Friday, April 08, 2011

Take back your power

US President Barack Obama’s rejection of Muammar Gaddafi’s plea for a ceasefire again underscores that NATO’s intervention into Libya’s civil war has nothing to do with protecting civilians. As with Iraq and Afghanistan, its objective is regime change, so as to ensure the untrammelled domination of the Western powers over the country’s oil and gas reserves.

In a three-page letter to Obama, Gaddafi beseeched the US president to stop the “unjust war against the small people of a developing country.”

Praising Obama as a man of “courage,” and wishing him victory in the 2012 elections, the Libyan dictator ends with a pathetic personal appeal: “Despite all this, you will always remain our son whatever happened.”

The letter appears to have been motivated by the US decision earlier this week to withdraw from participation in the air bombardment of Gaddafi’s forces to a more “supportive” capacity. This has been presented by some in the US media, largely for domestic considerations, as an indication that the White House wanted to distance itself from yet another war in the region.

But if the Gaddafi regime was taken in by such propaganda, it was quickly disabused. The appeal was immediately slapped down by the Obama administration. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Gaddafi “knows what he must do”―making clear that nothing less than “his departure from power and...his departure from Libya” would suffice.

That's from Julie Hyland's "Obama makes clear US opposition to ceasefire, insists on regime change in Libya" (WSWS). I'm glad about the latest development above because it makes clear that this was never about 'humanitarian' goals. Maybe it will wake a few members of the Cult of St. Barack up. C.I. had a great piece last night about how when we strip that power from Barack, he has to work really hard to continue wars and to create new ones.

It is past time to take back our power. But if we make an effort to do so, it will succeed. And the ground work's been laid already by the real left -- as opposed to The Nation, et al. Those outlets encourage us to hero worship, reduce us to the status of children and fans. This is our democracy and we are active participants in it even when we choose to sit it out. So we need to own and value our part in it. And we need to open our eyes.

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

Friday, April 8, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, protests continue around Iraq, Nouri makes more power-grabbing efforts, today's dead includes a young girl who was killed when police fired randomly, will a shadow cabinet emerge, and more.
In Iraq, today is Departure Friday as protests took place around the country, the chant in Baghdad's Liberation Square was "OUT WITH THE OCCUPIERS!". The Great Iraqi Revolution notes, "Thousands , [F]riday Prayers - The Imam Shaikh Taha spoke frankly and critically - he was courageous and brave because he covered all the relevant points - he did not leave anything out and then the speeches, chants, slogans and thousands of people - women, old crippled men in wheelchairs and children - are all there now - Turn on Baghdad Satellite Station and you will see it all LIVE." The Great Iraqi Revolution notes: "All the roads to Tahrir are open at the moment so please all you Young Men and Women - all you Iraqi Brave Revolutionaries - Your God and Your Country demand your presence in Tahrir. Peacefully Peacfully - Dont allow them to force you to react - this is the price we have to pay to get rid of the Occupation and their stooge gang of a government." Trend notes the thousands "gathered in front of Abu Hanifa mosque in the Adhamiya areas carrying banners proclaiming 'Occupiers, get out!' and chanting slogans such as 'America leave leave, We want a free Baghdad'." Al Jazeera live blogged protests in the MidEast today and, on Iraq, they noted:
IRAQ - Protesters in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, have been talking to Al Jazeera's Jane Arraf. Many are angry about the continued oresence of US military troops in the country. One who preferred not to give their name said:
They have no credibility. They said, "By the end of 2011 we will be out of Iraq," and yesterday, Gates came here and said that there are hints about keeping the US forces, although they denied this before.
They are not going to leave Iraq, and if they don't leave Iraq by the end of 2011, then there will be no peaceful demonstrations, there will be something else.
The Great Iraqi Revolution has posted video of the protests and this one is good footage to start with. They note, "The Revolutionary Youth of A'adhamiya came out protesting with its nationalist patriotic identity after it saw the Council of Ulama's, another face of the Islamic Party, attempting to use this great revolution for its own political advantage and for its political agenda. The Great iraqi Revolution is Iraqi and refuses all the political parties brought in with and by the Occupation in its attempt to occupay Iraq and tare it apart under the guise of its false democracy." And they report, "We have just heard that at 13.05 hrs today 2 demosntrators were taken away and arrested by security forces attached to Regiment 11, from Tayaran Squarey were in Baghdad. The y were Alla'a Nabeel and Ahmed Hussain Hussain." Dar Addustour reports that students demonstrating in Baghdad were calling for a withdrawal of occupation forces as well as the press coverage of the demonstrations which have been taking place since February 25th." Mohammed Tafeeq (CNN) covers protests throughout Iraq but we'll note this on Baghdad:
Women carried pictures of their sons and husbands who are missing or were killed during the war.
"During this war, so many women lost sons and many others became widows, not only Iraqi women but also American women. We are the ones who paid the price of this war," said Shima Kareem, who was among the protesters.
In addition, the Great Iraqi Revolution notes that a protest took place in Sammarra with people demanding the occupying forces leave "and asking for the bringing to justice of all the corrupt officials." Dar Addustour reports "two thousand" demonstrated in Samarra
after Friday prayers" and called for an end to corruption (with punishment for the guilty) and for the US to leave. And they note, "Arrest of a number of demosntrators in A'adhamiya where protestors were calling for the IMMEDIATE DEPARTURE OF AMERICAN OCCUPATION TROOPS AND ALL RELATED PERSONNEL." Rana Haddad ( reports they also protested the secret prisons in Iraq and called for them to be closed and for all innocent prisoners to be released. While mosques and religious figures impacted many of the protests they were heavily represented in Adhamiya where Sheikh Sabah al-Obeidi called the protesters peaceful and stated their most important demands were the withdrawal of US forces and the release of innocent detainnes ("who do not have the blood of innocent people on their hands") -- both of which he hoped would be embraced by the Parliament and Cabinet. Sheikh Adnan al-Nuaimi also noted the detainees and stated that too many of them were unnaccounted for and they all needed to be released. Dar Addustour adds that the Aadhamiya protesters numbered in the thousands and were primarily students who called for the immediate departure of all US troops and no extensions to allow them to stay and that protesters demonstrated in downtown Falluja as well calling for the departure of all US troops and for those responsible for the 2004 Falluja attacks (when the US twice attacked Falluja) to be brought to justice before the International Court of Justice. Dar Addustour also notes that 200 buses were used to transport protesters to Basra and that the protesters there included 4 MPs. Protests are scheduled for tomorrow as well and The Great Iraqi Revolution notes, "TOMORROW - SATURDAY 9TH APRIL - The central collection and gathering point in Baghdad is Tahrir Square. Should Haliki's security forces cut off bridges and roads and cut off the Rassafa from Karkh, then people on Karch should gather in Nissour Square. Nissour Square is significant because it is the site of the Blackwater Massacre of Iraqis which has still gone unpunished." Edith M. Lederer (AP) reports that the United Nation Security-General's Special Envoy to Iraq, Ad Melkert, has "warned that unless the government tackles these demands [by protesters], Iraq's political and democratic gains so far 'may seem hollow to ordinary Iraqis'."

