma attached to this". Did RAND's study find that? No. First off the study [PDF format warning] entitled "Invisible Wounds of War: Summary and Recommendations" was on PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). The study extrapolated:

Assuming that the prevalence found in this study is representative of the 1.64 million individuals who have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq to date, we estimate that approximately 300,000 individuals currently suffer from PTSD or major depression and that 320,000 veterans report having experience a probabe TBI during deployment.

53% of those studied had sought treatment for PTSD. Landay maintained that the service members see a stigma. They do? Really?
In general, respondents were concerned that getting treatment would not be kept confidential and would constrain future job assignments and career advancement. About 45 percent were concerned that drug therapies for mental health problems may have unpleasant side effects, and about one-quarter thought that even good mental health care was not very effective. Logistical barriers to mental health treatment, such as time, money, and access, were mentioned less frequently but may still be important barriers for many individuals. At the same time, it is possible that servicemembers and veterans do not seek treatment they may perceive little or no benefit.

They see a stigma? Or they're worried that their information won't be kept confidential and will effect job promotions and future tasks? There's a world of difference between a stigma that they would identify as 'I believe seeking treatment is a sign of weakness' and what the study ACTUALLY found which was that they fear they will be stigmatized because their records will not be kept confidential. Considering all the information the VA has repeatedly accidentally made public this decade, that would be a reasonable concern. Their concern also goes to the culture in the military. It does not go to their own personal opinions of therapy which is what Landay suggested.

And actually the number one answer was medications: "The medications that might help have too many side effects." To get their number one answer, the study combined "It could harm my career" with "My coworkers would have less confidence in me if they found out" and should have also tossed in "I could be denied a security clearance" which was ahead of "My coworkers would have less confidence in me if they found found out." (Refer to diagram 2.3 on page 14 of the report.) But the number one single answer was medications.

Today the Las Vegas Sun editorializes, "
A tragic crime in Iraq:"Studies indicate that as many as one in five soldiers who have served in the combat zone have anxiety, depression or other mental health issues. The military's handling of those afflictions has been terrible, marked by poor treatment of those seeking help and a high suicide rate among soldiers. The sergeant's father, John Michael Russell, said his son was finishing his third tour in Iraq and thought his commanders were trying to drive him out of the service. He said his son feared losing his job and his military pension. The elder Russell noted the stigma attached to a soldier accused of having a mental health issue. "I think they broke him," he said. [. . .] Because the Pentagon has continually failed to address the problem, Congress should step in and make sure that those who serve in combat are given the help they need. As noted in yesterday's snapshot, Feb. 28th, the US House Armed Services Committee (discussing FY2009 Defense budget) raised this issue with US House Rep Patrick Murphy asking General George Casey if Congress needed to legislate dwell time to ensure that service members were getting the time they needed:
Murphy noted that "we're begging for about 7,000 troops for Afghanistan from our allies" and wondered if Congress needed to "mandate that if you deploy for 15 months, you're home for 15 months, if you deploy for 12 months, you're home for 12 months"? Casey wasn't keen on that idea and claimed it would interfere with the military's ability to do their job. Which makes the 'promise' Casey and Geren made earlier this week seem even more hollow (even more hollow than Casey claimed, in today's hearings, his experiences in the seventies were).
April 1, 2008, US House Rep Shelley Berkley was pointing out to Walter Reed Amry Institute of Research's Col Charles W. Hoge that he'd just stated 12 months was not enough dwell time (he hemmed and hawed but agreed he'd just said it) and she pointed out that some US service members didn't even get that. The Las Vegas Sun is correct, Congress needs to legislate on this and they need to do so immediately.

Though the Congress refuses so far to mandate dwell time, they did vote yesterday to continue the illegal wars by funding them. Thursday Karen Miller (
Free Speech Radio News) reported on the House of Representatives voting to fund Barack Obama's $96.7 billion war supplemental which does not include an exit strategy. US House Rep Diane Watson told Miller, "The last admistration never put the funds for the war in the regular budget. They always came as a supplement with all good things that we wanted in it so you were forced to vote for it. I am not voting for another cent for any war anywhere because we will never win a war in that part of the world: Iraq, even Iran -- if we choose or chose to go to war there, Afghanistan, Pakistan. It can only be done through diplomacy, through negotiations, through politics. But never at the end of the gun." Watson was one of sixty House members voting against the supplemental. The others were Tammy Baldwin, John Campbell, Michael Capuano, Yvette Clarke, Steve Cohen, John Conyers, Jim Cooper, Jerry Costello, Lloyd Doggett, John Duncan, Donna Edwards, Vernon Ehlers, Keith Ellison, Sam Farr, Bob Filner, Jeff Flake, Barney Frank, Alan Grayson, Raul Grijalva, Luis Gutierrez, Michael Honda, Jay Inslee, Timothy Johnson, Steve Kagen, Marcy Kaptur, Dennis Kucinich, Barbara Lee, John Lewis, Zoe Lofgren, Edward Markey, Eric Massa, Doris Matsui, James McDermott, James McGovern, Michael Michaud, George Miller, Grace Napolitano, Richard Neal, James Oberstar, Ron Paul, Donald Payne, Thomas Petri, Chellie Pingree, Jared Polis, Royce Dwards, Janice Schakowsky, James Sensenbrenner, Jose Serrano, Carol Shea-Porter, Jackie Speier, Michael Thompson, John Tierney, Edolphus Towns, Niki Tsongas, Nydia Velazquez, Maxine Waters, Anthony Weiner, Peter Welch and Lynn Woolsey. There are a few Republicans on the list and some in the press have interpreted this as an anti-Barack voter but Ron Paul is among those Republicans and his record is consistent on this issue regardless of whom occupies the White House. Perry Bacon Jr. (Washington Post) quotes US House Rep Maxine Waters states "this bill simply amplifies and extends failed policies" and US House Rep Jim McGovern states, "When George Bush was president, I was on this floor saying we need an exit strategy. The same applies with Afghanistan. I'm tired of wars with no deadlines, no exits and no ends." Janet Hook (Los Angeles Times) quotes US House Rep David Obey, who voted for the measure, stating, "This is a bill that I have very little confidence in. But we have a responsibility to give a new president who did not get us into this mess the opportunity to get us out of it." David Lightman and William Douglas (McClatchy Newspapers) quote US House Rep Jim McGovern (who voted against it) stating, "As the mission has grown bigger, the policy has grown even more vague." The measure next goes before the Senate for a vote.

Staying with the Congress,
Dahr Jamail appeared on KPFA's Flashpoints and we'll note that again later in the snapshot but first this section where he's speaking of counter-insurgency:

Dahr Jamail: It's a really insidious form of neo-colonialism that the US is involved in both Iraq and Afghanistan now and this is a program called the HTS, the Human Terrain System. And what it is is they're employing social scientists so the likes of primarily anthropologists but also social psychologists and sociologists. They're bringing these people in, they're embedding them in military units in teams of between two and five social scientists to go out with combat units. And the goal is well first of all it's basically sold to the American public and gotten a lot of corporate media coverage in this light 'Well if we bring these people along, these people would have a better understanding of the culture and it's going to prevent civilian casualties, it's going to help the military make better decisions.' The reality is how these people are actually being used. First of all, they were used during the raging sectarian conflict in Iraq in 2006 up to mid-2007 to basically find fissures that existed between the Shia and the Sunni primarily and then exploit these so actually help the military stay out of the conflict and actually were involved in some cases in literally giving information to commanders to target certain individuals. And when we look at, for example, how does this stack up to the code of ethics of anthropology? The two primary aspects of their code of ethics is (1) you have to your subject's permission before you're going to do a study [informed consent] and, second, do no harm. So clearly they're in direct violation to both of the primary ethical codes of anthropology and it's caused massive outcry across most anthropologists -- where people, organizations have been formed, people are very much against this HTS program. It's a very insidious form of colonialism. And it's continuing on despite protests, most anthropologists being against this, we've seen no change. We don't know if it's been augmented and expanded but we definitely know that it's continuing on and it's not being disassembled whatsoever. So this is another very disconcerting way that the Obama administration is carrying on Bush policy in Iraq today.

Actually, we do know that it is being expanded and more money spent on it. That was clear in one hearing after another in the last weeks.
The US Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support April 22nd was where US marine Gen James F. Amos not only repeatedly confessed to his fears of 'emasculation' but also that the marines weren't ready for war with North Korea or Iran "right now because we're predominately a counter-insurgnecy, a regular warfar focus Marine Corps right now. So all those other skills -- combined armed fire manuever forcible entry -- those things -- we'd have to fjure out, we'd have to figure out, 'Okay, what do we need to do for this new -- this new contingency?'" May 7th the House Armed Services Committee's Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee heard from a wide range of War Hawks including Lisa Schirch who insisted the NGOs needed to work with the miltiary and provide "information" to help with counter-terrorism and more money (always more money from the War Whore Beggar) would help those "on the ground who have cultural intelligence information to share". Big Boy Pull-Ups David Kilcullen also testified to beg for more money (and the committee was all for it -- please note, the committee booked only pro-counter-insurgency witnesses) and also for the US to alter or dispose of some of those pesky laws that his home country of Australia apparently doesn't have:

Fat Ass Kilcullen: And one final legislative issue. We had a lot of trouble uh in Iraq uh trying to counter al Qaeda in Iraq propaganda because of the Smith-Mundt act which meant that we couldn't do a lot of things online uh because if you put something on YouTube uh and it's deemed to the information operations and there's a possibility that an American might log on to that page and read that and be influenced by that's technically illegal under the Smith-Mundt Act and we had to get a uh uh a waiver as you may recall to be able to do that. I think for Congress it might be worth looking at uh how that legislation may need to be relooked at or re-examined in the light of a new media environment so that it still has the same intent but doesn't necessarily restrict us from legitimate things that we might need to do in the field.

