From September 4, 2005, that's "Bully is . . . petulance." Bully Boy sure did take a lot of vacations. I think after all his crimes, that is what he'll be remembered for the most. George W. Bush? You mean the vacationing president.
In fact, I think a good argument can be made that just like he didn't finish his time in the reserves, he didn't finish his time in the White House because he spent so much time vacationing.
Thursday, June 25, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military brass continues its attempts to censor a Stars and Stripes reporter, Congress holds a hearing to see if the VA is ready to issue payments under the new GI Bill, and more.
Starting in the US where Barack Obama likes a scripted press conference. As noted yesterday, Dana Milbank (Washington Post) broke the story on Arianna-toy Nico Pitney being a plant in Barack's press conference. As Cedric and Wally noted in their joint-post yesterday, CBS News' Peter Maer raised the issue to portly Robert Gibbs in yesterday's White House press briefing.
PETER MAER: All right. I've got a procedural question about yesterday's news conference. What led to your decision to plant a designated hitter right here to ask the President a question? And what kind of a message do you think that sends to the American people and to the world about the kind of free-flow and pure questioning that's been expected at presidential news conferences? MR. GIBBS: Well, I think it did nothing more than underscore that free-flow. Peter, that was a question from an Iranian in Iran, using the same type of manner and method to get that information as, I guess, many of you and virtually every one of your outlets has done, because in this country we enjoy the freedom of the press.In Iran, as many of you know, your colleagues have been dismissed. They've been kicked out. Some of them have been rounded up. There aren't journalists that can speak for the Iranian people. What the President did was take a question from an Iranian. That's, I think, the very powerful message that that sent just yesterday. PETER MAER: Couldn't he have accomplished that without you guys escorting someone through here and planting him the room? MR. GIBBS: Did you get a question yesterday from an Iranian that you had hoped to asked the President? PETER MAER: No, I did not. MR. GIBBS: Well, then I guess the answer to that would have been, no. PETER MAER: Is this going to become a regular feature of President Obama's news conference, that you all are going to bring people in here that you select to ask questions? MR. GIBBS: Well, let's understand -- let's be clear, Peter. I think you understand this, so -- but I'll repeat it for your benefit. There was no guarantee that the questioner would be picked. There was no idea of what the exact question would be. I'll let you down easily: A number of questions that we went though in prep you all asked. Iran dominated the news conference, not surprisingly. But Peter, I think it was important and the President thought it was important to take a question using the very same methods, again, that many of you all are using to report information on the ground. I don't have any -- I won't make any apologies for that.
Today Peter Baker (New York Times) attempts to cover the story and misses the major point. He tries to cover his based. He gets the Arianna Huffington to self-importantly blather -- between cobbling together George Clooney quotes to pass off as his 'writing' and between posting 'jokes' about special-needs children -- on with remarks like: "This was an exciting moment for new media and citizen engagement. It's a pity so many in traditional media didn't get it." No, it's a pity that an Aging Socialite whose husband decided to come out of the closet dumped her on the rest of the (unsuspecting) world.
Let's break it down for the dithering, money grubbing, wanna-be Gabor whose face appears assembled out of bits of chicken fat. The US is engaged in three wars currently -- Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the undeclared war on Pakistan. Iraq is non-stop violence these days. It was SHAMEFUL and it was EMBARRASSING that the president of the United States was setting up questions but even more distressing than that was WHAT the question was about: Iran. How nice of Huff & Puff to allow Barry O to gas bag on a topic that's not about his own performance, not about his own obligations and allows him to offer more 'inspirational' words. How nice of Huff & Puff to give Barry a foot rub as opposed to hold his tootsie to the fire.
Citizen engagement, which Arianna knows nothing about -- serving off brands to guests, that she knows about -- would have been little Nico breaking from the script and asking a question that put Barack on the spot. Arianna knows damn well if this was a George W. Bush moment, she'd be screaming her head off. Instead, today's she's her own Jeff Gannon. And how nice of Huff & Puff to prove that they don't give a damn about Iraq. The website could have brought that issue into the press conference. It chose not to do so. Remember that the next time Arianna tries to pretend she cares about anything other than the cold hard cash. Drop a twenty on the dresser and thank her for her time, she's done.
Currently at Newt Gingrich's former girlfriend's website it's tabloid city. New media? That smut's been available in the supermarkets for years, usually under the banner of Weekly World News.
In the real world, Iraq was rocked by violence again today. CNN observes, "Violence is unnerving Iraqis, with attacks increasing as the United States works toward withdrawing combat troops." Susan Webb (People's Weekly World) notes, "The killing spree began June 20 with a series of car bombings and other attacks in several cities, including a massive suicide truck bombing that killed 82 people in a mainly Shiite town near the northern city of Kirkuk, a scene of ongoing ethnic strife." Al Jazeera notes, "At least seven people have died in a new wave of attacks in Iraq amid funerals for some of the victims of a bomb explosion in a busy Baghdad market the previous day." The number's risen to at least nine dead with twenty-eight Iraqis injured. Today's reported violence?
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer and left another injured, a Baghdad mortar attack left two people injured, another Baghdad roadside bombing resulted in two police officers being wounded, a Baghdad car bombing left five people injured and a Baghdad roadside bombing resulted in 2 deaths with four injured, a Mosul car bombing which left thirteen people injured and a Falluja roadside bombing which claimed the lives of 5 police officers. Reuters notes two Baghdad roadside bombings resulted in nine US soldiers being injured and a Baghdad bus bombing which left three Iraqi civilians injured..
Dropping back to yesterday's Baghdad bombing whose death toll continued to rise after yesterday's snapshot. Saif Hameed and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) inform the bombing "killed at least 78 people Wednesday and wounded 145, highlighting the danger of Iraq slipping back into violence after the deadline for U.S. combat troops to leave its cities -- now less than a week away." Jim Lehrer (PBS' NewsHour -- link has text, audio and video) explained yesterday, "The blast tore through a market in Sadr City, the capital's main Shiite district." Ernesto Londono and Zaid Sabah (Washington Post) add this context, "The blast, the second in Iraq in less than a week to kill more than 70 people, happened six days before the June 30 deadline for U.S. troops to retreat from urban outposts, the first of three withdrawal deadlines mandated under a security agreement." Alice Fordham (Times of London) adds, "The June 30 deadline was made in a status of forces agreement between the US and Iraq at the start of the year. A national holiday has been declared for that day, although a curfew may be imposed." Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) provides these numbers: "About 300 Iraqi civilians have lost their lives so far in June; more than 330 were killed in May. Eight U.S. soldiers have lost their lives so far in June, while 25 died in May, according to Defense Department figures." Shortly before yesterday's Baghdad bombing took place, Dept of Defense spokesperson Geoff Morrell was holding a press briefing and declaring, "I think -- well . . . First of all, we saw a horrific bombing take place south of Kirkuk over the weeken which was rather unusual given where it took place. It was also unusual just in terms of the trend that we've been seeing lately. Security incidents -- despite that awful attack -- remain at all-time lows since March 2003." BOOM!!! would be the sound of the bombing in Baghdad before Morrell finished his press conference. Alissa J. Rubin and Duraid Adnan (New York Times) offer, "A number of political observers here say they now believe that the attacks are intended to discredit Iraq's prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. He has taken credit for improving security, but the stance carries considerable political risk when violence breaks out." And taking credit apparently translates as "bullying the press," Mike Tharp and Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) note that the harassment of the press continued yesterday in the wake of the bombings, "An Iraqi journalist, who asked not to be named because he feared reprisal, said that Iraqi officials refused to let him and other reporters into local hospitals to try to interview witnesses, family members and victims." Puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki is the self-styled new Saddam. Anthony Shadid (Washington Post) offers a must-read report which looks at the thug the US chose to install: "Although Iraq's parliamenatry elections are not until January, the campaign has begun, and Maliki has shown a determination to fight with a tenacity and ruthlessness borrowed from the handbook of Iraq's last strongman, Saddam Hussein. From Diyala, where men under Maliki's command have arrested and threatened to detain a host of his rivals, to Basra, where security forces have swept up scores of his opponents since January, the message is: cooperate or risk his wratch. Although Iraq's sectarian war has largely ended, and the Sunnis feel they lost, another struggle for power, perhaps no less perilous, has begun in earnest. Maliki has resorted to a more traditional notion of politics in which violence is simply another form of leverage. His goal is simple -- to ensure he emerges as prime minister again after the vote."
