Thursday, December 13, 2012

Barack The Magnificent

Barack The Magnificent

From July 26, 2009, that's "Barack The Magnificent."  It's a play on Johnny Carson's character on The Tonight Show.  The comic's unique also because it features an actual journalist: Lynne Sweet of the Chicago Tribune.  Why did I pick Detroit Lions?  Because they didn't have a prayer and that was part of the joke. 

Sometimes I like a comic for one little touch.  For me, the comic above is good because of Lynne Sweet's cameo.  I'm not joking.  She pops out of the panel for me.  I wish I'd worked her in as a regular.  I'll probably be stuck doing Snarly Rice this weekend althought I'm thinking of really going controversial with the comic by hitting hard on the Drone War.  Is so, don't expect humor for two or three new comics.  And that's fine, sometimes editorial cartoons aren't humorous.

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

Thursday, December 13, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, State of Law walks out of Parliament, State of Law suspends a member, among those threatened, tortured and/or intimidated in Iraqi prisons is an 11-year-old-girl a Parliamentary Committee discovers, an Iraqi journalist has gone missing, Jalal Talabani announces a deal, US Senator Patty Murray has a victory in the Senate, the US intelligence community sees 'entitlements' as a threat to America's future, Victoria Nuland's thirst for Iraqi oil mirrors the US goverment's, and more.
Tuesday at that day's State Dept press briefing, spokesperson Victoria Nuland pretended to care about Syria when discussing Iraq but it's really about oil for the neocon Kagan family (Nuland is the wife of Robert Kagan) and that's why she works as the face of the State Dept today.
QUESTION: Yes. Turkey is negotiating, or already finished an oil deal with the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq. Are you encouraging Turkey not to go along with this, since it will be a provocation to the central government in Baghdad?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, let me say as a general matter, once again, Samir, that the United States supports a constitutional solution to the dispute over the management of Iraq's hydrocarbon resources. This is our longstanding position. We are continuing to urge the Iraqi Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to reach an agreement over legislation so that they can enhance investment so that everybody knows what the fair legal basis is for this.
We don't support oil exports from any part of Iraq without the appropriate approval of the Iraqi Government, and we're calling on the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government to continue to try to work through their differences. We also call on neighboring states to similarly avoid any action or comment that can contribute in any way to increasing tensions.

