Friday, October 02, 2009

Music and oh-the-years-weren't-kind-to-Rush

Help Barbra Get To #1
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Help Barbra Get To #1
Help Barbra achieve another milestone by being the first artist to have a #1 album in five consecutive decades. Share the love, tell your friends and family. Love Is The Answer is now available everywhere.

Buy from iTunes | Deluxe
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Can't get enough Barbra Streisand? Visit the official pages: Site

The plan is for my album review of Barbra Streisand's Love Is The Answer to go up Sunday. That means me finding the time to finish it! I plan to do that tomorrow on the plane ride home.
I do love this album and do encourage to pick it up.

Now I guess I'm the most out of it person in the world when it comes to talk radio. I've never listened to Rush Limbaugh (no desire to, thank you very much) and I saw a photo of him today, a current one apparently, that just had my mouth dropping open in shock.

Click here and you go to Politico
. I haven't read the article. I was at Politico and saw the photo and clicked on it.

Does he not look awful? I don't think he's a good looking man by any means, but by "awful," I mean he looks unhealthy and like at death's door.

I realized, staring at the photo, that I've only seen Rush once before. But it was a book cover so it stood out. I have Al Franken's 90s book (in paperback) with Rush on the cover. I believe it's called Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot.

So is that picture what he really looks like?

He's got weight folds (folds from weight?) on the sides of his face. The chins and the chin folds wasn't a surprise but look at those folds on the sides of his face.

Obviously, I'm seeing a photo that's about 16 years later (than the one on the cover of Al Franken's book) but it just seems like such a shocker to me. He wasn't GQ back then, by the way. He was overweight and bald and nothing really to look at. (I stopped watching Wings when I learned the actress who played Helen was dating Rush. Sorry. I had no more interrest in the character of Helen after that.) But that was my shock of the day, seeing that photo so I thought I'd recommend it.

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

Tuesday, October 2, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, Angelina Jolie urges the world not to forget Iraqi refugees, Cindy Sheehan urges the world to neither forget nor accept these continued wars, Ehren Watada historic struggle results in a victory, and more.
The US military announced: "CAMP VICTORY, Iraq – A Multi-National Corps-Iraq Soldier was killed today in an indirect fire attack on Camp Liberty. Release of the identity of the Soldier is being withheld pending notification of the next of kin. The name of the deceased service member will be 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. The incident is currently under investigation." The announcement brings to 4348 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war. Sun Yunlong (Xinhua) adds, "The term 'indirect fire' in the U.S. military statements usually refers to rocket or mortar attack." Iran's Press TV notes (two hours ago) that the US military released this statement today (not Thursday as dated) and they note 127 US service members have died in Iraq so far this year. Chelsea J. Carter (AP) also notes the announcement was made Friday and that AP's count of 238 deaths for the month of September.
In other violence, Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded four people and a Baghdad sticky bombing which wounded two people. In addition, Issa notes an attack on a religious minority, Faraj Khairi Bek who is both a Yazidi prince and Zummar's chief of police. His home was blown up today in Mosul. Issa also notes an attack on a mosque in Nineveh Province which claimed the life of 1 Imam and wounded four people.
This morning on The Diane Rehm Show, Susan Page filled in as guest host and was joined for the second hour by Jonathan S. Landay (McClatchy Newspapers), David Loyn (BBC) and Barbara Slavin (Washington Times).

Susan Page: In Iraq this week, we had the prime minister announce a broad coalition for the elections in January, a little bit of a change in strategy on his part, Jonathan.
Jonathan S. Landay: Absolutely. This is a man who led a party called the Dawa Party, which was a conservative Shi'ite party, aligned with the other Shi'ite parties in Iraq. And what he seems to be doing, what al-Maliki seems to be doing, is trying to harness what is a very uh uh growing disastisfication, discontent with reglious parties in Iraq among many Iraqis who see the religious parties as being part and parcel of the violence that was unleased after the 2003 US interven -- invasion. Uh, he-he calls his new party State of Law bloc, he's casting it as being uh sectarian -- non-sectarian, secular and embracing not just uh Shi'ites but also Sunnis as well as Kurds and other minorities in Iraq. The thing though being, at this point really, it doesn't appear that there are any real major leaders from those other uh uh uh groups uh that have joined his party. Nevertheless he-he himself went up to Kurdistan to try and bring the major Kurdish parties into his coalition. Right now that may not be happening because there's still no agreement on what -- on the future of Kirkuk -- the oil-rich that the Kurds and the Arabs all claim. And-and he's also facing opposition from a conservative Shi'ite bloc that has the backing of many of Iraq's Shi'ite religious leaders.
Susan Page: Meanwhile we heard from General Odierno who's the US commander in Iraq about troop levels. Barbara, what did he say about when more Americans could come home?
Barbara Slavin: Well, he had a pretty optimistic report and one thing also is good. Apparently, civilian casualties are down for Iraq in this month. After a pretty horrific -- rather in September compared to August when there was horrific bombings. That seems to have stopped. At least for now, or at least it is less than it was. So Odierno, is saying he can bring back an additional 4,000 troops by the end of the year that he hadn't expected [C.I. note, as he said to Congress Wednesday and he declared at the Pentagon yesterday this so-called 'addtional troops' was already planned -- it was also already announced.]. There are about 124,000 troops in Iraq right now so that would still bring the US down to about 120,000.
We're stopping there on Barabra and Odierno. Where she's getting her information, I do not know. I was at the hearing and I was even at the press conference. We've reported what Odierno said. I don't make a point to disagree when we do the transcripts but she's getting her information from where? She wasn't present and she's completely heard wrong. Did Odierno give an optimistic view to the US Congress? That's a judgment call. And if you're just going by the prepared statement (prepared by him and the White House) you are correct. But if you were actually at the hearing of the House Armed Forces Committee and you heard the testimony from Odierno, you know the general did issue qualifiers. Of course for the public to know that, it would require the press cover it. There were very few members of the press at the hearing. And that number thinned significantly by 30 minutes into the hearing. I'm not calling Barbara a liar. Nor do I believe she meant to spin Odierno's testimony. But she does not know what he said. And she's as uninformed on that as anyone dependant upon the press because the press did not report on Odierno's testimony. To do that, they would have been required to have been present and if I get in a really nasty mood about this topic, I may start naming the people who had bylines on 'reports' about the hearing but they weren't actually present.
No offense to Barbara Slavin and, repeating, I am not accusing of her lying or attempting to shade or spin the truth. I am stating the press reports she's relying to be informed are inaccurate. Odierno repeatedly stressed that he did have the power to speed up . . . and he did have the power to slow down. Reporters (reporting on the hearing) intentionally lied or just heard what they wanted to. As someone who takes notes throughout any hearing (sometimes just to stay awake), I know what was said. I know his qualifiers, I know when he squirmed, I know his nervous tic when he doesn't want to answer a question fully. And anyone present for the entire hearing -- his first Congressional appearance as the top US commander in Iraq -- would know those things to. However, most of the press corp skipped it and the few that showed thinned out by the first half-hour. (Added: You can stream the entire thing online at the committee website here. I've called a staffer to make sure my impressions weren't me being off the wall. No, his qualifiers were very clear.)
Susan Page: Although 50,000 troops still is a significant presence there.
Barbara Slavin: It is, but you know, most of these people will be trainers, will be sort of working in liason capacity with Iraqis and the Iraqis are very much taking the lead now on -- on policing their own country.
Barbara's second remarks quoted in full? I don't agree with them at all. I'm not going to comment on them. She's entitled to her opinion. But the point prior to that, of cutting off her response, wasn't that I was disagreeing. It was that the observations she was offering were incorrect. They were based on the (limited) press coverage (of the first minutes of the hearing -- often due to the fact that Odierno's opening remarks were distributed to the press). The press coverage was incorrect. I am not going to allow that to appear here without noting it was wrong. I could have been at home, I could be traveling (for fun), anything. Instead, I was -- Kat, Ava, Wally and I were -- in that hearing from the start to the end. We know what happened and we know the press didn't report it accurately. If I had to waste my time, I'm not going to further waste my time by having my already wasted time further wasted by allowing a 'recounting' of events when the summary is completely incorrect. Repeating, I am not calling Barara a liar or stating she was attempting to deceive. I am stating she was wrong and her errors are from the (limited) press coverage.
She, like anyone else, has a right to expect that press coverage is accurate. It wasn't. Kat covered the hearing again last night, noting humorous exchanges -- did anyone but Kat report that Stephen Colbert was mentioned in the hearing? No. Why? Because the (limited) press had long ago left. The same reason that Carol Shea-Porter's questions about contractors -- see yesterday's snapshot -- didn't make the press. (And yesterday's snapshot stated it was October 1st -- correct -- and Monday -- incorrect. That was an error when it was typed.) For more on the hearing, Wednesday's snapshot and Kat's Wednesday post covered it last night. UPI notes that Odierno notes yesterday's press conference and notes that 50,000 by next September, according to Odierno, will result from a judgment call as that time approaches. The spin that many in the press created is not reality. It does do its part to ensure that an already weak peace movement doesn't grow any stronger -- which, after all, is the point.
Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan knows the Iraq War has not ended (despite Barack's promise to end it in 16 months and then in 10 months) and that there is an undeclared war on Pakistan and the war in Afghanistan. Cindy (Cindy's Soapbox) writes:

I know that you are only fulfilling your campaign promises to increase the violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan and I notice that not a significant amount of troops have been withdrawn from Iraq. However, even with your hostile rhetoric and promises to escalate the violence, many people voted for you because they believed you were the peace candidate.