Thug Nouri isn't the only one attempting to censor the press in Iraq. Tuesday's snapshot noted the efforts of the US military to prevent Stars and Stripes reporter Heath Druzin from reporting (those efforts are censorship). This is from Joe Strupp's "UPDATED: Reporter Barred from Iraq Embed -- MRE Blasts Move -- Sends Protest Letter to Gates, Petraeus" (Editor & Publisher):The president of the Military Reporters and Editors group has blasted the move in an email to E&P. "Asserting that Stars and Stripes 'refused to highlight' good news in Iraq that the U.S. military wanted to emphasize, Army officials have barred a Stripes reporter from embedding with a unit of the 1st Cavalry Division that is attempting to secure the violent city of Mosul," the report says. It adds that Stripes reporter Heath Druzin, who covered operations of the division's 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team in February and March, would not be permitted to rejoin the unit for another reporting tour. It also adds that military officials cited a March 8 story Druzin wrote that stated many Iraqi residents of Mosul would like the American soldiers to leave and return security tasks to Iraqi forces.New West Boise's Jill Kuraitis has worked with Druzin and she offers, "In my opinion, it's a serious matter when the delivery of accurate and timely news is denied to the American people who always deserve the truth in accordance with our founding principles. We are funding the war with our tax dollars, which makes us even more deserving of the information. Druzin is a professional trained to do exactly what he is doing, and his efforts to be accurate should not be impeded, nor his priorities manipulated." Mark Prendergast is a professional journalist whose outlets have included the Washington Post and the New York Timesand he also teaches journalism (St. John's University). In December 2008 it was announced he would be the new ombudsperson at Stars and Stripes. He weighs in on the censorship efforts:
The unit's commander, Col. Gary Volesky, simply does not want Druzin back. The various reasons offered by Volesky and his public affairs officer, Maj. Ramona Bellard, involve Druzin's personality, professionalism, reluctance to discuss story ideas and that he "refused to highlight" aspects of the Mosul campaign that they wanted him to promote (See Editorial Director Terry Leonard's point-by-point rebuttal, "Army denies Stripes reporter access to combat team in Mosul," article, June 24). In a raft of e-mail correspondence between Stars and Stripes and the military that began May 11, the colonel and the major emphasized that their problem was not with the newspaper but with Druzin -- another Stripes reporter would be welcome in Mosul, they said. (Army officials in Baghdad offered to let Druzin embed somewhere else.) In other words, they made it personal. And that is wrong, in just about every way. Before I go any further, let me say that while I do not know Col. Volesky personally, his public record of service to his country bespeaks a soldier's soldier, one who presently bears huge responsibility in carrying out an extraordinarily tough, dangerous and complex mission in Mosul. Now serving his third tour in Iraq, Volesky has received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star three times, the Purple Heart, and the Combat Infantryman Badge (twice). He has an advanced degree in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton, studied Arabic at the Defense Language Institute, attended the Command and General Staff College and the Air War College, and once held the post of Chief of Infantry Doctrine at the United States Infantry School. And did I mention he's a Ranger? Even reporters in Baghdad hold him in high regard, according to Thomas E. Ricks, the veteran military affairs reporter for The Washington Post. But for all that, Col. Volesky is way wrong on this one. According to both standard journalism practice and Defense Department policy, military commanders do not get to say which reporters get assigned where, whether they work for Stars and Stripes, The New York Times, MSNBC, the Huffington Post or the Podunk Gazette. Editors do. And whether Volesky, Bellard, the soldiers of the 1st Cavalry, the people of Mosul or the readers of Stars and Stripes think Druzin is a good reporter or a bad reporter is a matter of opinion outside the legal and policy framework that governs military-media relations and the assignment of reporters. In that regard, the only opinion that counts, by practice and by law, is that of Druzin's editors. And they are standing by him and his performance in Iraq. And they want him back in Mosul.
As he notes, it's really not the military brass' decision which reporter an outlet sends. Not noted, but equally true, it's appalling in this alleged 'change' government going on in the US that this matter has been allowed to fester. The White House could have taken care of this with one phone call. That it chose not to says a great deal about it and goes to why they feel the need to staff press conferences with ringers.
Many years ago (the 90s) a friend who was nervous about a taping was on the phone as she waited and watched a segment preceding her own. As someone in the audience ran off at the mouth to Orpah (standing there with the microphone), my friend said over the phone to me, "Someone needs to tell Little Miss Voice of a Generation, sit down." It's hard not to feel that way when reading Erik Leaver and Daniel Atzmon's latest at Foreign Policy In Focus. Specifically: "On November 17, 2008, when Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker signed an agreement for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, citizens from both countries applauded." Little Miss Voice of a Generation, sit down. Not only did Iraqis not applaud but many Americans didn't either. The treaty masquerading as a SOFA was hugely unpopular in Iraq which is why so many MPs skipped the vote. Skipped the vote on Thanksgiving Day. November 16th was when Nouri's cabinet voted . . . and ten cabinet members skipped that vote. As for it being about withdrawal? Mary Beth Sheridan (Washington Post) reported in real time that "the Iraqi cabinet on Sunday approved a bilateral agreement allowing U.S. troops to remain in this country for three more years." That's all the SOFA did. The UN mandate (covering the occupation) would expire on December 31st. A new agreement was needed (or the UN mandate renewed) or else US forces (as Joe Biden had noted repeatedly) would be forced to leave Iraq. Even then-White House spokesperson Dana Perino didn't try to inflate it the way it would eventually be inflated. November 17th she declared, "One of the points that we conceded was that we would establish these aspirational dates." Aspirational. As opposed to "actual." Learn the terminology.
Maybe they have to because Phyllis Bennis embarrassed herself at every forum (including FPIF) acting the fool. She was thrilled, she was excited and she knew nothing, absolutely nothing. When Barack adopted Bush's SOFA, Phyllis was thrilled and even made the blood curling statement that it didn't matter to her if 'withdrawal' took a few months more. Doesn't matter to her? Well she's not serving in Iraq and she has no family serving in Iraq and, apparently, she also lacks both empathy and sympathy. So possibly the distasteful opening of Leaver and Atzmon's article is required because FPIF readers have been hyped on the b.s. treaty and lied to about the treaty?
The failure to fully comply with the withdrawal agreement indicates the United States is looking to withdraw from Iraq in name only, as it appears that up to 50,000 military personnel will remain after the deadline. The United States claims it's adhering to the agreement, known as the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), even with so many troops being left in the cities. But the United States is changing semantics instead of policy. For example, there are no plans to transfer the 3,000 American troops stationed within Baghdad at Forward Operating Base Falcon, because commanders have determined that despite its location, it's not within the city. The original intent of moving troops out of the cities was to reduce the U.S. military role and send the message to Iraqis that the United States would be leaving the country soon. But troops that are no longer sleeping in the cities will still take part in operations within Iraqi cities; they will serve in "support" and "advisory" roles, rather than combat functions. Such "reclassification" of troops as military trainers is another example of how the United States is circumventing the terms of the SOFA agreement.
To get the SOFA through the Parliament, a last minute agreement (and plenty of US strong arming) was made that the Iraqi people would be allowed to vote on the treaty in a national referendum which was supposed to take place next month. It will not take place next month and has now been pushed back to January. In 2008, the White House strong armed to get their way, in 2009 the White House strong arms to get its way. No change you can believe in.
The number of unprocessed disability claims has grown by nearly 100,000 since the beginning of the year and totaled 916,625 as of Saturday, a rise driven in part by increasing numbers of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Rep. John Hall (D-N.Y.), who last week chaired a House Veterans' Affairs subcommittee meeting titled "Can VA Manage One Million Claims?," said the department needs "a cultural and management sea change." Veterans "are waiting to have their claims and appeals processed," Hall said at the hearing last Thursday. "They are waiting for compensation. They are waiting for medical assistance and rehabilitation." That hearing took place Thursday evening and was noted in the June 19th snapshot.
"Any change, any legislative change increases the risk to August 1st," declared the VA's Director from the Office of Education Service Keith Wilson. "There's no question about it. We wouldn't know the full impact until we could sit down and evaluate what the volume of individuals would be."
He was appearing this afternoon before the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity and replying to US House Rep John Boozman's question about the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which "has those killed on active duty into Chapter Thirty Two, I'm sorry, Chapter Thirty Three would something like that would that cause delay in payment?" Wilson stated anything would. The meeting was about the Post-9-11 GI Bill which requires new payments starting August 1st. US House Rep Harry Teague chaired the subcommittee (filling in for Stephanie Herseth Sandlin) and noted in his opening remarks:
Today we will continue with our series of oversight hearings on the VA's implementation plans for the Post 9-11 GI Bill. It is important that we continue to provide the VA the opportunities to update the subcommittee on their implementation effort for the short-term and long-term solutions. This hearing will also give the VA the opportunity to ask for Congressional assistance if it is required. Since the passage of the Post-9-11 GI Bill, many items of concern have been raised about this very complicated program. I'm sure our Chair and Ranking Member will agree that this Subcommittee will continue to seek answers to the implementation but also veteran outreach, university partnerships and other items of concern. While there was tremendous Congressional support for the passage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, responsiblity does not end after a bill is signed into law. As our panelists know, this Subcommittee will continue to work with the adminsitration to ensure that our veterans receive their educational benefits in a timely manner.
Ranking Member Boozman noted this was the fifth hearing providing oversight on the implementation of the bill and encouraged the VA to come forward with problems as they arise so they can be addressed.
August 1st is the start date in order to begin making payments for the fall 2009 semesters. These payments, like other government payments, will be issued via computer programs so today's hearing focused on the IT aspects of it.
