Friday, October 07, 2011

Not while the game's in play

See if you can see the problem in the following:

By a 51-48 vote, the Senate voted along party lines to change the precedent and limit how amendments can be considered once a filibuster is defeated. Under normal procedure, the Senate has 30 hours of debate after 60 senators agree to end a filibuster. Amendments can be considered during those 30 hours if each side agrees by unanimous consent to schedule a vote — or if a senator moves to waive the rules, which would then require the support of 67 senators in order to succeed.

But under the new procedure, senators can no longer move to waive the rules once a filibuster is defeated — a battle that threatens to further inflame partisan tensions and stymie legislative action at a time when frustration with Congress is at an all-time high.

That's from POLITICO and it's a big mistake. Now when the Republicans have control in the Senate (or maybe they'll do it in the House right now), they'll just change the rules willy nilly and when Dems complain, Repubes can say: "YOU DID IT!" Because they did.

That's why I never supported David Swanson and his stupid and wimpy, "End the filibuster." It's like, "Jack off, know your f**king history already." These are tools both sides have used.

The older I get, the more I see what my grandmother used to say is true, the pendulum swings one way and then back the other.

Your party's in power today, it's out tomorrow.

So you have to know how to use the moments you get when you are in control.

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

Friday, October 7, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, protests and teach-ins take place in the US, the New York Times picks up an acoustic guitar and decides to try a confessional song, Iraq has serious water problems, Political Stalemate II continues, and more.
What is life?
Did you read about it
In a magazine?
Silent lies
Never give you what you need
Is there hope
For a mother
And an elf on speed?
-- "To A Child," written by Laura Nyro, first appears on her Mother's Spiritual
Carlos Granda (KABC -- link has text and video) reports, "About 150 people gathered and prayed at La Placita Catholic Church, and then went on a march through downtown Los Angeles. The group, called the Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace, is calling for the withdrawal of all troops and private contractors from both Iraq and Afghanistan. Th group is also asking for an end to drone attacks and to redirect all funding for wars to jobs, education, health care and housing." AP notes 14 were arrested "for blocking taffic." That was the plan as explained last week on KPFK's The Lawyer's Guild with Jim Lafferty (7:00 p.m. PST every Thursday; 52 days left in the KPFK archives), Jim spoke with Shakeel Syad about an upcoming action:
Jim Lafferty: And now we're going to turn our attention to activists around the question of the war. We're coming up now to the 10th anniversary of course of the war in Afghanistan and there's a war in Iraq and a war in Pakistan and what have you. And there's a wonderful group in town, the Interfaith Clergy United for Justice and Peace. They've been active in the anti-war movement and social justice movement for some time now. And they are going to hold an action on the 10th anniversary of the war, that's next Friday October 7th, which will include both peaceful and legal protest and a parade and speeches and what have you. But they're also putting into it a feature of civil disobedience and joining us on the air to explain all that my guest is Shakeel Syed. He is the executive director of the Shura Council Mosques of Southern California, that's simply a coalition of the mosques here in southern California. Mr. Syed is one of this nation's really, really great true religious leaders and activists for for peace and social justice and especially I think for religious tolerance. Shakeel Syed, welcome back to the Lawyers Guild Show.
Shakeel Syed: Thanks for inviting me, Jim.
Jim Lafferty: As always. No, no, it's my pleasure. So next Friday, you and as many as a dozen of other members of Clergy United for Justice and Peace and some others who may not be clergy members but are part of that religious community are prepared to get arrested in protest of the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why?
Shakeel Syed: Gosh, I think this is an imperative for people of conscience to remind ourselves and our fellow citizens that for ten consecutive years we have been killing innocent people and getting our young men and women killed while destroying our treasure, whatever little is left, and having people like Rose [Gudiel whose story was covered in the first segment of the show] get evicted and so it is time that people should rise up. We are only 24 or 25 people who will be doing this civil disobedience on October 7th in downtown LA but I hope and pray that there would be a mass uprising throughout the country in fact to remind the country, remind the nation, remind our political leaders that we are not going to forget the misadventures of our state.
LAist notes, "The protest, which incorporated religious leaders from many faiths, was scheduled to go from 9 a.m. until noon. Participants planned to engage in civil disobedience as they march from La Placita Church at 535 N. Main St to the downtown Federal Building, where a blessing was planned." Corey Moore and Larry Mantle (KPCC) report, "Protesters spoke from the platform of a truck where labor leaders, Occupy L.A. demonstrators and others denounced the war. They said money should be going to jobs and schools, not bombs."
In Baghdad today, protests took place. The Great Iraqi Revolution notes that chants included, "America Out, Baghdad will always be Free." Aswat al-Iraq notes the activists were "demanding an end to corruption, unemployment and provision of services." Click here and here for video of the protest in Baghdad.
In other news, Al Rafidayn reports concern building over the fact that, as the headline notes, Baghdad is on top of a giant basin of oil but little water and the paper notes efforts are underway to address the potential scarcity of water in the future. Water is an issue in Iraq for many reasons including the lack of potable water (water that is safe to drink) in much of Iraq and also the water issues they have with Turkey (predominately issues of dams preventing the flow of waterways) and Iran (salt polluting the water ways). With so few aquifiers in that region (and Saudi Arabia sitting on several), the government of Iraq must be very worried about what happens in the future, especially if the world moves away from oil as the primary energy source and/or the price of oil drops. New Sabah notes concern in the Ministry of Energy over the decline in the price of oil currently ($90 a barrel in the article; $83 per barrel currently according to AP) and that there might be an emergeny meeting of OPEC to address crude production. This as Baser News reports that the Ministry of Health states that as much as 50% of the water in Baghdad is polluted. And it's not just water in Baghdad that has pollutants. At the end of 2007, Luke Mitchell reported for Harper's magazine from Iraq:
This was in a particularly empty patch of desert beyond even the lonely cinder-block houses and the rock-throwing kids. We had sped past dry concrete canals and abandoned oil drums and rocket-charred tanks, past mile upon mile of flat dirt and rust, and then we found ourselves drving between a series of mirror-black ponds. These pools crept along both sides of the highway, and through the scratchy ballistic glass of our SUV it was hard to tell at first if the liquid within was oil or water. There were no ripples, though -- the pools were thick -- and the hot asphalt smell was strong enough that it had become a taste. Same said the oil came from leaky pipes, that there is no EPA watching over Rumaila. "You have to gve the devil his due here," he said, meaning Iraq. "On a good day, they export 60,000 to 70,000 barrels an hour. If 500 barrels of crude spill on the ground here, what is that? Not more than a half minute of export."
[. . .]
Sam said the groundwater in Rumaila is so salty and alkaline that if you put it in your mouth you would gag and probably throw up.
The water issues are issues a real leader would address and do so quickly. Meanwhile, Iraq's had Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister for five years and no progress on that or any other issue.
Despite his do nothing approach in his first term from 2006 to 2010, Nouri didn't want to give up the post as prime minister. And even though his political slate came in second in the elections, he refused to surrender the post thereby creating Political Stalemate I which lasted over eight months. Al Mada reports that Ayad Allawi, leader of Iraqiya which came in first in the March 2010 elections, announced yesterday that he was no longer going to seek to head the security council. The security council? Never created. The Erbil Agreement, which allowed Nouri al-Maliki to remain as prime minister, was supposed to, among other things, create an independent security council and Allawi was supposed to head it. After Nouri got what he wanted out of the agreement, he went back on his word and trashed the agreement. The Kurds and Iraqiya and the National Alliance have been calling for a return to the Erbil Agreement.

