Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bully Boy Poster

From November 5, 2006, that's "Bully Boy Poster."


Did no one notice how Bush had blond hairlights all the sudden?

He did that repeatedly.

I haven't been paying attention to Barack's hair -- maybe he's leaving the gray in, maybe he's getting it out.

But Bush clearly had hair coloring going on.

And around that time it may as well have been a Farrah (the hair style) with his various streaks.

And no offense to Farrah was intended on the above. Big fan of Farrah Fawcett here.
Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diane Rehm: Thank you.

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

Diane Rehm: And --

Dr. Gregory O'Shanick: In addition --

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let's take a breath.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMY GOODMAN: Are you afraid to return to Afghanistan?

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

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

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

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

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

the diane rehm shownpr
cbs news
pia malbran
andrew stephen
al jazeera
inside iraqjasim azawiafpmujahid mohammedxinhuaxia xiaopeng
joel brinkley
amy goodmandemocracy now

Read on ...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bully Alone

That's Bully Alone. From October 22, 2006.

Sometimes you get a visual.

That's a play on the movie Home Alone.
And here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, June 17, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, England continues forced deportations of Iraqi refugees, Sahwa members remain targeted in Iraq, Turkey and Iran shell northern Iraq, and more.

In Iraq, the targeting of Sahwa continues. Sahwa -- also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq" -- are Sunni (largely Sunni, though Gen David Petreaus told Congress in 2008 there were some Shi'ites as well) fighters who went on the US payroll after they agreed to stop attacking the US military in Iraq and to stop attacking their equipment. The Sahwa then were in charge of securing their own areas. Nouri al-Maliki was long ago supposed to have brought them into the Iraqi forces, put them on the payroll and paid them regularly. None of that happened.

Quick to feed our hungry hopes
A feast of our affections we were born anew
With open eyes we tried to make it work
And for a while the magic took
But cracks began to show as soon as things got hard
-- "Awakenings," written by
Sarah McLachlan, from her new album Laws Of Illusion released this week and Sarah's on tour all summer with various artists on the traveling Lilith Fair festival

He was claiming in the summer of 2008 that too many of them could not be trusted. This month,
he pulled Sahwa's right to carry firearms in Diayala Province. AFP reports that the latest attack on Sahwa took place today in a village outside Falluja (Al Anbar Province). Yasmine Mousa and Timothy Williams (New York Times) report it was a home invasion and the assailants used "automatic weapons" to kill Khudair Hamad al-Issawi, his wife and their three children and: "The killings occured about 10 days after responsibility for security in the village had been transferred from the Iraqi police to the Iraqi Army. Members of the Iraqi police complianed about the transfer, arguing that they knew the area better and that they were themselves former Awakening Council members." Kim Gamel (AP) notes, "The farmer, his wife, two daughters and a son were killed, according to local police chief Brig. Gen. Mahmoud al-Issawi. Another son was wounded." Leila Fadel and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post) add, "At least 47 members of the Awakening, or Sahwa, also known as the Sons of Iraq, and their family members have been killed across the country in the past 45 days, according to a Washington Post count."

The Economist notes that sectarian tensions continue to build in Iraq and that violence is rising while there is "no new government in sight" as the months drag by with no prime minister declared:

During this time, no new laws have been passed, no new national vision enunciated. Violence, though far less bloody than three years ago, has risen again. Worst of all, Iraq's ethno-sectarian divisions seem as deep as ever. No Iraqi equipped to appeal across them looks likely to emerge as prime minister. Indeed, though a party strongly backed by the Sunni Arab minority narrowly won the most votes and seats in the March election, the two biggest mainly Shia alliances, which came second and third, have agreed to gang up in a wider front to form a ruling coalition in which the Sunnis may not play much of a part. Since the two mainly Shia alliances teamed up only recently, it is unclear whether the constitution should treat them as the election winners and give them first shot at forming a government.

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

Looking at the stalemate,
Sami Moubayed (Middle East Online) sees a power struggle going on within the Iraqi National Alliance which doesn't involve Nouri. He sees the power struggle between Moqtada al-Sadr (whose bloc holds the most Parliament seats in the Iraqi National Alliance) and Ammar al Hakim, "For years, Al Sadr had accused Al Hakim's father of being an Iranian stooge, because he fought alongside the Iranians during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. Al Sadr has always boasted that he never fled Iraq -- not for a single day during the heyday of the Saddam regime -- while the Al Hakim family spent years in Tehran, and were bankrolled and protected by the Iranians. [. . .] Now that Abdul Aziz Al Hakim is gone, the rivalry between the two turbaned young men is stronger than ever. They come from heavyweight families that have competed for leadership of the Shiite community for decades, are both sons of legendary figures, and happen to be only two years apart in terms of age." Hamza Hendawi and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) focus on the rumors that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is no longer standing apart from politics but has now become a partisan and, on behalf of Iran, brokering political deals including the power-sharing coalition between State Of Law and Iraqi National Alliance.