Keith Wilson was the only witness appearing before the Subcommittee today. He was accompanied by the VA's Stephen W. Warren and Mark Krause. (Warren handled the slide presentation -- he provided the narration of the steps on the flow chart, etc.) Wilson stated that there were two strategies, short-term and long-term. The programs will handle processing and delivering (addressing) the payments and allowing payments to be calculated. This system, however, vanishes December 2010 when a new system replaces it. (That system hasn't been developed yet and will be created with SPAWAR Systems Center.)
Keith Wilson: On May 1, 2009, VA began accepting applications to determine eligibility for the Post- 9-11 GI Bill. We've received more than 75,000 applications, and the RPOs have fully processed approximately 35,000 of these claims. On July 6, 2009, we will start accepting enrollment certifications from school certifying officials and begin processing claims for payment. The first payments will be released by US Treasury Department on August 3, 2009. Approximately 530 claims examiners have been hired under term appointments to support the implementation of the short-term strategy. All employees completed training of Phase 1 of the short-term solutions on June 15th. Phase 2 training started on June 8th and is expected to be complete no later than July 3rd. VA authorized the RPOs to hire 230 additional claims examiners. All of the employees are expected to be on board by August 31, 2009.
Those are hard numbers and in the above and when asked questions, Wilson actually had answers. A rare thing for a witness from the VA. Wilson referenced the VA's GI Bill website as a resource. For those with limited internet access or who would prefer the human interaction, the toll free number is 1-888-GI-BILL-1 or 1-888-442-4551. The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) has a webpage that gives you a historical overview and also allows you to locate a VFW service officer who can assist veterans with the application process. Those are resource provided by the VFW and they're a resource many veterans may need to consider utilizing because, at present, Wilson stated they were surprised that the applications coming in are not as high as expected (at present, the VA is able to process more applications each day than it is receiving, according to Wilson). Teague noted his surprise at the low number of applicants and suggested stronger outreach efforts may be needed.
US House Rep Harry Teague: You may recall that with the leadership of Ranking Member Boozman, Congress authorized the VA to conduct mass media outreach services. Today I have not been made aware of the VA using mass media as an outreach option. Will you be using mass media such as television or radio to advertise the new GI Bill benefit?
Keith Wilson: We will. We have, underway right now, a acquistion process to bring a, uh, professional media firm on board specifically for that purpose.
One reason for the delay may be that next week the VA will be providing a list of an estimated 700 colleges who will be part of the Yellow Ribbon Program. Wilson explained those colleges would have "a matching contribution program between VA and IHLs to assist eligible veterans in covering tuition expenses that exceed the highest public in-state undergraduate tuition rate." How much is covered is an issue even in good economic times and some may be waiting on the VA to release that date before beginning the application process.
Independent journalist David Bacon, whose latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press). , is one of the last labor reporters left in the US. This is the opening to his latest report, "CRIMINALS BECAUSE WE WORKED" (Political Affairs):VERNON, CA (6/18/09) -- The production lines at Overhill Farms move very quickly. Every day for eighteen years Bohemia Agustiano stood in front of the "banda" for eight or nine hours, putting pieces of frozen chicken, rice and vegetables onto plates as they passed in a blur before her. Making the same motions over and over for such a long time, her feet in one place on the concrete floor, had its price. Pains began shooting through her hands and wrists, up her arms to her shoulders.Complaining also had a price, however. "I was reluctant to say anything because of my need," she says. "I have four children. So I preferred to stay hurt, and take pills for it, than to go out on disability." Finally, though, it got too much. She couldn't sleep without pain constantly waking her, and she was moving through a haze of exhaustion. So she went to the company doctor. "He said my nerves were inflamed, and sent me to therapy," she recalls. "I know I have repetitive stress syndrome, but I asked him not to put me on restricted duty, because there is no easy work in production and I knew the company would just send me home. He put me on restrictions anyway, and that's what happened. It didn't change anything, and eventually I had to go back to my job. It still hurts to work." It might seem hard to understand that a job like this is worth trying to keep. But being out of work is worse. On May 31 254 people, including Agustiano, were fired. Their crime? According to Overhill Farms, they had bad Social Security numbers. Behind this accusation is the unspoken assumption that the workers' numbers are no good because they have no legal immigration status. Every day Agustiano and the fired workers are out in front of the company's two plants on East Vernon Avenue, in an industrial enclave in southeast Los Angeles, trying to fight their way back onto those speeding production lines.
Thursday, June 18, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, a fire blazes in Baghdad, Iraq's LGBT community gets some attention, Gordon Brown paints himself into a corner, the Senate votes for more war, Norman Solomon makes a fool of himself yet again and more.
Today Phil Sands and Nizar Latif (The National) report, "American troops may have to remain in violent cities such as Mosul and Baquba after the end of this month, despite plans for a complete US pull-out from urban areas, according to an official in one of Iraq's most powerful political parties. Mohammed al Gharawi, of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), the largest single party in Iraq's parliament and the group in control of the ministery of the interior, said he would support an extension for the US military presence to prevent a worsening security situtation." Meanwhile AFP reports on "U.S. army commanders" who stress that there is confusion ("mired in confusion") over the so-called departure from Mosul by June 30th ("when U.S. soldiers must leave cities and major towns nationwide") and that "[t]hey also believe the political message emanating from Baghdad about the U.S. withdrawal has created a false impression among Iraqi citizens that U.S. troops will no longer be seen on Mosul's streets when, in fact, they will."
Camilo Mejia: For an organization like Iraq Veterans Against the War for instance, who depend greatly upon contributions from the public and support from ally organizations, we're having a very difficult time right now getting through to people and fund raising and doing things like that because the sense right now within the larger public is that the Iraq War is ending, that the Iraq occupation is coming to an end -- which is not true, and that the Afghanistan War is now the good war and that the -- Basically the Iraq War became indefensible. People turned against it. And they needed a new centerpiece for the global war on terror which is just another excuse for invading and occupying another country to go after their natural resources and Afghanistan is that war now. So a lot of people are on the fence or skeptical or giving President Obama the benefit of the doubt. If you add to that the financial crisis and a lot of people out there who are holding on to their savings and taking pay cuts and unemployed and not contributing the same and don't really feel like anti-war issues are any more that relevant, not as relevant as before. So that's the civilian side of things. I think right now we are on a stand-by when it comes to the civilian side. When it comes to the GI side? Regardless of what the official rhetoric is soldiers are still being deployed -- soldiers, marines, air service men and women -- we're still being deployed. And people are still coming back form Iraq and Afghanistan with untreated Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, returning to poverty in a broken economy being recycled from Iraq to Afghanistan. The VA crisis is really bad. We're short staffed. We have people who are suicidal who are waiting months to see a psychiatrist or psychologist or even a case worker. So regardless of the state of the civilian side of things we're going to continue to resist because our experience hasn't changed.
The Iraq War is not over and it will not be over this year (or next or . . .). Jeremy Scahill (RebelReports) examines Tuesday's House vote for the War Supplemental and reports, "New York Democrat Anthony Weiner, who voted against the war funding in May -- when it didn't matter -- only to vote Tuesday with the pro-war Dems, sounded like an imbecile when he made this statement after the vote: 'We are in the process of wrapping up the wars. The president needed our support.' What planet is Weiner living on? 'Wrapping up the wars?' Last time I checked, there are 21,000 more US troops heading to Afghanistan alongside a surge in contractors there, including a 29% increase in armed contractors. Does Weiner think the $106 billion in war funding he voted for is going to pay for one way tickets home for the troops? What he voted for was certainly not the 'Demolition of the 80 Football-field-size US Embassy in Baghdad Act of 2009.' To cap off this idiocy, Weiner basically admitted he is a fraud when he said the bill he voted in favor of 'still sucks'." Joshua Frank (Dissident Voice) observes, "No longer can the blame for the turmoil in Iraq and Afghanistan rest at the feet of George W. Bush alone. This is now Obama's War on Terror, fully funded and operated by the Democratic Party. [. . .] Had Bush pushed for more military funds at this stage, the antiwar movement (if you can call it that) would have been organizing opposition weeks in advance, calling out the neocons for wasting our scarce tax dollars during a recession on a never-ending, directionless war. But since Obama's a Democrat, a beloved one at that, mums the word." As Trina observed earlier this week, "never forget that Iraq was always seen by other countries as a chance for Big Business to take control. A tag sale enforced at gun point. There are no uncharted countries on the earth so the 'missions' these days aren't to discover new markets in a new world. The missions are to take a country under and create a new market on top of the corpses."
At a press conference today, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared of her party and the House she leads, "As you know, the veterans issue has been a high priority for us. We planted that flag when we took the majority in the Congress. We did more in that first two years than had been done in the 77-year history of the Veterans Administration. It's now 78, 79 years old. We have a Democratic President in the White House. Secretary Shinseki, working with him, we are able to do even more." Some argue that those who care about veterans go out of their way to ensure that more wounded ones aren't created by continuing illegal wars. Today the Senate followed the House lead. Perry Bacon Jr. (Washington Post) reports Barack got his War Supplemental with 91 votes supporting more death, destruction and financial waste and only five voted no. They are Russ Feingold, Bernie Sanders, Jim DeMint, Mike Enzi and Tom Coburn.