Kilcullen, note, wanted to counter what he dubbed al Qaeda in Iraq propangada with . . . propaganda. Not with truth. There's no law barring the US military telling the truth to domestic (US) audiences. There is a law against propaganda. Kilcullen whined to the subcommittee -- a pathetic subcommittee eager to whore itself out -- that he couldn't use the propaganda he wanted as easily as he wanted because of pesky US laws. In case Kicullen's missed it, there are 14 or so connecting flights each weekday out of Dulles to Melbourne Airport -- any of which Kicullen could easily grab to return to his own country where, apparently, propaganda is legal. And of course,
yesterday's Senate Armed Services Committee found the Republicans objecting to the big increase in counter-insurgency while what they feel are defense items (missile systems, etc.) are being short changed. Kat shared her thoughts on yesterday's hearing here. Wednesday's snapshot covered some of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee's Innovative Technologies and Treatments Helping Veterans hearing and Kat covered that hearing here.

Meanwhile in Iraq, puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki makes another power grab.
Missy Ryan, Mohammed Abbas and Dominic Evans (Reuters) report Nouri is insisting that the agreements on power sharing among Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds need to be weakened and watered down. al-Maliki appears to want simple majority rule which is rather ironic since he's only sitting on his throne due to being installed by the US military and the fact that the US military remains on the ground in Iraq. The reporters note, "His comments were likely to fuel suspicions of Sunni Arabs, dominant under Saddam Hussein, and Kurds, who have their own semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq, that minority groups could be subject to majority Shi'ite tyranny." On the subject of the tensions, Wednesday's snapshot wrongly credited "Violence Rises in Iraq's Tense North" to the New York Times' Timothy Williams when the author was Campbell Robertson. My apologies. The morning entry has been corrected and we'll note it in tomorrow's snapshot (snapshot corrections run in later snapshots, that's the policy that allows people to easily copy and paste them -- if you're confused, you're new to the policy). It was my mistake and I apologize for the error and thank community members Mia and Charlie as well as a visitor e-mailing the public account for pointing out my error. Souad Jaroush (Asharq al-Awsat) reports that some Ba'athists currently outside the party see a power vaccum in Iraq and quotes an unnamed official stating they are preparing to enter Iraq as the US draws down to "restore our control on the ground, returning Iraq to its rightful place, as well as expelling all the [foreign] agents that came with the occupation forces." Foreign agents could mean the likes of al-Maliki and the bulk of his cabinet since they were all exiles who chose to live outside of Iraq for years and decades and only returned to the country after the US invaded and exiles could be so easily installed. Alsumaria reports that the country's Parliament is calling for a new committee to be created in order to investigate "the dismissal of 114 officers from the Defense Ministry" by al-Maliki's government. As the tensions escalate, War Hawk and part of Team Colin! during the lead up to the illegal war Richard Haas, Viola Gienger (Bloomberg News) reports, tells Bloomberg's Political Capital with Al Hunt (airs this weekend) that, "There's a ceiling on how good it can ever get, given the nature of Iraqi society, given the schisms. I'd be happy, quite honestly, in two or three years, if Iraq looked no worse." The program beings airing tonight at 6:30 pm EST (believe that's the debut) and repeats throughout the weekend (check schedule) and it also is available as a podcast.

Yesterday the
US military announced: "BAGHDAD -- A Coalition forces Soldier was killed and four injured Wednesday morning while conducting combat operations in Duluiyah, approximately 80 km northwest of Baghdad, when their unit came in contact with enemy forces. The unit was conducting operations to rid Iraq of a weapons facilitator and suicide vest cell known to be operating in the area. The Soldiers names will not be released until 24 hours after next of kin notification." The announcement brought to 4295. the number of US service members killed in the Iraq War, five away from 4300. How nice for Richard Hass that they apparently died for the war he cheerleaded so that Iraq didn't look any worse than it does today.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .

Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report a Baghdad grenade attack which wounded two people, journalist Khalida al-Mawla was targted with a Mosul sticky bombing but was warned before she got into the car (which exploded while she was outside of it) and a Baghdad roadside bombing Thursday night which injured two people,


Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report 1 person shot dead (internal refugee) in Baghdad, 2 police officers injured in a Mosul shooting and two police officers and one Sahwa were injured when unknown assailants attacked a police and Sahwa checkpoint in Samarra.

Wednesday, independent journalist
Dahr Jamail appeared on KPFA's Flashpoints and discussed Sahwa and the rise in violence in Iraq.

Dahr Jamail: I attribute it directly to US policy on the ground there. Just for a little context back in April 2006, well before Bush's so-called 'surge' strategy began which was in February 2007, the US got involved in basically bringing back to life a policy that actually Saddam Hussein used to control areas of Iraq that were very volatile and tended to fight against his dictatorship and so what Saddam did was to basically pay off tribal sheiks, find those who would collaborate with him, pay them off, pay them handsomely under the guise of so-called 'construction contracts' so that they would control people in their tribe and keep them from launching resistance attacks. Well the US basically incorporated the same policy. They called it the formation of the "Awakening" Groups which are now referred to in Iraq as the Al-Sawha, the "Sons Of Iraq." The Sunni militia grew to be 100,000 strong, they were all being paid 300 bucks a month, most of them former resistance fighters according to the [US] military and some of them even members of al Qaeda. But it worked very effectively in keeping violence down and the problem is that, as of last October, these forces were supposed to have been rolled into the government security apparatus -- of the government in Baghdad led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Rather than that actually happening, to date, 5,000 of the 100,000 have actually been given government jobs. The rest of them, in addition to not being paid -- many of them not since October, they've been undergoing attacks from government forces and sometimes even US forces. So as a result, they're not targeting al Qaeda as they used to be so that's why we're seeing a dramatic increase in these spectacular car bomb attacks at mosques and Shia markets, etc. And also that's why we're seeing an uptick in the number of attacks against American troops because some of these people are going back into the resistance since they are not being paid anymore and deciding to basically renew their attacks against occupation forces. So this is really the main reason as I see it why there's been a pretty dramatic escalation in violence. It started slowly in January, it increased in February, it increased more in March and then literally exploded in April and we're seeing it continue on into May.

Nora Barrows Friedman: And Dahr given this acceleration in attacks, what do you think will happen with the people who are in Sahwa forces over the next few months? Do you think the US has stepped into a potential landmine here? Could it actually effect Obama's policy in Iraq?

Dahr Jamail: Well, you know, this is a bigger discussion if we're going to talk about Obama's so-called policy in Iraq because it's really just a continuation of Bush policy. There is -- there is no change on the ground in Iraq. But really I see the situation continuing to degrade because there's a couple of things the Obama administration could do if they were serious about changing the direction things are going on the ground in Iraq. And one would be to pressure the Maliki government to hold true to their promises to incorporate the Sahwa into the government forces, start paying them, stop attacking them. And this is not happening. And instead of that even we saw Obama dispatch Hillary Clinton over to Baghdad a couple of weeks ago and the primary purpose of her mission was basically to assure the Maliki government, 'Look we're not going to abandon you, we will stay. We know the Status Of Forces [Agreement] deadline is coming the end of June, but we're going to be sticking around. So don't worry.' And as a result we're seeing -- if we talk about what is going to happen there, you know, everyone believes that as of June 30 all US troops are going to be out of all Iraqi cities, according to the SOFA. Well the reality is, for example, let's just look at the base Camp Victory which is right nearby Camp Liberty where the American soldier slaughtered five other soldiers on Monday. Camp Victory, over 20,000 US troops stationed at this base alone, it's also simultaneously Baghdad International Airport, Camp Liberty - Baghdad Airport -- I'm sorry, Camp Victory - Baghdad Airport. Same thing. Those are in Baghad. So they're not going to be moving this base because that would entail moving Baghad International Airport as well and it's simply not going to happen so there's your Status Of Forces Agreement for you right there. In addition to the fact that the SOFA also does not prohibit US military from patrolling every city in Iraq if they so please so we're not going to see a cessation in patrols either. So these are things that I see continuing on and it's going to continue to degrade. In fact, as the Brits pull out of southern Iraq, we're starting to see more and more attacks on American forces down there who are filling in for the Brits in the Basra area. In fact just a couple of days ago we had another American soldier killed in Basra by a roadside bomb.

Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox features Russell Baker to discuss his new book Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, The Powerful Forces that Put It in the White House and What Their Influence Means for America. Bonnie Faulkner (KPFA's Guns and Butter) interviewed Baker Wednesday and you can click here for the audio at Information Clearing House. TV notes, NOW on PBS begins airing tonight on many PBS stations (check local listings):A record 115,000 U.N. peacekeepers are now deployed in 20 countries, and their mission is more vital than ever. But critics and insiders alike are openly worried that the current peacekeeping model is overstretched -- and at risk of failure.This week, NOW travels to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to witness today's largest and most expensive peacekeeping operation. There, 17,000 U.N. troops are tasked with protecting millions of people over a rugged and dangerous territory the size of the Eastern United States. But the effort is struggling--last November, local rebels massacred civilians less than a mile from one of the U.N. bases. How can U.N. peacekeeping be improved so that it fulfills its promise of protection to the world? This show is a co-production with the Bureau for International Reporting (BIR), a non-profit video news production company. PBS is celebrating Sausage Fest. They tend to do that every week. Bill Moyers plans to have multiple guests tonight who all share one thing in common. Can you guess what? Gwen stacks her show but provides a token female on Washington Week: John Dickerson (Slate, CBS News), Michael Duffy (Time), John Harwood (CNBC, New York Times and John Dickerson's doppelganger) and -- TOKEN ALERT! TOKEN ALERT! -- Ceci Connolly (Washington Post). Gwen and Bill, proving each week that the "P" in PBS stands for "penis." Both sausage fests begin airing tonight. Be sure not to watch them with young girls unless you're prepared to explain, "Apparently the TV dinosaurs ate up all the women, honey. Gwen? Well they spit her back out." As a fix you can watch (and starts airing tonight on many PBS stations, check local listings) as Bonnie Erbe sits down with Latifa Lyles, Genevieve Wood, Melinda Henneberger and Rosemary Jenks to discuss this week's news on To The Contrary. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:Secretary Of WarDefense Secretary Robert M. Gates discusses the war in Afghanistan in a candid and wide-ranging interview with Katie Couric, who accompanied him to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. Watch Video
AIGEd Liddy, the man who took over the reins of out-of-control American International Group – the failed insurance giant to which the government has made $180 billion available in aid – speaks to Steve Kroft about the gargantuan task ahead.
Anna WintourThe sunglasses come off the high-queen of haute couture in this rare and unprecedented interview, in which the Vogue editor reveals why she always wears them and much more to Morley Safer in her first long-length interview for U.S. television. Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, May 17, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

This week saw Barack Obama break another promise. The torture photos aren't going to be released. Despite promises to the contrary.
Debra Sweet (World Can't Wait) notes:

Wednesday, while flying across the country, I was able to watch CNN all day as the news rolled out from the White House that the Obama administration was making an about face, and deciding to fight the court order to release the torture photos. It's an extraordinary story, and people are right to be outraged.

Kevin Gostzola, a student at Columbia College, pulled together the tortured logic of the Obama argument in
Obama Employs Bush Administration Tactic to Halt Release of Detainee Photos.

The moment my plane landed in San Francisco, the voice mails, texts, emails began...people thinking about what to do in response. A quick conference call Thursday united World Can't Wait chapters to go Friday to media outlets (FOX in New York; CNN in Atlanta) with the demand:

Release the Torture Photos! Prosecute the War Criminals!

World Can't Wait is planning actions to protest the torture of the previous administration and the cover up of the current one (plus, Barack's policies have not ended torture -- in some cases it has farmed torture out). From "Thursday MAY 28 National Day of Resistance to U.S. TORTURE!:"

On or by May 28, the Obama administration is being forced to release 2000 photos of detainee abuse in US facilities from 2001-2006. The Abu Ghraib photos, released in 2004 only because a solider was horrified over the torture, brought an international storm of protest against the US torture state. The new photos, including many from Bagram, where the detention facilities have just been doubled to hold 60,000 Afganis, will show that US torture was widespread, sustained, and systemic, not an "aberration," but an integral part of the "global war on terror."
Weeks after 4 more torture memos revealed the detail with which George Bush's lawyers managed the torture of individual detainees, calls to prosecute those responsible -- from the White House principals, to the legal torture team, to the CIA agents who tortured -- have met objections from Washington. Cheney and the open advocates of torture scream that they must be able to use "harsh methods" to win the global war on terror. The Obama administration, after deciding to continue indefinite detention, CIA rendition, and Bush's executive powers, says prosecution would stop them from "moving forward." Democratic party leader Nancy Pelosi knew about the torture and waterboarding since 2002, saying and doing nothing to stop it..
It's up to the people to act! World Can't Wait and other groups are planning non-violent civil resistance protests, programs digging into the substance of the charges, waterboarding and rendition re-enactments, and film showings in communities around the country to demand prosecution of the Bush era war criminals. More information, listings, posters, flyers & background on the war criminals at
Wherever the Bush era war criminals are appearing this month, raise the cry "Torture is a War Crime! Prosecute!"

evan brightsteven d. green
brett barrouquerethe los angeles timesruben vives
the washington postperry bacon jr.brian falerdavid lightmanwilliam douglasmcclatchy newspapersjanet hookthe los angeles timesmissy ryanmohammed abbasdominic evanscorey boylesthe las vegas sunnprthe diane rehm show
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free speech radio news
cindy sheehan
cbs newspbsto the contrarybonnie erbenow on pbs
the cbs evening news with katie couric
world cant wait

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Senate Armed Services Committee

In today's snapshot, C.I. covers the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing and I'll add my thoughts here. Remember, I'm 'impressionistic.' I'm not breaking my neck with reporting.

First impression, John McCain, as president, would be no different than Barack Obama as president. McCain praised Barack repeatedly including, of course, the decision not to release the torture memos. He also praised the decision to send more troops to Afghanistan.

John McCain approves of and endorses Barack. And we're supposed to really believe there's any difference between the two?


Clair McCaskill is just a stooge. I hate that woman. For obvious reasons including she's beyond a War Hawk, she's a War Whore. Clair wore another tacky outfit (her closet must be filled with them) and wanted Bob Gates to know she was going to give him a little praise and then she was going to get ugly with him. Get ugly?

Clair you didn't wait for the starter gun to be fired.

In the end, she didn't get ugly with him. She just did her usual whine about contractors.

Some fools think Clair's opposed to contractors. She's not. She wants more to be used by the mlitary. So Clair did her War Whore dance and you had to wonder why the hell she ever got elected?

Susan Collins stood out because I don't remember her voice being so shaky. Maybe it always is. I thought maybe she had a cold.

I'm trying to remember another point. Who was the senator? Okay, reading over the snapshot, I think it was Saxby Chambless or John Thune. When one of them was speaking, I couldn't pay attention because there was someone behind them, a man right over one of their shoulders, either speaking to someone attending, having spasms or just thinking it was time to make faces. I had never seen anything like it. He did it over and over and it was very distracting.

The talk, by Gates, of the "air born laser" was interesting. Scary, but interesting. (C.I. mentions that in the snapshot.)

That's going to be it for me tonight. I am wiped out from this week and just want to crawl into bed.

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, May 14, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Steven D. Green's War Crimes sentencing continues, new details emerge in John Russell's shooting of five fellow service members in Iraq, the US Armed Services Committee forgets Iraq today and Dems let Republicans set the game for next week, Dennis Kucinich calls out the War Hawks, and more.

Steven D. Green was convicted last
Thursday in the gang-rape of 14-year-old Iraqi Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, her murder, the murder of her five-year-old sister and the murders of both of her parents. His sentence hearing is ongoing and today was day four. Evan Bright reports that the defense called Green's friend Tammi Dehay, Green's Cousin Suzi Woolsey and a social worker, Jan Vogelsang. Bright states the latter offered "an extreme walk through of Steven Green's family". Brett Barrouquere (AP) notes today's "witnesses were called by defense attorneys trying to persuade jurors that Green, 24, of Midland, Texas, should be sentened to life in prison rather than face a death sentence." Of yesterday's hearing, Bright reported:

The defense brought Jim Isclaw to the stand. At entry, Isclaw winked at Green when their eyes met. Isclaw, a native of Alvarado, TX, is an assistant football coach, golf coach, and teacher at Alvarado High School, and has been there for 23 years. To be quite frank, he's a good ol' country boy, and he's got the persona of one as well. In his face, you can see the hours/days/years spent in the hot(understatement) Texan sun, calling plays and yelling at players. The attorney got straight to the point by beginning with "Do you remember Steven Green?" Isclaw immediately fired back with "I'll never ferget 'im...there's some kids you just don't forget." He spoke of meeting Steven in the summer of his freshman year for the football team's two-a-day workouts during the summer. He spoke of Green living with his uncle, David. He highlighted on his memory of green: his far and few between class/school absences, "he had very good fact I did some research and he only had four absences that entire year," and about his personality as he remembered it, "he was a very likable guy, very enjoyable, he was easy to spot and when you did see him you could count on him to put a smile on your face." He told of Green being a typical "knucklehead" and getting into small trouble. Defendant Green couldn't help but to laugh. He spoke of Green's unfaltering attendance at the varsity games, "he never missed a game." He told of Green's undying sense of humor, "he was a funny guy, he'd do this one leg chicken dance at all the pep rallies." This humor/dance would become a recurring theme throughout the rest of the days' testimony. He gave the courtroom a laugh when he spoke of Green's "lack of" athletic ability in playing wide receiver. The jury and audience was shown a picture from the yearbook of Green on the football field, "looking for an opening" against Arlington Heights, to which Isclaw commented, "If he had the ball against Arlington Heights... We were either way ahead or way behind," bringing a few chuckles. Wolff began a difficult line of questioning in the witnesses by asking Isclaw "If Green were to be executed, what impact would that have on you?" Isclaw visibly thought about his answer, and you could almost see his stomach churning as he responded, "It'd….it would break my heart...(pausing)...he's one of my own. 185 days of school to get to know him, I know that don't seem like much but he was always one that I liked and remembered…I'd be saddened...(pause)...I believe it'd crush me." No cross from the prosecution. The next witness was Chase Bentley, a 24 year old from Lovett, Texas. He just completed his Masters Degree in Civil Engineering last week, and is already engaged with a wedding on December 14th, he told the court. He spoke of meeting Green during his junior year of high school, when Green was only a freshman(Green only attended Alvarado for his freshman year). As a requirement, football players must run track in the spring, which was where Green and Bentley met. When asked what his impression of Green was, he quickly spoke of having "only great memories. He was just one of the fellas" He spoke of Green being "the class clown….this guy was funny." When asked about his track running ability, Bentley grinned profusely for a few seconds before eluding to his opinion that "well…he was fun to watch, let's just put it that way." Once again, his testimony ended with what his thoughts would be if Green were to be executed, "I couldn't imagine…(long, thoughtful pause)…he lost his father and….I can't imagine that with a set predetermined date and…" His testimony ended there, again with no cross examination.