In other news,
Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reports on US military 'team building efforts' between Kurdish and Arab security forces, "The deployment is a sign of how seriously U.S. commanders view the threat of an Arab-Kurdish conflict. An initiative of Army Gen. Ray T. Odierno, the commander of American troops in Iraq, the deployment of U.S., Arab and Kurdish forces was originally billed as a means to protect lightly guarded towns and villages on both sides of the line that were hit last summer by Al Qaeda in Iraq suicide bombings." But how effective these exercises can be in the best of times is unknown and certainly Kurdish forces are not experiencing the best of times as northern Iraq remains under assault by the Turkish and Iranian military. With at least two Turkish soldiers killed this week in border clashes with the PKK, the Turkish military has been bombing northern Iraq and sent in at least 800 soldiers on the ground. You really think 'team building' is going to take or this is the time?Ivan Watson and Yesim Comert (CNN) report that Turkish officials say they've pulled their soldiers out of Iraq and that "At least 12 Turkish soldiers and sailors have been killed by increasingly bold rebel attacks over the last three weeks. But the fighting has been upstaged by Turkey's rapidly deteriorating relations with former ally Israel." The fighting has been upstaged by whom? By a media that can't cover more than one story at a time? By a feeding frenzy resulting from a bunch of chicken s**t producers and editors who are so scared of losing their jobs that they cover exactly what everyone else is covering because everyone else is covering it?And Iran? Ranj Alaaldin (Guardian) notes: Over the past month Iran has continuously and relentlessly shelled villages along its border with Iraqi Kurdistan, displacing thousands, wounding many and killing one 14-year-old girl. The ostensible target of these attacks is the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan, an Iranian-Kurdish militant movement known as Pejak. However, the decision to send military units across the border and establish bases (according to Kurdish sources) could be part of a broader Iranian strategy to maintain a long-term physical presence inside Kurdish territory. At the very least it is a provocative measure that Iran may justify on the basis of what it considers to be a threat posed by Pejak, but the reasons may go beyond this. Cross-border incursions (shelling included) have been a convenient way for neighbouring states to send a subtle message to Iraq's political actors. This includes reminding them of the limitations on the level of success they can achieve, particularly as American troops withdraw. The 14-year-old he's mentioning was Basouz Jabbar Agha. And the Iranian military entered Iraq and set up a base in northern Iraq. (Which Iran will no doubt insist -- if outlets produce photos -- is really on the Iranian side of the border and that Iraq is trying to advance into their territory. Similar to the 'explanations' offered when Iran attempted to seize an Iraqi oil well (last December). Meanwhile Middle East Newsline reports that the "U.S." military has asserted that Iraq does not intend to shut down an Iranian opposition camp." That's Camp Ashraf. US Lt Col Bob Owen is quoted stating, "United States Forces-Iraq has absolutely no control over Camp Ashraf. Camp Ashraf is in the complete hands of the government of Iraq. Camp Ashraf is not closing on July 1st." Camp Grizzly, the US base, is closing and it's said to have 'protected' the MEK residents of Camp Ashraf. Said to? The assault last July by Nouri's forces was carried out in full of the US military and they did nothing to stop it. Earlier the US government and military had promised the residents protection and led them to believe this was protection with no end-date. Whereas the Bush administration was not afraid to press on this issue, the Obama administration has never known what the hell was going on in Iraq. (Call it "Chris Hill Syndrome.") A year after the deadly assault, Camp Grizzly is closing and the US military's flacks are insisting to the press that Camp Ashraf, like a Celine Dion song, will go on. This in contrast to a report Press TV is carrying which has Iraq eager to crack down on the MEK. The report is filled with laughable assertions about 'terrorist operations' in Iran -- current and future -- when the MEK in Iraq is not shuttling back and forth to Iran. The Iranian government has also accused the United Kingdom of backing the MEK (under the Bush Doctrine and the Obama Doctrine, that allegation alone gives Iran the 'right' to bomb the United Kingdom). Sify reports the UK Foreign Office denies the charges. Reuters notes that Iran is also accusing "France, Sweden and other Western nations" of the same support and claiming that they arrested MEK from Iraq on Saturday in Tehran while residents of Camp Ashraf deny the charge. As all the above takes place, Benjamin Harvey (Bloomberg News) reports Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan denies that Iran is an ally of his country. The article avoids the two countries (Turkey and Iran) attacking northern Iraq and Kurdish terrorists or 'terrorists.' The Kurdish region was the subject of a report issued yesterday. Human Rights Watch released "They Took Me and Told Me Nothing: Female Genital Mutilation in Iraqi Kurdistan" (link goes to HTML overview, report is in PDF format). The 80-page report documents the continued and widespread practice of FGM in the KRG. Besides the wire services, the New York Times' Namo Abdulla and Timothy Williams, CNN and BBC's Jim Muir covered the report. At Babylon & Beyond (Los Angeles Times blog), Becky Lee Katz and Asso Ahmed note: Nadya Khalife, a Middle East and North Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, called for action from the Kurdish authorities. "FGM violates women's and children's rights, including their rights to life, health, and bodily integrity. It's time for the regional government to step up to the plate and take concrete actions to eliminate this harmful practice because it simply won't go away on its own," Khalife said. "Eradicating it in Iraqi Kurdistan will require strong and dedicated leadership on the part of the regional government, including a clear message that FGM will no longer be tolerated." Stephen Jones (Epoch Times) also covers the report: The World Health Organization (WHO) defines FGM as comprising "all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for nonmedical reasons." FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women, says the WHO. The practice is relatively uncommon in the rest of Iraq, but has taken root in Kurdistan, where it is sometimes advocated by local Sunni Muslim clerics. You can also refer to Jason Van Boom's "Call for Kurdistan to Ban Female Genital Cutting" (Illume). Turning to some of the violence reported today (in addition to the home invasion which killed the Sahwa member and his family) . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing targeting a US convoy with no dead or wounded reported and, dropping back to Wednesday for all that follows, a Tikrit sticky bombing which injured one person and Iran continue to shell villages in Erbil


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 man was shot dead in Baquba yesterday and anotehr wounded. Reuters notes a Kirkuk shooting which left a teacher injured.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse was discovered in Baghdad yesterday.

Naaser is an Iraqi refugee who left his country for Lebanon due to violence.
He shares his story with the Guardian and notes, "Iraq is destroyed. There is death everywhere. There was a lot of talk about democracy when the Americans first came but it is the same as it was under Saddam [Hussein]. Democracy is something we only hear about, it's something I might see when I'm an old man. What kind of democracy is that? Killing, stealing, torturing; the old government, and the new. There is no protection in Iraq. The fear will turn your hair grey. All I wanted to do was get out of Iraq. There is so much poverty there, I was providing for six members of my family but earning only $2 a month."
So far, Nasser hasn't been sent by to Iraq. Others haven't been so lucky. England and other European countries have apparently decided the best way to celebrtae World Refugee Day this year was forced deportations. Which makes you fear just how they might choose to observe November 20th (Universal Children's Day).
Jim Muir (BBC News) reports that the UK, Sweden and the Netherlands deported Iraqis last week. Some of the forced returns remain in custody of Iraqi security forces at the airport still. What a welcome. Muir explains that the terminology is "enforced return" and that "Those on the list for deportation told the BBC they had already been moved to short-term holding centres ready for a flight they do not want to take." And flights that the UNHCR, Amnesty International and others have warned should not be taking place. Sam Jones (Guardian) reports:
Keith Best, the chief executive of the
Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, said the charity shared the UNHCR concern about the violence in the region, and had seen evidence of torture. "With the highly-volatile security situation and continuing human rights abuses in Iraq, I'd ask how the government can assure the safety of those being returned," Best said. "The Medical Foundation has provided care and treatment to a significant number of Iraqis … who have fled to Britain having been tortured in Iraq. Their health and security depends on adequate rehabilitation and stability."The charity's own experience, he said, suggested torture still happened in Iraq. "The UK Border Agency should be identifying torture survivors … and not sending anyone back unless it can be demonstrated their human rights will be respected."Iraqi refugee Ziad al-Dulaimi is an Iraqi refugee in England -- at least for now -- and he tells Al Jazeera that the deportations are taking place at the request of Nouri al-Maliki, according to what he's been told by British government officials:The batch that was deported last week had difficult times, I know two of them. They called me and said they refused to leave the plane and security forces climbed on board and beat them. How can we go back to humiliation? On the other side, what are we costing the British government? Nothing. When I came to the UK five years ago, I was detained in Dover. They would not release me until I signed a paper saying I would never ask any financial help from the British government. Why can't they be patient until things are really better in Iraq?