This morning the House Veterans Affairs' Health Subcommittee held a legislative hearing and US House Rep Deborah Halvorson stepped in to chair the subcommittee. She did a strong job as chair. Not "as a first-term member of the House, she did a strong job," she did a strong job period. US House Rep Jerry McNerney was among those speaking on legislation. He introduced HR 1546 and we'll note some of his remarks explaining the need for it. HR 1546: "To amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish the Committee on Care of Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury.
US House Rep Jerry McNerney: More than 1.6 million troops have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and about half of those brave men and women are now veterans. Traumatic Brain Injury or TBI has become the signature wound of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A Rand Corporation Study estimates that up to 320,000 troops who served in these conflicts suffer from brain trauma. Milder forms of TBI can result -- these are milder forms -- can result in cognitive problems such as headaches, difficulty in thinking, memory problems, abnormal speech or language and limited functioning of arms and legs. TBI's effects on veterans and their families can be devastating. I've met personally with several veterans from my district who suffer from severe brain injury in Iraq. One is doing well in my hometown with a four year scholarship from the Sentinels of Freedom. I just had lunch with him a couple of weeks ago and I'm very pleased to see how well he's adjusted. Unfortunately, many wounded veterans face an even more arduous path to recovery. The brain is probably the most adaptable organ of the body but any time there is a traumatic injury or section of the brain is damaged, it takes time to adjust and compensate. When a soldier's wounded, he or she is first transported to a trauma center to treat brain swelling. Brain swelling is the biggest and most immediate risk from a brain injury. After being stabilized, soldiers may face invasive surgical procedures and painful cooling treatments to combat inflammation followed by extensive physical and psychological therapy. I've seen first hand how difficult this treatment is and we owe our veterans the very best.
Blasts from improvised, explosive devices have become one of the most common causes of injury for troops currently serving in combat zones and recent studies show that 59% of blast exposed patinets at Walter Reed have been found to have some form of TBI. In April of 2007, the Veterans Administration began screening veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan since the beginning of October 2001 for symptoms that may be associated with TBI. Of the 61,285 veterans that the VA screened for TBI 11,804 -- or 19% -- of those veterans screened positive for TBI symptoms. Department of Defense and Veterans Administration experts note that TBI can occur even if a victim does not suffer from an obvious physical injury -- which sometimes takes place when the person is in the vicinity of a powerful detonation. In these instances, signs and symptoms of TBI -- such as the ones I mentioned earlier -- are not often readily recognized. According to the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration's mental health experts, mild TBI can also produce behavioral symptoms similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or other mental health conditions. And TBI almost always causes Post Traumatic Stress. The relationship between TBI and Post Traumatic Stress can further complicate diagnosis and treatment. As a result, further research must be conducted to examine the longterm effects of these injuries which are not yet fully understood and the best treatment models to address TBI and improve coordination care for injured veterans.
Traumatic injuries -- Traumatic Brain Injuries have often effected a large number of female service members and as the number of women enlisted in the armed forces continues to grow, we must ensure that our focus on health care continues to encompass all veterans. I hope we can continue to collect data to ensure that the women veterans receive the same quality of care as their male counterparts and I am committed to working on this committee to assist in that endeavor.
When a solider is transitioning to civilian life, it is imperative that we have a system in place that is able to properly evaluate and assess the risks and challenges if any these veterans and their families might face. Given that evidence suggests that combat related TBI is an increasingly frequent occurance and that the effects of TBI are still poorly understood, prioritizing research and oversight will help plan for addressing treatment and long term care. Research in TBI is also particularly important for understanding Post Traumatic Stress because the amnesia that often occurs as a result of TBI increases the challenges of Post Traumatic Stress treatment. Studies have shown that, in the absence of factual recall, individuals may have delusional or reconstruct memories of trauma. These individuals may retain false memories rather than factual results.
Turning to England where the good times keep coming for Gordon Brown. His efforts at a behind-closed-doors 'inquiry' appear to be falling apart. Philip Webster (Times of London) reported this morning, "Parts of the Iraq war inquiry may now be held in public after Gordon Brown was forced into a partial climbdown." James Kirkup and Alastair Jamieson (Telegraph of London) add that Lord Bulter was "critical of the decision to hold hearings behind closed doors". At the Guardian, Toby Helm stated that "Buter will accuse the government of 'putting its political interests ahead of the national interest'" today. Andrew Grice, Kim Sengupta and Nigel Morris (Independent of London) report it's not one noted person who'll be speaking out against Brown, it's two: Lord Hutton and Lord Butler. Great Britain's Socialist Worker notes the crony-infested panel for Gordo's inquiry: "John Chilcot, its chair, was part of the last Iraq whitewash, the Bulter inquiry. Another committee member, Sir Lawrence Freedman, wrote Tony Blair's 1999 Chicago speech setting out the idea of 'humanitarian' war." The Belfast Telegraph reports that Gordon's closde-door policy has been criticized by former Prime Minister John Major who states: "The Government's decision to hold the inquiry into the Iraq war in private is inexplicable -- not least in its own interests. [. . .] The arrangements currently proposed run the risk of being viewed sceptically by some, and denounced as a whitewash by others. I am astonished the Government cannot understand this." ITN quotes Bulter stating, "The form of the inquiry proposed by the Government has been dictated more by the Government's political interest than the national interest and it cannot achieve the purpose of purging mistrust." Rebecca will be blogging about this topic tonight and should remember to include these words "I told you so." (Because she did.)
The executive editor of the Merced Sun-Star, Mike Tharp, is back in Iraq for McClatchy Newspapers. Today at McClatchy's Baghdad Observer, Tharp explains a trip in the Green Zone, "Haider, our driver, and I were threading our way through 108 degrees and a narrow concrete path hemmed in by blast walls in the International Zone (IZ). . . . At a dozen points along the 20-minute route, we were checked for IDs, and sometimes body-searched, by Iraqi soldiers, police and hard-eyed Peruvians. The modern-day Incas were armed with AK-47s and looked as if they wanted to revenge Pizarro by humiliating any gringo in range. The name of their private security company is Triple Canopy. In what passes for military logic, some of the checks and searches were only 30 or 40 meters from the last one, in plain sight of the next group of gunsels, who had just watched their comrades force us to dump everything from our pockets into a plastic bowl."
In Baghdad today, Xinhua reports, fire fighters attempted to battle a blaze at the Ministry of Health's 11-story building: "Dozens of the ministry's employees have been stranded in the upper stories, but Iraqi civil defense managed to evacuate them, the source said."
Iraq's LGBT community remains under assault. Khalid al-Ansary (Reuters) reports on those who have sought refuge in Turkey including 28-year-old Ameer who fled after repeated death threats. Ameer now hopes he will be granted refugee status in the US -- but the 'fierce advocate' for gays and lesbians in the White House is doing nothing. While the federal government has done nothing, the city councils in Los Angeles and San Francisco have spoken out as have many California legislatures. Cynthia Laird (Bay Area Reporter) notes this announcement:
Gays Without Borders/San Francisco will hold a fundraiser for Rainbow World Fund/Iraq Friday, June 19 from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. at Cafe Flore, 2298 Market Street in San Francisco.
The event takes place after last month's successful local action to bring attention to the fact that LGBT people are being persecuted in Iraq, including reports of torture, beating, and killing of gay Iraqis in an effort by police to "clean up" the country by getting both beggars and gays and lesbians off the streets.
Gary Virginia and Michael Petrelis are two San Francisco activists who have taken the lead on local organizing efforts; the Rainbow World Fund is serving as a fiscal sponsor to collect and distribute the funds raised.
The plight of gay Iraqis has garnered attention from politicians. Last week State Department spokesman Ian Kelly condemned acts of violence and human rights violations committed against individuals in Iraq because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Earlier this month, 45 California lawmakers, led by state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and the LGBT Legislative Caucus, called on the Obama administration to prevent the persecution of LGBT people in Iraq.
For more information about this week's fundraiser, contact Virginia at (415) 867-5004. Donations can be made online at www.rainbowfund.org.
Writing in Gay City News, Doug Ireland first broke the story in March of 2006 that Iraqi gays were being killed by death squads. Ireland and other gay press outlets continued covering the story in 2006 and into 2007, with the mainstream press offering occasional stories. The killings and the gay press reports on them have continued into 2009. In September 2007 -- nearly two years ago -- Gay City News sent a Freedom of Information request to the State Department that sought all records "that relate to or identify homicides, assaults, or other violent acts committed against homosexual persons in Iraq." On May 26 of this year, the department responded, releasing two documents, totaling nine pages, that represent all the records that agency compiled from March 1, 2003, roughly the start of the Iraq War, through the date of the records request. No documents were withheld and only a small portion of the released documents was blacked out. Two pages consist of a letter, dated March of 2007, from Senator Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican, to the department that forwarded an email from a constituent who was concerned about the killings.