Since the election, you have betrayed the progressive base that gave you victory on many occasions already, but the cause that keeps many of us motivated is the continued carnage in the Middle East. What bothers me even more, especially, is the fact that the so-called anti-war movement has given you a nine-month free pass and thousands of people have died, including hundreds of our own troops.

Since you took office, 125 of our irreplaceable young have been killed in what you called a "dumb war" in Iraq and 223 in what I call the "other dumb war," Afghanistan. I have been waiting for a mother of one of those needlessly killed troops to demand a meeting with you to ask you: for "What Noble Cause?" her child was sacrificed.

No such mother has come forward and since your rhetoric is eerily similar to the Bush regime and you are reportedly considering strategies for Afghanistan before you condemn more than the 21,000 troops you have already condemned, I am requesting that you meet with a contingent of the true Peace Movement that will be assembling outside your house this Monday, October 5th at noon.

Yesterday, Nouri al-Maliki, thug of the occupation and holding the honorary title of Prime Minister, announced that he was putting together his own slate of oddballs and never chosen because this slate would allow him to be prime minister if the slate was successful in elections expected to take place in January. Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) observes that "few" of those on Nouri's slate "are truly national leaders likely to lure major blocs of votes." Mohammad al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) explains, "The announcement, made from a heavily guarded Baghdad hotel and broadcast live on television, ended weeks of speculation over whether Maliki's State of Law bloc would join the Iraqi National Alliance, a more Islamist faction that includes the largest Shiite party and supporters of rebel cleric Muqtada al Sadr." Alsumaria (link has video of the speech) explains, "Al Maliki pursues efforts to join 30 new political entities and parties to 40 other entities and political figures into the State of Law Coalition that gathers prominent figures mainly first deputy speaker Sheikh Khaled Al Attiye and a number of ministers including Oil Minister Hussein Al Shahristani, and ministers of Education, Health, Tourism, Labor, Immigrants, Youth and Sports as well as Parliament affairs." Jamal Hashim (Xinhua) reports on Nouri's speech which used terms such as "historic" -- offering a window into the deep pool of vanity overlooding Nouri's psyche. Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) slaps some cold water on the fantasies, "The prime minister will face tough competition in the Shiite south. He enjoyed a surge in popularity there following a military offensive against Shiite militants in the spring of 2008. Since then, Iraqis have grown frustrated with lagging basic services, such as adequate clean water. Mr. Maliki also has been criticized for recent security lapses, including those related to the August bombings." Ben Lando (Time magazine) offers an overview:
Now, with State of Law, he must go toe-to-toe with the Iraqi National Alliance (INA) which, in the shape-shifting politics of Iraq, is the current manifestation of the coalition that Maliki rode to power in 2006. To stay in charge of Iraq, Maliki must defeat his former coalition allies in what are expected to be tough elections on January 16. [. . .]
INA is a formidable organization. Its predominant partners are the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq -- the largest Shi'ite political party now led by Ammar al-Hakim, the son of the recently departed and revered cleric Abdulaziz al-Hakim -- and the militant Moqtada al-Sadr's party, which has its pulse on the much of the country's poor and frustrated Shi'a underclass. (Read how the shoe-thrower put Maliki in a sensitive spot.)
Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) speaks with a variety of Iraqis on the street in Baghdad about Nouri's slate.
Academy Award winning actress Angelina Jolie is also the UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. Today, visiting Syria, she issued a call for the world not to forget the Iraqi refugees who have been forced to flee their own country for safety. The UNHCR notes:
Tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have returned to their country from Syria and other nearby countries over the past year, but many more are unable or unwilling to return to a country still rocked by violence. As the Iraqi story has largely disappeared from global headlines, so has the plight of the refugees.
Jolie, returning to visit Iraqi refugees in the poorest suburbs of the Syrian capital of Damascus after a 2007 visit, said these refugees still needed vital help and support. "Most Iraqi refugees cannot return to Iraq in view of the severe trauma they experienced there, the uncertainty linked to the coming Iraqi elections, the security issues and the lack of basic services. They will, therefore, be in need of continued support from the international community."
The acclaimed American actress, travelling with her partner Brad Pitt, was welcomed into the homes of two Iraqi families in the Jaramana district of southern Damascus. The first family, grouping seven people, fled to Syria in 2006, while the second family, members of a minority religious group, fled to Iraq in July this year after a son, Waleed,* was twice abducted and his mother, Hoda,* physically abused. The family patriarch, Fares,* had to pay US$25,000 in ransom the first time Waleed was abducted.
The second time, both son and mother were snatched, and Fares had to find US$40,000. The two were released, but they had suffered a terrible ordeal, including torture. "I was assaulted every day for 13 days by up to 10 men," Hoda* recalled, her voice trembling. "I wanted to kill myself and the only reason I decided not to go ahead is because of my children," she added.
On the release of Hoda and Waleed, the family fled to Syria.
RadarOnline offers photos of Angelina's visit to Syria.
This afternoon Fort Lewis's Media Relations department announced that Ehren Watada had completed his out processing and was discharged from the US military. We're going to stay with this topic for a bit because (a) it is important and (b) it is historical. 1st Lt Watada was the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. As Ann noted last night, "there are people who have no idea what a brave thing he did." Ehren Watada was informed he would be deploying to Iraq in June 2005. He had not given much thought to Iraq. To prepare for the deployment, his superior advised him to study up on the war so that he could answer any questions that might come up from those serving under him. He started researching the basics about the country itself, topography and geography and continuing through the history up to the current war. He came across the Downing Street Memos which exposed that the 'intelligence' for the Iraq War was fixed. He was now firmly convinced that the Iraq War was illegal and immoral. From eager to serve in Iraq to realizing he'd be violating his oath to the Constitution, Ehren was now confronted with a decision. He could keep his mouth shut and just do as he was told. Or he could take a stand which would risk the wrath of the military as well as a portion of the public.
Ehren's mother, Carolyn Ho, has explained what happened next many times as she's spoken to raise awareness of her son's case. WBAI's Law and Disorder shared one of her talks on their January 22, 2007 broadcast. Carolyn Ho explained it was the new year, January 2006, and her son called her. He explained that he had something to tell her, he'd decided decided he wouldn't deploy to Iraq when the time came. She was very upset and asked him if he understood what might result from his decision? Ehren told her that he had no choide, he'd taken an oath to the Constitution, this was what he had to do and he was going to inform his superiors.
Ehren didn't hestitate to inform his superiors. This was in January 2006. They at first attempted to change his mind. He could not be budged. So they stated they wanted to work something out. They brainstormed together. Ehren came up with ideas including, he could deploy to the Afghanistan War instead, he could resign (his service contract expired in December 2006). His superiors appeared to be eager to consider every possibility; however, they were just attempting to stall. They appear to have thought that if they put him off and put him off, when the day to deploy came, he'd just shrug his shoulders and deploy.
They did not know Ehren. June 7, 2006 ("the day before his 28th birthday," Carolyn Ho likes to remind), Ehren went public with his refusal to deploy. Jake Armstrong (Pasadena Weekly) notes Ehren stated to participate in the Iraq War would be participating in war crimes.
In August 2006, an Article 32 hearing was held. Watada's defense called three witnesses, Francis A. Boyle of the University of Illinois' College of Law, Champagne; Denis Halliday, the former Assistant Secretary General of the UN; and retired Colonel Ann Wright. These three witnesses addressed the issue of the war, it's legality, and the responsibilities of a service member to disobey any order that they believed was unlawful. The testimony was necessary because Watada's refusing to participate in the illegal war due to the fact that he feels it is (a) illegal and (b) immoral. Many weeks and weeks later, the finding was released: the military would proceed with a court-martial.

On Monday, February 5, 2007, Watada's court-martial began. It continued on Tuesday when the prosecution argued their case. Wednesday, Watada was to take the stand in his semi-defense. Judge Toilet (John Head) presided and when the prosecution was losing, Toilet decided to flush the lost by declaring a mistrial over defense objection in his attempt to give the prosecution a do-over. Head was insisting then that a court-martial would begin against Watada in a few weeks when no court-martial could begin.

January 4, 2007, Head oversaw a pre-trial hearing. Head also oversaw a stipulation that the prosecution prepared and Watada signed. Head waived the stipulation through. Then the court-martial begins and Ehren's clearly winning. The prosecution's own military witnesses are becoming a problem for the prosecution. It's Wednesday and Watada's finally going to take the stand. Head suddenly starts insisting there's a problem with the stipulation. Watada states he has no problem with it. Well the prosecution has a problem with it and may move to a mistrial, Judge Toilet declares.

The prosecution prepared the stipulation and they're confused by Head's actions but state they're not calling for a mistrial or lodging an objection. That's on the record. Head then keeps pushing for a mistrial and the prosecution finally gets that Head is attempting to give them a do-over, at which point, they call for a mistrial.

