Friday, June 25, 2010

Gulf Disaster

First up, this is from World Can't Wait:

McCrystal's out: The war on Afghanistan is as immoral, illegitimate and unjust as ever. ACT NOW!

One war criminal fired; another replaces him to engineer the relentless, endless US occupation of Afghanistan. I see that some pundits are praising Barack Obama for "taking charge" and replacing McChrystal, whom he appointed a year ago. Some say General Petreaus is "better" at Counter-intelligence, a better tactician, and of course he ran the "surge" in Iraq that ended with a victorious US, and a liberated Iraqi population.

Worldcantwait.net has run dozens of articles this year on attrocities toward Afghan civilians directed by McChrystal, who has a long, sordid past running "special operations" on a formula developed in the jungles of Vietnam. As David Swanson asked at the protest we held yesterday in Detroit, did McChrystal get fired for any of those crimes? NO! David argues that McChrystal should be prosecuted for war crimes.

Chris Floyd writes in
McChrystal, Petraeus, Obama: the Imperial Bloodbath Continues: "McChrystal got in trouble for making disparaging remarks about fellow officers and civilian officials -- a military tradition that surely goes back to the armies of Hammurabi (and long before). Yet he faced no reprimand or remonstrance whatsoever for his admission, just a few months ago, that brazen war crimes were being carried out under his command."

Kathy Kelly, who has been to the drone-attacked areas of Pakistan recently, wrote yesterday in
"Americans Don't Flinch" - They Duck,

"We, ourselves, bear responsibility to examine disturbing patterns of misinformation regarding US/NATO attacks against Afghan civilians. In each of 11 incidents since April 9, 2009, US forces killed innocent civilians, then engaged in a coverup, insisting that they had killed insurgents, and, eventually, acknowledged having killed civilians. Generally, US/NATO officials issued an apology. WikiLeaks is expected to release a video that establishes US responsibility for a May 4, 2009, air attack which killed an estimated 86 to 140 civilians, mostly women and children. In the days and weeks after the attack, US and NATO military officials made a concerted effort to avoid blame for this attack. Voices for Creative Nonviolence has maintained a list, assuredly only a partial list, of US/NATO attacks, since April 2009, which caused civilian deaths...' read more

At USSF

While at the US Social Forum in Detroit this week, World Can't Wait hosted workshops, met activists from around the country, and discussed the problems of the hour with many people. Thursday, we put together an anti-war protest to condemn the escalation of the war in Afghanistan.

Several signers of the
Crimes Are Crimes Statement, including Carl Dix, David Swanson, and Sunsara Taylor spoke against the war in Afghanistan, and our responsibility to stop it. A small but spirited group of youth, some on their first march ever, took off for a military recruiting center a mile away, meeting people along the way, surprising the recruiters, and being an immediate part of reviving the anti-war movement.




It's from the e-mail they send up. I'm signed up? Not yet. C.I. passed that over to me.

I asked her if there was anything going on with WCW because it really wasn't featured this week. C.I. said, "Do you realize how many Congressional hearings I covered?"

(I do. Two for the gina & krista round-robin, three for TCI. She did a great job and I know she was exhausted. I also know she really loves WCW and wanted to be sure that it wasn't a snub, just being busy.)

On the Gulf, Richard Simon blogs at LAT: "After the suicide of a Gulf Coast fishing boat captain, Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-La.) on Friday called on BP to fund efforts to address the 'rising number of mental health problems' in the region caused by the massive oil spill." NYT offers a Q&A:

Q. How much oil has spilled so far?

A. The exact rate at which oil is leaking from the well is not known. Although estimates of the flow rate have changed drastically — to 35,000 to 60,000 barrels a day now, from 1,000 barrels a day originally — it is also not known if the actual rate has changed in the two months since the gusher began.

Calculating the spill to date using the current estimate, and factoring in the approximately 365,000 barrels collected so far from the wellhead, results in a total of about 1.9 million to 3.5 million barrels, or about 80 million to 150 million gallons since the rig exploded on April 20.

By contrast, the Exxon Valdez spill off Alaska in 1989 released an estimated 10.8 million gallons of oil.


80 million is a conservative estimate. 150 million seems more likely. But even 80 million is mind blowing.

When is Barack going to get it together?

Apparently he's not. At this point, he appears to be just hoping that, at some point, the well runs dry.

But new problems are coming. Carole Rosenberg (McClatchy Newspapers) reports this:

Gale-force winds days away from the Gulf of Mexico spill site could force at-sea workers to abandon their oil-collection efforts for two weeks, the head of the national response effort said Friday.

That timetable would conservatively unleash a half-million barrels of oil back in the sea — twice the Exxon Valdez spill. Using upper-end federal estimates of the leak, 840,000 barrels would gush out. That's 35 million gallons.

The Gulf Disaster continues and Barack is so ineffective.

NYT's Henry Fountain was on Fresh Air (NPR) discussing BP yesterday.

And finally: Community note, Cedric's "Tanks for the memories" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! TANKING!" address Barack's public opinion polls while Isaiah dipped into his archives for "Bully Boy Poster" from 2006. The others did a theme post about what they wanted to be when they were kids so see Mike's "The spy who played pro ball," Marcia's "Reporter," Ann's "Hair stylist," Trina's "Native American or Cher," Ruth's "Nurse," Kat's "Lead singer of the Rolling Stones," Rebecca's "still a witch," Betty's "After sports star fades . . ." and Stan's "Rapper."

That was C.I. in today's snapshot and we're all grabbing that to highlight the community posts from last night.



This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"


Friday, June 25, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, a mass grave is discovered in Iraq, Chris Hill is shown the door (in part, because he'd be unable to otherwise find it), Sunday is PTSD Awareness Day, the Green Zone loses a few perks, corruption gets some press and more.

This Sunday is PTSD Awareness Day. US Senator Kent Conrad's office issued the following:


Washington -- In an effort to bring greater attention to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the United States Senate last night passed a resolution authored by Senator Kent Conrad designating June 27 as National PTSD Awareness Day.
"The stress of war can take a toll on one's heart, mind and soul. While these wounds may be less visible than others, they are no less real," Senator Conrad said. "All too many of our service men and women are returning from battle with PTSD symptoms like anxiety, anger, and depression. More must be done to educate our troops, veterans, families and communities about this illness and the resources and treatments available to them."
The Senator developed the idea for a National PTSD Awareness Day after learning of the efforts of North Dakota National Guardsmen to draw attention to PTSD and pay tribute to Staff Sgt. Joe Biel, a friend and member of the 164th Engineer Combat Battalion. Biel suffered from PTSD and took his life in April 2007 after returning to North Dakota following his second tour in Iraq.

Earlier this month, Senator Conrad visited the Fargo VA Medical Center and met with physicians and social workers to discuss their capabilities for helping those suffering from PTSD. He also met with friends of Sgt. Biel and presented them a copy of the resolution designating June 27 -- Biel's birthday -- as National PTSD Awareness Day.

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, accidents, and military combat. From 2000 to 2009, approximately 76,000 Department of Defense patients were diagnosed with PTSD.

"This effort is about awareness, assuring our troops -- past and present -- that it's okay to come forward and say they need help. We want to erase any stigma associated with PTSD. Our troops need to know it's a sign of strength, not weakness, to seek assistance," Senator Conrad said.
To learn more about PTSD and locate facilities offering assistance, visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' National Center for PTSD at
http://www.ptsd.va.gov.
Veterans in need of immediate assistance can call the VHA Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.
That is this Sunday, June 27th. Toady, on
The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), second hour, the caller did what the host and guests couldn't: Raise the issue of Iraq. Henry from Florida was the only one aware that Iraq was the locale of an ongoing war. Others were aware of it as a 'fixed' reference point for Afghanistan.

