Friday, November 19, 2010

Terry Gross is a lot like the Pentagon

Another day, another man. So it goes for Terry Gross who found yet another man to interview on Thursday's Fresh Air.

Terry makes about as much sense as the Defense Dept. They have a story which informs the world that:

A final investment in the transition to a civilian-led U.S. presence in Iraq will produce enduring results and create a stabilizing force in the region, a senior defense official told legislators here yesterday.

“We are 10 yards from the goal line and need one final push,” Colin Kahl, deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East, told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

“The strategic dividends of our enormous sacrifice are within reach,” Kahl added, “as long as we take the proper steps to consolidate our hard-fought gain.”

Oh, okay. That's what was missing all this time in the illegal war: A final push.

Got it. That's going to change everything. It's going to take this lost war and make it a win.

It is a lost war. It's amazing that people want to pretend otherwise. There was no win there. We've all seen D-Day footage. We know what a win looks like. We know a win's celebrated.

Like the Pentagon, Terry Gross is full of s**t.

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

Friday, November 19, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Iraqiya targeted with a bombing, Congress explores differing medical evaluations from DoD than from VA, PTSD, and more.
Today on the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), USA Today's Susan Page filled in for Diane and her panelists were David Ignatius (Washington Post), Courtney Kobe (NBC) and Jonathan S. Landay (McClatchy Newspapers). Iraq was alluded to but not a topic itself. We'll note one of the times it was alluded to.
Susan Page: Getting several e-mails from people expressing a lot of concern about what's happening in Afghanistan. Here's one from John, who writes us from Missouri, he writes, "2011, 2014, 2020 or beyond, Afghanistan will not turn out well. Like Iraq, there will be thousand of our troops remaining into the foreseeable future. There's been no victory in Iraq. There will be none in Afghanistan. We sacrifice our young men and women plus trillions we do not have. To my government, I say, 'How dare you?'"
Courtney Kobe: Well that's a tough argument -- tough statement to argue against.
There was much in the second hour but not much on Iraq. Ava and I may pull from it for a piece on White House communication -- this 'new' problem -- which was discussed at length. But without the needed foundation. And last Friday, Susan also filled in for Diane and spoke about international issues with Rajiv Chandrasekaran (Washington Post), David E. Sanger (New York Times) and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers). Iraq was a major topic then and I noted in last Friday's snapshot that we tried to pick up another point Nancy A. Youssef was making.
Susan Page: Well it's certainly true that no foreign policy issue played a role -- a significant role -- in the midterm elections except the degree to which the economy is a global concern. But you go back four years and the war in Iraq played a big role in the political debate that year. So how can you be certain that this remains not on the front burner for Americans?
Nancy A. Youssef: I agree. I mean, I think rising troop deaths could effect that. Also, as we talk about where cuts need to be made and the Pentagon keeps coming back and saying we need however many billion dollars to keep fighting this war, how much room they'll have to do that. We saw the commission that the president put together -- the fourteen member commission recommend budget cuts. I think Rajiv and David are absolutely right but I also think the war is a fickle issue and can crop again in domestic politics.
Nick Turse (Asia Times) notes, "Notably unnerving for the Obama administration was a deal reportedly brokered by Iran in which Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr -- whose forces had repeatedly clashed with US troops only a few short years ago -- threw his support behind Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, currently vying for a second term in office. This was allegedly part of a regional agreement involving Syria and Lebanon's Hezbollah that could leave the US military out in the cold. A source informed the Guardian that 'Maliki told [his new regional partners that] he will never extend, or renew [andy bases] or give any facilities to the Americans or British after the end of next year'." Nouri gave his word, did he? He also gave his word to the US. If there was one characteristic of Nouri's occupation of the post of prime minister from 2006 through 2010, it was his non-stop ability to break his word. Now we could provide many, many examples of this -- of Nouri wooing Iraqis with one version of what-if and wooing his American string-holders with another, but Turse is writing about Nouri promising Iraqis that the US military will not be staying in Iraq so let's use the best example for that. This is most like in late 2006 when Nouri renewed the United Nations mandate authorizing the occupation of Iraq, bypassing the Parliament in order to do so and creating massive ill will in the process. In response to the outcry, Nouri promised that this was a one-time thing and he would, of course, not bypass the Parliament again. But 2007 rolled around and, golly-gosh, there was Nouri doing the exact same thing he'd done as 2006 concluded, the exact same thing that had outraged so many, the exact thing he'd promised not to do.
Could this be the time that Nouri double-crosses the US? Possibly. The US influence is waning. But it's equally true that the US government has so compromised themselves that Nouri would be crazy to double-cross them. Events of this year demonstrated for all to see that the US government doesn't give a damn about the fate of the average Iraqi and will break any and every rule in order to back up Nouri. They've looked the other way with regards to torture. Does it really look like if Joe Biden's worst case scenario comes true (Nouri begins attacking his own people -- a scenario Joe publicly floated in April of 2008) that the US military will be used to take Nouri down? No. The US government this year's actions indicate that the US government will order the US military to ensure that Nouri is protected and remains in place. It's a reading Nouri has as well, an opinion he shares. And he would not have remained prime minister from 2006 through 2010 were it not for the presence on the ground in Iraqof the US military. He would have been overthrown and one of the many conspiracies to put his head on top of a pike in Nasser Square would have been more than the starting point to one of his public and paranoid remblings, it would have been reality.

So Nouri could go back on his promise to the US. That's the thing about free will, you never know what will happen. But he could stick to it. His past record -- as well as what would personally benefit him -- indicates he is likely to stick with the promise he made to the US government. As Lily Tomlin says to Jane Fonda in 9 to 5, "Well I'll be damned. Just look who got paid off for services rendered."