While protesters demonstrated peacefully, Iraqi security forces again made news for assaults again. Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times) wouldn't be reporting, "Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates urged the Iraqi government to show restraint on Friday in the wake of an apparent attack by Iraqi security forces on a group of Iranian dissidents protected by the United States." Gates was referring to an apparent attack on Camp Ashraf. Marc Champion (Wall St. Journal) adds, "Iraq's armed forces moved against a camp holding thousands of members of an Iranian resistance movement that's based in Iraq Friday, killing dozens and wounding hundreds, according to a spokesman for the movement. It wasn't immediately possible to verify the claims of the People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran, or MEK, of 31 dead and 300 wounded. Video clips sent out by the MEK's political wing showed armored personnel carriers and military Humvees breaching the perimeter of Camp Ashraf, apparently in the early hours of Friday morning. Five Iraqi soldiers also were reported injured." Aiden Mahler Levine and Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) note, "The U.S. embassy in Baghdad said it was 'monitoring the situation at Camp Ashraf and are in contact with the government of Iraq,' and urged 'all sides to exercise restraint'." UPI explains, "In e-mails received by UPI, the People's Mujahedeen said 20 people had been killed and 300 injured." Iraq4All News reports the names of three Camp Ashraf residents who were killed: Haneef Kafaee, Zuhair Thakiri and Hassan Awani. The assault may have legal implications for the US. Mark Tran, James Ball and Melanie Newman (Guardian) report:
The raid was the latest in a series of interventions at the camp since jurisdiction was passed from the US to the Iraqi government in 2009. A WikiLeaks cable identified by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism at City University in London shows the US was aware the Iraqi government planned to crack down on the MEK, with potentially grave humanitarian consequences.
"If the government of Iraq acts harshly against the MEK and provokes a reaction," warned the US deputy chief of mission in Iraq, Patricia Butenis, in a cable in March 2009, "the USG faces a challenging dilemma: we either protect members of a foreign terrorist organisation against actions of the Iraqi security forces and risk violating the US-Iraq security agreement, or we decline to protect the MEK in the face of a humanitarian crisis, thus leading to international condemnation of both the US government and the government of Iraq."
Phil Shiner of the UK law firm Public Interest Lawyers, which represents some Ashraf residents, said: "I have not seen these cables. However, from what I can gather their content is quite astonishing and shows that the US – and by implication the UK – knew Iraqis were treating residents inhumanely, foresaw the possibility of serious injuries in clashes at the camp, and knew what was happening at the time of the deaths but did absolutely nothing."
International law requires other states to take positive action to protect innocent civilians in these circumstances, he added.
Iraq4All News also notes that the 2500 security forces present at the assault are commanded by Nouri al-Maliki. Stephanie McCrummen (Washington Post) reports that Iraqi forces are saying one thing and Camp Ashraf spokespeople another while "Journalists were prevented from entering the sprawling settlement, known as Camp Ashraf, which is home to about 3,000 people and has polished representatives in Paris and lawyers and congressional allies in Washington."

Camp Ashraf? Since long before the start of the Iraq War, Iranian dissidents have lived in Iraq. Following the US invasion, the US made these MEK residents of Camp Ashraf -- Iranian refuees who had been in Iraq for decades -- surrender weapons and also put them under US protection. They also extracted a 'promise' from Nouri that he would not move against them. July 28, 2009 the world saw what Nouri's word was actually worth. Since that Nouri-ordered assault in which at least 11 residents died, he's continued to bully the residents. Iran's Fars News Agency reported Monday that the Iraqi military is denying allegations that it entered the camp. Specifically, Camp Ashraf residents state, "The forces of Iraq's Fifth Division invaded Camp Ashraf with columns of armored vehicles, occupying areas inside the camp, since midnight on Saturday." Of today's alleged attack, UPI notes, "Gates said no U.S. troops stationed near Camp Ashraf were involved in the clash, but may have offered medical assistance."
The Iraqi authorities must immediately launch an independent investigation into reports that Iraqi troops killed and injured residents of a camp for Iranian exiles north of Baghdad in an unprovoked attack, Amnesty International said today.
"Iraqi troops moved into the camp this morning and used excessive force against residents who tried to resist them, according to the information we have received," said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme.
"This is the latest of a series of violent actions that the Iraqi government has taken against the Camp Ashraf residents, whose continuing presence in Iraq they oppose."
Clashes broke out this morning after Iraqi security forces took up positions in the camp using armoured personnel carriers and, apparently, live fire against residents who tried to resist them, resulting in multiple deaths and injuries. As yet, the number of casualties cannot be independently verified.
The camp in Diyala province around 60 km north of Baghdad is home to some 3,400 Iranian exiles and refugees, including members and supporters of the banned Iranian opposition group the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI).
PMOI officials told Amnesty International that due to restrictions imposed by the Iraqi government, Camp Ashraf's medical facility does not have adequate medicines or equipment with which to deal with those reported by the PMOI to have been injured in today's clashes.
"If true, this is very worrying," said Malcolm Smart. "Whether they like it or not, the Iraqi authorities are responsible for the security and well-being of Camp Ashraf's residents and this includes providing access to adequate and immediate medical treatment when needed."
Video clips of the clashes that the PMOI has uploaded to YouTube appear to show Iraqi soldiers firing indiscriminately into the crowds and using vehicles to try and run others down.
An Iraqi government spokesman said Camp Ashraf residents threw rocks at security forces in what he termed a "riot." Troops did not open fire, he said, but force was used to push residents back inside the camp.
Since the US ceded control of Camp Ashraf to Iraqi security forces in mid-2009, the PMOI has told Amnesty International that the constant military presence has made it difficult to access medical treatment inside and outside the camp.
An Iraqi security committee controls the influx of medical supplies into the camp and decides who can travel outside the camp for specialist treatment.
In July 2009 the Iraqi government stated that it had set up an investigation into the killing of six Iranian exiles during an Iraqi security force raid on the Camp Ashraf. The findings of this investigation have yet to be made public and no members of the security forces are known to have been held to account fir the killings.