The other seven pages are mostly internal emails -- three pages are a 2006 Washington Blade story on the killings -- with one from September 2006 and the rest from 2007.
ORAM, Organization For Refuge, Asylum & Migration, [PDF format warning] issued a press release noting: "ORAM, a groundbreaking international refugee advocacy organization, announced its launch today. The Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration is the first non-governmental organization (NGO) to focus exclusively on refugees and asylum seekers fleeing sexual and gender based violence. ORAM provides free legal counsel for LGBT refugees in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), who have escaped violence, executions and 'honor killings' in their home countries."
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Reuters reports 1 person shot dead (from "a speeding car") in Mosul and an Iraqi soldier accidentally shot another Iraqi soldier to death in Mosul. DPA notes 2 Iraqi police officers were shot dead in Mosul.
At CounterPunch today, professional media hooker Norman Solomon demonstrates that, even with a plush bankroll, you can't teach an old whore new tricks. Normy gave it up for Barack. He could have remained neutral but he whored it. And he LIED because he didn't think he needed to tell people he was supporting Barack, that he was a pledged delegate for Barack. He noted it in his columns but his radio appearances? 'Surely no one would pay attention.' He thought wrong. His reputation in tatters, he keeps trying to slink back in as an 'independent' voice. You can only lose your cherry once, Norman. In "Obama and the Antiwar Democrats" (no link to trash), Norman wants to YET AGAIN tell you what to do. Forgetting that's what got him into trouble in the first place. He wants you to support . . . Marcy Winograd. Why the hell should anyone support her? Because Norman loves her? Last year, he was spreading for Barry O -- his judgment is a joke. Norman wants you to know Marcy's different. Really? Back in May, Ruth wondered, "Why should anyone vote for Marcy Winograd?" Noting Marcy's sexual ravings over Barack (she pants as easily as does Norman), Ruth wrote, "She is perfectly fine with all of Mr. Obama's cavings last week (military tribunals, torture photos, etc.). She said so. What is progressive about that stance?" Not a damn thing. Not one damn thing. And after you hijacked the peace movement and whored it out for Barack in 2007 and 2008, shame you on you, Norman Solomon, for showing up in 2009 and telling people the answer is a 2010 election. Norman Solomon really needs to consider retirement. He's destroyed his reputation and he apparently has nothing left to offer except, "VOTE!" Norman's confused a high school civics lesson with activism.
Pity Norman didn't want to teach history instead. That's needed. May 28, 2009, Alyssa Rosenberg (Government Executive) was reporting on US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's announcement that "domestic partners of gay and lesbian diplomats" would be granted "many of the same rights and protections as the spouses of heterosexual Foreign Service officers." That would be the same Hillary who issued a statement June 1st noting this month is Gay and Lesbian Pride Month. Poor Barry O, he spent the primaries going around declaring, "What she said!" All this time later, he still can't lead. Yesterday Barry O finally had a remark to offer on . . . Well, no, he didn't and no one called him out, now did they? Click here for the White House video of Barry's remarks. Search in vain for "gay" or "lesbian." He says "the people that they love are of the same-sex" and gets in one ref to "LGBT employees". And Homophobic Barry Obama never notes that it's Gay and Lesbian Pride Month. How embarrassing. He's still a half-assed copy of Hillary. Marcia, Cedric and Wally covered the do-nothing Barack last night.
You need to grasp how much you would ridicule a White president who refused to mention Black History Month while signing legislation effecting African-Americans during Black History Month. There's a lot of bigotry going on and not all of it can fall under "soft bigotry." Witness raging homophobe Harry Jackson who was a guest on today's Diane Rehm Show (NPR) and lied and flamed and made a real ass out of himself. First off, Harry, no photographer has a license. A photographer who doesn't want to take a photo doesn't get a "license revoked." No surprise that a bigot like Harry Jackson would also be an idiot. Maybe if he wants to weigh in on life today, he needs to do a little more research. Most jaw dropping moment when he likened same-sex relationships to suicide. He also used "you people" to refer to gays and lesbians, insulted them as a "sudden population" (that will apparently die out? or be executed?), whined repeatedly about "reverse discrimination" and how "my kids are going to be taught . . . my kids will be taught in school" that people like Harry Jackson are bigots. And people like Harry Jackson are bigots so apparently Harry Jackson also wants to declare a war on education. Harry whined about how he's been intimidated. As dumb as he is, one has to wonder how he'd even know if someone was trying to intimidate him. Harry basically told every caller and e-mailer they were idiots and was especially patronizing to those in Diane's audience who self-identified as Christians.
State of journalism. The Washington Post's Walter Pincus has written an essay for Columbia Journalism Review and it's worth reading but I've been asking, "When is anyone going to ask the real questions?" Janet Coleman interviewed him for Monday's Cat Radio Cafe on WBAI and she didn't raise what I feel are the big issues. It's a fine interview, Janet always does strong interviews and knows her craft. You have eighty or so days to catch it at the WBAI archives and I believe it stays up at Cat Radio Cafe as long as that site is up. But before Walter's interviewed next, notes. Politico is not a site I care for (obviously) and it's nothing but Rona Barrett's DC! But Walter needs to be asked about it because this is an online version of what he attempted in the early seventies -- only not as gossip, as news. There were eight or nine places around the country where the paper he and others were planning would be printed and service those communities. Especially with various laid off, forced retired et al journalists willing to explore doing an online combine today, Pincus should share the insight on why that project did not work. In passing, and on his own, he alluded to that with Janet.
Walter Pincus: I'm one of these people who, years ago, tried to start a paper and had to learn the hard way that it's the business side that takes the hardest work. We all know how to write stories, to some degree know how to find out information. But making it pay and producing a package that appeals to a wide enough number of people to support advertising is the trick. And I think this younger generation once they put down their Twitters and all these superficial electronic gadgets that are headline services and do something really worthwhile are going to come up with some ideas and we'll have a new generation of press entrepreneurs.
Walter Pincus, and others, were planning their paper at the start of the seventies. There would be national coverage in all the papers and some regional coverage would migrate into the other papers. That was the plan. It was ambitious. And he speaks above, briefly, about a paper that failed. If you're talking about the state of journalism today, that passage above is as important as anything in his essay. Maybe more. By the way, Liza Featherstone also has an article in the new CJR, she's covering the identity crisis at the Wall Street Journal.
PBS note, this week on Bill Moyers Journal (begins airing tomorrow night on most PBS stations, check local listings, and it streams online -- video and audio -- and offers transcripts):
Instructed by a dream and organized in prayer, Leymah Gbowee andthousands of everyday women in Liberia - both Christians and Muslimsalike - confronted warlords and a corrupt president to successfullyfight for peace and dignity in their war-torn nation. "I realized thatevery problem we encounter on this journey, I'm going to rise above itand lead these women because they trusted me with their lives and theirfuture," says Gbowee. Journal guest host Lynn Sherr interviews LeymahGbowee and Abigail Disney, who documented their inspiring tale in theaward-winning film PRAY THE DEVIL BACK TO HELL. Lynn Sherr is along-time broadcast journalist who most recently covered events inLiberia for PBS' news program, WORLDFOCUS.
The joke behind this August 14, 2005 comic was that Bully Boy never stopped going on vacation and, at the time, was either on another vacation or gearing up for one. Cindy Sheehan went to Crawford and interrupted his little break.
So I have Condi Rice screaming at some advisors to leave her Bully alone.
Friday, June 12, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Newsweek explores Iraq, Congress puts out like a gumball machine for the White House, a Sunni MP is assassinated, Nouri stages a praise-a-thon, and more.
Starting with Newsweek. Comedian Stephen Colbert took his Comedy Central show to Iraq and, as a tie-in, was the guest editor of Newsweek for the issue on sale now (with his photo on the cover). For four pages you get more lies from Fareed Zakaria, these are titled "Victory In Iraq." Liar Fareed wants you to know "the democratic ideal is still within reach." Oh really? How do you define "democratic ideal," you damn liar? Two centuries ago, if you lied in the public square the way Fareed has repeatedly, you would have found yourself whipped in the public square and maybe for pundits who put the lives of others at risk we should bring that policy back. Here's reality that liars like Fareed can never tell you about:
We are writing to urge you to call upon the government of Iraq to prevent the persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, and to protect the right of all Iraqi citizens to be free from all forms of cruel,inhumane or degrading punishment.
Deeply disturbing reports are enamating from Iraq with regard to the torture, beating and killing of LGBT people in that country. The increasing violence is being led by religious zealots who are targeting these individuals simply because of their sexual orientation. This year alone, 63 people have been tortured or killed as a result of religious decrees against gay citizens. A prominent Iraqi human rights activists has reported that Iraqi militia have deployed painful and degrading forms of torture and punishment against homesexuals that must be stopped.
The United States is spending trillions of dollars to fight a war that is based on bringing freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people. These unspeakable actions of violence on Iraqi citizens are in direct violation of our purpose for being in that country and of the stated policy of non-discrimination of the new administration.