Henry: Yes, thank you for taking my call. I have a simple question. Did George [W.] Bush not ask his generals when we would be getting out of these stupid wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Or did the generals not ask him, "Sir, when will we be getting out of this war that you started?" Because essentially that Republicans find it okay for us to be spending whole millions and billions on this war but it's not okay with them to spend on our poor people in this country.

Diane Rehm: Lots of folks have raised those kinds of issues.

Elise Labot: Well Henry raises an issue that's felt about a lot of Americans around the world about how much money we're spending on wars in Iraq, in Afghanistan. We look at the world economy. A lot of the US economy is in the toilet and we're continuing to spend on both these wars. However, both President Bush and President Obama spent many weeks and months talking with the generals about how to win the strategy in Iraq, in Afghanistan. The problem is that these wars might not be winnable. The US can leave the situation in a better place than it found it but maybe not win.

That was Elise Labot from CNN. That was all that was worth hearing. And sometimes, when it's pointed out how pathetic it is that Iraq's not covered on Diane's show, a little whiner will show up in the e-mails. (Friends with that show know not to. I'm not in the mood for this show right now.) And it will be, boo hoo, they have so many topics and they're winging it and blah blah blah. Since the Idiot Kevin Whitelaw outed Diane today, let me as well. On air, he says, "I forgot what you wanted me to say, Diane," in reference to what he was supposed to say. Diane curtly called on Moises Naim to take over. Point? That show's worked out in advance. Only real surprises are the calls -- and they generally know what the call's about before it goes on air (though some callers don't stick to the topic they say they're calling in about). Here's reality on how the show works on Fridays. Diane divies up topics and the guests begin searching (the web) for the topic. Then they speak into the mike on air and act like they did something wonderful. Ask any guest -- ask Roy Gutman -- and they'll tell you that's how it goes. Diane determines the topics ahead of time, assigns aspects of the topics ahead of time, and then the 'non-scripted' conversation takes place. And if you missed it Sunday, read "
Only 30% of Diane Rehm's guests are women (Ava and C.I.)." And any whine Diane freaks, grasp that while Iraq was not a topic during the international news hour, Diane WASTED the international news hour with approximately seven minutes of talk about tennis. Apparently, Diane is hoping to move to ESPN in her tarnished years. No time for Iraq. 7 US service members have died there so far this month but Diane's not interested. Tennis? She's mad for it. It's all about priorities.

Priorities was the question. And isn't it curious that no one -- not the host, not her guests -- while talking about the money spent on the wars -- bothered to mention the numbers? Isn't that rather telling. Diane says a lot of people are talking about this. But apparently not on her show. Not even today. From
Monday's snapshot:

Moving over to the finanical cost of war,
at the start of this month, the Institute for Public Accuracy offered a dollar amount for the financial costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars: $1 trillion dollars. BBC notes that the costs for the UK government in fighting the two wars has surpassed the 20 billion pound mark -- which would be approximately 29.7 billion US dollars. They go on to note, "Critics questioned why the UK was spending so much on conflict when public finances were in a dire state." The US has spent much, much more than that but ask yourself when you ever heard the anchor of the ABC, CBS or NBC news note that anyone might wonder why, when the US' economy is "in a dire state," the government was spending so much money on war? Carl Ramey (North Carolina's Pilot) notes, "Amazing, isn't it? We can talk endlessly about the nation's debt crisis and rampant spending, but nary a word about two wars that are costing us more than $12 billion every single month, and whose cumulative costs, over the past eight years, have already surpassed $1 trillion."


One trillion dollars. The dollar amount that was ignored by Diane and company today.
At McClatchy's Inside Iraq, an Iraqi correspondent remembers Yasser Slaihee, "In June 2005 there was supposed to be a sovereign government on June 30, Yasser's birthday, but Yasser didn't live long enough to see the date changed to June 28, they deprived Yasser from a wish that didn't come true even after his death, off course I blame no one for it doesn't matter, the ceremony and the announcement was everything but true on the ground." Yaseer was shot dead by a US sniper June 24, 2005. NPR's Jacki Lyden noted of the journalist, "Yasser was hip: blue eyes, wire rims and a buzz cut, average height, endless smile. He invited me for coffee to meet his wife and baby daughter, and our coffee klatch never ended. When NPR producer Tom Bullock turned ashen, feverish and couldn't get out of bed, Yasser hooked him up to an IV bag hoisted on a camera tripod before he even told Tom who he was." In real time, Ron Brynaert (at Why Are We Back In Iraq) blogged about Yasser's death and, in the excerpt below, he's citing a report by McClatchy's Tom Lasseter:Once again, the Pentagon initially lied about the murder of a journalist in Iraq. "An early report said Salihee was shot by a passing U.S. convoy when he failed to heed hand signals or shouts from soldiers. That later turned out to be untrue." But there are conflicting accounts. "Most of the witnesses told another Knight Ridder Iraqi special correspondent that no warning shots were fired. But the front right tire of Salihee's car, a white Daewoo Espero, was pierced by a bullet, presumably meant to stop him from advancing." FYI, Ron's now with Raw Story. Yesterday's violence included assaults on Sahwa with four members of one family kidnapped in a home invasion and later found dead. Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (NPR's All Things Considered) reported yesterday that the month of June has seen a minimum of 19 Sahwa killed. Sahwa, also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq" are largely Sunni fighters that the US put on the payroll to stop them from attacking US military equipment and US service members, numbered over 91,000 and Nouri al-Maliki agreed to take them and fold them into government jobs, putting them on the Iraqi payroll. That really didn't happen. Targeting has happened, repeatedly. These are Iraqi citizens. Nouri has an obligation to protect them. His refusal to do so goes to the fact that he's not a leader. He can't protect the people and he has refused to call out the killings. Doing so wouldn't violate his attempts to continue sectarian tensions. Nouri's caught in the past and Iraq will never be able to move forward with him as prime minister. Back to Lourdes Garcia-Navarro who reports:Now, the exit of American troops is under way. In 2009, the fate of the Sons of Iraq was left in the hands of Iraq's Shiite-dominated coalition government, which agreed to pay the men and eventually either integrate them into the armed forces or give them civilian jobs. But scores have been arrested over the past year by the government, says Hussam, while others have fled the country, leaving a sense of bitterness among the remaining Sons of Iraq.

Turning to some of today's violence . . .

Bombings?

Reuters notes a Baghdad bombing injured an Iraqi military officer, a Mosul roadside bombing injured four people, a Muqdadiya roadside bombing injured two people, a Khaldiya suicide bomber took his own life (but no one else's) in Khaldiya and, dropping back to Thursday for the rest, a Baghdad sticky bombing injured five people, a Baghdad roadside bombing injured two people and a Baghdad roadside bombing injured four people. In addition, the Times of India reports, "A bomb on Friday damaged the perimeter wall of the Nabi Yunes mosque in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, revered by Christians as the burial place of the Biblical prophet Jonah, police said."

Kidnappings?

Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that Bassim Hussein (an engineer in Kirkuk who was working for the government) was kidnapped yesterday.

Corpses?