Read More

Iraq: Iranian opposition group supporters must not be forcibly evicted, (Press release, 11 December 2009)

Iraq: Detainees held incommunicado risk torture, (Urgent action, 6 October 2009)

Which side is telling the truth? When Nouri's side began insisting today that there was no attack, they were just installing a new unit, they reveal themselves to be lying. That was the same excuse they gave for what took place Sunday. Saad Abdul-Kadir (Scotsman) explains, "The army stormed the camp [. . .] hurling smoke bombs at a crowd of about 100 masked people." For Al Jazeera, Jane Arraf reported on Camp Ashraf today (link is video):
Adrian Finighan: Now to Iraq and a crackdown by Iraqi security forces on an Iranian dissident camp has left 25 people dead and 320 wounded -- that's according to a representative of the camp. The Iraqi government said that five members of its security forces were injured in the incident at Camp Ashraf in Diyala Province which is about 90 kilometers north of Baghdad. Let's go live now to Baghdad. Our correspondent Jane Arraf joins us there. Tell us more about this dissident camp and why the Iraqi government wants to crack down on whatever's happening there.
Jane Arraf: Well, Adrian, this camp was really the last holdout of the major Iranian opposition group that was fostered here under Saddam. And it's a huge problem for the Iraqis. They simply refuse to leave. Many of them have European passports, many of them have ties to the United States. And in this latest clash, which took place overnight, Iraiq security forces moved in to bring in a new unit and were met with protesters throwing stones, according to officials. Now the casualty toll is in dispute but this is a base that the Iranian government has put heavy pressure on the Iraqi government to close. It's a continuing problem and the latest casualties Here in Baghdad, more protests --
Adrian Finighan: I'm sorry Jane, I was just going to ask you about the protests in Baghdad. Just as in the rest of the region, we've seen further protests there today. But slightly different from what we've seen elsewhere in the rest of the region
Jane Arraf: Well they're a little bit different because here they've gotten rid of their dictator. Saddam Husein The interesting thing about thess protest -- which take place against the backdrop of a visit by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates here is that they seem to be increasingly militant. And it's not just the burning of the US flags that we mean by that. It's that a lot of these people say it's not just the US military they want to leave, it's the US civilian presence. Now the United States has announced plans to double its embassy here to 18,000 people next year -- the biggest of its missions in the world. Protesters here say that's just not going to happen. And it will make it very difficult for the US to keep any sort of military presence here certainly after the end of this year.
Adrian Finighan: Jane, many thanks. Jane Arraf there live in Baghdad.
US staying? First, it's not as if they've left. As Nathan Hodge (Wall St. Journal) points out, "After all, the war here is not over. Over 47,000 U.S. troops remain on the ground, and the U.S. mission in Iraq, to quote a marvelously phrased memorandum sent yesterday by Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn, is not '"excepted" from cessation'." UPI reports State of Law's MP Saad Muttalibi (State of Law is Nouri al-Maliki's political slate) is giving interviews stating the US wants up to 20,000 troops in Iraq beyond 2011. Alsumaria TV notes, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki informed US Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the government refuses any US or foreign military presence in Iraq, Cabinet spokesman Ali Al Dabbagh said in a statement to Alsumaria." The US knows Nouri's hold on power is weak and possibly fading and have already agreed not to pressure him publicly. They did the same in the summer of 2006 and 2007 when they came to an agreement each year to extend the UN mandate -- and up until the UN announced the extensions, Nouri was denying them publicly. In other words, take it with a grain of salt. Gladkov Vladimir (Voice of Russia) reports that Sheikh Burhan Mizher (of Kirkuk's provincial goverment; heads the province's agricultural department) stating, "Of course, we want them to stay." Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times) observes that "keeping troops in Iraq beyond the 2011 deadline would have political ramifcations in both Washington and Baghdad. President Obama promised to pull all American forces out of Iraq when he ran for the White House in 2008; Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq is facing pressure from politicians loyal to the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr to get all American troops out by the deadline." Gareth Porter (Dissident Voice) reports:
President Barack Obama has given his approval to a Pentagon plan to station U.S. combat troops in Iraq beyond 2011, provided that Iraqi Premier Nouri al-Maliki officially requests it, according to U.S. and Iraqi sources.
But both U.S. and Iraqi officials acknowledge that Maliki may now be reluctant to make the official request. Maliki faces severe political constraints at home, and his government is being forced by recent moves by Saudi Arabia to move even closer to Iran.
And it is no longer taken for granted by U.S. or Iraqi officials that Maliki can survive the rising tide of opposition through the summer.
As early as September 2010, the White House informed the Iraqi government that it was willing to consider keeping between 15,000 and 20,000 troops in Iraq, in addition to thousands of unacknowledged Special Operations Forces. But Obama insisted that it could only happen if Maliki requested it, according to a senior Iraqi intelligence official.
And the White House, which was worried about losing support from the Democratic Party's anti-war base as Congressional mid-term elections approached, insisted that the acknowledged troops would have to be put at least ostensibly under a State Department-run security force.
Nathan Hodge (Wall St. Journal) reports that Gates addressed US soldiers Friday and told them his three-day trip to Iraq was "all about" extending the US military presence in Iraq beyond the end of this year.
Nouri's attempt at seizing control of the government never ends. Al Rafidayn reported this week that Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh informed the press that from now on all official remarks will come from either a spokesperson for the Ministry of Government, a spokesperson for the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nouri or Nouri's spokesperson. Statements by any other government official or spokesperson, al-Dabbagh insisted, had "no value" from Wednesday forward. He noted that the Cabinet had adopted the measure -- the Cabinet Nouri controls. Power grabs are nothing to Nouri who has already insisted that the previously independent Independent High Electoral Commission was now under his supervision. Rumors swirl in Iraqi media that the head of the commission, Hadmiay al-Husseini, is resigning; however, Aswat al-Iraq reports that the Commission's Faraj al-Haydari states that the commission has received no resignation notice.
Nouri's efforts at control and inability to form a complete Cabinet all this time later is alarming many officials in Iraq. Al Rafidayn reports Ayad Allawi and Ahmad Chalabi are meeting and working on plans for the formation of a shadow government. England has a Shadow Cabinet which is the political party out of power forming a cabinet with alterntive members to the main cabinet -- hence "shadow," they mirror the larger cabinet. This is not a "take over the government" body in England (except via elections if the voters want it). It is an organized opposition prepared to make counter-arguments and policy proposals. The National Conference's Mohammed al-Moussawi explains that the need for the shadow government was registered when Nouri angered the leaders of many political blocs by talk of dissolving the current government (which he's found unruly) and replacing it with a "majority government" which he would pick. An amazing -- and Constitutionally non-existent -- power for someone whose political slate came in second in the March 7, 2010 elections. Dar Addustour reports today that Adel Abdul Mahdi is part of the team meeting on the shadow government issue. He is one of Iraq's two vice presidents (despite the fact that their terms expired), the Shi'ite one, and he's announced he will not seek the post in the 'new' government Nouri 'is forming' since November.
Tim Arango (New York Times) notes a move to ease tensions:

But just recently, to calm tensions in the northern part of the country near Kirkuk, the divided city whose control is disputed by three ethnic groups -- Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen -- a battalion of American forces has been patrolling and taking up positions on their own. "We went in as U.S., unilateral," said Maj. Gen. David G. Perkins, commander of United States forces in northern Iraq, in an interview this week. He stressed that everything was done in coordination with the Iraqi Army and the pesh merga, the security forces from the semiautonomous Kurdish area in the north.
Aswat al-Iraq notes that a struggle at Kirkuk's Technological Institute has left at least nine college students wounded. [. . .] Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports [. . .] on the Kirkuk struggle explains, "Dozens of Turkmen students had rallied at the institute to protest against corruption and bad management in Kirkuk. Some of the students, who carried flags and banners of the Turkmen party, chanted slogans that provoked Kurdish students, police said. Iraqi security forces entered the institute and brought the clashes to an end, according to Kirkuk police." Xinhua offers, "The clash occurred during a ceremony held by the Turkoman students to honor the Turkomans who were killed in the town of Elton Kubri, some 40 km north of Kirkuk City, during the Turkomans' uprising in 1991 against Saddam Hussein's regime, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity." Reuters quotes 19-year-old Turkmen Aydin Mohammed stating, "A few days ago Kurds were marking the events of Halabja, and we did nothing to stop them. Today we have a day for Turkmen martyrs, and they prevented us from observing it because they are racist."
Today Dar Addustour reports that Turkmen and Kurdish students at the cafeteria of the same Technical Institute to Kirkuk fought again today -- this time over a video the Turkmen were showing (music video) which included images of a KRG flag being burned.
Reuters notes Taha Hamad Jaafar (al-Masar TV) and Abid Farhan (who belonged to a political prisoner advocacy group) were shot dead in Mahmudiya and, dropping back to yesterday for both that follow, a tribal leader was shot dead in Kirkuk and a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 2 lives and left four more people injured. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) notes al-Massar TV's Taha "Hammed was also a senior official with the governing Islamic Dawa Party -- Iraq Organization" (that's Nouri's political party -- not his political slate, his politcal party). Aswat al-Iraq reports 1 woman was shot dead in front of her al-Kut home, a Baghdad roadside bombing injured one person, a Baghdad bombing wounded Lt Col Basel Muhammad Hassan, and a Nasseriya clash over the corpse of a child found in al-Hollandi River resulted in police firing randomly at the citizens and killing 1 young child in the process along with injured 2 adults. Al Rafidayn adds that Baghdad landmine claimed the life of a young girl in Baghadad and left her sister injured.
April 9, 2003, US forces were in Baghdad and occupying government buildings. Which is why the date will see protests in Iraq and around the world. In the US, protests on the 9th will include NYC and San Francisco will be the staging area for an April 10th protest. At David Swanon's War Is a Crime, Maureen Baillargeon Aumand contributes an essay on the action which includes:
On April 9th in NYC and 10th in San Francisco, human rights, civil rights, and workers rights leaders and advocates - religious and secular - Jewish, Muslim, Christian, humanist - are linking arms in solidarity and common commitment with antiwar activists to take to the streets in the face of what Dr. King once called an "unfolding conundrum".
A true tempest is rising from the triple threat which Dr. King outlined so eloquently decades past of materialism, racism and militarism.
To be sure there is a tsunami fast approaching which is threatening by its erosion of foundational principles and their hard won incarnation over two centuries of struggle and evolution to tear the very moorings out from under all that has made the "American experiment" such a bearer of hope and promise for the human planetary community as a whole.
Materialism - because greed and possession rule. What is good for business is god and what is good for business is the bottom line- period and this religion has been franchised : in education, in health care, in fiscal policy and budgets, in statehouses, in boardrooms, in elections, in Congressional chambers, in the White House, in foreign policy. Though rhetoric may say otherwise (and even that is shifting and shifting blatantly, frighteningly) honest men all know this to be so.
Materialism because the worship of capital at the expense of all else fosters systemic myopia, self-interest, isolation, fragmentation, class division; materialism because its maintenance requires spiritual blindness, mindless group think, loss of idealism, cynicism, a retreat to hedonism or vapid disinterest.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Bob II

I thought yesterday's post (Oh, Bob, get off the road) was going to be controversial but even die-hard Dylan fans e-mailed to say they agreed.

Especially upset is the family of Ai WaiWai. The Austrailan reports:

Dylan, who rose to fame during America's civil rights era with his protest songs, is performing only state-approved numbers in China, as Mr Ai's family struggles to find out where the artist is detained.

Human rights activists described Dylan's failure to show even token support as "shocking".

In an interview with The Times, Mr Ai's mother accused the Chinese authorities of concocting a case against her son and being determined to "eradicate" him.

That's the regime Bob Dylan took his marching orders from when he went up on stage. It was a very sad day for democracy and for music.

But especially for those who believed in legends. A lot of e-mails spoke about never having been as disappointed with Bob before that stunt.