Local police in Iraq have issued a statement that "the extra-judicial killing of any citizen is a crime punishable by law. No one has the right to become a substitute for judicial authorities or executive authorities, and if there are complaints against individuals, there is law and there are police and there are government agencies. No group or class has the authority to punish people instead of the state." The violence occuring against LGBT Iraqis is in direct contradiction to this statement.
As one of the signatories to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Iraqi government has an obligation to protect the right to life (Article 6) and the right of all its citizens "to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" (Article 7). Current actions belie this obligation.
To protect the lives of LGBT Iraqis, we urge you to please take immediate action to stop the violence. We believe that a strong public condemnation of these actions must come from you and our other national leaders, along with the necessary pressure on the Iraqi government to protect the life and liberty of all its citizens.
The [PDF format warning] letter is signed by California state legislatures Mark Leno, Tom Ammiano, Christine Keho, John A. Perez, Jim Beall Jr., Julia Brownley, Sandre R. Swanson, Tom Torlakson, Marty Block, Mariko Yamada, Pedro Nava, ANthony Portantino, Jerry Hill, Hector de la Torre, Mike Feuer, Felipe Fuentes, Cathleen Galgiani, Curren D. Price Jr., Norma J. Torres, Jospeh S. Simitian, Elaine Alquist, Alan Lowenthal, Leland Yee, Gilbert Cedillo, Jenny Oropeza, Gloria Romero, Gloria Negrete McLeod, Lou Correa, Loni Hancock, Lois Wolk, Patricia Wiggins, Ellen Corbett, Carol Liu, Fran Pavley, Bonnie Lowenthal, William W. Monning, Isadore Hall III, Mary Salas, Mike Davis, Paul Fong, Warren T. Furutani, Jared Huffman, Bob Blumenfield, Alex Padilla and Paul Krekorian. The letter was sent this month to US President Barack Obama, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and US Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.
The issue has been reported on by the Denver Post, the New York Times, the BBC, ABC and many other outlets. Newsweek has NEVER reported on it. Newsweek has never acknowledged the attacks and assaults on Iraq's LGBT community. And that falls on Fareed who decides what makes it into non-guest editorial issues and what doesn't. Fareed doesn't want to touch the subject due to his own apparent homosexual panic. As SourceWatch notes, in October of 2006, War Hawk and Cheerleader Fareed was finally walking away from the illegal war declaring that the puppet government in Iraq "has failed" and calling the US venture/war crime a failure as well. He's back to selling the illegal war all over again. The Henry Kissinger wannabe infamously said as the illegal war on Iraq began, "The place is so dysfunctional any stirring of the pot is good. America's involvement in the region is for the good." Again, a few centuries back, he would have been flogged in the town square. These days he just feeds his own vanity which is how he ends up with an attention getting, four page spread which leads off the news section of the magazine. Vanity, thy name is Fareed.
On a better (and actual news) note, Gretel C. Kovach contributes "Canada's New Leaf" which zooms in on Kimberly Rivera, the Dallas - Fort Worth native and Iraq War veteran who self-checked out and took her family to Canada becoming, in February 2007, the first female Iraq War veteran to publicly seek asylum in Canada. Kovach notes Kimberly next appears before a Canadian court in July:
Now 26, Rivera has more problems than ever. Her mother hasn't spoken to her since she fled to Canada, although Rivera misses her terribly. And the Canadian government keeps trying to send her home to face desertion charges. She might end up in a military prison -- but says she has no regrets about her broken commitment to the service of her country. "At least I can say I never killed anyone, ever," she says. "I think that's a little more honorable."
Kovach demonstrates that Fareed doesn't know how to edit worth s**t. Jimmy Carter, as president, did not pardon deserters. He pardoned draft dodgers and only draft dodgers. He did that in the first month of his administration and there was hope among some (such as US House Rep Elizabeth Holtzman) that he would revist the subject but he never did. Before Jimmy Carter, President Gerald Ford offered a conditional amnesty for deserters and draft dodgers which required that they jump through hoops for a considerable amount of time and may or may not end up with amenesty. Very few attempted Ford's program. Near the end of Ford's presidency -- in November and December -- he considered proposing a pardon for draft dodgers and/or deserters, however, he was convinced (as were columnists at the New York Times) that Jimmy Carter would do this once sworn in. They were mistaken and only had to hear Carter's speech to veterans while campaigning for the presidency where he made clear that, if elected, he would pardon draft dodgers but not deserters. (Carter was booed during this speech.) We've covered this before and it's all public record. The inability of Newsweek and their fact checkers to get the story straight goes a long way towards explaining why all the whining about the death of Big Media is so much blah blah blah b.s. If you can't get damn facts right, you have no business charging anyone even a penny. I'm blaming the editors because I know where Gretel C. Kovach was fed the lies, the same place the lies are always fed up north. And, yeah, there little attacks on this site stemmed from the fact that we wouldn't let them lie in public without correcting the record. A July 10, 2008 entry quoted Robert Trumbull, "Pardon Brings Cautious Response From Some War Exiles in Canada," New York Times, January 23, 1977:
Jeff Enger, a deserter from the Army and therefore excluded from the Presidential pardon, will be sworn in as a Canadian citizen next Friday, one of the many self-exiled American war resisters who "want to make our lives here." However, like other deserters, Mr. Egner would like to be able to travel freely in the country of his birth. The Presidential pardon covered nearly all draft evaders of the Vietnam War period. Mr. Carter postponed a decision on the men who entered but then deserted the armed forces. Jack Colhoun, a leader in the Toronto exile community, is one of those deseters who insist that they would fight in a "just war," or "if the United States were attacked," as Mr. Colhoun put it. The men interviewed, who rerpesent a cross section of the estimated 20,000 to 25,000 American war resisters living in Canada, have in common a yearning for recognition by Americans at home that their actions were an acceptable exercise of principle "in the American tradition," as one said. "We don't expect to be congratulated or anything," said Mr. Egner, a law student at the University of Toronto, "but we believe we acted correctly." They also share a deep conviction that the deserters, as well as the draft evaders, should be pardoned.
In my first week as President, I asked the Attorney General and the Secretary of Defense to report to me, after consultation with other Governmental officials and private citizens concerned, on the status of those young Americans who have been convicted, charged, investigated, or are still being sought as draft evaders or military deserters.
On August 19, at the national convention of Veterans of Foreign Wars in the city of Chicago, I announced my intention to give these young people a chance to earn their return to the mainstream of American society so that they can, if they choose, contribute, even though belatedly, to the building and the betterment of our country and the world.
Just a day after Jimmy Carter's inaguration, he followed through on a contentious campaign promise, granting a presidential pardon to those who had avoided the draft during the Vietnam war by either not registering or traveling abroad. The pardon meant the government was giving up forever the right to prosecute what the administration said were hundreds of thousands of draft-dodgers. . . . Meanwhile, many in amnest groups say that Carter's pardon did too little. They pointed out that the president did not include deserters -- those who served in the war and left before their tour was completed -- or soliders who received a less-than-honorable discharge. Civilian protesters, selective service employees and those who initiated any act of violence also were not covered in the pardon.
Use the link and you can read, listen or watch the roundtable which includes then US House Rep Elizabeth Holtzman who states, "I'm pleased that the pardon was issued, I'm pleased that it was done on the first day and I'm pleased that President Carter kept a commitment that he made very clear to the American people. I would have liked to have seen it broader, I would like to have seen it extended to some of the people who are clearly not covered and whose families will continue to be separatedf rom them . . . but I don't think President Carter has closed the door on this category of people." I like Liz and I've known her for years but it was this b.s. attitude of praising Jimmy instead of pressuring him that allowed him to never revist the issue again. He never did another thing and its appalling that a magazine called "Newsweek" which wants $5.95 an issue for their 'factual' reporting can't get their damn facts straight. (Hint to other reporters, stop believing the lies you hear up north. It is your job to fact check statements if you present them in your articles.) Jimmy Carter did not offer an "unconditional pardon" to deserters. He offered nothing to deserters and just because an old man in Canada (a deserter) told you that Carter offered something doesn't make it true. It's also appalling because Newsweek covered some of this in real time so the magazine (wrongly) fabled for its fact checking should have caught these lies before they made it into print. Kovach is of the opinion (it's a popular one these days -- that doesn't mean it's accurate) that the resisters will all be deported (the decision by Canada's House to pass ANOTHER non-binding resolution on the issue demonstrates that they really won't stand with war resisters) and notes:
All of which means that the United States must now figure out what to do with the deserters who have already begun trickling back. No one expects Obama to issue them a pardon. They'll have to plead their cases before the military command. Prosecution rates of deserters have increased during the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts from 2 percent at the start to about 10 percent now (the remainder receive administrative punishments, like the loss of a stripe).
