Friday, July 23, 2010

Midnight

I don't generally write about my husband here but I am tired and Cedric actually suggested it. First though:


That's Wally and Cedric's post this morning and, as they'll tell you, it's nothing much. That's because Cedric was sick last night and not feeling too good this morning. Wally offered to work up something by himself and I even offered to work up something with Wally but Cedric said they could do the list and that then Cedric would go back to bed. (My husband never calls in for a sick day. So please understand he was sick.)

His stomach started killing him last night and I felt so bad because nothing was helping. I started thinking, "That kind of pain, it's got to be a kidney stone or something." Which wasn't any help to him or me.

But we had some DVDs and I made up the couch and turned the air down real low -- put some sheets, blankets and pillows on the couch -- and then we hopped on that and had Midnight on "repeat" all night. I'd never seen the movie before and honestly saw it in bits and pieces as it replayed all night. I'd wake up and watch a little, go back to sleep, wake up again. At one point she was being hauled off (at a party) to a card game. At another point, I woke up and they were playing cards (this was an hour and sometime later).

But what I really loved about the movie was the depth and composition. With very few exceptions (Martin Scorse is one), I don't think most people know ow to use color. Which is one of the reasons I really love black & white films. Midnight came out in 1939 and stars Claudette Colbert as a young, down on her luck woman in France who pretends to be royalty while Don Ameche and John Barrymore try to woo her.

I've actually seen other films (including from the 30s) with similar plots. But this one really works because of Claudette Colbert who is never an actress I think of as talented and gifted unless I've just watched a film with her in it. She is very talented. But for whatever reason, she's also someone, to me, who is easily forgettable. That's probably my issue.



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

Friday, July 23, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, 3 US service members are wounded in an Iraq attack, depleted uranium is back in the news, the Congress examines VA health care, and more.
Yesterday, Lt Dan Choi learned he was the latest casualty of the US government's continued homophobia. Today he appeared on PRI's The Takeaway.
Lt Dan Choi: A big surprise. It's painful as much as much as I'm prepared for that. Anytime somebody knowingly breaks Don't Ask, Don't Tell for the sake of integrity and telling the truth about who we are, we still have to be prepared for the consequences --
John Hockenberry: Which were what? What did your commander say to you?
Lt Dan Choi: He said that I'd been discharged under Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
John Hockenberry: You're out.
Lt Dan Choi: I'm fired.
John Hockenberry: He said fired or he just said -- 'You're being honorably discharged'?
Lt Dan Choi: I'm being honorably discharged. That is an end to an entire era that I've started since I was age 18 --
John Hockenberry: How long have you been in the service?
Lt Dan Choi: -- I'm sorry. I have not been a civilian since then. And as much as you might be interested in how it was said and what was in the letter, to me, it's all a summation of the entire journey and it says it's all over. As much as you can prepare yourself and build up the armor to get ready for that, it's hard, it's very painful to deal with that. I think about every moment of being in the military since starting from West Point eleven years ago and preparing for deployments and infantry training and then going to Iraq and coming back and then starting a relationship and then all of the emotions of this entire journey just came right back at that moment when he said that your - your - your service is now terminated. I got the letter. He e-mailed me the letter, I got the letter yesterday morning, and in very cold words, it just said that I'm finished.
Turning to the issue of depleted uranium, Tom Eley (WSWS) reports:
According to the authors of a new study, "Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005–2009," the people of Fallujah are experiencing higher rates of cancer, leukemia, infant mortality, and sexual mutations than those recorded among survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the years after those Japanese cities were incinerated by US atomic bomb strikes in 1945.
The epidemiological study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Studies and Public Health (IJERPH), also finds the prevalence of these conditions in Fallujah to be many times greater than in nearby nations.
The assault on Fallujah, a city located 43 miles west of Baghdad, was one of the most horrific war crimes of our time. After the population resisted the US-led occupation of Iraq -- a war of neo-colonial plunder launched on the basis of lies -- Washington determined to make an example of the largely Sunni city. This is called "exemplary" or "collective" punishment and is, according to the laws of war, illegal.
Press TV also covers it by interviewing former US Congress member and Green Party presidential nominee Cynthia McKinney.
Press TV: Mrs. McKinny is now with us from Atlanta, Georgia. Thanks so much for joining our broadcast. Why is it that the use of depleted uranium in Iraq and Afghanistan is largely being ignored by the media at large; in addition, this is much more dangerous than the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, isn't it?

McKinny: Well, you're absolutely right that is dangerous. And not only is the use of depleted uranium contaminating the areas that are considered the war theater but because of air current the contamination by depleted uranium is spreading over major world cities like for example London where the air has tested positive for depleted uranium. We also have to be concerned about the side effects of depleted uranium. We have seen an incredible increase in the severity and in the proliferation of birth defects in these areas that are considered the war theater by the US and the British troops. They have used depleted uranium and it has affected the population.

Press TV:The Pentagon has denied risk from the use of depleted uranium and has refused to help Iraq decontaminate affected areas, yet is also seeking alternatives citing environmental factors. Is that last part as close as we are going to get to admitting to the truth?