And he's currently prime minister-delegate and may or may not be Iraq's next prime minister. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 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. November 10th a power sharing deal resulted in the Parliament meeting for the second time and voting in a Speaker. And then Iraqiya felt double crossed on the deal and the bulk of their members stormed out of the Parliament. David Ignatius (Washington Post) explains, "The fragility of the coalition was dramatically obvious Thursday as members of the Iraqiya party, which represents Sunnis, walked out of Parliament, claiming that they were already being double-crossed by Maliki. Iraqi politics is always an exercise in brinkmanship, and the compromises unfortunately remain of the save-your-neck variety, rather than reflecting a deeper accord. " After that, Jalal Talabani was voted President of Iraq. Talabani then named Nouri as the prime minister-delegate. If Nouri can meet the conditions outlined in Article 76 of the Constitution (basically nominate ministers for each council and have Parliament vote to approve each one with a minimum of 163 votes each time and to vote for his council program) within thirty days, he becomes the prime minister. If not, Talabani must name another prime minister-delegate. . In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister-delegate. It took eight months and two days to name Nouri as prime minister-delegate. His first go-round, on April 22, 2006, his thirty day limit kicked in. May 20, 2006, he announced his cabinet -- sort of. Sort of because he didn't nominate a Minister of Defense, a Minister of Interior and a Minister of a Natioanl Security. This was accomplished, John F. Burns wrote in "For Some, a Last, Best Hope for U.S. Efforts in Iraq" (New York Times), only with "muscular" assistance from the Bush White House. Nouri declared he would be the Interior Ministry temporarily. Temporarily lasted until June 8, 2006. This was when the US was able to strong-arm, when they'd knocked out the other choice for prime minister (Ibrahim al-Jaafari) to install puppet Nouri and when they had over 100,000 troops on the ground in Iraq. Nouri had no competition. That's very different from today. The Constitution is very clear and it is doubtful his opponents -- including within his own alliance -- will look the other way if he can't fill all the posts in 30 days. As Leila Fadel (Washington Post) observes, "With the three top slots resolved, Maliki will now begin to distribute ministries and other top jobs, a process that has the potential to be as divisive as the initial phase of government formation." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) points out, "Maliki now has 30 days to decide on cabinet posts - some of which will likely go to Iraqiya - and put together a full government. His governing coalition owes part of its existence to followers of hard-line cleric Muqtada al Sadr, leading Sunnis and others to believe that his government will be indebted to Iran." The stalemate ends when the country has a prime minister. It is now eight months, twelve days and counting.
A great deal of time has focused on the power-sharing arrangement between the big blocks but Nick Turse (Asia Times) explores the power-sharing arrangement Nouri first worked out with Shi'ite slates:
Notably unnerving for the Obama administration was a deal reportedly brokered by Iran in which Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr - whose forces had repeatedly clashed with US troops only a few short years ago - threw his support behind Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, currently vying for a second term in office.
This was allegedly part of a regional agreement involving Syria and Lebanon's Hezbollah that could leave the US military out in the cold. A source informed the Guardian that "Maliki told [his new regional partners that] he will never extend, or renew [any bases] or give any facilities to the Americans or British after the end of next year."


Nouri gave his word, did he? He also gave his word to the US. If there was one characteristic of Nouri's occupation of the post of prime minister from 2006 through 2010, it was his non-stop ability to break his word. Now we could provide many, many examples of this -- of Nouri wooing Iraqis with one version of what-if and wooing his American string-holders with another, but Turse is writing about Nouri promising Iraqis that the US military will not be staying in Iraq so let's use the best example for that. This is most like in late 2006 when Nouri renewed the United Nations mandate authorizing the occupation of Iraq, bypassing the Parliament in order to do so and creating massive ill will in the process. In response to the outcry, Nouri promised that this was a one-time thing and he would, of course, not bypass the Parliament again. But 2007 rolled around and golly-gosh, there was Nouri doing the exact same thing he'd done as 2006 concluded, the exact same thing that had outraged so many, the exact thing he'd promised not to do.

To get US support and backing for another term as prime minister, Nouri promised that he would allow the US military to remain on Iraqi soil past 2011. That is why the US government allowed Nouri to remain prime minister instead of heeding calls for the UN to appoint a caretaker government. This week, Gareth Porter (Dissident Voice) broke new ground with his monumental scoop detailing how the White House has actively been working to decieve the US voters into believing the Iraq War would end when, in fact, it would not. NSC-er Puneet Talwar was dispatched to offer Iraq 15,000 US troops after the end of 2011 'withdrawal' and to explain that the would simply shove these 15,000 under the US Embassy to hide the remainders. Excerpt from his article:


The Iraqis also asked whether the 15,000 regular combat troops could be augmented with Special Operations Forces, according to the Iraqi official's account. Talwar said the additional deployment of SOF troops after the withdrawal deadline would be possible, because the United States had never publicly acknowledged the presence of SOF units in Iraq.
The Pentagon signaled last summer that it was assuming the post-2011 U.S. military presence in Iraq would be less than 20,000 troops. In a press briefing last August, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Middle East, Colin Kahl, said Iraq "is not going to need tens of thousands of [American] forces".
Talwar also told the Iraqis that any deployment of combat troops in Iraq beyond the termination date of the U.S.-Iraqi agreement would require a letter from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The Iraqi officials said the letter would be sent.


Could this be the time that Nouri double-crosses the US? Possibly. The US influence is waning. But it's equally true that the US government has so compromised themselves that Nouri would be crazy to double-cross them. Events of this year demonstrated for all to see that the US government doesn't give a damn about the fate of the average Iraqi and will break any and every rule in order to back up Nouri. They've looked the other way with regards to torture. Does it really look like if Joe Biden's worst case scenario comes true (Nouri begins attacking his own people -- a scenario Joe publicly floated in April of 2008) that the US military will be used to take Nouri down? No. The US government this year's actions indicate that the US government will order the US military to ensure that Nouri is protected and remains in place. It's a reading Nouri has as well, an opinion he shares. And he would not have remained prime minister from 2006 through 2010 were it not for the presence on the ground in Iraqof the US military. He would have been overthrown and one of the many conspiracies to put his head on top of a pike in Nasser Square would have been more than the starting point to one of his public and paranoid remblings, it would have been reality.

So Nouri could go back on his promise to the US. That's the thing about free will, you never know what will happen. But he could stick to it. His past record -- as well as what would personally benefit him -- indicates he is likely to stick with the promise he made to the US government. As Lily Tomlin says to Jane Fonda in 9 to 5, "Well I'll be damned. Just look who got paid off for services rendered."
Implementing the agreement hinges on two main conditions: first, creating a National Council for Higher Strategic Policies with real executive power and second, lifting the ban on political participation by three important Sunni leaders -- Rasem Awadi, Saleh Mutlaq, and Dhafer Aani. The agreement also calls for launching a national reconciliation process.
But the agreement does not appear to be legally enforceable. Take the National Council, for instance. While it was originally created to curb Maliki's power, it cannot do so without a constitutional amendment, and the constitution precludes amendments until the end of the this election cycle four years hence. Therefore, the council's influence will depend largely on Maliki's willingness to comply with its decisions. That likelihood is not great.
In today's reported violence, Saad Abdul-Kadir (AP) reports a Mosul roadside bombing attack on Iraqiya's Mohammed al-Khalidi and, while Khalidi survived, 1 bodyguard was killed and another injured. Reuters also notes that 1 "oil facility guard" was shot dead outside his home in Mosul.
Religious minorities remain targeted in Iraq and we'll drop back to Tuesday's snapshot for an overview of one group being persecuted:

Now turning to the Mandaeans. This group goes back centuries -- and may date back to Antiquity -- and now is estimated to number less than 100,000. Until the Iraq War began, the majority of Mandaens could be found in Iraq. Like other religious minorities, they've become external refugees (many have fled to Iran, others to Syira and Jordan and a small number have left the Middle East). It's estimated that as much as 90% of the community has left Iraq since the start of the Iraq War. In 2007, US professor Nathaniel Deutsch wrote a column for the New York Times calling for the US to grant this community refugee status (which did take place) and noting, "Unlike Christian and Muslim refugees, the Mandeans do not belong to a larger religious community that can provide them with protection and aid. Fundamentally alone in the world, the Mandeans are even more vulnerable and fewer than the Yazidis, another Iraqi minority that has suffered tremendously, since the latter have their own villages in the generally safer nother, while the Mandeans are scattered in pockets around the south. They are the only minority group in Iraq without a safe enclave." Nadia Keilani is an Iraqi-American, an attorney and a Mandean. In 2008, she explained for CNN: "I belong to a religious minority called Mandaean, also known as Sabeans or Sabean-Mandaean. We are a Gnostic sect that claims Adam as the first in a line of "teachers" and John the Baptist as the last. Even today, our baptisms are conducted in the same manner that John the Baptist baptized Jesus and others of his time. Mandaeanism is a pacifist religion that forbids violence even in defense of life. In the anarchy that is today's Iraq, this has proved fatal to the existence of this small but important part of human religious history." The water issue is important to the faith when resettling. Lakes and rivers being ideal due to the baptisms. Settling is not a small issue and it goes beyond the issue of needing to be near a body of water. Keilani noted, "To be a Mandaean, you must be born to two Mandaean parents. To survive, Mandaean communities must exist in large enough numbers for young people to meet, marry and have children. Since 2003, the number of Mandaeans inside Iraq has dwindled to fewer than 5,000. Tens of thousands are scattered throughout Europe, Australia and the United States. The results of this diaspora are clear: Our religion probably will cease to exist in my children's lifetime."


Rudi Stettner (The Rant) notes some objections and concerns regarding asylum for Mandaeans:

That may well be the case, but Mandaeans seem to be very good low risk candidates to accept as refugees. They are pacifists, they do not proselytise and have an attitude of extending charity to Mandaean and non Mandaean alike. The largest community of Mandaeans in the US is the greater Boston area with about 450 of them.It would be good for the various countries that have taken in Mandaeans to work with the Mandaean leadership to at least settle groups of Mandaeans in close enough proximity that they can easily maintain regular contact. The Mandaeans have endured terrible trauma as a community since the start of the war in Iraq. It is not hard to understand their desire to survive as a community. We should try to work with them on this issue.

Jason Dzubow (ILW) argues
, "In this instance, the UN and the receiving countries should make a greater effort to resettle the Mandaeans in larger number in order to create sustainable communities. If not, this ancient religion could vanish forever." All religious minorities are targeted in Iraq (as are women, the LGBT community, you name it). Iraqi Christians have been targeted throughout the illegal war. The latest wave of attacks began October 31st when Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad was attacked and over 70 people died and over seventy were wounded. Noori Barka (San Diego Union Tribune) observes, "Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, along with the rise of terrorism within Iraq, more than 60 Christian churches and monasteries have been bombed and destroyed. Thousands of Christians have been killed, kidnapped and injured. This wave of displacement reached a peak during the years 2006 - 2008, in which the number of displaced Christians in Mosul, in the north, was more than 10,000 people.[. . .] Since the American invasion in 2003, the Christians of Iraq have faced a real ethnic cleansing campaign. Ethnic cleansing is a crime against humanity under the statutes of the International Criminal Court. The U.S. has both a legal and moral obligation to protect the Iraqi Christians along with all the other vulnerable religious and ethnic minorities, to offer them equal constituational rights, to preserve their identity, religion and culture, and even to have a small share of Iraq's oil revenues, as the Iraqi Arabs and Kurds do."


Turning to the US and service members and veterans issues, yesterday the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee held a hearing. Committee Chair Daniel Akaka's office released the following:

WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, held an oversight hearing today on the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES). This evaluation system, recently tested as a pilot program, is a collaborative effort between VA and DoD to streamline the process by which servicemembers are evaluated for disabilities by both departments.

"Both departments must ensure that each new location has what it needs to effectively operate the Integrated Disability Evaluation System before it is expanded," said Chairman Akaka. "The rush to move forward quickly should not come before our goal to provide a quality process to servicemembers.

"If broadened before it is ready, the new process could negatively impact servicemembers and veterans. I am optimistic that an effectively implemented program will improve the transition from active duty to civilian life for warriors disabled during their service to the nation."

Currently, wounded servicemembers who are discharged after receiving their disability rating from the military must go through the process again to receive a new rating from VA. The program, if implemented effectively, would eliminate this duplication.

At the core of IDES is a joint disability medical examination that can be used for the existing DoD Medical Evaluation Board/ Physical Evaluation Board process and VA disability compensation process. The hearing examined the problems that have surfaced over the course of the pilot program and VA and DoD's plans to expand the program worldwide.

John R. Campbell from the Department of Defense, Daniel Bertoni from the Government Accountability Office, and John Medve from the Department of Veterans Affairs provided testimony for this hearing.

Chairman Akaka and the other members of the committee posed a number of questions regarding issues encountered during oversight visits in the pilot phase of the program, including shortages of staff to perform disability medical evaluations, program funding, and program participants' satisfaction.

More information about the hearing including statements, testimony and the webcast is available here: LINK.

Who determines disability for veterans and active duty service members? The Defense Dept or the VA? The question matters because they grade differently, on different criteria. Currently, there is a test program, begun in November 2007, where the two evaluation systems are integrated.

US Senator Richard Burr explained Thursday morning, "For any servicemembers whose medical conditions keep them from continuing to serve in the military, there must be an effective, hassle-free process to get them the benefits and services they need and help them to smoothly transition to civilian life. But, several years ago, it became very clear that the disability system at the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs was not living up that standard. In 2007, news reports, as well as several panels of experts, detailed how injured servicemembers had to go through a long, bureaucratic process at DoD, followed by a similar process at the VA, to find out what disability benefits they would receive. Wounded servicemembers and their families were becoming frustrated, confused and disappointed with both systems."


Three witnesses appeared before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee: the Defense Dept's John Campbell, the VA's John Medve and the Government Accountability Office's Daniel Bertoni.

In his opening remarks, Chair Daniel Akaka declared, "While streamlining the two systems is important, the implementation of this joint program has not been without problems. At a few pilot sites, VA staffing shortages, due to a lack of personnel to conduct disability medical examinations, caused significant delay in the processing of servicemembers. There were also personnel shortages at DoD among those responsible for guiding servicemembers through the new process. Issues of servicemember satisfaction and quality of life are also of concern. Other issues have been identified through Committee staff oversight and by the GAO in its draft report on the new process. These include problems with integrating VA staff at military installations, difficulty in having various I.T. systems work together, and ensuring that an adequate number of DoD physicians serve on Medical Evaluation Boards. The Committee needs to hear from VA and DoD on how these challenges are being addressed."
Chair Daniel Akaka: Mr. Bertoni, in your opinion, are the Departments adequately addressing all the major problems that were identified during the pilot? I ask this because I'm concerned that some issues might not be fully addressed before it's rolled out to the rest of the military.