"Even as our focus shifts to Afghanistan and Pakistan, the stability situation in Iraq remains a source of concern and significant effort," declared Senator Carl Levin today . . . after spending five minutes in his opening statement discussing Afghanistan and Pakistan. Levin was making opening remarks as the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee which heard testimony this morning from US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Adm Mike Mullen. It was all a bunch of posing and preening from the witnesses and from Congressional members. Senator Jim Webb may have scored most embarrassing as he rushed to sing the praises of Iran-Contra War Criminal Caspar Weinberger ("Cap Weinberger," he called him). [Weinberger was indicted by the grand jury, George H.W. Bush pardoned him. It's a sad day in Congress when Iran-Contra War Criminals earn praise . . . from Democrats.] Democrats rushed to grovel and preen before Gates and Mullen and to play I-love-the-military-more. The Republicans laid down markers that they intend to develop in a future hearing (possibly next week) which will bring an officer to Congress to testify about his opposition to Gates' budget recommendations. Iraq rarely came up in the hearing. Republicans focused on the budget -- chiefly what wasn't in it -- while Democrats obsessed over Pakistan to the point that they appeared eager to go to officially go to war with the country. We'll drop back to opening remarks since it was one of the few times Iraq came up.

Senator Carl Levin: This June, pursuant to the US-Iraq SOFA, Status Of Forces Agreement, US combat forces are supposed to be withdrawn from Iraqi urban areas, turning over the security of cities and major towns to Iraqi security forces. The agreement also sets a December 2011 deadline for the withdrawal of all US forces from Iraq. President Obama has called for an end to US combat missions in Iraq by August of 2010. I hope that the draw down of forces in Iraq can be maintained while preserving our hard fought gains and while continuing to build Iraqi capacity to provide for their own security. The failure of Iraqi leaders to complete the political steps that they promised to take long ago puts at risk the reaching of those goals.

And with that approximately one minute and ten second bit, Levin was done with Iraq. Aaaaaawwwwww. Did the illegal war drag on longer than Congress cared to pay attention? How very lucky for our members of Congress that they serve in DC and not Iraq. Can you imagine how bored they be and how much their non-stop yawns would be as they patrolled Iraq? Poor, poor Congressional members.

Senator John McCain is the Ranking Member on the Committee. He used his opening statements to focus on "runaway costs." In the general, you understand. The abstract. He mentioned Afghanistan and Pakistan repeatedly and Iraq only once. You might have thought otherwise especially since McCain has an annoying habit of whistling his "s"es and Iraq has none. Considering his remarks in the presidential debates about Iraq it was amazing to watch him reduce the Iraq War to a subordinate clause of single sentence. The hearing itself lasted over three hours and that was due in part to Levin breaking from the topic to address civilian nominees since the committee had a quorum. After those were approved, it was time for the prepared opening statements from Gates [PDF format warning,
here] and Mullen [PDF format warning, here].

Gates noted he was in Afghanistan last week. And that he had damn little to say, "As I told a group of soldiers on Thursday, they have done their job. Now it is time for us in Washington to do ours." Does Gates ever not repeat that statement? He's been repeating it since 2006. It was also popular with then-Senator Hillary Clinton when she was running for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 2008, with then-Senator Barack Obama when he was running for the presidency in the summer and fall of 2008, and for then-and-still Senator John Kerry throughout his 2004 campaign for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination and his run in the 2004 general election. By no means is that a full listing of all those who have repeated that over and over for the last five years. But at some point, when the next person tells US service members that, one hopes at least one shoots back, "When is Washington ever going to get around to doing their job?" Because, as these never ending statements indicate, DC seems to be the hold up, the bottle neck, at least according to the constant repetition of that stale statement. It's also kind of stupid to repeat that statment and then, in an exchange with Senator Susan Collins, get all catty about a marine at Camp Leatherneck who asked when his equipment was going to arrive and then snort that the commander told Gates that the equipment was there they just hadn't given it to the soldier.

Like Gates, Mullen read from a prepared statement. It was not, however, the prepared statement he turned in. It's always amusing to watch someone read word-for-word, in a bored manner, such phrases as "Let me tell you why". Mullen invented a phrase or hangs out in very strange circles. "We are what we buy," he declared ("It has been said that we are what we buy"). If so, he must do a great deal of his shopping in horse stalls because the committee stank of it as he called the budget a people's budget and asserted it put people first and these people were service members. Really? The increase of $700 million in funding for missile 'defense' systems? $17.6 billion for equipment replacment in Iraq and Afghanistan? $15.2 billion for "force protection" for equpiment such as MRAP All Terrain Vehicles?$7.5 billion to Afghans composing their country's National Security Forces? $700 million to Pakistan (for counter-insurgency)? An additional $200 million for Aegis ships? $550 million for "global partnership efforts"? We could go on and on but let's stop pretending that this is about putting US service members first. And if Mullen has a problem with any of the figures listed, he can take it up with Robert Gates who used those and more in his testimony today. For the record, while Mullin called it "the people's budget," Gates called it a "reform budget." Gates would also note that "a third of this budget is the people cost." A third. Not exactly "a people's budget."

Senator Joe Lieberman doesn't believe that the Fiscal Year 2010 Budget request is adequate and feels that some baseline issues (especially personnel) were being underestimated/underaccounted. He gave Gates the opportunity to clarify that. Gates took a pass. Remember that if a supplemental request comes along after the passage of the FY2010 request. Lieberman wasn't being hostile (Lieberman loves to fork over money to the defense industries). He was concerned that the money wasn't enough and that the request needed to be upped. Senator Jeff Session noted he "was concerned" about the budget which he thought was too small and especially with two ongoing wars. Gates rejected that notion (and went into a long drawn out response about research including airborne lasers and how, to use it on Iran, it would have to be circling within Iran's borders which he didn't see happening so research needs to continue and blah, blah, blah). So twice Gates was given the opportunity to ask for an increase, twice he declined. Senator Jim Inhofe did get out of Gates that he will receive a list of "unfundeds" from staff tomorrow and will forward that to the Congress on Monday. Senator Saxby Chambliss brought up the issue as well. He noted that in private conversations, General Norton Scwartz (Air Force Chief of Staff) has disagreed with the budget and that the general has told him he will testify to that which Senator Chambliss expects to happen shortly (next week). (
Schwartz was interviewed by Lara Logan in a report that aired Sunday on CBS 60 Minutes, link has text and video.) For those who caught Cindy Sheehan's most recent Soapbox, this is the concern some Republicans -- including one she spoke to in Arkansas -- have regarding the defense budget and that it is not meeting security needs. Cindy Sheehan took last Sunday off because her son was hospitalized and in a grave condition. He has recovered and she will have Russell Baker on her show this Sunday to discuss his new book Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, The Powerful Forces that Put It in the White House and What Their Influence Means for America. Bonnie Faulkner (KPFA's Guns and Butter) interviewed Baker Wednesday and you can click here for the audio at Information Clearing House. Senator John Thune pursued this issue as well and his website has posted audio, video and a transcript of the exchange. We'll note this exchange and encourage those interested in the full exchange to use the link:

Senator Thune: We've had a lot of combatant commanders in front of this committee who've testified to the need for this capability. And also, to the concern about the aging fleet and the fact that half of our bombers are pre-Cuban Missile Crisis era bombers and being able to persist and penetrate some of the more sophisticated air defense systems that we're expecting to encounter in the future. So it seems like a very relevant, very real-time question. But I guess my final question is this, what I hear you saying is you are still analyzing and looking at this. What OMB's budget said is terminated. So is this delayed, is this terminated, what is this? Secretary Gates: The program that was on the books is terminated. The idea of a Next Generation Bomber, as far as I'm concerned, is a very open question. And the recommendation will come out of the Quadrennial Defense Review and the Nuclear Posture Review. And I certainly don't want to leave the impression that the Russians are going to help us decide whether or not we have a Next Generation Bomber. What I was trying to say is if it looks like we're headed for a lower number of deployed nuclear weapons then we will have to make a recommendation to the president and to you as to how we allocate those weapons among missiles, submarines and aircraft.

While the Republicans laid down the marker and Gates grew testy (his "fine" to Thune was sharper than one expects from the flat affect Gates), Dems seemed unaware what was taking place with one exception: Evan Bayh. Bayh attempted to take on the Republican argument that the Defense Dept proposed budget was puny or weak. Attempted. He was throwing Gates life preservers but Gates appeared determined to drown.

Senator Evan Bayh: Is it still true, Mr. Secretary, that the amount that we're spending next year [on defense] will in the aggregate will be more than all our likely adversaries combined? It used to be that way. The reason I ask the question is, if it's true, what we're really facing is not a question of the amount of resources but how we most effectively allocate them to meet the challenges that we face. Is it still true that we appropriate more for national security and defense than all our likely adversaries combined?

Secretary: Robert Gates: Yes, but I -- Let me just add two things to that. First of all, more than -- more than any other country we have global interests and we have allies around the world who -- who depend on us for their -- for their security. So I mean, that's one of the reasons why we spend as much as we do.

Senator Evan Bayh: To be sure. I was just trying to put it in perspective. I don't think we've been -- We're allocating what we need to to protect the country and take care of some of these other interests. And it was by way again of saying we need to allocate the resources effectively to meet the threats and deal with some of the legacy and reform issues. I think you've done that.

Secretary Robert Gates: Senator let me interject just to provide some perspective Last summer as the economy was detoriating I I told Admiral Mullin that no matter who was elected I thought we'd be lucky if we got the FY09 number plus inflation.

Senator Evan Bayh: And we have real growth.

Secretary Robert Gates: And we've got two percent real growth.