McKinny:Well, we should have people in the United States Congress who care about this particular issue. I did introduce legislation to ban all use of depleted uranium munitions while the jury was out with respect to what the health effects would have been as a result of the use of these kinds of weapons. Now we know what the health effects are. We have seen what the health effects are, and the impact on the people of Iraq. But, now the United States is using depleted uranium munitions not only in Iraq but has been using them in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well. So, it's not about the environmental problems only that we are concerned, but we are concerned about the health effects on human beings. We are concerned about the health effects of war on human beings and that's why we are engaged in our activities to fight the 'US war machine' in general.
Turning to some of today's reported violence, Reuters notes 3 US soldiers were wounded in an attacak on a US Nassiriya base, a Kirkuk car bombing injured a police chief, claimed the life of his son and injured nine other people, a Baghdad sticky bombing injured two people, a Baghdad home invasion killed the parents of one police officer, and, dropping back to Thursday for the rest, one army officer injured in a Baghdad shooting, an Iskandariya bombing which injured nine people, a Baghdad mortar attack which injured three people, and a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured three people.
Yesterday the US House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on physical war wounds. Chair Michael Michaud explained in his opening statement, "The purpose of today's hearing is to explore how we can best serve our veterans who have sustained severe physical wounds from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, we will closely examine VA's specialized services for the severely injured, which include blind rehabilitation, spinal cord injury centers, polytrauma centers and prosthetics and sensory aids services. With advances in protective body armor and combat medicine, our service members are surving war wounds which
otherwise would have resulted in casualties."
The first panel was made of veterans advocates: Blinded Veterans Association's Thomas Zampieri, Paralyzed Veterans of America's Carl Blake, Disabled American Veterans' Joy J. Illem, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America's Tom Tarantino and the American Legion's Denise Williams.
Thomas Zampieri: The VA, I want to start off on some good news, the blind rehab services have expanded services throughout the system. Ironically, back in 2004, they developed the plans for a continum of care based on the idea that the aging population of veterans would need a lot of low vision and blind rehabilitative services. Little, I think, did they realize back then that the plans that they were making to expand services would suddenly be immediately useful for the returning service members with eye trauma and Traumatic Brain Injuries with vision impairments associated with the TBIs. And so what we have is now the VA has expanded. They've had ten in-patient blind centers which offer comprehensive, rehabilitative services for those with blindness but they also have all the specialized staff in those centers such as consultants with orthapedics, general surgeons, neuroligists, psychologists, pharmacologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech pathologists, the list goes on and on. So those individuals refered to the ten blind centers get, I think, excellent care. But the VA has also expanded and they now have 55 sites where they have either low-vision specialists or advanced blind rehabiltative centers. And those centers have specialized staff -- they've actually hired about 250 staff including about 60 low-vision optometrists and they're screening these patients with visual problems and visual impairments. And so that's the good news.
In addition, Zampieri noted problems such as the fact that BROS (Blind Rehabilitative Outpatient Specialists) can visit the VA and do various things but they can't do what they're trained to and so he asks that the VA grant BROS the same Medical Treatment Factilities (MTF) clinical privileges as VA clinical staff. We're going to stay with opening statements and, please note, this is what was stated. It may or may not track with the prepared written opening statement which are submitted ahead of time and submitted for the record. So here's a sampling of the first panel, via their opening statements. And these are excerpts, not their entire opening statements.
Carl Blake: It is important to emphasize that specialized services are part of the core mission and responsibility of the VA. For a long time, this has included spinal cord injury care, blind rehabilitation, treatment for mental health conditions -- including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder -- and similiar conditions. Today, Traumatic Brain Injury and polytrauma injuries are new areas that the VA has had to focus its attention on as part of their specialized care programs. The VA's specialized services are incomparable resources that often cannot be duplicated in the private sector. For PVA, there is an ongoing issue that has not received a great deal of focus: Some active duty soldiers with a new spinal cord injury or dysfunction are being transferred directly to civilian hospitals in the community and bypassing the VA health care system. This is particularly true of newly injured service members who incur their spinal cord injuries in places other than the combat theaters of Iraq and Afghanistan. This violates a memorandum of agreement between VA and DoD that was effective January 1, 2007, requiring that "care management services will be provided by the military medical support office, the appropriate military treatment facility and the admitting VA center as a joint-collaboration" and that "whenever possible the VA health care center closest to the active duty member's home of record should be contacted first." In addition, it requires that to ensure optimal care, active duty patients are to go directly to a VA medical facility without passing through a transit military hospital -- clearly indicating the critical nature of rapidly integrating these veterans into an SCI health care system. This is not happening. For example, service members who have experienced a spinal cord injury while serving in Afghanistan and Iraq are being transferred to Sheppard Spinal Center, a private facility, in Atlanta when VA facilities are available in Augusta. When we raised our concerns with the VA regarding Augusta in a site visit report, the VA responded by conducting an information meeting at Sheppard to present information and increase referrals. However, reactionary measures such as this should not be the standard for addressing these types of concerns. Of additional concern to PVA, it was repoted that some of these newly injured soldiers receiving treatment in private facilities are being discharged to community nursing homes after a period of time in these private rehabilitation facilities. In fact, some of these men and women have received sub-optimal rehabilitation and some are being discharged without proper equipment. PVA is greatly concerned with this type of process and treatment.
Joy Ilem: Today's injured military service members are experiencing higher survival rates than in previous wars, with the overall survival rate among wounded troops being about 90 percent. This increase is attributed to the widespread use of body armor, improved battlefield triage procedures and expedited medical evacuation. For a majority of our wounded service members, the first level of complex intervention on their journey to a VA PRC nomrally occurs at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, operated by the US Army. Up until 2009, VA received little or no information about wounded service member transport, the full extent of the acute care process that service members had undergone or the stress that these patients had experienced before arriving at a VA PRC. However, in October of 2009, a team of two VA physicians and two nurses from VA's Polytrauma System of Care spent four days at Landstuhl to gather information and put a system in place to establish a regular exchange of information between medical teams in the military and VA's PRCs. The PRCs are now able to track patients from the beginning of their jouneys and can identify medical complications much earlier. This system of coordination has established a continuum of care that is not proprietary to the DoD or VA and has aieded them to develop one system that benefits our wounded personnel and veterans.
Tom Tarantino: We asked our members what they though of the treatement they were receiving at the VA and we've received a wide range of opinion, both complementary and critical. However, several-several common themes appeared: Long waits for appointments, frequent interaction with rude administrative staff, a growing distrust of VA health care and long drives to VA facilities. Fortunately, we received very few complaints about the actual quality of care at VA medical centers. But in addition to the concerns listed above, our members have expressed concern with how the VA deals with Traumatic Brain Injury. To properly treat returning combat veterans with mild to severe TBI the VA must completely rethink and adapt their medical rehabilitation practices. IAVA is concerned that the VA has limited or denied access to some veterans seeking recovery services for TBI because current statute requires that the VA provides services to restore functions to wounded veterans and while full recovery should always be the desired outcome for rehabilitation, sustaining current function or just preventing future harm should also warrant access to VA services.
Denise Williams: In response to the large number of veterans with prosthetics and rehabilitative needs, VA established Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers (PRC). The VA Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers provide treatment through multi-disciplinary medical teams including cardiologists, internal medicine, physical therapist, social work and transition patient case managers and much more specialty medical service areas, to help treat the multiple injuries. Currently, VA maintains four VA Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers in Richmond, VA; Minneapolis, MN; Palo Alto, CA and Tampa, FL. However, the American Legion is concerned about VA's ability to meet the long term needs of these young veterans. As stated by the Military Medicine Journal, rehabilitation is a crucial step in optimizing long-term function and quality of life after amputation. Although returning veterans with combat-related amputations may be getting the best in rehabilitative care and technology available, their expected long term health outcomes are considerably less clear. It is imperative that both DoD and VA clinicians seriously consider the issues associated with combat-related amputees and try to alleviate any forseeable problems that these OIF-OEF amputees may face in the future.
We'll note this exchange.
Chair Michael Michaud: This question is actually for all the panelists. I've heard some anecdotes from veterans who applaud prosthetic services that they receive at the Dept of Defense but are very leery of the care that they might receive through the VA system. Do you believe that DoD provides better overall prosthetic services compared to the VA? Or do you believe that these anecdotes that I'm hearing are just a few isolated cases? And I don't know who wants to address that.
Joy Ilem: I'll go ahead and take a stab at that. I think early on, you know, we heard reports -- I mean, I remember from hearings even with [Iraq War veteran] Tammy Duckworth [now the Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs at the VA], one of the situations that's very unqiue is DoD and Walter Reed obviously have had -- you know, the focus has been on them for really doing much of the prosthetics and rehab there on site. I know that VA, from attending their prosthetics meeting, have integrated their people to go out and see, you know, what's going on as these people start to transfer back to the VA. But the complaints were that when they returned to the VA to have either their item serviced or to continue their rehabiliation they ran into sort of a disconnect from anyone at the facility they had been working with. The prosthetician had very much attention to and all the access to the newest items and options at the DoD site -- it seemed very different within the VA. I think that, you know, VA's prosthetic services tried to really improve that and make good strides in trying to make sure that they are ready to accept these veterans as they transition back into VA to repair their equipment , to have -- I know that they have access to all of the vendors that are working out there and they have done this liason work. I'm hoping that -- that percetion, as Tom has mentioned, you know, it lingers when you hear so much about DoD and then people want to return there because it's a very sensitive issue in terms of the people that they're working with and the items that they're working with and then to have to go to a new system where people that haven't seen the high tech equipment, you know, you don't have a lot of confidence, I'm sure. They're saying, 'That's the first time I've seen that' but the truth is they're getting access to some of the most high quality equipment that nobody has seen, so I'm hoping it's changing but it still may be the case in some situations.
Carl Blake: Mr. Chairman, I just want to sort of piggy-back a little on what Joy had to say and also make another comment first. Representing a membership that is probably one of the highest in the users of prosthetic devices and equipment from the VA, I would say that our members generally never -- I won't say "never" -- generally do not have problems getting the most state of the art wheel chairs and other types of equipment that they need. In the occasion where maybe there's some difficulty getting some prosthetic equipment or whatever it may be, it's usually just a matter of working with the prosthetic department through our service officers or what have you to make sure that the right steps are taken. But-but our members are not experiencing a lot of problems getting what they need and, believe me, when it comes to state of the art wheel chairs, you'd be surprised at what's out there. I want to sort of tag along on what Joy had to say, I think you would find that DoD is not unlike VA in sort of the prosthetic structure and some of VA's prosthetic services is not unlike the rest of its health care, it has to become adaptable to the changing needs of this generation. Prosthetics is no exception. I think a lot of focus is put on the high tech -- we talk about these advanced prosthestics the service members are getting from DoD but it really boils down to them getting through Walter Reed, Bethesda, Brooke or some of the major military checkpoints. But if they went back to a lot of home stations, I think you'd find that a lot of these military treatment facilities, they don't exactly have the capacity to meet their needs when it comes to prosthetics or the maintenance required for that equipment either. So DoD is not unlike the VA in that respect and I think that VA is probably trying to address it more than DoD would in that respect and we've heard time and again from Mr. [Fred] Downes who overseas the VA's prosthetics that -- I think he recognizes the need for them to become more adapatable and get it to the field so that, as these men and women are ultimately going to come to their local facilities, the VA can meet their needs particularly on the maintance of this high-end equipment. I mean, they are intimately involved in what's going on out at Walter Reed in particular because that's sort of where everything begins when it comes to these advanced prosthetics. So I -- You can beat up on the VA for it but in fairness to the VA, they're seeing demands on their system that they never could have imagined before now also.
Chair Michael Michaud: Thank you very much. My next, my last question for all the panelists actually is: When you look at speciality care within the VA system, do you believe that speciality care is provided equally among all of VA facilities talking to your membership?
Carl Blake: I'll speak to the SCI [spinal cord injury] side of it. I think because of the model that's been established, we feel pretty confident that it's sort of a uniform policy in the way that all SCI care is provided across the system. That again is a function of how the entire SCI service has been set up through the hub-and-spoke model. We're encouraged to see that the VA is sort of moving that way in the polytrauma aspect. And yet there are a lot of challenges as it relates to TBI that Joy raised and going forward that the VA is going to have to figure out how to deal with along the way. But I feel pretty confident that they do the right thing across the board when it comes to SCI service in particular.
Joy Ilem: I would add on to that, some of the complaints that we've heard from veterans contacting us about mild to moderate TBI is that their family sort of recognized that they had an issue, they had been using the VA system for other things, they went to the VA, weren't satisifed in certain areas of the country -- I mean, I'd received calls from sort of different locations saying, you know, 'I ended up in the private sector with VA fee-basing me into an out-patient program that really offered a range of things that I've learned so much in the last six months in terms of mild TBI, how to deal with it for my family centered care, addressing a range of issues and opportunities for them to have this wide range of out-patient care.' And in those cases, you know, I've contacted the VA directly and tried to find out is it just this location that they're having this problem or is it a systemic problem. It's hard to say unless, you know -- someone like PVA really has people on the ground that are doing site visits and the Legion. But in that specific area, that's a concern of ours. We're hoping that in certain areas, we're hoping that they've got the interdisciplinary teams that are needed to provide that care and that they've developed a wide range of services and a good type of program for that but I'm not convinced of that, that it's everywhere yet. I think it's in certain locations -- obviously with the major polytrauma centers -- but as you go further out, and then obviously in the rural areas where those services are-are not available and they have to connect them with the nearest prviate sector facilities. You know, we'd like to see some continuity of care and make sure that care is available everywhere.
Denise Williams: I'd like to add that during our site visit that was a main issue: staffing shortages. As Joy just mentioned, in the areas where they have the polytrauma centers, you'll see where they have a lot of speciality care available but as you go out to the other facilities there is definitely a shortage for speciality care. And we hear that from the veterans and we also hear that from VA staff themselves at the facilities, that there's a shortage.
Thomas Zampieri: Same thing. The major centers, both the military polytrauma centers, Walter Reed, Bethesda, Brooke Army Medical Center, Balboa out in San Diego, or you go to any of the four VA polytrauma centers, it's amazing. I think everybody gets seen by everybody. I mean it's not unusual to have a team of thirty different specialists seeing a patient and the hand off has improved dramatically since 2005 when I was sitting in this room, I think, with a couple of things. One is that we're always concerned with everybody focuses on -- the famous beat-up in this town is Walter Reed. You know, when something goes wrong and the universe focuses there. But the patients who are evacuated back through Landstuhl come back into the United States, I think there's a misperception that everybody goes through Bethesda or Walter Reed and actuality, some people will admit that about thirty percent of all the wounded and walking wounded actually go back to the original home platform base of deployment. So if you go to Fort Drum or Fort Carson, Coloardo or Fort Gordon, Georgia or -- just name a base. Fort Hood, Texas. You'll find individuals who are evacced back through the system that didn't get seen in one of these highly specialized centers. And some of those are the ones that we find that have a vision problem -- you know, they didn't have a lot of other severe injuries so they were evacced back and then they sort of get lost. Somebody on one side doesn't notify the VA Blind Rehab Services or the local VIST coordinator that they have somebody that's experiencing vision problems and that there's treatment available, that there's specialized devices from prosthetics that are available to help them in their recovery and treatment. And so that's why the visions centers of excellence is important -- because it isn't just the major trauma severe cases that need to be tracked, it's all of the types of injuries -- mild, moderate, severe -- as far as vision goes -- that need to be carefully tracked and followed and the providers need to be able to exchange the information between them -- between the VA providers, the opthamologists and the military, their colleagues, and the military treatment facilities. Because, again, a person at Fort Drum, New York may suddently have somebody come in that was evacced back from Landstuhl with injuries and that's where one of the problems is. Thank you.
Turning to peace news, Mick Kelly (Fight Back!) reports that Minneapolis groups are gearing up to protest at the 2012 DNC convention. Meredith Aby is quoted stating, "We are prepared to organize a significant protest of thousands of people to demand an end to the wars and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. For the 2008 RNC we organized an impressive coalition of anti-war, economic rights, student, immigrant rights and labor groups to protest the war on Iraq and these forces are ready to come together again to give a loud and clear message of opposition to the Democrats' support for the war in Afghanistan." Let's take the pulse of the political parties.
CNN reports, "The Senate passed an emergency supplemental spending bill to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, setting aside a House package that includes additional social spending." So the Democratically-controlled Senate is sending the war supplemental -- which Barack swore would take place once and only once in 2009 and never again under his watch -- back to the Democratically House and welcome to Bizarro World. Michael Steele, chair of the GOP, calls the Afghanistan War Barack's war and he's only 'wrong' in that he forgot the Iraq War. They're both Barack's wars. And welcome to Bizarro World. Governors do photo ops in Iraq and praise the conditions there -- and they're Democrats -- like Governor Tim Pawlenty. And Governor Jim Douglas. And welcome to Bizarro World. Michael Bell (Globe and Mail) writes a strong column which opens with, "The American-led interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq are failing." A UN report this week, [PDF format warning] "Regional Response Plan for Iraqi Refugees," explains that Iraq continues to be unstable, that "human rights violations continue, including illegal detention, targeted killing, kidnapping and discrimination. The formation of a new Government following the Parliamentary elections in March continues to be delayed and the political vacuum may continue until August or September 2010." And, for those wondering, the Green Party continues to refuse to mount a left critique of Barack yet again signaling that they are content to forever be the kid sister of the Democratic Party.
Still on peace news, Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan notes in "Myth America II: FREE PDF FILE" (Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox), "Last year in January, I found myself in an awkward place--being pro-peace in a nation that had seemed to have turned itself upside down either in questionable euphoria or abject fear because a new member of the elite class had been installed as president of the United States." Cindy's offering Myth America as a PDF for free or for a donation to Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox.
TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Michael Duffy (Time magazine), John Harwood (New York Times and CNBC) and Dana Priest (Washington Post) join Gwen. This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Melinda Henneberger, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Tara Setmayer 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 of women priests. 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 Bob Ivry on the financial-reform bill. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
The Narrative
A former member of a Muslim extremist group tells Lesley Stahl the reason for the increase in home-grown jihadists like the U.S. Army major accused of shooting 13 at Ft. Hood is an ideology called "the Narrative," which states America is at war with Islam. |
Watch Video