The case has already started. Witnesses have been heard from. Double-jeopardy has attached. The defense isn't calling for a mistrial and Head rules a mistrial over defense objection and attempts to immediately schedule a new trial. Bob Chapman (Global Research) observes, "With little fanfare the Army at Fort Lewis, Wash., accepted the resignation of the 1966 Kalari High School graduate, and he will be discharged the first week in October." With little fanfare indeed. And to those 'lefty' sites that want to smear opposition of Barack Obama's ObamaBigBusinessCare passed off as something to do with "health care"? I'd say before you accuse anyone of racism, you might take a look at your own damn ass -- which, Red or not, appears highly racist when you claim to be "anti-war" and yet 'forget' all damn week to note Ehren Watada.
And, related, like Elaine, I was disgusted that Free Speech Radio News had time for a ceremony for Glenn Beck but not time to cover Ehren Watada. Today they sort of cover him (link has audio and text):
Lt. Ehren Watada, the first US Army officer to refuse to serve in the war in Iraq, will finally be allowed to resign from the US Army today at Fort Lewis in Washington. Mark Taylor-Canfield has more from Seattle.
Spokespersons at Fort Lewis have confirmed that First Lt. Ehren Watada will be allowed to resign from the US Army. In 2003, Lt. Watada was the first US military officer to refuse to serve in Iraq, which he claims is an illegal war. In 2007 his court marshal was declared a mistrial by a civilian judge. Watada's enlistment was supposed to be up two years ago but he has not been allowed to leave the service.
According to Watada's attorney, Kenneth Kagan, he will receive a "less than honorable discharge." Watada took a leading role in the anti-war movement, speaking out publicly against the war, and criticizing President George W. Bush at the Veterans For Peace national convention in Seattle in 2006. Watada has been under a military imposed gag order since his original court marshal proceedings. Mark Taylor-Canfield, FSRN, Seattle.
Sort of? Two hours before that aired, I'd confirmed on the phone that he'd been discharged and his paper's processed but they're broadcasting, two hours later, that he is supposed to be discharged. People, it's one damn call. You pick up the phone, you call public affairs at Fort Lewis and you explain what you need. So to find people who love and people who hate Glenn Beck, FSRN can do some work. But when they finally note this historic development, they're left with nothing really to say. Not "will be," was. News. You're the ones claiming to be reporters, not me. I rejected that years ago. You're the ones begging for money, not me, I think it's incumbent upon you to do the work that makes someone feel money is well spent. (For those note catching the connection between the two -- both events, Ehren's historic day and that party for Beck took place in the Seattle region. One got an actual report and one got a brief headline. What did our 'independent' news program give us a report on? Glenn Beck's party. Look next for FSRN to woo Suzy for audio reports or possibly Cindy Adams.)
TV notes. NOW on PBS explores Afghanistan which they wrongly dub "the forgotten war." Washington Week is not airing this week. Most PBS stations will be airing The National Parks: America's Best Idea, Ken Burns' latest documentary. Washington Week will return next week. Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Linda Chavez, Kim Gandy, Tara Setmayer and Patricia Sosa to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

The Swindler
To understand how Bernard Madoff could have done what he did, listen to so-called "mini-Madoff" Ponzi schemer Marc Dreier tell Steve Kroft in his first television interview how he scammed $400 million. | Watch Video

130 Million Tons of Waste
If coal ash is safe to spread under a golf course or be used in carpets, why are the residents of Kingston, Tenn., being told to stay out of a river where the material was spilled last December? Lesley Stahl reports. | Watch Video

The Great Migration
Scott Pelley visits Kenya, the site of the great wildebeest migration, and looks at the threats to this natural spectacle comprised of over a million animals.

60 Minutes, this Sunday, Oct. 4, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

House Armed Services Committee

Okay, I'm going to drop back to yesterday's House Armed Services Committee to note two things. The Ranking Member Howard McKeon asked in his first segment for General Ray Odierno to talk about "why it's necessary to keep a residual force in Iraq until 2011 and even beyond?" I mention that because I've just been into the e-mails and there are people who just want to dismiss everything. Visitors writing in that Ike Skelton may be the chair but he's one person.

Well, it's not just Ike Skelton. It's not just McKeon. And, later in my post, read C.I. on Odierno's press conference today. People need to be paying attention.

I'll also grab this section from C.I. notes.

US House Rep Loretta Sanchez: Our troops are just doing a great job in fact. I get a lot of e-mails and a lot of information, a lot of calls from them [US troops in Iraq] about what's going on on the ground and I know that, General, you and I usually have a disagreement about what's really happening out there in Iraq. I think, usually, I'm closer to what's really going than you but let me just put for the record that I do believe we're getting out, we're getting out of Dodge, we're going to get it done sooner rather than later, and that means we really are looking at our State Dept and other departments to get that work done as we withdraw our troops.

I just typed that word for word. It came before the section C.I. included in yesterday's snapshot. Loretta Sanchez and Ray Odierno had a playful engagment where they teased before they got down to the serious exchange.

Related Gabrielle Giffords (Democrat from Arizona) congratulated Odierno on doing Steve Colbertt's show. She wasn't joking. She stated he'd reached an audience he might not reach otherwise and should go back on it. Odierno joked he might need to because it appeared Colbert needed another haircut. (When Odierno guested before, the show was filmed in Iraq and Odierno did a skit where he shaved Colbert's head.)

So there are some interesting asides and tidbits from yesterday's hearing. I am going to be doing a review of Barbra Streisand's new album (also an e-mail question) and the plan is for it to run on Sunday. For that to happen, I need to get organized so short post tonight.

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

Thursday, October 1, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces a death, nearly 300 Iraqis were reported dead in the month of September (the actual number is higher), a member of Congress wonders 'since we knew that we were having trouble with the contractors that were supposed to be doing the safe wiring, why was the decision made not to inspect the contractors' facilities?,' General Ray Odierno talks about the United States long-term involvement in Iraq, and more.

Late yesterday, the
US miltary announced: "FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELTA, Iraq – A Soldier assigned to Multi-National Corps – Iraq died of a non-combat related injury Sept. 29. The Soldier's name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin. The name of the service member will be 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. The incident is currently under investigation." The name of the fallen soldier is Army Cpl Ross Vogel III. WGAL reports that Mary Wiley told them her son died in Iraq while on his third deployment and that his survivors include two sons and a wife. DoD announced today that the 27-year-old died in Kut and that Ross Vogel was assigned to the 67th Signal Battalion, 35th Signal Brigade, Fort Gordon, Ga." Randy Key (WJBF) add, "Specialist Vogel enlisted in the Army in 2001, and has spent most of his career at Fort Gordon, with the 35th Signal Brigade, first with the Headquarters, 67th Signal Battalion, then the 518th Tactical Installation Networking Company, and a second assignment to the 67th Signal Battalion."

The announcement brings the number of US service members killed in the Iraq since the start of the illegal war to
4347. The month of September saw 10 announced deaths. Thus far.Thus far. If you're scratching your head, you're late to the party. I don't believe all the food's been put away yet in the kitchen, so go in there and help yourself. Those who arrived on time are fully aware that the US military often announces deaths from month X many days after month X has ended. It was a way to keep the death count for the month a little lower while reporters were still polishing their end of the month reflection pieces. Those really don't run these days, few papers even offer their own coverage of Iraq. The US military pulled the stunt most recently at the start of August allowing many outlets to offer "ONLY 7 US TROOPS KILLED IN JULY!" headlines. After the record 'low' was trumpeted, the US military made their announcement of, oh, yeah, we had an eighth death last month. The New York Times always gets punked. They ran with 7 for July and then started applauding August's 'only' 7 (August actually had seven deaths) and acted like they hadn't (wrongly) made a big deal out of the number seven when 'reporting' on July.The monthly toll for September may rise above 10. That noted, if the number ten sticks, it was the sixth deadliest month of the year for US service members stationed in Iraq. And, for the record, if the number was 1 we still wouldn't run with 'only 1.' There's no 'only' when someone deployed to another country dies while serving. Shame on any who imply otherwise.

