Friday, July 10, 2009

House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee

House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Joint Readiness, Air and Land Forces and Seapower and Expeditionary Forces. That's the full title and it would take up my heading and then some to put all of that in.

Thursday morning we attended that hearing and I was kind of ticked C.I. pulled it from Thursday's snapshot. I knew why, if there were other things to highlight, the attitude was, "Kill my stuff." C.I. will always pull her own stuff out to make room for something else in the snapshot. But I thought it was important. I know the Patrick Muprhy press conference was important and I was glad C.I. went back to it to give it an additional emphasis, but I really thought that was the thing no one else would have.

Leo Shane covered it yesterday, he's the only one I've found.

But I thought that was pretty important.

Read the snapshot and you'll see that the US military apparently is being told by OMB not to ask for things it thinks it needs. Why is that?

I will tie it in with the thing that stood out to me about the hearing. My stand-out took place right after opening remarks and it was General James Amos of the marines. He was talking about how this had to be purchased and that and he mentions satellite radios and said no one expected marines to be stationed on a mountain in Afghanistan. This year.

No one expected it?

Where were they?

The Afghanistan War has been going on since 2001?

Eight years this fall. no one expected?

Sounds to me a great deal like the problem with the actual budget numbers in that something's just not adding up or making sense.

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

Friday, July 10, 2009. Chaos and violence continues, war resister Robin Long is out of the brig, the New York Times backs Nouri so much they not only attack the Kurds but they also play dumb about a DC meet-up between Iraq and neighbors that the White House is attempting to set up for later this year, a House Armed Services subcommittee questions the budget numbers, and more.

Starting with war resistance.
Robin Long has no regrets. John Wilkens (San Diego Union-Tribune) quotes him declaring today, "I wouldn't do anything differently." Tony Perry (Los Angeles Times) reports Robin Long was released from Miramar Marine Corps Air Station's brig yesterday "after serving 12 months of a 15-month sentence." Long is a war resister who self-checked out and went to Canada where he attempted to be granted asylum. Not only did that not happen, he was imprisoned and whisked across the border back to the US in violation of his rights and those of his child -- his child is a Canadian citizen.

Today Robin held a press conference and Wilkens covers it noting Robin stated he would continue speaking out and that "[. . .] I had to do what I felt was right."
The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. is the latest book by independent journalist Dahr Jamail. The US Socialist Worker provides an excerpt from the opening of the new book:

The environment in the United States today is not one that can support and sustain a GI resistance movement of significant proportions, giving it enough power to directly affect the foreign policy of the country, as it did so effectively in the Vietnam era. There is much in the military to prohibit a GI resistance movement from growing anywhere near the proportion that helped end the U.S. war in Vietnam. Military discipline is much more repressive than in the past, which makes organizing more difficult. There is less radicalization of the GI movement, as compared to that in the late 1960s and early 1970s; therefore, passive resistance against the command is more common than direct resistance. There is a much lower level of political awareness and analysis among soldiers as compared to that during Vietnam, when there were hundreds of underground newspapers that served to inform troops while criticizing the military apparatus. The all-volunteer military, rather than a draft, is also responsible for stifling broader dissent.
Despite these factors, dissent in the ranks is happening on a daily basis. While overall violence in Iraq has dropped, it is escalating dramatically in Afghanistan, as President Obama begins to "surge" 30,000 troops into that occupation. The overstretched military is in a state of disrepair, full of demoralized, bitter soldiers whose reasons for staying in are based on economics and loyalty to their friends rather than nationalism or patriotism.
These elements, accompanied by the continuing neglect that soldiers experience upon their return home, are driving larger numbers toward dissent.
This is a book about average soldiers and their brave acts of dissent against a system that is betraying them. I decided to focus on the rank-and-file members who actually served in Iraq, rather than those giving the orders from within safe compounds. I believe it is those who have followed the orders who have had to pay the highest price. My main objective in presenting this book is to highlight the reality that oppressed and oppressors alike suffer the dehumanizing effects of military action. For soldiers and war journalists like myself who have lived with this, struggled with PTSD, and reintegrated ourselves into society, a light at the seemingly endless dark tunnel of the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan is the possibility of the shifting of these individual acts of resistance into a broader, organized movement toward justice--both in the military and in U.S. foreign policy.

In his latest dispatch, Dahr breaks down the realities about Nouri al-Maliki and his attempts to become the new strong-man:

Let's be clear - Maliki has been supported by the US as the leader of Iraq since his installation. In January 2005, I was in Baghdad for the elections that formed an Iraqi Parliament, which then elected Iraq's first prime minister under US occupation - that man was Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Jaafari wasn't exactly toeing the US/UK line in Iraq, so it wasn't long until then-US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her UK counterpart Jack Straw rushed to Baghdad to
set things straight. Just after their visit, Jaafari was out and Maliki was in. No democracy was involved in this process.
In a recent article titled "
Iraq's New Death Squad" for The Nation by independent journalist Shane Bauer, we are provided with an inside view of Maliki's iron fist, which has come in the form of the Iraq Special Operations Forces.
Bauer writes:
"The Iraq Special Operations Forces (ISOF) is probably the largest special forces outfit ever built by the United States, and it is free of many of the controls that most governments employ to rein in such lethal forces. The project started in the deserts of Jordan just after the Americans took Baghdad in April 2003. There, the US Army's Special Forces, or Green Berets, trained mostly 18-year-old Iraqis with no prior military experience. The resulting brigade was a Green Beret's dream come true: a deadly, elite, covert unit, fully fitted with American equipment, that would operate for years under US command and be unaccountable to Iraqi ministries and the normal political process. The ISOF is at least 4,564 operatives strong, making it approximately the size of the US Army's own Special Forces in Iraq. Congressional records indicate that there are plans to double the ISOF over the next 'several years'."
According to Bauer, control of the ISOF was slowly transferred by US Special Forces to the Iraqis in 2007, but it wasn't put under the command of the Defense or Interior Ministry. Rather, "the Americans pressured the Iraqi government to create a new minister-level office called the Counter-Terrorism Bureau," Bauer writes, "Established by a directive from Iraq's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, the CTB answers directly to him and commands the ISOF independently of the police and army. According to Maliki's directive, the Iraqi Parliament has no influence over the ISOF and knows little about its mission."
Untold numbers of politically motivated murders have followed as a result. Regular assassinations and detentions of al-Sahwa (US-created Sunni militia that Maliki had opposed from the beginning) members have been ongoing for years. Last August, the ISOF raided the provincial government compound in Diyala, while backed by US Apache helicopters, and arrested a member of Iraq's main Sunni Arab political party. In December, the ISOF arrested more than 30 Interior Ministry officials who were believed to be opponents of Maliki's Dawa Party. In March, the ISOF arrested a leader of the Sahwa.

As he attempts to become the new Saddam, he does so with the apparent approval and endorsement of the New York Times,
hence Sam Dagher's article today allegedly about the Kurish region and their events but told from a Nouri point of view. Well into the article, primarily an article carping about the KRG's proposed constitution, Dagher notes, "Iraq's federal Constitution allows the Kurds the right to their own constitution, referring any conflicts to Iraq's highest court." Though it bothers Nouri, and apparently the paper, the Kurds can do a new constitution, revamp their old one, do whatever they want and it is their right. The unresolved issue of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk is not presented as having anything to do with Nouri. This despite realities including Damien Cave's June 2007 reporting for the paper when he noted, "The future of oil-rich Kirkuk was left in limbo, with Kurds holding out for a referendum scheduled for the end of this year that they hope will grant them control." The issue of Kirkuk was Constitutionally mandated to be resolved by November 2007 (in the 2005 constitution). Not only that but Nouri agreed to the White House's 2007 benchmarks and those benchmarks included resolving the Kirkuk issue. Dahger ignores all of that but does find time to say the Kruds "defended" attempting "to add all of hotly contested and oil-rich Kirkuk Province, as well as other disputed areas in Nineveh and Diyala Provinces." Are they 'adding' Kirkuk if they've long claimed it? Or are they continuing to stake their claim on Kirkuk? Furthermore, the paper is accepting the boundaries set by the central government and those boundaries have always been in dispute, even in Saddam's time. The areas are disputed on both sides. It's not just the Kurds disputing the boundaries. If you're still not getting how one-sided Dagher's article is, please note that in the print edition of the paper, the article is entitled "Kurds Lay Claim To Land and Oil, Defying Baghdad"; however, Australia's The Age re-runs the article and gives it the more appropriate headline "Kurds' new constitution angers US, Iraq." And certainly Dagher's written reflecting something other than Kurdish goals or interests. Apparently those aren't topics to cover . . . even in an article apparently about the Kurdish region. Al Hurriyet notes that some are trying to state that the northern region of Iraq would be better off with Turkey -- please note that 'some' includes those Americans who lied/spun/cheerleaded the US into Vietnam, some of the same losers (including Katty-van-van's deadbeat father) who were part of the "American Friends of Vietnam" -- a front group which, starting in 1955, began openly advocating for US 'intervention' in Vietnam via lies, trickery and deceit.

The New York Times is so busy shining on al-Maliki, they forgot to tell you about his flare up with US Vice President Joe Biden.
Salah Hemeid (Al-Ahram Weekly) explains the paper only "alluded" and didn't explain but Biden issued a call for bringing the Ba'athist back into the political process. Nouri's response was to issue public statements such as this one through his spokesperson "the government will never talk to those whose hands were stained with blood". Publicly stated. Somehow the paper missed that. Somehow the paper forgot to tell readers that. The US ran, under Paul Bremer, the Ba'athists out of the political process in what is termed "de-Ba'ahtification." Part of the benchmarks established by the US White House in 2007 and signed off on by Nouri al-Maliki was to bring the Ba'athists back in -- a de-de-Ba'athification. That has never happened and when Biden pointed out the need for it to, al-Maliki made it clear it wasn't happening. That's a key moment and it's interesting that the paper of record elected not to cover it or that Biden proposed a DC meeting with segments of Iraq including the Ba'athists and Iraqi neighbors to sort out some issues. An Iraqi official states that the vice president "suggested that Arab countries that will participate in the proposed reconciliation meeting in Washington are ready to guarantee that the Baathists will abandon any kind of armed resistance if they are allowed to function as a legitimate political party." Again, huge news and the paper of record 'missed' it..