AFP reports a mass grave was discovered in Samarra today with 11 skeltons and they are thought to be from the ethnic cleansing of 2006 and 2007.
Timothy Williams and Duraid Adnan (New York Times) note some of the violence yesterday including the Sahwa attack and they note the demonstrations over lack of electricity (which they call "riots" -- a word choice/characterization I strongly disagree with). The National Turk reports that temperatures have gotten close to 120 degrees F and "Hussain al-Shahristani, the current electricity minister spoke of the shortages and said that there was no 'magic wand' to stop the outages on Friday as Iraqi protesters massed in the capital Baghdad over the government's inability to provide essential services in the war ridden country." al-Shahristani is the acting minister and he goes on to state Iraqis should "limit" their use of AC. Maybe he can work on "limiting" the number of 100-degree-plus days. The average Iraqis may get a little more electricity. AFP reports that al-Shahristani has just "revoked electricity privileges enjoyed by government officials as he took temporary control of the power portfolio amid public fury over rationing" -- something you would assume would have been dealt with long ago. Something that never really should have happened to begin with -- directing additional energy to the Green Zone. Nadeem Hami and Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) add, "Until now, government officials who live in the fortified Green Zone and other specially guarded compounds for VIPs have enjoyed up to 24 hours of electricity a day, while ordinary Iraqis swelter in the heat with only 2-6 hours of power." Rania El Gamal, Muhanad Mohammed, Khalid al-Ansary, Matt Robinson, Raloph Boulton (Reuters) note, "The power protests have emboldened rivals of Maliki who hope to form a government with his mainly Shi'ite State of Law alliance but deny him a second term as prime minister. Talks will likely yet drag on for weeks, possibly months."

The forming of the new government? March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance. Together, the two still lack four seats necessary (or so it is thought) to form the government.
Jim Muir (BBC News) went to the British Embassy in Baghdad for a ceremony and:

As I flitted from one to another, I made a point of asking them all the same question: So who's going to be the next Iraqi prime minister?
Here we were, well over three months after general elections, and the amazing thing was, not a single person had a clear answer.
It wasn't as though they were trying to hide some secret to which they were privy.
They genuinely didn't know, because nobody does.

No one does. But chances are they could guess better than the US Manic Depressive in Iraq. Or US Manic Depressive in Iraq For Now. The
long awaited news was finally officially announced by the White House today:

James Franklin Jeffrey is a career member of the U.S. Foreign Service, grade of Career Minister. He began his current assignment as Ambassador to Turkey in November 2008. Ambassador Jeffrey has previously served in Washington as Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Near Eastern Bureau, and Special Advisor to the Secretary of State for Iraq. From 2004 to 2005, Mr. Jeffrey served in Baghdad as Deputy Chief of Mission and later Charge d'Affaires. His previous assignments have involved the Balkans, as Ambassador to Albania and Deputy Special Representative for Bosnia Implementation, and Deputy Chief of Mission in both Turkey and Kuwait. Ambassador Jeffrey earlier held a variety of assignments in Washington and abroad in the European and Near Eastern Bureaus, including postings in Munich, Adana, Ankara, Sofia, and Tunis. Ambassador Jeffrey served in the US Army as an infantry branch officer from 1969 to 1976, with service in Germany and Vietnam. He has a B.A. from Northeastern University and a M.S.B.A. from Boston University.

Jeffrey's in. And, yes, Chris Hill's out -- as we've noted for two months now. The napping ambassador. At random, let's just pull up a snapshot.
November 23, 2009:

At the White House today, a bunch of trained yammers (with few exceptions) stroked and fondled Robert Gibbs with questions of such easy nature as could he explain "diplomatic entertaining" and State dinners. They had plenty of time to make like In Style magazine but damn little time to make like actual reporters. It was the usual embarrassment everyone's come to expect and that can be blamed only partly on Robert Gibbs. Blame? Hillary mentioned Chris Hill, US Ambassador to Iraq, in her comments and this may have been the first time his name has come up in the last few days. For example, the
New York Times' awful editorial last week didn't mention him when it called out Iraq for the delay. Shouldn't Hill have been on this issue from day one? Yes, he should have. And who picked Hill? Who picked Hill over qualified people -- many, many other qualified people? Barack Obama. So the candy ass White House press corps should have pressed on the issue of Iraq. Instead they wasted everyone's time and, with few exceptions, better hope their editors and producers don't study that transcript. And on Chris Hill, let's remember one more time that the Republicans in the Senate structured their objections to Hill very carefully and very precisely. They knew he could be the anchor that could hang around Barack's neck. But no one wanted to pay attention back then and now it appears it may be too late. If Iraq falls to pieces, Republicans running for office will not blame military generals. They will, however, go to town on a US civilian like Hill. And they laid the groundwork for that back in his confirmation hearing.

To clarify,
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, that day, was speaking at the US State Dept and AFP's Lachlan Carmichael asked her about Iraq. She wasn't speaking with Gibbs at the White House press briefing. But that was November. When Iraq had again missed a deadline for the election law. And that's what pushed the election back to much. It was actually supposed to be held at the end of 2009 but Nouri insisted he needed more time. So it got pushed back to January 2010. But there was no movement on the election laws necessary. This went on for months. With the United Nations publicly warning about these delays. And Chris Hill did nothing. He showed no leadership, he offered nothing. And the elections got pushed back two months (to March) and now the elections have been held and, almost four months later, still no prime minister. Remember the drawdown is going on right now and US forces in Iraq are supposed to drop to 50,000 by the end of August. It's July next week. Chris Hill did nothing.

Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reports Iraqi officials feel the United States has all but forgotten Iraq and, "Iraqi officials cite instances that they say showed the Americans being caught by surprise: A veto by the country's Sunni vice president last fall delayed elections by two months, and an attempt by Shiite politician Ahmad Chalabi, once a U.S. favorite, to bar more than 500 candidates from running in parliamentary elections that reignited sectarian tensions." An Iraqi official goes on to praise Chris Hill for his work and state that it's not Hill ("bright man") but the White House which hasn't been doing the job. I'm no groupie or fan of Barack Obama but that's not why I included that in this. You better grasp what's being said and why. Hill's been doing -- and this is known, lower levels under him have reported this back to DC and to visiting State Dept staff -- what McCrystal was fired for: Bad mouthing his superiors. He's been doing that forever. And, again, check out that personnel file, he did in nearly every post. He blames his superiors for everything. He sucks up to whomever happens to be standing in front of him at the moment. If that's an Iraqi official who's unhappy (as many are), then it's time for Hill to agree (fine) and then go on to trash his bosses (not so fine).