Officially, the US State Dept is a 'good faith' organization.  They claim their mission statement is: "Advance freedom for the benefit of the American people and the international community by helping to build and sustain a more democratic, secure, and prosperous world composed of well-governed states that respond to the needs of their people, reduce widespread poverty, and act responsibly within the international system."  You see oil in there?  Me neither.
Victoria Nuland has never spoken out in defense of Iraqi women -- not when the 'independent' electoral commission had new commissioners and refused to make 1/3 women despite that being the mandate, not during the current prison torture scandal where women have been, at the very least, threatened with rape -- including an 11-year-old girl according to a Committee in Iraq's Parliament.  Victoria Nuland had no concerns about Iraqi women.
When bombs go off and their mass deaths and many injured?  She doesn't note it.  She gives a press conference hours later and doesn't even mention it.  I'm no fan of Condi Rice, but a spokesperson that pulled that under Condi would have been sent packing.  Under Condi, every mass attack in Iraq was condemned that day.  But Victoria Nuland, by her focus and what she chooses to stress and or ignore, clearly doesn't care about the safety of the Iraqi people.
In 2009, when Iraq's LGBTs were being terrorized by Nouri's forces and by militias in Iraq, the State Dept went out of their way to say nothing.  When the BBC was able to get someone on the record (for a mealy-mouthed statement), it wasn't Nuland.  And this year, when Nouri's Ministry of the Interior (that he never nominated anyone to be minister of so he is in charge of it) went to schools to spread fear and rage at Iraqi youths who were Emo or LGBT (or just appeared to be either or both), Victoria Nuland wasn't interested.
Over and over, when the Iraqi people are in trouble, the US State Dept plays dumb.  And no one plays dumb better than Victoria Nuland who has has so many years to perfect her craft of stupidity.
She had nothing to say about human rights crises in Iraq.  But she finds the time to speak on oil?
That might be puzzling if you didn't grasp how the US government defines oil.  In 2001, Dick Cheney, then President of Vice in the United States, serving under Bully Boy Bush, met with oil companies in what was called the "Cheney Energy Task Force."  This was about developing an energy policy, supposedly.  What it was really about was looking at the world's oil map and figuring out where to start a war and how to control the oil.
If Dick Cheney had has his way, we wouldn't know that.  But Judicial Watch sued for the records he refused to release. Click here for the maps and charts Cheney's 'energy task force' drew up on Iraq in March 2001.  And try to pretend that the illegal war that would start two years later wasn't connected.  Cheney's US 'energy task force' needed to label Iraq's "supergiant oilfield" (don't you picture Dick jizzing in his shorts over that one) as well as "other oilfield"s and "earmarked for production sharing" and all these other little tags, little price tags, in fact, that's what they were.  It was a tag sale on the belongings of the Iraqi people. 
Victoria Nuland's very familiar with these reports.  As we noted in 2004 when NPR's idiotic ombudsperson was pretending that there was nothing wrong with Robert Kagan critiquing the John Kerry campagin, Icky Vicky was working for Dick Cheney, she was his deputy national security advisor.  As his deputy national security advisor, Vicky Nuland was up to her armpits in these discussions of how to carve up Iraq.
And now she's a front person for the US State Dept.  The reason being, the theft of Iraqi oil isn't really dismaying to Democrats in power.  Those who objected in real time (or, more often, after the war was a clear loser) did so out of partisanship. Even now, no one's standing on the floor of Congress expressing outrage over this war for oil.  If you're not grasping how disgusting the current administration is, remind yourself that Dick Cheney's deputy national security advisor -- Dick Cheney's -- is now the spokesperson for the State Dept.
Let's go back over what Little Vicky The Small Blunder said:
Well, first of all, let me say as a general matter, once again, Samir, that the United States supports a constitutional solution to the dispute over the management of Iraq's hydrocarbon resources. This is our longstanding position. We are continuing to urge the Iraqi Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to reach an agreement over legislation so that they can enhance investment so that everybody knows what the fair legal basis is for this.
We don't support oil exports from any part of Iraq without the appropriate approval of the Iraqi Government, and we're calling on the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government to continue to try to work through their differences. We also call on neighboring states to similarly avoid any action or comment that can contribute in any way to increasing tensions.
That's not a position of neutrality.  That's a position (yet again) backing neocon Princess Nouri al-Maliki, the man Bully Boy Bush installed as prime minister in 2006 and that Barack Obama insisted in 2010 -- despite the Iraqi people's vote and the Constitution -- must have a second term as prime minister. 