Today on NPR's
The Diane Rehm Show, Steve Roberts filled in for Diane Rehm. The second hour (international) featured Andrei Sitov (Itar-Tass), Farah Stockman (Boston Globe) and Tom Gjelten (NPR). And we'll note this section on Iraq which covers some of the themes and topics emerging during the week.

Steve Roberts: [. . .] but, Farah, I want to deal with one more development, actually several developments in Iraq, including the more aggressiver assertion of territorial integrity and separateness on the part of the Kurds in northern Iraq. This is not a new story in some ways, it's been a semi-autonomous region for a long time, but some new developments.

Farah Stockman: Yeah. I think the Kurds are-are starting to get frustrated with Baghdad. A lot of the disagreements that have been simmering for years over oil, over the share of oil they should get, over whether the state controlled oil companies should make decisions or whether we should have production sharing agreements and the Kurds are -- and disputed territories. And these questions have been left unresolved for a long time and the Kurds are impatient and saying, 'We need to move forward and resolve some of these.' Whereas I think Maliki's government doesn't appreciate those moves by the Kurds and he's also starting to become an Arab -- kind of an Arab nationalist which is, I think, worrisome for the Kurds. Maliki is starting to position himself politically as an Arab nationalist against the Kurds. And, I think, this is worrisome because the Sunnis were always odd-man-out. It was always the Kurds-were-the-voice-of-reason and they were the ones arguing for the greater good of Iraq and even though they wanted their own -- their own semi-autonomous area, they were still speaking of things in terms of unity with the government and now we're seeing a shift. We're seeing the Shias and the Kurds draw farther apart. I think that's worrisome.

Steve Roberts: And of course the vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, was the author, co-author of a plan at one time that would provide for what was sometimes called a soft partition of Iraq.
Farah Stockman: Well -- right. Some people would say that Biden's plan was simply what was already enshrined in the Iraqi Constitution. It depends upon your interpretation of that document, I guess. I think -- I think the Obama administration had hoped to turn its attention to Afghanistan, get away from Iraq and last week they asked Biden to look more closely at Iraq. I think that's a sign that they see Iraq as continuing to be worrisome and that they can't -- they can't just shut it out.

Steve Roberts: In addition, Tom, to the problem of the Kurds, there's the problem of ongoing violence.

Tom Gjelten: That's what I was going to say. It's not just the Kurds. What we're seeing is real sectarian strife returning in Iraq. A lot of violence this week, most of it directed against Shites, and it's coming just as the United States has pulled its troops out of major cities. The big question in Iraq is whether the Iraqi security forces are going to be capable of handling security responsibilities in Iraq. Right now with these rising ethnic tensions, whether it's the Kurds in the north or the Sunni and the Shi'ite populations, I think there's some real concerns.

Farah Stockman: I -- also just to add --

Steve Roberts: Please.

Farah Stockman: I think there's a real danger here for Obama in that we could get stuck with one foot in Iraq and one foot in Afghanistan and not really have the freedom of movement to do any of those two very complicated countries justice.

Steve Roberts: Is there any sense that given the pull-back of American troops and the rise in violence that there's any rethinking about this strategy, Tom, or is the Americans completely devoted to this pull-back whatever instability results?

Tom Gjelten: Well, I think, Steve, one point to keep in mind is that there's less to this pullback than you might think. I mean, the Bush administration -- sorry, the Obama administration makes a big point of there not being after a certain point combat troops in Iraq but what we've seen with the nature of warfare in Iraq is basically everybody who is in Iraq is in the category of combat troops. And the numbers that we're seeing now, we're down to 130,000 but that's, remember, that's only the number that was there before the surge. We're going to see 130,000 or 120,000 throughout the rest of this year. So there's not a major pull-back here.

Michael Schwartz (Asia Times) words it a bit more bluntly:

Unfortunately, not just for the Iraqis, but for the American public, it's what's happening in "the dark" - beyond the glare of lights and TV cameras - that counts. While many critics of the Iraq War have been willing to cut the Obama administration some slack as its foreign policy team and the US military gear up for that definitive withdrawal, something else - something more unsettling - appears to be going on. And it wasn't just the president's hedging over withdrawing American "combat" troops from Iraq which, in any case, make up as few as one-third of the 130,000 US forces still in the country - now extended from 16 to 19 months. Nor was it the re-labeling of some of them as "advisors" so they could, in fact, stay in the vacated cities, or the redrawing of the boundary lines of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, to exclude a couple of key bases the Americans weren't about to give up.After all, there can be no question that the Obama administration's policy is indeed to reduce what the Pentagon might call the US military "footprint" in Iraq. To put it another way, Obama's key officials seem to be opting not for blunt-edged, former president George W Bush-style militarism, but for what might be thought of as an administrative push in Iraq, what Vice President Joe Biden has called "a much more aggressive program vis-a-vis the Iraqi government to push it to political reconciliation". An anonymous senior State Department official described this new "dark of night" policy to Christian Science Monitor reporter Jane Arraf in this way: "One of the challenges of that new relationship is how the US can continue to wield influence on key decisions without being seen to do so." Without being seen to do so. On this General Odierno and the unnamed official are in agreement. And so, it seems, is Washington. As a result, the crucial thing you can say about the Obama administration's military and civilian planning so far is this: ignore the headlines, the fireworks, and the briefly cheering crowds of Iraqis on your TV screen. Put all that talk of withdrawal aside for a moment and - if you take a closer look, letting your eyes adjust to the darkness - what is vaguely visible is the silhouette of a new American posture in Iraq. Think of it as the Obama Doctrine. And what it doesn't look like is the posture of an occupying power preparing to close up shop and head for home.

In some of today's reported violence (it's Friday, little gets reported) . . .


Reuters notes a Baghdad bombing late Thursday which claimed injured a police officer "and three of his family members".


Moahmmed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 Sahwa member ("Awakening" "Sons of Iraq" are other names) shot dead in Baghdad with another injured. Reuters notes another Sahwa member was shot dead in Babil with another left injured. CNN notes two Sawha were killed in the Baghdad attack and they state 75 people have lost their lives in Iraq since Wednesday with two-hundred-and-two left injured.

Yesterday the House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Joint Readiness, Air and Land Forces and Seapower and Expeditionary Forces met to take testimony from General James Amos with the Marines and General Peter Chiarelli with the Army. Amos' big news is that all the marines equipment will be out of Iraq at the end of 2010 but not all of the marines. The press has maintained otherwise. We will be out of Iraq, the marines will be," declared Amos, "with the exception of just a few, by this time next year, the equipment will be out of Iraq, being repaired and going to the home stations."

Repaired? With regards to Chiarelli and the army, the big news appeared to be that money was being wasted because military equipment being reset is not also being repaired. This was referred

Roscoe Bartlett: I want to follow up with a question asked by Mr. Forbes, the army's 2010 request for reset is about $11 billion which nearly 8 billion -- 7.9 billion is for operations and maintenance and 3.1 billion for procurement. Now from 2007 to 2010, the O and M portion has been pretty constant at about 8 billion but the procurement portion has dropped to less than fifty percent of what it was in '07. I know '07 was a bit higher than it might have been because we were short in '06. But at just the time when we need more money because of all this reset, now we have less money. And if we're going to justify this on the basis of this new rule that you can't upgrade when you're repairing the equipment than I have a problem with that because what an opportunity we have when it's in there for maintenance repair why can't we upgrade? It seems to me to be very short sighted and I'm wondering why the money wasn't there? Did the army ask for more than 11 billion and 11 billion was all you could get?

Peter Chiarelli: My understanding is no, sir, we did not. We understood with the new overseas contingency operations rules were going to be, that amount, that three-billion-plus in procurement can only be used for washouts or vehicles or aircraft that are destroyed. And for the most part -- although like all these rules, they change -- for the most part, the recap -- or adding on -- is not allowed in FY10 and that drove down the amount of money we needed for procurement.

Roscoe Bartlett: But sir, why not? Isn't it our goal to have a better and better military? To support our people? Why shouldn't we upgrade? And isn't this a very short sighted program?

Peter Chiarelli: Sir, you'd have to ask the folks who wrote the new rules. Uhm. I-I think that it makes a lot of sense to upgrade when we can. It's kind of like paving a road. Uh, you know, it's better to put the sewer system in before you pave the road. It's-it's not a good idea to, in fact, pave the road and then decide to dig it up to put the sewer system in. So when we have equipment in and are able to do that -- that was a plus and allowed us to recap equipment. But the new rules are that we cannot do that.

Roscoe Bartlett: Well I think Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution says that the Congress makes the rules. And, Mr. Chairman [Ortez], I think we need to take a look at that. Thank you very much and I yield back.

Solomon Ortez: Chairman Abercrombie.

Neil Abercrombie: I want to follow up, General, on what Mr. Bartlett just was dealing with when he says the Congress makes the rules. I'm not clear from your answer to Mr. Bartlett. What-what part of what the Congress wants you to do is being thwarted by whomever is making these rules? Who made this rule?

Peter Chiarelli: Sir, my understanding is they come out of OMB

Neil Abercrombie: I'm sorry?

Peter Chiarelli: Sir, my understanding is they come out of OMB. They write --

Neil Abercrombie: So you -- this is very important to me -- you take orders from OMB and not from the Defense Bill?