Daniel Bertoni: As noted in -- in our statement, I think that they made progress in several areas -- especially in regard to getting out in front of the staffing issues. That's a big one. Uh, I-I can't stress that one enough. There are a lot of moving parts, a lot of specialized services and skills and services they need and there's at least an acknowledgement that the staffing portion of this or the component of this is critical to success and we would agree with that. It's how we're going to get there that is a question to us. You can relocate, you can hire, you can bring in additional contractors but we would really like to see or need to see a service delivery plan or an operations plan going forward to discern how that's going to happen. And I-I appreciate the comment that you all may be looking back at the original 27 sites do sort of look at those issues because I think there are still lingering issues out there in regards to staffing that are very important. Beyond that, certainly the issue of monitoring. I think having good MI data at the local level as to what's happening with these particular sites. If things start to go awry, staffing shifts, attrition, problems with diagnoses, problems with exam summaries -- you can know this sooner, rather than later, and get out in front of that problem and come into play with remedial training, guidance, etc to sort of prevent some of these issues from getting worse. So there's an acknowledgement. There appears to be a plan. We haven't seen that operational plan but at least there's an acknowledgement that there's some issues to work on.

Chair Daniel Akaka: Thank you. Mr. Campbell and Mr. Medve, are you both able to track individual sites to determine if there are problems with staffing and insufficient medical exams. Mr. Campbell?

John Campbell: I would like to make the point that no site will go into IOC unless it passes a series of-of strict tests. We have checklists. We're looking at the sites weekly, those that are in - in prepartion for the expansion, we're looking at them weekly to make sure that they pass these tests. And once the sites go live, we will be monitoring them as well. So I believe that it's probably fair to say that no service member is going to be endangered. We're not racing to get the sites complete so we can adhere to some timeline. This is really a criterian driven basis and we - we feel comfortable that we have sufficient safeguards built in that the sites will not go live until they're ready.

Chair Daniel Akaka: Mr. Medve?

John Medve: Senator, thank you for the question. And I'd like to echo what Mr. Campbell said. I mean we have instituted as a base of lessons learned from the pilot sites a certification process that now has a much more robust understanding of the requirement that will inform staffing decisions. During the pilot site, I think we used about a year's worth of data and it turned out not to include things like how many deployment cycles sites had gone through which had an impact on the number of cases and the type of cases that sites went in, which impacted the type of examinations that needed to be done . So we now use a multi-year view of that. Obviously, our understanding as we've gone through has increased and we are developing robust staffing plans for the oncoming sites. And, again, just to reiterate what - what Mr. Campbell said, and we made it clear to all sites that unless there is the capability and the capacity to move forward, they are not to move forward with this.

Chair Daniel Akaka: Thank you, Mr. Campbell. I'm concerned that VA may bear a disproportionate burden in administering this program. Can you respond with your thoughts on that?

John Campbell: Yes, sir. I'd be happy to. We have signed -- the DoD and VA have signed a memorandum of understanding -- an agreement -- to share these costs equitably and the process is one where the costs will be allocated as - as they - as they become live costs and then, at the end of this period, we will look at whether we owe the VA money or they - they owe us money?

Chair Daniel Akaka: Senator Burr, your questions.

Ranking Member Richard Burr: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Bertoni, VA and DoD have estimated that the IPDES system is faster than the old legacy disability process. Now their estimate is the old legacy process was 540 days. But you noted, and I quote, "The extent to which the IPDES is an improvement over the legacy system cannot be known because of the limitations in the legacy data." And that the 540 day estimate, again I quote, "is based on a small non-representative sample of cases." And, first of all, can you explain for the record how many cases were used to come up with the 540 day estimate?

Daniel Bertoni: Yeah. I - I believe that originated with the original table-top exercise way back in 2007 where I think there were 70 cases where -- across all services where they went in and looked at the average processing time for those kind of cases and came up with a number for DoD's side of the shop and that was about 300 days. And then they extrapolated to the VA side with an average of can take up to 200 days and to process a VA claim and tack that on to the overall total so they came up with the 540 day average. We had some concern with that. It's not as rigorous as we would like. We tried to reconstruct it on our own and we found very quickly that it was an apples to oranges comparison by trying to bring in the various services in the Army. It really wasn't possible in terms of the quality and the integrity of the data. We did do our own analysis of the Army data which we felt was sufficient to do this type of analysis. And Army being -- representing 60% of the IPDES cases? Pretty substantial if we could verify that and we did our analysis and were able to determine that it came out to about 369 days to complete that IPDES portion of the process. Recongnize that it would be reasonable to assume that it could possibly take up to 200 days to complete the VA rating side. So, uh, fairly reasonable estimate -- not entirely rigorous.
Senator Mike Johanns stated he was concerned about nuts and bolts issues and asked, "How pervasive is the issue of the different diagnosis between VA and DoD?" Daniel Bertoni claimed/seized the question . . . saying having just done an audit . . . that there was no answer to that at present. Okay, Johanns tried again, if DoD says one thing and VA says another, is the service member just "stuck in limbo" until it's resolved? Bertoni noted that it had "to be resolved. That can take time. [. . .] Right now, there's no specific DoD guidance of how that's to be resolved." Johanns wondered, "If there's no guidance, how do you even solve the problem?"
Senator Scott Brown: It seems like several years now that the DoD and the Dept of Veterans Affairs are kind of doing the blame game when it comes to the DS pilot program and meanwhile military members are trying to move on with their lives. Frankly, from what I've heard, the hurdles seem very high for them. They're waiting, hoping the doctor's appointment don't get cancelled, months and sometimes years go by, and as a result of that, I'm a little uneasy with the declaration made by the DoD that plans to conduct a global rollout of this program by the end of next Fiscal Year is something that you're focused on actually doing . It seems like a decision of this magnitude -- in my view -- requires a better understanding of the measurable verified factual basis on which the DoD has made the decision to launch a worldwide program. Beacuse, unless I'm wrong, there seems to be a lack of personnel and resources to do that. So I guess, with that being said, my question is: Will this program require more medical exam doctors throughout the country and across the globe? Mr. Campbell?
Campbell stated, "Nothing will roll out unless we're convinced -- both VA and DoD -- that these sites are ready." Medve stated that VA was addressing staffing issues. Brown also wanted to know if there were efforts -- "any new program," any "thinking outside the box" -- being made to help service members find employment as they transitioned out and while they were waiting for medical evaluations?
The most disturbing moments of the hearing were in its final minutes. Ranking Member Burr was basically giving Bertoni -- GAO staff -- a walk through on what needs to be done and how you measure tasks, etc. Great that Burr knew it but sad that the GAO -- for all Bertoni's comments after of, basically, 'I know' -- didn't know enough to be properly prepared. This was followed by Bertonia declaring, "I don't think that any of the averages are being met right now in terms of the goals for the program." That should have been in his opening statements so that it could have been explored as opposed to in his second to last response of the hearing.
June 22nd, the Senate Armed Services Committee took testimony from various officials -- one of which was Gen Peter Chiarelli who referred to PTSD as a behavioral issue. As we noted then: "PTSD and TBI are not behavioral issues (I am aware some treat them as if they were, I'm also aware those treatments do not have longterm success rates) and that, after all this time and all this supposed education, a United States general doesn't know that, doesn't grasp that, it's rather telling. And it goes a long way towards explaining the manner in which the second response was delivered which was in a between-you-and-me kind of way and seemed to mock the illnesses. Not behavior issues, illnesses. And the Army would do well to get away from that term as well as to get away from calling medical providers 'behavioral specialists'." Today Chaplain Kathie (Veterans Today) notes a Fort Drum doctor is also calling PTSD a "behavioral health condition." Chaplain Kathie points out, "The idea that PTSD is a 'behavioral health condition' is more like a slap in the face to all veterans with PTSD because of what comes with it. Some of the symptoms of PTSD do in fact cause problems with what they do and what they say but if the doctors view PTSD the same as a child needing to be punished and sent to their room because of their behavior then maybe we're finally getting to the bottom of where all these bad attitudes come from."
July 24, 2007, the Justice Dept [PDF format warning] announced their indictment of Houston's Samir Mahmoud Itani, owner of American Grocers, Inc, who was "charged in a 46-count indictment with conspiracy to defraud the government with respect to claims and with making fale claims." Specifcally, he was supplying the US military in Iraq with food -- with bad food, out of date food -- and changing the dates on the boxes. P.J. Huffstutter and Andrew Blankstein (Los Angeles Times) report that Itani will be paying $15 million and that the company was allegedly using not only nail polish to remove original expire dates on packaging but they also "used acetone, spray pain or a small drill."
At Amped Status, David DeGraw takes on the issue of the federal reserve. TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, John Harwood (New York Times), Janet Hook (Wall St. Journal, David Sanger (New York Times) and Pete Williams (NBC) join Gwen around the table. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is "GREAT EXPECTATIONS: The New Congress Comes to Town." This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Melinda Henneberger, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Mercedes Viana Schlapp and Tara Setmayer to discuss the week's news on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary. And this week's To The Contrary online extra is a discussion about a potential White House in 2012 by Sarah Palin. Turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:


Merchant of Death
The Drug Enforcement Administration agents who caught the alleged arms dealer Viktor Bout explain how they lured and then captured the suspect one of them calls "one of the most dangerous men on the face of the Earth." Armen Keteyian reports. |
Watch Video

Designing Life
Steve Kroft profiles famous microbiologist J. Craig Venter, whose scientists have already mapped the human genome and created what he calls "the first synthetic species." |
Watch Video

Mark Wahlberg
From street thug, to rapper to actor and now producer, Mark Wahlberg has reinvented himself to the top of the Hollywood heap. Lara Logan profiles Wahlberg as he prepares for his most challenging role: a boxer. |
Watch Video

60 Minutes, Sunday, Nov. 21, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Terry's sexism

Yesterday's post resulted in a number of e-mails. First: How many female guests did Terry Gross book in the 5-month period ending at the end of October? 20.58. Where did I find that figure? In "The face of sexism (Ava, C.I. and Ann)" -- which I wrote with Ava and C.I. (And had a blast writing with them.)

That's why I call Terry a sexist. If you don't, you need to start paying attention to who she books and who she doesn't.

So Terry's guest yesterday -- for 39 minutes -- was a doctor -- a male doctor. And are we surprised?

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


Thursday, November 18, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, stronger analysts (including The Economist) weigh in on Iraq's political issues, Iraqi Christians continue to be targeted, Military Families Against the War calls for all US troops to be brought home from Iraq and Afghanistan, the whores of Beggar Media continue to avoid realites that would make them call out the War Hawk in the White House, and more.

Larry Kaplow (Foreign Policy) has a major essay on Iraq and we'll note the opening:

"Iraq Is a Democracy." In theory, but it doesn't work like one. Yes, it has had three, free national elections and a constitutional referendum and there are elements of democracy. I started covering Iraq in 1998, living there from the start of the war until late 2009, and it certainly feels freer than before. Saddam Hussein held his last election, a plebiscite in 2002, and claimed 100 percent of the vote (and maybe it was true -- who would risk voting against him?). Under the old regime, even when I could slip away from government minders, people were usually too scared of informants among their family and friends to speak openly. You weren't even allowed to keep your mouth shut. Failure to join the chanting crowds at pro-government rallies -- watched closely by neighborhood-level Baathists -- could cost you your job, admission to university, or worse. Now there's lots of open talk, government criticism, and widespread Internet access.
But Iraq is not democratic in a reliable or deep sense, where people can expect equal rights, legal protections, or access to their leaders. Free speech is still a dangerous pursuit. At least seven reporters or their staff have been killed this year in what appear to be direct attacks on news agencies, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Most others are afraid to get too specific in their criticisms of the leadership. Regulations are tightening, and the track record of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has just maneuvered himself into another term in office, is getting darker. The government has started requiring that news agencies register their staff and equipment. Media regulations ban quotations from anonymous sources. Human Rights Watch recently documented government efforts to ban public demonstrations and encourage security forces to violently disperse attempts at peaceful protest.

Some people, like Kaplow, claim three national elections. We don't. There was the 2005 elections (December 2005) and there was the March elections this year which were national elections. The way they're getting three is they're counting the 2009 elections which were provincial elections. Could they be considered "national elections"?

Most of the time a national election takes place on a set date. Whereas the 2009 provincial elections were held on two different dates, months apart. The KRG voted on their own and were not part of that. January 31, 2009 was election day for 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces. The KRG held their elections July 25, 2009. And Kirkuk wasn't allowed to hold elections -- which is why only 17 of 18 provinces held elections in 2009. In addition, if we were going to count those, it would be four elections because January 30, 2005 saw governorate council elections. National elections, for our purposes here, were the December 2005 and March 2010 parliamentary elections. Only the parliamentary elections result in the creation of a national government so we only count the two parliamentary elections as "national elections" here. Others can count as they want.

Let's stay with the most recent elections. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 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. November 10th a power sharing deal resulted in the Parliament meeting for the second time and voting in a Speaker. And then Iraqiya felt double crossed on the deal and the bulk of their members stormed out of the Parliament. David Ignatius (Washington Post) explains, "The fragility of the coalition was dramatically obvious Thursday as members of the Iraqiya party, which represents Sunnis, walked out of Parliament, claiming that they were already being double-crossed by Maliki. Iraqi politics is always an exercise in brinkmanship, and the compromises unfortunately remain of the save-your-neck variety, rather than reflecting a deeper accord. " After that, Jalal Talabani was voted President of Iraq. Talabani then named Nouri as the prime minister-delegate. If Nouri can meet the conditions outlined in Article 76 of the Constitution (basically nominate ministers for each council and have Parliament vote to approve each one with a minimum of 163 votes each time and to vote for his council program) within thirty days, he becomes the prime minister. If not, Talabani must name another prime minister-delegate. . In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister-delegate. It took eight months and two days to name Nouri as prime minister-delegate. His first go-round, on April 22, 2006, his thirty day limit kicked in. May 20, 2006, he announced his cabinet -- sort of. Sort of because he didn't nominate a Minister of Defense, a Minister of Interior and a Minister of a Natioanl Security. This was accomplished, John F. Burns wrote in "For Some, a Last, Best Hope for U.S. Efforts in Iraq" (New York Times), only with "muscular" assistance from the Bush White House. Nouri declared he would be the Interior Ministry temporarily. Temporarily lasted until June 8, 2006. This was when the US was able to strong-arm, when they'd knocked out the other choice for prime minister (Ibrahim al-Jaafari) to install puppet Nouri and when they had over 100,000 troops on the ground in Iraq. Nouri had no competition. That's very different from today. The Constitution is very clear and it is doubtful his opponents -- including within his own alliance -- will look the other way if he can't fill all the posts in 30 days. As Leila Fadel (Washington Post) observes, "With the three top slots resolved, Maliki will now begin to distribute ministries and other top jobs, a process that has the potential to be as divisive as the initial phase of government formation." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) points out, "Maliki now has 30 days to decide on cabinet posts - some of which will likely go to Iraqiya - and put together a full government. His governing coalition owes part of its existence to followers of hard-line cleric Muqtada al Sadr, leading Sunnis and others to believe that his government will be indebted to Iran." The stalemate ends when the country has a prime minister. It is now eight months, eleven days and counting.