In his statements yesterday, Allawi decried the policies of the government currently and noted the "rampant corruption" taking place. He said there is no partnership nationally and noted the failure to implement the Erbil Agreement. As mixed up and messed up as he sees the national scene currently, he also stated that Iraq's relations with other countries and within the region was being harmed by the current approach of the current government (Nouri).
As Sheikh (Dar Addustour) notes of the Tuesday meet up at President Jalal Talabani's home, that Iraqis were expecting the governmental issues to be discussed but instead the meeting became solely about US troops remaining in Iraq (which they agreed to). He writes of failed opportunities and of a pattern of sewing dissatisfaction and mistrust. Al Sabaah notes that to address the immunity that the political blocs were not willing to grant in that meeting, the notion of an umbrella of immunity under some agreement between Iraq and NATO could take place. But MP Shaun Mohamed Taha tells the paper that the best thing to do would be for Iraq and the US to reach an agreement and save any NATO agreement for a last resort. Al Mannarah, Iraq's independent newspapers, speaks with sources who state that Nouri had already promised the US White House that US troops would remain in Iraq before the Tuesday meet-up at Jalal's house (and Nouri had already promised it, they are right) and that if the blocs had rejected the US military presence beyond 2011, he had promised to sign a memorandum of understanding with the US which would allow US soldiers (billed as "trainers") to remain in Iraq. It's said that Nouri and the US are tossing around the number 5,000 (number of US service members to remain in Iraq) and this in addition to any under the State Dept's banner who might be needed to guard the embassy. Al Sabaah is reporting that the Parliament's Security and Defense Commission has reached a decision about those non-"trainers" (US soldiers) and when they should leave. Committee Chair Hassan Sinead issued a statement saying they should leave by November 11th. Per the Status Of Forces Agreement, they should have until December 31, 2011. Sinead is also insisting that, if soldiers are staying, a deal be made quickly. His announcement may be, in part, an effort to move the process along. (A bluff to move the process along.)
Viola Gienger (Bloomberg News) reports, "Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Iraqi leaders must give the U.S. certain legal protections for its forces in Iraq under any agreement to leave some troops behind after this year." Chris Carroll (Stars and Stripes) reports speaks with national security expert Anthony Cordesman about the issue of immunity and, "Cordesman said the United States and Iraq might not ink a Status of Forces Agreement that explicitly gives troops immunity like the 2008 document now in effect, but there would at least be some agreement to effectively shield U.S. troops, while providing political cover for Iraqi leaders."
Super summer sugar croppin'
In the mornin'
Do you shoppin' baby
Love my lovething
Super ride inside my lovething
You may leave the fair
But you'll be back I swear
Would you love to love me baby?
I would love to love you baby now
Would you love to love me baby?
I would love to love you baby now
I keep hearin' mother cryin'
I keep hearin' daddy through his grave
"Little girl, of all the daughters
You were born a woman
Not a slave"
Oh I hate my winsome lover
Tell him I've had others
At my breast
And only now am I a virgin
I confess
-- "The Confession," written by Laura Nyro, first appears on her Eli & The Thirteenth Confession
And this June, Mr. Obama spoke by telephone with the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, and indicated he was willing to leave nearly 10,000 troops, according to a Western diplomat and an Iraqi official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions had been private.
'It's the miltiary, acting all on their own, those mean generals!, and maybe Leon Panetta too, that keep pushing to prolong the US military presence in Iraq. It's not Barack. He needs to speak up so that these generals know he's not for this.' You've heard that delusion on programs like Flashpoints Radio (from guests, Dennis Bernstein's not crazy enough to spout that himself) and Democracy Now! and read it at places like The Nation and ZNet. It's apparently the first song in the hymnal of the Cult of St. Barack -- has to be the first one, it's sung so often. (I believe the title is "He's Not Responsible" and it comes right before "It's All Bush's Fault" and "He's Only Been President For ____.") It was never true.
There was not a rogue State Dept or rogue branch of the military working behind Barack's back. This is what he's always wanted. But the press likes to give Barack cover and he has to reach a 55% disapproval rating for the press to decide to provide a little truth (a little well known truth).
It's Barack's war and it's been his war for some time now. Since he rebranded it "Operation New Dawn" just over a year ago, 60 US service members have died, 36 of those in combat (this despite his claim that "combat operations" had ended).
Arango and Schmidt speak to a few Iraqis. We'll ignore the college student -- normally, we'd grab him for the quote -- because the paper's never been at a loss to quote Iraqis in favor of the US is staying in their country. Instead we'll note Hamid al-Mutlaq ("a lawmaker"), "The Iraqi people won't forget what they were subjected to, such as killing, hunger and displacement. The atrocities of Abu Ghraib prison remain in their memory."
On the second hour of today's Diane Rehm Show (NPR), a guest called in about the occupation of the MidEast and the animosity it breeds.
Yochi Dreazen: You know, he mentioned Iraq. I was just there for about a month and came back recently so I'm still mildly incoherent from jet lag. The disconnect between the debate here about troops and the debate there was staggering to me. Here the question was always framed as how many troops will Obama leave? Republicans said too few, Democrats said too many. But the basic idea was that it was his choice, that the US could sort of choose how many to leave. We are, as Nadia [] said, more hated there than -- I was the bureau chief there for three years, I spent about five years there -- more hated now than ever before.
[Guest host] Laura Knoy: Really? In Iraq?

Yochi Dreazen: In Iraq. They want us out. There's not a single political party -- [not] the Kurds, none, no matter how pro-American. I spent some time with Ayad Allawi the former prime minister. He was on the CIA payroll. He's as close to America as you can find in Iraq. And he refused to say that he thinks troops should stay and hinted strongly that they want them gone. Some of that is politics. It's an easier thing to say if you're a political leader that you want them out. But we are hated in Iraq and there is no constituency saying we should stay, which is -- my gut is that I don't think there'll be a troop extension. If it is it's going to be tiny. It's not going to be 3,000, it's not going to be 2,000. It'll be 1,000 or 1500 because we are so deeply, deeply unpopular.