Peter Chiarelli: I, um, I can only tell you what I know now right now, sir, is the rules -- and I don't question who makes rules --

Neil Abercrombie: Well maybe rules is the wrong way. I'm not trying to be argumentative here at all. But this is serious business because the questions I have have to do with inventory and our capacity to do an accurate inventory so that I can make from -- Mr. Bartlett and I, I should say, because we do this together -- make recommendations to our subcommittee members and the committee as a whole. We try to this in a way that reflects your needs and if you're telling me that -- or telling Mr. Bartlett -- that someone in the Office of Management and Budget is able to countermand, I guess, what we're doing, how on earth are we supposed to make an accurate assessment, let alone recommendation, to follow up on, uh, requests that you're making today, let alone what has been made in the past. I'm not quite sure about your answer. Are you saying that your present -- your present course of action, when you make decisions with regard to the context established by Mr. Bartlett, that you're not paying any attention to the Defense Bill?

Peter Chiarelli: I'm not saying that. I'm saying --

Neil Abercrombie: Then why -- I really need to know what it is that we're dealing with here.

Peter Chiarelli: I can only tell you what the people I trust to put together our request to Congress have indicated to us: In FY10, as a general rule, we are not allowed to recap equipment. And that has brought down the amount of money that we requested for procurement as part of reset.

Neil Abercrombie: So you don't need additional funds? Is that right?

Peter Chiarelli: I am telling you --

Neil Abercrombie: Because we could reallocate funds. Believe me, I've got requests, Mr. Bartlett has requests right now, if your answer is is that you don't need this money and that which was represented to us -- whether I was in the minority or the majority because we've been on this subcommittee for some period of time now -- so those estimates from before were inaccurate?

Peter Chiarelli: Let me be perfectly clear --

Neil Abercrombie: I hope so.

Peter Chiarelli: -- this --

Neil Abercrombie: Because believe me I'll make some recommendations for re-allocations. Absolutely, I will.

Peter Chiarelli: We are in fact able -- with the budget we have and what we've requested to you to do what you asked me to come here and talk about today and that is reset our equipment. That is bring our equipment up to 1020 standards and 1020 standards meaning that it is fully capable to do its mission with minor deficiencies at best. We do not bring it to a recap situation. We are able to reset our equipment exactly as defined with the money we've been given by Congress.

Neil Abercrombie: Okay, if that's the case then, what do -- what system is in place then, whether it's from the OMB or yourself, to accurately asses inventory. The reason that I ask this question, in following up on Mr. Bartlett's observations and inquiry, is that just in shipping containers alone, you read the GAO reports, shipping containers alone, we can't get, our subcommittee staff, is unable to get an accurate answer as to what we need even from containers for equipment because we can't get a handle on your inventory. What inventory process is in place right now? And do you have confidence in it?

Peter Chiarelli: I have confidence in our inventory. I have confidence not only that commanders down range like I was twice maintaining inventory of both their TO and E equipment that they bring over with them plus the troop provided equipment. Uh, we have had many looks at our equipment down range to make sure that accountability standards are high. Uh, and they are. Uh and we feel very, very good that we know what we've got down range and what we will in fact be bringing back and what is in troop provided -- theater provided equipment which they issue to units when they arrive in theater

Neil Abercrombie: So the GAO reports on the capacity for you to accurately assess inventory is incorrect.

Peter Chiarelli: I believe --

Neil Abercrombie: I'll send it to you.
Peter Chiarelli: Thank you, sir.

Neil Abercrombie: And I would appreciate your response. This is a serious question because, again, this involves numbers, including billions of dollars. Believe me, we are looking right now for billions of dollars possibly for reallocation because of other demands. So-so if you don't need this money and you're sure your inventory assessment is absolutely correct seems to me I'm going to have a hell of a lot more flexibility than I thought I had.

Peter Chiarelli: Uh, we too understand the tru-tremendous fiscal re - crisis that our country has gone though. The economic situation. And one of the reasons why there's no question as long as we can reset our equipment we understand because of fiscal requirements it may be in the best interest of our country as a whole to cut back on the amount of recap we're doing so it did not seem odd to me --

Neil Abercrombie: Okay, excuse me. In the fiscal interests, is that the basis? Are you in conversations with these folks at OMB?

Peter Chiarelli: I have not, sir.

Neil Abercrombie: Who would have had these conversations?

Peter Chiarelli: It would have taken place at the Office of Secretary of Defense, OSD.

Neil Abercrombie: So the Secretary of Defense is saying that you need -- at least from my calculations here -- approximately 2 billion dollars less than you said you needed previously with regard to reset on the basis of -- what was the phrase you used? Fiscal discipline or fiscal necessity?

Peter Chiarelli: We understand that we all have to be very, very careful with the dollars that we spend. And, uhm, people have made a decision that we will not recap equipment in FY10. That seems to me to be understandable.

Neil Abercrombie: Okay, it's understandable, yes. Do you think it's good policy?

Peter Chiarelli: If-if-if I had the ability to recap equipment, if we had the money to recap equipment I think it would make sense --

Neil Abercrombie: That's not the question I asked. Do you think you need the money to recap? In you professional judgment, that's what we're asking for today, not from a politician appointed in the OMB. I'm asking for your professional judgment today with regard: Do you need money to recap?

Peter Chiarelli: If I had the ability to recap, I would recap for all the reasons I have stated.

Neil Abercrombie: You think the policy then of not being able to do that which is reflected in your -- in the numbers that are given to us -- is not good policy?

Peter Chiarelli: I-I-I can't say that and I won't say that. And I won't say that because I understand that the people who make those rules, make those decisions, have to take many other things into consideration. And that is why --

Neil Abercrombie: Yes, they have to take into consideration what we say is in the Defense Bill because we're reflecting -- we are trying to reflect -- I'm trying to help you here. Because, believe me, if you give me this answer, I want to know, and right now what you're telling me is is that -- is that in your professional judgment the-the rules or the-the policy or the-the-the admonitions that you've been given or the directions that you're operating under reflects your professional judgment of what the necessities for the army are right now.

Peter Chiarelli: If I had the authority and the ability to recap, I would. I --

Neil Abercrombie: Okay, thank you. If Congress gives you the authority under the Defense Bill then that would reflect your professional opinion that you could use at least 13 billion dollars a year rather than 11 billion --

Peter Chiarelli: I can't -- I can't give you those numbers.

Neil Abercrombie: Well okay. You don't have to -- well, those are the numbers we have been given previously.

Peter Chiarelli: Previous years?

Neil Abercrombie: Yes.

Peter Chiarelli: I'd have to go back and ask the -- we just don't go --

Neil Abercrombie: I won't go further. Mr. Chairman, this is serious business. We're under the gun here in the Defense Bill to make accurate numbers and put them forward for everybody to consider and now we have to make a decision whether OMB does this because, what the hell, we don't need a committee here if-if-if somebody down in OMB, this is a political appointment. It's all political appointments and if we're going to do it on the basis of-of what somebody else decides in the executive is-is a budget number as opposed to what our obligation is which is to provide for you and the people who serve under you and under your command then we have a real dilemma here. I have a real dilemma because I can't accurately, I cannot in good conscience say to Chairman Ortiz or to the other members that we're giving a number that adequately responds to what you believe to be in your professional judgment a necessity. Understand my motivation here?

Peter Chiarelli: I hope you understand mine. I-I understand also that you have to take many other things into consideration when putting together our budget. That's all I'm saying to you.
That was pulled from yesterday's snapshot because there wasn't room.
Monday a bad article about women veterns and the large increase in the number who become homeless appeared, Bryan Bender's "More female veterans are winding up homeless" (Boston Globe) -- an article on how women veterans are falling through the cracks because their specific issues and problems are not known and/or addressed -- an article where all the 'experts' were men. No one apparently noticed that incongruity. Bender was not tackling a just-breaking story. From the June 3rd snapshot, when US House Rep Bob Finer chaired the House Committee on Veterans Affairs committee for the hearing entitled "A National Commitment to End Veterans' Homelessness:" The number of women veterans who are homeless is rising. [Vietnam Veterans of America's Marsha] Four observed, "There certainly is a question of course on the actual number of homeless veterans -- it's been flucuating dramatically in the last few years. When it was reported at 250,000 level, two percent were considered females. This was rougly about 5,000. Today, even if we use the very low number VA is supplying us with -- 131,000 -- the number, the percentage, of women in that population has risen up to four to five percent, and in some areas, it's larger. So that even a conservative method of determinng this has left the number as high as [6,550]. And the VA actually is reporting that they are seeing that this is as high as eleven percent for the new homeless women veterans. This is a very vulnerable population, high incidents of past sexual trauma, rape and domestic violence. They have been used, abused and raped. They trust no one. Some of these women have sold themselves for money, been sold for sex as children, they have given away their own children. And they are encased in this total humiliation and guilt the rest of their lives." About half of her testimony was reading and about half just speaking to the committee directly.\

Marsha Ford is only one of the experts on the issue Bender could have spoken to but didn't. Congress has found many women capable of speaking on the issue in the last two years. Since the press seems unable to (and
since the Feminist Wire Daily can't even notice that women aren't 'experts' in Bender's article) perhaps the press could pay attention on July 14th when the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee holds their hearing Women Veterans: Bridging the Gaps in Care? Or possibly July 16th when the House Armed Services Committee holds their hearing Eliminating the Gaps: Examing Women Veterans' Issues? Were they to do so, they might discover that, no surprise, there are many, many women who can speak to issues effecting women veterans and they might realize how insulting -- in a story about how women's own issues are ignored by the VA (including being a single, primary caregiver for a child) -- it is to pen an article on women veterans while bringing in 'expert' males to talk about their problems as if to say: No one can follow the issue when a woman speaks. It's the equivalent, in conversations, of a man interrupting a woman to tell her story 'for her' because he can do it so much better because, apparently, an addition groin weight somehow helps in 'translation.'