Chris Hill is an idiot. Chris Hill was always an idiot. We covered the confirmation hearing and it was obvious then -- refer to the
March 25, 2009 snapshot and the March 26th snapshot -- the hearing was the 25th, we spent two days on it. You can also refer to Third's "Chris Hill sings 'Much More'" (March 29, 2009). He's an idiot. He showed up for his confirmation hearing knowing nothing. He had food stains on his shirt, his hair was uncombed and this was when he was trying to make a good impression and get the job. See Isaiah's "The Pig-Pen Ambassador." Right now, as deals are being made to try to end the political stalemate, the Kurds are quite clear what they want from the horse trading: Kirkuk. They'd like it outright but they'll settle on the vote that the 2005 Constitution promised them (the vote Nouri never allowed). This is not a minor issue. Even now, it's not a minor issue. And if it were minor to everyone but the Kurds, Nouri (or Allawi or whomever) could tell the KRG, "Give me your bloc of votes and you've got Kirkuk." "Just an old fashioned land dispute," Hill dubbed Kirkuk in his Senate confirmation hearing -- oil-rich Kirkuk. He understood nothing. He had no background in the region. He didn't even have language skills. He never should have been nominated, let alone confirmed. And the alleged brain trust in the White House missed the boat completely, ignoring the Republican objection and what the really signified. From April 5, 2009:

The GOP senators were offering carefully worded questions, delivered very carefully. Why was that? That doesn't happen in most hearings. No one comes off rehearsed (mainly because few have the time to be). So what was going on there? Turns out, they were preparing for clips that they can air if Iraq goes straight to hell between now and the 2010 elections. Chris Hill is unqualified and has no MidEast experience. Iraq is among the most important diplomatic posts at this point due to the perception that violence is down (and some say gone -- it's not gone, it hasn't even ceased).It is a good guess that Iraq will yet again slap the Operation Happy Talkers in the face and this time the GOP's the one prepared to benefit from such an event. They're going to attack if that happens (I think it will happen) and they're not MoveOn. Meaning? They're not attacking Ray Odierno. They're going to point to Chris Hill. They're going to point to his ambassadorship. They also know that the 2007 benchmarks were never met. Three years later and they're not met. The GOP line of attack is going to be: "Hill had the progress that Peteraues and Crocker built and created and he wasted it. He is completely unqualified and we raised these issues when he appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee." (I don't know Sam Brownback and I have been told his objection is very real to Hill's appointment. I'm not stating or inferring he participated in political theater. I am saying that those Republicans on the committee did.)I think Hill's going to be confirmed. I believe he's unqualified for the post and, based on Iraq events since the start of the illegal war, Iraq will be the same quagmire where nothing is accomplished. The GOP's going to hang that on Hill.

[. . .]
The administration has no clue what a huge mistake they're making. The Republicans are not going to stick with Iraq forever. We've noted that here in 2007 and 2008. But by naming someone with no MidEast experience as ambassador to that country, the Democratic administration just gave the Republican Party their out on Iraq. It becomes, "We supported it. We supported the work Crocker and Petraeus did. And we stood firm and managed to get the violence down. And then President Obama appointed someone completely unqualified and all the progress vanished." That will be the argument and that will be how Republicans begin walking away from the Iraq War which is now Barack Obama's. And if the GOP plays this well, it takes the only card that Dems have had for the last few election cycles: That they're right on Iraq and the Republicans are wrong.

Doubt that's possible?
Spencer Kornhaber (OC Weekly) reports today on claims made by (Ret) Judge Andrew Napolitano states this week's Freedom Watch (Fox Business channel), which he hosts, features US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher (Republican) stating that (Napoloitano allegedly quoting Rohrabacher) "almost all Republicans in the House of Representatives now believe that the war in Iraq was a mistake, that it was unlawful, that it was immoral, that it wasn't worth the lives lost or the trillions that will be spent." Like Kornhaber, I don't know about the "unlawful" remark -- I consider the Iraq War to be an illegal war, I have not, however, heard any Republican member of Congress say that. I did hear the strategy to hang the Iraq War on Barack via Chris Hill from two Republican senators who stated back in April of 2009 that the Republican Party was going to walk away from the Iraq War and do so publicly on the grounds that Barack screwed it up. (The illegal war was screwed up from the beginning. That is not an excuse for Barack who screwed things up by continuing it. But it is noting that two parties share the blame for this illegal war.)

Laura Rozen (Politico) notes the announcement regarding Jeffrey but is too modest to note she broke the news of his appointment. (We noted Hill was on his way out. I did not know who was being brought in until Rozen's article broke. That was her scoop and she deserves credit for it. Even if she's too modest to grab it herself, she still deserves credit.)


From Chris Hill to the topic of Female Genital Mutilation in the KRG. I was asked to note this on Tuesday (by a PRI friend) and didn't have space. I thought it had aired on Monday or Tuesday. It aired last week when
Human Rights Watch released "They Took Me and Told Me Nothing: Female Genital Mutilation in Iraqi Kurdistan" (link goes to HTML overview, report is in PDF format). The 80-page report documents the continued and widespread practice of FGM in the KRG. (For more on the report see the June 16th and June 17th snapshots.) For The World (PRI, link has audio and text), Marco Werman interviewed HRW's Jessie Graham about the report. Excerpt:


MARCO WERMAN: I'm Marco Werman and this is The World, a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WBGH Boston. Human Rights Watch has found a disturbing trend in northern Iraq. In a report issued today, the rights group says a significant number of Kurdish women in the self-ruled region has undergone female genital mutilation. That's the name given to a medically risky and emotionally painful procedure, often performed on very young girls. It involves the removal of the clitoris and sometimes other genital parts. Human Rights Watch is now calling on Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq to ban the practice. Jessie Graham is with Human Rights Watch; she's also a former reporter for this program and in fact, did some reporting for us on female genital mutilation in northern Iraq. Jessie, how did Human Rights Watch come to the conclusion that so many women in the Kurdish region of Iraq have undergone FGM?

JESSIE GRAHAM: They interviewed women in villages in northern Iraq and actually have worked with an NGO that's been doing work on this for many years that's done some surveys and found that in some places it is almost every woman in a village will be subjected to this. The government itself has done some surveys and found numbers as high as 40% in one district and it's pretty clear that this is a very common practice.

WERMAN: One of the disturbing conclusions of the Human Rights Watch report is that for many girls in Iraqi Kurdistan, FGM is an unavoidable procedure, and we're talking often very young girls between the ages of three and twelve. Now you reported on FGM in northern Iraq for our program back in 2006. Is there a typical way that this occurs to a young girl? Does the mother take her to someone? Is a girl even warned beforehand what's going to happen?

GRAHAM: No, the girls aren't warned and the report is called "They Took Me and Told Me Nothing", which I think is very telling. What this report does is it really does tell that story of how unexpected, surprising and really harrowing this experience is for these little girls. Sometimes it's also adult women who are subjected to this. And in almost every case that we heard about, the women are taken to a relative's house or someone, a midwife, comes to the house, they are held down by a female relative and the woman that performs the cutting is using a razor blade. There's no anesthesia. They have to be very stoic because every woman in the community or many women in the community have gone through this procedure. And the understanding is that they have to go through it in order to get married, in order to serve food, in order to be a woman in the community.

Meanwhile, you can't have an illegal war without a lot of corruption. On that beat,
David Beasley and William McQuillen (Bloomberg News) report that Public Warehousing Co (now Agility), which was supposed to be providing food and other services to the US military in Iraq (one the tax payer's dime) is allegedly still overbilling and Asst. US Attorney Barbara Nelan told the judge, "We feel very strongly and have evidence that the fraud has continued." AP reports Agility's attorney is stating that the charges are destroying his client's company. In addition, Guillermo Contreras (San Antonio Express) reports that US Army Capt Faustino L. Gonzales (a purchasing officer) "pleaded guilty Thursday to receiving $25,000 in bribes in exchange for awarding Iraq reconstruction contracts to a company that charged inflated prices."

Non-Iraq. At Third, at Third "
DVD: Plunder (Ava and C.I.)" was a review of Danny Schechter's latest documentary Plunder. Along with the DVD release of the film, he's also got The Crimes Of Our Times, Danny's companion book to the documentary. He has a new website for the film -- this is about the economic collapse -- and you can click here. Community note, Cedric's "Tanks for the memories" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! TANKING!" address Barack's public opinion polls while Isaiah dipped into his archives for "Bully Boy Poster" from 2006. The others did a theme post about what they wanted to be when they were kids so see Mike's "The spy who played pro ball," Marcia's "Reporter," Ann's "Hair stylist," Trina's "Native American or Cher," Ruth's "Nurse," Kat's "Lead singer of the Rolling Stones," Rebecca's "still a witch," Betty's "After sports star fades . . ." and Stan's "Rapper."