Growing Body Parts
Morley Safer reports on the emerging technology of growing body parts from human cells taken directly from patients, providing new hope for amputees and patients on organ-transplant lists. |
Watch Video

Tyler Perry
When Hollywood refused to produce his films his way, Tyler Perry started his own studio in Atlanta and now his movies - including the popular "Madea" series - are drawing huge audiences. Byron Pitts profiles the new and unlikely movie mogul. |
Watch Video

60 Minutes, Sunday, July 25, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

No boundaries

If there's a bigger waste of time than Terry Gross, it's Binyamin Appelbaum and the two of them teamed up on yesterday's Fresh Air.

I missed the opening at work. We'd had a fire drill (a drill, nothing was wrong) at work and had to leave and when I got back, the show had started and Terry was speaking to some man.

Who?

I kept wondering and wondering as he talked about what "we" were doing (the administration) and what "we" had done (ibid).

Turns out he does not work for the administration, he is a reporter or 'reporter' for the New York Times. You'd think they'd talk to their staff about how to conduct themselves and the need not to identify themselves with anything they're covering.


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

Thursday July 22, 2010. Chaos and violence continues, the Iraqi refugee crisis continues, the US (and many other countries) offers a paltry dollar figure towards humanitarian relief, Turkey looks for new ways to keep the PKK out, and more.

Starting with Iraqi refugees. Tuesday the United Nations released [PDF format warning] "
Regional Response Plan for Iraqi Refugees." The 108 page report focuses on "the immediate needs of Iraqi refugees in 12 countries: Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Iran" Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudia Arabia and the UAE. Syria, Jordan and Lebanon continue to house the most Iraqi refugees. And humanitarian organizations -- including the UNHCR, CARITAS, CARE International, UNICEF, France RC, -- are suffering from a drop in donations. This comes at a time when Iraq itself continues to be unstable. The report notes that "human rights violations continue, including illegal detention, targeted killing, kidnapping and discrimination. The formation of a new Government following the Parliamentary elections in March continues to be delayed and the political vacuum may continue until August or September 2010." These conditions and others continue to influence the flow of Iraqis out of Iraq and create new refugees -- with very few refugees (the report covers external refugees only) returning to Iraq. In Syria, for example, new Iraqi refugees are citing "threats made against them" and/or "the security situation in their area" as reasons for departing Iraq in 2010. One new feature emerging is a drop in official refugees. How can that be?

Many refugees are no longer apparently confident that they can be helped and they have been dropped from the UNHCR rolls (it's noted that all they have to do is ask to be reactivated). In addition, this year, the UN has resetled 7,918 Iraqi refugees as of May 31st. The report offers a breakdown of registered refugees by country and by gender. GCC is Gulf Cooperation Council and Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudia Arabia and the UAE make up the GCC. Iraqi refugees (registered) in Syria, Jordan and Egypt make up 49% of each countries' Iraqi refugees. By contrast, in Lebanaon, females make up only 36% of the Iraqi refugee population with males coming in at 64%. All host countries have similar needs because the realities refugees face don't differ a great deal. They need medical assistance, they need food assistance, they need training if they're fortunate enough to be in an area that will allow them to work, they need housing assistance and much more. It's all the basics and with the global economy having dived, donations are down to humanitarian organizations.