As Political Stalemate II continues, so does the violence. Aswat al-Iraq reports a Baghdad bombing has claimed 5 lives and left twenty injured, a Mosul bombing claimed the life of 1 woman and left another person injured, and a police officer was shot dead in Baghad. Reuters notes a second police officer was shot dead in Baghdad, 1 civilian was shot dead in his Baghdad house, and, dropping back to Thursday for the remainder, the Iraqi military shot dead a suspect in Mosul and a Baghdad roadside bombing left "six boys" injured.
I got fury in my soul
Fury's gonna take me
To the glory goal
In my mind I can't study war no more
Save the people
Save the children
Save the country
-- "Save The Country," written by Laura Nyro, first appears on her New York Tendaberry
"Old men send young people to die in their wars," explained Phyllis Bennis this evening. "The old men who send them don't die very often" in these wars. She was taking part in the action at St. Margaret's Episcopal Church where Iraq Veterans Against the War's executive director Jose Vasquez welcomed those assembled to War Voices. Safia Elhillo kicked things off with a poem entitled "How To Love In War Time" which includes the advice to "clutch your firstborn in your lap" because "all you have lost" is behind you. Phyllis Bennis gave some opening remarks and kicked off the voices with Suraia Sahar who explained, among other things, how Afghans for Peace ended up with that name (Sahar is an Afghan whose family moved to Canada). Other voices included Afghanistan War veteran Brock McIntosh and Military Families Speak Out's Pat Alviso who noted with four deployments already (a fifth to begin in January), her son has lost friends, seen a marriage end and that these and other tolls aren't noted by the recruiters who show up in a lousy economy promising jobs, money and adventure.
In addition, DC (like many cities) has seen Occupy Wall Street actions. Not to be confused with the action we weren't interesed in ( which Iraq War veteran Adam Kokesh noted was "now rebranded to capture the momentum of the #OWS."
adamkokesh Kevin Zeese, organizer of says he is unwilling to put aside calls for universal...
Good for Adam (who doesn't need applause to tell the straight truth but does deserve recognition for always stepping up to the plate and doing so). It wasn't interested in war. It didn't care about the Iraq War or even name it. It was a toss-out-everything and hope something sticks. Kevin Zeese is part of Come Home America (no link) and needs to get his act together because he looks like a hypocrite being the public face of that group which is supposed to build bridges across the political spectrum, linking all opposed to the current wars, and yet can't make room for the right in a protest? The reality is that in the next 2 years, the wars could be ended (in less than the next 2) but universal health care is something that will require a lot more ground work and probably many more years. So it look like a fetish prevented a message of strong opposition to war from being sent. (A "fetish" refers to a refusal to be realistic. It's not a dig at single-payer, universal health care which I do support.)
In Canada, Iraq War veteran and war resister Rodney Watson continues to hope for asylum. Yolande Cole (Georgia Straight -- link has text and video) reports it's a little over two years since the US war resister, on the verge of being deported (September 2009), sought refuge at First United Church in Vancouver with his wife and son. He states, "I've been through a lot in my life, and this has been one of the hardest things I've been through, being stuck in these walls. The hardest thing about being stuck here is waving to my wife and son . . . every time they got to the store, or to family dinners, outings, to the park . . . the hardest part for me is saying good-bye." First United Church notes:
The 34th General Council of The United Church of Canada (1992) endorsed "the moral right and responsibilities of congregations to provide sanctuary to legitimate refugee claimants who have been denied refugee status."
Sanctuary should only be considered as a way to right a wrong or to uphold justice. As a public and prophetic witness of the church, it is to be considered only after all legal, administrative, and political appeals for justice have been tried. From this perspective, sanctuary is "moral obedience" and displays ultimate respect for the law and the justice it demands of it.
Rodney Watson, 31, after losing his job and being desperate for income, signed up as a cook for the U.S. army in Kansas City. He was subsequently sent to Iraq for 12 months. He found himself not working as a cook but as an armed soldier securing the kitchen and mess area. After his tour of duty ended in 2006 and a few months before his 3-year contract would end, the US army informed him he would be sent back to Iraq where his contract would unilaterally be extended.
He fled to Vancouver, deeply convicted that his conscience would not permit him to continue to participate in a war that he believed was neither justified nor being conducted in ways he was willing to be a part of. He sought refuge in Canada but Rodney was ordered to leave Canada by Friday September 11 2009, or face deportation. Rodney asked for Sanctuary at First United and came into this building on the evening of Friday September 18th, 2009.
In providing sanctuary for Rodney Watson, the Board of First United Church took the following into consideration:
1. Respect and support for the Law of the Land
The Church has consistently respected and supported the democratically established Law and processes of Justice. However, the Christian Church has also at times embraced actions that challenge and/or obstruct the Law when a law or its implementation is deemed unjust.
In Rodney's case, with reference to his application for refugee status:
A) The Law allows for a process that includes opportunity for a review on humanitarian and compassionate grounds to be held after a deportation order has been issued -- and it also allows for the deportation to be delayed until that hearing is held, but….
(i) Holding the Hearing after Rodney has been deported makes the process moot, since he will receive a prison sentence of at least a year and will have a criminal record that prevents re-entry into Canada
(ii) No indication has been given of a willingness to hold such a Hearing before deporting Rodney
(iii) The Hearing has been seriously prejudiced by the Minister of Immigration's public statement that "Iraq war resisters are bogus refugee claimants"
B) The legal process has denied Rodney refugee status despite the fact that the democratically elected Parliament of Canada has voted in 2008 and in March 2009 to allow Iraq war resisters to be given refuge in Canada, with the result that…
(i) The intent of the Law (which, as reflected in the Parliamentary majority votes and in Canada's history of providing refuge to Vietnam war resisters and others is clearly to offer refuge to war resisters) has been ignored or contradicted
The Board of First United considers the implementation and process of the Law as not being just -- and believes it would be an injustice for him to be deported at this point. Justice requires that Rodney be given a fair hearing on Compassionate and Humanitarian grounds before being deported -- and that the Hearing take into account the intent of the Law and the decisions of a democratically elected Parliament
2. Conscientious Objectors and Just Wars
The Church has over the ages been willing to accept the need for war as a last resort, carefully applying the Just War doctrine and criteria. When a war has been deemed not to meet the criteria of a Just War, the Church has opposed that war and refused to collaborate in its execution. Equally the Church has upheld (indeed often encouraged) Conscientious Objection by those who choose on the basis of conscience not to participate in a war (or to terminate their involvement in one.
In this context:
A) The war in Iraq is considered by many to be an illegitimate war.
(i) The grounds and justifications given for declaring that war have been proved to be invalid.
(ii) Canada itself chose not to participate in that war because the justification was suspect from the start.
B) The Church calls on secular society to join it in respecting the right to conscientious objection and Rodney is objecting to being sent back to a war in which he does not believe and cannot in conscience support (In this case a war that most Canadians do not support).
C) Secular society holds individuals personally accountable for their decisions and actions in the context of war. We cannot hold people accountable if we do not give them the opportunity to choose not to participate. Denying Rodney the right to refuse to participate by seeking refuge in Canada, contradicts this basic principle.
Justice requires that Rodney be given the opportunity to make the choice of not participating in a war that in conscience he cannot support -- by being allowed as per the will of Parliament to be given refuge in Canada.
3. Basic justice and solidarity with those treated unjustly.
The Church has consistently stood in solidarity with those who are being treated unjustly. It has also traditionally had strong theological bases for defending the rights of workers/employees in the context of workplace/employment imbalances of power.
In Rodney's case:
A) There is a basic injustice in a unilateral extension of a contract (even when written into the small print of the document that has been signed by both parties. ). Rodney was not in breach of his 3-year contract in any way, when it was unilaterally extended 3 months before it was due to end. The unilateral extension of a contract is an unfair labour practice and an abuse of power.
B) The consequence of deporting Rodney is that an 8-month old child will be deprived of any contact with his father for at least a year -- and possibly longer.
Justice requires that Rodney not be forced to continue being employed against his wishes despite having met his mutually agreed contractual obligations -- and equally that he not be imprisoned for being unwilling to meet unilaterally imposed requirements.
For the reasons outlined above and based on the theological principles and policies outlined in the attached documents, the Board of First United Church is providing refuge and Sanctuary for Rodney Watson.
Community note, Wednesday, Cedric's "Who sat Wonkette at the grown ups' table?" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! THEY LOWER US ALL!" (joint-post) took on the what-does-killing-American-citizens-mean-for-Barack's-re-election-campaign (as opposed to dealing with the serious issue on serious terms). And the other posts that night were theme posts, everyone weighing in on cereal: Betty's "Super Sugar Crisps," Trina's "Frosted Mini Wheats," Ann's "4 men, 1 woman" (she covers cereal but she also tracks the numbers for the guests on The Diane Rehm Show), Rebecca's "oatmeal," Ruth's "Bagels, lox, Matzo Brei," Kat's "Corn flakes," Marcia's "Cap 'n Crunch with Crunch Berries," Stan's "Great Grains," Elaine's "Fruit Loops" and Mike's "Lucky Charms."

At Black Agenda Report, Bruce A. Dixon asks a very important question regarding the Libyan War. Please check that out. We'd quote from it but four mornings this week, I've been trying to work something in and instead we'll just close with it here. David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. This is from his "Does Signing a Petition Give Parents a Voice?" (Rethinking Schools):

The first parent trigger law was passed in California last year. It says that if the parents of 51 percent of a public school's students sign a petition (the "trigger"), that petition will result in one of four options: firing the principal, bringing in an entirely new staff, closing the school, or handing over the school to a charter school operator. Rather than triggering a broader process, the specific option -- for example, the specific charter school company -- is part of the petition.

Several very conservative players in national education reform, in addition to Broad, have made parent trigger proposals a key part of their agenda. Many teachers fear the expansion of a privatized education system, and view parent trigger laws as a means for rushing the process forward.

And there is no indication that these laws increase parental voice in their children's education. "You get one shot and that's it, because once that charter is formed, that charter dictates how it will operate," John Rogers, associate professor of urban schooling at UCLA, told NBC's Education Nation. "[Parents] have fewer rights in the context of a charter than they would at a public school."

As trigger laws are introduced in state after state, California's experience is being watched closely. When the trigger law there was up for a vote, Democrats, among them Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (a former field rep for United Teachers Los Angeles), spoke for the bill, although the votes to pass it came mostly from Republicans. Teachers' unions lobbied against it, while a chorus of mainstream media hailed it. Patrick Range McDonald of the LA Weekly claimed it was the product of "minority parents and fierce reformers, who seemed to materialize from thin air."

Not quite. Although some grassroots parents undoubtedly did support the bill, it was the product of powerful political figures, backed by the wealthy foundations that shape much of the country's debate over education reform. SBX54 was written by the Los Angeles Parents Union (LAPU), started in 2006 by the Green Dot charter school company. The LAPU was headed by political operative Ben Austin, who then started another organization, Parent Revolution, to promote and implement the parent trigger law. At its birth, Parent Revolution had a $1 million budget supplied by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wasserman Foundation, the Eli Broad Foundation, the Hewlett-Packard Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation.

And we'll note an ongoing exhibit:
This Camera Fights Fascism:
The Photographs of David Bacon and Francisco Dominguez

Santa Clara, CA
July 29 - December 4, 2011 and January 14 - February 5, 2012
Tuesday - Sunday 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.
David Bacon and Francisco Dominguez have both followed in the tradition of Depression-era photographers such as Dorothea Lange, focusing their cameras on struggle, dissent, immigrants, and workers. Their photographs speak to the global character of contemporary migration. Like the so-called Okies of the Depression, many of today's migrants have been displaced by environmental degradation and wider economic forces.

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

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

- Art Hazelwood, Guest Curator

To view the slide show please go to:

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

Thursday, October 06, 2011


E-mails want to know if I watch TV on the road?

Yeah, I've usually got it on the background in a hotel. Sometimes a music channel. But one show I do try to catch is The Secret Circle. I have to do it online, though. I never have time to catch it on TV (Thursdays, second hour of prime time). I watched the second episode this week.

The third episode's already up and the fourth (the one that aired tonight) will be up shortly.

It's about a group of teenage witches (female and male).

I always love witch movies and TV shows. Whether they're horror or more empowerment (examples of the latter would be the film Practical Magic and the TV show Charmed).

If I had a past life (I neither believe nor disbelieve in past lives), I was either a witch or someone deeply fascinated with them because I've been that way my whole life. My favorites episodes of Bewitched were when Samantha went back in time to the Salem Witch Trials and took on those prigs.

Vampires have no allure for me, or wolf-people. But witches were always of interest to me. Maybe because, historically, they're among the first persecuted class of women?

I have no idea. But I wish I were Samantha righting that wrong.