David Romano (Rudaw) offers his take on the power-sharing arrangements, "A Sunni Iraqiya parliamentarian, Osama Al Nujaifi, became Speaker instead. The Kurds remain weary of Al Nujaifi and his penchant for strident Arab nationalism, reminding them a bit too much of yesterday's Ba'athist discourse. Nujaifi will likely remain a fierce opponent of most of the Kurdistan Bloc's aspirations in the new government. Meanwhile, something clearly had to be done to placate Allawi, so a new 'National Security Council' was created for him to lead. The only problem is that no one seems to know what powers, if any, this new National Security Council will have. Muqtada Al Sadr's group of parliamentarians is also entering this new government, despite their bitterness towards Maliki for the offensive against them in 2008 as well as their abiding distrust of the Iraqiya bloc. They will want some important portfolios which no one trusts them enough to give them. Nuri al Maliki, once again, isn't particularly liked by any of the other groups, but somehow he has managed to engineer his resurrection as Prime Minister for another term. Finally, virtually all the other parties remain deeply suspicious of Kurdish aspirations, especially fearing that implementation of Article 140 could set the stage for eventual Kurdish secession from Iraq." The Economist emphasizes a number of issues -- including the Kurdish issues, "Mr Maliki has agreed to nearly all of the 19 demands made by the Kurds, including a commitment to hold a referendum on who should control the disputed city of Kirkuk. Mr Maliki is also said to have promised some powerful ministries to a Shia group led by a populist anti-Western cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr." Writing today, The Economist also grasps what few other outlets can:

A new government has not yet been born.

Why The Economist has the ability to grasp that and so many others don't is puzzling but credit goes to them for noting reality in their opinion piece when most pieces passing for reporting from news outlets continually hail the 'new' 'government'.

On the issue of the National Security Council, Alsumaria TV reports, "State of Law Coalition senior official Hassan Al Sunaid stated that the political parties have started the legislation of a special law for the national policy council which will play a major advisory role in shaping Iraq's future policies, he said." Bernard Gwertzman (Council on Foreign Relations) interviews Charles W. Dunne (NSC during the previous Bush administration) about the developments. Gwertzman notes of the power-sharing deal, "Allawi is supposed to have an important policymaking role, says Dunne, although it remains to be seen whether Maliki keeps his word and whether the Obama administration will press him to do so." Excerpt.

Bernard Gwertzman: A key question is how important this new National Council for Higher Strategic Policies that Allawi is supposed to head, will be, right?

Charles W. Dunne: This council has not yet been enshrined in Iraqi law. There is a school of thought that believes there will need to be a constitutional amendment to make it serve as an effective check on the prime minister's power. This is all going to be very contentious and the outcome is very uncertain, which is probably one of the reasons why Allawi said, before he departed for London, that the power-sharing deal is dead. In addition, there are very different views among the Iraqi political leadershipr about how this council should function. Maliki clearly sees it as an advisory body, whose advice he can ignore. Allawi and a number of his supporters see it as a venue in which national security decisions by the prime minister, and important economic decisions, can be altered or veteoed. Even if legislation has passed to create a fairly robust council, the concept of this council as it exists right now will require 80 percent consensus within the council in order to implement a decision, which in this political system -- as in any political system -- is going to be difficult.

At Foreign Policy, David Bender offers an analysis of the deal that sees the new council and other efforts themselves as being of little value and noting that the council -- under Allawi or another Iraiqya member -- is not going to have grand powers:

But formally changing the chain of command in Iraq would require a highly unlikely constitutional change, and it seems unlikely that Maliki will ultimately agree to a significant reduction in his powers. He has argued that the new council will function as an advisory panel with no independent authority. If Allawi decides he is powerless in his new position, he could resign and become a forceful leader of the opposition.
Between an unclear Iraqiya role, an uncomfortably large Sadrist contingent, rising Kurdish demands, and no unity of purpose among any of the political groups, the prospects for the next government are not great. But the overall situation in Iraq will probably improve anyway. The next government isn't going to resolve much of Iraq's deep social and political dysfunction, but having it in place will finally allow the oil sector, budget, and infrastructure projects to begin to move ahead.
Was it worth the eight (soon to be nine) month wait? No.
But is it a good thing that there's likely to be a government by the new year? Absolutely.


Meanwhile Currency Newshound reports that the Ministry of Planning declared today that 10 times the current allocation of the investment budget is needed to address issues of operations such as government salaries and the rations card system. Shashank Bengali (McClatchy Newspapers' Middle East Diary) crunches other numbers -- the latest Brookings Institution figures for Iraq -- and notes, among other things, that Iraq is "on track to exceed the 2009 death total of 3,000". Bengali picks many interesting figures. Some he doesn't note include that landlines are down in Iraq as compared to the middle of 2004 -- this may be partly due to the large increase in cellular phones (and there was no cell phone industry prior to the start of the Iraq War according to Brookings). The report finds that an estimated 20,000 Iraqi medical doctors have left the country since the start of the war and only 1,525 of that number have returned -- so (check my math) 18,475 doctors have left and not returned. In addition, 2,000 Iraqi medical doctors have been killed since the start of the Iraq War. So the Iraq War has resulted in the country losing an estimated 20,475 doctors. The most recent estimate finds approximately 16,000 medical doctors remain in Iraq. CIA estimates put the Iraqi population at between 26 and 30 million. Check my math but that should put the number of doctors at 0.053% of the population. The median age in Iraq is 20.6 years-old. In 2008, the official unemployment rate in Iraq was 15.2%. Though there are no figures for this year, there's been no improvement and that official figure is much lower than the actual unemployment figure (the CIA notes that the unofficial estimate is 30%). But in 2009, a number of Iraqis were surveyed and asked if they thought unemployment would improve in 2010? 37% hoped it would "fall slightly" or "fall a lot," 35% thought it would increase -- slightly or a lot) and 24% expected it would remain the same.

Turning to some of today's reported violence, Reuters notes a roadside bombing outside Baiji wounded one Sahwa leader while clashes at Baghdad's al-Tasfirat prison left twenty prisoners injured. Xinhua reports 2 Baquba bombings targeted Sahwa today with Firas Ahmed being killed in one and two other people being killed in the second one.