We won't provide a breakdown of each country (the report does); however, we will not a camp on the border between Syria and Iraq. Iraq's Palestinian population has been noted at this site several time before; however, it is the segment of the population that has received the least attention at this site. So we'll note the section on the ones at Al-Hol camp in full. But first, Palestinians who became Iraqi refugees mainly populated Al-Hol, Al-Tanaf, Al-Walid and Al-Ruwesiehed camps. The Al-Tanaf camp closed February 1st. The Al-Hol camp was set up in 1991, during the first Gulf War. Children of this camp attend Syrian schools. From the report, we'll note:

As of 15 May 2010, some 561 Palestinians from Iraq were living in Al-Hol camp. This population comprises three major groups:

1) The former Al-Hol camp population, the majority of whom is awaiting the completion of formalities for resettlement departure.
2) The remaining Al-Tanf population who were transferred to Al-Hol between the ened of 2009 and 31 January 2010, and have fallen outside the resettlement process for Al-Tanf camp.
3) Palestinian refugees recently arrived at the camp from Damascus.

Since the beginning of the year, various achievements have been made. They include the closure of the Al-Tanf camp, thanks to increased advocacy efforts by the humanitarian community in 2009 with the Syrian Government and resettlement countries.
Regarding the Al-Hol situation, improved and standardized registration procedures for camp residents have been introduced, all vulnerabilites and basic bio-data being checked and updated. Three refugee committees were newly elected and participate in the camp management and decision-making process.
All agencies involved have set up and now closely monitor an accountability framework of the activities. On the assistance side, all shelters have been connected to the potable water system; a food basket was agreed at the beginning of the year with the refugee community; primary health care has been provided at the camp level; and regular food and NFI distributions (such as hygiene kits or school supplies) have taken place.
In terms of solutions, return to Iraq is not considered a viable option, given the current security situation and the uncertain future for Palestinians in Iraq. Resettlement is still considered the most desirable option for Palestinians ex-Iraq living in Al-Hol camp. At the same time, UNHCR and UNRWA are exploring a local temporary solution with the Syrian authorities, whereby part of the remaining Palestinian population from Iraq would be authorized to regularize their stay and enjoy a set of minimal rights.
In this view, and similarly to the process that took place in Al-Tanf, the Syrian Ministry for Foreign Affairs has publicly communicated that its objective is to support the joint efforts to close Al-Hol camp by the end of 2010.

It's worth noting that while US government dollars have been wasted on a huge number of projects and 'projects,' the US -- which led on the Iraq War which produced the refugee crisis -- has only agreed to provide $17,724,493 (in US dollars). That's appalling. Though they can take pride in not being the United Kingdom ($2,400,000). And Australia whose John Howard (prime minister when the war started) wanted to be a player and got so upset when the press would forget to mention him as one of the three big leaders on the war? They're bellying up to the bar to waive $161,570. They can't even reach the million mark. How very sad. Of course, these are only the figures to date and all the countries -- including the US -- could increase their contributions before the end of the year.
Refugees International issued the following press release today:

Washington, D.C. -- Refugees International President L. Craig Johnstone today called for a greater U.S. commitment to more than two million Iraqis who have fled their homes due to conflict and fear of persecution during seven years of U.S. engagement in Iraq. "As the U.S. military departs Iraq it is leaving behind nearly 500,000 Iraqi refugees -- mainly in Syria and Jordan -- and one and a half million Iraqis who have been uprooted from their homes, many of whom live in total destitution in shanty towns of Iraq," said L. Craig Johnstone, President of Refugees International. "This is the tragic legacy of the conflict in Iraq and as the United States disengages militarily it would be unconscionable to abandon our responsibilities to these civilian victims of war." Ambassador Johnstone testified at a Helsinki Commission hearing, "No Way Home, No Way to Escape: The Plight of Iraqi Refugees and Our Iraqi Allies." Johnstone is former Deputy UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and former U.S. Ambassador and Director for Resources, Plans and Policy in the Department of State. Recalling his own experiences in Vietnam, he called on Congress and the Administration to step up to its commitment to Iraqi refugees, as it did after the fall of Saigon. "The United States was woefully unprepared for the collapse of South Vietnam and unfortunately the prevailing attitude bordered on callous disregard for the well being of the many Vietnamese civilians the U.S. was about to leave behind," stated Johnstone. "But as Saigon was falling, the nation mobilized with unprecedented effort, opening its arms to welcome to hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese refugees. We now face an analogous situation in Iraq, and the United States must again wake up to its responsibility -- this time to the millions of Iraqi civilians displaced by the war." Johnstone asked Congress to expand the program that has resettled some 48,000 Iraqis in the Unites States, and to provide greater financial and social support for refugees struggling to rebuild their lives. Seven years after the beginning of the war in Iraq, an unprecedented number of Iraqis are still living in squatter slums filled with open sewers and lacking water and electricity. Most of the squatter settlements are located precariously under bridges, alongside railroad tracks and amongst garbage dumps. Following visits this year to 20 different squatter settlements throughout Iraq, RI found that nearly 500,000 Iraqis are left living in squalor receiving little help from the Iraqi government, aid agencies and the United Nations. Johnstone called on Congress and the Administration to fund at least 50 percent of the United Nations humanitarian appeals for Iraq and noted that to date it has funded only 23 percent of the some $700 million requested. "The United States must fund humanitarian efforts in proportion to its responsibility," stated Johnstone. RI also recommended that the UN adapt its security measures so that humanitarian officials can access squatter communities regularly and provide assistance. "UN and U.S. officials need to get out of the Green Zone and work the problem where it is, in the slums, in the cardboard shelters that go without electricity or sewage systems," stated Johnstone. In February RI staff traveled to Iraq, Jordan and Syria where they interviewed displaced people, local and national government officials and international agencies. Since November 2006, the organization has conducted eleven missions to the Middle East and has led the call to increase assistance and solutions for displaced Iraqis. To read the report, go to:
http://www.refugeesinternational.org/policy/field-report/iraq-humanitari...Refugees International is a Washington, DC-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises and receives no government or UN funding. www.refugeesinternational.org.


Oussayma Canbarieh (CBC) reported Friday from Damascus on Iraqi refugees (the UN report notes that Damascus is home to the most Iraqi refugees within Syria) where people like Zakiya reside: "Look at me here, I used to be happy. Now, I've lost it all. First two of my daughters were killed and, a couple of months ago, my husband went back to Baghdad to get us some of our savings and he never came back." Meanwhile John Pontifex notes that Syrian Bishop Antoine Audo SJ has thanked Aid to the Church in Need for their latest contribution of $29,000. From Pontifex's press release:

The Chaldean-rite bishop, who is a Jesuit, said: "I do not think the situation for Christians in Iraq is improving. It is still difficult especially in Mosul [city, north Iraq]. "In Baghdad, it varies a lot. Life can be quite normal and then suddenly there can be attacks on the churches and acts of persecution against the people." His comments come after Pope Benedict XVI told the new Iraqi ambassador to the Holy See that the beleaguered country should "give priority to improved security, particularly for the various minorities". At the meeting earlier this month in which Habeeb Mohammed Hadi Ali al-Sadr presented his credentials to the Pontiff, the Pope stressed his concern that if at all possible, Christians resolve to stay in their ancestral homeland. But he added: "Iraqi Christians need to know that it is safe for them to remain in or return to their homes and they need assurances that their properties will be restored to them and their rights upheld." Aid to the Church in Need is prioritising help for the Middle East after Pope Benedict XVI told the charity that "Churches in the Middle East are threatened in their very existence." As well as helping Iraqi Christian refugees in Syria, ACN is providing aid for those fleeing to Turkey and Jordan.

Also giving thanks this week was Ayad Allawi.
Al Jazeera notes, "Allawi in turn thanked Syria for hosting hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees and for its support for efforts to restore stability in Iraq." Meanwhile AINA reports that the Council of Europe is demanding that "the Swedish government stop the deportation of Iraqis." And Gabriel Gatehouse (BBC News -- link has video) reports on an internal refugee camp within Iraq near the Iranian border.

Gabriel Gatehouse: [. . .] this tent village has grown up in just the last month. The people who are living here now come from villages between here and that border [Iranian border] and they fled because of the persistent shelling from inside Iran and aerial bombardments byTurkish planes. They're living a very basic life, water systems provided by UNHCR, the same for the tents they're living in. These people are farmers, they're too scared to go back home to their villages. What's more, they don't know when they'll be able to go back.