The roots of the crisis date back to the year 2007 when the Iraqi government refused to recognise contracts concluded independently by the independently with foreign oil companies, declaring them illegal.
Hamza al-Jawahiri, an oil expert, said that the KRG and the central government in Baghdad interpret the constitution differently.
"While KRG believes that it is its right to develop its oil industry, conclude oil contracts and control oil production, the Oil Ministry in Baghdad considers that crude oil belongs to all Iraqis, not to citizens of any area be it in the center, the south or the north," he reveals.
So when Nuland says the following, she's not being neutral, she's picking a side:
We don't support oil exports from any part of Iraq without the appropriate approval of the Iraqi Government, and we're calling on the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government to continue to try to work through their differences. We also call on neighboring states to similarly avoid any action or comment that can contribute in any way to increasing tensions.
Note that Nuland doesn't say the Constitution.  Because many observers feel the KRG is correct in their interpretation of the Constitution (legally, they also have custom on their side now as a result of the practice in place in the last years).  This was not neutrality.  This was taking a position which is that the US State Dept doesn't want the KRG to be able to sell its oil.
While it was largely ignored in the US press, it was clear to the world's press what was going on.  Murat Yetkin (Hurriyet Daily News) grasped it.  Or as the headline to another article made clear, "U.S. warns Turkey over Iraqi oil."  Nuland is picking a side and someone should have asked her, "What is the KRG supposed to do?"  Iraq was supposed to pass a hydrocarbons law long ago.  Princess Nouri gave his word to Bully Boy Bush that he would see to it in 2007.  It didn't happen then.  It didn't happen in 2008.  It still hasn't happened.  So no oil sold until one is passed?  Is that what Nuland's advocating?  No, of course not.  She's advocating on behalf of Princess Nouri al-Maliki.
Courtney Howard (Avionics Intelligence) reports Lockheed Martin has delivered 2 C-130J aircrafts to Baghdad.  Three more are supposed to be delivered next year.  That's taking sides.  If you don't get that, Lockheed Martin has issued a helpful press release explaining that the planes will be used for "humanitarian relief operations in various locations" and "for intra-theater support for its troops."  That means Nouri will use them to support his forces in Iraq.  Even if those forces are going up against, for example, the Peshmerga.  Sides were long ago chosen while Nuland and the US government pretend that they are being neutral.
On the issue of Turkey and the lack of neutrality on the part of the US government, Press TV reports US intelligence is predicting that Turkey will be subdivided into multiple parts by 2030.  What are they talking about?  The US National Intelligence Council started "in 1979, the NIC has served as a bridge between the intelligence and policy communities, a source of deep substantive expertise on intelligence issues, and a facilitator of Intelligence Community collaboration and outreach."  Monday the National Intelligence Council's Matthew Burrows and Christopher Kojm gave a briefing on their organization's new report "Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds."  PDF format warning, click here.  The report bills itself as "the fifth installment in the National Intelligence Council's series aimed at providing a framework for thinking about the future." They're attempting to play soothsayer and forecast the future. 
It isn't sacred text, it isn't holy.  It's the sort of crap Faith Popcorn briefly made a name for herself with or that Jeane Dixon did for years in the tabloids. It's a political and biased
 document and to pretend otherwise is to be ignorant of the text.  It accepts that "entitlements" are destructive to the United States (though a "sever pandemic" could fix that!) and spends a great deal of time trashing the programs many depend on like Social Security.  It is interesting to realize that the official position of the US intelligence community is that Social Security is a threat to the nation.  These are policy positions, this not neutral analysis.  They're also pro-fracking in one ridiculous segment.  This is garbage and wasted taxpayer money.
Iran's Press TV was so busy gleefully bleeting the predictions about Turkey that it seems to miss the dire predictions for Iran.  It also predicts that it's likely China will collapse.  Let's focus on Iraq which is barely mentioned in the report. 
It's noted that Iraq is forecast to decline in precipitation by 2050 by 13.3%. It is argued that the US being painted as the "great enemy" is something that is becoming less popular an likely: "The impending withdrawal of US forces from Iraq and decreases in US forces in Afghanistan help to reduce the extent to which terrorists can draw on the United States as a lightening rod for anger."  There are concerns about Iraq not being able to remain the country it currently is, "Fragmentation along ethnic and religious lines in Iraq and Syria could lead to an unraveling of current borders" and that Iraq's "government is already showing signs of reverting to factionalism."  It further notes that it's one of the states (Libya, Yemen and Syria being the others named) "where sectarian tensions were often simmering below the surface as autocratic regimes co-opted minority groups and imposed harsh measures to keep ehtnic rivalries in check.  In even of a more fragmented Iraq or Syria, a Kurdistan would not be inconceivable."
For the cost of a round of beers, you probably could have gotten the same 'data analysis' on Iraq from any group of people in this country paying attention to the situation.  Again, a grave waste of taxpayer money.
Susan Saad.  Alsumaria reports the female MP with the National Alliance delivered a denuciation of calls for investiations into the prison abuse scandal and calls for accountability.  Saad sputtered in public with great indignation over the fact that these charges of abuse were not coming from the Ministry of Justice but from women who had been imprisoned!

Imagine that.