Turning to film,
The Hurt Locker opens today in San Francisco, Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, Austin, Oahu, Portland, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Diego, Minneapolis, Denver, Toronto and DC. The amazing film directed by Kathryn Bigelow is winning raves all over. Ann Hornaday's "'Locker' Serves as Iraq Tour De Force" (Washington Post):"War is a drug," writes Christopher Hedges in the epigraph that precedes "The Hurt Locker." Someone else described war as "interminable boredom punctuated by moments of stark terror." Director Kathryn Bigelow comprehends both those observations and conveys them in this captivating, completely immersive action thriller. "The Hurt Locker" just happens to be set in Iraq in 2004, but, like the best films, transcends time and place, and in the process attains something universal and enduring. "The Hurt Locker" is about Iraq in the same way that "Paths of Glory" was about World War I or "Full Metal Jacket" was about Vietnam -- which is to say, utterly and not at all. "The Hurt Locker" is a great movie, period. From Mick LaSalle's "'The Hurt Locker' shows Bigelow's skill" (San Francisco Chronicle):She uses handheld cameras in "The Hurt Locker" not to make viewers dizzy or to instill excitement that isn't there but to create a subtle sense of being alongside the characters. Her camera doesn't shake. It breathes. It pulses. The camera becomes the viewer's eyes, not those of a spastic cameraman. Through such intuitive means, Bigelow takes an audience from the opening credits into a state of fierce attention and total empathy within about 60 seconds. Notice how quickly Bigelow conveys the charm and humanity of Guy Pearce, a soldier called upon to neutralize a bomb in the movie's first scene. Notice also how the direction and Mark Boal's screenplay inject a workaday quality into this tense moment. Throughout "The Hurt Locker," the human element is central, so that whenever something happens, it feels personal.

Turning to TV, this week on

This week, NOW talks directly with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the international community's envoy to the region and an architect of the plan. We also speak with a former commander of the infamous Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in Jenin about his decision to stop using violent tactics, and to residents of Jenin about their daily struggles and their hopes for the future.To Blair, the Jenin experiment can be pivotal in finally bringing peace to the Middle East. He tells NOW, "This is the single most important issue for creating a more stable and secure world."This show is part of Enterprising Ideas, NOW's continuing spotlight on social entrepreneurs working to improve the world through self-sustaining innovation.Next week NOW on PBS reports from inside the Israeli Defense Force to get the Israeli perspective on peace in the Middle East.Next week NOW on PBS reports from inside the Israeli Defense Force to get the Israeli perspective on peace in the Middle East.That begins airing tonight on most PBS stations as does
Washington Week which finds Gwen sitting around the table with James Barnes (National Journal), Ceci Connolly (Washington Post), Doyle McManus (Los Angeles Times) and Deborah Solomon (Wall St. Journal). Bonnie Erbe sits down with Melinda Henneberger, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Kay James and Genevieve Wood on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, all three PBS shows begin airing tonight on many PBS stations. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
Kill Bin Laden The officer who led the army's Delta Force mission to kill Osama bin Laden after 9/11 reveals what really happened in Tora Bora, Afghanistan, when the al-Qaeda leader narrowly escaped. Scott Pelley reports. Watch Video
Eyewitness Lesley Stahl reports on flaws in eyewitness testimony that are at the heart of the DNA exonerations of falsely convicted people like Ronald Cotton, who has forgiven his accuser, Jennifer Thompson. (This is a double-length segment.) Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, July 12, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

nprthe diane rehm show
farah stockman
the boston globe
dahr jamail
the new york timessam dagher
michael schwartz
kathryn bigelow
the washington postann hornadaymick lasalle60 minutescbs news
pbsto the contrarybonnie erbenow on pbs

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Abortion rights

Twenty-five. That’s the percent of women who say they would’ve obtained a Medicaid-funded abortion if they had the option, but instead carried their pregnancies to term. According to a new Guttmacher report released yesterday, many of these women are forced to forgo an abortion because they lack personal funds to pay for the procedure. I can hear the anti-choice advocates popping their Champagne corks now. But, the story is more complicated.
Hyde Amendment, which was enacted in 1976, excludes abortion from the comprehensive health care services the federal government provides to low-income people through Medicaid. Congress has carved out some exceptions to the ban over the years; currently the only abortions allowed under the federal Medicaid program are those involving a case of rape or incest or when a pregnant woman’s life is endangered by a physical disorder, illness, or injury. Presently, 32 states and Washington, D.C., follow the federal government’s lead. South Dakota, in violation of the Hyde Amendment, is even more draconian and only pays for abortions if a women’s life is in danger. That leaves only 17 states that use their own money to pay for all or most medically necessary abortions. That means that only 17 states will help a woman obtain an abortion when her health is in danger. So, that 25 percent I mentioned earlier includes women with cancer, diabetes, heart conditions, or whose pregnancies otherwise threaten their health who are nonetheless forced to carry their pregnancies to term because they are not deemed likely enough to die from their pregnancies for the government to pay for an abortion.
Guttmacher’s new report, "
Restrictions on Medicaid Funding for Abortions: A Literature Review," also found that Medicaid funding restrictions delay some women’s abortions by two to three weeks, as the women scrounge up the funds necessary for the procedure.

That's an excerpt of Allie Bohm's "25 Percent Would If They Could" (Blog of Rights). If we could go back and redo anything on abortion rights, I would redo Hyde. I would go back to 1976 and bang heads together until abortion supporters got that we didn't need to give on any issue and that those who were trying to be 'reasonable' would learn over the next decades that you could never be reasonable with the anti-choice crowd. They would always want more and more.

We had won. Roe v. Wade was the rule. And we let it be chipped away at bit by bit.

And it was never any 'big deal.'

Look at that b.s. of parental notification where the usual sell-outs, including Ruth Conniff, told us it was no big deal.

It's a very big deal because the young girl most likely to need abortion access is one being sexually abused by a family member. A young girl who is a victim of incest.

And Ruth Conniff and the other idiots want to say, "Sure, let her ask Daddy for permission. Let her say, 'Daddy, can I abort the pregnancy? You know, the one you started?'"

It's crazy.

And the idea that you can go to a judge?

That presumes that there is a judge in your area that's reasonable on this issue and that's not always the case.

So I would go back to 1976 and I would say, "Look, we need to fight on this. Some of us are but a lot of us are saying, 'Oh, it's no big deal and we just wanted abortion rights. We don't want to expect the government to pay for them. Let's be reasonable!"

Being reasonable is stopping the constant chipping away of abortion rights.

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

July 9, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces a death, Nouri al-Maliki launches a verbal attack on the KRG (while setting himself up as a law-abiding-martyr), 5 Iranians are finally freed, Thomas E. Ricks pimps 'miracle cures' and more.

Yesterday violence made a strong impression in Iraq even if the press wasn't paying attention. (See Timothy Williams' article in today's New York Times which reduces the deaths to an aside saved for the final paragraph of the article and note that Williams was one of the few reporting on Iraq that you could find in a US paper today.) If the ongoing, never-ending illegal war has demonstrated anything over the last six years and counting, it's that reality always crashes into the latest wave of Operation Happy Talk. Jamal al-Badrani (Reuters) counts 50 dead in Iraq today from bombings in northern Iraq and Baghdad. Ned Parker and Usama Redha (Los Angeles Times) report on two suicide bombers in Tal Afar where one bomber detonated outside the home of a police officer causing a crowd to gather, at which point, the second bomber detonated. Nada Bakri (Washington Post) adds that the police chief states the bombers wore police uniforms and, "The first suicide bomber managed to sneak inside the house of a counter-terrorism officer and blew himself up, causing the home to collapse. The attack took place in a neighborhood called al-Qala, inhabited by mostly Shiites. When neighbors gathered to help the family trapped inside, a second suicide bomber struck, increasing the bloodshed." Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) explains, "Tal Afar, a mostly Turkmen town about 30 miles (48 kilometers) west of Mosul, has been targeted by militans before. In March 2007, it was hit by one of the deadliest single attacks since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003 when a suicide truck bomb killed more than 150 people." Jomana Karadsheh and CNN count 35 dead and sixty-five injured from the two bombings. The two Tal Afar bombings were not the only reported violence today . . .


Laith Hammoudi and Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) report a Baghdad market bombing which claimed 7 lives and left twenty injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing which left five people injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured two people, a Baghdad bicycle bombing which left four people injured, two Baghdad bombings which claimed 9 lives and left thirty-five people wounded and a Ramadi car bombing which claimed the life of the bomber and left four police officers wounded. Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing which injured one person and a Kirkuk roadside bombing which claimed 1 life and left three injured.

Reuters notes one woman and one man were wounded in a Mosul attack by unknown assailants and 1 Iraqi soldier was shot dead in Kirkuk.

Today the
US military announced: "BAGHDAD – A Multi-National Division–Baghdad Soldier died July 8 after being found unresponsive at a Coalition forces facility. The Soldier's name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin. The names of deceased service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense Official Web site at . The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. MND-B will not release any additional details prior to notification of next of kin and official release by the DoD. The incident and cause of death are currently under investigation." It's the first US service member announced death in Iraq for the month and it brings the total number of US service members killed in the illegal war to 4322.

"I don't know the exact percentage but I'm sure it's well over 70% that want the US out as soon as possible,"
explains Mike Tharp in a video posted at McClatchy. He's speaking with Paul Jay for The Real News Network (click here for the clip at TRNN). Tharp states, "They've seen the last six years as an occupation, not as a liberation, not as bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq but instead the loss of tens of thousands of Iraqi lives as well as over 4300 American troop losses, a trillion dollars spent by the US, I don't know what estimates are put on the damage done to the Iraqi society and economy but it's incalcuable." On the topic of the physical damage done to Iraq . . .

Today the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has issued [PDF format warning] "FINAL REPORT on Damage Assessment in Babylon." The twenty page report prepared by the International Coordination Committee for the Saveguarding of the Cultural Heritage of Iraq explores the damage done by the US' decision to install a military base on an archaeological site in Babylon after the issue was raised by Iraq's Minister of Culture. The report explains the historical context:

Babylon is unquestionably one of the most important archaelogical sites in the world. It was the capital city of two of the most famous kings of antiquity, Hammurabi (1792-1750 BC) who introduced one of the world's first law codes, and Nebuchadnezzar (604-562 BC) who built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Alexander the Great chose Babylon as his new capital but died before he could implement this plan. The existence of Babylon is first mentioned in cuneiform texts of the Akkadian period (2371-2230 BC), but the city did not become significant until the time of Hammurabi. It was substantially enlarged in the Neo-Babylonian period (626-539 BC) when it became the largest city of the contemporary world. Although its location was forgotten for centuries the fame of Babylon survived through a number of historical and religious texts. In view of the historical and archaelogical significance of Babylon, recent allegations of damage to the site during its occupation as a military camp are particularly serious.