It's a real shame that 'helpers' up north wanted to refight Vietnam because of their own issues instead of helping today's resisters. (They lost their planned statue right before the resisters began pouring in and that apparently hurt a lot of feelings.) For the record, there are groups in Canada (and I give money to them) that have been successful in getting citizenship for resisters. They don't make a spectacle of themselves because the issue isn't them or what they did or didn't do during Vietnam. The issue is and has always been how to ensure that a resister doesn't have to return to the US. (Elaine wrote about that group, which she also contributes to, in August of last year.) And resisters in Canada can forget about Barack, he will not help any returning deserters. He has taken the Carter position that if some had avoided the draft that was one thing but those who have left service will not be let off. No, we didn't have a draft but that is his position. It was the same position as Carter's which is boiled down as "It's not honorable to desert." [Carter referred to his actions as a pardon and not amnesty, he stated calling it amnesty would push the notion that their avoiding the draft was a 'correct' action and he did not believe it was.] Neither the assaults on Vietnam or Iraq were "honorable" and self-checking out was one of the bravest things anyone could do. Today's resisters deserve praise but they won't get from the White House and many believe they won't get it from the Canadian government.
Jessica Ramirez examines the effects of deployments on families in "Children Of Conflict" and finds that "roughly 890,000" parents have been deployed since September 11, 2001 and that "[t]he personal sacrifices of military kids can go unnoticed amid the grown-ups' struggles, in part because the scars they may sustain aren't necessarily the visible kind. But they are real and long-lasting, and they are not diminished by the fact that levels of violence in Iraq have dropped or that U.S. troops are no longer taking the lead on combat operations there." Christopher Anderson contributes a photo essay on Iraq and US forces in Iraq. Dan Ephron explores the War Porn Six Days in Fallujah. And an article by Daniel Stone, Eve Conant and John Barry on the effects at home for the returning:
Part of the trouble with long tours is the stress of holding together a normal life back home. "When you're gone o long, you put your whole life on hold," says Ohle. "You can't plan anything." That can be OK if you're single, but Ohle has been dating another Army intelligence officer who is in a different brigade. They met during a training exercise many years ago, and then in 2006 spent a few months together "downrange," as Ohle calls the combat zone. After that, the dating was long distance. They've been "together-together" only since February, and Ohle expects her boyfriend to deploy again sometimes this summer.
Whenever she comes back to the United States, Ohle faces culture shock similar to anyone who returns from a foreign land. She's overwhelmed by the food selection in the markets, and the number of people in the aisles. But unlike ordinary travelers, she also needs to keep her anger in check. "When someone with a shopping cart gets in your way, you can't just yell at them to get out of the way," she says. "Interacting with people requires a reset."
Most of the features are not available online. Fareed is but we don't link to trash. A West Point story is available online and we'll link to that. What does Colbert do in the issue besides 'guest editing'? He speaks to the readers on page five and contributes letters (the earliest from 1933) in his TV character complaining about Newsweek coverage over the ages (starting with 1933). He also does the Conventional Wisdom on page 15 and an essay on page 68.
Colbert's trip to Iraq resulted in Newsweek focusing on Iraq. It's not a great issue but it is attention to an ongoing illegal war and that is an accomplishment. I don't care for Colbert but I applaud him for that. It also got attention from the daily papers -- many of whom have also forgotten that the Iraq War continues to drag on. (James Rainey (Los Angeles Times) covers Colbert's trip to Iraq.) AP reports members of Mississippi's National Guard's 155th Brigade Combat Team is preparing for its second deployment to Iraq and notes the previous deployment resulted in 14 deaths. WKYC reports 161 Ohians are deploying to Iraq ("part of the Ohio Army National Guard's 1192nd Engineer Company"). But because it's so very difficult for people to pay attention to Iraq, let's all pretend the war is over. That's how it works, right?
In Iraq today, a Sunni leader was assassinated. Ned Parker and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) report Harith Obeidid "was gunned down by a teenager" in Baghdad. Obeid had been the leader of the Accordance Front. after shooting Obeidid twice in the head, the teenager than threw a grenade. BBC reports their correspondent "Jim Muir in Baghdad says the assumption will be that this attack was carried out by insurgents from Mr Obeidi's own Sunni community, who have often targeted Sunnis involved with the government." Michael Christie (Reuters) asks, "Could the killers be Shi'ites? Possibly, although suicidal attacks, as Friday's assassination appears to have been, are more often associated with Sunni extremists." Al Arabiya reports that Obeidid was one of 5 people killed in the attack and that twelve were left injured while the assassin was killed as he attempted to escape. KUNA notes that al-Maliki's government has declared 25-year-old Ahmed Jassim Ibrahim the assassin "in contrast to claims by Iraqi police who earlier mentioned he was only 15." In terms of possible motives, Al Arabiya explains, "Obaidi, born in 1966, was deputy chairman of parliament's human rights committee and on Thursday had called for an independent inquiry into torture and abuse of detainees in Iraq's prisons." Sahar Issa and Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) observe that Iraq's President Jalal Talabani went on TV to urge calm following the assassination and speak with MP Shatha al Obusi who serves on the Human Rights Committee and states Obaidi leaves behind a wife and eight children, that "he was a fun-loving man with an easy smile" and "I believe that he was targeted for these qualities by people who would not have him succeed. He was, and will continue to be, a role model to us regarding the issue of human rights and defending those who have fallen under injustice."
In other reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing destroyed a US military vehicle, another Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 2 lives and left ten people injured and, dropping back to Thursday, a Karbala roadside bombing which claimed 2 lives and left four people injured. Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded six people.
Meanwhile Rod Nordland and Marc Santora (New York Times) report on the puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki hosting a praise-a-thon for himself. Nouri fancies himself the new strong man of Iraq, the new Saddam. And Nordland and Santora capture that as they note he's now positioned himself as commander in chief despite the fact that the Iraqi Constitution does not give him that power and that he received toadies yesterday who called him their "master" and "commander in chief" (the Ministry of the Defense being among the toadies). An unnamed US military officer attempted to attend but was sent packing by the one of 'master' Nouri's thugs.Drunk on the smell of Nouri's cheap cologne (truly, he wears the cheapest cologne and over wears it, a detail that's yet to make it into domestic reports) the puppet's puppets engaged in a circle jerk where they self-praised and pretended they were running the country. And, insert laughter, runnig it well.If you automatically thought "air force," the reporters go there. There is no Iraqi air force to speak of and the reporters have Gen Anwar Hama Ameen later admitting that it will take more than the optimistic US prediction of "tow and a half years" for the air force to be built. The reporters note that this and other realities were left out of the circle jerk. The paragraph that should haunt reads: "The tenor of the meeting reminded many of similar ones between Saddam Hussein and his commanders, which featured fawning speeches praising him, the use of the word 'master' when addressing him, and a recitation by a nationalist poet. In Thursday's case, the poem was a recent one denoucning terrorism."
So Nouri's the new Saddam and the air force is nowhere ready. Jack Dolan (McClatchy Newspapers) reports more problems. Despite all the praise going down in the meeting with Nouri, turns out things are not so great. Iraqi forces are apparently not ready to take over the security functions in Mosul and reveals that issues include lack of ammunition and weapons and the 'hope' that the people of Mosul will work with Iraqi security forces.
Last night at the Washington Post, Perry Bacon Jr. reported that the Democrats in Congress had found some mutual understanding that would allow Barack's war funding supplemental to move forward, "The agreement was reached only after a letter from President Obama to a congressional committee saying that his administration would appeal to the Supreme Court to keep the photos from becoming public, rather than try for a Congressional ban as part of the war funding bill. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York on Thursday stayed an earlier order that the photos be released immediately, so the government will now have time to appeal." Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) offers, "The measure does not include language allowing indefinite detention as President Obama has initially proposed. The White House also dropped a request for a provision imposing a congressional ban on the release of photos showing the abuse of prisoners at US jails in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Obama said he will continue to seek the photos' censorship through an appeal to the Supreme Court." With more on the reassurance on suppressing the torture photos, Carl Hulse and David M. Herszenhorn (New York Times) explain, "The deal was concluded after Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, went to the Capitol to assure Senate Democrats that President Obama would use all admnistrative and legal means to prevent the photos' release. At the same time, a federal court issued a ruling effectively ensuring that the photos would not be released for months, if ever." Naftali Bendavid (Wall St. Journal) quotes Rahm stating, "I talked to the Senate Democrats -- everything's fine." Amy Goodman breaks down 'fine': "The war funding bill includes more than $90 billion for the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and is expected be voted on next week. In a letter to other House members who have previously opposed war funding, Congress members Lynn Woolsey of California and Dennis Kucinich of Ohio urged them to retain 'steadfast opposition' to the new bill. Speaking on the House floor, Kucinich said the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan is based on 'aggression and lies'." Goodman goes on to quote some of US House Rep Dennis Kucinich's statement so those who need or prefer audio use the previous link but here's Kucinich's statement in full:
Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, had no intention or capability of attacking United Statess, had nothing to do with Al-Qaida's role in 9/11, and each and every statement made by the previous administration in support of going to war turned out to be false.