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

Thursday, October 6, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, 'withdrawal' continues to be addressed, the Turkish Parliament votes to continue bombing northern Iraq, Panetta says no immunity means no US troops, and more.
Scott Horton: . . . which makes me look at the Iraq War in context and think, did you guys ever think of yourselves as maybe just window dressing? That this never really was about winning hearts and minds of the people of Iraq but telling the American TV audience that "Don't worry, someon'es over there winning their hearts and minds"?
Peter Van Buren: This actually was something that we did talk about quite a bit. There were sort of two groups of folks with us. One -- I'd say three. There was a group of very gung ho folks that really thought we were out to do something great. And they were really just a tiny, tiny minority. Most of the people there just wanted to do their job the best they could, make a little money and go home. But a number of us, and I include myself in this, came to believe that, in fact, it was nothing but a scam, a Ptokeman village that was set up simply so that someone could say, "Look, we're trying to help. We're rebuilding schools. We're doing all of these wonderful things." And then, in fact, the reason why it failed is that nobody really cared if it succeeded or not. The most important thing we could do was simply to be there so that when it became politically expedient to point to us and say, "Look at the nice thing we're doing. We're building a road, we're giving some food out to kids, or something," we were there and handy for that. When the political expediency expired, they closed the program down. It's not like we finished the job. They just basically said earlier this year, "Well time to move on," and closed everything down and left things pretty much where we started.
Scott Horton: You know I'd hate to give too much credit to the Bob Woodward version of events but it seems like despite all the smoke screens and kind of you know the spin that all of his first person actors put on their own part in the Iraq War and whatever it does seem pretty clear, you know, the truth kind of leaking through and all that as soon as the war started no one was in charge of anything. Everything that Rumsfeld was supposed to be doing he pointed to Condoleezza Rice. Everything Condoleezza Rice was supposed to do, she pointed to Rumsfeld and Powell and whomever. And back and forth they went and no one was really doing anything except down at the local level Douglas Feith and Paul Bremer are deciding to disband the army and these kind of things. But -- well, man, and now the music's playing and we've got to go out to break. But that's kind of where I want to pick up when we get back was whether anybody was really in charge of this thing at all?
Peter Van Buren: Absolutely.
Scott Horton: Or whether this was just like a local job training program run amuk.
[. . .]
Peter Van Buren: You were talking earlier about -- we were talking earlier about the lack of leadership and actually one of the chapters that got cut from the book but that I'm going to put up on my blog was called "Lessons Learned from Iraq." And the idea was that we're going to repeat this nation building stuff over and over again, we're doing it right now in Afghansitan where we've spent over $70 billion and the rumors are that Libya, Yemen, maybe even Syria are on the future screen. So if we're going to spend all this money and take all this time, one of the lessons learned was the desperate need for adult supervision. What happened in Iraq was a series of failures. Coalition Provisional Authority was one of the first failures to do anything useful rebuilding Iraq. They got caught up in neocon fantasies of creating flat taxes and super powered stock markets and things like that and it crashed and burned. The Army Corps of Engineers was then handed the bag of money to try to rebuild Iraq and they got tangled up in their own security issues and their own bureaucracy and they crashed and burned. The next step under the Bush administration, of course, was to hand all the money over to KBR and some of those other nice mega contracting firms and let them rebuild Iraq. They -- they took the money alright, they were very efficient at that part but they didn't really accomplish anything. So by around 2007, pretty much the only people left in town that hadn't had a shot at it were the State Dept, where I worked, and we were sent in to do this. The problem was that State had no vision for it. They didn't really understand what we were supposed to do other than we were supposed to spend money and try to make some friends. The projects that we were asked to do were pretty much left to do were pretty much left to each person on the ground to conceive.
Telling the truth comes with no applause in the so-called Era of Transparency Barack Obama supposedly ushered in. No, the administration's response is to attack. Kelley B. Vlahos ( charts the administration's response to Van Buren's book:
Van Buren says he is being accused of "disclosing classified material," though the
cables he linked to were "unclassified," "confidential," and "unclassified/for official use only," respectively*. The State Department told that it would not comment on "whether or not there is an investigation underway."
Van Buren, who worked for a year on an embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team (ePRT) in Iraq from 2009-2010, is nonetheless convinced that the book is what set off the alarms at Foggy Bottom. He may well be right. Van Buren's publisher, Macmillan Publishers, has confirmed that the department is now seeking redactions, even though We Meant Well just hit the shelves and was officially vetted for classified material a year ago.
According to Van Buren, the State Department never raised a flag about the book until now.
FYI, Kelley Vlahos will be taking part in a Saturday event. This is Angela Keaton's write up for
Kelley B. Vlahos along with military veterans Daniel Lakemacher and Students for Liberty's Peter Neiger will be appearing at an Antiwar Break Out Session at the 2011 Students for Liberty Philadelphia Regional Conference. The conference will be held Saturday, October 8th. Register here.
Vlahos is a contributing editor for The American Conservative magazine, a Washington correspondent for the DC-based homeland security magazine, Homeland Security Today, a long-time political writer for, and weekly columnist for
Scott Horton: Well now they're talking about keeping troops past the 2011 deadline. Do you think that Maliki and his armies still need Americans to keep them in power?
Peter Van Buren: What they need is American money and they'd like to have that and if they have to tolerate a few thousand American soldiers around to get the money bags, I suspect they will. Maliki right now has consolidated his power quite effectively. He retains control of both the Defense and the Interior Ministries, the two most powerful parts of the centeral Iraqi government. He retains control of personal militias -- many of which have been linked to alleged secret prisons and alleged torture. He doesn't need the Americans to keep him in power anymore. What he does like is the flow of cash and some of the weapons that we're planning to give/transfer/sell to him. So he's a smart guy, he's played a little poker in his life and if he needs to keep a few thousand American soldiers in the neighborhood to get all those benefits, sure, that's a small price to pay for all the benefits, money and goods he's going to rake in.
Let's stay with 'withdrawal' and then we'll come back to other topics mentioned. What's known so far? Tuesday, a meet-up of the political blocs at Jalal Talabani's home resulted in the declaration that "trainers" would be needed in Iraq beyond December 31st. ("Trainers" is a euphemism for "US soldiers.") At Jalal's house it was decided that the political blocs would not grant immunity. Their decision not to grant immunity did not mean immunity would not be granted but damned if so many idiots in the press (here for a critique of the New York Times' 'reporting') didn't insist that was the case. Are they really that stupid? And, if so, how long does stupid qualify as an excuse?
Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) reports, "Iraqi lawmakers on Wednesday said they were discussing a deal to extend a NATO training mission that could allow U.S. troops to stay as trainers beyond the year-end deadline for withdrawal, with the type of legal protections demanded by Washington." Wait, it gets better, al-Salhy reports the bill was read out loud to the Parliament once already.
Do you get it? Most of the press didn't. All the political bloc leaders said on Tuesday was that they -- themselves -- would not be granting immunity at that meeting. If indeed, as so much of the press misreported, what they were saying was NO IMMUNITY, what al-Salhy reported couldn't and wouldn't and shouldn't have happened.
But it did.
What happens if there's no immunity granted or created? (And it can be granted or created in any number of means provided the administration's attorneys agree it grants immunity.) US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta answered that today. AFP reports he declared, on a visit to Brussels, that without immunity, US troops would not remain in Iraq. (US soldiers shoved under the US State Dept's umbrella will have immunity.) Slobodan Lekic (AP) quotes Panetta staing, "I can say very clearly that any kind of U.S. presence (in Iraq) demands that we protect and provide the appropriate immunity for our soldiers." BBC News notes that Panetta pointed out that negotiations continue.
In related news, Nathan Hodge (Wall St. Journal) reports on a letter US House Rep Darrell Issa has sent the White House demanding to know the details of the White House's plan for contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, "The American people have a right to know the past, present, and future status of private security contractors in these regions." Issa also notes: "Americans would be shocked to learn that during your administration, in fact, the numbers [of private security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan] have drastically increased. Despite poor oversight and unacceptable levels of waste, fraud and abuse, the numbers of private security contractor boots on the ground and the price tag have only gone up during your administration." In related news, yesterday the US State Dept issued the following:

Question: Approximately how many security contractors will be required in Iraq to protect the U.S. diplomatic mission next year?

Answer: In light of the high threat environment in Iraq over the past several years, we expect that in 2012 there will be approximately 5,000 such security personnel to help protect our diplomatic presence in various locations around the country and ensure our capability to interact successfully with the Iraqi Government and people to build an enduring partnership of benefit to both countries and the region. We expect this number of security personnel to noticeably decrease in the following years as security conditions continue to improve, as they have done steadily since 2007.

In addition, the Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq (OSC-I) will be part of our strategic engagement and partnership with Iraq. This office will require additional security personnel to protect facilities and staff. The exact number and final disposition of these security requirements are still under review.

The United States is committed to an enduring partnership with Iraq, which can be a strong ally in a strategic region of the world critical to our national security. This Administration has placed a priority in strengthening our partnership by maintaining a strong diplomatic presence on the ground in Iraq and is committed to ensuring the safety of the men and women who make up that presence. Utilizing security personnel to assist U.S. diplomatic security officials in protecting Americans serving abroad is not a new practice; it has been part of civilian operations in Iraq and elsewhere in the past and is an important component of security operations at many of our embassies and consulates around the world today.