Monthly toll on Iraqis killed? All deaths aren't reported. Let's focus on the few that do get reported.
September 1st through September 5th saw 29 deaths reported and 167 reported injured ("Tuesday (Sept. 1st) saw 3 people reported dead and five wounded. Wednesday saw 6 reported dead and eleven wounded. Thursday saw 14 reported dead and 129 injured. Friday saw one reported death and ten reported injured. Saturday saw 5 reported deaths and twelve reported wounded."). September 6th through September 12th saw 136 reported dead and 230 reported injured ("On Sunday, there were 24 reported deaths and 7 reported wounded, Monday 26 dead and 44 wounded, Tuesday 27 dead and 42 wounded, Wednesday 13 dead and 38 wounded, Thursday 31 dead and 75 wounded, Friday 4 dead and 7 wounded and Saturday 11 dead and 27 wounded.") September 13th through September 19th saw 61 reported dead and 114 reported injured ("Sunday saw 23 people reported dead and 24 wounded, Monday saw 9 reported dead and 19 reported injured, Tuesday saw 5 reported dead and 11 reported wounded, Wednesday saw 1 person reported dead and 4 reported injured, Thursday saw 10 reported dead and 31 reported injured, Friday saw 7 reported dead and 23 reported wounded and Saturday saw 6 people reported dead and 2 reported injured."). September 20th through September 26th saw 31 reported deaths and 21 people reported wounded ("Last Sunday 1 person was reported killed in Iraq and 6 injured. Monday and Tuesday, we're supposed to believe that no one was killed in Iraq. Reality, the press just had other things to do. Wednesday, the numbers were 7 dead and six injured. Thursday saw two people reported wounded. Friday was 16 dead and 7 wounded. Saturday saw 7 reported deaths. In all, 31 reported deaths and 21 people reported injured.") As September wound down, Sunday saw 5 reported deaths and 17 reported injured, Monday saw 25 reported dead and 44 reported wounded, Tuesday saw 3 reported dead and 5 reported wounded, and Wednesday saw 7 reported dead and 20 reported wounded for a total in the final September week of 40 reported deaths and 86 reported wounded. For the month? 297 reported injured and 618 reported wounded. At least. ICCC does a valuable job reporting on the US service member death toll. They do a lousy job of Iraqis. Their total is 158 deaths. The number is 297 and they actually include more outlets -- at least in their linking -- on violence. The 297 is all McClatchy, Reuters, some US outlets plus China's Xinhua. Our total is 297 and our total is an undercount and we're not going to pretend it's not. But our total is much higher than ICCC. And not only is our tally higher, so is the official tally from the Iraqi government. AFP reports that they list the total number of deaths for the month of September to be 203. Lower than our 297, higher than ICCC. While the Iraqi 'government' tries to get you focused on the Iraqi civilian tally (125 -- they're stressing it could be seen as spitting on Iraqi Security Forces), the Red Cross' Juan-Pedro Schaerer explains to Reuters of the sitaution in Iraq, "There is a lack of respect for human life. Even if security has improved a lot ... you still have dozens of people killed on a daily basis."

Turning to political news, Iraq has elections scheduled for January 2010. However, with no law passed yet, "scheduled" may not be the correct term. They 'hope,' hope to hold elections in January.
Friday Alsumaria reported that Nouri has revealed he's creating his own coalition and "will announce" it in the next week. The coalition will be Dawlat al-Qanun (State of Law) and will be a mixed coalition as Nouri attempts to paint himself more secularist due to the January 2009 elections in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces indicating that fundamentalists were not popular with the people. It is now next week. Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) reveals his coalition is made up over 40 parties (many of them minor) with Sunni tribal leaders in the mix. Al Jazeera quotes the self-aggrandizing al-Maliki declaring today, "The formation of this alliance makrs a historic turning point in the process of rebuilding the modern Iraqi state." Aamer Madhani (USA Today) speaks to Iraqi MP Safoua al-Suhail who has joined his coalition and she says, "I think it says something that this list can include (Shiite) Islamists, Sunnis and a secular liberal democrat like me." Anthony Shadid (Washington Post) notes Nouri's slate "failed to draw the Sunni support that many had expected it would. He lost the backing of Mahmoud al-Mashhadari, the vitriolic former parliament speaker, and more importantly, Ahmed Abu Risha, whose borther led the U.S.-baked counterinsurgency in western Iraq. Nor did he win ovre more established Sunni or securlar blocs or parties that could have delivered him broader support in Sunni provinces". Ned Parker and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) observe Nouri has "put himself in competition with fellow Shiite Muslims of his onetime political ally, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council." SIIC is, of course, focusing on non-sectarian issues such as the corruption of those in currently in charge. Suadad al-Salhy, Muhanad Mohammed, Khalid al-Ansary, Mohammed Abbas, Missy Ryan and Myra MacDonald (Reuters) note that "in facing off against ISCI, Maliki will battle a well-funded and well-organised party. His group also lacks several Iraqi political heavy-hitters who have not yet joined a coalition and whose support could be crucial." Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) explains, "Iraqis who are more familiar with Maliki the longtime Islamist are wary of his reincarnation as a populist." al Dulaimy quotes political analyst Haider al Musaiw stating, "Maliki has changed. The change is a result of the failure of the Islamist parties, and (he's) bending to the people's increasing demands for the return of secular rule." Nouri created his own slate after SIIC refused to guarantee him that, if their slate won, they would make him Prime Minister again.

Yesterday, the top US commander, Gen Ray Odierno, testified to the US House Armed Services Committee. Ranking Member Howard McKeon asked for a walk through of the Iraqi political process since their elections are different.

General Ray Odierno: I'll wal -- Congressman, I'll walk you through in general terms. First, the el - by the [Iraqi] Constitution, the election is supposed to occur no later than the 31st of January. Right now, it's scheduled for the 16th of January. Again, pending the passing of the election law. Once the election is completed, they take 45 days to certify the results of the election. And so what happens is we'll have hundreds of international observers -- maybe thousands, there's going to be quite a few international observers -- as well as the Iraqi High Electoral Commission will certify the results, they will take all complaints and then they will deem the elections to be credible, legitimate or not. That takes forty-five days. Once that happens, you then have thirty days to begin the formation of seating the Council of Representatives. You then have another thirty days to then select the leadership, the presidency, and then you have another time period to select the prime minister and then the Speaker [of Parliament]. So within that time period, we expect that it will take from January to June or so, maybe July, to seat the new government. In 2005, following the elections, the government -- the elections were in December and the government was seated in May of 2005 [C.I. note, he means May of 2006]. This is the Parliamentary system of government and it just takes time for them to do this. So it's -- there is timelines on it, they will follow those timelines strictly, but it will take time to seat that government.

That was from yesterday's hearing. We'll drop back to it for an exchange that took place at the end of the hearing.

US House Rep Carol Shea-Porter: I wanted to talk to you about a conversation I had with General [David] Petraeus earlier this year when I was talking about the electrocution deaths of some of our soldiers. And I was told there was Operation Task Force Safe and that they were going to be doing the investigation. And I believe that the investigation was supposed to end right about now. But again comes some horrible news about a former American military man who came as a contractor to Iraq, Mr. [Adam] Hermanson, he was recently electrocuted. So I had a couple of questions for you, General --

Gen Ray Odierno: Sure.

US House Rep Carol Shea-Porter: First of all, was his facility inspected or were you only inspecting the facilities that soldiers occupied?

Gen Ray Odierno: Yeah -- it was not inspected. Uh, what happens is -- as a contractor -- it's the responsibility of the contractor to ensure they have adequate facilities so we were not inspecting those facilities. However, since that incident, we have sent Task Force Safe over to first outline to all the contractors what's expected of them in terms of proper safety requirements and-and we've also offered them any assistance that they might need, with Task Force Safe, to go look at all of their facilities to ensure that they're in line with what we believe to be safe -- safe structures.

US House Rep Carol Shea-Porter: Okay, since we knew that we were having trouble with the contractors that were supposed to be doing the safe wiring, why was the decision made not to inspect the contractors' facilities?'

General Ray Odierno: Yeah, I'm not sure we made a conscious decision not to inspect them. I think what we focused on was, uh, the Department of Defense personnel uh and uh I think as we continue to expand this, um, we will look -- but there are some contractual issues that we have to work through so we asked the lawyers to take a look at this to see what we can and can't do because of the fact that they are contractors. So we are working our way through this now. This obviously highlighted a problem that we all didn't understand at the time and so we continue to work it. And what I'm telling you is we're working this problem now but we have to go through some legal reviews and other things. We have offered some initial assistance just to make sure we don't have any repeated offenses in that specific contractor but there are many other contractors that have facilities that in some cases aren't even under Department of Defense and I don't even remember but I think this one wasn't under Department of Defense either. I think it was under a Department of State contract as well so that throws in a whole nother issue about how we do this. But we're working through this because we want to get rid of the bureaucracy so we save the lives of the people who are going there to work. And that's important to us.

US House Rep Carol Shea-Porter: Well these men and women serve this country as well. And I really don't understand it because I know that many of them had access to the medical care that the military was providing so clearly there was some crossing over there if they felt comfortable not even reimubrsing, as you recall, I'm sure. So I just can't understand what happened there. Were there any other services provided for the people in those buildings?

General Ray Odierno: I'll have to -- I'll have to get back with you.

US House Rep Carol Shea-Porter: Okay. If you could do that, I would appreciate that.

General Ray Odierno: I will.

US House Rep Carol Shea-Porter: I have one last question. Can you comment on why the Department of Defense has declined to investigate the apparent electrocution of the American Department of Defense contractor?

Gen Ray Odierno: Again, I have to -- I have to go ahead and take a look at that and see exactly what happened, okay? I'll get you an answer back on that.

US House Rep Carol Shea-Porter: I would appreciate that, General, because I feel very certain that when that family sent their loved one over to serve this country, they expected that we would do what we could to protect all of them --

Gen Ray Odierno: Sure

US House Rep Carol Shea-Porter: -- whether they were in uniform or whether they were serving as civilians.

For background on Adam Hermason, we'll drop back to the September 9th snapshot: "
Kimberly Hefling (AP) reports that State Dept contractor (Triple Canopy) Adam Hermanson is dead at the age of 25 from 'showering in Baghdad'. Janine Hermanson states her husband died September 1st and that she was told it was from electrocution." Jermey Scahill (writing at The Nation) reported:

Hermanson's family suspects that Adam may have died as a result of faulty electrical wiring. And they have good reason to think that--at least
sixteen US soldiers and two contractors have died from electrocution. The Pentagon's largest contractor in Iraq, KBR (a former Halliburton subsidiary), has for months been at the center of a Congressional investigation into the electrocution deaths because the company has the massive LOGCAP contract and is responsible for almost all of the electrical wiring in US-run facilities in Iraq. The eighteen soldiers and contractors died as a result of KBR's "shoddy work," according to Senator Frank Lautenberg.