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

Thursday, April 7, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, at least 5 US soldiers have died this month while serving in Iraq, the House Armed Services Committee wants to stop repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the US wants Iraq to provide an extension of the SOFA allowing US soldiers to stay on Iraqi soil past the end of the year, and more.
Sunday the US military announced 2 service members in Iraq had died and Monday they announced a third had died. The Defense Department identified two of the three on Tuesday. "Sgt. Jorge A. Scatliffe, 32, of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, died April 3 in a non-combat related incident at Mosul, Iraq. He was assigned to the 27th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas." "Capt. Wesley J. Hinkley, 36, of Carlisle, Pa., died April 4 in Baghdad, Iraq, as a result of a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 3rd Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, Fort Stewart, Ga." Yesterday they identifed the third fallen: "Spc. Gary L. Nelson III, 20, of Woodstock, Ga., died April 5 in Mosul, Iraq, of injuries sustained from a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Third Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga." Three deaths got attention. But there were actually at least 5 deaths this month according to DoD. Yesterday, they issued the following:

The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of two soldiers who were supporting Operation New Dawn. They died April 2 of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their position with indirect fire in Babil, Iraq.

Killed were:

Staff Sgt. Quadi S. Hudgins, 26, of New Orleans, La.

Sgt. Christian A. S. Garcia, 30, of Goodyear, Ariz.

They were assigned to the Maintenance Troop, Regimental Support Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Hood, Texas.

For more information media should contact the III Corps public affairs office, Fort Hood, Texas, at 254-287-0106 or 254-287-9993.