Since 1935, Bablyon has been listed as an archaeological site. In 2003, the US invaded and the Iraq War started, the Hammurabi and Nebuchadnezzar museums were looted ("Fortunately, the objects in the two museums were plaster replicas rather than the origianls"). April 21, 2003, the US military created Camp Alpha -- a US base that continued through December 22, 2004 during which time the US military and contractors such as KBR "directly caused major damage to the city by digging, cutting, scraping, and leveling." Nine trenches and two pits were dug including on areas that had not been excavated. This was true of cuts, scrapings and leveling efforts by the US military and contractors as well. In addition the report notes:

The Ishtar Gate serves as a ritual gate leading into the northern part of the inner city. The damage to the gate includes smashed bricks on nine of the bodies of the animals adorning the gate. These animals depcit the legendary dragon-snake, the symbol of Marduk, the god of the city of Babylon. [. . .] Major damage can be observed in the southern part of the Proecessional Way, which was rediscovered during the Babylon Revival Project excavations in 1979. Starting from the Nabu-sha-Hare Temple, the effects of heavy vehicle wheels are clear, breaking the paving of the street. Three rows of 2-ton concrete blocks were placed in the middle of the Processional Way on top the paving by heavy vehicles, which is itself an encroachment. These blocks were removed by helicopter on November 29, 2004 to prevent further damage to the Processional Way. In addition, a row of HESCO containers with soil taken from the eastern wall of the sacred precinct were placed on the way, and barbed wire was attached by steel stakes to the wall itself and in the middle of Processional Way. There is also a cut in the wall itself with a length of 2.5 m, a depth of 50 cm, and a height of 1.5 m.

UNESCO's director of the Office for Iraq
Moahmed Djelid states, "In view of Babylong's historical and archaeological significance, recent allegations of damage to the site during its military use were particularly serious. The report is key because it establishes a description of damages on which there is international agreement. Without pointing fingers, we now have a clear picture of the situation. It provides the starting-point for the major challenge of restoration and conservation."

In related news,
CBC reports nearly seventy stolen Iraqi artificats were recovered and returned by the Dutch government. Mike Corder (AP) adds, "Dutch Education, Culture and Science Minister Ronald Plasterk said the ancient artifacts were surrendered by Dutch art traders after police informed them they were stolen. U.S. customs authorities and Interpol had alerted Dutch officials that the items were being sold here."

In other diplomatic news, five Iranian diplomats were rounded up by US forces in Iraq in January of 2007 and have been held ever since in indefinite detention/imprisonment.
BBC News reports they have been released. Mike Tharp (McClatchy Newspapers) goes with the number four (four diplomats) and reports they were not released to Tehran but to Iraqi officials and then they met with Nouri al-Maliki. Philippe Naughton (Times of London) quotes Hassan Ghashghavi, spokesperson for Iran's Foreign Ministry, stating, "They called their families from there. They are in good health. They will be handed over to our embassy within hours. They were innocent and arrested against all international regulations under the Vienna convention." They are: Mohsen Bagheri, Majid Dagheri, Mahmoud Farhadi, Majid Ghami and Abbas Jami. Liz Sly and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) quote Hoshyar Zebari, Foreign Minister of Iraq, stating the five are "happy and safe." At the US State Dept today, spokesperon Ian Kelly continued the pattern of the Bush administration by insisting they were not diplomats, stating they were connected to Iranian paramilitary forces (Iranian Revolutionary Guard) and declaring that, along with turning the five over to the Iraqi government, they passed on "our concerns". Kelly stated the hand-off took place after Iraq requested it and that it went "to our obligations under the US - Iraq Security Agreement."

Yesterday's snapshot included: " Alsumaria reports that despite claims that a vote on Kirkuk might be able to take place before the elections now scheduled for January, no suche elections will be happening. AP adds, 'On Wednesday, Iraqi officials said the Kurdish-run north of the country could not vote this month on a draft constitution, a document perceived by Iraqi Arabs as an effort to expand Kurdish authority at the expense of the central government'." The most recent [PDF format warning] US State Dept status report on Iraq (July 1st) explained that the constitution passed the Kurdish Parliament June 24th with 96 members voting for it and that the members of the Iraqi Parliament immediately objected to the planned July 25th vote (same time the KRG holds their elections) and to the Constitution itself. Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) interviews Nouri al-Maliki and quotes him stating the KRG is guilty of "provocations" and then declaring, "I am struggling for the unity of Iraq, and Iraq cannot be divided into two." Chon doesn't note it, but that is a "provocation" from Nouri because the KRG already considers itself independent of the central government in Baghdad. Chon reveals that US forces are currently sending drones all over Kurdistan in an attempt to spy (she doesn't use the word "spy") on the region and how Iraqi and Kurdish forces interact. Chon quotes al-Maliki on the non-progress between the KRG and the central government in Baghdad stating, "We are upset, but we are not worried because there is a constitution and we can tell (the KRG) they are violating it." Again, that's a "provocation." The KRG does not feel they are violating it with regards to land disputes or anything else. In terms of the oil rich Kirkuk, the KRG isn't violating anything because the Constitution said that an election was to take place to determine Kirkuk's fate. That's 2005. It's now 2009. The election has never taken place and al-Maliki just this week refused to allow it again. Who is violating the Constitution of Iraq?

And who's played the Quiet Game? As noted last week, former US House Rep and 2008 US presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney was imprisoned by the Israeli government.
Margaret Kimberly (Black Agenda Report) notes what some focused on while ignoring McKinney:

While Cynthia McKinney languished in an Israeli jail, black leaders mobilized to say and do absolutely nothing. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton were busy advising Michael Jackson's family, too busy apparently to deal with any other issues. Perhaps that explains their silence on the subject of McKinney and Maguire. McKinney's former colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus must have also been similarly occupied. They too went out of their way to say and do nothing about the illegal and immoral treatment of someone they should have defended very publicly.
The silence from the corporate media is, sadly, not at all surprising. The complete surrender of black American leadership is also sad and also not surprising, but is nonetheless disgraceful, and should not pass without comment. Cynthia McKinney was one of the first victims of the corporate takeover of the Congressional Black Caucus. She was targeted for defeat in 2002 by Zionists and other powerful forces determined to get rid of one of the few truly progressive members of congress.
The silence from the corporate media is, sadly, not at all surprising. The complete surrender of black American leadership is also sad and also not surprising, but is nonetheless disgraceful, and should not pass without comment. Cynthia McKinney was one of the first victims of the corporate takeover of the Congressional Black Caucus. She was targeted for defeat in 2002 by Zionists and other powerful forces determined to get rid of one of the few truly progressive members of congress.
The black caucus could have responded in any number of ways to prevent falling prey to McKinney's fate. They might have insured electoral success by mobilizing their supporters, resurrecting movement politics and exposing the forces who would seek to undermine popular will. Instead they chose to capitulate, to go along to get along. They decided not to put up a fight for themselves or for their constituents, who were left without the representation they thought they were getting when they made their choices on Election Day.
As always, the result of capitulation is more capitulation, and it now spreads beyond the hallowed halls of Congress. The only national action requested by the president of the
National Action Network, was a demand for a Michael Jackson postage stamp and a national day of mourning.

Back in the US now,
Cynthia McKinney appeared on Democracy Now! yesterday:

CYNTHIA McKINNEY: Well, clearly, we just had a visit to Gaza by President Carter, Former President Carter. Basically, he acknowledged that with the complete and utter devastation that the people of Gaza experienced at the hands of weapons that were supplied to Israel by the United States, he said that unfortunately the Palestinians are treated worse than human beings. I challenge the Israelis to respond to what President Carter had to say.

AMY GOODMAN: Former Congress member McKinney, tell us about the jail. Were you able to reach the Obama administration while you were there?

CYNTHIA McKINNEY: Well, the jail was very interesting. In fact, the first most interesting thing I witnessed was the seemingly endless stream of people of color who are being processed as we were being processed. And on my cell block, there were women from Africa and Asia who thought they were going to Israel because Israel was the Holy Land. And many of them, not all of them, but many of them had United Nations refugee status. They have been certified by UNHCR as refugees, but what they were told as they faced the threats and intimidation from the police is that the United Nations is not in Israel.

[. . .]

AMY GOODMAN: Former Congress member McKinney, we only have ten seconds. But, you've just been deported. What are your plans right now?

CYNTHIA McKINNEY: Well, I would like to see the children of Gaza have the coloring books and crayons that we had on board with us. I would like to see the houses that have been destroyed rebuilt. I would like to see the lives rebuilt for the people of Gaza and I would like to see the people of Palestine have, and enjoy their human rights.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think president Obama is headed in that direction?

CYNTHIA McKINNEY: I think you can probably answer that as well as we can, because while we were in detention, the Foreign Ministry of Ireland made protests and asked the government of Israel to release its nationals, several Members of Parliament --

AMY GOODMAN: We have 5 seconds.

CYNTHIA McKINNEY: from the United Kingdom --

AMY GOODMAN: -- 5 seconds --

CYNTHIA McKINNEY: -- also wanted to censure Israel. Nothing from the United States.