Pennsylvania's WNEP reported (link has text and video) on the case:

Janine Hermanson: I just don't understand. It's not like he was killed by a bullet or killed by a roadside bomb. He was taking a shower.

Scott Schaffer: A wife asking questions about the death of her husband in Iraq.

Marisa Burke: His accident that had nothing to do with combat and why this widow now wants the government to investigate. It's our top story on Newswatch 16 at 6:00. Good evening everyone, I'm Marisa Burke.

Scott Schaffer: And I'm Scott Schaffer. It is a Newswatch 16 exclusive. A woman in Northumberland County is mourning her husband's death earlier this month in Iraq. He was electrocuted and she says it's not the first time it's happened to contractors working overseas. Newswatch's Jim Hamill, live tonight in our central Pennsylvania newsroom with a story you'll see only on 16. Jim?

Jim Hamill: Scott, Adam Hermanson was doing what many of us do every day when he died: Taking a shower. But Hermanson was far from home working as a security contractor in Baghdad's Green Zone. Now his wife and her family want to know who is responsible for his untimely death.

Janine Hermanson: I'm going to keep fighting for him. He fought for me and now it's my turn to fight for him.

Jim Hamill: These days Janine Hermanson lives with her parents near Muncy. Her late husband's belongings sit [covered from the elements] on the back proch. Earlier this month Adam Hermanson died while working as a security examiner in Iraq. The military medical examiner told Janine it appears Adam was electrocuted in the shower.

Janine Hermanson: It's been a month now and they still don't know who had the contract or contracts on his facility.

Jim Hamill: Janine says the couple planned to buy a home in the Muncy area when Adam finished working for the firm Triple Canopy. Now she spends hours every day trying to find out what went wrong? Her father says Adam did not deserve to die like this.

John Sivak: Our poor daughter. No husband. 25-years-old. This is insanity.

Jim Hamill: Janine showed us pictures of Adam. Both served in the Air Force, it's where they met. Following his death, Janine tells us she isn't getting straight answers from company officials or military officials or not only that. But Janine has learned Adam's case would make the 19th electrocution death in Iraq since 2003. That includes service members and contractors. Senator Bob Casey told us in a phone interview he's been working on this issue since early 2008 and is filing an amendment that would require inspections on any contract work paid for by tax payers.

Senator Bob Casey: It's disturbing and troubling to me that we have to file an amendment like this. This should already be part of what the army does anyway.

Jim Hamill: As for Janine, she doesn't plan on giving up on her quest for answers.

Janine Hermanson: I'm going to make sure that I find out who's responsible and make this stop. I'm tired of people not talking to me. You know, I have every right to know what happened to my husband.

Jim Hamill: Now Senator Casey says that amendment could take months to pass. The State Dept is investigating. And Triple Canopy, the company Adam Hermanson was working for, says it cannot comment until an investigation is complete. Jim Hamill, Newswatch 16, live in the central Pennsylvania newsroom.

Brett R. Crossley (Daily Item) noted Adam Hermanson had deployed to Iraq three times while serving in the Air Force as well as one tour in Uzbekistan. His obituary notes his motto was: "Live on day at a time, but to the fullest."

We covered Wednesday's hearing in
yesterday's snapshot and Kat covered it last night. There are a few other exchanges I'd like to highlight and hopefully we can note at least one more tomorrow. Gen Ray Odierno spoke today at a Pentagon briefing and declared, "I'm not sure we will ever see anyone declare victory in Iraq because, first off, I'm not sure we'll know for ten years or five years." He declared that he expected the number of US troops in Iraq not to dip below 120,000 before the end of 2009. In reply to a question from Luiz Martinez (ABC News), Odierno confirmed what the press appeared to miss yesterday, the October draw-down "was one that was planned." This was not a new draw-down. Responding to the Voice of America's Al Pessin, Odierno replied, "I think the help I'm describing is that within the context of the strategic framework agreement, that it covers many different areas, from education, technological, security. And so it has to [be] about providing long-term assistance for developing systems. For example, from the military side. Also developing economic capacity, developing educational capacity, medical capacity -- all of those things. And I think, as we do that, that helps to build their institutions. So that's what I see happening beyond 2011." Beyond 2011, pay attention, Odierno just listed things the US will be doing for Iraq including on "the military side." The earlier quote, "I'm not sure we will ever see anyone declare victory in Iraq because, first off, I'm not sure we'll know for ten years or five years"? Odierno said after it, "And that's why I tell that the engagement after 2011 is as simportant as our continued engagements prior to 2011. Again, I don't mean military engagement necessarily." He's referring back to that list of engagments of which military is one. "I mean," he continued, "engagement across the spectrum of our government, in order to help them continue to build into a stable institution."

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


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded six people (three were police officers), a rocket attack near Baghdad International Airport and a Mosul roadside bombing. Reuters notes a Falluja car bombing claimed 1 life and left another person injured.

Shootings and arrests?

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports police shot 1 suspect in Mosul. Reuters states the man was suspected of kidnapping and he was shot dead in a "sting." If accurate, that would mean the person who could have led them to the hostage is now dead. Iraqi Justice, will be right back. Reuters notes that, in Baghad, Khalid Masur Ismail was arrested "alleged financer of the Shi'ite militia group Kata'bi Hezbollah".


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered with gun "shots to the head".

In legal news,
Avery Fellow (Courthouse News Service) reports US District Judge Ricardo Urbina has ruled US citizen Shawqi Ahmad Omar can be turned over to the Iraqi custody. Emma Schwartz (US News & World Reports) reported last year, "Born to Jordanian parents in Kuwait, Omar was once a member of the Minnesota National Guard. In 2004, however, he was captured during a military raid on his Baghdad home, where the government alleges he was harboring an Iraqi insurgent and four Jordanian fighters. The military alleges Omar ran a kidnapping ring targeting foreigners and that he was close to the late insurgent leader Abu Musab Zarqawi. Indeed, Omar was even charged in a Jordanian indictment along with Zarqawi in an alleged chemical plot. Omar says he is innocent and came to Iraq to look for reconstruction work. The United States says it wants Omar to face justice in the Iraqi system, but a federal appeals court held that he could not immediately be transferred to the Iraqis without further review."

At Make Them Accountable, Caro asks if everyone remembers when Barack Obama 'had to' be the nominee "because he'd bring transparency to the political process in Washington?" She then goes on to highlight Brent Budowsky (The Hill) wondering if there's a "secret deal" between Barack and the insurance companies. Meanwhile David Finkel's The Good Soldiers came out earlier this month. Daniel Okrent examines the release in "'The Good Soldiers' - Book review" (Fortune):Let me be direct. "The Good Soldiers" by David Finkel (Sarah Crichton Books/FSG) is the most honest, most painful, and most brilliantly rendered account of modern war I've ever read. I got no exercise at all the day I gulped down its 284 riveting pages.Early in 2007, Finkel, a Washington Post reporter, embedded himself with the Second Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment of the Fourth Infantry Brigade Combat Team, First Infantry Division -- colloquially, the 2-16. Its 800 men and women were among the troops who were meant to stabilize Iraq. They were a wave in the surge.

Christine Dempsey (Hartford Courant) reports on Iraq Veterans Against the War's Jeff Bartos who was among the approximately 200 demonstrators who were arrested at the G20 summit. Yesterday Bartos had the charges dropped in an agreement that will find him doing community service. He tells Dempsey, "I'm pretty satisfied with it. A, it lets me do something that I do anyway, which is nonprofit work. B, it clears my name of any charges. And C, I don't have to go back to Pittsburgh."

With Aimee Allison, David Solnit authored the seminal
Army Of None -- a must read and, sadly, one of the few books of this era you can say that about. (It's a wonderful book.) David Solnit notes an action taking place later this month:Here are five things you can do to make the October 24th Global Climate Action Day rock the Bay. It's shaping up to be amazing-- bikes, surfers, localized BART actions and a spoken word/poets/writers read out. But we really need your help and the world really needs the US climate justice movement to turn the "street heat" way up! 1) Email your groups, networks and friends. See email below-- add a personal/organizational note. 2) Get out postcards and put up posters. We have lots of cool postcards and posters by the end of the week. Get postcards at the Global Exchange office or at any Mob. for Climate Justice West/Oct 24th Meet or call David 510 967-7377. 3) Attend a mobilizing meeting. The schedule of open planning meetings is below and we need YOU! 4) Plan to participate. Can you take on doing Public Education/Action at your BART Station/transit hub? Sign up to be one of 350 bikers or surfers (BYOB)? Can you volunteer on the day of to take on one of many needed tasks--come to a meeting or send an email to 5) Form a climate action affinity group with 5-25 of your friends, neighbors, folks from you organization or union, etc to participate in Oct 24 together, and plan to participate in the Nov 30 Global Day of Nonviolent Climate Justice Civil Disobedience and Protest. Sign up online at: BAY AREA OCT 24 MEET SCHEDULE Thursday, October 1 6pm outreach, 7pm general Global Exchange 2017 Mission St. at 16th(16th St BART), 2nd Floor, SF Tuesday October 6 6:30-8:30 2211 Mission St Apt C., San Francisco near SE corner of Mission and 18th, towards 19th (16th St BART) Wednesday October 14 6:30 Global Exchange 2017 Mission St. at 16th(16th St BART), 2nd Floor, SF Wednesday October 21 6:30 Global Exchange 2017 Mission St. at 16th(16th St BART), 2nd Floor, SF Tuesday October 27 Debrief/November 30/Next Steps Global Exchange 2017 Mission St. at 16th(16th St BART), 2nd Floor, SF

the wall street journalgina chon
the los angeles timesned parkerraheem salman
mcclatchy newspapersmohammed al dulaimy
the washington postanthony shadid
usa todayaamer madhani
kimberly hefling
jeremy scahill
daniel okrentfortune
the hartford courantchristine dempsey
david solnitaimee allison

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

General Ray Odierno

Today, General Ray Odierno testified before the House Armed Services Committee.