Last week on
Inside Story (Al Jazeera), Iraqi refugee Arevan Mohammed explained what his proceeding at the United Kingdom Border Agency (Arevan remains in England at present). We'll excerpt this section.

Mike Hanna: Let me go back to Arevan Mohammed and we understand that when you had your interview about deportation, there were Iraqi members present during that interview. Is that correct?

Arevan Mohammed: Is that correct? Yes. Basically when I had an interview, an immigration officer denied me access to my representative -- legal representative. I pleaded with him to just let me bring my legal representative with me because you are forcing me to be interviewed with some peoples which you are putting my life in danger with. But basically he denied that. After when I went to the interview I basically told them I live in the UK and I would prefer the interview has to run with an English language. The [Iraqi] Interior Minister diplomat, he became annoyed in some point in the interview and he shouted at me [. . .] "I know what I'm going to do with you by the time you're returning back home and I will put you -- I know where I will put you and how I will treat you." So don't you think that's a threat? In the middle of a democracy, like the country of UK, Iraqi diplomats threatening me by the time I will return back to Iraq, he's simply telling me, I will put you in hidden prison or secret prison and I will kill you later on."

Helsingin Sanomat reports that they've learned Air Finland is transporting the refugees and:The Finnish airline Air Finland Ltd has its head office in the Helsinki-Vantaa Airport complex.More than half of the airline is owned by Berling Capital Ltd., belonging to CEO Esa Karppinen and his family, while 45 per cent of the airline is owned by its executive management.In 2009, Air Finland posted a sales profit of more than EUR 2 million.In the current year, the airline has started the sales of package tours to a number of destinations, including Turkey.The airline's package tours use the same planes as those used for the repatriation of asylum-seekers. Iraq is a failed state as the Fund for Peace's report [PDF format warning] "Iraq On The Edge: Iraq Report #10 2009 - 2010" makes clear (see yesterday's snapshot for overview). And that's what Iraqis are being sent back to.

World Refugee Day is this Sunday (June 20th). Yesterday, Mike Hanna (
Inside Story, Al Jazeera) spoke with Stop Deportations To Iraq's Richard Whittle, Euro Council On Refugees and Exiles' Bjarte Vandvik and UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards. We'll excerpt the following:

Richard Whittel: Iraq continues to suffer from the consequences of war. Iraqi refugees leaving that and going to, for examples, countries like the UK. When they get to the UK, they're then faced with anti-immigrant -- I mean, hysteria is a fair word for it -- encouraged by governments and the right-wing media which is then leading to people being forcibly deported from the UK. For example, last week there was a flight from the UK and Sweden to Baghdad with 50 people on. There's another one scheduled for tomorrow back to Iraq which continues to suffer from the insecurity and violence caused by the war. [. . .] And a further compliction of this is that, for example, 13 of the people who were deported on the flight, I mentioned, last week from the UK and Sweden to Baghdad, are currently still in detention in Baghdad Airport because the authorities there say they do not have the right i.d., they do not have proof they're Iraqis which begs the question -- Well, it begs yet another question, why they were sent back there in the first place?

Mike Hanna: , many of those Iraqi refugees from Europe Does this point to the necessity for some kind of regional agreement? Some kind of standards that can be observed by the host countries in terms of when refugees should be returned and why?

Bjarte Vandvik: Well I think it's a very important point you're raising and the colleague in London as well because with the Iraqi situation -- which was the biggest refugee crisis in the Middle East since the Second World War -- we saw that a lot of European governments were actually shying away from their responsibility. On the one hand, some of the same states that were so eager to create peace, democracy, human rights in Iraq that they sent soldiers there, when people were fleeing because there was no peace and human rights were then turning their backs to them and saying, "Well go somewhere else." I think there is a very unfortunate and very politically hostile environment in many European states today when it comes to refugees in particular. And I think we, as Europeans, must really take a good look at ourselves when it comes to contributing as a very privileged part of the world to finding solutions for the world's refugees. We can't just build a wall around our part of the world and then pretend that these problems will disappear because they won't and we need to play a more active role -- both in helping countries in the region such as, in this example, Iraq and Jordan and also show by example that it's important to uphold the international standards, to respect human rights and that means the same things that European Union is built on to-to avoid persecution and to give shelter to people that are being persecuted. That is under threat in Europe today, I'm afraid.

Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Philip Shenon (Daily Beast) reported Friday that the US government is attempting to track down WikiLeaks' Julian Assange. Mike Gogulski has started a website entitled Help Bradley Manning. Yesterday, Shenon was interviewed by Deborah Amos (NPR's Morning Edition) on the news that WikiLeaks is planning to release video of a US assault on Afghan civilians.

AMOS: Let's talk for a minute about this second video. There are reports about what's on it. Can you tell us?

Mr. SHENON: The first video that was released involved an American airstrike in Baghdad in 2007. The one Assange is now talking about is an airstrike in Afghanistan that occurred last year that is apparently it is believed to have been, in terms of civilian casualties, the most lethal American attack in Afghanistan since the war began.

AMOS: So has anybody seen this second video of the aftermath of a bombing in Afghanistan?

Mr. SHENON: To the best of my knowledge, it's only been seen within the Defense Department. This will be the first time that it's had any sort of public viewing.

AMOS: And how do we know that this is the same one?

Mr. SHENON: Well, we only have at this point Assange's claims that he has it, and we also have these Internet chat logs in which the young soldier in Iraq boasts of having stolen that video.