At least five US soldiers have died in Iraq since the start of the month. Staying with violence, Reuters notes a Basra bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier (eight more injured) and, yesterday, a Mosul roadside bombing wounded a police driver. It's 2011. And the puppet government in Baghdad still can't get its act together. Earlier this week, United Nations General-Secretary Ban Ki-moon delivered his latest report on Iraq. He explained the political scene as follows:
The new Government was formed on the basis of a power-sharing agreement, reached on 11 November 2010, between the main political blocs. Following the agreement, the Council of Representatives lifted de-Baathifciation charges against three key Iraqiya bloc leaders. One of the leaders, Saleh al-Mutlaq, was appointed as one of the three Deputy Prime Ministers. The other two Deputy Prime Ministers, Hussein Shahristani and Rowsch Shaways, were appointed from the National Alliance and the Kurdistan Alliance, respectively. Most ministerial posts were divided on the basis of the power-sharing agreement.
[. . .]
The formation of the proposed National Council for Strategic Policies, also agreed upon in the power-sharing agreement, has not taken place. Although a draft law for its establishment was presented in the Council of Representatives in late over its proposed competencies, composition and the mechanism for the election of its head. The leader of the Iraqiya bloc, Ayad Allawi, who was initially expected to assume a leadership role in the Council, stated in March 2011 that he would no longer seek a position on it.
If the link gives you trouble, click here -- UN Security Council, Secretary-General's remarks -- and grab S/2011/213 from the list.
Let's talk legal. If the Constitution had been followed -- as it should have been, Nouri wouldn't be prime minister currently. Setting aside the way he abused the office in 2010 during the long drawn out process in 2010, let's just note when he 'officially' became prime minister-designate November 25th. Ban Ki-Moon uses November 11th, we use November 10th. Whatever day you use, from the stalemate 'ending' to Nouri being named prime minister-designate is well over twelve days. Was that really the case? No. Nouri was named as prime minister that day. But Jalal Talabani felt his wants were more important than the Constitution, the supreme law in Iraq. Jalal felt that he could disgrace the Constitution as well as the office of Iraqi President and wait all those days to 'officially' name Nouri. Why? To give Nouri more time.
Per the Constitution, a prime minister-designate is named. The minute he or she is named, the clock starts ticking and the designate has to form a Cabinet and get it approved by the Parliament (each Cabinet minister has to be voted on by Parliament) within 30 days. If you cannot do it within 30 days, you are no longer prime minister designate and, per the Constitution, a new prime minister-designate is to be named. December 21st, rules were tossed aside as many agreed to pretend Nouri had a full Cabinet. Out of his own self-interest, there was US President Barack gushing "a significant moment in Iraq's history and a major step forward in advancing national unity." The gushing echoed an earlier pose by Barack. In August of last year, the Guardian's editorial board noted of the March 7, 2010 elections, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." Ban Ki-moon's office issued a statement which opened with, "The Secretary-General welcomes today's announcement of a new government in Baghdad, which has been approved by Iraq's Council of Representatives, and congratulates Mr. Nuri al-Maliki on his confirmation as Prime Minister." But not everyone was pretending Nouri had assembled a full Cabinet..
Shashank Bengali and Mohammed al-Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) pointed out the Cabinet is missing "the key ministries responsible for security and military affairs for now, because lawmakers haven't agreed on who should fill them. There's still no deal, either, on creating a yet-to-be named strategic council -- a U.S.-backed initiative aimed at curbing al-Maliki's powers -- which lawmarkers said could be weeks away." Liz Sly and Aaron Davis (Washington Post) explained, "Maliki appointed himself acting minister of interior, defense and national security and said the three powerful positions would be filled with permanent appointees once suitable candidates have been agreed on." Michael Jansen (Irish Times) noted, "Maliki's cabinet has 42 ministries but he could make firm appointments to only 29 posts because of factional bickering. Ten portifolios are temporary while Maliki retains the sensitive ministries of defence, interior and national security until agreement can be made on permanent candidates for these ministries. This means the jockeying for position and power continues while Iraqis suffer from insecurity, unemployment, lack of electricity, and inadequate services."
Pretending he had a full Cabinet allowed Nouri to move from prime minister-designate to prime minister. That was December. This is April. Nouri still doesn't have a full Cabinet, the security positions remain vacant. In his report, Ban Ki-moon noted, "The security situation in Iraq continues to affect the civilian population, who face ongoing acts of violence perpetrated by armed opposition groups and criminal gangs. In particular, armed groups continue to employ tactics that deliberately target crowded public areas and kill and maim civilians indiscriminately. While some attacks appear to be sectarian in nature, frequently targeting religious gatherings or residential areas, others seem random, aimed at creating fear and terror in the population at large and casting doubt over the ability of the Government and Iraqi security forces to stem the violence. Assassinations also persist across the country, targeting, inter alia, Government employees, tribal and community leaders, members of the judiciary and associated persons." With violence on the rise, it's amazing Nouri's felt no pressure to fill his Cabinet. Aswat al-Iraq reports that National Alliance MP Khalid al-Assady is stating, "Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is urged to cut down the current number in his cabinet, after a 100-day period he had defined to review their achieverments." al-Assady considers the Cabinet to be too large. The Cabinet is much larger than the one Nouri came up with in 2006. That's due to the fact that Nouri made a number of promises following the March 7, 2010 elections, in order to build support (his political slate came in second to Iraqiya), Nouri promised everyone everything. To keep even a portion of those promises, he had to create new jobs he could appoint people to.
Aswat al-Iraqi notes Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq's Ammar al-Hakim is stating the security cabinet posts need to be filled, "The political situation in Iraq is still suffering from slow developments and despite fact that over one year had passed on the parliamentary elections, the cabinet had not been completed especially the security ministers posts. [. . .] The candidates for the security cabinet posts must be selected from independent and efficient personalities, that don't have any links with any political party, thing that would facilitate the election of efficient technocrats, able to carry out that sensitive and serious mission."
Nouri's inability to fill a Cabinet should have prevented him from becoming prime minister for a second term; his continued inability should alarm. But Nouri promised that US forces could stay past 2011. As James Cogan (WSWS) observed last year of the White House, "The key objective of the Obama administration has been to ensure that the next Iraqi government will 'request' a long-term military parternship with the US when the current Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) expires at the end of 2011."
The SOFA was passed by the Iraqi Parliament Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 2008. From that day's snapshot:
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Yeah, it's a one-year agreement. Only 2009 cannot be changed or cancelled. Everything else that the White House says is set-in-stone is actually a conditional option that can be wiped away by either side. Today the White House finally released the agreement in English. We'll jump in at Article 30 The Period for which the Agreement is Effective:
1) This Agreement shall be effective for a period of three years, unless terminated sooner by either Party pursuant to paragraph 3 of this Article.
Get it? Paragraph three: "This Agreement shall terminate one year after a Party provides written notification to the other Party to that effect." Meaning only 2009 is set in stone. It is too late for either party (US or Iraq) to give one year's notice and cancel it in 2009. They can give notice to cancel in 2010 or 2011. The second clause is also worth noting because it weakens the strength of any agreement as well: "This Agreement shall be amended only with the official agrement of the Parties in writing and in accordance with the constitutional proceudures in effect in both countries." That's the aspect that allows for a change and all the 'flowery' respect for Constitutional procedures is hog wash. The Iraqi Parliament needed to have two-thirds of all members (not just members present) to pass the treaty today. They did not have that. According to their Constitution and their laws, that's what was needed. In the US, Congressional approval is needed over all treaties and we know that has not take place. We further know that Barack Obama -- alleged Constitutional scholar -- doesn't give a damn about the Constitution. He show boated and did his little pretty words number while campaigning but despite all his insisting that the treaty would have to come before the Congress -- including becoming one of thirteen co-sponsors on Hillary Clinton's Senate bill insisting upon that -- he shut his corporate mouth and put his tiny tail between his legs to slink off like the disgusting, cowering trash he is. He's not going to stand up for the Constitution 'later.' He couldn't stand up for it right now.
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Prior to the three-year SOFA, the US military presence on the ground in Iraq (post-invasion) was covered by a yearly UN mandate. Each year, Iraq would ask for a one-year extension. Each time the prime minister did, the mandate was extended. When Nouri became prime minister (spring 2006), he had to ask for an extension and did. The Parliament was outraged because they had not been consulted. Nouri promised he would never do that again -- leave them out of the procees -- but as 2007 was winding down, he did it again. Having twice asked for extensions, Nouri was facing considerable ire. The White House (Bush White House) agreement factored that in. Instead of a yearly request, it would last for three years. Otherwise, it was the UN mandate for all intents and purposes.
So many people wrongly stated the SOFA meant the end of the war. Many of those people were 'antiwar activists' who disappeared the second calling out the continued Iraq War meant calling out American's new president Barack Obama. Some were journalists. And the most annoying thing about the journalists is that reporting is very basic. "April 21st, I will have Chinese for lunch." That's not reporting. Especially not on April 7th. "April 21st, C.I. plans to have Chinese for lunch" is reporting. It was never -- not in 2008, not in 2009, not in 2010 . . . -- reporting to state, "US forces will all leave Iraq at the end of 2011."
That's not reporting. That's predicting. You can say the SOFA calls for it, but you cannot say "It will happen." Predictions are not reporting. Reading US newspapers over the last years has left the impression that editors don't give a damn about their jobs or the reporting anymore -- the few left -- and they are just praying to hit retirement before they're laid off. How else do you explain all the outlets that presented predictions as fact?
(There are other explanations -- including far less charitable ones where certain journalism outlets actively participated with the administration to tamp down on outrage over the Iraq War.)
When 'antiwar' 'leaders' tell the peace movement to 'go home' -- as Leslie Cagan infamously did in that awful Novembe 2008, right after the election, message posted on United for Peace and Justice's website, when the press tells you that all US troops leave Iraq at the end of 2011, you begin to focus on other things. That's really too bad because were Bush in office right now, you can be damn sure that the peace movement would be complaining that the Iraq War had passed the 8 year mark. A 2009 announcement by Bush that the war would end in 2011 would have been met with "OUT OF IRAQ NOW!" and much worse.
Electronic media passing "predictions" off as "reporting" were able to justify their own rush from Iraq (to Afghanistan because, as many outlets insisted, that's where Barack's focus is) at the end of 2008 and start of 2009. Have we ever before, in the TV age, had a network (ABC) announce (with pride -- believe it or not) that they'd carry BBC reports from Iraq to justify the fact that they were out even though over 100,000 US service members (at that point) were still in Iraq? No, that has never been seen before. Thanksgiving night, 2008, I wrote the following regarding this site continuing:
What I would really like -- if I didn't have to write the entries between now and then -- would be to here December 31, 2011 so we could review every LIAR in the press who has made a point to schill for the administration. It would be wonderful to be here then and to say, "Are troops out? B-b-b-but, the press said . . ."