TV notes. On PBS'
Washington Week, James Barnes (National Journal), Michael Duffy (Time magazine), Eamon Javers (CNBC) and Martha Raddatz (ABC News) join Gwen around the table. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is "General McChrystal and the Gift of 20/20 Hindsight." This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Debra Carnahan, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Anne Manetas and Genevieve Wood on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And at the website each week, there's an extra just for the web from the previous week's show and this week's online bonus is a discussion about a new birth control pill which would prevent pregnancy for up to 5 days after intercourse. this week's online bonus is a discussion on the press' latest attempt to start Mommy Wars. Need To Know is PBS' new program covering current events. This week's hour long broadcast (Fridays on most PBS stations -- but check local listings) features Andrew Bacevich on the topic of the Afghanistan War and Hooman Majd on Iran. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
Blackwater 61"Blackwater 61" is the call sign of a plane flown by the embattled government contractor Blackwater that crashed into a mountain in Afghanistan killing all onboard. The widow of one of the soldiers killed - a pilot herself - says the firm was negligent in the way it operated the flight. Steve Kroft reports. |
Watch Video
Fighting For A CureMore Americans are suffering from epilepsy than Parkinson's, cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis combined. Katie Couric reports on a disease that may not be getting the attention it deserves. |
Watch Video
Cameron's AvatarMorley Safer gets the first look at how "Titanic" Director James Cameron created his $400 million 3-D fantasy "Avatar." |
Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, June 27, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.


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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hair stylist

A male book author and an actress on a TV show no one watches. Fresh Air?

No thanks.

Okay, that was the show yesterday.

Tonight is a theme post and I want to take part in this. The question is what did you want to be when you were little?

I wanted to be a hair stylist. That's not the term I used back then. (Beautician.)

I loved hair and was always fixing mine, fixing my friends, fixing my dolls, fixing anyone's I could. And I liked doing make up. I wasn't that big on fingernails. But that was okay. I figured I'd mainly do straightening and weaves.

I used to get the cheap weaves from the dollar stores and I would put them in my dolls' hair.

When I was a teenager, Tammy and I were going to have our own beauty shop right after high school graduation. Then she announced, senior year, she was going to college. I'd never thought about it. But my parents were all for it.

So that's how I gave up on having my own beauty shop.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, June 24, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the US Congress explores rural health care issues for veterans, TBI and PTSD get some attention, a mother cries on NPR about the refusal to help her Iraq War veteran son (suffering from PTSD) when the bank took away his truck, Sahwa continues to be targeted in Iraq and more.

Today
Megan McCloskey (Stars and Stripes) reported that the National Intrepid Center of Excellence opened today at Bethesda. The military and assorted generals are attempting to claim credit for it but McCloskey points out, "The $65 million to build the center came from 125,000 Americans, including donations as small as $10. The project broke ground in December 2008. When the Intrepid fund was in danger of missing its fundraising mark this spring, Bob Barker of The Price is Right fame stepped in and donated $3 million." So the government didn't shoulder the cost, no military weapons went unpurchased in order to put the wounded first. And that's not the only problem with the center. TBI and PTSD were discussed on the first hour of The Diane Rehm Show today and we'll note this on the new center.

Daniel Zwerdling: The troubling questions I have about this center include these, there are -- my investigations at NPR and with T. Christian Miller of ProPublica showed that there are tens of thousands of troops who have -- perhaps more -- who have had Traumatic Brain Injuries who have not been diagnosed, many of them have not had proper treatment so when you talk about sending only 500 a year to this center, that's only a drop in the bucket. Second of all, this new center is not going to treat these folks. It's going to evaluate them over two weeks and then it's going to send them back to the military bases from which they came. And one thing we found in our investigation which is quite troubling is that many of these bases do not have adequate staff to treat Traumatic Brain Injury, they don't have staff occupation therapists or doctors who have really been trained to treat Traumatic Brain Injury so, the center is going to send troops back to the bases where they've been having problems. So, yes, it's a great step but a lot of questions still.

With T. Christian Miller, Zwerdling is the author of the joint-investigative reporting by NPR and ProPublica.
Click here for one audio report at NPR and, on that page, there are links for other reports in the series. You can click here for ProPublica's folder for the (text) reports from the investigation. Since generals are not doctors and since they couldn't stop spinning and lying to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week (See Tuesday's snapshot and Wednesday's snapshot), let's note this section where Diane's speaking to Dr. Gergory O'Shanick, Zwerdling and Dr. S. Ward Casscells.

Diane Rehm: Dr. O'Shanick, let me ask you brain injuries and how they actually occur.

Dr. Gregory O'Shanick: Diane, good to be back with you.

Diane Rehm: Thank you.

Dr. Gregory O'Shanick: And I appreciate the comments of Mr. Zwerdling and Dr. Casscells'. Brain injuries occur whenever there is a force imparted to the head or body that results in either a direct blow to the head or what we call an acceleration-deceleration injury to the brain -- that is, if you think about the brain being about the consistency of Jello, if you shake a bowl of Jello, you'll see the motion bounce -- the force wave bounce across the bowl. That process involves straining the appendages if you will, the arms of the brain cells called axons and can cause a tearing of those in terms of the function or, in the case of mild Traumatic Brain Injury, causes a series of changes in terms of how the brain cell handles sugar and oxygen -- the two things that it uses -- which then results in a disolving -- fairly similar to what happens to a tadpole's tail. A disolving of that appendage over time. These two processes then result in what is called Diffuse Accidental Injury which is really the hallmark of Traumatic Brain Injuries -- mild, moderate or severe. .

Diane Rehm: And --

Dr. Gregory O'Shanick: In addition --

Diane Rehm: I'm sorry, go right ahead.

Dr. Gregory O'Shanick: Yeah, in addition, you can have focal contusions or bruises to the brain from the brain bouncing inside. We also know the pressure wave associated with blast inury creates a change in terms of whenever there's different densities -- whether it's liver, whether it's lung, even within the brain, we'll see a change in terms of the tissue in those areas as well.

Diane Rehm: And I gather, Dr. Oshanick and Daniel Zwerdling, that many of these brain injuries are caused by the explosion of IEDs.

Daniel Zwerdling: Well the extraordinary thing is, I never knew before I undertook this investigation, is that a blast wave -- First of all, you can see it. Troops have told me they saw the wave coming almost like something in a horror film. These ripples coming through the air and through the soil. And those blast waves go through metal, they go through your helmets, they go through skulls, they go through the brain. And here's what this means for the soldiers who come home based on the soldiers we've met around the country and at Fort Bliss where we talked with more than a dozen soldiers: A soldier named Victor Medina comes home. This is a guy who was in a blast a year ago. He, uh, speech is slurred. He stutters terribly which is not a terribly common side effect but is a side effect of Traumatic Brain Injury. He goes to the supermarket with his wife. He suddenly disappears. She goes looking all over the supermarket for him and when she finds him, he says, "Hey, when did you get here?" He has totally forgotten that they came together. He used to devour novels, now he reads a page -- struggles to read a page -- and then forgets what he said. Or Brandon Sanford who was in two blasts in Iraq. He had a dog that sniffed out bombs. He used to help his little boy with his homework. Now his son is ten, he cannot comprehend his son's homework. Or William Frost who got a Bronze Star With Valor, who helped save a bunch of Iraqi troops and his major. He now -- He was driving one day and realized, "Oh my God, I can't drive anymore." He just couldn't put it together. He couldn't wrap his brain around what it means to drive so he gave his keys to his wife. So these -- Even when you call these injuries mild Traumatic Brain Injuries, you know, you can't see blood, there's no broken bones, this can cause a huge problem for years or for the rest of the person's life.