First, he is prepared.

I could have done without his reading word-for-word his prepared remarks. That was twenty minutes of my life that's never coming back.

But he was constantly making notes during the questions. He paid attention to the questions and did not try to run out the clock. He attempted to actually respond to the question which is very rare of any Congressional witness who is paid by the US government.

I'm not an Odierno groupie but, as someone who heard the last person in his position testify to Congress repeatedly, he's no David Petraeus and that's a good thing.

In terms of the committee, my biggest impression was how little they care about Iraq.

Again, I was there when Petraeus (with Ryan Crocker at his side) gave testimony to this committee and that one. And people were there.

Half the committee didn't show. And by the last thirty minutes, there was Ike Skelton, who is the chair, and probably three or four representatives.

Iraq clearly doesn't matter anymore to Congress.

That was the message to take away.

Other strange thing was Joe Wilson asked questions. I didn't know who he was. I asked C.I. and thought, "That's Joe Wilson of 'You lie!' fame?"

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

Wednesday, September 30, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, General Ray Odierno appears before Congress to discuss Iraq, US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill sends out foul mouthed e-mails to the press, and more

Today in DC, General Ray Odierno, the top US commander in Iraq, testified before the House Armed Services Committee. The chair of that committee, US House Rep Ike Skelton, offered opening remarks that had something worthy of highlighting in every paragraph. We'll focus on a paragraph near the end because it's one the immature don't want you to hear.

Chair Ike Skelton: Finally, the US and Iraq will have to determine our future relationship. Many view January 1, 2012, as a date when our relations will transform instantly to a normal bilateral relationship. In some ways, that will likely be true. But in other ways, it may not be. Iraq will be incapable of providing fully for its external defense. Iraq may well continue to need help developing some aspects of its security forces. And we will continue to have interests in ensuring a stable Iraq, that doesn't threaten its neighbors or undermine other regional goals.

You probably won't hear about that portion of Chair Skelton's remarks -- despite the fact that the opening statement was widely distributed to the press. It's more important to the press that sold you the illegal war to begin with that you be sold (repeatedly) on the (false) notion that the Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA) means the war ends and all US troops come home (or all US troops come home except the ones guarding the US Embassy in Iraq). That's not what the SOFA means. It's never been what it meant. In some ways the press is trapped in their own lies. Only the Washington Post got the SOFA right in November of 2008. The Los Angeles Times came close, but it didn't grasp it as fully as the Post did. The New York Times completely misunderstood the agreement (though Elizabeth Bumiller's reporting a month and two months after would attempt to correct the paper's misrepresentations) and McClatcy didn't have a damn clue. Leila Fadel was over her head. She was on a high as she'd semi-confess in "
A reporter's farewell to Iraq," last August, too late to fix the immense damage she'd done in reports she filed and interviews she gave. "For a few months," she'd confess, "I had hope that things might work out." As many members of the Cult of St. Barack have discovered, hope doesn't pay the bills, hope doesn't put food on your table, hope doesn't put a roof over your head, and hope doesn't get the US out of Iraq. McClatchy gave us Leila The Hopeful when what the country most needed was a functioning reporter.

Let's quote Ike Skelton one more time, "Many view January 1, 2012, as a date when our relations will transform instantly to a normal bilateral relationship. In some ways, that will likely be true. But in other ways, it may not be. Iraq will be incapable of providing fully for its external defense." When you hear a liar telling you the SOFA means the war ends and the US comes home at the end of 2011, you need to ask, "Gee, then what did Ike Skelton mean?" In fairness to the Real Press, the bulk of the loudest and worst liars on the SOFA were beggars in
Panhandle Media -- at The Nation, at Pacifica, etc. Some are such liars and/or fools, they forget their own lies. Earlier this month, Ava and I wrote "TV: The Suckers" which included, "Now what the treaty (Status Of Forces Agreement) does is what it was meant to, ease heat in the US over the illegal war. It's done that. It's led to so many fools and liars proclaiming the Iraq War over or almost over: Tom Hayden, CODESTINK, Raed Jarrar, throw a dart at the fringe radical and you'll draw blood from a fool swearing the Iraq War is over or about to be."

This led to Raed Jarrar insisting that we had misunderstood him. No, we hadn't. If you can't keep track of your lies, that's probably the first sign that you have a problem. In "
Raed Jarrar tries to 'correct' Ava and C.I. (Dona)," Dona pointed out that even as she wrote, you could go to Raed's website and see X number of days to go until the Iraq War ended ("839" in Dona's screen snap). That's from Raed's site. He pimped the lie over and over that the SOFA meant the Iraq War ended and he added that tacky, lying counter to his website which provided a visualization of the lie. We knew what we were talking about, Ava and I. We always knew what the SOFA did and did not do. Raed? We'll be kind and just say he must be confused.

Today General Ray Odierno read word for word over the lengthy prepared statement that he and the White House wrote (the press may not tell you about White House involvement -- but first clue for those who can't grasp reality: If he wrote it, he wouldn't have stumbled over so many words while reading it). The thing to note from it is that Odierno lists Iraqi Security Forces of being "approximately 663,000 strong" with "245,000 soldiers and over 407,000 police." Otherwise, not much to note depite the fact that he was twenty-four seconds shy of 20 minutes when he finally finished reading his prepared remarks.

Odierno noted in reply to a question by Skelton that he has "the flexibility to speed up or slow down" the draw-down based on what he sees. Ranking Member Howard McKeon asked Odierno to walk through the election process in Iraq, noting that it is different than what those in the United States might be used to.

General Ray Odierno: I'll wal -- Congressman, I'll walk you through in general terms. First, the el - by the [Iraqi] Constitution, the election is supposed to occur no later than the 31st of January. Right now, it's scheduled for the 16th of January. Again, pending the passing of the election law. Once the election is completed, they take 45 days to certify the results of the election. And so what happens is we'll have hundreds of international observers -- maybe thousands, there's going to be quite a few international observers -- as well as the Iraqi High Electoral Commission will certify the results, they will take all complaints and then they will deem the elections to be credible, legitimate or not. That takes forty-five days. Once that happens, you then have thirty days to begin the formation of seating the Council of Representatives. You then have another thirty days to then select the leadership, the presidency, and then you have another time period to select the prime minister and then the Speaker [of Parliament]. So within that time period, we expect that it will take from January to June or so, maybe July, to seat the new government. In 2005, following the elections, the government -- the elections were in December and the government was seated in May of 2005 [C.I. note, he means May of 2006]. This is the Parliamentary system of government and it just takes time for them to do this. So it's -- there is timelines on it, they will follow those timelines strictly, but it will take time to seat that government.

US House Rep. Howard McKeon: Based on that timeline then, you're comfortable keeping combat troops in -- in the country until August and that will be sufficient and you're -- you're --

General Ray Odierno: I do.

US House Rep. Howard McKeon: -- comfortable with being able to pull them out securely at that time?

General Ray Odierno: I do, I do. You know I look at the first sixty days or so following the election as maybe the most critical time if we think there may be some form of violence following the election as the results are certified. Our experience in the past have been if -- within the sixty days, that's when you'd see some level of violence. So that allows us, I think, to make sure that we believe this will be a peaceful transition of power that we expect. But that will allow us to ensure this peaceful transition of power and then that allows us to draw-down as they seat the government.

US House Rep Michael Conaway would also follow up on the elections issue. He wondered what other risks might prevent elections from being held on time. "As I was going to say," General Ray Odierno began, "if we get the election law passed, I believe, unless there's some unforseen event that would happen -- and I have trouble getting my arms around what that might be, I really believe the elections will occur on time. Unless there's something that caused a large amount of sectarian violence to break out between now and the elections. But I just don't see it because the Iraqi people don't want to go there. They are tired of that and they want to move forward." The issue of the Kirkuk was discussed.