Deborah Amos is the author of
Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East. IPA (Institute for Public Accuracy) issued the following today [minus link to Wired whom we have not linked to on this story for obvious reasons]:

British Guardian reports: "The whistleblowing website WikiLeaks says it plans to release a secret military video of one of the deadliest U.S. air strikes in Afghanistan in which scores of children are believed to have been killed." In April, Wikileaks released the "Collateral Murder" video showing U.S. soldiers in Iraq killing civilians including a Reuters photographer and then shooting at people, including children, in a van attempting to rescue the wounded. The following statement was released today by Coleen Rowley, an FBI whistleblower who was one of Time Magazine's people of the year in 2002; Ray McGovern, CIA analyst for 27 years; and Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers (top-secret government documents that showed a pattern of governmental deceit about the Vietnam War):"Today, Washington is trying to shut down what it clearly regards as the most effective and dangerous purveyor of embarrassing information -- Wikileaks, a self-styled global resource for whistleblowers. It is a safe bet that NSA, CIA, FBI and other agencies have been instructed to do all possible to make an example of Wikileaks leader, Australian-born Julian Assange, and his colleagues. Much is at stake -- for both Pentagon and freedom of the press."Those who own and operate the corporate media face a distasteful dilemma, both in terms of business decision and of conscience. They must choose between the easier but soulless task of transcribing government press releases, on the one hand; or, on the other, following Wikileaks into the 21st century by adapting high-tech methods to protect sources while acquiring authentic stories unadulterated by government pressure, real or perceived."Deference to the government seems largely responsible for the failure to explore the implications of particularly riveting reportage that gets millions of hits on the Web but has been, up to now, largely ignored by mainstream media. The best recent example of this is the gun-barrel video showing a merciless turkey-shoot of Baghdad civilians by helicopter gunship-borne U.S. soldiers on July 12, 2007. Like the humiliating and graphic but actual photos of Abu Ghraib, the publication of which Pullitzer-prize winning Seymour Hersh repeatedly defended as necessary to the story of Iraqi prisoner abuse, such raw footage is essential to people's understanding of what is happening. Like Daniel Ellsberg's copying of 7,000 pages of the 'Pentagon Papers,' such whistleblowers are a great means of exposing the lies upon which the current wars are based."Assange went public this week with an email announcement that Wikileaks is preparing to release a classified Pentagon video of a U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan in May 2009, which left as many as 140 civilians dead -- most of them children and teenagers. He added that Wikileaks has 'a lot of other material that exposes human rights abuses by the United States government.'"Wikileaks has also published a secret U.S. Army report of March 2008 evaluating the threat from Wikileaks itself and possible U.S. countermeasures against it. This will undoubtedly prompt American officials to redouble efforts to find Assange and to prevent Wikileaks from posting additional information they have classified to avoid embarrassment."Americans have a right to know what is being done in our name, and how important it is to protect members of the now-fledgling Fifth Estate so that it can continue to provide information shunned or distorted."Assange ended his email with an unabashed appeal for donations for his website. 'Please donate ... and encourage all your friends to follow the example you set; after all, courage is contagious.' His words sounded a bit like those of Edmund Burke: 'When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.'"For the good to associate effectively, they need to know what is going on. It's our hope the old Fourth Estate press will recall the good and high-calling that Burke, Jefferson and other leaders of democracy have extolled through the centuries and catch some of that 'contagious courage'."See on "Daniel Ellsberg Fears WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange's Life In Danger"; (on MSNBC) and today on Democracy Now.Available for interviews:RAY McGOVERNMcGovern was a CIA analyst for 27 years.COLEEN ROWLEYRowley, an FBI whistleblower, was named one of Time Magazine's people of the year in 2002. She recently co-wrote the piece "Wikileak Case Echoes Pentagon Papers." [. . .] The New York Times reports today: "Iceland's Parliament, the Althing, voted unanimously in favor of a package of legislation aimed at making the country a haven for freedom of expression by offering legal protection to whistle-blower Web sites like WikiLeaks, which helped to craft the proposal." For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

As noted in the release,
Daniel Ellsberg was a guest on Democracy Now! today:

AMY GOODMAN: Daniel Ellsberg, let's go to you. The reports are that the Pentagon is searching for Julian Assange. They have already arrested the soldier in intelligence who says he was responsible for the release of the videotape. He's been held for three weeks without charge. What are your comments on this case?

DANIEL ELLSBERG: Well, of course, I was in the position of Bradley Manning, having decided that I was in the possession of information that the public deserved to know and the Congress deserved and it had been wrongfully withheld. And at my own risk, I released it, just as Manning has done. At the same time I was in the position of Julian Assange this week, eluding authorities while I was preparing to put out further secrets. Assange is more in the position of the New York Times and the Post and seventeen other newspapers who received classified information from me. But in my case, as I was putting it out to them, it was essential for me not to be apprehended, so that I could get those copies to them. I hope that Julian stays out long enough to give us, for example, the tape of the other massacre in Afghanistan, the Garani massacre, which allegedly killed some 140 civilians.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Daniel Ellsberg, this whole issue of the 260,000 classified documents that include quite a bit of, apparently, cable communication between State Department officials and diplomats, what's the potential here in terms of --you're familiar with cable traffic between diplomats. What is the potential embarrassment that the United States faces here?

DANIEL ELLSBERG: Well, their potential embarrassment is foreshadowed by the leak of the cables from Lieutenant General Eikenberry, our emissary in Kabul, the ambassador to Kabul, whose cables were leaked by some patriot -- and I say that with consideration here -- someone who properly put out those cables showing that Eikenberry regarded the man to whom he was accredited as irredeemably corrupt, an inappropriate partner for pacification who held no promise of supporting any progress from our point of view there ever, and who was deeply involved in the drug trade, etc., etc. Since he was someone who was soon to be feted by the President personally in the Oval Office and given a tour of garden spots in Georgetown by Secretary of State Clinton, it was, of course, embarrassing to have cables from our ambassador there calling him a drug-dealing crook who had stolen the election and was totally incompetent and offered no possibility of progress. That kind of embarrassment could appear with our relations with most of the dictatorial regimes we've been supporting in the Middle East for years, as in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and elsewhere. Any candid assessments like that would, of course -- would actually recommend the realism to us of our own officials, that they their feet on the ground, even while they're lying to us about who it is they're supporting and what they hope to achieve.