Diane and her panel spoke of how the thrust of care is forced off onto the service member or veteran and/or his/her family. That's The Wounded Veterans and Service Members Story This Decade, isn't? Attend any Congressional hearing where veteran and service member advocates testify, speak to any number of veterans and you find that receiving care is a full time job and that hasn't changed, the system hasn't streamlined. You can throw as many generals before the public as you want -- with so many bars and stripes they look like human Christmas trees -- and they can spin like crazy but they cannot change reality. For the second half of the first hour, Diane opened up the phone lines to her listeners. We'll note Marlene from Ohio.
Marlene: My son was in Iraq for 15 months and directly effected by two IED explosions -- with shrapnel to his head. He continues -- my son continues to say everything is fine. But two weeks ago, the bank repossed his car. He had been faithfully paying on this car prior to his diagnosis of PTSD. Now, as the Mom and the next of kin, I was not able to assist in any way. The bank would not work with my son other than to demand the total payment of the balance. There was no bailout for this soldier. Now I as the Mom had no right to advocate on his behalf. I called my Congressman, the military and who ever else I thought could help. My question is: Who does advocate for these soldiers?

"Of the nearly eight million veterans who are enrolled in the VA health care system, about three million are from rural areas," declared US House Rep Michael Michaud as he brought the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health's hearing to order this morning. "This means that rural veterans make up about 40% of all enrolled veterans. For the 3 million veterans living in rural areas, access to health care remains a key barrier, as they simply live too far away from the nearest VA medical center."

Chair Michaud and the Subcommittee were exploring the barriers to providing health care to rural veterans. There were four panels. The first panel was composed of West Wireless Health Institute's Dr. Joseph Smith, the Brookings Institution's Darrell West and The Healthy Applachia Institute's David Cattell-Gordon. AirStrip Technologies' Dr. Wililam Cameron Powell, Continua Health Alliance's Rick Cnossen, MedApps, Inc's Kent Dicks, Cogon Systems Inc's Dr. Huy Nguyen, Three Wire System's Dan Frank and LifeWatch Service's John Mize composed the second panel. The third panel was FCC's Kerry McDermott, DoD's Col Ronald Poropatich, VA's Gail Graham. Lincoln Smith, of the Altarum Institute, was the fourth panel.

The rural health care, it is argued, will be improved through telecommunication systems via computers and telephones and various monitors attached to the body. We'll note this exchange from the first panel.

Chair Michael Michaud: I have a quick question, actually, for all three. I assume that all three of you, from your testimony, believe that there is a great opportunity for the VA to move forward in this wireless health solution. So my question is, is what steps should the VA, FCC and FDA take to clear the way for this new type of technology? We'll start with Dr. Smith -- keeping in mind that some states like Maine and other states are very rural and we might not have the broadband that we need for this type of technology. So start with Dr. Smith.


Dr. Joseph Smith: So I think it starts with assuring the wireless infrastructure is present. I think that to the extent that we can avoid the health care delivery system being centered in hospitals and clinics and move it to being centered in patient's homes where they can be appropriately monitored with- with relatively low sophistication devices and that information be liberated from their homes and their bedsides to caregivers independent of their location, I think that's critical. I think for the -- To achieve the great value, that you speak of and the opportunity that's in front of us, we have to make sure that the regulatory and the reimbursment path for the innovators who are on the front door making these things is quite clear to them. And, at the moment, it is clearly not clear. At the moment, there is great concern that aspects of the system including the handsets, you know, the wireless handsets or, in fact, the telecommunications companies can be part of an FDA regulated concept of a medical device or that they can be the target for the plantiff's bar in the event of some untoward event. And that those concerns are chilling the engine of innovation that could deliver the techonologies that matter so much. And then I think lastly, we need to incentivize the appropriate use of this technology once it's available and that's not so simple as to say, "They are available." It is to provide the appropriate incentives for appropriate use. Because I think, as the VA program has demonstrated, there's dramatic cost savings in quality improvement and satisfaction of the patients' waiting -- and they are waiting. And what we need to do is make sure that we incentivize the use. You know, the Institute of Medicine has told us it can take 16 years from the time novel technology has proven to be useful to the time it's fully adopted and patients are waiting.

Darrell West: Mr. Chairman, I'd like to address the Food and Drug Administration part of your question because I think, in general, the VA has made tremendous progress on encorporating new technology. There's still work to be done, but they are ahead of many of their parts of society but the FDA, I think, has a problem in the sense that the policy and regulatory regime is way behind the technology. The FDA plays a role in certifying new devices that come on the market and I think, especially, the pace of technology and innovation has been very intense and very rapid in recent years -- the remote monitoring devices that I've been talking about, some of the new apps that have been developed for smart phones. The FDA needs to revamp it's regulatory review process to speed up the approval of these new innovations because there are tremendous new devices that are coming on to market but it's been a slow process to get approval of many of those things so if there is one specific thing that I would recommend, it would be taking a close look at the FDA and encouraging it do all that it can to speed up its certification and review process.


David Cattell-Gordon: I would very much agree with the points my colleagues have made concerning this and further say that the VA is the leader. You guys wear that mantle of leadership in the nation and you need now, because now is the time, I think for us to continue to debate this subject as to whether or not this is an effective capability, we're way beyond that. The data is overwhelming whether you look at what we do with Traumatic Brian Injury and reminders for appointments, whether we look at how we monitor a veteran with diabetes to lower that A1C and prevent blindness and follow their care or whether it's a weight loss program, the evidence is overwhelming. So we know that that's true. So now it is about adoption and we have to push that across the government at a lot of levels -- whether it's the defintions of rurality, whether it's encouraging and incentivizing investments by health systems to use this, rural veterans use a variety of health systems so we have to integrate that, we have to intergrate their VA records into health care. There are a lot of things we need to do and I would just encourage that the most important thing we can do is act now.

Let's take a breath.

Woman beaters
and Huck Finn shucksters
hopping parking meters
I never loved a man
I trusted
as far as I could pitch my shoe
-- "Lucky Girl," written by
Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Dog Eat Dog album

Huck Finn shucksters. That's what the panel had. With the Gulf Disaster continuing, who the hell really wants to advocate for loosening regulations? And to do it on something as important as health care?

We're told by the panel that diabetes can be monitored via these 'new' devices. Uh, it is already. Anyone who knows a diabetic knows all about the test strips and checking blood sugar. What are a few body monitors going to do? And weight loss? Are we confusing Jenny Craig with actual health care?

'Things must move and must move quickly!!!!' That was the message. Did you notice that -- doctor or not -- everyone testifying (plus VA stooges) was testifying on behalf of . . . their own financial interests. There were no doctors present testifying on the value of this or the ethical issues that might arise. It was just a bunch of Huck Finn shucksters who want to make a buck and they're offended that the FDA makes them do this and that and -- Well everything the FDA has always made people do to get approval.