With that background out of the way, Jennifer Epstein (POLITICO) reports today, "Some U.S. troops may stay in Iraq past their planned pullout at the end of the year if the Iraqi government wants them, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday in Baghdad, as he also detailed what a government shutdown might mean for members of the armed forces." Robert Burns (AP) quotes Gates stating, "So if folks here are going to want us to have a presence, we're going to need to get on with it pretty quickly in terms of our planning. I think there is interest in having a continuing presence. The politics are such that we'll just have to wait and see because the initiative ultimately has to come from the Iraqis." Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times) observes, "Mr. Gates and the American military commanders have made no secret of their view that some of the 47,000 American troops in Iraq should remain after 2011 as a stability force, particularly as tensions have flared between Arabs and Kurds in the north. But Mr. Gates said that the Iraqi government must first request that the American troops stay. That has not happened yet, much to the growing impatience of American commanders who say they need to know now in order to plan into 2012." Kevin Baron (Stars and Stripes) notes that "military commanders" and "officials" are making their voice clear to Gates that they believe the US military should continue in Iraq past 2011: "Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of U.S. Forces-Iraq, said Iraq cannot defend its skies and will lose radar and intelligence capabilities when Americans leave. And the Iraqi's continue to purchase tanks, howitzers and other equipment that they'll have to learn to use without U.S. assistance. In an earlier meeting with Gates and Austin, U.S. Ambassador Jim Jeffrey said the U.S. military is the glue holding Iraq together through a rocky period." For audio, click here to hear Rachel Martin's All Things Considered (NPR) report and Missy Ryan has a strong text report for Reuters.
From day one, we covered what the SOFA said and what it didn't say. A few reporters at US outlets did that as well. And one of them, a friend, couldn't stand the hatred that was hurled for telling the truth (hurled in e-mails and nasty phone messages). Most who told the truth at the start walked away. I understand that and, having experienced hatred in e-mails and in public speaking for tellilng the truth about the SOFA, I don't blame them. But we never lied here and we never whored over it. It was hilarious to watch people with no legal background at all insist on what the SOFA meant (or to watch a foreign born, recent citizen, insist it would be good for Congress to drop their objections and embrace it -- Congress should have opposed it because it is a treaty and it was made in violation of the US Constitution). The SOFA covered three years. That's all it did. After the three years, it could be the end of it. Could be. "Could be" got presented as "fact" and the SOFA suddenly became a treaty to end the war -- which is different in terms of writing and different in terms of the law. It could be extended (a point none of our peace 'leaders' wanted to admit). Or it could be replaced with something new. Those remain the options. What's going to happen? I have no idea. I can't predict the future. But the US is pushing for an extension. And if my analysis of the SOFA were wrong, they wouldn't be able to do that, now would they? (Barack also has the backup plan of keeping 20,000 or so US soldiers in Iraq but switching them from DoD to the State Dept.) Now would be a good time for those who care about Iraq to reflect on who lied to them about the SOFA and to start demanding accountability. It's a long, long list. And as noted before, should the US miltiary remain on the ground in Iraq after December 31, 2011 and if The Common Ills is still around, we'll probably list a large number of those people who need to take accountability. We'll have to help them with that since they have refused to step forward and take accountability on their own.
The US House Armed Services' Committee met today on Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the only word for it was "spectacle." Network television may have abandoned the mini-series, but not Congress. And this latest installment stretched across more hours than The Winds of War, starting at 10:30 this morning and still going strong at 3:00 this afternoon. It was not, however, a continuous hearing. It was stops and starts to allow Committee members to repeatedly rush to the floor to vote. Committee Chair Buck McKeon declared in his opening remarks, "Today the Committee will receive a status report on the process for repealing the law and changing the policies governing the service of openly gay and lesbian service members. This past fall, I was troubled by the process employed to set the stage for repeal of the law known as Don't Ask, Don't Tell." And the Republicans on the Committee (McKeon is one, Republicans control the majority of seats in the House of Representatives) staked out a position that can be boiled down as: The repeal is wrong, the repeal is risky and the way it made it through the Congress wasn't the correct way.
Were the statements opposing the repeal made just to please certain voting groups? Possibly. This is, after all, Congress. But even if that is the case, Democrats -- if they support repeal -- need to be prepared because there is a portion of the society that disapproves and Republicans -- whether they mean it or not, whether they intend to follow through with actions or not -- are making statements that are much stronger than what you heard in 2010. Republicans weren't silent in their objections then. Senator John McCain was downright offensive in his remarks opposing the repeal and he got very nasty, in a public session, with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. But this is a more outraged (while at the same time, more polished) objection being raised.
Can they stop the repeal? Until something's repealed, it can always be stopped. Today's hearing was a continuation of a hearing held by a House Armed Services Subcommittee held last Friday (and covered in Tuesday's snapshot). Gen George Casey was not present but the Chair cited him repeatedly and he was upheld as someone who agreed with Republicans. (This, PDF format warning, written response to their questions does not show the side-by-side agreement that was claimed in the hearing.) Appearing before the committee were the Vice Chief of Staff for the US Army, Gen Peter Chiarelli, the Navy's Chief of Naval Operations, Adm Gary Roughead, the Marine Corps Commandant, Gen James Amos, and the Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen Norton Schwartz.
Ranking Member Adam Smith opening statement included this, "Driving able-bodied people out of the military who are serving and serving us well at a time when we are at war does not make us safer and does not give us a better military." That's a point Democrats will need to make (among many) -- scratch that, need to make now. They don't need to allow the Republicans to gain support -- even minor support -- for stopping repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Other Democrats made strong statements as well. If we had more space, we would be noting Chellie Pingree of Maine, for example. Loretta Sanchez made strong statements of support but we'll instead emphasize her line of questioning.
US House Rep Loretta Sanchez: My question today, gentlemen, is about those gay and lesbian members, service members, who were discharged because they were gay under the Don't Ask, Don't Tell -- during the time of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Now it's my understanding that those service members, if they didn't have anything else on their record, if there was no other problem or judicial issue or anything that they would be discharged with a honorable discharge. Is that correct? [Nodding from the panel.] Okay. And in the normal -- that now the policy will be that in the normal process that those who were discharged under Don't Ask, Don't Tell can come back and ask to be put back into military service. Is that correct?
Gen Norton Schwartz: Ma'am, the -- Those members, those former membes can apply to re-enlist and will be considered for re-enlistment based on the needs of the services and our normal entry processes.