Yest here we are. A new administration and the same old war, with an expansion of the war in Afghanistan. We cannot afford these wars. We cannot aford these wars spiritually. They are wars of aggression and they are based on lies. We cannot afford these wars financially. They add trillions to our national debt and destroy our domestic agenda. We cannot afford the human costs of these wars, the loss of lives of our beloved troops and the deaths of innocent civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. So, why do we do this? Why do we keep funding wars when they are so obviously against truth and justice and when they undermine our military? These are matters of heart and conscience which must be explored. Our ability to bring an end to thse wars will be the real test of our power.
Continued funding of war operations in Iraq ensures a continued occupation thereby undermining the stated U.S. goal for withdrawal by the end of 2010. Funds for Iraq should be dedicated to bringing all our troops and contractors home immediately. We must meet our moral obligation to rebuild Iraq and support viable solutions to the crises faced by the refugee and internally displaced populations. As such, the U.S. must maintain a continued commitment to the country of Iraq that does not include war or occupation.
Funding expanded combat operations in Afghanistan will not meet the security objectives of the U.S. Sending additional brave American service members to Afghanistan does nto increase security and it is not an act of diplomacy. This approach only encourages the Taliban and other insurgent groups to do likewise, while fueling their recruiting efforts. The bill ensured that the months and perhaps years ahead will be bloody. And the bill fails to present an exist strategy.
Voting down the funds for war honors the mandate to end the war in Iraq that was given to this body by the American people in November 2006. Futhermore, defeat of the War Supplemental sends a clear message about U.S. priorities at home and abroad.
Congress must use the power of the purse to end combat operations. When the War Supplemental conference comes to the Floor for a vote I urge you to continue to vote no.
Today the bufoons at CounterSpin yet again tried to pimp Barry O's Cairo speech. Reality on that speech via independent journalist John Pilgervia ZNet:
Naturally, unlike George W Bush, Obama did not say that "you're either with us or against us". He smiled the smile and uttered "many eloquent mood-music paragraphs and a smattering of quotations from the Holy Quran", noted the American international lawyer John Whitbeck. Beyond this, Obama offered no change, no plan, only a "tired, morally bankrupt American mantra [which] essentially argues that only the rich, the strong, the oppressors and the enforcers of injustice (notably the Americans and Israelis) have the right to use violence, while the poor, the weak, the oppressed and the victims of oppression must . . . submit to their fate and accept whatever crumbs their betters may magnanimously deign suitable to let fall from their table". And he offered not the slightest recognition that the world's most numerous victims of terrorism are people of Muslim faith - a terrorism of western origin that dares not speak its name. In his "reaching out" in Cairo, as in his "anti-nuclear" speech in Berlin, as in the "hope" he spun at his inauguration, this clever young politician is playing the part for which he was drafted and promoted. This is to present a benign, seductive, even celebrity face to American power, which can then proceed towards its strategic goal of dominance, regardless of the wishes of the rest of humanity and the rights and lives of our children.
I have integrity. I oppose war, torture, economic oppression and environmental degradation no matter who is in the White House or what political party he belongs to. I have been one of President Obama's earliest and most ardent critics, but where's the media coverage when I protest the carnage now that Obama is president? Where's Air America calling me to comment on the war crimes that Obama has already committed? Why won't most "progressive" online sites print my articles anymore (except AfterDowningStreet.org, Oped News and MichaelMichael.com)?
Cindy's on the road and heads to Nashville June 13th through 16th. Click here for her full schedule for this month and we'll run the remaining dates next week. She was in Texas this week. Kimberly Kreitner (Daily Texan) reports on her stop in Austin where Cindy explained, "We have a Democratic party [in office], but nothing good is happening. It pays for war and coddles war cirminals. What's the difference between Democrats and Republicans? . . . People ask, 'How can peace be relevant during time of a peace president? Well, I don't like to go around and tell people there is no Santa Claus, but May was the deadliest month in Iraq [for U.S. Soldiers]." And apparently Lily Tomlin's Suzy Sorority attended Cindy's speech because an unnamed woman told Kreitner, "We already have enough negativity going on, and saying bad things about the Obama administration won't help anything." For those who don't remember Suzy Sorority of the Silent Majority, let's revisit one of Tomlin's Laugh-In skits:
Suzy Sorotiy: I'm a charter member of the YACF -- that's Young Americans for Connie Francis. Now there's a person with a lot of problems -- like what to wear to entertain the troops, things like that. But you don't see Connie shooting glue or smoking acid or getting low or smelling those LSMFT tablets. No sir! When something upsets Connie, she just sings her little heart out and the troubles of the world disappear.
In US military news, Gina Cavallaro (Army Times) reports that the National Guard and Reserve fell short of their goals last month (623 short) but remain "comfortably ahead in their fiscal 2009 goals." Staffan De Mistura has always fallen short in Iraq and been an embarrassment for the United Nations. Alsumaria reports: "UN special envoy to Iraq Staffan de Mistura announced that he will leave his post shortly after a two years mission in Iraq. After meeting with Iraq's supreme religious authority Ali Husseini Al Sistani, De Mistura affirmed that the United Nations will pursue its work in Iraq as long as Iraq needs it noting that a good successor will take over." The United Nations work, under de Mistura, has been a joke for two years in Iraq. That goes beyond the cover for the occupation the UN has granted to include the blaming of the Iraqi women for the cholera outbreaks each fall, it goes to the refusal to address the Kirkuk issue, an issue that was supposed to be addressed long ago but which the UN has repeatedly given cover for and allowed to be sidestepped and postponed.
TV notes. NOW on PBS begins airing tonight on many PBS stations (check local listings):The murder of Dr. George Tiller has reignited the abortion debate, and raised the question: should violence against medical doctors who perform abortions be viewed and prosecuted as domestic terrorism? This week NOW Senior Correspondent Maria Hinojosa sits down with two of the remaining handful of doctors who publicly acknowledge performing late abortions, including Leroy Carhart, a fellow doctor in Tiller's Wichita, Kansas clinic.Carhart discusses his vow to carry on Tiller's mission and what it's like for him and his family to live as "targets". The show also investigates claims that law enforcement dropped the ball when it came to stopping Tiller's alleged murderer, Scott Roeder.Hinojosa travels to Colorado as well to talk with Dr. Warren Hern, another late abortion provider who says he's been living "under siege" for decades. Dr. Hern works behind four layers of bulletproof windows and is now under round-the-clock federal protection.NOW goes into the eye of the abortion rights storm to see how Tiller's killing and its ramifications are impacting doctors, free speech, and a civilized society.
Bill Moyers Journal begins airing tonight on mnay PBS stations and he and Michael Winship have an essay on gun control:
You know by now that in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, an elderly white supremacist and anti-Semite named James W. von Brunn allegedly walked into the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum with a .22-caliber rifle and killed a security guard before being brought down himself. He's 88 years old, with a long record of hatred and paranoid fantasies about the Illuminati and a Global Zionist state. How bitter the bile that has curdled for so many decades.You will know, too, of the recent killing, while ushering at his local church, of Dr. George Tiller, one of the few doctors in the country still performing late term abortions. Sadly, this case was proof that fatal violence works. His family has announced that his Wichita, Kansas, clinic will not be reopened.You may be less familiar with the June 1st shootings in an army recruiting office in Little Rock that killed one soldier and wounded another. The suspect in question is an African-American Muslim convert who says he acted in retaliation for US military activity in the Middle East. Soon, however, these terrible deeds will be forgotten, as are already the three policemen killed by an assault weapon in Pittsburgh; the four policemen killed in Oakland, California; the 13 people gunned down in Binghamton, New York; the 10 in an Alabama shooting spree; five in Santa Clara, California; the eight dead in a North Carolina, nursing home. All during this year alone.There is much talk about hate talk; hate crimes against blacks, whites, immigrants, Muslims, Jews; about violence committed in the name of bigotry or religion. But why don't we talk about guns?We're arming ourselves to death. Even as gunshots ricocheted around the country, an amendment allowing concealed weapons in national parks snuck into the popular credit card reform bill. Another victory for the gun lobby, to sounds of silence from the White House.
Washington Week finds Ceci Connolly (Washington Post), Bara Vaida (National Journal), Tom Gjelten (NPR) and John Harris (Hedda Hopper Lives!) joining Gwen around the table. Also tonight on most PBS stations, Bonnie Erbe sits down with Melinda Henneberger, Susan Au Allen, Avis Jones-DeWeever and Tara Setmayer to discuss the week's news on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings. And turning to broadcast commerical TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:The Man Who KnewHarry Markopolos repeatedly told the Securities and Exchange Commission that Bernie Madoff's investment fund was a fraud. He was ignored, however, and investors lost billions of dollars. Steve Kroft reports. Watch VideoFor Better Or WorseForeigners who marry Americans are entitled to become permanent residents of the U.S., but in a stricter post-9/11 world, hundreds of widows are being asked to leave the country because their husbands died – even some whose children were born in the U.S. Bob Simon reports. Watch VideoAlice WatersShe has been cooking and preaching the virtues of fresh food grown in an environmentally friendly way for decades. A world-class restaurant and eight cookbooks to her credit, Alice Waters has become famous for her "slow food" approach – an antidote to fast food. Lesley Stahl reports. Watch Video60 Minutes, Sunday, June 14, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.