Lastly (and I'll try to start with it in tomorrow's snapshot), we'll note
this by Iraq Veterans Against the War's Adrienne Kinne:

The US Social Forum is taking place in Detroit, MI from June 22-26, 2010 and IVAW will be there!
1) IVAW will be leading a GI Resistance Workshop. Iraq and Afghanistan War Resisters will testify to the struggle and value of resisting militarism and discuss what support is needed to build the GI Movement.
2) Building a Military Resistance Movement: Veterans, Service Members & Allies Organizing Together. This workshop, lead by IVAW and Civilian- Soldier Alliance will be an introductory training on supporting war resisters and being a strong and accountable ally to veterans and service-members organizing for change.
3) Veterans and Military Families: Impact of the Wars; Impact on Movements. An exploration of how veterans and military families use their unique voices and perspectives to end wars and promote peace and social change.

the washington postleila fadel
the new york times
timothy williamsthe guardianbbc newsjim muirsam jonesal jazeerahelsingin sanomatnprmorning editiondeborah amosphilip shenon
sami moubayed
the los angeles timesliz slycnnivan watsonyesim comertthe guardianranj alaaldinmiddle east newslinepress tvsifybloomberg newsbenjamin harveybecky lee katzasso ahmedthe epoch timesstephen jonesillumejason van boom

Read on ...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Nostalgic Bully

That's "Nostalgic Bully" from October 15th.

How did I end up with that one?

The US troop death toll had upped (2764) that day and I was just angry and I didn't do a Mission Accomplished cartoon because that happened before I started doing cartoons for TCI. So I did it as an anniversary and as a commentary on the 3 soldiers killed the day before that ran.

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

Thursday, June 10, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Robert Gates lives in his own little world, the US Congress addresses disabilities, a grave scandal emerges in DC, and more.

Do they grow them extra stupid at the Christian Science Monitor? Apparently or we wouldn't have to forever call them out on their Iraq 'knowledge.'
Gail Russell Chaddock writes of a supplemental for the Afghanistan War. And reading through her 'reporting,' you may wonder if there are two supplementals US President Barack Obama is asking for? No, there's just one. Even the headline writer plays dumb. This is the same supplemental noted in the May 28th snapshot, "In the US, Brian Faler (Bloomberg News) notes, the Senate pushed through the war supplemental bill late last night on a 67 for and 28 against vote. The bill now goes to the House which will debate it sometime after their Memorial Day vacation." And, no, it's not just me noting it is a supplemental for the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Go to the June 7th snapshot and scroll down to the Senate Democratic Policy Committee press release. Here are the first two paragraphs:

On May 27th, Senate Democrats led the effort to pass a bipartisan supplemental appropriations bill that funds key counterterrorism and national security missions and supports disaster recovery initiatives by a vote of 67 to 28. The bill provides a total of $58.96 billion in emergency funding for Fiscal Year 2010 in support of ongoing missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the addition of 30,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan as well as $2.6 billion for the Afghan Security Forces Fund and $1 billion for the Iraqi Security Forces Fund; more than $5.5 billion for continued and emerging disaster relief and recovery initiatives for affected communities across the United States; $2.8 billion to support relief efforts in Haiti; and $68 million in initial disaster response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The supplemental bill provides a total of $32.8 billion in funding, as requested, for the Department of Defense (DoD) for operations, personnel costs, and equipment related primarily to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan , but also in support of ongoing operations and continued drawdown efforts in Iraq.

So the Iraq War continues but Gail Russell Chaddock and the Christian Science Monitor vanish it? Erase it. Treat it as something in the past? Go so far as to take a funding bill for it and the Afghanistan War and reduce it to just Afghanistan? That's shameful. Actually, that's worse than shameful, that's whoring. The press sold the Iraq War, they damn sure have a duty to see it through to the end.

US House Rep Lynn Woolsey (at The Hill) points out, "A week ago Sunday at approximately 10:06 a.m., after the House had adjourned for recess and Americans were enjoying their holiday weekends, our nation reached a truly disturbing milestone. At about that moment, according to the National Priorities Project, the combined amount of taxpayer money spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan reached a staggering $1 trillion. That's a trillion. With a 'T'." RTT News adds, "According to a report released Thursday by 'National Priorities Project,' the ongoing military operations in the two war-ravaged nations are the most expensive ever carried out by American forces since the end of the Second World War."

Why does the Afghanistan War continue? Why does the Iraq War? On the latter, US Secretary
Robert Gates offered some mumbo jumbo to David Frost on Frost Over The World (Al Jazeera, link has video and text):

David Frost: And
you've said I believe that the outcome of these conflicts must shape our world for decades to come." It's that serious, it's that important, it's that much at stake right now, Mr. Secretary?

Robert Gates: I think that. Let's take Iraq. Historians will debate whether going into Iraq in the first place was the right or wrong decision, but when I came to this job at the end of 2006, the consequences of an American defeat in Iraq, I think along the lines you just quoted, would have had impact for decades to come. A failure in Afghanistan, for NATO, I think will have consequences for a long time to come. Not just for the United States but for the alliance itself having made this commitment, and so I think these conflicts, however one might agree or disagree how they started, the outcome matters a great deal.

David Frost: And it's going to matter for a long, long time?

Robert Gates: I think so. And the good news is things in Iraq look like they're headed in a very positive direction.

And that's what you get stuck with when you don't have the guts to fire the previous administration's Secretary of Defense. That's actually an illuminating answer because many of the War Hawks maintain that the US war was just until Saddam Hussein was captured and that it's just 'peace keeping' ever since. By mentioning his fear of defeat (it was that a long time ago) and tying it to 2006, Gates is implying that the US forces were fighting . . . Iraqis. The US military was in another country fighting that country's people. It's the closest to honesty anyone in the US administration has probably ever gotten. "And the good news is things in Iraq look like they're headed in a very positive direction," gushes Gates -- putting on such a happy face despite the recent death that no one wants to go on record about but that everyone in DC whispers about. Brave Bobby Gates. Such a brave boy.

In the real world, things do not look like they're headed in a very positive direction at present. But don't just take my word on it,
here's Ayad Allawi writing in the Washington Post:

The current, sectarian-leaning government has failed to deliver such fundamentals as sustained security, improved basic services and better job prospects. Although democracy is, at its core, about the peaceful transfer of political authority, and despite his failure to get the electoral results overturned, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki refuses to acknowledge his defeat or Iraqis' clear desire for change and national progress. As the winner of the election, our political bloc should have the first opportunity to try to form a government through alliances with other parties. Yet Maliki continues seeking to appropriate that option for his party, defying constitutional convention and the will of the people. Because his bloc placed second, our slate wants to meet him, without preconditions, for face-to-face talks. We are determined to build a government based on competence and professionalism instead of ethnic or sectarian identities. Regrettably, Maliki has thus far declined to meet with us.