Let's break it down so we all get how stupid Susan Saad was today.  Prisoner abuse is only real if the complaint comes from the officials who would be doing the abusing (I believe that would be known as "confessions") and it is not believable when it comes from former female prisoners -- wome who can document the scars from torture.
The government of Iraq wastes money as well.   Alsumaria reports Susan Saad, MP with the National Alliance, delivered a denunciation of calls for investiations into the prison abuse scandal and calls for accountability.  Saad sputtered in public with great indignation over the fact that these charges of abuse were not coming from the Ministry of Justice but from women who had been imprisoned.
While she did damage control for Nouri al-Maliki, All Iraq News reports Iraqiya MP Faiza al-Obeidi is calling for the Minister of Justice to face questions about the violations in the prisons.  She noted that despite repeated assertions of violations, the Minister does not appear to have taken any steps to address the issue.  The article also notes that women's rights groups are calling for a full investigation into the allegations.  Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reports that Parliament's Security and Defense Committee's preliminary investiation has found no cases of rape but they have found cases where women were threatened with rape.  The report covers fourteen female inmates, the youngest of which was eleven-years-old.  Alsumaria adds that Hassan Shammari, Minister of Justice, is stating that this is not a topic for speculation.  Or for investigation judging by the Ministry's refusal to address the allegations that have been made publicly for some time now.  Meanwhile, Nouri's State of Law staged a huff and a walk-out of Parliament today.  They also turned on one of their own.  In December of last year, Nouri wanted Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq stripped of his post (with the intention being to sue him as soon as he was -- he told CNN Nouri had become a dictator) and he wanted Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi arrested for terrorism.  (Both men are Sunni and members of Iraqiya -- the political slate that defeated Nouri's State of Law in the 2010 elections.)
As the world watched Nouri uncork the crazy, Stae of Law MP Hussein al-Asadi ran all over the place vouching for Nouri and defending him.  So it's fitting that Alsumaria is reporting State of Law announced today that they had frozen the membership of Hussein al-Asadi.  All Iraq News reports the suspension but also doesn't note whether or not it is permament.  This is the second high profile snubbing of one of Nouri's supporters.  As the $4.2 billion Russian deal collarpsed (Iraqi officials in Russia this week insist that the deal is still going), Nouri turned on his spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh who ended up fleeing the country and decrying the attempt to try him in the media.  Today, AFP reports, Tareq al-Hasehmi has been sentenced to death again -- this is his "fifth death sentence."
In other disturbing news Iraq's Journalistic Freedom Observatory notes, a team of Alsumaria workers were prepaing a report when they were attacked (physically -- punches were thrown at them) by Iraq's security forces in Baghdad on Monday. The attack took place in Baghdad's Tahrir Square.  The Journalistic Freedom Observatory also notes that Saifi Qaisi, editori-in-chief of Safir newspaper, disappeared Sunday when he left a management and editorial meeting to return home by cab but never made it home.  The fifty-year-old has a wife and three children and has been a journalist since the 1980s. 
Today's violence? All Iraq News notes, includes a Harhiya sticky bombing which injured a taxi driver. And they note that an attack on a Baghdad police checkpoint left 2 police officers dead with four more injured, 1 city worker was shot dead in Mosul, and a Mosul armed attack left Col Khaled Zuhdi dead. Alsumaria adds that a Baghdad car bombing has left an unknown number of people dead and wounded.

In news that will have Victoria Nuland panting, Alsumaria reports that OPEC is going to keep a ceiling on production; however, Iraq is saying it won't cut production.  OPEC, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, met yesterday in Vienna, Austria.  Abdul-Kareem Luaibi Bahedh is the Minister of Oil in Iraq and he was president of the conference.  Addressing the assembled, he noted:

I should like to extend a special welcome to His Excellency Dr Abdel Bari Ali Al-Arousi, the Minister of Oil and Gas of Libya, who is attending the Conference for the first time as Head of his Country's Delegation. Let me also thank his predecessor, His Excellency Eng Abdurahman Benyezza, for his contributions to the Conference during his time in office.