As Iraq further develops its democratic institutions and improves its security capacity, our security presence will be reduced and operations will be comparable to other countries around the world where we have large missions and vital interests.
And back to Peter Van Buren. It's good to hear someone from State calling out Nouri al-Maliki. The US government has been thrilled to shower him with (undeserved) praise but not to hold him accountable. As he's 'consolidated' his power (power grab), he's rarely been called out by the US government. In Iraq, many have called him out. They've often been arrested, beaten and/or killed as a result. Arwa Damon (CNN -- link has text and video) reports on Hanaa Edwar, the activist and feminist famously stood up to Nouri last June. Today she continues to worry about the attacks on peaceful demonstrators:

Both Al-Amal and Human Rights Watch are concerned the government is trying to portray the protesters as terrorists, and allowing thugs to beat and sexually assault them.
Despite her long career in human rights, Edwar is pessimistic about the current state of her country.
"We are losing everything now in Iraq, even you know, our dream for democracy, our dream for elections," she said.
That's Iraq today. And the people did not choose their leader. An Iraqi exile who fled the country and lived in Iran, Syria and elsewhere for decades, returned only after the US invaded and cuts ahead of all the Iraqis who remained in the country and becomes prime minister?
That's the first strike against Nouri. His inability to provide basic services (he's now had five years as prime minister in which to do this) is another strike against him. The fact that he's disliked for who he is and what he represents (he represents sectariansim) go to the fact that he will have trouble holding on to power without the US military being present. Peter Van Buren is correct about Nouri's lust for money (he's stock piled a ton of it already). His conclusion that Nouri is safe from a takeover, however, is less sound.
Remember that Tuesday meeting? Iraqiya's Ayad Allawi and Tareq al-Hashemi walked out; before the meeting ended, Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister and thug of the occupation, also walked out. Many observers had assumed the event was called to address Political Stalemate II and the Erbil Agreement. Al Mada reports today that State of Law (Nouri's political slate) admits that's what the blocs thought as well. Instead, the meet-up was held so that the plan to keep US soldiers on Iraqi soil beyond 2011 and disguise them as "trainers" could be agreed to. State of Law is calling the meeting productive. Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc sees things less optimistically and states that they will not support US soldiers continuing to remain in Iraq beyond the end of the year. Kurdish MP Mohammed Taha feels that the meeting was necessary, regardless of topic, in a move to get the political blocs talking to one another and states his hope that the Erbil Agreement will be implemented.

Political Stalemate I followed the March 7, 2010 elections in which Nouri al-Maliki's political slate did not come in first. Despite this, despite Iraqiya winning the most votes, Nouri refused to give up his post as prime minister. With the US backing Nouri, al-Maliki dug his heels in and month after month there was a governmental stalemate. In November 2010, the Erbil Agreement allowed a government to finally be formed. All the political blocs, except State of Law, made major concessions. Iraqiya gave up their claim to the right to the prime minister post, for example. Nouri ran with the agreement long enough to be retained as prime minister and then proceeded to ignore the agreement creating Political Stalemate II as surely as his selfish actions created Political Stalemate I.

Turning to some of today's reported violence, Reuters notes 1 "member of the Yathrib town council" was shot dead in Yathrib and, dropping back to last night, a Samarra grenade attack wounded four police officers and one of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's representatives was hot in Hilla (and left injured). Aswat al-Iraq reports five men playing football were left injured by a Baghdad bombing.
Trend News Agency reports Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq's Foreign Minister, is set to go to Turkey to "discuss the problem of Kurdish separatists and other regional issues." Dawn notes, "Turkish air and artillery opertaions against suspected Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants in the Qandil Mountains have intensified since August, straining relations with the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq." Throughout most of the Iraq War, the Turkish military has bombed northern Iraq. The latest wave of attacks began August 17th. For years now, the Turkish government has decided that's the way to handle a problem they created through their own actions of suppression, discrimination and violence. The PKK is one of many Kurdish groups which supports and fights for a Kurdish homeland. Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) described them in 2008, "The PKK emerged in 1984 as a major force in response to Turkey's oppression of its Kurdish population. Since the late 1970s, Turkey has waged a relentless war of attrition that has killed tens of thousands of Kurds and driven millions from their homes. The Kurds are the world's largest stateless population -- whose main population concentration straddles Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria -- and have been the victims of imperialist wars and manipulation since the colonial period. While Turkey has granted limited rights to the Kurds in recent years in order to accommodate the European Union, which it seeks to join, even these are now at risk." The Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq has been a concern to Turkey because they fear that if it ever moves from semi-autonomous to fully independent -- such as if Iraq was to break up into three regions -- then that would encourage the Kurdish population in Turkey. For that reason, Turkey is overly interested in all things Iraq. So much so that they signed an agreement with the US government in 2007 to share intelligence which the Turkish military has been using when launching bomb raids. However, this has not prevented the loss of civilian life in northern Iraq. Aaron Hess noted, "The Turkish establishment sees growing Kurdish power in Iraq as one step down the road to a mass separatist movement of Kurds within Turkey itself, fighting to unify a greater Kurdistan. In late October 2007, Turkey's daily newspaper Hurriyet accused the prime minister of the KRG, Massoud Barzani, of turning the 'Kurdish dream' into a 'Turkish nightmare'."

So year after year, the Turkish military terrorizes northern Iraq residents -- farmers, shepherds, villagers -- so they can tear up the countryside with bombs, leaving craters everywhere. This wave is displacing the region more than previous waves and turning many residents into refugees. In addition, though the Turkish government attempts to deny it to this day, the bombings in this wave have also resulted in many deaths of non-PKK.

Some had hoped that a break -- not an end -- might be in sight because the measure approving the latest wave would expire at the start of this month. Yesterday the vote on whether to extend the motion or not took place. Goksel Bozkurt (Hurriyet Daily News) reports:

The BDP, Turkey's biggest Kurdish political force, voiced harsh objections to the move, sparking heated exchanges in Parliament.
BDP deputy group chairman Hasip Kaplan called the vote "a declaration of war," while fellow lawmaker Sırrı Süreyya Önder said four major cross-border operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, in the 1990s had proved the futility of military action.
Rhetoric on the other side ran high as well. Mehmet Şandır of the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, said the state was taking measures "against terrorists shedding blood." MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli called for an immediate ground incursion "to destroy the murderers in their dens," during remarks in the southern province of Osmaniye earlier Wednesday.

The Voice of Russia notes that the motion that passed extends "by another year the army operation". Euronews quotes Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu stating, "The reason for the terror attacks by this terrorist group is because they can gather and move freely in northern Iraq without any obstacles. The aim of a probably cross-border operation is clear."

Ivan Watson and Yesim Comert (CNN) report something gas bags on the issue should pay attention to but won't. The PKK is one of many groups. Stop saying every act taking place was the PKK. One attack last month was even claimed by another group (as AP reported in real time -- as only AP reported in real time -- Selcan Hacaoglu: "Friday's thwarted attack stoked more fears a day after a Kurdish militan group, the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, claimed responsibility for a car bomb attack near a school in the Turkish capital of Ankara that killed three people and wounded 34 [. . .]") but gas bags in the US have continued to inist it was PKK. (Watson and Comert, "Last month, at least three people were killed by an explosion in the heart of the Turkish capital, Ankara. A Kurdish rebel splinter group later claimed responsibility for the attack.") The motion was renewed by the Turkish Parliament so the bombings continue.
Of the newly passed motion, Alsumaria TV notes, "This permission allows Turkish Army to launch air raids and to launch an incursion into, 'in compliance with international law', over banned Kurdistan Workers party's (PKK) strongholds." Times AM adds, "This is the 33rd time when Turkish Parliament" voted to extend the attack order. Aurelie Gaudron (Policy Mic) calls on the US to stop supplying the government of Turkey with 'intel' and instead help work towards a peace agreement, "Washington should push Ankara to reach a peaceful settlement to put an end to a conflict which has already claimed the lives of around 40,000 people, mostly Kurds, and cost Turkey $300 billion, thus allowing Iraqi Kurdistan to enjoy its newly acquired freedom in peace." Fazel Hawramy (Guardian) observes:

In recent months, the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been given a hero's welcome in the Middle East for standing up for the rights of downtrodden Arab people and promoting Turkish democracy as a model for Arab societies.

Back home, the civil rights of 20 million Kurds in Turkey have been gradually eroded. The EU acknowledges this is "a serious cause for concern" in a country where more than 3,000 Kurdish activists are in detention. The EU has called on Turkey this week to bring its justice system into line with international standards and amend its anti-terrorism legislation.

On Tuesday, under the same anti-terrorism legislation, more than 120 members of the BDP, including the party's deputy leader, were arrested.