Lieberman asked Gates about dwell time not being the ideal yet and Gates responded
"That's absolutely right we hope that toward the end of next year and more likely into next that the dwell time will begin to increase." Collins asked if screening was being done for PTSD and TBI upon returning stateside? Mullen stated PTSD screening is occuring at least 90 to 120 days after they return. TBI he was less precise on. PTSD, dwell time and other issues are especially in the news since Monday's shooting in Iraq when John Russell shot five of his fellow service members at a Baghdad stress control clinic.
Kimberly Dozier (CBS News) reports that Russell did not feel "that the doctors at the clinic" believe him about combat stress and that "each day, the counselors 'sent him back to his base'" according to a soldier in Russell's unit. Yesterday's snapshot included the following:

Luis Martinez, Martha Raddatz and Kate Barrett (ABC News) speak with Yates' stepfather, Richard Van Blarga Jr., who states, he thinks Yates mentioned Russell in a call on Sunday: "On the conversation with my wife on Mother's Day, he said that he had met a sergeant, that he was, in his words, he was a very nice guy, he could deal with him, but he had some major issues. He was out there on the branch hoping for somebody to help him." Stephanie Gaskell (New York Daily News) reports Christian Bueno-Galdos, Matthew Houseal and Jacob Barton are the other three who were shot dead on Monday. She also notes the phone call Yates made to his mother on Sunday and quotes Shawna Machlinski (his mother) stating, "I do have some sympathy and I do know that I can forgive him [Russell]."

Click here for the ABC News report. UPI reports the five were flown into Dover Air Force yesterday. In headlines today, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) played a clip of Yates' mother Shawna Machlinski stating, "As much as I have a lot of anger towards him, I also have some sympathy, because I know he must have been going through a lot as well. That doesn't excuse the fact that he murdered my son. But I believe that if he would have gotten the help that he was there to get maybe sooner or gotten more help, and other people recognized the signs, because there are signs, and you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure those signs out." At OneWorld, Aaron Glantz adds that "long-time observers of the U.S. military say the shooting shows all the signs of a soldier pushed to the brink of insanity by repeated and consistent exposure to war. The 44-year-old Russell had spent many years of his life at war when he allegedly opened fire and killed five of his fellow soldiers. Russell was drawing to the end of his third tour in Iraq and had also served deployments in Bosnia and Kosovo."

Today Gates wanted to whine about needing longer dwell time. Then why isn't it being provided?
Feb. 28th, the US House Armed Services Committee (discussing FY2009 Defense budget) raised this issue:

US House Rep Patrick Murphy was also concerned about readiness. He wanted to know specifically that, regardless of any upcoming announcements, would the length of tours be reduced.
On Tuesday of this week, Casey and Geren appeared before the Senate's Armed Service Committee also offering testimony on the 2009 Fiscal Year. From that hearing, the only thing that the media picked up on was that tours in Iraq and Afghanistan would (maybe) drop from fifteen months to twelve months. (Some outlets picked up on the stop-loss issue, stop-loss will continue but they 'hope' to drop the numbers from 8,000 to 7,000 -- ignored was Senator Jim Webb's questioning of Casey which produced Casey's claim that the UCMJ had been applied to Defense Department contractors serving in Iraq.) Murphy wanted to know specifically with the Afghanistan War still going on, an incomplete serach for Osama bin laden, with "the majority of our military in Iraq," what happens "if we're still bogged down refereeing a civil war in Iraq?" And when Petraeus appears before Congress, Murphy wanted to know, "What happens" in terms of the reduction of tours of duty "if he comes back to us and says we need a 'pause' not a 'drawdown.' Casey maintained that regardless of a "a brief pause, as you say, that will not impact our ability to come off of 15 months . . . the most important thing for us to do is to come off 15 months."

Murphy noted that "we're begging for about 7,000 troops for Afghanistan from our allies" and wondered if Congress needed to "mandate that if you deploy for 15 months, you're home for 15 months, if you deploy for 12 months, you're home for 12 months"? Casey wasn't keen on that idea and claimed it would interfere with the military's ability to do their job. Which makes the 'promise' Casey and Geren made earlier this week seem even more hollow (even more hollow than Casey claimed, in today's hearings, his experiences in the seventies were).

Murphy was right, it needs to be mandated by Congress. Otherwise it won't happen.
April 1, 2008, US House Rep Shelley Berkley was pointing out to Walter Reed Amry Institute of Research's Col Charles W. Hoge that he'd just stated 12 months was not enough dwell time (he hemmed and hawed but agreed he'd just said it) and she pointed out that some US service members didn't even get that. Let's stop pretending these are new problems or new issues. These are the same issues the military command has said they were addressing. They have not. It's time for the US Congress to do so.

Meanwhile in Iraq,
Alsumaria reports Nouri al-Maliki is again speaking publicly of conspiracies against him. The puppet of the occupation declared "he fears the return of" Ba'athis "conspiracies and dictatorship while he stressed that the Constitution bans reconciliation with Baathists as a party." While he frets over imaginary plots by 'Ba'athists,' Nouri announced he wasn't at all alarmed by the increase in bombings.Alsumaria explains Nouri's not the only one floating conspiracy theories. Ahmad Al Jalabi ("head of Iraqi National Congress Party") has declared Iraq's intelligence community has been "infiltrated by Al Qaeda and defunct Baath Party" and how does he know that breaking news? He just now read it. In George Tenet's book. At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA was published in April. Of 2007. Fresh intel for Iraq? Alsumaria notes the book "points out that Iraqi intelligence chief Mohammed Al Shahwan is an employee of US Intelligence since 1991." That would mean that the intel community was infiltrated by the US. If the names seems familiar, it's Ahmad Chalabi. Ahmad Al Jalabi is another name he's known by. And of course, Chalibi was a CIA asset for many, many years.In other insanity, April 23rd, al-Maliki's government announced they'd captured Abu Omar Baghdadi. Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times' Babylon and Beyond) reports they continue to claim that they've captured al-Baghdadi, "There is already widespread skepticism whether the man in custody is really Baghdadi -- which is itself a nom-de-guerre indicating only that the man is from Baghdad." Sly notes the US still has not been allowed to examine the alleged al-Baghdadi.

As noted throughout the week, kidnappings never went away and now appear to be on the rise in Iraq.
Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report the corpse of a six-year-old boy was found in a plastic bag in Baghdad and he "had been kidnapped three days ago". Reuters notes "a Christian male teacher" was kidnapped in Rashad. Today Paul Schemm (AP) reports on the exodus of Christians from Iraq and notes the US State Dept estimated there were 1.2 million Christians in 2003 and that the number has fallen to as low as 550,000 with other estimates even lower. Philippe Leclerc, the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees acting rep in Damascus states Iraqi Christians who are external refugees are not planning on returning, "They simply do not feel safe enough. They cannot suffiicently count on state security or any other force to protect them." The reasons include the ongoing violence, the past threats and the fact that they are shut out of previous employment opportunities by the Shi'ite controlled government. Bobby Ghosh (TIME magazine) notes "the surge of violence" and how only 1% of Iraqi external refugees have returned while only 18% of Iraq's internal refugees have returned to their homes and yet the UN has recommended that Iraqi refugees no more "get automatic refugee status abroad" -- 'automatic,' the UN was being comical. Ghosh notes:

Although the U.N. agency has warned that its new guidelines don't mean Iraq has turned a corner, aid workers fear that's exactly how they will be taken by officials in Damascus and Amman -- with dire consequences for the refugees. "I'm wary that this will be interpreted by asylum countries that it's O.K. to return Iraqis forcibly," says Bob Carey, vice president for resettlement and migration policy at the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

Joe Sterling (CNN) reports on refugees coming to the US and notes that the US admitted 60,000 refugees in FY 2008 but only 13,823 were from Iraq (Burma resulted in the largest number of refugees). Sterling also interviewed Internaional Rescuee Committee's George Rupp:

Sterling: Any bigotry encountered in job searches?

Rupp: Certainly some of the refugees feel there is bigotry encountered and it is very difficult to confirm whether that is or isn't the case. But several reported they have been told by several prospective employers, that, "You are from Iraq, you are rich, there's no reason we have to worry about finding a position for you."

Sterling: Employers actually thought they were rich?

Rupp: Because of the oil resources that these few employers were aware that Iraq has. There's no question that refugees of all ethnicities often feel they have a special burden, a special hurdle to get over. But what is remarkable is how many of them feel the U.S. is welcoming, and is open, and does not discriminate against them. It's not surprising there are at least some instances in which people feel they were discriminated against and no doubt they were, but that is not a dominant pattern I don't think.

Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report a Kirkuk roadside bombing wounded two police officers and a Mosul roadside bombing wounded four people.


Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report the Sunni Endowment Office's Haider Hassoun was shot (wounded, not killed) in Baghdad while another employee of the Endowment was wounded in second attack, a Baquba home invasion in which a woman and her sons were killed (both sons were Sahwa) and 2 people were shot dead in Kirkuk "late Wednesday". Reuters notes 1 Sahwa member shot dead and three more injured in Kirkuk.

While the Senate Armed Services Committee debated the FY10 defense/war budget, the House passed Barack Obama's war supplemental request today.
Jeremy Pelofsky (Reuters) reports that the $96.7 billion request (over $17 billion more than Barack requested) passed out of the House while the Senate continues working on their version. US House Rep Dennis Kucinich released the following statement:

America went to war against Iraq based on a lie. We were told back in 2002 that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The previous administration even pursued torture to try to extract false confessions in order to justify the war. It is time to tell the truth. The truth is we should not have prosecuted a war against the Iraqi people. The truth is the Democratic Senate could have stopped the Iraq war in 202. The truth is we Democrats were given control of Congress in 2006 to end the war. The truth is this bill continues a disastrous war, which has cost the lives of thousands of soldiers. The truth is the occupation has fueld the insurgency. The truth is the Iraq war will cost the American and Iraqi people trillions of dollars and as many as a million innocent Iraqis have lost their lives as a result of this war.
Don't tell the American people that you are ending the war by continuing to fund the war. Don't tell the American people that the war will end when their plans leave 50,000 troops in Iraq. Don't tell the American people that the way out of Afghanistan is to escalate our presence.
Get out of Iraq. Get out of Afghanistan. Come home America.