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

Ma'ad Fayad (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper) reports sources are stating Allawi's "begun to form the next government" via "internal meetings as well as official dialogue with the rest of the winning coalitions". Muhanad Mohammed (Reuters) reports that the State of Law slate and the Iraqi National Alliance have "announced their merger". Two reports, on two different attempts to start a ruling government. Meanwhile Paulina Reso (New York Daily News) reports on the Global Peace Index: While peace and stability aren't easy to come by, this year the world fared slightly worse, partly due to the global recession, according to the fourth annual Global Peace Index. The survey, which aims to objectively measure security and violence among nations while illustrating drivers of peace, ranked 149 countries this year.The Japan Times explains, "Iraq -- for the fourth year in a row -- was the worst among 149 countries". Four years in a row. Wow, exactly where it was in 2006. Hey, April 2006, who became prime minister? Oh, yeah. Nouri. Heck of a job, Nouri.

Today's violence,
Reuters notes, includes a Baghdad car bombing which claimed 4 lives and left ten more people injured. In addition, they note a Baghdad bombing which injured two people, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured two people and a Saqlawiya bombing which injured two people.

In the US today, the Economic Opportunity Subcommittee (House Veterans Affairs Committee) held a legislative hearing. To move the hearing along, Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin noted that she and the Ranking Member John Boozman were entering their statements into the record but not reading them or summarzing them during the time allotted for the hearing. What bills is Congress pushing for veterans? And would they be effective? The first panel was House members explaining their legislation.

US House Rep Peter DaFazio explained how, since the eighties, Oregon's Congressional offices had been able to do a work-study program with the VA giving the veterans work opportunities as they pursued higher education, additional skills and a nice credit on their resumes. However, in 2009 they were all informed that this would no longer be possible. "Somehwere in the depths of the VA bureaucracy, lawyers have determined this highly successful program was never authorized and is now scheduled for termination." This would create a number of lost jobs for Oregon veterans and would do so when the economy is already poor, employment opportunities hard to come by and the Oregon veterans rate of unemployment stands at over 12%. To rememdy the situation and keep the VA work-study program, DaFazio is proposing HR 4765 which would authorize the program in Oregon and hopefully create more VA work-study jobs in other states. The Subcommittee Chair and Ranking Member were both work-study students in college and Boozman is an optometrist, FYI.

US House Rep Cliff Stearns bill is HR 3685 and attempts to make it easier for veterans visiting the VA page to easily navigate through employment opportunities: "drop- down menu titled 'Veterans Employment' on its home page" which would combine government and private sector employment for veterans. It would also make the searches easier and more specific (including region).

US House Rep Jeff Fortenberry bill is HR 114. Fortenberry hopes to catch those veterans who do not use the Post-9/11 GI Bill for education because not everyone wants or needs to go to college. Fortenberry wants to provide more business opportunity by providing start-up funds for small businesses "to permit veterans elegible for assistance under the Montgomery GI Bill to elect to use those benefits to establish and operate a business that they own as a primary source of income."

The second panel was made up of veterans advocates: Richard Daley (
Paralyzed Veterans of America), Michael R. Duenas (American Optometric Association), Eric A. Hilleman (Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States), Catherine A. Trombley (American Legion) and Thomas Zampieri (Blinded Veterans Association). It was called to order by acting Chair Harry Teague (voting requirements meant there were breaks between panels).

Richard Daley felt HR 114 "will be very important to some veterans." Daley noted, "Every veteran does not want to attend college for four years," and this would allow those with business inclinations to pursue their dreams. HR 3685 would merge employment into one site on the VA's main page and Daley stated, "What a great idea. Why didn't we do this years ago?" HR 4319 was not introduced in the first panel. This bill is sponsored by US House Rep Jerry Moran and reads, "To amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for certain improvements in the laws relating to specially adapted housing assistance provided by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs." Daley stated PVA "strongly supports" this and would assist veterans with needed home modifactions that disabilities may require. They do advocate for this being a permanent program and not a pilot.

Catherine A. Trombley said that they endorses part of HR 3685 (making employment listings for veterans on the VA home page easier). What part do they not endorse? "Drop-down menu" which they feel could bind the web page to some format even if new formats were replacing it all over the internet. HR 114 is supported by the American Legion (this is the small business effort). The work study was supported with reservations about the duties a veteran might be doing and concerns that a veteran speaking to another veteran on behalf of the work study program might be seen as an 'expert.'

Eric A. Hilleman stated his organization does not favor HR 114. "The intent of the GI Bill is to provide education and training," he stated. He noted business skills could be increased by classes or courses. The point of the GI Bill, he maintained, was "not to provide start-up money for a business" but to provide education, training and skills. They did support the work study (HR 4765) for both the experience and "the jump start on their career." June 30th, he stated, other work-study programs would be phased out. Steps to extend the programs are "tied up in another bill HR 1037" which passed the Senate in October 2009 and the House in July of last year but is stuck in reconciliation at present. Hilleman noted that the VFW not only supports work-study but itself offers internships. HR 5484 is strongly supported by the VFW. This bill was introduced by House Rep Harry Teague and reads: "To direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish an annual award program to recognize businesses for their contributions to veterans' employment, and for other purposes." Note that all the above is based on oral testimony. Written opening statements were far longer. In Hilleman's written testimony, HR 5484 has no number but is listed as "Draft Bill -- Veterans-Friendly Business Act of 2010."

Thomas Zampieri referred back to the Subcommittee's meeting last fall (November 19th, see the
November 20th snapshot).

Dr. Thomas Zampieri : I want to thank you (Chair Herseth-Sandlin) and Ranking Member Boozman for introducing HR 5360 Blind Veterans Adaptive Housing Improvement Act. This came out of the hearing that we had last fall on different changes that could possibly be made in regards to adaptive housing grant program. And we had had problem with the restrictive language that was currently in place of 5/200 being used as the definition for being eligible for this grant. The standards for blindness is 20/200 or 20 degress less of peripheral field loss and we would ask that this be changed. Several reasons why. One is that a lot of individuals who are at the accepted standard of 20/200 are legally blind and they need to be able to access the adaptive housing grant in order to make changes so that they can live independently in their own homes. And this would also be consistent with what Public Law 110-157, which was HR 797, which passed back in December 2007 which corrected another problem in VBA where they were using 5/200 standard in order for paired organ. I would point out that it was sort of interesting that when that originally came up there was a lot of concern that we're going to be opening up the system for -- one estimate was like 45,000 veterans. And since that change, the actual number of veterans that have applied under the paired organ thing using the 20/200 standard is less than 500. So it's difficult when you get into these things, I think, sometimes to determine exactly the numbers that may fall out because when you're talking about clinical standards versus the-the service connected numbers of veterans who are all service connected for vision problems you may be led down the path of thinking this is a lot more veterans than what our experience has been. So we appreciate that you've introduced this. As I've testified before, there's tremendous numbers of OIF and OEF service members coming back with a variety of Traumatic Brain Injuries with vision problems and impairments and they are falling into this problem of not meeting this criteria in order to be able to have the grants. So I appreciate being able to testify today and be happy to answer any of your questions.