As we approach the end of the year, we are faced with a period of continuing uncertainty about the oil market outlook. To a great extent, this reflects the lack of a clear vision on the economic front. The global economy has experienced a persistent deceleration since the beginning of the year. The combination of an austerity-driven Euro-zone, the weakening recovery in Japan and clear signs of a slowdown in major emerging economies has provided the main factors behind this development. In the light of this, world oil demand growth forecasts for this year have been revised down frequently. At the same time, non-OPEC supply and OPEC natural gas liquid output have continued to perform well, outpacing demand growth. This trend is not expected to change in the coming year, with the market continuing to see high volumes of crude supply and increasing production capacity.

Turning to oil prices, while these have strengthened in the six months since the Conference last met, there have been continuing fluctuations. In June, at around the time of the Conference, prices were at their lowest daily levels for the year, with the Reference Basket price below US $100 a barrel throughout the month. It even fell below $90/b for three days. However, the Basket price then rallied strongly past $110/b in the middle of August. But after that, for most of the time since mid-September, it has been several dollars a barrel beneath this mark. This drop has reflected mounting concern about the global economic slowdown, the pessimistic future demand outlook and significant stockbuilds of crude in the United States of America. Such downward pressures have outweighed supply concern arising from geopolitical factors.

For its part, OPEC continues to do what it can to achieve and maintain a stable oil market. A key aspect of this is to ensure that the market remains well supplied with crude at all times, with fair and reasonable prices. For this to happen, there must be clear planning for the future, with sound investment strategies ensuring the necessary levels of production capacity in the years ahead. But the drawing-up of such strategies is impeded by uncertainties on both the demand and the supply fronts, as well as by high levels of price volatility. Clearly there are many doubts about the market outlook today. Without market stability - that is, sustainable market stability - all parties will suffer, producers and consumers alike.

At today's meeting, therefore, we shall be examining the market outlook for next year and further into the future. Our focus will be on enhancing market stability in the interests of all parties, as well as in support of steady world economic growth. However, this is not the responsibility of OPEC alone. If we all wish to benefit from a more orderly oil market, then we should all be prepared to contribute to it. This includes consumers, non-OPEC producers, oil companies and investors, in the true spirit of dialogue and cooperation.

Summer Said, Benot Faucon and Hassan Hafidh (Wall St. Journal) note that they did not choose a new secretary-general and instead extended the term of Abdalla Salem el-Badri for another year.
The Iranian government, as Trend News Agency reported,  made clear earlier this week that they were opposed to Iraq or Saudi Arabia getting the post of secretary-general.  Of the meeting, Amena Bakr and Emma Farge Vienna  (IOL) report:

At yesterday's meeting of Opec the opening salvos were fired in the struggle over who takes responsibility for cutting output if oil prices, now at a comfortable $108 (R937) a barrel, start falling.
After 20 years of war, sanctions and civil strife that left its oil industry in disarray, Iraq is in no mood to consider curtailing output just as it starts to take off.
"Iraq will never cut output," Iraq's Opec governor, Falah Alamri, said. "Countries that have increased their production in the last two years – they should do so. This is a sovereign issue, not an Opec issue."
That was a clear reference to Saudi Arabia, which earlier this year lifted output to a 30-year high above 10 million barrels a day to prevent oil prices ballooning after Western sanctions on Iran halved its production.