There was nothing listed in the hearing that was, for example, a cure for cancer. Meaning, nothing was earth shattering. There was nothing that couldn't go through a traditional FDA process. The FDA exists, at least allegedly, to ensure the public good. Things need to be checked out by the FDA. Again, no one's promising a cure for cancer. Just a few mobile devices that they hope to market. Basically, they've got this decades beepers and they want to bypass the normal process because they're hungry to make a fast buck.

This hearing pointed out a very real flaw in Congress' hearings. They need to bring in people, doctors, on health issues to be witnesses. Not doctors who have a company on the side that wants to sell this or that. An objective doctor who can say, "Wait, why are we whining about the FDA? Of course we want to prove that these devices are safe and that they actually do what they're portrayed as doing." Hucksters. They may honestly believe in their product -- I have no reason to doubt that they do -- but what does it do? What does it actually do? How does this improve anything for veterans health care?

US House Rep Tom Perriello raised the issue of suicides and drug addiction concerns -- "to what extent does the telemedicine and some of the techonology run the risk that we're not seeing some of the signs or screenings from people being physically present or is this an opportunity because we're going to be able to monitor -- what kind of a dynamic do you see between the technology and that particular problem?"

That's a fairly straightforward question. Let's make it real simple: Will telemedicine cut out the face-to-face factor that would normally allow a greater chance of telling if a veteran needed help with a drug problem or with suicidal thoughts/actions?

Try to find the answer in the pitch that's delivered -- and I'm including every word that was supposedly a reply to a direct question -- and Perriello asked this question directly to -- and only of -- Cattell-Gordon.


David Cattell-Gordon: I'm very proud of the fact that we have psychologists at U VA, Dr. Larry Merkle who has done extensive review of rural issues and suicide. The numbers are overwhelming. You look at the Virginia Dept of Health, you look at rural areas -- in particular, you look at the coal fields of Virginia, the suicide rate is twice that of what it is of the state as a whole. And then you look at issues like fatal, unintentional overdoses from addiction to pain medications the mortality rate in the coal fields of Virginia is 40 deaths per 100,000 adjusted as opposed to 8.3 deaths for the rest of the state. These are huge problems. The level of disability. The lack of access to care. Uhm, the isolation that people experience in rural areas create a perfect storm of problems for mental health issues. Then you add to that the absence of practitioners, there are just way too few practitioners and they are going to be even greater shortages in primary care and mental health care folk for this region and for our vets and everyone else. So telehealth and the use of wireless capabilities become a key tool to reduce isolation to send reminders -- Just the appointment reminders alone -- and this has been a VA study -- to look at folks with Traumatic Brain Injury and reminders over the cell phone for their appointments and daily contacts has dramatically changed the number of people who show for their appointments. Those small things will add up to the large indicators about how we can address mental health issues in rural areas.

That doesn't address the question. And why he's bringing in non-military rural populations? Because he doesn't know the answer. So he's b.s.es at length and never answers the damn question. Never. Wow. An alarm clock will help many wake up in the morning. And apps on a cell phone can be used as reminders for appointments. What does this have to do with health care? Gizmos aren't health care.

And Dr. Merkel? I don't know him. I asked around to find out about his expertise on veterans issues and was told repeatedly -- by medical doctors who study and treat veterans -- that he has none. He's apparently very big on adolescent health (an important issue) but he's not an expert on veterans issues. Why is he being name checked? Oh, that's right, it's a sales pitch. It's not about veterans issues, it's about making a sales pitch. Got it.

Senator Kent Conrad has issued a statement (which Senator Daniel Akaka's office kindly passed along):
Washington -- In an effort to bring greater attention to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the United States Senate last night passed a resolution authored by Senator Kent Conrad designating June 27 as National PTSD Awareness Day.
"The stress of war can take a toll on one's heart, mind and soul. While these wounds may be less visible than others, they are no less real," Senator Conrad said. "All too many of our service men and women are returning from battle with PTSD symptoms like anxiety, anger, and depression. More must be done to educate our troops, veterans, families and communities about this illness and the resources and treatments available to them."
The Senator developed the idea for a National PTSD Awareness Day after learning of the efforts of North Dakota National Guardsmen to draw attention to PTSD and pay tribute to Staff Sgt. Joe Biel, a friend and member of the 164th Engineer Combat Battalion. Biel suffered from PTSD and took his life in April 2007 after returning to North Dakota following his second tour in Iraq.

Earlier this month, Senator Conrad visited the Fargo VA Medical Center and met with physicians and social workers to discuss their capabilities for helping those suffering from PTSD. He also met with friends of Sgt. Biel and presented them a copy of the resolution designating June 27 -- Biel's birthday -- as National PTSD Awareness Day.

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, accidents, and military combat. From 2000 to 2009, approximately 76,000 Department of Defense patients were diagnosed with PTSD.

"This effort is about awareness, assuring our troops -- past and present -- that it's okay to come forward and say they need help. We want to erase any stigma associated with PTSD. Our troops need to know it's a sign of strength, not weakness, to seek assistance," Senator Conrad said.
To learn more about PTSD and locate facilities offering assistance, visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' National Center for PTSD at
http://www.ptsd.va.gov.
Veterans in need of immediate assistance can call the VHA Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.
June 27th is this Sunday (unless I'm figuring it wrong in my head). We'll include the announcement in tomorrow's snapshot as well.

Alexandra Sandels (Los Angeles Times) notes -- with some skepticism -- "an article published on the Afghan news site and media organization Kabul Press" by Matthew Nasuit which noted that the number of US troops wounded in the Iraq and Afghanistan War is actually 500,000. The press are supposed to be skeptical but when are they? When parroting the words of whomever the latest Oval Office occupant is? No. But on this article? April 14, 2008, Pia Malbran (CBS News) reported on the number of wounded and noted, "A January report by the Department of Veterans Affairs showed 299,585 veterans who recently served in the Middle East had been treated by the VA since 2002. Forty percent (120,049) of the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who sought care from the VA did so for mental health disorders." That's nearly 300,000 and based solely on those seeking treatment. We already noted Andrew Stephen's March 12, 2007 New Statesman report on the US wounded which went into how Bush and DoD hid the true number of wounded: "Let me pause to explain those deceptive figures. Look at the latest official toll of US fatalities and wounded in the media, and you will see something like 3,160 dead and '3,785 wounded (that 'includes 13,250 personnel who returned to duty within 72 hours", the Washington Post told us helpfully on 4 March). From this, you might assume that only 11,000 or so troops, in effect, have been wounded in Iraq. But Bilmes discovered that the Bush administration was keeping two separate sets of statistics of those wounded: one (like the above) issued by the Pentagon and therefore used by the media, and the other by the Department of Veterans Affairs - a government department autonomous from the Pentagon. At the beginning of this year, the Pentagon was putting out a figure of roughly 23,000 wounded, but the VA was quietly saying that more than 50,000 had, in fact, been wounded." The exact number Nasuit has may or may not be incorrect but it certainly jibes with continual and longstanding findings.


Turning to another ongoing issue: the political stalemate. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance. Together, the two still lack four seats necessary (or so it is thought) to form the government.
Reuters notes that the Iraqi National Alliance and the State of Law's inability to agree on a candidate for prime minister. Nouri al-Maliki, Little Saddam, wants to continue as prime minister. His fan club, State of Law, is backing him. The Iraqi National Alliance is not high on the choice.