And we'll note Duenas nearly in full as well due to the fact that there is a feeling among veterans participating in this site's survey that blindness is an injury that's just not covered.

Dr. Michael R. Duenas: The AOA with more than 36,000 members in over 6500 communities nationwide shares your commitment to serving America's veterans including those blinded and vision disabled. In fact, many years ago the AOA proudly supported the creation of the Veterans Health Administration Optometry Service and during the more than a quarter of a century.since its inception the Optometry Service evolved into providing the majority of primary eye care and low vision rehabilitation services to our nation's veterans. Today we proudly off our support for HR 536 -- 5360, I'm sorry. This act is much needed in the special needs housing program. We believe that it is an important program that provides a vital link for our disabled veterans and helps them gain a sense of normalcy as they adjust to civilian life and a new disability. The AOA shares the Committee's concern that visual acuity standard is in need of refinement and today I would like to make three points regarding those refinements. First, as you know, the current law excludes coverage to many disabled veterans who are legally blind because it sets the threshold four times higher than the legal definition of blindness. HR 5360 will fix this lasting problem and will ultimately help our wounded warriors. The AOA, as such, supports the proposed modified standard visual acuity elegibility to include visual acuity of 20/200 as opposed to a four times worse requirement of 5/200. Secondly, through the VA optometry service, hundreds of highly trained doctors of optometry provide a critical array of high quality care, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation so as not to deny benefits for blinded, disabled veterans that used assisted medical technologies, the AOA believes that the qualified statement of best corrected needs further refinement. Without additional modification, the act could exclude legally blind veterans using special medical prescribed, low vision devices such as mounted telescopes, reverse telescopes and other special medical equipment. These devices are not considered standard glasses and are not standard, corrective lenses. Third, the AOA believes that the current definition of blindness contained in HR 5360 may not fully relate field loss to the equivalency of visual acuity loss in each eye. This determination of funcitonal equivalency is important and as such the AOA recommends that the language defining legal blindness should be consistent with the commonly used and recognized definition of legal blindness which is referenced in our written statement. Therefore the AOA recommends that the final language of the Veterans Housing Improvement Act of 2010 read as proposed in our statement submitted for the record.

In the written statement, the recommended final language reads:

Section 101(b)(2)(A) of title 38, United States Code, is amended by striking "5/200 visual acuity or less" and inserting "20/200 visual acuity or less, the better eye with the use of a standard correcting lens. An eye which is accompanied by a limitation in the field of vision such that the widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle no greater than 20 degrees shall be considered for purposes in this paragraph as having a central visual acuity of 20/2000 or less."

We'll note this exchange on why the blindness definition needs to be altered.

Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Dr. Zampieri, if we could start with you, can you just explain in layman's terms the different between the 5/200 standard and the 20/200 standard?

Thomas Zampieri: Yes, the 5/200 is what a blind individual at five feet would be able to see versus a normal vision person would be able to see the same thing at 200 feet. And the 20/200 is the accepted standard for legal blindess and so, 20 feet, a blind individual, for example, would be able to see something on the eye chart that, again, somebody with normal vision at 200 feet would be able to see. And so all fifty states define legal blindess as 20/200 and Social Security and ironically VBA's 20/200 for determination of 100% service-connected for blindness. And so this would hopefully answer your question, but it would make it all standardized.

Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: So you're not aware of anywhere else -- so you've just indicated even with the other VA programs, they're using the 20/200 standard for purposes of calculating disability, service connected disability.

Thomas Zampieri: Correct.

Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: But, as far as you're aware, the only place where the 5/200 standard is still being used within government, within industry is -- within the profession -- is in the specially adapted housing program?

Thomas Zampieri: Right. In fact, ironically when the HR 797 was being worked on, I stumbled into the Senate version of that bill four years ago -- I actually tried to correct this 5/200 in the adaptive housing. I'm not sure how it got left out. But anyway, I think somebody on that side had realized that it was this other area and I wish it had been fixed all at once. But, yeah, this is the only place I know of in the VA's regulations where 5/200 is being applied.

There were many bills covered in the written statements that were not covered in the hearing. For example, HR 4635 (not discussed on the first panel) is a bill introduced by House Rep Marcia Fudge and it reads, "To require lenders of loans with Federal guarantees or Federal insurance to consent to mandatory mediation." The bill has ten co-sponsors (Maxine Waters, Bob Filner, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Keith Ellison, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Kendrick Meek, Mary Jo Kilroy, Danny Davis, Betty Sutton and Alan Grayson). But the above are the ones the speakers chose to emphasize in their oral statements.

While the Subcommittee explored needed veterans issues, another one exploded in the press today.
Luis Martinez (ABC News) reports, "The Army has announced major leadership changes at Arlington National Cemetery after an investigation determined that at least 211 graves may have been improperly marked or lack the necessary paperwork. Army Secretary John McHugh announced at a Pentagon briefing today that he was replacing cemetery superintendent John Metzler and placing his deputy, Thurman Higgenbotham, on administrative leave while some of his actions are investigated." Yeganeh June Torbati (New York Times) quotes McHugh stating, "That all ends today." David Martin (CBS Evening News -- link has text and should have video shortly) quotes McHugh stating, "There's simply no excuse and on behalf of the United States Army, on behalf of myself, I deeply apologize to the families of the honored fallen."

Pentagon Papers whistle blower Daniel Ellsberg was Scott Horton's guest for yesterday's
Antiwar Radio. They're discussing Bradley Manning. Who? Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video.

Scott Horton: So there's this extraordinary story here, Dan, about the guy who supposedly, allegedly stole from the government -- if that's not an oxymoron -- video of the Collateral -- what became the Collateral Murder video as it was known, put out by WikiLeaks. And apparently he has been arrested and has been held by the military for at least the last couple of weeks. And they're saying is responsible for turning over another very important video of a massacre, this one in Afghanistan. And, although I think it's denied all around so far, the rumors are that he may hae even stolen and turned over to WikiLeaks as many as half -- as many as a quarter of a million State Dept cables at the highest level of classification. So we're all anxiously awaiting your comments, sir.