Turkish military aircraft is targeting the PKK -- a Kurdish group which believes in an autonomous, Kurdish homeland and is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, Iraq, the US and others. From the
June 3rd snapshot: "Shamal Arqawi (Reuters) reports that the cease fire the PKK had with Turkey is now off according to 'PKK spokesman Ahmed Danees [. . .] in Kurdistan. This followed PKK leader (one of them) Abdullah Ocalan, in prison in Turkey since 1999, stated he was no longer engaging in any dialoge with the government of Turkey. Last month a historic visit took place to Turkey and that got little attention as well. Even though PBS' NewsHour had Turkey's Foreign Minister on as a guest the day before, they didn't even bother to ask about the meeting. Robert Olson (Lexington Herald-Leader) offers: Turkey reportedly offered KRG President Masoud Barzani these choices when he visited in June: The KRG takes unilateral armed action to destroy PKK bases in Iraq; or the KRG, Baghdad government and/or U.S. forces take joint action against the camps. Failing either of those, Turkey undertakes "unilateral armed action against the PKK in Iraq," including a substantial land invasion. Turkey's top commanders say the U.S. -- loathe to diminish the political and military power of the KRG or the Kurds in Iraq -- would oppose a major Turkish incursion. But if the PKK attacks from Iraq into Turkey continue, Ankara may risk U.S. ire by launching an invasion into northern Iraq because Turkish nationalist outrage against the PKK and Kurds could hurt the ruling Justice and Development Part (JDP), led by Prime Minster Recep Tayyib Erdogan, in next year's national election. Today's Zaman reports, "Turkish defense authorities have decided to use remote sensing systems, called 'moles,' to prevent the infiltration of terrorists from Turkey's border with northern Iraq and to ensure the security of military outposts along the border." As they work to keep the PKK from slipping in, Justin Vela (Asia Times) notes, Turkey is flooding northern Iraq with investment money which is, historically, one way to control a region. Gabriel Gatehouse (BBC News) reports from a PKK camp in northern Iraq: After a number of abortive approaches, we finally made contact with the PKK.With the help of a guide, for hours we travelled by car along miles of bumpy, unpaved winding roads up into the Qandil Mountains of northern Iraq. When we got to the camp, hidden in a dip in the mountains, our reception was friendly but guarded. Few of the fighters wanted to talk to us. About a third of them are women. All were dressed in the same heavy green uniform. Most carried Kalashnikov rifles.

Violence isn't only on the borders of Iraq.
Tim Arango (New York Times) reports the Green Zone was attacked with a rocket and 3 "foreign contractors" who work for the US Embassy in Baghdad were killed in the attack with fifteen more ("including two American citizens") injured. Ben Lando (Wall St. Journal) notes the dead hailed from Uganda (two of the dead) and Peru and that "nationalities of the other 13 injured aren't known."

Bombings?

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports four Baghdad roadside bombing which injured three people, a Baghdad mortar attack which injured two people, a Diyala Province sticky bombing blew up a police officer's motorcycle, a Mosul roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left four injured (all police officers), a Mosul roadside bombing wounded three people, a Mosul sticky bombing claimed the life of "a retired Brig. Gen." and a Falluja roadside bombing claimed 1 life.

Shootings?

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Iraqi military officer Ahmed Jassim was injured in a Baghdad shooting, 1 civilian was killed in another Baghdad shooting (and one person wounded), 1 civilian was shot dead in a Mosul shooting (and two police officers and a female civilian were injured), another Mosul shooting claimed 1 life and another Mosul shooting claimed 1 life.

In other news,
Ned Parker and Usama Redha (Los Angeles Times) report Camp Cropper prison (just handed semi-over to Iraqis -- US military retains one wing) saw four prisoners escape today.

Meanwhile 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 -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. It's four months and five days and,
in 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. Today makes it four months and fifteen days without any government being established.The Council of Foreign Relations' Mohamad Bazzi (New York Daily News) focuses on Moqtada al-Sadr's face-to-face with Ayad Allawi earlier this week, "But Sadr's political ascendance threatens to stoke sectarian tensions in Iraq: His followers were responsible for some of the worst atrocities against Sunnis during the country's recent civil war. Sadr's militia, the Mahdi Army, unleashed death squads that assassinated Sunnis and drove them out of Shiite neighborhoods." The editorial board of the New York Times weighs in on the stalemate:Four months after national elections gave a cross-sectarian alliance led by Ayad Allawi, a former prime minister, a two-seat lead over Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki's Shiite coalition, Iraqi politicians are still squabbling over who should form the new government. Until that is sorted out, Mr. Maliki is in charge -- a caretaker with limited authority. The list of problems for the new government to address is long. Iraq's economy is growing, but even the most optimistic estimate puts unemployment at 15 percent. Despite billions of dollars in American aid -- too much of it squandered on corruption and mismanagement -- Iraqis still lack adequate electricity.Iraqi politicians also have yet to settle some of the most difficult, and potentially combustible, political issues. The government has to come up with a better plan for protecting, and employing, former Sunni insurgents whose decision to switch sides helped quell the violence. They are increasingly the target of revenge killings by Al Qaeda in Iraq. The Parliament still has not agreed on laws for negotiating oil contracts and for sharing oil revenues. Competing Kurdish and Arab claims to the oil-rich city of Kirkuk must be settled.

In London yesterday, the Iraq Inquiry heard from
Stephen White (Director of Law and Order and Senior Policy Adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority, 2003 - 2004), Colin Smith (Senior Police Adviser, Basra, 2005 - 2006), Lt Gen Anthony Palmer (Deputy Chief of Defence Staff - Personnel - 2002 - 2005), Lt Gen Alistair Irwin (Adjutant General, 2003 - 2005), Carolyn Miller (Director Europe, Middle East and Americas, Department for International Debelopment 2001 - 2004) (link goes to video and transcript option). Last week, we were calling out Dimiter Kenarov's idiotic article for Esquire where he was glorifying DynCorps. So we'll note that they got a shout-out in the hearing. Colin Smith: I don't think they were initially. I think the IPLOs, who worked the Dyncorps were really working as part of CPATT and they saw their role as looking at 22 very much logistics. They didn't see them themselves coming under British military command. They didn't see themselves coming under my command. So they attended weekly meetings with the Provost Marshall in the APOD, MND South East headquarters, but they really were operating -- I brought them in -- when I looked at the development strategy, I brought them on board and their views were taken. I tried to bring them in to be more inclusive but it was difficult because they just awe [saw] themselves as part of CPATT, which was a US-led organisation. They didn't see themselves as part of the team. I made them welcome and I think by the time I left, I would like to say again the work Dave Haverley(?) and his team did -- that we brought them all on board. The Armourgroup when I arrived, were very much on a contract, set to do certain things -- mentoring, monitoring, advising and I was slightly surprised to find they weren't actually under my control. So I couldn't task them. Contractors were mentioned in James Jeffrey's hearing this week on his nomination to be the US Ambassador to Iraq (click here for Tuesday's snapshot, Wednesday's snapshot, Kat's coverage, Ava's coverage and Wally's coverage). It's worth noting that there are few problems that could spring up in the coming months with contractors that could be seen as surprising at this late date. A point to remember should mercenaries shoot up Iraqi civilians again and the State Dept try to spin a Condi Rice golden oldie: "No one could have guessed." We'll note this from Lt Gen Anthony Palmer's testimony: Committee Member MARTIN GILBERT: I would like to ask about a specific MoD announcement which we have taken evidence on. That was the announcement in March 2003, made on 20 March, that unmarried partners of service personnel killed in operations might be eligible for the equivalent of a widow's pension so long as certain eligibility criteria were met. Can you tell us the background to this rather important change of policy? LT. GEN. ANTHONY PALMER: Gosh! Well, clearly it has to be seen in the general context of government policy on partners more widely. My own personal view was that we ought to be responding to partnerships in exactly the same way as we should be responding to marriages, and that, of course, eventually became the law. So we were looking for a response which took that into account, and to me, quite clearly, if somebody had been living as a partner, provided it could be proved, and I seem to recall one of the difficulties was to define exactly what a partner was and, as I recollect, it was if there was a joint mortgage on a house or whatever. So, as you can imagine, in the armed forces there are partnerships and partnerships, and some are enduring and really take the place of a marriage and others less so. So this, again, I think is an example of where we had to tread very carefully. Another issue I think was that there was a bit of reluctance within some parts of the armed forces on the partnership issue. It wasn't generally accepted that it was going to be necessarily a good thing to have people who were married and people who were partners, and we are going back eight years now, so obviously the situation has changed since, living on the same married quarter, etc. So there were issues like that. That's why I say that coordination, consultation with the principal personnel officers and, of course, with ministers on this issue, and sometimes other government departments, was extremely important to produce an enduring policy. Committee Member MARTIN GILBERT: Given the actual timing of it, to what extent was it driven by the imminence of the invasion, and to what extent was it a longer element that just happened to come into place on that day? LT. GEN. ANTHONY PALMER: Well, quite clearly, there were going to be issues that were going to affect people in partnerships, that were going to need to have exactly the same treatment as people in marriage, for instance, in the event of a fatality or whatever. As I said, I was very keen to make sure that these people were treated with the same degree of compassion and sensitivity, because, to me, a partnership, provided it meets the criteria, is every bit as much a commitment as a marriage, that they should be treated exactly the same and that is eventually what happened. LT. GEN. SIR ALISTAIR IRWIN: I have a little titbit to add to that, if that's helpful. I am pretty sure I am right in remembering that the issue of partners' entitlements emerged after the death in action of Bombadier Tinnion in Sierra Leone, during the course of a helicopter assault in the rescuing of some hostages. Bombadier Tinnion's partner -- I think they had a baby. I think they had been planning to get married, but they had not got round to it. The rules at the time clearly were going to be disadvantageous to her, because there was no entitlement to anything of the things she would have had, had she been a wife. There was then -- that, I think, was in 1999, something like that, towards the end of 1999. So from then until -- I don't remember when, but certainly halfway through my time as Adjutant General, this was an issue that was debated, and, you know, as Anthony says, there were a lot of different opinions. Certainly at the beginning of the argument, as Adjutant General, I am afraid I took an old-fashioned view that, you know, commitment means marriage and, if you love somebody enough, you should marry and then -- but clearly this is an out-of-date idea now. Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) covers Carolyn Miller's testimony here. And that covers the three testimonies worth noting.