US House Rep Loretta Sanchez: Okay. Will they have to start all over or will they get to re-enter with -- given credit for the service that they have held if the only reason that they were put out was because it was known that they were being gay?
Gen Norton Schwartz: There's -- It is an individual case consideration but there is no guarantee for returning at the same grade necessarily. Again, it depends on the needs of the service.
US House Rep Loretta Sanchez: But if that position were open, is there a process or are you working on the process in which a person says, "I've been out for two years, but I'm still fit. I want to go back. I had a career. I'd like to go back to where I was and I see that there are openings there"?
Gen Norton Schwartz: Once again, if that scenario unfolded it would probably be accommodated.
US House Rep Loretta Sanchez: What are the guidelines if someone feels that if they've gone back to the recruiter or they've gone back to try and re-enlist and they have push-back? What is the -- What are the policies in place or what are you working through to ensure that they get a fair shake to try to get back their old career, if you will?
Gen Norton Schwartz: There are opportunites for appeal -- both to the Inspector General of the recruiting service, in our case, as well as the Air Force Board of Corrections for Military Records. And in those two mechanisms former members can appeal the designation that they have received.
US House Rep Loretta Sanchez: Okay. And, uhm, lastly what are the reporting -- If you get harassed by someone of the same sex who happens to be gay, is it the same process as you would in any normal -- I know I heard it from the other side, but I just -- and what happens if the perpetrator is in the chain of command? Is the supervisor? Is it the same rules as what we see, for example, under sexual assault or sexual harassment in the normal context that we've been working with.
Gen Norton Schwartz: Zero tolerance.
US House Rep: Loretta Sanchez: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, those were my questions. Thank you, gentlemen.
Along with Susan Davis, Loretta Sanchez probably had the strongest line of questioning. The Republicans objecting had questions as well. And how to interpret their fearful, fretful questions?
Let's be flippant. Let's note that maybe the reason teenage pregnancies are allegedly higher in teens from conservative families is because Republicans never learned how to say "no" to unwanted sex. The men and women on the Republican side of the Committee were so afraid and so fearful that sex was going to happen that you had to wonder if they were never instructed on how to say "no" or that they had a right to say "no"? But as they worried about what might happen in the showers and sleeping arrangements and all the rest, you were left with the impression that they are an easy score and it doesn't even take a drink to get with those sure things.
That's men and women on the Republican side of the Committee and we now provide one of the biggest worriers on the Republican side.
US House Rep Vicky Hartzler: First, I would just like to ask, I'm very concerned with what I'm hearing today. We're going to expose our troops to moderate risks. And, uh, General Casey said it's another level of stress. It's more complicated. I just want to know, I guess, from each of you, when have you suggested a change in policy before that would put our men and women at moderate risk? So. Start with you.
Gen Peter Chiarelli: Well I belive General Casey indicated that he felt that the report characterized it at less risk than he felt given the fact that we are an army that's been fighting for ten years in both Iraq and Afghanistan and he rated it as moderate risk. However, we have not completed enough of our training for him at this time to say it's not still moderate risk but at the same time we put together a very, very good, good training package that emphasizes our role as professional soldiers that we believe is going to mitigate that risk and drive it down.
US House Rep Vicky Hartzler: Have you been involved in recommending a policy where there was a moderate risk before? That was the question. Have you done that yet? In some time in your career? You have? General, go ahead.
Gen Norton Schwartz: Ma'am, I would say yes and I would say it's going to war that places the force at at least moderate risk.
US House Rep Vicky Hartzler: General Amos?
Gen James Amos: Yes, ma'am. When you put someone's life at risk in an operation, it's often times heavy risk. High risk.
US House Rep Vicky Hartzler: Sure. Sure.
Adm Gary Roughead: And ma'am, what we do is inherently dangerous. Whether it's flying from the deck of an air craft carrier, running a nuclear submarine at 800 feet under the sea, it's inherently dangerous. And we know how to manage the risk. That said, for the process we're going through, I'm very comfortable with where we are.
US House Rep Vicky Hartzler: Okay. Well I-I think there's a difference though. I mean war is risk. Obviously. But this is a change in policy that's going to add a moderate risk onto the already inherent risk of war. We're at war at two levels -- and maybe three if you call Libya -- We have men and women in harm's way. We're at war as a country and yet we are talking about one of the most monumental changes of policy that this country has ever faced in its military forces. And I just want to speak from my heart to each one of you. I have the utmost respect for you. And I appreciate what you are doing to lead our forces and to keep our country safe. And there's no higher respect that I have for you. But I want to challenge you that you are the last force to be able to stop this onerous policy. And I have to believe, from my heart, in your gut, you know this is not the right thing. I appreciate that you follow command, you follow the Constitution and you are fulfilling what you are charged to do but there's an opportunity to not certify this. And it's fallen upon you at this time in history to be able to give the final say to the -- to the Secretary of Defense and to Adm [Mike] Mullen whether you, in your right mind and your heart of hearts and your professional career, you believe this is going to help improve our forces from this time on out and help us win wars. And I would ask you to consider this and to stand strong like you have stand strong against other forces outside -- foreign and domestic -- that have come upon our country and that you would not certify this. And with that, I'm going to get into some specific questions. But that's an appeal. I hope you will think about in the privacy of your own home, your own heart, before you do this.
Yeah, the Republicans on the Committee are serious about stopping the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Those who support it better start making their arguments now to derail the efforts to torpedo the repeal. Reminder: If you served in the US military and you were stop-lossed, you are owed additional money. That money needs to be claimed. DoD announces the date to file for that additional payment has been extended:

The deadline for eligible service members, veterans and their beneficiaries to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP) has been extended to April 8, 2011, allowing personnel more time to apply for the benefits they've earned under the program guidelines.
The deadline extension is included in the continuing resolution signed by President Obama Friday, providing funding for federal government operations through April 8, 2011.
Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay was established to compensate for the hardships military members encountered when their service was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss Authority between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009. Eligible members or their beneficiaries may submit a claim to their respective military service in order to receive the benefit of $500 for each full or partial month served in a Stop Loss status.
When RSLSP began on Oct. 21, 2009, the services estimated 145,000 service members, veterans and beneficiaries were eligible for this benefit. Because the majority of those eligible had separated from the military, the services have engaged in extensive and persistent outreach efforts to reach them and remind them to apply. Outreach efforts including direct mail, engaging military and veteran service organizations, social networks and media outlets, will continue through April 8, 2011.
To apply for more information, or to gather more information on RSLSP, including submission requirements and service-specific links, go to