US House Rep Loretta Sanchez: General and Mr. Secretary, I'd like both of you to answer this question. General, at the end of July, you and Secretary [of Defense Robert] Gates visited with Kurdish leaders in Irbil and you were widely quoted saying that the Arab-Kurd tensions over disputed internal boundaries and natural petroleum policy were the biggest problem facing Iraq. In fact, you said, "Arab-Kurd tensions are the number one driver of insecurity." And yet this morning when you began and you talked about the drivers you didn't mention this. So my questions are: do you still believe that the number one driver is insecurity -- or do you still think it's up there -- and what measures have been taken to manage and to reduce the tensions that are going on? And, of course, Article 140 of the Constitution of Iraq provides for a phased process of normalization, census and referendum to determine the final boundaries of the Kurdish Region within a democratic process. But some have said to me that they think the US has to be more active in getting this 140 Article issue done, this process done. In fact, when I asked Secretary Gates in front of this committee, he said that, "The US fully supports Article 140." And so my question is: How involved are we in that? What are we doing to push these sides to get to a resolution under the Constitution? And if, in fact, we're going to have a responsible withdrawal, don't you think that getting that Article 140 process done is almost a pre-condition for us to be able to remove troops and make sure that these ethnic issues are taken care of? And, um, why is 140 stalled? And what are we doing to-to move it in the right direction?

General Ray Odierno: Thank you, Congresswoman. I still believe that Arab-Kurd tension is the number one driver of instability inside of Iraq. I mentioned it. I might not have said it was number one. But I did mention it. Uh-uh and this is long standing problems over land and resources and-and the distribution of those in these key areas that have been going on for hundreds of years in-inside of Iraq between the Kurds and the Arab population. The Article 140 process back in December '07 -- actually did not get finished by December of '07 which was the date on the original Iraqi Constitution -- was supposed to be finished. And when that happened what happened is we formed a UN -- uh -- the UN took over trying to renegotiate and get the sides together. So we have a UN commission now that is working very hard between the government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government to try to uh come to -- come to some agreement with these very difficult issues regarding disputed areas in terms of boundaries as well as a sharing of hydrocarbons and resources. So what we're doing -- what we're doing is we are fully in support of that effort. We support the UN, we engage with both the government of Iraq and the KRG on these issues to make sure they continue to participate in this -- in this process. And this process will ultimately follow, hopefully, and cause the implementation of the 140 -- Article 140 and the resolution of these issues. In addition, we are attempting to work with the government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government to reduce tensions in the areas. Over the last year or so, on several cases, it's the US forces who have helped to reduce tensions between these groups. We now have them in discussion and they are trying to come up with some sort of an architecture -- security architecture -- that would reduce tensions between the Arabs and Kurds. So we'll be at such level that everybody understands that-that they will solve this problem through the political processes of the UN. And this is something that Iraq has to solve. This is an Iraq problem that the Iraqis have to solve. We have to be engaged at all levels and we will continue to be engaged at all levels.

Yes, Odierno does grasp the issue and the tensions. No, US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill doesn't. (Loretta Sanchez grasps the issue very well, just FYI.) The response from Odierno above was in marked difference from the responses on the issue Chris Hill gave Congress earlier this month. We'll come back to Chris Hill later in the snapshot.

US House Rep Susan Davis: I wanted to ask you about the Wall St. Journal reported yesterday that the Iraqis are having difficulty with their budget crunch [see Gina Chon's "
Iraq Is Struggling to buy Equipment"] and oil prices decreasing in purchasing equipment that they had already requested from the US government. And there are a number of issued combined with that. How difficult and how high a priority is it for us to get this straight? And are their policies that we should in fact be looking at right now that would allow them to purchase more of those in advance?

General Ray Odierno: We are -- I think it's very important. We've been working this for quite some time. First the uh Iraqi budget uh, you know, I know because of the price of oil their budget has decreased quite significantly. They're-they're MO -- they're combined MOD [Ministry of Defense] budget's about $10 billion a year. About 85% of that is fixed, non-discretionary and it has to do mainly with salaries and other things. So that leaves them a very small piece left to invest in modernization. They have already purchased several things such as patrol boats, uh, and many other army and some airforce equipment that they have to still pay. So almost all of their even discretionary income is-is-is taken up. So what I want to be able to do is assist them in some small ways -- by using stay-behind equipment. Potentially leaving for them As well as improving their ability not to have to pay all costs upfront for foreign military sales, where they can spread it over a longer time period --

US House Rep Susan Davis: As I understand it, they don't meet a number of the criteria --

General Ray Odierno: That's --

US House Rep Susan Davis: -- that we have.

General Ray Odierno: That's exactly right. They have to meet -- the IMF bank has to certify them. And, of course, they're trying to get through that certification by having enough reserves so that they get certified. So it's a very complex problem and we have things competing against each other. So we're trying to come up with many different ways to help them to get them the equipment we think is necessary to have a foundational capability by 2011. And part of that might be is we might have to -- you know -- what we believe is -- there's about -- in Fiscal Year '10 and '11, we think we need -- we have an acquirement of about 3.5 billion dollars that we need to help them in order to finish getting the foundational capacity that they need in order to have -- to be able to have security by 2011. And then we'll have to continue some sort of an FMF [Foreign Military Financing] program through the State Dept after 2011. And if we're able to do that, that will allow them to slowly build up and have the security capability necessary to protect themselves.

US House Rep Susan Davis: Thank you. I appreciate that. One of the things that must be frustrating is that violence does continue to flare from time to time and I notice that one of the high ranking Iraqi army generals was recently killed as well. I guess that was reported yesterday. What effect does that have in terms of the government? The army? Do you -- or is that -- have we gotten so numb to that now in a sense that it doesn't have the kind of impact --

General Ray Odierno: I think -- I think for the Iraqis -- First of all, that was a Brigade Commander that was killed yesterday up in Mosul. It has a -- you know, it does have an impact. Uh, the Iraqi security forces -- like our forces -- understand what their duty is and what their mission is. And they are very dedicated to providing security to their people and I have seen many acts of bravery by leaders -- Iraqi leaders -- and their soldiers. And-and-and in a lot of ways, they're no different from our soldiers when it comes to that. So they see that as their mission and they're trying to root out these last remnants of al Qaeda and insurgents and some of these difficult areas. The sad part, Congresswoman, is we continue to see these attacks against innocent civilians absolutely mean nothing to the outcome and all it does is kill innocent people. And it's frustration to us and it's frustrating to the Iraqis. And that's what we're trying to stop inside of Iraq now, these-these-these last bombings that occur, although much less frequently than they used to -- they still occur and kill many innocent people. And those are -- those are the kind of incidents we're trying to stop.

US House Rep Susan Davis: Are our civilians able to move freely, go down, have a cup of tea, at all to engage in an informal fashion yet at this point?

General Ray Odierno: They can but they can't. I would -- they can in order to meet with Iraqi officials. I-I would say you can but it's still a little bit difficult to move freely because they're targets -- is part of the problem.

On the above exchange, Odierno's belief in transitioning equipment over to Iraqis? Great. No point in bringing all of it back when most brought back will be immediately phased out as out-dated. Make a gift to the Iraqis, fine. But this idea that the Iraqis are going to get a loan for weaponry and it's okay because the payments won't be immediate but will be spread out?

I knew Cindy Crawford was working for Rooms To Go, but I had no idea Ray Odierno was. Regardless of whether payments are "spread out" or not, payments are due. The bill still has to be paid. Iraq is currently trying to break their finanical obligation to Kuwait. That's one. Two, Iraq can't afford to make the purchases now. What makes Odierno believe that they will be able to afford it in the future? Does he know something about the oil market? No, I don't think he does. But the point is, if you can't afford it today, don't buy on credit thinking you'll win the lottery and be able to afford it some day in the future. The budget is the budget. Revenues are what they are. You don't loan to people who can't afford to pay back a loan. The next step would be to consider whether the US should make a gift of it? ("It" being new weapons, not the equipment Odierno is speaking of leaving over there.) That goes to the US economy as does a loan. A gift would at least not require all the faux outrage needed for a loan (when Iraq doesn't pay back the loan, US officials take to the TV monitors to wonder why, why, why!). But this is billions. Odierno, who is not an economist or even an accountant, is stating it would be $3.5 billion. Which means it would most likely be twice that amount. Why does the US need to fork over that money?

That's the question that did not get asked.

Why does Iraq need $3.5 billion it doesn't have in order to 'save' the country? Who's the big threat there? They've got bombings? Yeah, they've had them throughout this illegal war. So? Does someone think Iran's going to come stomping in? Syria? What's the point of all this equipment because what it looks like -- and the reason the House didn't touch it -- is that Nouri's illegitimate and unpopular government needs the money not to defend itself from outside forces but to hold down their own people. And that's the observation then US Senator Joe Biden was making in April of 2008. And he and Russ Feingold were insisting this was exactly the position the US did not want to be in -- arming one side against the other. So before the US government even explores how to fund or not to fun the request, what the Congress needs to do is nail down why anything is needed? Iraq has failed to establish need. Odierno couldn't do it today before Congress. No debate on whether to gift or loan needs to take place until the need for the equpiment is established.