Turning to the issue of US service members. This afternoon,
Lt Dan Choi Tweeted the following:

I have been discharged under DADT. Our fight is just beginning.
http://tiny.cc/thpr5 via Twitterrific

"DADT" is Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Dan Choi is an openly gay man serving in the military. Many people thought voting for Barack Obama would mean the end of DADT -- because Barack and Michelle Obama claimed it would mean that. But DADT continues. Don't despair though, Barack's ordered a study about repealing it. And, maybe someday, it could be repealed.
Bill Hutchinson (New York Daily News) quotes Dan stating, "After 11 years since beginning my journey at West Point and after 17 months of serving openly as an infantry officer this is both an infuriating and painful announcement." The Advocate has posted [PDF format warning] the discharge letter which notes Lt Dan Choi will be discharged July 31st. CNN adds:

Choi told CNN he received the news through a phone call from his Army National Guard battalion commander. His discharge, however, actually became effective on June 29, according to Eric Durr, a National Guard spokesman.
"You prepare yourself," Choi said. "I built an armor up."
Choi, a 2003 West Point graduate who is fluent in Arabic, was an infantry platoon leader, serving with his unit in Iraq in 2006 and 2007.


Turning to veterans issues, in England,
Today (BBC News -- link has audio) speaks with Iraq War veteran Sgt Maj John Dale who states, "You can't come back and just switch off." Meanwhile in the US, Iraq War veteran Peter Kastner has taken his own life. WSAW reports that he was discovered at Yellowstone National Park. WQOW notes that Park Rangers began looking for him in May after finding his rental car but only discovered his body last week. His father Larry Kastner tells WXOW that his son suffered from PTSD. KOTV reports that the "autoposy revealed Kastner died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound." KRTV adds, "Kastner had been honorably discharged from the Marine Corps after serving for four years. During his service, he was injured twice by Improvised Explosive Devices while serving in Iraq." John Brewer (Pioneer Press) explains, "Male veterans are twice as likely as civilians of either gender to commit suicide, according to the VA, with 1,000 suicides occurring per year among veterans receiving VA care. About 5,000 suicides occur per year among all living veterans, the VA said, an average of 14 veterans a day."The House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees have examined the suicide rate and other issues effecting veterans such as education which is the topic of a press release issued by Senator Daniel Akak who chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee:AKAKA TO MOVE FORWARD WITH POST-9/11 GI BILL IMPROVEMENT ACTChairman holds hearing on strengthening new education programWASHINGTON, D.C. -- Following a favorable hearing on improving the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) is preparing to move forward with legislation to improve the new program. "The original GI Bill changed my life and our country," said Akaka, one of three current U.S. Senators who went to college on the original GI Bill. "I am committed to strengthening the new program for post-9/11 troops and veterans, and I look forward to moving this improvement bill to a vote."Akaka is the author of a S. 3447, the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010, a bill to enhance the new education benefit for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. The Committee on Veterans' Affairs is scheduled to hold a markup of pending legislation on August 5, 2010, at which point Akaka intends to bring the bill up for a vote.At the hearing yesterday, witnesses testified in support of the legislation and offered suggestions. Eric Hilleman of the Veterans of Foreign Wars stated that Senator Akaka's legislation "addresses every area of concern the VFW has with improving the Post-9/11 GI Bill." Tim Embree from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America offered ideas for the draft bill as well as IAVA's endorsement. Embree said the "discussion draft of S. 3447 will improve the New GI Bill and ensure that all student veterans have access to the most generous investment in veterans' education since World War II."Akaka, a World War II veteran, attended the University of Hawaii-Manoa on the original GI Bill. He cosponsored the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and worked with Senator Jim Webb (D-Virginia) to revise and negotiate the legislation. More information about the hearing, including statements, testimony and the webcast is available here: veterans.senate.govFor more information on the GI Bill, please visit http://www.gibill.va.gov-END-Kawika RileyCommunications DirectorU.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' AffairsSenator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairmanhttp://www.veterans.senate.gov
iraq
robert olsonthe asia timesjustin velabbc newsgabriel gatehouse
the new york timestim arango
the wall st. journal
ben lando
al jazeera
mcclatchy newspaperssahar issa
the los angeles timesned parkerusama redha
mcclatchy newspapers
hassan shimmarythe new york daily newsmohamad bazzithe new york timesthe pioneer pressjohn breweriraq inquiry digestchris ames

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

It was also MSM

Ryan Donmoyer, Bloomberg News
Kate Steadman, Kaiser Health News,
Moria Whelan, National Security Network

Those are some of the liars who play at journalism but, in fact, lied to America. Refused to do what they did in the open because they couldn't lie and trick, they couldn't fool and deceive if they had to do it in public. So they lied to get Barack into office, they worked overtime to supress stories that could hurt Barack and to ensure that others in the media focused elsewhere.

Let's be really clear, as C.I. said to me on the phone, their job was to report the news, they were not supposed to manipulate it.

And some insist that it's okay, they were lefties.

Excuse me? I'm a lefty. I know right from wrong. How dare you imply that it's okay because it's lefties.

But it wasn't just lefties. And if you don't grasp what liars and whores they were, let's quote one:

ALYSSA ROSENBERG, GOVERNMENT EXECUTIVE: I’ve gotta be all non-partisan on GovExec, so I hope you’ll all indulge me a minute here. On Monday night in Manassas, the band warming up the crowd before Obama arrived played “I Need You To Survive.” I think the core lyrics are pretty good statement of principles for progressives, especially going forward from a victory like this one:

And that's as much of her as I will include due to the fact that I don't need her bad poetry and can't imagine that you do either. She lies but she comes to the list-serv to show what she's really like. "I gotta be all non-partisan on GovExec" -- actually, you have to be that way period. Did you not grasp your job, Alyssa?

Apparently not. I think it's past time that the journalism guidelines were reviewed because clearly they need someone to explain them to them.


Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, July 21, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, the militarization of the State Dept takes place with little notice from the US press, journalists remain under attack in Iraq, and more.

Today the
US military announced: "CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq -- A United States Division - North Soldier died today in Diyala province when the Soldier's vehicle was attacked with an improvised explosive device. Following the attack, the Soldier was treated on the scene by unit personnel and then evacuated to the Combat Support Hospital located at Joint Base Balad. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and released by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/. The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incident is under investigation." The death brings the total number of US service members killed in the Iraq War to 4413.

For the second day in a row, Baquba is in the news for a car bombing.
Jim Loney and Philippa Fletcher (Reuters) report a Baquba car bombing which claimed 15 lives and left twenty-six injured. Reports note that the death toll (and wounded) continued to rise. Press TV puts the death toll at 28 (wounded at 46) and states it took place "near a mosque". AFP notes 28 people dead as well. Ali al-Tuwaijri (AFP) reports the death toll has risen to 30. Al Jazeera is also reporting 30 dead. CNN states, "The bomb was in a parked car and exploded at the market, which includes a clinic and a Shiite mosque." Timothy Williams (New York Times) quotes resident Ali Hader, "Why this killing? Why this destruction? Where is the security and stability the government is talking about? I hold the government responsible for what happened because they are busy fighting over seats while terrorists are playing with our blood."

In other reported violence,
Reuters notes a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed 1 life and left three people injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured two people, another Baghdad roadside bombing which also left two injured, a Kirkuk roadside bombing which wounded three people and, dropping back to yesterday, 3 people shot dead in Kirkuk.

Meanwhile
Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports that Nouri al-Maliki and Ayad Allawi had a face-to-face last night but that "no deals were reached and the stalemate continues". 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 -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. It's four months and five days and, in 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. Today makes it four months and fourteen days without any government being established. And the US government is getting nervous. US Senator John Kerry asked yesterday, "Is there any way in which you might judge that Prime Minister Maliki is simply not going to work in good faith to try to put together a legitimate government here? That he will just hang on and we stay in the stalemate and we transition and we sort of crumble out of the democracy we've created into another strong man situation?"

Yesterday Kerry asked that of James Jeffrey during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the nomination of US Ambassdor James Jeffrey. He is currently the US Ambassador to Turkey, President Barack Obama has nominated him to be the US Ambassador to Iraq. (He would replace the current disaster, Chris Hill.) Last night, Kat covered it at her site with "Senate Foreign Relations Committee," Wally covered it at Rebecca's site with "Kaufman and Casey," and Ava covered it at Trina's site with "Kerry, Lugar and Feingold." Russ Feingold's exchange with Jeffrey hasn't been noted yet.

Senator Russ Feingold: [. . .] And last year Ambassador Hill testified that any delay in withdrawing our troops by 2011 would "be poorly received by the Iraqi people." Do you agree with that assessment? Share that assessment?