At Answers For The Faith, Dr. D. explains, "Tuesday a six-year-old girl and her Christian father were killed by a car bomb in Mosul. On Monday in Mosul, gunmen barged into a home and killed two Christian men in their living room. Today on Wednesday the bullet-riddled body of a 20-year-old Christian student was found on a street also in Mosul."
Natasha Dado (Arab American News via New America Media) reports on last week's rally in Detroit to protest the targeting of Iraqi Christians and quotes Patrick Lossia stating, "As a result of the U.S. occupying Iraq, its Christian population has declined from three percent to one percent. If America never invaded Iraq in 2003, we would have stabilization. We're almost less than one percent of the minority in Iraq, but we're the ones dying the most. I didn't like Saddam Hussein, but it's a fact Iraq was safer under his regime." October 31st, Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad was attacked, over 70 people died, over 70 were wounded. Among the dead were two priests, one of which was shot in the back of his head "execution style." That event began the latest wave of attacks on Iraqi Christians.

Leila Fadel and Ali al-Qeisy (Washington Post) report, "The names of the dead are pasted on the floor in the center of the church and surrounded by lighted candles. But the window glass is missing, destroyed by blasts and gunfire, and craters dot the ground - all reminders of the four suicide bombers who carried out the deadly attack along with other gunmen." The response to the latest wave of attacks is no different from earlier responses: many Iraqi Christians attempt to relocate within and outside of Iraq. The government response? When the issue receives global attention, Iraqi politicians make a few public statments and nothing more is done. This has especially been the pattern since Nouri al-Maliki was installed as prime minister in 2006. Alan Holdren (Catholic News Agency) quotes the Syrian Catholic Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa of Mosul stating, "In terms of declarations, we are really saturated. What we are asking for are concrete actions. We must find a solution, solutions, effective ways to safeguard the security of Christians." Meanwhile Alsumaria TV reports that Iraqi president Jalal Talabani is whining over France's offer of asylum to victims of the October 31st attacks and their families and saying that Iraqi Christians are welcome in the KRG. But they're not always safe in the KRG. And they don't have all the bodyguards that Jalal does, do they? Jalal is one of the two types of stupid on display of late. The first is someone basically in Iraq but well protected who has a hissy that another nation might offer asylum to the defenseless persecuted. The second is the Iraqi Christian who has fled Iraq at some point and is now safely in another land (often a citizen of that land) and who insists that Iraqi Christians must stay in Iraq. The Detroit rally was made a joke by one of the leaders of the rally insisting that Iraqi Christians must remain in Iraq. The very obvious point is that that leader didn't remain in Iraq nor has he taken it upon himself to go back to Iraq. It's easy to call for someone to make what could be a last stand while you're safe elsewhere.

The latest wave of attacks is one in a series of ongoing attacks. Iraqi Christians have not been protected throughout the war. Anyone who feels they need to leave should have all the resources and support needed. Anyone who feels they want to stay should be encouraged and the Iraqi government should be offering them all the resources and support they need. But what shouldn't happen is for other people to be making the decisions for them. This is life or death and it will be blood on someone's hands if they attempt to make the decision for Iraqi Christians. Repeating, there is something highly offensive about an American-Iraqi who wants Iraqi Christians to remain in Iraq while he sits his happy little ass safe in Detroit. If what he now advocates had been done to him and his family, he'd still be in Iraq. That no one involved in planning the rally saw that rank hypocrisy is rather telling. (As was his cries that the US military must remain in Iraq for years to protect Iraqi Christians. The targeting is not an excuse to continue the illegal war.)


Kevin Menz (The Sheaf) reports on a Saskatoon protest against the violence and quotes Peter Kiryakos stating, "It's genocide, essentially. The Christian people, since the war began, have had no protection and have been targeted by terrorist groups wanting them out of the country." If it's genocide, it's criminal to suggest that Iraqi Christians should be forced to stay in Iraq. (Repeating, some may want to leave, some may want to stay. That is for them to decide and governments world should open their borders to those who make the decision to leave.)

In the US, Military Families Speak Out have started a petition calling for all troops to be brought home from Iraq and Afghanistan and noting that "These Wars Are Costing Us Too Much!":

Over the next several months we want to gather tens of thousands of signatures on the petition, which will also spread the word about the campaign and build participation.

(Text of the petition is below -- click here to sign).

Dear President Obama and Members of Congress:

As of November 2010, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have lead to:
• the deaths of over 5,787 American service members
• the deaths of tens of thousands of Afghani and Iraqi civilians
• over 2,000 suicides of American veterans
• over 40,000 injuries to American service members

In financial costs:
• It costs $1 million to keep one soldier on the ground in Afghanistan for one year.
• The operational costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have already surpassed $1 trillion.
• The total projected costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is $4 trillion, including an estimated $1 trillion to provide care for returning veterans.

These wars are not making us safer. They are betraying the values that lead many of our young men and women to volunteer for their country and are ransoming the futures of this generation and the next. These funds should be used to take care of the troops when they come home, rebuild our economy, and protect our communities.

Enough is enough! Bring our troops and our tax dollars home NOW!


Action is needed to end the wars. A lot of people are willfully deluding themselves, keeping their heads in the sand, refusing to call out War Hawk Barack.


Sometimes a leader emerges
And is followed for awhile
Doesn't matter what he encourages
As long as he's got style
Young ones conceived in a passion
Of directions we thought enlightened
Grown-up, they follow the mood in fashion
But beneath their bravado
You know they're frightened
I remember a time gone by
When peace and hope and dreams were high
We followed inner visions and touched the sky
Now we who still believe won't let them die
-- "Time Gone By," written by Carole King, first appears on her Touch The Sky album.


"Doesn't matter what he encourages as long as he's got style." Who knew Carole was a prophet? Barack's encouraged war, encouraged drone attacks and so much more. But so many are so damn scared to call the Christ-child out. Supposed life-long peace activists tremble in fear at the notion of pointing out that the emperor sports no peace symbols. They better grow the hell up pretty damn quick because they're not just being played for fools, they're risking lives around the world as they avoid calling out the War Hawk in the White House. This week, Gareth Porter (Dissident Voice) breaks new ground with his monumental scoop detailing how the White House has actively been working to decieve the US voters into believing the Iraq War would end when, in fact, it would not. NSC-er Puneet Talwar was dispatched to offer Iraq 15,000 US troops after the end of 2011 'withdrawal' and to explain that the would simply shove these 15,000 under the US Embassy to hide the remainders. As we've noted for months, Nouri got US-backing to remain prime minister because he promised to allow US forces to remain in Iraq past 2011. From Gareth Porter's article:

The Iraqis also asked whether the 15,000 regular combat troops could be augmented with Special Operations Forces, according to the Iraqi official's account. Talwar said the additional deployment of SOF troops after the withdrawal deadline would be possible, because the United States had never publicly acknowledged the presence of SOF units in Iraq.
The Pentagon signaled last summer that it was assuming the post-2011 U.S. military presence in Iraq would be less than 20,000 troops. In a press briefing last August, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Middle East, Colin Kahl, said Iraq "is not going to need tens of thousands of [American] forces".
Talwar also told the Iraqis that any deployment of combat troops in Iraq beyond the termination date of the U.S.-Iraqi agreement would require a letter from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The Iraqi officials said the letter would be sent.