So sensitive is Turkey to anyone acknowledging the plight of the Kurds that the novelist and Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk was charged and tried for "public denigration of Turkish identity", after mentioning in a 2005 interview that "30,000 Kurds and a million Armenians were killed in these lands and nobody but me dares to talk about it".

UPI notes, "Turkish President Abdullah Gul said, during a visit to Germany last month, that the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, was committing 'suicide' by advancing its militant campaign inside his country."

War Voices - Live Broadcast!

Join us for a live broadcast of the "War Voices" forum

Friday, Oct 7, 5:30-7:30 pm

27 Social Center

2727 27th Ave, Unit D

Denver, CO

Friday, October 7 marks ten years of the U.S. Global War on Terror, which began with the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Iraq Veterans Against the War and its Afghanistan Veterans Against the War committee will commemorate the occasion with "War Voices," a public dialogue on war, economic recession, and Islamophobia.

Join us in-person or via livestream!

The event will take place in Washington, DC, but we will watch the proceedings live via We'll send questions to our speakers via Facebook, Twitter (@WarVoices), or email ( We will have live chat on the day of the event alongside the streaming video.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Corn flakes

Tomblin won the West Virginia race and David Catanese has an analysis of it here.

Now for the important stuff.

I was one of eight kids.

There were no cereal prizes for me!!!!

Tonight's topic is a theme topic. Some will be mentioning it at their sites in passing (like Trina who's got a lot to cover already) and others (like me) will make it the full focus of their post. The theme: Cereal.

It can be from childhood or today but something about it that stands out. (Rebecca came up with the topic.)

So big Irish Catholic family. Eight kids. And don't think we ate Raisin Bran, okay? That would be like a delicacy.

We ate plain old corn flakes. If we were lucky, these were name brand corn flakes and not the generic store brand. (I have nothing against generic store brands but anyone who's eaten the generic corn flakes -- and I've had every brand there is in my life -- knows they are not as fresh as the ones from Post or Kellogs.)

We had raspberry and blackberry bushes. How? I don't know. They were wild. And across the street, they didn't grow because the woman right across the street was forever getting a cutting of one of the bushes to try to get it to take over in her yard.

So when those were producing -- seems like it was about 3 months a year -- we'd be able to have that with the milk and corn flakes. We'd pick our own at night, wash them and put them in the fridge in our own little sandwich bags. With our names on them after the big fight between two of my brothers.

And we often had a lot of bananas so we could usually count on those at least once a week (cut 'em up and drop them in the bowl with the flakes and milk).

But mainly we went crazy with the sugar.

My parents are both coffee drinkers and if it's a Saturday the two of them will knock out three pots of coffee before they're done reading the morning paper.

My father adds six spoonfuls of sugar to his coffee (actually, he uses Splenda today, but back then he used sugar). So they weren't about to say much to us kids about putting three or four spoonfuls of sugar on top of those stale corn flakes.

However, when my grandparents moved in, my grandmother made a huge deal about it. She did this for about three weeks until one day my father put down the paper, cleared his throat and told her to worry about what she was eating and leave everyone else alone. She got so mad and she left the table. But she never brought up the sugar again.

And I'm sorry but corn flakes that are stale when you open the plastic bag get even more stale and tasteless as you work through the box. (We always bought the HUGE box and even so we'd go through three of those a week.)

There's no way we could have managed to eat some of those brands of corn flakes without that sugar.

To this day, Frosted Flakes is comfort food for me because it reminds me of how sweet I'd get my corn flakes. And the only thing better than that is drinking the milk after. Oh, it's so sweet.