Turning to the world of JUNK SCIENCE. Thomas E. Ricks is a journalist. He forgets that a lot lately. He forgets it in blog posts where he writes about "we" when referring to the US military, for example.
He forgets it today with one of the dumbest and most disgusting things he could do -- and, yes, I am aware of his highly unprofessional tendency to post cheesecake photos which is surely the middle aged male blogger equivalent of purchasing a sports car. Thomas E. Ricks is a journalist. He's not a doctor. He's not trained in helping anyone. His training is supposed to be in ferreting out information and attempting to determine whether information is reliable or not. If so, he's supposed to promote it. Today he promotes some unnamed marine's anger passed off as 'medical counseling.' Unlike "Doctor" Thomas E. Ricks, I showed the crap he posted to medical professionals who work with veterans. The consensus? The unnamed marine has a problem with what he sees as 'weakness' (any illness) and Thomas E. Ricks didn't even grasp that or what he posted. After including the lay 'diagnosis,' Tom's babbling about this and that but the guy's already argued -- telling Tom to ask Nate Flick -- that "it should mean he's cured, not that it's always just around the corner". There's not a cure. If Thomas E. Ricks had offered the same nonsense on the topic of alcoholism, he'd be the joke of the net today but because there's such a strong desire in this culture to deny sickness, crap like this will be embraced. PTSD is a diagnosis. Neither Thomas E. Ricks nor his unnamed marine are experts on science or even the diagnosis they claim to be weighing in on. Sometimes people just makes asses out of themselves and today it's Thomas Ricks and his unnamed friend. And shame on him, at a time when veterans' health care is so woefullly underfunded, for promoting the notion that an illness that can be treated but not cured is 'curable' and apparently the fault of the person with PTSD. And question for Thomas E. Ricks, should the marine kill himself or someone else while Ricks is alive, how much blame will Tom grab? He should have a huge portion of it because he's encouraged the marine's delusion that he's 'cured'. Lastly, what kind of an ass prints a medical 'diagnosis' that calls the mind a "bone"? What kind of a journalist endorses that? Tom, I know you can't do math for s**t but are you telling me you failed science as well? The brain's an organ. Not a bone. If I recorded a workout video tomorrow, I'd have to include a heads up at the start that people should check with their doctors first but Tom is so sure of himself and he's buddy that he fails to do even that. It's irresponsible. Ethically and journalistically. We may return to this topic tonight. I've still got calls coming in from people who work with PTSD patients and it's not pretty. Again, it was irresponsible for Thomas E. Ricks to pimp that Quack Science -- ethically irresponsible and journalistically irresponsible. As dumb decisions go, it ranks alongside the refusal to allow Dr. David Orgen to testify at Trevor Loope's mental assessment hearing at Fort Drum. Next up for Thomas E. Ricks: Restoring missing limbs via leeches.

Finally, in
snapshot yesterday we noted the Voices of Honor press conference. The press conference didn't receive the attention it deserved so we'll note US House Rep Patrick Murphy's remarks again and some of the press it did receive.
US House Rep Patrick Murphy: My name is Patrick Murphy, I'm a Democrat from the eighth district of Pennsylvania which is Bucks County and far north east Philadelphia. I am now a United States Congressman in my second term but prior to that I was in the military since 1993. I rose up to through the ranks to become a professor at West Point. And then when 9-11 happened, I served on two deployments. My first one with General [David] Petraeus and my second one as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division in Baghdad from 2003 to 2004. That's why every day I wear the 82nd Airborne pin on my lapel, I don't wear the Congressional pin because 19 of my fellow paratroopers never made it home. I am proud to be the lead sponsor today of the Military Enhancement Readiness Act -- a bill that will finally repeal the discriminatory Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Our troops are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and are stretched dangerously thin. These men and women in our military understand what it takes to serve our country and the values that our military and our nation hold dear. They take an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, yet the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy when it took effect in 1993 has discharged over 13,000 troops -- honorable men and women. That is the equivalent of three and a half combat brigades. They have been discharged not for any type of sexual misconduct but because of their sexual orientation. The policy is not working for armed services and it hurts national security. Attitudes on Don't Ask, Don't Tell have changed -- have changed in our military and have changed in the public at large. Up to 75% of Americans support repeal and the number is even higher in the age bracket of those we are recruiting from 18 years of age to 29. Former senior military leaders agree that it is time to re-evaluate and to repeal the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Opponents of lifting the ban arguing that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly will be detremental to unit cohesion and morale. As a former Army officers and West Point professor, that is an insult to me and to all the troops serving in uniform. In Iraq, my men did not care what race, color, creed or sexual orientation their fellow paratroopers were. They cared, whether they could get the job done. We cared about serving with honor and coming home alive. Over 20 nations, include our two strongest allies, Great Britain and Israel, allow gays and lesbians to serve openly without any determental impact on unit cohesion or morale. Believe me, our heroes serving in the US military are the best fighting forces in the entire world. We are second to none. And we are just as good as those who serve in Great Britain and Israel. Our president, President Barack Obama, has stated that if Congress will get a bill to his desk repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, he will sign it into law. It is now our job, and my job specifically, to quarterback this through the Congress of the United States to do just that. I cannot tell you today how long it is going to take. All I can tell you is that paratroopers don't quit and paratroopers get the job done. To remove honorable, talented and committed Americans from serving in our military is contrary to the values that our military life holds dear. My time in Iraq and at West Point teaching the next generation of military leaders taught me that our military deserves and expects the best and the brightest that are willing to serve. I stand here today with these honorable and noble veterans. Together we will continue the fight to make our nation and our military stronger.
The Voices of Honor website has
posted videos from the press conference. Those who are better served by or prefer audio can refer to Free Speech Radio News yesterday (click here for the segment reported by Matt Pearson). Brian Montopoli (CBS News) reports, "The event was a kickoff to the 'Voices Of Honor' national tour sponsored by gay rights groups the Human Rights Campaign and Servicemembers United that features members of the military who oppose the Clinton-era compromise that allows gays to serve only if they keep their sexuality a secret. Murphy's office also helped set up a Web site called" Elida S. Perez (Scripps Howard News Service) notes several speakers at the event and we'll excerpt this section:Alex Nicholson, a former U.S. Army human intelligence collector and founder of Servicemembers United was discharged from the military six months after Sept. 11, 2001 when his commanders found out he was gay."This is the cost of maintaining Don't Ask, Don't Tell: a multilingual human intelligence collector who speaks Arabic and has an advanced degree," Nicholson said, adding that despite everything, he would go back into the military if the law was repealed.Josh Drobnyk covers the conference here for The Morning Call. Amanda Ruggeri (US News & World Reports) covered it, Kat covers it at her site and the other NPC event we attended yesterday -- Mullen's speech, Bob Roehr (Windy City Times) covers the issue and Kilian Melloy covers it for Boston's Edge and notes:

One officer, Lt. Dan Choi, who recently was subjected to a recommendation of discharge for publicly declaring his homosexuality, told readers in an email circulated by The Courage Campaign, "At West Point, I recited the Cadet Prayer every Sunday. "It taught me to 'choose the harder right over the easier wrong' and to 'never be content with a half truth when the whole can be won.'"

Stan noted Dan Choi's e-mail July 2nd and we'll include it in full:

Dear friend -- I've got some bad news. After 10 years of service to our country--including leading combat patrols, rebuilding schools and translating Arabic in Iraq for 15 months--the Federal Recognition Board issued its recommendation on Tuesday that I be discharged from the Army for "moral and professional dereliction" under the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. The board's decision to fire me is not the end. Now that this panel of four officers has recommended my discharge, it still must be approved by senior officials in the Army, a process that could take a few weeks to a year. Unless something unexpected happens, it may be just a matter of time before the Army officially fires me. I will not give up, no matter the odds. Because I know that the only way we will win this fight to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is by facing it head on. And I need your help again to keep up the fight. I've made my case to President Obama--supported by more than 140,000 of your signatures. I've made my case to the Army--supported by more than 160,000 of your signatures. And I will continue to make my case until they fire me for good.Now we need to make our case to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Will you join me in asking Speaker Pelosi to strongly support legislation currently in Congress that would repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"?
Please sign on to our letter before July 4th and I'll personally deliver your signatures to the Speaker ASAP.At West Point, I recited the Cadet Prayer every Sunday. It taught me to "choose the harder right over the easier wrong" and to "never be content with a half truth when the whole can be won." The Cadet Honor Code demanded truthfulness and honesty. It imposed a zero-tolerance policy against deception, or hiding behind comfort. That's why I can't give up now. I've got to keep fighting. My fellow servicemembers--and the 70 fellow West Point graduates who have also come out of the closet to join Knights Out, the organization I co-founded to push for repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"--would expect nothing less. The only way we can win this fight for the truth is if the political cost of discrimination eventually becomes too great for the system to operate successfully. We need to raise the political cost in Congress so that Speaker Nancy Pelosi understands that, as Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall once said, "justice too long delayed is justice denied." Speaker Pelosi needs to make "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" a priority now and come out strongly in support of legislative action to repeal this discriminatory law. Will you stand by my side now and sign our letter to the Speaker before July 4th? You have my word that I will deliver your signatures to Speaker Pelosi personally. As I said a few days ago, national security means many things, but the thing that makes us secure in our nation and homes is love. What makes me a better soldier, leader, Christian and human being is love. And I'm not going to hide my love. Love is worth it. Thank you for your support. Daniel W. Choi 1LT, IN New York Army National Guard P.S. You can also help by joining the Repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell Cause and inviting your friends.

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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

National Press Club


My first time at the National Press Club. Not what I expected and I didn't expect a great deal. I knew the name. I wasn't an expert on it or anything.

If I had been would it have prepared me for the disappointment?

We were there for two events. We wanted to catch Mike Mullen's speech and a friend (in the press) had told C.I., "You've got to catch it!" C.I. felt that was probably true for a different reason. The reporter thought it had to be caught because it would be news. C.I. thought it had to be caught because there's so little Iraq coverage it could go into the snapshot.

They love their meals in the press club. Table manners apparently are not taught in J-school. Or maybe everyone thinks their 'sparkling utterances' are so wonderful that they shouldn't be held until after food in the mouth has been chewed?