Daniel Ellsberg: Well I must say that I rise to the word "stolen" that you've used there a couple of times, as is commonly done. I was often described as having stolen the Pentagon Papers from the Defense Dept or the RAND Corporation and, in fact, as I got a legal education in this subject, having started as a layman and being one of the first people ever prosecuted for allegedly stealing information -- aside from leaking information, I discovered at that time it was very clear that you couldn't "steal" information, I had "copied" information. And, in fact, although there is a copyright law that's in almost all cases a civil law -- you know, you can sue for damages if copyrighted material has been =- has been copied, or misued, the government can't copyright information and for a very interesting reason. Information is seen as essentially the property of the people who are a part of this peculiar Constitutional system that was invented here. So there wasn't at that time any concept of stealing information at that point. Now as the electronic media has proliferated, I understand that the law has evolved in that respect and that they can make a case for stealing information. But in this case -- in any case -- he was copying information and putting it out and whether the government properly owns the information that War Crimes have been committed in Iraq or Afghanistan is, I would say, a very dubious proposition. Certainly it's not a clear cut legal proposition. So let's try to get away from the notion that he "stole" actually.

Scott Horton: Yeah. Well I think --

Daniel Ellsberg: That's information that we should have had in the first place. He copied it and didn't deprive the government. By the way, the reason as I understand it, that you didn't have a concept of "stealing" information in those days and perhaps not now was that stealing or theft is basically depriving an owner of the use or the value of property that he or she has and when you copy information you're not depriving the owner of any use of it. And that's certainly the case here.

The US government is doing a push back and trying to put out that Bradley Manning is some sort of 'wack job' as evidenced by
Ellen Nakashima's Washington Post article this morning. Snitch Adrian Lano continues to attack Bradley and the US government would generally have swept up information* that Lano continues to circulate but Lano is not a 'loose cannon,' he is working with the government. So Ellen's provided with copies of instant messages -- and no one's supposed to wonder who makes copies of instant messages -- so that she can write: "Bradley Manning, 22, had just gone through a breakup. He had been demoted a rank in the Army after striking a fellow soldier. He felt he had no future, and yet he thought that by sharing classified information about his government's foreign policy, he might 'actually change something'." That, the government wants you to believe, is why Manning leaked. He was 'unstable.' Left unstated is the fact that Manning might be all the above (I have no idea) but he might be that because of what he was seeing, what he was being forced to cover up. "the US government would generally have swept up information*" is not an endorsement of that policy, it is merely noting that is the policy. Instead, they have allowed the snitch to question Bradley's sexuality, to drop hints here and there, etc. Supposedly a trial will take place. So why are you letting your snitch leak to the press? He's a snitch. He entrapped Bradley. That's demonstrated by the fact that he made copies of his I.M.s. (His entrapment does not mean Bradley is the leaker, just that he managed to get Bradley or someone to make certain statements.) The snitch keeps punching holes in his own story and it's a good thing for Bradley's defense that Adrian I-Lick Lano can't stop seeking press attention. This is from Justin Raimondo's "Free Bradley Manning!" (

Mr. Lamo is the archetypal creeper: previously known as the "homeless hacker," he was sleeping in bus stations and under bridges, earlier in his career, and logging on to computers stealing information and wrecking networks. Caught hacking into Lexis-Nexis, the New York Times, and other sites, he was "turned," and made the transition from hacker to "security expert" and, yes, self-described "journalist." What he was, and is, is a professional snitch, working for the feds -- I wonder how he paid off that $60,000 fine they slapped him with? -- while all the time proclaiming his "patriotic" motives in turning in Manning. According to various puff pieces appearing in Wired and on Cnet, Lamo "agonized" over the decision, but in the end patriotism won out:
"I wouldn't have done this if lives weren't in danger. He was in a war zone and basically trying to vacuum up as much classified information as he could, and just throwing it up into the air." Yes, lives were and are in danger -- the lives of
Iraqis, Afghans, and other targets of our murderous rulers, whose war crimes are being committed in the dark. Manning's "crime" is that he exposed them to the light. Manning also reportedly is the source of a video showing the massacre of innocent civilians in Garani, Afghanistan, which Wikileaks hinted at having possession of but has yet to release. Most intriguing, however, is that according to Lamo, Manning claimed to have leaked 260,000 diplomatic cables to Wikileaks -- in effect, an inside history of recent US shenanigans around the world. Manning says the cables describe "almost criminal political back dealings." The "incredible things, awful things" he discovered "belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark corner in Washington, D.C."

We'll close with
this from Military Families Speak Out:

Over Memorial Day Weekend, MFSO members spoke at commemorations and vigils from California to Maine and from Florida to Oregon with heartbreaking truth about the real impacts of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in their lives. For a round-up of MFSO participation in Memorial Day events, go
MFSO need your financial support to sustain our voices to keep the true consequences of these wars in the public consciousness!
In December, we wrote to you about the
Charley Richardson Legacy Fund, set up to honor the leadership and vision of our founders, Nancy Lessin and Charley Richardson, who is struggling with cancer. Today we write you again to let you know about an additional $5,000 matching gift that we have received.
Help us today and double your gift - your monthly or one-time donation now will provide much-needed support to uphold our voices and help build the movement needed to end these wars.
Make a contribution today and read the tributes to Charley and Nancy at
Earlier in May, an ABC News / Washington Post poll found that a majority of Americans are again opposed to the Afghanistan war, with 52% saying it's not worth fighting. We need to build this majority! Thanks to your support MFSO continues to play a critical role in challenging the public's understanding and building the social movement that will bring our troops home now and fund their care instead of continuing misguided wars with no military solution.
Beyond the staggering physical and psychological toll these wars are taking, the financial impacts also continue to mount. As the costs of these wars soar past $1 trillion dollars, each and every town and city in the U.S. is doing with fewer services for health care, education and employment development. Your support is vital to sustaining MFSO's advocacy to ensure that those who have served their country and are fortunate to return are provided adequate services to help them in their paths back to wholeness and family stability.
It is these truths - the financial and human costs of these wars - that must be brought to the American people in order to inspire them to stand together and say No More!
Thank you for your support,
Deborah Forter, National DirectorMilitary Families Speak Out
P.S. Make your tax-deductible donation today at If you would prefer to donate via check, please send your donation to Military Families Speak Out, P.O. Box 300549, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

iraqthe washington postthe new york timesanthony shadidpaulina resothe new york daily newsthe japan times
abc news
luis martinez
cbs newsdavid martin
antiwar radioscott hortondaniel ellsbergthe washington post
ellen nakashimajustin raimondo

Read on ...
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.