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

Wednesday, October 5, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, new details and avenues emerge regarding "trainers" (US soldiers) remaining in Iraq beyond the end of the year, the US State Dept takes out a bounty, the press 'forgets' Iraq in a governmental briefing today, US veterans of the current wars share their thoughts on the conflicts and surviving them, US Senators Patty Murray and Richard Burr prepare to host a veterans economic roundtable in DC tomorrow, and more.
Sinan Salaheddin (AP) reports a series of gold shop robberies in Iraq today which left 2 people dead and three more injured. Reuters notes violence sweeps Iraq today with a Ramadi roadside bombing claiming 1 life and leaving fifteen more people injured, a Baghdad grenade attack claiming the life of 1 Iraqi soldier while injuring a second one, a Taji roadside bombing injuring four pilgrims, the mayor of Tuz Khurmato being shot dead, a Baghdad grenade attack left two Iraqi soldiers injured, another Baghdad attack left two police officers with bullet wounds, a Baquba attack claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers with three more injured, and, dropping back to last night, a Baquba boming claimed 1 life and left six more people injured, the corpse of 1 Sahwa was discovered in Qaiyara, and a Taza bombing injured one person.
News is more than, "There are bases in Iraq." In fact, "There are bases in Iraq" is just a fact. Exploring the bases, Dr. Joseph A. Kechichian (Gulf News) makes several important points:
In fact, the 39 remaining US military bases -- out of 505 -- included four large facilities which cost over $2 billion to build. The Al Asad Airfield in Anbar province, for example, is so well equipped that most servicemen refer to it as "Camp Cupcake." Likewise, at the Joint Base Balad, huge dining halls cater to thousands, many of whom have access to a "25-metre swimming pool, a high dive, a football field, a softball field, two full-service gyms, a squash court, a movie theatre, and the US military's largest airfield in Iraq." One can only imagine the numerous items stocked at each -- from toothbrushes to bombs -- though the Department of Defence estimated that at least 2.4 million pieces of equipment worth a total of at least $250 million (Dh919.5 million) were donated to the Iraqi army over the course of the past 12 months alone.
For reasons that remain murky, why did Washington authorise and actually build colossal facilities in Iraq if the assumption was not to transform the country into a long-term staging area for US troops in the Gulf region? Why create an extensive infrastructure to support large numbers of troops that would be fully operational with their latest equipment, if the American presence was temporary? Was it all a waste of money? Were there no dissenting voices that warned the Bush and Obama administrations that militarization was not a long-term option?
You might think people would show the same questioning with regards to the "trainers" issue currently. Most in the press don't. Rebecca Santana (AP) does:
When the security agreement was negotiated in 2008, U.S. and Iraqi negotiators figured out a solution that appeased both sides.
The agreement gives Iraq the right to exercise jurisdiction over U.S. troops for "grave premeditated felonies" when those crimes are committed by troops who are off-duty and outside of U.S. bases or facilities.
Good for Rebecca Santana and AP. News is more than a press release. A lot of people 'covering' the "trainers" issue don't get that as their 'reports' repeatedly indicate.
So the press that misreported on the "trainers," they were all over the press briefings today, right?
Jay Carney, White House spokesperson, did declare, "This President's position on Iraq, which was the principle preoccupation of the previous administration in terms of these wars, was clear during the campaign, and his promises are being kept. He is ending that war, has ended it. And we are on track to remove all troops from Iraq by the end of the year. And we are doing it -- we're ending that war in a responsible way."
Sadly, those lies -- Jay is quite the liar -- were in reply to the question about some Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans not feeling the war were worth it.
Not one question about Iraq was asked. Who's at fault? The public. Hell no. A lazy press that thinks they're cute laughing and cutting up with Jay Carney. (Not all. Jake Tapper asked hard questions as usual.) The press told us yesterday, this morning and this afternoon that there would be NO immunity for US troops remaining in Iraq beyond 2011. Who's commander in chief? Jay Carney's boss. But no one had time or sense enough to ask about this issue, did they? Again, that's a reflection on the press.
At the US State Dept, spokesperson Victoria Nuland was asked in the press briefing (click herer -- transcript and video):
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: Yes. What is your reaction to the Iraqi Government decision not to extend immunity to U.S. advisors past the 31stt of December?
MS. NULAND: Well, first to say that we are reviewing the statements that were made -- that was made in Iraq yesterday. Ambassador Jeffrey and others are working with Iraqi leaders today on specifically what they have in mind. We certainly appreciate the democratic spirit that has been displayed by Iraqi leaders in debating this important subject, and we're going to continue those discussions.
I think you know that as a matter of practice, when we enter into these long-term relationships, which is what we are negotiating now, we always ensure that our forces have the protections they need when they're deployed overseas. So we have to work through these issues.
QUESTION: Well, the statement, when it came out at 4 o'clock Washington time, essentially caught the Defense Department by surprise. And one person said this isn't going to make the negotiations any easier. We've already started far later than we should have. And if they insist on no immunity for U.S. forces, that's it, we're not going to do it.
MS. NULAND: Was there a question there, Ros?
QUESTION: Was there any signal from the Iraqi Government that this was going to be coming down the pike? Was there any heads-up to anyone in the building on this?
MS. NULAND: I, frankly, can't speak to what our Embassy and our folks on the ground knew with regard to this particular statement. But as you know, Ambassador Jeffrey and General Allen have been in nonstop communication with the Iraqis. We are working through this now, and as I said, we appreciate the fact that the Iraqis have been working hard to build a constituency for a continued training relationship, and we need to work on that together.
QUESTION: Was there ever a sense that the Iraqis appreciate the bind that they're essentially putting the U.S. military in, and by extension, the work of the U.S. State Department in Iraq starting next year by, one, waiting so late to decide that they wanted to talk about what happens next, and then two, to let things like this come out on official letterhead, long into the evening and people are thinking about other things?
MS. NULAND: I wouldn't characterize it that way, Ros. We've been talking about these issues for a long time, and we need to talk about them until we come to an agreement that is strong for Iraq and strong for the United States and strong for the region.
Roy Gutman (McClatchy Newspapers) spoke with Iraqi MP Iskander Witwit who told him that what was reported yesterday was what it was. And he quotes Witwit stating, "This is the finish. It is final." Well there's no reason he would know what Nouri al-Maliki is planning or discussing with the US currently. But you'd hope he'd at least know what the Parliament was doing -- or is he one of the 100-plus MPs who have trouble making it to the sessions? At any rate he looks like a fool (as does Gutman who framed his report around Witwit) because Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) reports, "Iraqi lawmakers on Wednesday said they were discussing a deal to extend a NATO training mission that could allow U.S. troops to stay as trainers beyond the year-end deadline for withdrawal, with the type of legal protections demanded by Washington." Wait, it gets better, al-Salhy reports the bill was read out loud to the Parliament once already. Witwit (and Gutman) where were you?
And who was foolish enough to think Witwit was a go to? He's Iraqiya. He's got no inside line to Nouri's thoughts. More importantly, Iraqiya's wised up a little and is now toeing a tough line with all things US to have a position to negotiate from (as opposed to the lead up to the Erbil Agreement when Iraqiy unwisely gave up too much and had nothing to show for it). In fairness to Roy Gutman, he does grasp what took place on Tuesday which cannot be said for most outlets (including but not limited to the New York Times, Reuters, etc.) It is not a minor point and if the snapshot weren't being edited quickly to eliminate at least 30K, we'd have more in here on that. However, Gutman got what went down yesterday. Very few did. He deserves much credit for that. The Tehran Times reports that the Sadr bloc says they are opposed to US troops staying beyond the end of this year with or without immunity.
On the topic of immunity, Al Mada reports that Parliament's backing Sabah al-Saadi and not lifting immunity from the MP. Nouri al-Maliki swore out an arrest warrant on al-Saadi because the MP is a critic of Nouri's and because of a private conversation al-Saadi had in which he told another person that Nouri would face the same ending that Saddam Hussein did. Nouri can't arrest al-Saadi as long as he has immunity -- which all MPs do -- so he's attempted to get Parliament to lift the immunity. Nouri's attorney has stated that if it's not lifted, they'll just wait (years) until Parliament's term ends and then arrest him.
Turning to terrorism news or news that claims to be about terrorism, Al Rafidayn runs a story asserting that beggars in Diwaniyah (in al-Qadisiyyah Province) are part of a terrorist network and the begging is a fundraising tool. Dar Addustour asserts that terrrorists have infiltrated Iraq's security groups and are using that infiltration to target security officers and workers. Today the US State Dept tossed out an offer of millions for help in capturing asupposed terrorist in Iraq:
Today, the Department of State designated Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri, also known as Abu Du'a, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under section 1(b) of Executive Order 13224. The consequences of this designation include a prohibition against knowingly providing material support or resources to, or engaging in other transactions with Abu Du'a, and the freezing of all property and interests in property of Abu Du'a that is in the United States, or comes within the United States or the control of U.S. persons. Today, the Department's Rewards for Justice program is also offering a $10 million reward for information that leads to the location of Abu Du'a.
Abu Du'a is the leader of al-Qa'ida in Iraq (AQI). AQI is listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), and was listed by the UNSCR 1267 Committee in 2004.
Abu Du'a is in charge of running AQI operations currently based in Iraq and is responsible for managing and directing large scale operations, such as the August 28, 2011 attack on the Umm al-Qura mosque in Baghdad, which killed prominent Sunni lawmaker Khalid al-Fahdawi. In a statement eulogizing Usama bin Laden, Abu Du'a threatened violent retaliation for bin Laden's death. Three days after bin Laden's death, Abu Du'a claimed responsibility for an attack in Hilla, Iraq, that killed 24 policemen and wounded 72 others. The group claimed 23 other attacks south of Baghdad between March and April 2011; all of these attacks have been carried out under Abu Du'a's guidance.
On August 15, 2011, a wave of AQI suicide attacks began in Mosul, Iraq, which has resulted in over 70 deaths. Shortly thereafter, AQI, under Abu Du'a's direction, pledged on its website to carry out 100 attacks across Iraq in retaliation for bin Laden's death. The statement claimed the campaign would include varied attacks, including raids, suicide attacks, roadside bombs and small arms attacks in all cities and rural areas across Iraq.
This designation plays a critical role in our fight against terrorism and is an effective means of curtailing support for terrorist activities and pressuring groups to abandon terrorism.
Information about Abu Du'a is located on the Rewards for Justice web site ( We encourage anyone with information on Abu Du'a's location to contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate, any U.S. military commander, or the Rewards for Justice office via the website, by e-mail ( or by mail at Rewards for Justice, Washington, DC 20520-0303, USA. All information will be kept strictly confidential. Since its inception in 1984, the Rewards for Justice Program has paid more than $100 million to more than 70 persons who provided actionable information that put terrorists behind bars or prevented acts of international terrorism worldwide.
Meanwhile Al Mada notes that MP Safia al-Suhail issued a statement this week condemning the attacks on Iraqi activists in general and specifically the attack on Ayatollah al-Lami. Earlier this week, Al Mada reported on Ayatollah al-Lami, a feminist who protested last Friday in Baghdad's Tahrir Squre and was abducted and tortured by a group which claims to 'defend Iraqi women's freedom' but actually is under Nouri's control. Photographs demonstrate that once abducted by Nouri's group, al-Lami's face was beaten and wounds on her back showed other signs of torture. Nouri has targeted the protesters for months now as well as journalists that cover the protests. MP Safia al-Suhail referred to these attacks as "flagrant acts of aggression" and a violation of human rights, "a flagrant violation of Iraqi laws" and of the Constitution.
Meanwhile DPA reports that, in Spain, Judge Santiago Pedraz has re-opened the case into the April 8, 2003 death of Telecinco journalist Jose Couso who (along with Reuters journalist Taras Protsyuk) was killed when the US military attacked the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad. Al Goodman (CNN) adds Pedraz "has again indicted three U.S. soldiers [. . .] Philip de Camp, Phillip Wolford and Thomas Gibson [. . .] and also ordered the three soldiers to each post bond of one million euros ($1.33 million) within 24 hours or face an embargo order on their assets, the court order said." Last month Press TV reminded, "It's been almost a year since WikiLeaks revealed that the Spanish government was pressured to close the legal case brought by the Jose Couso family."
In the US, Pew Research Center has conducted a poll of veterans. The most important finding is that "more than four-in-ten (44%) report that they have had difficulties readjusting to civilian life, and 37% say that -- whether or not they have been formally diagnosed -- they have suffered from post-traumatic stress." Gregg Zoroya (USA Today) notes the difficulties is an increase from prior wars, "Forty-four percent of those surveyed say their adjustment to civilian life has been difficult, compared with the 25% of veterans surveyed from previous eras. Half of those who served in combat report signs of post-traumatic stress, and 75% report living with nightmares and flashbacks from their combat experience." Moni Basu (CNN) adds, "Veterans -- 84% -- said most Americans do not understand the myriad problems they and their families have had to face, including long separations, physical and psychological injuries, and stress. Some 71% of the public agreed." Pew's survey comes on the heels of a Veterans for Common Sense's study. David Goldstein (McClatchy Newspapers) notes the report found almost "20 percent of the more than 2 million troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from mental health conditions" and he quotes Paul Sullivan who notes that the government estimate in 2003 was that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars would result in "50,000 new patients for both wars": however, Goldstein points out that the study finds "more than 1 million total patients from the wars by the end of 2013." Kelley B. Vlahos provided an overview of the report yesterday at The American Conservative. FYI, Kelley Vlahos will be taking part in a Saturday event. This is Angela Keaton's write up for
Kelley B. Vlahos along with military veterans Daniel Lakemacher and Students for Liberty's Peter Neiger will be appearing at an Antiwar Break Out Session at the 2011 Students for Liberty Philadelphia Regional Conference. The conference will be held Saturday, October 8th. Register here.
Vlahos is a contributing editor for The American Conservative magazine, a Washington correspondent for the DC-based homeland security magazine, Homeland Security Today, a long-time political writer for, and weekly columnist for
On the topic of veterans, Atticus Brigham (Washington Square News) observes, "Prior to 2003, civilian suicides outnumbered military suicides nearly two to one. Now, government statistics show the opposite. For example, the rate of suicides by Texan veterans ages 18-35 is twice the rate of civilian suicides in the comparable population. In Oregon, male veterans 18-24 are almost five times more likely to commit suicide as the comparable civilian population. Californian soldiers under 35 are three times more likely to die of suicide than be killed in Afghanistan or Iraq. Nationally, veterans commit about one-fifth of all suicides, though they comprise significantly less than one-thousandth of the United States' population." The suicide increase is most likely part of the struggle being documented in the Pew poll and the Veterans for Common Sense study. Yesterday US Senator Patty Murray's office released a letter that Murray -- the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee -- sent to the VA's Dr. outlining her grave concerns over the findings in a VA study that veterans are not getting the help they request in a timely manner:

October 3, 2011

The Honorable Robert A. Petzel, MD

Under Secretary for Health

Department of Veterans Affairs

810 Vermont Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20420

Dear Dr. Petzel:

Under your leadership, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has made strides in improving mental health care for veterans. In addition to implementing the Veterans' Mental Health and Other Care Improvements Act of 2008, VA has written state-of-the-art policies, begun integrating mental health in primary care, and created groundbreaking new programs, such as the suicide hotline. VA has improved staffing guidelines, created new outreach programs and anti-stigma efforts, and required extended hours at some of its mental health clinics. The Department also continues to seek improvements, such as the ongoing effort to create joint clinical practice guidelines for the provision of mental health care from both VA and the Department of Defense.

However, much more remains to be done. At a Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs hearing this summer reviewing the Department's mental health services, Daniel Williams, a veteran, and Andrea Sawyer, a caregiver for her husband Loyd Sawyer, testified that they waited months to get follow-up appointments. They are not the only ones, however. Data provided by the Department on wait times for mental health appointments show unacceptably long delays in accessing care. For example, at the Spokane medical center in my home state of Washington, the average wait time for a psychiatry appointment is almost 21 days, with barely more than half of such appointments meeting the 14 day standard, or at the Walla Walla clinic where less than half of mental health appointments are made according to the standard.

Almost three years after VA adopted the Uniform Mental Health Services Handbook, I continue to hear from veterans, their caregivers and health care providers that it has not been fully implemented. To understand the disconnect between VA policy and practice, I asked the Department to survey its mental health care providers across the country. VA asked them what they thought about access, and the results were very troubling.

VA received responses from 272 mental health providers within five Veterans Integrated Service Networks. Of these providers, nearly 40 percent said they cannot schedule an appointment in their own clinic for a new patient within 14 days. Seventy percent said they did not have adequate staff or space to meet the mental health care needs of the veterans they serve, and 46 percent said the lack of off-hour appointments prevented veterans from accessing care. In addition, over 26 percent of VA mental health providers said the need to perform compensation and pension examinations pulled them away from patient care.
More troubling, however, is the apparent lack of a plan of action to address the issues these data illustrate. Particularly in the Department's written submission, the action items listed are almost entirely devoid of specific concrete steps which will be taken. I am pleased that the Department is moving to a more robust and comprehensive measure of access to mental health care and will make this metric a component of VISN directors' performance contracts, though I question why this was not done earlier. I remain very concerned that the Department is going to delay other action for more than a year in order to conduct focus groups. While I understand the Department has concerns that this survey is not comprehensive, after the countless Inspector General reports, GAO reports, hearings, public laws, conferences, and stories from veterans and clinicians in the field, it is time to act.
The sad truth is that veterans who call to get a VA appointment have at least made the decision to reach out to VA for help. That is the critical step in accessing care, and it is not acceptable to have veterans, who have stepped up and shown the courage to ask for help, be denied that care. Additionally, there are many veterans who, because of their mental illness, are unwilling or unable to navigate the VA system to get the help they need. Many who have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder may develop severe symptoms a year or more after they return home. VA must find a way to reach out to those veterans, and not wait for them to contact VA.
Dr. Petzel, I know that you and your leadership team are working hard to improve the delivery of health care to veterans, but the results of this survey and the mental health wait times data demonstrate there is much more that needs to be done. I would like to know if you feel the Department has everything it needs, including sufficient resources and appropriate statutory authorities, to make the needed improvements.
Thank you for all you are doing and I look forward to working with you to support our nation's veterans.

Patty Murray


In additon Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Patty Murray and Ranking Member Richar Burr will host an employment roundtable in DC tomorrow. Murray's office notes:

(Washington, D.C.) -- On Thursday, Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Patty Murray and Ranking Member Richard Burr, together with Microsoft Corp., will convene a roundtable discussion about training and hiring America's unemployed veterans for skilled jobs. In August, Microsoft announced an expansion of its Elevate America veterans initiative, in partnership with the Department of Labor, to provide additional support to veterans in their transition to the civilian workforce. Attendees will hear from veterans and the National Commander of the American Legion, Fang Wong, about the difficult employment landscape our returning veterans face.

In June, the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee unanimously passed Chairman Murray's Hiring Heroes Act of 2011 - the first of its kind to require broad job skills training for all service members returning home. In addition to providing new job skills training to all service members, the bill will also create new direct federal hiring authority so more service members have jobs waiting for them the day they leave the military, and will for the first time require the military to provide separating servicemembers with the tools to help them find jobs when they return home.

For more information on the bill click HERE.

WHO: Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Patty Murray

Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Ranking Member Richard Burr

Julius Clemente, Washington State Veteran

Brad Smith, Microsoft General Counsel and Executive Vice President for Legal and Corporate Affairs

Fang Wong, American Legion National Commander

Andy Brucia, Elevate America Veterans Grantee - Project Succeed, Bellevue College

Nicholas Riggins, Elevate America Veterans Grantee/Veteran - Goodwill Industries

WHAT: Roundtable to discuss veterans training and certification for civilian jobs

WHEN: Thursday, October 6, 2011

10:15 AM EST

WHERE: Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Hearing Room

Russell Senate Office Building - Room 418

Meghan Roh

Deputy Press Secretary

Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray



Get Updates from Senator Murray

Back to the Pew survey, MJ Lee (POLITICO) notes another aspect of it, "Only one in three veterans think the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were worth fighting . . . [and] 33 percent said the two wars were not worth fighting". Aliyah Shadid (New York Daily News) notes that the percentage of veterans who thinks the wars were worth fighting (34%) "is slightly above the 28% of the general public who says the wars are worth fighting." And as the US Great Recession continues, the financial costs of the wars increase (economists Linda J. Bilmes and Joseph E. Stiglitz noted last month was over $2.5 trillion thus far). With the increase comes attention. Mike Lillis (The Hill) reports that US House Rep Barney Frank declared in DC yesterday, "We are now spending $120 billion a year in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And incredibly, President Obama -- who I strongly support in general -- is contemplating staying in Iraq even longer than George Bush wanted to. That is totally unacceptable, and we must make that very clear." Democrat Frank is running for re-election in 2012. What of Republicans vying for their party's presidential nomination? Bradley Klapper (Associated Press) surveys the field and notes Texas Governor Rick Perry has called out the spending on the Afghanistan War (he's done the same with the Iraq War but that's not noted) and former US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman argues that nation-building needs to be done in the US and not overseas. US House Rep Ron Paul is mentioned in the article but we'll note this from Paul's campaign site
Today, however, hundreds of thousands of our fighting men and women have been stretched thin all across the globe in over 135 countries -- often without a clear mission, any sense of what defines victory, or the knowledge of when they'll be permanently reunited with their families.
Acting as the world's policeman and nation-building weakens our country, puts our troops in harm's way, and sends precious resources to other nations in the midst of an historic economic crisis.
Taxpayers are forced to spend billions of dollars each year to protect the borders of other countries, while Washington refuses to deal with our own border security needs.
Congress has been rendered virtually irrelevant in foreign policy decisions and regularly cedes authority to an executive branch that refuses to be held accountable for its actions.
Far from defeating the enemy, our current policies provide incentive for more to take up arms against us.
That's why, as Commander-in-Chief, Dr. Paul will lead the fight to:
* Make securing our borders the top national security priority.
* Avoid long and expensive land wars that bankrupt our country by using constitutional means to capture or kill terrorist leaders who helped attack the U.S. and continue to plot further attacks.
* Guarantee our intelligence community's efforts are directed toward legitimate threats and not spying on innocent Americans through unconstitutional power grabs like the Patriot Act.
* End the nation-building that is draining troop morale, increasing our debt, and sacrificing lives with no end in sight.
* Follow the Constitution by asking Congress to declare war before one is waged.
* Only send our military into conflict with a clear mission and all the tools they need to complete the job -- and then bring them home.
That's an excerpt, visit the page in full for more. We are not a campaign site. We do not obsess over elections. If candidates for office mention Iraq, then they may pop up in the snapshots. (We did make a point to check the websites of Michele Bachman and Herman Cain to see if they had anything worth including. Neither mentions Iraq. So no links, no quotes. Mitt Romney mentions the US being engaged in "three hot wars" and states he will "Oppose efforts to cut our military budget.")