Ambassador James Jeffrey: I have seen all the polls, Senator, I just reviewed them in the last two days -- that we've taken and that other people have taken -- and, uh, the Iraqi, uh, populace in very large numbers -- at least outside of the Kurdish areas -- does want to see our forces withdraw.

Senator Russ Feingold: Thank you, sir. The State Dept is planning to make up for the departure of US troops by doubling its security contractors. Even though such contractors often don't have the essential security capabilities that are provided by our troops. I'm concerned this will be dangerous and also lead to a situation where we don't have meaningful control over our own contractors. What alternatives have you considered?

Senator Russ Feingold: Thank you, sir. The State Dept is planning to make up for the departure of US troops by doubling its security contractors. Even though such contractors often don't have the essential security capabilities that are provided by our troops. I'm concerned this will be dangerous and also lead to a situation where we don't have meaningful control over our own contractors. What alternatives have you considered?

Ambassador James Jeffrey: Senator, this is an extremely important point. Uh, if confirmed as chief of mission, my first responsibility will be for the safety and security of the personnel under my supervision and I've put a lot of time and effort into looking at this. Uhm. The -- after the incident in 2007 in Baghdad involving the Blackwater security people, the State Dept did a very thorough investigation called the Kennedy Report. I've read that report. It concluded -- and I think that this conclusion remains true today -- that the State Dept has done a very good job in an extremely lethal environment protecting its people and keeping them alive and safe; however, there needed to be certain steps, technical steps, rule of engagement steps, coordination steps -- coordination both with the US military and with the Iraq authorities, and more supervision. Now we put, uh, a direct hire State Dept officer or person with all movements So -- And we have more technical control through, uh, basically recordings, audio and video equipment and such so that we're able to determine what happened and review any incident and since then there has not been a serious incident. But I want to underscore, this is a very, very difficult mission. This is, uh, uh, a defensive mission, not an offensive one, but it involves thousands of people, many movements in a very lethal environment and it is something we have to remain very concerned about.

Senator Russ Feingold: Thank you, Ambassador. State Dept Human Rights Report on Iraq found that -- as in previous years -- reports of abuse at the point of arrest and during the investigation period -- particularly by the Ministry of Interior's federal police and the Minister of Defense battalion level forces -- continued to be common. Federal law requires a certification before the United States can continue to provide certain kinds of security assistance to any state that has "consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights." In your view, how many years of violations must occur before such a certification of a consistent pattern of abuses is required?


Ambassador James Jeffrey: I've read the report, Senator, I would have to look at this in more detail. The effort that we're trying to do, including the police training effort, is to try to get at the violations and the abuse which we have seen in the past and we have seen it -- We saw it when I was there, we've seen it since then, it's been documented. Our hope is that we can see this on a declining slope. And it is something that I will look at very carefully if I'm confirmed and if I go out there.

Senator Russ Feingold: Well of course I applaud that and I urge you on in the effort to make sure that these units are vetted, but my question was: How many years of violations?

Ambassador James Jeffrey: I can't assess that at this time, Senator.

Senator Russ Feingold: Can you get back to me on that?

Ambassador James Jeffrey: I can.

Senator Russ Feingold: Okay. More broadly, how if confirmed will you work with the relevant US and Iraqi entities to faciliate improvements in human rights in Iraq which according to the State Dept report are far less -- far below adequate?

Ambassador James Jeffrey: Again, that is the assessment of the State Dept Human Rights Report and Iraq is coming out of a horrific conflict and out of thirty years of dictatorship and almost constant war, both civil, internal war, war with Iran, war with Kuwait. It's going to take some time for Iraq, even with a democratic government and democratic institutions to move into a environment even more in the average in the region but certainly what we would like to see in the more developed parts of the world. It's going to take time.

Senator Russ Feingold: And in that regard, sectarianism obviously remains a very real problem in Iraq, including in security forces. If confirmed how will you work with the Iraqi government to help make this a priority issue and to push for concrete improvement?

Ambassador James Jeffrey: There are various efforts that we already have underway that I will review and reinforce if I'm confirmed Senator for example, we now do joint-patrols with the US forces, Kurdish forces, peshmerga forces, Iraqi army forces along the disputed internal borders. We are putting a special effort into the minority communities -- I mentioned that in my opening statement, it's of great concern to me. It was then when I was there last time, it remains so. We are also looking at the makeup and the composition of the security forces. It has improved over time but it is something that has been worrisome in the past and it is something that requires continued vigelance.

Senator Russ Feingold: Yes, sir. Finally, the New York Times recently reported on hundreds of millions of dollars worth of crude oil and refined products being smuggled across the Iran-Iraq border every year. What steps is the Iraqi government taking to address this problem? given not only its potential to undercut our efforts with Iran but also tensions over resource revenue sharing in Iraq itself?

Ambassador James Jeffrey: We're very concerned about this given the latest, uh, uh, sanctions legislation that the US has passed but also, uh, the role of that in the relationship between Iraq and Iran. I know that we're looking into this latest charges -- the latest information -- at the embassy and with the Iraqi government and also with the folks in the north [Kurds] because some of that smuggling has been identified in the north.

There's a great deal in the above worth commenting on but we'll go for the obvious: Did you notice he didn't mention the Iraq War in his reply to a question about human rights? He was mentioning this conflict and this war and how this and that had hurt Iraq, but he really didn't seem aware that the Iraq War had caused suffering in Iraq, did he?

Today
Mike Mount (CNN) reports that the top US commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno, has (yet again) declared the US is on track with the drawdown. Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) notes Odierno was speaking at a Pentagon briefing and quotes him stating, "To be successful, Iraq must have a unity government." The drawdown is a success! Thus far! Is that really the story or was Odierno trotted out before people could process what took place in the Jeffrey's hearing yesterday?

Ranking Member Richard Lugar and Jeffreys had a lengthy exchange during which, asked about post-withdrawal or 'withdrawal,' Jeffreys explained, "We [State Dept] are taking on missions that the US military has done." Exactly because under the Samantha Power Doctrine, the State Dept becomes militarized in Iraq: It is over 'operations' and has armed 'employees' at various "outposts" in Iraq; it becomes responsible for training Iraqi security forces, it doubles the number of contractors/mercenaries, etc. These are not State Dept duties. The militarization of the State Dept, the armed wing of the State Dept. Jeffreys declared, "The security for all of this would be done by the Deapartment of State under the current plans."

For those present and paying attention, it was obvious that there was no end of the Iraq War in 2012 even if the SOFA was followed. This is the plan Samantha Power didn't attempt to hide from the press. But when the press is in the tank with Barack and/or scared of being attacked by the peers who are, they don't tell you what you need to know. Which is how Davey D had his ridiculous moment of defending Samantha Power on air on KPFA and revealing how dumb he truly could be -- he got her name wrong and he thought she was a woman of peace. This is the woman who blurbed the US military's counter-insurgency manual, the woman from the Carr Center. The one who preaches war eternal. And this plan Jeffrey was discussing, largely with Lugar, in yesterday's hearing. In fact, let's go to the moment Lugar and Jeffrey found so amusing -- it takes place during Lugar's "do not appreciate" when each came close to laughing.

Ambassador James Jeffrey: [. . .] We're going to have to do more if we want to have the kind of presence nationwide that everyone believes is necessary to carry out the President's program, sir.

Ranking Member Richard Lugar: I appreciate your response. I simply made the point because many Americans and members of Congress talking about the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq do not appreciate a whole new contingent is moving. And these aren't military people, these are civilian people. The State Dept and affiliated people. But it is a huge commitment by the American people and a considerable budget. And it follows that after we've had a war and a consideral period of peace making, moving on to the future is not the same maybe as the conventional embassy situation in a country where there's not been this sort of conflict. And we appreciate your outline of it and we will appreciate your management of it.
.
Just to be sure we're all aware of what Lugar outlined, we're going to drop back to his opening statement, which he delivered after he and Kerry took a lengthy break from the hearing and after acting chair Bob Casey paused the hearing for a recess.

Ranking Member Richard Lugar: While making fewer headlines, the situation in Iraq continues to be vital to the national security of the United States. Iraq held parliamentary elections on March 7, 2009, but an agreement on who will be the Prime Minister may not be concluded for several months. The redeployment of American forces in Iraq has begun, and by September, all but 50,000 U.S. troops will have departed the country. President Obama has said that by the end of 2011, all US troops will be out of Iraq. Plans submitted by the Administration suggest that US involvement in Iraq will remain robust well beyond that with more than 5,000 diplomats and civilian advisers working with civil society and the Iraqi government. The uncertain political situation creates risks for our transition plans. Our military has been involved in areas of governance far beyond security and turning over those critical responsibilities will be challenging. The State Dept has asked for more than $800 million in start-up costs for a police mentoring and training program. The program envisions having 350 advisors at three camps who will fan out to 50 sites in the country, about half of which would be reachable by ground and the rest requiring air support. With the military's departure, we are told, the Dept may hire as many as 7,000 contract security personnel. An AP article last month suggested the Iraq mission would need the equivalent of a squadron of Blackhawk helicopters, 50 ambush-protected vehicles and equipment to protect against rockets and mortars. It is important that the Administration flesh out how all the pieces of this unprecedented operation will fit together in Iraq as American troops depart.