Yesterday Barack broke another promise, he won't release the torture photos. At CNN, Col Janis Karpinski weighs in:

About-face! President Obama's reversal of his administration's decision to release more photographs of prisoner abuse is disappointing and infuriating.
It is sad and tragic. The reversal will absolutely stir up more controversy than release of the photographs, causing an outpouring of rampant speculation -- What is the government hiding? Who are the people in the photographs? How awful can these new photos be? And worse.
The president is going to Egypt, and discussions surrounding the photographs are inevitable. He is far better off armed with the ability to have open discussions on all topics instead of apologizing for holding back information. Withholding evidence is counterproductive and does not sound like "truth," and it surely does not sound like "change."
The truth is always helpful. If we put all the photographs on the table, clearing the air, then, and only then, we can get on with the discussion of how to make sure this never happens again. The truth will set us free -- free to find the roots of the problem, allowing us to do what we did best -- making the world a better place to live.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Dreams and the House Veterans Committee

Because Stevie Nicks is on the road with Fleetwood Mac and to note that we decided to make tonight's theme dreams (as in the number one hit she wrote for the band).

My favorite dreams are food dreams. Sometimes I will dream of gooey slices of warm pizzas. Sometimes I will dream of hot out of the oven chocolate chip cookies. Sometimes I will dream of a cool beer or a margarita that's just right even down to the amount of salt on the rim.

My dreams are generally about relaxing. I'll have my friends in my dreams with me. A lot of times the location is Golden Gate Park where I've spent a lot of time over the years and had some solid memories.

The worst part of the really great dreams, like one Monday night where it was after dark and we were having a party at Golden Gate and I had a cold beer in one hand and nachos in the other, is waking up. It will feel like I was ripped from the dream. No easing out of it, no transition. And I will really hate losing that dream.

I'm one of those people who, when the alarm goes off, will hit the snooze and tell myself I've got to finish my dream. Does anyone else do that?

Okay, we were in DC today. We caught two hearings. C.I. covers one in the snapshot today and I'm just going to offer a pet peeve from that hearing. It was the House Veterans' Affairs Committee hearing Innovative Technologies and Treatments Helping Veterans. David R. Bethune and David Sidransky were promoting the same thing. It's a screening for oral cancer. And they were asked to describe it.

They didn't.

Instead Bethune said there was a dentist present and he was better qualified to answer.

The guy is not sitting at the table. He's in the audience like we are. And he stands up and starts speaking.

Bob Finer (the chair) has to tell him to go to the end of the dias and use the microphone there.

That doesn't happen often but it does happen, where someone's invited to speak that's not on the list and he or she will stand up and start offering testimony and hardly anyone can hear because the person's not using a microphone.

Now here's my second beef, identfiy yourself. When the man finally made it to the microphone, he starts explaining the process without saying who he is. You need to identify yourself. You're speaking to Congress, your remarks are supposed to go into the Congressional record, you weren't on the list of speakers, you need to identify yourself.

How do I know that man was a dentist?

The process, for any interested, was the person rinses with a substance (which tastes like vinegar) and then a light is used and any lesions will show up under the light. The unnamed man said not using it was like a doctor not using a stethescope or blood pressure cuff. There's another substance that can be used as a follow up but it sounded like he said "glue."

Here's my other issue. I've got a lot of beefs, don't I?

Someone (I don't know all the members of Congress, C.I. knows everyone on sight -- and actually personally knows a huge number of them) asked Bethune if the trials in six VAs had been effective and he responded, "Pretty much." That's a direct quote and his full response. I wrote it down because I knew when he answered that he wasn't going to be asked to explain. And he needed to be asked.

Is it effective in the six VA hospitals it's being used in? That's a yes or a no. Pretty much doesn't cut it. But no one followed up on that.

So that's my thoughts on the hearing.

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, May 13, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, more details emerge in Monday's shooting, Steven D. Green's sentencing hearing continues (day three), Congress examines new techniques for veterans' treatment, the President of the KRG expresses disappointment in the US, Barack breaks another promise, and more.

Starting with Steven D. Green, convicted last
Thursday in the gang-rape of 14-year-old Iraqi Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, her murder, the murder of her five-year-old sister and the murders of both of her parents. His sentence hearing is ongoing and on the third day. Evan Bright reports that the defense put Gary Solace ("a Vietnam War vet who testified about military training+combat stress and its effects") and Andrew Horn. Horn's a retired Marine. He knows Green from . . . well he doesn't. Green has been convicted. The defense is tossing up 'experts' and using damn little time to provide people who know Green. Green's been convicted. 'Experts' aren't the issue at this point. Yesterday was nothing but 'experts' except for Green's uncle Dr. Greg Simolke. Evan Bright reports of that testimony yesterday:

You could see the emotion growing in Simolke's face and demeanor. He spoke of Steven, Doug, and Danny not having many rules. When asked about Doug's "being tough" on Steve, he testified that "Doug...was hard on Steve...(pause) felt like that...wore on Steve. Doug was sort of..." At this point, Dr. Simolke broke down crying and had to pause for a few minutes to regain his composure. He was given some water and he continued. "Doug was sort charge, but he was too young to manage Steve." Bouldin asked what his(Simolke's) thoughts were on Green and he "generally..I felt sorry for Steve. I felt that he wasn't completely normal....nothing drastic or super unusual...he was generally left out [throughout] his life. (pauses...more tears) Nothing ever worked out for him, he had a black cloud hanging over him..(pause)..I just didn't think life was workin' out for him." During all of this, Green was noticed staring straight ahead. Simolke testified that he wouldn't have called Steven Green a leader. "No....I don't want to be offensive...he wasn't a leader...anyone who knows Steve wouldn't say he was. He's a follower." Simolke testified about Green living with him for a few months, maintaining a C-average, before realizing that he was so far behind in school that wouldn't be able to graduate high school that year with the rest of his classmates; after which dropping out and moving back to his hometown of Midland, TX where he got his GED.

Instead of staying with that and pursuing that line, they offered 'experts'.
Deborah Feverick (CNN) notes, "Defense lawyers trying to save their client from the death penalty argued Tuesday that former U.S. soldier Steven Green exhibited clear symptoms of acute stress disorder in Iraq and that a military psychiatric nurse-practioner failed to diagnose the troubled infantryman and pull him out of combat." The 'experts' didn't even know what they were talking about and one conflicted his account on the stand and better hope the jury doesn't learn what happened this weekend. Bright reports that Dr. Ruben Gur stated Green needed structure and was asked if Green would do well in military? Gur answered affirmative. After explaining the MRI said otherwise. Did no one catch that? He would also, according to Gur, do well in prison with the structure. AP reports Green "threw a lunch tray" in jail Saturday over needing to shave but not having (or, more likely, being given) a razor. Gur was an 'expert.' Another reason not to waste the jury's time with 'experts.' Guilt was already established. The issue now is the sentencing. Friends and family of Green is who needs to be put on the stand to humanize Green, not to turn him into a case study.

CBS Evening News with Katie Couric offered a report by Bob Orr on the Sgt John M. Russell shooting five other service members in Iraq:

Bob Orr: His commander feared Sgt John Russell was on the edge. They took away his weapon and ordered him into counseling in a combat stress clinic in Baghdad. He went there yesterday, officials say, and opened fire killing five service men. 22-year-old John Michael Russell: He's got medals. And he was doing good for -- for the country. Bob Orr: Today at their home in Sherman, Texas, Russell's twenty-one year-old son struggled to understand how his dad on his third tour of duty in Iraq now faces five counts of murder. 22-year-old John Michael Russell: For him to do something like that, he couldn't have been in his right state of mind. They had to -- they had to put him to a breaking point and just -- he just had to have lost it. Just lost all train of thought to do anything like that. Bob Orr: [Sgt] Russell's father said he may have snapped fearing his military career could be ended by a stress diagnosis. Wilburn Russell: His life was over as far as he was concerned. He was going to lose everything. And I guess it was too much. Bob Orr: Military investigators don't know what triggered the shootings but say Russell was agitated when asked to leave the clinic after arguing with a counselor. A short time later, Russell returned to the stress center with a weapon he apparently stole from his armed escort. The rampage played out quickly. Gen David Perkins: The suspect was apprehended outside the clinic shortly after shots were heard. Bob Orr: The incident is the deadliest involving soldier-on-soldier violence in the six year Iraq War. In response the army has now launched an investigation to determine whether it needs more people and facilities in war zones to deal with combat stress and soldiers on the brink. Patrick Campbell (Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America): These are the canaries in the mine. If we don't start addressing these issues, people are going to get more and more injured and it's going to be harder to treat them. Bob Orr: For Sgt Russell who had planned to be home by July, it's too late. Wilburn Russell: His father's heartbroken, his mother's crying in their hiding. We're -- we're sorry for the families involved too. Cause they're going through heart ache. Bob Orr: His family says they knew of no warning sings. Russell in fact recently e-mailed his son on his birthday and just Sunday e-mailed his mother for Mother's Day.