In other news, AP can't stop lying.  I wasn't even going to mention that.  There's a nomination that went down in flames today.  I'm happy.  I don't need to mention it here.  By the same token, AP wasn't going to be called out but then they had to pick up last week's lie yet again.
You don't look right today.  You whored.  You whored and you did so in the public square.  Briefly, Nouri al-Maliki -- with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at his side -- held a press conference last week (Thursday) and declared, in response to a question, that Baghdad and Erbil continued weighing ways to end the stalemate.  He stated two proposals had emerged -- joint-patrols by the Kurds and Nouri's forces or allowing local regions to do their own patrols.  All the Iraqi outlets got this right.  AP issued 'breaking news' and stated Nouri announced a proposal (two became one!) had been agreed on and that the standoff was over.
AP, stop whoring.  Clearly you were wrong.  If an agreement is reached today, clearly you were wrong.  If AP had just acted like it didn't happen last week (their lie), I wouldn't even be noting it now.  We are short on space and this is being edited as I dictate.  But AP had to bring up their lie and pimp it as truth.  They lied.  AP versus Al Mada, All Iraq News, Kitabat, Dar Addustour, Al Rafidayn and Aslumaria?  Everyone was wrong in reporting on that press conference except AP?  Please.  AP didn't even acknowledge Ban Ki-moon.
You got caught whoring, that's bad enough.  To continue to pretend is just embarrassing.  Grow the hell up.  No link to their trash.
We'll instead note Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) who reports that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is stating that local police are going to grab security responsibilities and, when that happens, both Nouri's Tigris Operation Command and the Peshmerga will withdraw.  There's strong analysis in the piece as well.  One point not noted that I hope does get noted?  Nouri started this crisis by sending the Tigris Operation Command in.  If the crisis is now resolved and resolved in the way that Talabani says (I wouldn't put it past Nouri to back out on the deal once it was in play), what we're left with is Nouri started a crisis and won nothing.  What Talabani's describing?  That was the state of things before Nouri sent in the Tigris Operation Command which led to the Peshmerga being sent in.  Again, al-Salhy has a strong report with great analysis.  And that's all we would have noted on this topic if AP -- revealed as a liar today -- hadn't tried to bring in last week's lie and act like they were correct in their 'report.'  If you're looking for a strong report in Arabic, check out this one by All Iraq News.
Okay, my apologies, we're having to pull Lynn Woolsey's comments.  They will be in tomorrow's snapshot.  I'm editing in my head over the phone and it's just easiest to grab a chunk of space by dropping her until tomorrow.  US House Rep who was a strong and needed voice against the Iraq War. We'll also note this from Human Rights Watch tomorrow.  We're going to wind down with military and veterans. First up, veterans.  Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Today her Women Veterans and Other Health Care Improvement Act of 2012 passed the "Senate by unanimous consent," her office notes.  This is what she stated on the floor of the Senate today:
I come to the floor today to request unanimous consent for S. 3313, the Women Veterans and Other Health Care Improvement Act of 2012, which is unanimously supported by the Members of the Veterans' Affairs Committee.
M. President, this legislation not only builds upon previous laws to improve VA services for women veterans and veterans with families --
But it also brings a new focus to the need for VA to do more to help women veterans and the spouses of male veterans access assistance for one of the most impactful and serious wounds of these wars - reproductive and urinary tract trauma.
As many of you know, the nature of the current conflict and the use of improvised explosive devices leaves servicemembers far more susceptible to these injuries.
In fact, Army data shows that between 2003 and 2011 nearly 2,000 servicemembers have suffered these battle injuries.