And what's up with Mike Mullen? How does he chew his food. He reminds me a dog we had, Skipper, who got into the peanut butter. Skipper would go about his day to day but stop and suddenly become convinced he had peanut butter somewhere in his mouth and start chewing again.

Seriously, if you ever eat around Mullen or near him, watch. You think he's done with the bite of food but after a second or two of rest, he returns to chewing. And he tosses it around in his mouth. Like he's doing aerobics. "Chew to the left. Now chew to the right. And back. Really chew. Double time!"

I should note I found Mullen's eating style interesting but I did not catch him with his mouth open or any of the other things I saw. (My point, he has a strange way of eating but he does have table manners.)

C.I. will know the name of the president of National Press Club (some woman with USA Today). I don't. Might I suggest that the press does not write down the questions ahead of time and submit them? Might I suggest that in the United States of America -- which allegedly has a free speech policy and a free press -- the admiral takes questions from the press. I realize it would allow less 'star' time for a little nobody at USA Today that no one's ever heard of and never will but that was so embarrassing.

All the more so when a question made Mullen uncomfortable and the woman nixed the next card she had to read from saying she was going to change the subject.

I preferred the second event we attended. Voices of Honor. There were a number of speakers. I think C.I. captured the best; however, I knew one person wasn't going to be quoted regardless. You really don't trash C.I.'s friends and get into the snapshot. So when a member of Congress is breaking their back to assist you, it's not really a good idea for you to be trashing them as stupid and everything else. And publicly trashing at that. So when that member of Congress, and no one else, shows up an event you stage earlier this year and even speaks and speaks out in support of the cause, you don't turn around and trash.

It's bad manners.

Of that speaker whose name I will not popularize, Ava remarked, "Oh, look, it's Mr. I Wish I Was Cruising The Gym But No One Better Call Me Gay himself." Wally and I were laughing at that.

Patrick Murphy did a really great job. I thought both the women who spoke did a great job. In fact, I thought everyone who spoke did an amazing job except for Mr. No Gratitude. (Don't Ask, Don't Tell isn't a 'gay issue.' And you shouldn't speak of gay -- according to Mr. No Gratitude. Do so, like a member of Congress did, and Mr. No Gratitude will trash you.)

Other stand out memory. When Mullen started talking about Iraq and the violence having gone down, I said, "I can't believe he's lying." C.I. whispered back, "I know and you know it always bites them in the butt." And sure enough it did, look at the violence in Iraq today.

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

Wednesday, July 8, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq sees at least 27 deaths reported and fifty wounded today, Adm Mike Mullen mentions Iraq and the press isn't interested, US House Rep Patrick Murphy leads the fight to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and more.

Today the Chair of the Joint chiefs of Staff, Adm Mike Mullen, spoke at the National Press Club in DC.

Adm Mike Mullen: Clearly we're at a point now, in Iraq, where the violence level is down -- dramatically so. In fact, it's the lowest level of violence since 2003, 2004. And-and we are at a point -- we're on our plan to support the draw down which will start significantly really early in 2010, next year. And-and our ability to do all of this is, in great part, contributed to the 2.2 million men and women who-who served -- and so many so nobly, including those that uh paid the ultimate sacrifice and there isn't a day that goes by uh or uh very many issues that I'm dealing with where our young people uh in the best military I've ever seen aren't very much on my mind and I'm privileged to be with them. So as we move forward in Iraq -- and clearly that doesn't mean it's -- we still don't have our challenges. I think most of the challenges there right now are political challenges, economic challenges and that heavy focus in those areas is absolutely critical. And elections which come up next year, early next year, are vital and then after that my expectation is that we will draw down rapidly to get to about 35,000 to 50,000 troops in the August of 2010 and at that point certainly turn over -- we transition our combat forces totally uh to uh advisory and assistance forces. as you know the significant date last week was the 30 June date where we pulled out of the cities. The last two big areas were Mosul and Baghdad. That actually has gone very well. That doesn't mean that it isn't a vulnerable time -- uh times of transition al-always are -- but I'm confident right now that we've got the strategy right and the support of the Iraqi security forces.

Mullen is incorrect about the violence being low.
AFP observes today that June's official death total (from Iraqi ministries) was 437 -- "the highest toll since July 2008." But it wasn't just AFP who fact checked him, it was also events on the ground in Iraq today.

He noted stresses on family members and service members and noted the suicide rate has been increasing for the military and otherwise focused on the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Kimberly Hefling (AP) reports on the increase in service members' children seeking mental health treatment in 2008, noting that the number has doubled since the start of the illegal war. Mullen did not note that and no one asked about it.

The press? They did ask questions. They didn't ask about Iraq. When do they ever? The Iraq War is over -- or that's what they pretend. An exception being the Raleigh News & Observer which editorializes on the four most recent deaths in Iraq (Roger Adams, Juan Baldeosingh, Robert Bittiker and Edward Kramer) in "
Four of the brave:"A war that is said to be "winding down" isn't winding down at all for those who remain in the middle of it. The N.C. Guard knows that well. It has lost 15 troops there since the Iraq war began in 2003. A strong military presence in North Carolina, with multiple bases, brings pride to the state, and in times of war, a keen and painful shared sense of what it takes to fight. (In 2004, the 30th was the first major National Guard unit in the country to be sent to Iraq. It lost five soldiers on that tour. And just this past May, three died because of a suicide bomber.) For the families of those in action, and all who know them and all who admire them, a war is not gauged merely by victory. It is about wives and children left behind, about all the good times shared, and all those that will never be shared.

As DC speeches go, Mullen's was a bust. Far better today, also at the National Press Club, was US House Rep Patrick Murphy who kicked off the Voices Of Honor campaign.

US House Rep Patrick Murphy: My name is Patrick Murphy, I'm a Democrat from the eighth district of Pennsylvania which is Bucks County and far north east Philadelphia. I am now a United States Congressman in my second term but prior to that I was in the military since 1993. I rose up to through the ranks to become a professor at West Point. And then when 9-11 happened, I served on two deployments. My first one with General [David] Petraeus and my second one as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division in Baghdad from 2003 to 2004. That's why every day I wear the 82nd Airborne pin on my lapel, I don't wear the Congressional pin because 19 of my fellow paratroopers never made it home. I am proud to be the lead sponsor today of the Military Enhancement Readiness Act -- a bill that will finally repeal the discriminatory Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Our troops are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and are stretched dangerously thin. These men and women in our military understand what it takes to serve our country and the values that our military and our nation hold dear. They take an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, yet the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy when it took effect in 1993 has discharged over 13,000 troops -- honorable men and women. That is the equivalent of three and a half combat brigades. They have been discharged not for any type of sexual misconduct but because of their sexual orientation. The policy is not working for armed services and it hurts national security. Attitudes on Don't Ask, Don't Tell have changed -- have changed in our military and have changed in the public at large. Up to 75% of Americans support repeal and the number is even higher in the age bracket of those we are recruiting from 18 years of age to 29. Former senior military leaders agree that it is time to re-evaluate and to repeal the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Opponents of lifting the ban arguing that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly will be detremental to unit cohesion and morale. As a former Army officers and West Point professor, that is an insult to me and to all the troops serving in uniform. In Iraq, my men did not care what race, color, creed or sexual orientation their fellow paratroopers were. They cared, whether they could get the job done. We cared about serving with honor and coming home alive. Over 20 nations, include our two strongest allies, Great Britain and Israel, allow gays and lesbians to serve openly without any determental impact on unit cohesion or morale. Believe me, our heroes serving in the US military are the best fighting forces in the entire world. We are second to none. And we are just as good as those who serve in Great Britain and Israel. Our president, President Barack Obama, has stated that if Congress will get a bill to his desk repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, he will sign it into law. It is now our job, and my job specifically, to quarterback this through the Congress of the United States to do just that. I cannot tell you today how long it is going to take. All I can tell you is that paratroopers don't quit and paratroopers get the job done. To remove honorable, talented and committed Americans from serving in our military is contrary to the values that our military life holds dear. My time in Iraq and at West Point teaching the next generation of military leaders taught me that our military deserves and expects the best and the brightest that are willing to serve. I stand here today with these honorable and noble veterans. Together we will continue the fight to make our nation and our military stronger.

Meanwhile Iraq wasn't an issue at Mullen's appearance before the National Press Club -- wasn't an issue to the press (Mullen addressed it as the first topic when he spoke, it's the press that didn't give a damn). Somewhere after weaponry program questions (yes, they had time for that in both costs -- FY2010 and beyond -- and wide-eyed dreaming of future wars), in the final minutes of Mullen's appearance (the second to last question), it was noted he had "called for an evolution in the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy" and he was asked if he could write the new policy, what it would be. "Well I'm not a policy guy," Mullen began indicating he would punt on the issue and avoid addressing it. "Uh, uh, I'm charged with carrying out the law I'm charged with carrying out policy and right now the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy and law from 1993 is in effect." He then started mentioning Obama and US Secretary of Defense of Robert Gates. And, no, he never answered the question. So, yes, he could have stopped at "I'm not a policy guy." Yet still he continued, splitting sentences, serving up fragments, uh and uhm. He repeated that he just follows the law, for anyone who might have missed it, and "like the law that exists now, should the law change, certainly we would carry it out." In other words, how would he change it? He never said. But he went to great lengths to say he follows orders. For any who were confused by that point, Mullen follows orders.

And the press refused to care about anything other than the meal on their plates. And dessert. They cared about dessert. Your working press corps in their natural habitat, up close and scary.

At the Voices of Honor Campaign press conference, retired US Navy Captain Joan Darrah, of the Sevicemembers Legal Defense Network, expressed her confidence in Murphy's ability to lead in the House on this issue and get the needed 218 needed votes and shared her story.