James Dao and Lizette Alvarez (New York Times) report, "Lt. Col. Edward Brusher, the deputy director of behavioral health proponecy for the surgeon general, said in March that there was one provider for 640 service members in Iraq." They quote him stating, "There are currently enough behavioral health providers." As Elaine noted last night:The military is saying that speculation does no good but this is the same military that has closed the stress center. 1 US soldier just shot 5 others dead. If there were ever a time when a stress center was most needed, it would be right now. Had a shooting taken place at a support hospital or triage center, they would not have shut down.They wouldn't have had the option. The feeling would have been, "This is emergency work." But note the difference when it comes to the brain, to mental issues, to stress.They closed down the combat stress center yesterday. When it was most needed.

Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) identified two of those killed on Monday: Charles K. Springle and Michael Edward Yates. Luis Martinez, Martha Raddatz and Kate Barrett (ABC News) speak with Yates' stepfather, Richard Van Blarga Jr., who states, he thinks Yates mentioned Russell in a call on Sunday: "On the conversation with my wife on Mother's Day, he said that he had met a sergeant, that he was, in his words, he was a very nice guy, he could deal with him, but he had some major issues. He was out there on the branch hoping for somebody to help him." Stephanie Gaskell (New York Daily News) reports Christian Bueno-Galdos, Matthew Houseal and Jacob Barton are the other three who were shot dead on Monday. She also notes the phone call Yates made to his mother on Sunday and quotes Shawna Machlinski (his mother) stating, "I do have some sympathy and I do know that I can forgive him [Russell]." Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) notes, "The shootings concerned the military, which is preparing to withdraw troops from Iraq's cities by the end of June under the terms of the security agreement reached with the Iraqi government. Camp Liberty, part of the sprawling complex of bases that make up Camp Victory, will not close because both countries have decided that it is not part of Baghdad." The bases are in Baghdad and out of it (they sprawl). According to the treaty masquerading as the Status Of Forces Agreement, the US soldiers on them should be removed or else the US base could become a joint US-Iraqi base. Neither is happening, the much lauded SOFA is being violated. That's only one aspect. In a report that only Alsumaria currently has, the Status Of Forces Agreement doesn't apply to all of Iraq. That's the claim being offered by a US Major: "56th Combat brigade Chief in the US military Major Marc Ferrero clarified that his forces stationed in Taji are not included in the decision of US Forces withdrawal from Iraq cities since this region is out of Baghdad Province. He ruled out as well the possibility of violence spike in the regions under his command where security and stability reign." Back to the issue of the US soldiers and of injuries . . .

"I want to thank you all for being here," declared US House Rep Bob Finer bringing the House Veterans' Affairs Committee -- full committee, which he chairs -- to order [
click here for prepared opening statement, I'm quoting what he actually said.] "The purpose is very simple. In my job and I'm sure everyone of my colleagues has the same experience, we come into contact with constituents in business or patients who have had contact or have invented or have manufactured instruments, technologies, treatments which would seem to have a great benefit for our veterans. And yet many have had a frustrating experience of dealingwith a bureaucracy that just doesn't seem to react very quickly to new ideas and treatments and people are frustrated."

The committee was holding a hearing this morning entitled Innovative Technologies and Treatments Helping Veterans. There were two panels of witnesses. The first panel was composed of
David R. Bethune (Zila, Inc), Dr. David Sidransky (Johns Hopkins University), Robert A. Beckman (Brainport Technologies), David A. Broecker (Alkermes, Inc.), Mark Munroe (Mobile Medical International Corporation), Stanley Stern (TeleMed Network) and Dr. David Scadden (Harvard). The second panel was composed of Dr. Howard J. Federoff (Georgetown University), Dr. Nelson M. Handal (Harmonex, Inc) and James A. Schoeneck (BrainCells Inc). Click on the name for prepared statements (these are all non-PDF format, no worries). We'll be focusing on the first panel and largely one aspect.

The full committee was supposed to be present but that did not happen. "None of our Republican colleagues are here," Chair Bob Finer explained. "They decided somehow that special interests were invited." If so, wasn't it their job to call out special interests? Apparently Republicans on the Committee just needed a Snow Day.

Robert Beckman spoke of a portable device, the Brainport Vision Device, where a small camera ("with zoom capability") is hooked to other neurochannels ("such as the tongue"). Beckman stated, "One blind user with two glass eyes was able to successfully shoot a basketball and another used the Brainport Vision Device at an indoor rock climbing gym to see the next rock holds and at home with his daughter to play Tic-Tac-Toe."

"The Brainport Vision Device will not replace the cane or the sight dog," he continued. "But it will become an important, additional tool to improve the safety, mobility and quality of life for blind users. Some examples. Finding the open seat on a crowded bus or train. Identifying the direction to the target building in a confusing parking lot. Finding the handle in order to remove a hot pot from the stove. Wicab recently sponsored clinical testing of the Brainport Vision Device at the Atlanta VA. Dr. Michael Williams, the PI concluded, 'Bottom line, the device performs remarkably well for the tasks that we looked at in phase one'. To optimize the device we need feedback from a much larger pool of users who are blind. We would welcome the opportunity to further test the Brainport Vision Device at VA sites. Perhaps those willing soldiers who are blind as a result of a blast injury should be first in line to test this new technology?"

US House Rep Jerry McNerney's had a few questions.

Jerry McNerney: Mr. Beckman, the Brainport Vision Device. This sounds very -- How intrusive is the -- is the device that's on the tongue? Are you able to eat? Do you have to remove it for different activities? Or -- how intrustive is this?

Robert Beckman: Well for vision, the device does rest on top of the tongue. And so, yes, indeed, in its current form you would have to remove the device when you were eating, talking, etc. However, with additional funding there is no -- there are no technological barriers to making this device totally wireless so that the intra-oral device could be mounted on the upper pallette and blind people using wireless techonology would be able to use the device without anybody else knowing that they actually have the technology available to them.

Jerry McNerney: Well that's pretty exciting. I'm kind of thrilled by the technical aspect of this rather than the administrative aspect, if you can't tell.

US House Rep John Hall also had some questions.

John Hall: Mr. Beckman, I was wondering if you could tell us why Brainport Devices are not implantable and is that something that could change?

Robert Beckman: I think one of the key advantages of the Brainport Device is the fact that it's non-implantable. In fact, it's a portable device where there's no need to implant the techonology. Other technologies for vision such as retinal implants are being developed. But I think the fact that they involve surgery, that they're invasive, means that those technologies will likely not be available for probably ten years or more. Our technology is available today.

John Hall: I understand that and I can see the advantadges to either -- to both. Cochlear implants, for instance, have been and are being used by large number of people with some success. Is that because of the location in the brain of the nerves that one would need to get at and the centers one would need to get at that it's more difficult. Or is this something that you see happening in the future?

Robert Beckman: That was really, going back to my testimony, that was really one of Dr. Paul Bach-y-Rita's main hypothesis that the brain is not hard wired so, in other words, you can use an alternate sensor -- you can use an alternate sensor and also an alternate path to send that signal to the brain. And we have demonstrated that, for instance, people who are blind who perform a certain task with our device and while they're performing that task they are analyzed with PET [Positron Emission Tomography] imaging. We have demonstrated that those people process the visual information in the visual cortex of their brain. On the other hand, people who are sighted, that perform the exact same task, process that same information in the somata sensory region of their brain. So in other words, people do -- the brain is masterful in the way that it can process the information in the appropriate area

John Hall: And it can -- it can change? It can switch and adapt from one pathway to another?

Robert Beckman: Yes.

John Hall: What's the typical training -- You may have said this in response to a question before I got here -- what's the typical training time for someone to use --- to adapt to Brainport?

Robert Beckman: I think that's also an amazing part about this technology. We train blind people literally in hours to start to recongize symbols, pathways, doorways, etc. We have not, so far, had anybody except for one blind person, Erik Weihenmayer, use the device even more than ten hours. So all the -- we've got videos on our website, etc., that show some of the benefits. All of those people are performing the tasks that we show with less than ten hours of training. And I think what is most interesting is what will happen when we get this technology into the hands of many, many adults letting them take it home, use it on their own, explore the potential benefits of the technology on their own. That's where we'll start to really discover what the advantages and possibilites are for this technology.

Beckman also spoke of the Brainport Balance Device for those with balance problems. Broecker spoke of VIVITROL which was FDA approved in 2006 and treats alcoholism. How? He was more interested in discussing alcoholism. Were I testifying to Congress, I would assume the members were aware of alcoholism and would use my time to explain why my medicine needed government money and/or veterans access as opposed to offering a history of alcoholism. Bethune and Sidransky spoke of oral cancer, the rate of which is on the rise and veterans account for five-percent of all cases each year in the United States. Bethune explained, "Veterans are almost 3 times more likely to be diagnosed with oran cancer than are members of the general public." They were seeking to have ViziLite Plus used for early screening of veterans. Mark Munroe was asking for attention to and resources for Mobile Medical which is a "mobile surgical hospitals." It was used in Iraq on The Learning Channel's
Little People, Big World, episodes nineteen and twenty which TLC described as follows, "When Matt Roloff learns of an Iraqi family with dwarf children who are in severe need of medical intervention, he is compelled to help them. Amy and the Roloff kids are concerned for Matt's safety as he makes the long, difficult and dangerous journey to Baghdad. Once there, he falls in with the U.S. military, who provides armed escort into the Green Zone -- where Matt meets the family and gains their trust. Touched by the familys heartwarming spirit, Matt gets photos and X-rays of the kids to bring back to America for evaluation by medical specialists." From those two episodes, let's note this clip where Matt Roloff speaks with Iraqi journalists

Matt Roloff: I think it was important for me to be able to communicate with the Iraqi people that it's important for their citizens to put value on all of their fellow citizens, even if they are little people. That's an important message we're still trying to communicate in the States and to be able to do it in another country is just as, if not more gratifying, just as gratifying.