How many times do you have to be lied to before you wake the hell up? How many lies can you stomach in order to avoid keeping your membership in the Cult of St. Barack?
Let's provide context. From the October 25th "Iraq snapshot:"

Philip J. Crowley: Well, we have a Status of Forces Agreement and a strategic framework. The Status of Forces Agreement expires at the end of next year, and we are working towards complete fulfillment of that Status of Forces Agreement, which would include the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of next year. The nature of our partnership beyond next year will have to be negotiated. On the civilian side, we are committed to Iraq over the long term. We will have civilians there continuing to work with the government on a range of areas – economic development, rule of law, civil society, and so forth. But to the extent that Iraq desires to have an ongoing military-to-military relationship with the United States in the future, that would have to be negotiated. And that would be something that I would expect a new government to consider. [. . .] Should Iraq wish to continue the kind of military partnership that we currently have with Iraq, we're open to have that discussion.



That should have sent off alarm signals immediately. Yet despite this being declared a press briefing at the US State Dept, Amy Goodman couldn't cover it. Of course, she used Barack's inaugaration to raise funds for her program Democracy Now! To raise big funds for her program -- or maybe you think it's normal to CHARGE $1,000 for a ticket when you're so-called 'independent media'? That's what she did. "For a donation of $1000, you can join this extraordinary celebration" insisted Goodman in her reach-in-your-pockets e-mail (entitled "Last Tickets for 1/20 Inaugural Peace Ball & VIP Reception" and sent out January 8, 2009 at 8:55 pm). This is the woman who makes millions -- in fact, Pacfica Radio would have a lot less economic problems if they still owned Goodman's program but she bullied, blustered and blackmailed in order to get ownership of it. Why? It's not like it does anything unless you need to hear what's going on in Aspen at the conference she and her program used to criticize but now Amy speaks at. She's feathered her nest very well and yet continues to beg non-stop. Pacifica is paying far too much for her middle-of-the-road Charlie Rose style program. And her whoring for the White House knows no end. In a functioning independent media -- as opposed to the Beggar Media we've had for the last years -- Goodman would have been called out for all of her whoring.

As we've long noted, she played a little game (she wasn't the only one, it was very popular in 'independent' circles) where when a Hillary supporter was on her show, they were asked about Hillary's votes for the Iraq War but despite the fact that Hillary supporters were only one when Barack supporters were (by contrast Barack supporters were often the entire show with no effort to balance), no Barack supporter was ever asked to justify his votes for the Iraq War. He wasn't in the Senate in 2002. He was in the Senate in 2005 and he voted repeatedly and consistently to continue the illegal war. But Amy played dumb. Same way she LIED to her audience in January 2008 when she brought LIE FACE Melissa Harris-Lacewell on as a 'college professor' who just happened to catch Barack's speech and compared it to MLK and blah, blah, blah. She never said a word about Hillary Clinton. She couldn't shut up about Barack. And Amy should have informed her audience -- the audience she repeatedly F**KS OVER -- that Melissa was part of the Obama campaign and had been since 2007. A week later, she would bring Melissa on -- back on -- to attack Gloria Steinem in a little bit that was scripted ahead of time by Melissa and Amy -- another 'detail' she forgot to inform viewers of, and Melissa -- in the midst of her Jerry Springer-style theatrics -- would point out that she'd been working for the Obama campaign since 2007. If Melissa hadn't gotten angry and lost it, viewer never would have known the little con Amy pulled on them. Trusted media? Before Melissa ever came on Democracy Now, Amy paired up with Melissa when both guested on Rev Jesse Jackson's radio program. She damn well knew Melissa was part of the Obama campaign but she didn't think her viewers required honesty or deserved it.

She whored and she continues to whore. (Which is why the WikiLeaks revelations were actually ignored on her program. She provided a distraction, she just avoided providing an actual service -- i.e. explaining to her audience that treaties were broken when the current White House turned over prisoners to suspected and/or known torturers.) Her program is useless and until her audience starts demanding accountability, they're not going to see any change. In the meantime, it's past time Pacifica made clear to her that she already has ownership of that program, they're not also going to fork over millions to air it.


People ask: "Where's the peace movement? Why did it flounder?" It floundered because whores in Beggar Media whored to get Barack in the White House and all this time later they still can't take accountability. Hearing the ridiculous Larry Bensky try to pontificate on KPFA two weeks ago about ethical standards was hilarious. Not only is he a sexist pig, he's also the cheating whore who booked a TWO HOUR 'analysis' of a Barack-Hillary debate and booked only people who had endorsed Barack and 'forgot' to inform people of that. He allowed them to present as 'independent' 'analysists' and they were in no hurry to tell KPFA audiences that they'd endorsed Barack. That's how you rig the analysis, that's how you ruin and destroy open debate and free speech. So it needs to be made very clear to Larry Bensky that his tired and whoring ass isn't a respected voice and he can't claim the high ground until he can take accountability for his whoring. For reasons, never clear to me, Howard Zinn decided to whore in the last five months of 2008. Howard Zinn died. For many of us, all his words about elections and politicians were rendered meaningless when he hopped on the Barack Obama wagon. He destroyed his own legacy and you'd think some of the other whores would look at that and think, "Damn, I better take accountability now before my whoring becomes my legacy." But thinking has never been Beggar Media's strong suit.

For those who missed Crowley's remarks, another administration figure soon spoke up. From the November 9th snapshot:


Anne Gearan (AP) breaks the news this morning that US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated publicly today in Kuala Lumpur that the US military may stay in Iraq beyond 2011. She quotes him stating, "We're ready to have that discussion if and when they want to raise it with us." Donna Miles (Defense Dept's press department) adds, "But Gates said he wouldn't expect such a request, at least until the Iraqis have selected a president, prime minister and speaker of the council of representatives and made ministerial-level appointments."

Beggar Media's Cult of St. Barack better find its comfort zone to critique Barack from or they better start embracing these illegal wars because their silence allows these wars to continue. Finally, last month, we noted:

Another Times' journalist who has moved on from Iraq is Joao Silva. His photographs have illustrated (and often saved) many a Times' article filed in Iraq -- for example, in the Let's-Meet-The-Awakenings nonsense of 2007, it was Silva's photographs that told the larger truths. Today, the New York Times reports at their blog, Silva -- who has been covering Afghanistan -- was injured after stepping on a land mine.


J.J. Sutherland (NPR) reports this evening, "Joao Silva is the legendary New York Times photographer who stepped on a land mine last month in Afghanistan. He lost both legs among a host of other injuries. Amazingly. because of the incredible battlefield medicine available these days, he's going to live. And like most soldiers in his condition he's ended up at Walter Reed. "




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