Joan Darrah: When I first joined the Navy, I didn't realize I was gay. By the time I figured it out, I had about 10-plus years of service. Based on my promotion record and fitness reports it was clear to me that the Navy felt that I was making a difference so I opted to stay. Now that I am retired and out from under Don't Ask, Don't Tell I realize how incredibly stressful and frankfully just plain wrong it is to have to serve in silence. Each day I went to work wondering if that would be the day of my last service. Whenever the admiral would call me to his office 99.9% of me would be certain it was to discuss an operational issue but there was always a small part of me that feared the admiral was calling me into his office to tell me that I had been outed, that I was fired and that my career was over. On September 11th, I was at the Pentagon attending the weekly intelligence briefing when American flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon, I was at the Pentagon bus stop. The office I had been in seven minutes earlier was completely destroyed and seven of my co-workers were killed. The reality is if I had been killed, my partner would have been the last to know because her name was nowhere in my records and I certainly hadn't dared to list her in my emergency contact information. It was the events of September 11th that made me realize that Don't Ask, Don't Tell was taking a much bigger toll than I had ever admitted. On 1 June, 2002, a year earlier than originally planned, I retired. I am incredibly proud of our military and our country. And I know that we will be stronger once Don't Ask, Don't Tell is repealed. More than 26 countries have already figured this out and now allow gay people to serve openly. What we need now is for Congress to act and they must act now. Every day the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell is delayed, more highly qualified, motivated, valuable service members are discharged simply for being gay. Our great country can do better than this.

Among the others speaking, Iraq War veteran
Eric Alva.

Eric Alva: Six years ago on March 21, 2003 I was part of a logistical convoy with 3rd Batallion 7th Marines. My unit was part of the first wave of ground troops that entered the country of Iraq from Kuwait to start the ground invasion of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I had been in Iraq no more than three hours when I stepped on a landmine near the city of Basra wuffering life threatening injuries. I had a broken left leg, a broken right arm with severe nerve damage and a badly injured right leg that doctors had to ampute it in order to save my life. I had become the first American injured in Operation Iraqi Freedom. It was not until February 28, 2007 that I announced not only to the people of the United States but to the rest of the world that the first American injured in Operation Iraqi Freedom was a gay marine. I decided to be true to myself and my country by coming forward and announcing who I am. My coming forward was to tell the people of this country that as a patriotic American when I went to fight the war on terrorism it was for the rights and freedoms of every single person in this country not just selected individuals. That means every single individual regardless of who they are. I stand here today on two good legs again with my fellow service members and a courageous Congress member Patrick Murphy to show my support for the Military Readiness Enhancement Act. It is time to let people be judged for their merit, professionalism and their leadership. This is a time when we should not be firing anyone from their job in the United States Armed Forces for being gay.

Rep Murphy's office has released a statement on the confrence today. Voices of Honor is a partnership between the Human Rights Campaign the Servicemembers United. Emily Sherman (CNN) reports, "A 'Voices of Honor' tour, sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign, will travel across the country sharing stories of gay, lesbian and straight servicemen and -women in hopes of garnering support for the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which would repeal the law that established the policy. The act would allow gay and lesbian Americans to serve in the military without concealing their sexuality." Sherman notes Colin Powell was the architect (Powell refused to go along with then President Bill Clinton's effort to allow gays and lesbians to serve in 1993 and made many threats about what would happen if the policy went forward -- it was the first step in the disrespect for the president among the military that Powell fostered and had he been punished for it, he might not have been able to lie to the UN in 2003). Sherman has a few mealy mouthed words from Powell today and he's only saying those because he realizes the shame that his actions and that policy carry. More pointing out Colin's role in Don't Ask, Don't Tell could force him to actually speak out in favor of allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military openly. He's desperate to (white)wash his image and he's trying so very hard to get himself back into the news cycle. Which is why, Sunday, Colin Powell made a fool of himself -- as is to be expected. On CNN's State of the Union today, Collie The Blot Powell, who lied to the United Nations in an attempt to make the case for illegal war, declared the mistake about the Iraq War was . . . not doing an escalation ("surge") sooner. He lied the nation into illegal war and he's never apologized for it. He did fret a bit over his blot for a little while. Now instead of hanging his head in shame, fueled by the Cult of St. Barack, he's attempting a comeback. Smart would be using his ambition against him to force him to take a stand.

In Iraq today the Islamic State of Iraq did not hold a press conference; however,
Aseel Kami, Missy Ryan and Elizabeth Fullerton (Reuters) report that the group did issue a statement in the form of an audiotape which declared, "Even if the Americans remain nowhere but a small spot in the Iraqi desert . . . so every Muslim should battle them until they are expelled." The statement might have garnered more attention were it not for the fact that car bombings rocked northern Iraq. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) explains they were in Ba'wiza and Gubba which are nearby neighborhoods of Mosul. Andrew Dobie (Reuters) adds the second bombing followed the first by approximately ten minutes. AP puts the death toll at 16 with over twenty-four wounded. AFP is able to confirm 12 dead and thirty injured via Dr. Ahmed Abdul Karim of Mosul's Medical City Hospital.

That was far from the only violence today and police officers continued to be targeted.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) notes a Mosul hand bomb aimed at a police patrol which left two police officers injured as well as five civilians, a Mosul car bombing which claimed the lives of 2 people ("inside the car"), a Mosul roadside bombing which injured one woman andd a Mosul roadside bombing which wounded one man. Reuters notes a Hilla roadside bombing which claimed the lives of 3 members of wedding party with eleven more left injured. AP notes that the wedding party bombing now has a death toll of 4 with sixteen injured and they note a bombing outside of Baghdad which claimed the lives of 2 people -- a father and his teenage son who had been working in their garden -- and left five people wounded.


Reuters notes "a member of the local infrastructure police" in Kirkuk was wounded in an attack, 1 person shot dead by Mosul police, one Mosul police officer wounded in a checkpoint shooting, one Iraqi soldier wounded in a Mosul shooting. AP reports the soldier died. Alsumaria reports 1 police officer shot dead in Mosul in front of his home.

Three big developments today may impact the immediate future in Iraq.
Alsumaria reports that despite claims that a vote on Kirkuk might be able to take place before the elections now scheduled for January, no suche elections will be happening. AP adds, "On Wednesday, Iraqi officials said the Kurdish-run north of the country could not vote this month on a draft constitution, a document perceived by Iraqi Arabs as an effort to expand Kurdish authority at the expense of the central government." That draft constitution was to be voted on this month because the KRG holds their elections this month. Now that's been stopped and it is part of the continued tug-of-war between the Arabs and the Kurds. Finally, Alsumaria notes that a prison abuse investigation has been completed and that MP Zaynab Karim al Kinani of the Sadr bloc is stating that the results of the investigation "are not feasible stressing the need to reopen investigations, bring people implicated in torturing prisoners to justice and add a parlimentary committe of polical parties' represenatives to special investigation committees."

Yesterday's snapshot covered the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing and Kat covered it at her site last night. The best witness was Retired Admiral John D. Hutson and we noted some of his remarks yesterday. His opening statement [PDF format warning] is now posted online by the committee and it can be found in HTML (what you're reading right now, normal webpage) at Franklin Pierce Law Center where is the Dean and President. He was the best witness. Huston is also a Retired Rear Admiral and a former Judge Advocat General of the Navy. The ACLU has released a silly statement where they praise David Kris for supposedly stating Due Process applies to military commissions. Kris stated that the Defense Department, not the Justice Department, should be prosecuting. A fact that the silly release leaves out. The press release does note:

In further hearings today before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, American Civil Liberties Union attorney Denny LeBoeuf testified that the military commissions are inherently unconstitutional and cannot be fixed.

I didn't attend that hearing. But the remarks Denny LeBoeuf made, accurate remarks, were made at the full committee hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday. And they were made by John D. Hutson. That's who should have been noted in their press release. Not the laughable Kris who only appears mildly competent because he was sitting next to Jeh Johnson. As someone who attended that hearing and heard Kris' many offensive remarks, I find it shocking that the ACLU wants to cite him at all.

Independent journalist
David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press). At Against the Current, he discusses the book with Star Murray and Charles Williams:

ATC: Why don't we start with the title of the book?

David Bacon: Well, I debated with the publisher a lot about it. I knew it was going to be kind of a controversial title, because I've been an immigrant rights activist for over 30 years and all that time we've been trying to get people to say "undocumented people" instead of "illegal aliens." And the reason for it is a very good one, which is that the word "illegal" is used to demonize people and to excuse denial of rights and second-class social status.So putting the word illegal in the title, especially saying "illegal people," I anticipated that people would say "Well, okay, you're doing what you have tried to get people not to do." The reason I did so is because writing the book made me really think more concretely about where illegality comes from, and there is a part of the book that traces out the development of the social category. It doesn't really have much to do with the law. It has to do with the creation of a social category for people who are denied equality with those who live in the community around them, and who don't have the same set of rights and don't have the same social and political and legal status. So the book traces this history all the way back to the origins of this country and the colonization of North America, and specifically to slavery. Slavery established the idea that the society that was created here was going to be divided, that people were going to be divided between those that had rights and those who had no rights. The purpose of this was economic really. The labor of slaves was what was desired by slave holders, and the whole system was built and developed in order to allow for the maximum extraction of that labor. And then that inequality got not only written into the Constitution and into law, but applied to other people too. There were simultaneous debates in the Americas about the status of indigenous people. What I'm trying to say is that illegality is real. It's a real status of people. And that it has an economic function, and this system creates illegality for very specific reasons. Today, in a globalized world, we have the use of neoliberal economic reforms, including free trade treaties, that in countries like Mexico displace people and send them into motion, and then those people are forced to come to the United States looking for work and survival and, at the same time, are forced into a social category, illegality, which already existed before they get here. Basically the book's argument in the end is that this is obviously a very brutal system, and if we don't like illegality we have to change the social reality. It's not enough to just say "Well, let's not demonize people by not calling them illegals and instead using the word undocumented." I believe very strongly that we should use the term "undocumented people," but we have to face the fact that undoing illegality requires a social movement and social struggle, and we have to be willing to do that.


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state of the union

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sahar issa

aseel kami

david bacon