There is a point in including the quote beyond the hearing. We'll get to it. Back to the hearing. Stanley Stern's focus was TeleMed Internet Endpoint (TIE) which would provide face to face (via phone calls) help with health care providers and could also allow a veteran to participate at any time in a group therapy session that runs around the clock. Scadden spoke of stem cell research including technology that would allow an adult stem cell to be taken back in maturation.

Remember Matt Roloff's words about everyone being respected? The
Christian Science Monitor feels differently. They argue that religious leaders are being ignored in Iraq. But they reveal how STUPID they are by taking the word of professional con-artist and admitted LIAR Andrew White. White breezes in and out of Iraq but of course had his snit fit with the press after he offered testimony, under oath, which he did not know would be reported on. (Hence the snit fit.) White declared there were no more Jews in Iraq back in 2006 when Jews were still in Baghdad. And White was allegedly raising funds to help them. But he lied, under oath. White is a joke. He's a War Hawk who cheerleaded the illegal war and he doesn't speak Arabic. He stays hidden away in the Green Zone when he manages to make it to Iraq. No one needs to take White seriously but it is telling that Matt Roloff saw a need for all Iraqis to be treated equally and the Monitor wants to argue that religious clerics need to be elevated further. Further. The same religious clerics who have issued orders to kill gays and lesbians, the same fundamentalists who have turned Iraq from the most advanced MidEastern nation into a nightmare. Doug Ireland (ZNet) reported more news on the assaults of gay Iraqi males last week:

As the murder campaign targeting Iraqi gays intensifies, a leading Arabic television network last week revealed the use of a horrifying new form of lethal torture against Iraqi gay men -- anti-gay Shiite death squads are sealing their anuses with a powerful glue, then inducing diarrhea, which leads to a painful and agonizing death. The use of this stomach-turning new torture was first reported by the Al Arabiya network, which is headquartered in the United Arab Emirates and was alerted to the story by a leading Iraqi feminist and human rights activist.Yanar Mohammed, president of the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), told Al Arabiya that the torture substance "is an Iranian-manufactured glue that, if applied to the skin, sticks to it and can only be removed by surgery. After they glue the anuses of homosexuals, they give them a drink that causes diarrhea. Since the anus is closed, the diarrhea causes death. Videos of this form of torture are being distributed on mobile telephones in Iraq." Al Arabiya said its reporter confirmed the use of this anal torture by "visiting the Baghdad morgue in Bab-al-Moazaam in central Baghdad, where Neman Mohsen, the medical examiner, confirmed they have the bodies of seven homosexuals in the morgue. He said, 'We were not able to identify the culprits, who dumped the bodies in front of the morgue and fled without being seen.'" A two-person team from Human Rights Watch (HRW) currently in Iraq to investigate persecution of LGBT people has also confirmed the use of this form of torture. In a widely-circulated email from Iraq, the head of HRW's LGBT desk, Scott Long, said he and his colleague had gathered evidence which confirms the Al Arabiya report and that HRW would make its own detailed report after the organization's two staffers return to the United States next week. OWFI's Mohammed, the woman responsible for gathering information about the use of this sadistic anal torture and passing it on to Al Arabiya, told Gay City News that "the story was so horrific that when I first heard it from gay friends I didn't believe it. But then I investigated and found it was really true that the anuses of gay men were being glued shut." Speaking by telephone from Toronto, where she was on a brief visit to relatives before a scheduled return to Iraq next week, Mohammed told this reporter that, "Fortunately, Al Arabiya has a very good human rights reporter, to whom I told what I had found, and he was able to confirm it by visiting the morgue."

When the cheesy ass editorial board of the Monitor wants to call out the attacks on Iraq's LGBT community, we may take them seriously. Until then, we'll just shake our heads at their gross stupidity. The
Monitor's Jane Arraf (a reporter, not an editorial board member) sticks to reality and conducts multiple interviews with "senior US and Iraqi officials and US intelligence officers" who feel optimistic about some areas of Iraq 'stabilizing' and not so about others: "But the outlook for progress in some of the country's most volatile cities is less certain. Iraqi security officials in Mosul and Diyala Province have considstently said that they need the assistance of US troops past a June 30 deadline for American forces to leave Iraqi cities. But Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's recent statements that he will not ask US forces to stay in those cities, while domestically popular ahead of elections next year, has sent military planners scrambling." For the Baghdad suburb of Adhamiya, Natalia Antelava (BBC) reports the issue of the Sahwa ("the so-called Sahwa, or Awakening, Councils") the same, al-Maliki's government refuses to bring them, they're still having trouble being paid and they're just frustrated with the Shi'ite dominated government which, people tend to forget, is one reason they took arms (against the US and the Shi'ite controlled government) to begin with. "I think the Iraqi government is not capitalizing on the momentum. I think it's a huge blow to the momentum we've created." That quote by US Army Capt Jason Dudley about the failure to bring in Sahwa is highlighted by Thomas E. Ricks (Foreign Policy) who notes it "echoes the findings of the Silverman study I blogged the other day that concluded that there is widespread distrust of the central government not only among Sunni leaders but also among Shiites". Ricks is the author of The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq 2006-2008. Timothy Williams (New York Times) zooms in on the tensions in Nineveh Province where the governor of the province, Atheel al-Nujaifi (an Arab), was not allowed to enter Bashiqa Friday for a hot-air ballon exhibition. The ones owning the toll bridge? The Kurdish pesh merga. This may have led to the protest in Bashiqa and Mosul yesterday ("more than a thousand people") insisting the pesh merga leave the province. The tensions run high for a number of reasons including the still undecided fate of oil-rich Kirkuk (which was supposed to have been put to a resolution long ago). Meanwhile Missy Ryan and Shamal Aqrawi (Reuters) report that disappointment is being expressed by Kurdish leaders in Iraq over the US and their feeling that they have been let down. The President of the Kurdistan Regional Government Masoud Barzani states, "We have had a historic and friendly relationship, but frankly speaking, we were expecting more. They could have played a much larger role in solving this problem [Kirkuk] than they did." The disappointment comes at a time of multiple disappointments. As Ruth noted yesterday, the Kurds were informed Sunday that they could act on their oil contracts only to have Hussein al-Shahrastani, Minister of Oil, state yesterday that the contracts were "illegal". This is a huge mess and will only get worse. It's one of the many reasons Barack should have immediately began a withdrawal (something he led many to foolishly believe he was promising during his campaign). The US can't make the decision and can't impose it. The decision on Kirkuk has been delayed repeatedly. The decision on whether the region can sign their own oil contracts is still not settled. These are issues Iraq has to work out on its own. And as long as the US is there (propping up al-Maliki's puppet government), segments will expect the US to step in. (And stepping in means creating the new Israel-Palestine divide that will haunt the world for over a century. This is a decision for the players involved and that does not include the US.)

Turning to some of the reported violence for today . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 person and wounded two more and "Sahwa sources in the area said that a low level Sahwa leader was killed with his son in the explosion" and a Mosul car bombing which claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers. Reuters notes a Baghdad sticky bombing which left five injured, a Ramadi roadside bombing which claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers, a Kirkuk roadside bombing which left three police officers wounded and a Mosul mortar attack which left one person injured.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 Iraqi soldier shot dead in Mosul and 1 "employee in the integrity committee" shot dead in Baghdad.


Reuters notes "a doctor and his daughter" were rescued from kidnappers in Baghdad by the Iraqi military.

Turning to Barry O!, the celebrity in chief. As
Trina, Cedric and Wally noted yesterday, he's already stabbed the LGBT community in the US in the back yet again. Today brought another. Margaret Talev and Jonathan S. Landay (McClatchy Newspapers) report Barack changed his mind and will not release the prisoner abuse photos from Iraq and Afghanistan: "The move is an about-face from the administration's decision last month to release 44 photographs in response to an order that a New York federal district court issued three years ago. The American Civil Liberties Union had sued the Department of Defense under President George W. Bush for the release of the photos. The Bush administration had challenged the release." In response, the ACLU issued the following:

The Obama administration announced today that it is reversing its promise to make public photos depicting detainee abuse by U.S. personnel overseas. The Department of Defense had told a federal judge that it would release a "substantial number" of photos in response to a court ruling in an American Civil Liberties Union Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
The following can be attributed to Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU:
"The Obama administration's adoption of the stonewalling tactics and opaque policies of the Bush administration flies in the face of the president's stated desire to restore the rule of law, to revive our moral standing in the world and to lead a transparent government. This decision is particularly disturbing given the Justice Department's failure to initiate a criminal investigation of torture crimes under the Bush administration.
"It is true that these photos would be disturbing; the day we are no longer disturbed by such repugnant acts would be a sad one. In America, every fact and document gets known -- whether now or years from now. And when these photos do see the light of day, the outrage will focus not only on the commission of torture by the Bush administration but on the Obama administration's complicity in covering them up. Any outrage related to these photos should be due not to their release but to the very crimes depicted in them. Only by looking squarely in the mirror, acknowledging the crimes of the past and achieving accountability can we move forward and ensure that these atrocities are not repeated.
"If the Obama administration continues down this path, it will betray not only its promises to the American people, but its commitment to this nation's most fundamental principles. President Obama has said we should turn the page, but we cannot do that until we fully learn how this nation veered down the path of criminality and immorality, who allowed that to happen and whose lives were mutilated as a result. Releasing these photos -- as painful as it might be -- is a critical step toward that accounting. The American people deserve no less."
More information about the ACLU's FOIA lawsuit, which has resulted in the release of more than 100,000 government documents to date, can be found online at:

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