On the lastest Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera, began airing Friday), Jasim Azawi spoke with the Iraqi National Alliance's Al-Aharif bin al-Hussein who insisted that the "National Alliance hasn't agreed yet on-on a candidate. Uh, but we expect that to happen in a few weeks." Azawi noted that Nouri's determination not to leave office may fracture the power-sharing coalition between the Iraqi National Alliance and State Of Law. Today Reuters quotes an insider (unnamed stating), "ISCI Badr organizations and Sadrists" Iraqi National Alliance "have decided not to hand the government to Maliki or the Dawa Party" (Dawa is the party Nouri hails from). Taking in the landscape, Adel Al Toraifi (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper) offers, "The political situation is further complicated because Iraq has not changed much since Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki first took office and despite the relative improvement in security it is still the country most at risk from terrorist attacks, according to the Maplecroft Terrorism Risk index. This report, published on 16 February, shows that the civilian death toll from acts of violence in Iraq exceeded 4000 in 2009, with approximately 100-500 civilian deaths taking place each month. Some people see the situation in Iraq as a recurrence of the sectarian model, and therefore they explicitly justify the sectarian quota system. One Iraqi commenter drew attention to the fact that the United Nations had sought the help of a Lebanese consultant at the beginning of the invasion to help achieve stability in Iraq. Perhaps the most important question at this stage is: is Iraq in need of a strong central government, i.e. greater powers for the post of prime minister?" While some ponder that, Joel Brinkley (Sacramento Bee) sticks with the basics, "As American troops withdraw from Iraq this summer, expect the democratic freedoms Iraqis have enjoyed in recent years to recede as well. Already, the Iraqi government is restricting freedom of the press, expression and assembly. It's toying with Web censorship, torturing political prisoners and killing political opponents."

Meanwhile
Mujahid Mohammed (AFP) reports that 3 Mosul suicide bombings claimed the lives of 1 Iraqi soldier and 4 police officers today and 3 police officers were shot dead in Mosul last night while, early this morning, a Baquba home invasion resulted in two adult brothers being kidnapped and their corpses later discovered. Xia Xiaopeng (Xinhua) reports that 4 family members were taken, that they were Sahwa and that all 4 were killed with them being "found handcuffed and blindfolded with bullet holes in different pars of the bodies". In addition, Reuters notes a Kirkuk roadside bombing which injured four people and a two Baghdad roadside bombing claimed the lives of 2 police officers and left eight more injured. Hannah Allem (McClatchy Newspapers) reports on the way the war has effected Iraq's farming.


Today the US Senate Armed Services Committee convened regarding two nominations. Gen Ray Odierno is currently the top US commander in Iraq. He's nominated for the post of Commander, US Join Forces Command. If confirmed, he would assume that position in September. Who would take his place in Iraq? Lt Gen Lloyd Austin has been nominated. Committee Chair Carl Levin explained, "Lt Gen Austin currently serves as director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon; however, he also has important recent experience commanding US and coalition forces in combat as commanding general of Multi-National Corps-Iraq and prior to that commanding the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan. If confirmed, Gen Austin will assume command of approximately 82,000 US troops in Iraq -- on the way down to 50,000 by the end of this coming August, leading to eventual withdrawal of all our foces by December 2011." That's from Chair Levin's prepared statement. From friends at the hearing (including a staffer) and prepared statements we were going to note a few things, we may do that tomorrow, we don't have space for it today.

In Detroit, the US Social Forum is taking place. Many people and organizations are participating including Iraq Veterans Against the War.
IVAW has activities scheduled for tomorrow.

Veterans and Military Families: Impact of the Wars; Impact on Movements (co-presented with Veterans For Peace and Military Families Speak Out). Event Date: Fri, 06/25/2010 - 1:00pm - 3:00pm Event Location: Cobo Hall: D2-14
Full Description: A small fraction of this country is involved in the armed services as a veteran, service member or military family. As a result, the burden of war in this country is isolated to a small few, making it easier for those in power to continue the wars. Veterans and military families thus have a crucial role in providing the ground truth to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and leading/inspiring the movements to end them.
The workshop will explore three points: a. Veterans and military families using their unique voices and perspectives to end the current wars. b. What has been the personal cost of war: lives lost and destroyed. c. Intersections of veteran and military families' concerns with movements for progressive, political and social change and how veterans and military families can play a role.
Panelists will share their perspective as a veteran or military family member, followed by large group discussion. Participants will gain a better understanding of the important role that veterans and military families can and should play in anti-war/peace movements. We hope participants begin to see ways veterans and military families can build relationships with other organizations and begin to develop strategic alliances across issues.
From Detroit today,
Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) spoke with IVAW's Camilo Mejia, Victor Agosto and Brock McIntosh. Camilo is the first Iraq War veteran to refuse to the illegal war and he documents that in Road from Ar Ramadi: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia. Victor Agosto is an Iraq War veteran who refused to deploy to Afghanistan. Brock McIntosh is an Afghanistan War veteran currently attempting to be granted Conscientious Objector status. It was a wide ranging discussion and we'll excerpt the following:


AMY GOODMAN: Brock McIntosh, you are, like the other guests here today, unusual. You've served in Afghanistan. You've come back. Now you're applying for CO status. Are interviewers knocking down your door to talk to you about your situation?

BROCK McINTOSH: No, because war is a top-down approach, so it doesn't matter what people on the ground think, they perceive.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you feel you have support from other soldiers, other people in the Army National Guard?

BROCK McINTOSH: A lot of my fellow soldiers are either supportive, or at least they recognize my freedom of speech. So they're understanding. There's a few soldiers who have made threats at me, you know, threatening to burn me, whatever that means. But they're all empty threats. But most people have been pretty supportive. So...

AMY GOODMAN: Are you afraid to return to Afghanistan?

BROCK McINTOSH: No, I'm not. I'm just afraid to kill. I would have returned to Afghanistan as a civilian in a heartbeat.

AMY GOODMAN: Today there's going to be a big antiwar session at the US Social Forum here in Detroit. Among those who will be speaking are, well, Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK, who tried to go to Canada yesterday, but she was detained, along with another person, and she was turned back. Among those who will be speaking are Colonel Ann Wright. We had Colonel Ann Wright on yesterday, who helped to open the mission in Afghanistan, the embassy, in 2002, feels, though, the war is wrong. Victor Agosto, what would you say to a young person now who's been recruited out of high school? What would you tell them? What if they're in boot camp and they're changing their mind?

VICTOR AGOSTO: Well, I find that just about anyone who signs up for the military really believes that they are doing something good. So I would basically try to convince them that, in reality, instead of being a force for good, they're going to be a force for evil, really, in that the wars aren't making anybody any safer, they are just bringing misery to the people of Afghanistan and Iraq, and that they're drawing away vital resources here at home.

AMY GOODMAN: Final comment, Camilo Mejia? You're the former chair of the Iraq Veterans Against the War. As you organize, your thoughts?

CAMILO MEJIA: Well, I want to speak to the question you just asked. And I want to address servicemembers who are considering not re-deploying to either Iraq or Afghanistan or to, you know, filing a CO claim. In my experience having fought in Iraq and come back, being court-martialed, applied for CO status and denied so far, and served time in jail—I actually served almost nine months of a year sentence. I have not spoken with a single war resister who has taken a stance against war and has served time in jail, who has any regrets about the decision to speak your mind freely and follow your conscience. I would say to young people in the military to follow their conscience and to not be afraid of jail, because in the end, if they do follow their conscience, they will have no regrets, whatever the consequences.

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