Ideally, we'll return to today's hearing later in the week (hopefully tomorrow --
Kat's offering observations about Odierno's testimony at her site tonight) and we can grab some other exchanges. US House Rep Mike Coffman, for example, asked some solid questions -- which Odierno answered specifically -- about the ethnic make up of the army and police. But let's grab Chris Hill. Whether you agreed with Odierno's conclusions or not, he did have his facts down. So different from Chris Hill's rude and unprepared testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Relations Committees earlier this month. This week, Thomas E. Ricks (Foreign Policy) finally stumbles upon the reality re: Chris Hill. Sort of. Chris Hill was unfit for the post -- and has a personnel record which demonstrates that. He lacked the qualifications. He had no experience in the region. He has a long (documented) history of ignoring supervisors. And the rumors about his manic depressive state was already legendary long before he landed in Iraq. (And his MD may be why, despite promising Senator John Kerry that he would be on the next plane to Iraq as soon as he was confirmed, he waited several days before departing for Iraq.) In his hearings, he demonstrated no knowledge of the issues despite several weeks of prepping with handlers. He has no concept of Kirkuk, for example. At the hearings on his confirmation, his responses on Kirkuk were laughable. They were barely better at the start of this month. Contrast them with Odierno's answers and you really grasp what a problem Hill has and, yes, what a problem Hill is.

Let's make the point really clear: The answer for Iraq is not military, it's political.

You've heard that how many damn times from how many damn people? So why is that Odierno -- a military general -- is doing more work currently in Iraq than the 'laid back' Chris Hill. Hill's confirmation was a mistake and the smartest thing the administration could do would be to ask for his resignation. Republicans opposed him. They questioned him hard and they knew -- as one on the Foreign Relations Committee told me -- that Hill was the fall guy (by which they take out Obama on the Iraq issue) if anything goes wrong. They knew it. You go back and look at their responses and you see they were all echoing one another. They were raising issues of trust and qualifications. And if the withdrawal happens and if it happens before the 2012 elections and if (a ton of ifs) it's bloody and messy, Chris Hill becomes one of the biggest talking points of the 2012 election.

He's unfit for the job and he's already repeatedly demonstrated he's not up for it. And his problems with Odierno even caused questions in today's hearings.

US House Rep Joe Courtney: How is your relationship with the ambassador, how often do you interact? I mean and what efforts are still being made by us to keep moving forward on the political end?
General Ray Odierno: Thank you so much for the question. First, I interact every single day uh, I, uh -- We probably meet personally three or four times a week. I have an office in the Embassy that I'm in. But I also have about 300 people the I'm with in MNF in I [Multi-National Force in Iraq] that are actually in the Embassy, that are in support of economic and training of other agencies, planning, that are there every single day working with the Embassy. So we're completely integrated at every level, we continue to be completely integrated.

At which point he began discussing (again) a report that is scheduled to be available in January. It will outline what US military tasks (current tasks in Iraq) are being passed on to the US Embassy in Iraq and which are being passed on to the central 'government' in Baghdad. Odierno squirmed throughout his response until he got to make a sport's joke. He did not squirm throughout the hearing. He did move around at many times (and his voice cut in and out as he moved his head away from the microphone). He jotted notes and did many other things. But he obviously and repeatedly squirmed when Hill was raised.

Thomas E. Ricks noted earlier in the week:What I am hearing is that Odierno is profoundly frustrated with Hill, who despite knowing almost nothing about Iraq has decided after a short time there that it is time to stand back and stop influencing the behavior of Iraqi officials on a daily basis. In addition, I am told, the ambassador believes the war is an Iraqi problem, not something that really concerns Americans anymore, despite the presence of 125,000 American soldiers. On the other hand, the diplomats respond, the military guys believe they have good relationships with Iraqi officials, but, the dips add, how would the soldiers really know? Because unlike Hill's posse, they don't speak Arabic. Which brings to mind my favorite saying of Warren Buffett, that if you've been playing poker for half an hour and you don't know who the patsy at the table is, you're the patsy. As I've noted before, Ava and I both lobbied for women (not one women -- for a number of women) to be in that position. When Hill became the choice, efforts to give him a chance were repeatedly defeated by Hill's own statements and presentation. Maybe Ricks should have focused on the lack of qualifications back during the hearings.

I believe Thomas E. Ricks is among those saying a political solution is needed and not a military one. Well why the hell didn't he think the position of US Ambassador mattered? Why the hell did he wait until months after the confirmation to suddenly be bothered by Hill's lack of qualifications? Hill's a problem, no question. But he was a problem back when he was confirmed. Thomas E. Ricks is late to the party and we've already put away all the food. Yesterday,
Ricks again explored Hill and noted responses to his earlier post:

This is one that was posted by Joel Wit, a longtime Korea expert who, according to his bio, "served as senior advisor to Ambassador Robert L. Galluci from 1993-1995, where he developed strategies to help resolve the crisis over North Korea's weapons program, and as Coordinator for the U.S.-North Korea's weapons program and as Coordinator for the U.S.-North Korea Agreed Framework from 1995-1999, where he was the official in charge of implementation":
["]As someone who follows Iraq only as closely as any foreign-policy generalist but who specializes in North Korea, I can tell you none of us would be surprised by the problems between Chris Hill and the U.S. military in that country. When he worked on North Korea issues at the end of the Bush administration, Hill was not willing to listen to anyone who knew the issues and had his own little team of groupies who worshipped the ground he walked on (or at least pretended to). While there are a number of reasons why we are in trouble with the North today, not the least of which is the North Koreans themselves, Hill wouldn't listen to experts or anyone else about how to deal with a country that he knew nothing about. Sounds like he is repeating his performance in Iraq. Lets hope the consequences arent as bad.["]
A word on the brackets around Joel Wit's quote, the snapshot is reposted at other community sites. In the reposting, Wit's quote will be lost without those brackets, it will all run together and no one will know which part was Ricks and which part was Joel Wit.
Today Ricks writes that most "with first-hand knowledge" are telling him there's a problem in the relationship between Hill and Odierno (gee, did one tell you about Odierno's red-faced -- but not screaming -- response to Hill's decision to let the oil draft law wait until after January elections which means until after April of 2009? Strong words were exchanged over that). But the best part of Ricks' post is this, "I've also gotten several e-missives from Hill himself, and seen some he launched to others. He certainly does like the word 'bulls**t.' His problem is that his rep with the diplomatic press corps is that the more accurate the story about him, the more he tends to use it." I've edited the word. Ricks doesn't (he's not work safe) and it's the word Hill uses. It's among the words Hill uses in e-mails. Most people have seen that repeatedly. Grasp this is not someone who should be working in diplomacy. Grasp that Ricks -- late to the story but breaking it for many -- is someone Hill needed to win over and "bulls**t bulls**t" over and over doesn't endear you to anyone. (I've noted before, my mouth is more foul than anyone. However, I'm not a diplomat and I don't work for the State Dept. There is a way you present yourself in certain positions and Hill's little outbursts to Ricks alone would indicate a problem.) Here's a thought, since the administration doesn't care for women, offer Joe Wilson the post. The former US Ambassador to Iraq, Joe Wilson (not the Congress member). Joe Wilson knows how and when to stand up and he knows how and when to avoid petty nonesense. He's a diplomat in every sense of the word. Chris Hill needs to go. If he doesn't, don't be surprised if the little nothing becomes one of the issues the 2012 election turns on. For The New Republic, Nicolaus Mills and Michael Walzer (link goes to NPR repost) explore the process of withdrawal. Notice that they're also talking about political issues. Too bad the US doesn't have a functional ambassador to Iraq.

We will try to come back to today's hearing later in the week and note several including US House Rep Carol Shea-Porter. Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing that killed 1 man and left his wife wounded, a Baghdad ticky bombing that killed 1 person and left eight others injured. Reuters drops back to yesterday to note a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured five people and another Baghdad roadside bombing which also wounded five poeple -- three of whom were police officers.


Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an attack on a Baghdad military checkpoint that resulted in 3 Iraqi soldiers killed with another left wounded.


Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Basra, "a woman who apparently died of stab wounds". Reuters drops back to yesterday in order to note a woman's corpse was discovered outisde Mosul (shot to death).

Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports on bonding exercises and experiences between US service members and Iraqi ones which include growing mustaches -- apparently only the males. For the record, I'm not making fun of women in the US military, I am noting that some stories might need to note that some bonding naturally excludes some members of the military. And maybe if that didn't happen so often, Iraqi women wouldn't be treated so poorly? And isn't it cute how we've stopped hearing of the Daughters Of Iraq? Isn't that interesting? When the next female bomber comes along, remember the hand wringing only takes place when there's a camera around to record it.

Delaware's 261st Signal brigade is back from Iraq.
Brian Montopoli (CBS News) reports that Vice President Joe Biden addressed them today in a welcome hom speech -- the brigade includes Joe's son Beau. Meanwhile the Winona Daily News carries an announcement regarding Iraq War veteran JR Martinez who will be speaking on "The American Dream: Inspiring Others Through His Amazing Story of Resilience, Perseverance and Optimism" at Winona State University Monay night at 7:00 pm (East Hall, Kryzsko Commons) and again Tuesday morning at Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical's Auditorium and Tuesday at 4:00 pm at WSU-Rochester's Memorial Hall. He will be sharing his experiences including a landmine explosion that left him wounded, badly burned and required 32 surgeries. The presentation is also part of Hispanic Heritage Month.

In other news, read Ruth's amazing "
Eilene Zimmerman Is No Feminist" if you haven't already.

iraqmcclatchy newspapersleila fadel
the wall street journalgina chon
the christian science monitorjane arraf
brian montopoli
cbs news