That's the militarization of the State Dept and the continuation of the Iraq War. It was interesting to watch Jeffrey, for example, during the exchange with Feingold. Jeffrey stuck to the polls of the Iraqi people on withdrawal; however, he never noted that many Iraqi leaders do not want the US military to levae at the end of 2012. Nouri al-Maliki has publicy made noise about extending the US stay (he did so in August 2008). He is not the only one voicing such desires. Jeffrey is aware of that. Jeffrey chose to ignore that and was less than fully upfront in his reply.

Less than fully upfront desribes the US press and Iraq. They sold the illegal war with their wide-eyed wonder (to put it kindly) and their non-stop whoring (to tell it like it is -- as the
Neville Brothers and the Wilson sisters of Heart once sang). Despite the half-truths and outright lies they both repeated and invented, they felt no desire to clear the record when they had the chance to do so via the testimony Eliza Manningham-Buller, former MI5 Director General (2002 - 2007) gave to the Iraq Inquiry (see yesterday's snapshot). At 9:00 pm last night, the New York Times published Sarah Lyall's "Briton Who Led MI5 Disputes Reasons to Invade Iraq" online (and ran it in today's paper). What other newspaper covered the story? As of 8:00 a.m. EST, that was it. Let's be clear on what was testified to. The intelligence stated Iraq was not a threat, the intelligence indicated that tensions would increase as a result of the Iraq War and it would make England's risk of a terrorist attack increase. And, she testified that when then-US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was unable to get the CIA to say that Iraq was a threat to the US, he created his own 'intel' outfit.

So where was everyone? Was, for example, the CBS Evening News so busy with the Jeffrey's hearing that they didn't have time to cover it last night? No. They ignored the hearing. That was the case with everyone including PBS' NewsHour. The same who sold the illegal war couldn't be bothered with it yesterday.
Taylor Barnes (Christian Science Monitor) offers a summary of the testimony. And did so before noon today. It should have been huge news. It wasn't. Remember that if there's another terrorist attack. Remember that, despite all of the back patting and self-stroking by the media after September 2001, 9-11 didn't change a damn thing when it comes to the way the media operates. Ask ABC why Facebook or Michael Jordan qualified as news when terrorism and war didn't? No time for either report that mattered yesterday or today but they've got time for fluff? Katie Couric (CBS) had time to tell us about a new book that's nothing but rejection letters? That kind of s**t really saved anyone's life on 9-11? When the Twin Towers were burning and later collapsing, you really think anyone gave a s**t about some stupid coffee table book? Really? And you think that's how you inform the American public today? With that garbage passed off as news?

How embarrassing.

David Hughes (Telegraph of London) asks, "
Why did Tony Blair ignore MI5's advice?" and concludes: "It's hard to conceive of a more comprehensive foreign policy disaster yet the man responsible is now the Middle East peace envoy. It's beyond parody." Andy McSmith (Independent of London) notes various reactions to the testimony:But the evidence presented by Lady Manningham-Buller does not just call Mr Blair's credibility into question, it also throws down a challenge to the coalition Government, warned Lord Carlile of Berriew, a Liberal Democrat peer who has acted since 2005 as the independent reviewer of anti-terror laws. He told The Independent: "It's certainly the case that the threat and number of home-grown terrorists -- and 'not home-grown' terrorists coming into the UK -- increased after the Iraq war. "This makes life difficult both for the old government, who have criticisms to answer, and for the current Government. It makes their review of current terrorism law a delicate exercise because there is no evidence of any significant reduction in the threat. We are where we were." Sir Menzies Campbell, former leader of the Liberal Democrats, added: "I should be astonished if Mr Blair were to return to give further evidence, but questions will remain as to what it was which prompted him to disregard the reservations of officials and their advice. If only Britain had been as well served by its politicians as it was by Eliza Manningham-Buller then we would never have got ourselves into the illegal mess of Iraq." Lord West, who was counter-terrorism minister in the Home Office under Gordon Brown, told the BBC that he had "no doubt" that the Iraq war increased the threat of terrorism in the UK, which hit the government like a "bow wave" in 2003.Ken Livingstone, who was Mayor of London at the time of the 7 July bombings, said: "Eliza Manningham-Buller's evidence is a damning indictment of a foreign policy that not only significantly enhanced the risk of terrorist attacks in London but gave al-Qa'ida the opening to operate in Iraq too."

And though ignored in the US, Tuesday's testimony is still news in London. The
Daily Mail reports that the Liberal Democrat's Nick Clegg filled in for the Conservative Party's David Cameron today during Prime Minister's Questions. Cameron is prime minister as a result of a power-sharing coalition the Conservative Party formed with the Liberal Democrats following the May elections in the UK. War Hawk Jack Straw (now out of power) asked a question which Clegg responded to with, "I'm happy to account for everything we are doing in this coalition Government, which has brought together two parties, working in the national interest to sort out the mess that you left behind. Perhaps one day you could account for your role in the most disastrous decision of all, which is the illegal invasion of Iraq." The Guardian offers video of the moment in their write-up. Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) covers the coverage here.
While US journalists show little respect for the power of the press or its obligations, in Iraq, journalists are under attack. The
Committee to Protect Journalists notes today:

The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Iraq 's Supreme Judicial Court to disclose details about the decision to establish a new press court and to explain the mechanisms under which it will operate.
Abd As-Satir Birkdar, spokesman for the Supreme Judicial Court , which announced the creation of the court on July 11,
told Al-Mada newspaper that the court is being established in accordance with the Judicial Organization Law that allows the head of the Supreme Judicial Council to "establish special courts in accordance with the public interest."
The new court, the first of its kind in Iraq , will only examine cases connected with media and publishing offenses, like defamation, libel, and press freedom violations. Journalists and non-journalists will be able to file complaints there, according to press reports.
Some journalists have expressed reservations about the court. Sarmad al-Tai, the editor-in-chief of the private daily al-Alam, said he is concerned that there is not enough public information about the court for Iraqi journalists to decide whether or not they support it.
The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO), a local press freedom group, issued a statement last week in which it stated that the decision to establish a special court is unconstitutional, according to
Article 95 of the Iraqi Constitution, which states that "Special or exceptional courts may not be established." Ziad al-Ajili, JFO's director, told CPJ that the court is "a move to control the media" by the authorities. Al-Ajili said Iraqi authorities should instead modify articles in the regulations inherited from Saddam Hussein's regime, which hinder freedom of speech.


Returning to the topic of a self-amused US press attempting to overdose on infotainment passed off as information that actually effects your life,
Robert Farley (PolitiFact) feels he's caught something: Joe Biden's plan for three equal regions in Iraq, Joe denies it was a partition!

Check the archives of this site, Farley, Joe never considered it a partition. [Disclosure, as noted before, I know Joe Biden and have for years. I like Joe and I'm probably including this item for that reason.] He preferred the term "federalism." Farley thinks he's proven Joe wrong by (selectively) noting some real-time press. It doesn't matter what the press said. Did Joe ever consider it a partition? No. And we noted that here repeatedly. I consider it a partition. Joe Biden didn't. That he still doesn't consider a partition is not news.

Serving up four-year-old, stale news, Robert Farley wants to pretend he accomplished something and he wants to make fun of Joe. Thing is, the one looking like a dumb ass? Not Joe Biden.

January 22, 2008, when a vote on the measure took place, he issued a press release. His online Senate office is, of course, closed. (He's not Vice President of the United States.) However, that legislation was co-sponsored with Senator Sam Brownback and you can find
a copy of the press release -- a joint one from Brownback and Joe Biden -- at Senator John Kyl's online office and you'll note it includes the following:


A few key facts about the Biden-Brownback amendment:

The legislation does not tell Iraqis what to do. It speaks only to what U.S. policy should be.
Federalism is not a U.S. or foreign imposition on Iraq. Iraq's own constitution calls FOR a "decentralized, federal system" and sets out the powers of the regions (extensive) and those of the central government (limited). The Constitution also says that in case of conflict between regional and national law, regional law prevails.
Federalism is not partition. In fact, it's probably the only way to prevent partition or, even worse, the total fragmentation of Iraq.
Federalism will not accelerate sectarian cleansing; it's the only way to reverse it. Iraqis have already voted with their feet, with 4.5 million fleeing within Iraq or abroad. Unless Iraqis come to some kind of agreement on sharing power peacefully, the results of extensive cleansing will solidify and set the stage for future instability.

So there you go, in a joint-release, Biden was stating his opinion -- as he did numerous times before -- that it was not "partition." So that's what passes for gotcha journalism these days? What's next? Robert Farley's going to break the news that George W. Bush mispronounces "nuclear."



iraq the new york times timothy williams
cnnmohammed tawfeeq
mike mount
xinhuamu xuequan
sarah lyall
the telegraph of londondavid hughesthe independent of londonandy mcsmith
the committee to protect journalists

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