Like so many of our veterans, these men and women come home looking to return to their lives, to find employment, and so often to start a family.
Yet what they find when they go to the VA is that the fertility services available don't meet their complex needs.
In fact, veterans suffering from these injuries find that the VA is specifically barred from providing more advanced assisted reproduction techniques such as In Vitro Fertilization – or IVF
They are told that despite the fact they have made such an extreme sacrifice for our nation we cannot provide them with the medical services they need to start a family.
Veterans like Staff Sergeant Matt Keil – and his wife Tracy, who is here with us today.
Staff Sergeant Keil was shot in the neck while on patrol in Ramadi, Iraq on February 24th 2007, just 6 weeks after he married the love of his life – Tracy.
The bullet went through the right side of his neck, hit a major artery, went through his spinal cord, and exited through his left shoulder blade.
Staff Sergeant Keil instantly became a quadriplegic.
Doctors informed Tracy her husband would be on a ventilator for the rest of his life, and would never move his arms or legs.
Staff Sergeant Keil eventually defied the odds and found himself off the ventilator and beginning a long journey of physical rehabilitation.
Around that same time, Tracy and her husband started exploring the possibilities of starting a family together.
Having children was all they could talk about, once they adjusted to their new normal.
With Staff Sergeant Keil's injuries preventing him from having children naturally, Tracy turned to the VA for assistance and began to explore her options for fertility treatments.
Feeling defeated after being told the VA had no such programs in place for her situation, Tracy and Staff Sergeant Keil decided to pursue IVF through the private sector.
While they were anxious to begin this chapter of their lives, they were confronted with the reality that Tricare did not cover any of the costs related to Tracy's treatments -- because she did not have fertility issues beyond her husband's injury.
Left with no further options, the Keil's decided this was important enough to them that they were willing to pay out-of-pocket – to the tune of almost $32,000 per round of treatment.
Thankfully, on November 9, 2010, just after their first round of IVF, Staff Sergeant Keil and Tracy welcomed their twins Matthew and Faith into the world.
Tracy told me,
"The day we had our children something changed in both of us. This is exactly what we had always wanted, our dreams had arrived.
"The VA, Congress and the American People have said countless times that they want to do everything they can to support my husband or make him feel whole again and this is your chance.
"Having a family is exactly what we needed to feel whole again. Please help us make these changes so that other families can share in this experience."
I have heard from these severely injured veterans and while the details of these stories vary, the common thread that runs through them all is that these veterans were unable to obtain the type of assistance they need.
Some have spent tens of thousands of dollars in the private sector – like Tracy and her husband -- to get the advanced reproductive treatments they need to start a family.
Others have watched their marriages dissolve because the stress of infertility, in combination with the stresses of readjusting to life after severe injury, drove their relationship to a breaking point.
Any servicemember who sustains this type of serious injury deserves so much more.
The bill I am here asking to pass today will give VA broad authority to offer advanced fertility treatments to the most severely wounded veterans, their spouses, or surrogates.
It also gives VA the authority to determine how best to offer these benefits.
It reverses this troubling barrier to care and will bring the VA in line with the military which provides these services to this same groups of servicemembers.
This is common sense legislation that we should pass without delay.
In fact, the NY Times recently ran an editorial on this bill and said,
"In more than a decade of combat overseas, the military and V.A. have continually had to adjust to the challenges of new traumas with new treatments, as with the epidemic of brain injuries and post-traumatic stress. Adapting the V.A. health system to better meet reproductive-health needs should be part of that response. It is one compassionate way to fulfill the country's duty to wounded veterans."
They also noted that even this Congress should be capable of a bipartisan agreement to pass it.
M. President, I couldn't agree more.
And I can't think of any reason why all Republicans and Democrats wouldn't join us today.
This is about giving veterans who have sacrificed everything -- every option we have to help them fulfill the simple dream of starting a family.
It says that we are not turning our back on the catastrophic reproductive wounds that have become a signature of these wars.
It says to all those brave men and women that didn't ask questions when they were put in harm's way, that we won't let politics get in the way of our commitment to you.
M. President, we can't let this bill get bogged down in the obstruction that has become typical of this body.
This is too important to delay with procedural tactics.
The VA has an obligation to care for the combat wounded
That should include access to the care they need.
And our women veterans deserve this, our male veterans deserve this, and our military and veteran families deserve this.
Thank you M. President.
I'd now like to offer a unanimous consent request for passage of S. 3313, the Women Veterans and Other Health Care Improvement Act of 2012.
It's an important issue and I'd like to return to it if we could tomorrow.  Now we move to the military.  Leon Panetta is the Secretary of Defense.  I know and like Leon Panetta.  We're including the topic because it's an issue that's not going to go away and that is getting heated.  (When I had an argument on it today, I realized it had to make it into the snapshot or I would be accused of letting Leon off because I like him.)   Dan Lamothe (Marine Corps Times) has an article you can reference.  Here are the basics on the issue: Sgt Rafael Peralta died while serving in Iraq on November 15, 2004.  He was a 25-year-old Marine who was born in Mexico and who joined the US Marines after the age of 20 when he received his green card (2000).  For years, members of Congress have argued that Peralta should be awarded the Medal of Honor.  The new Mayor of San Diego, Bob Filner, began advocating for that in 2004 when he served in Congress.  US House Rep Duncan Hunter has picked up the cause.  Leon Panetta has denied the request. 
For The Medal of Honor to mean what it's supposed to, it does have to be given out for those whose actions warrant it.  I think most people would agree with that.  And a Navy Cross, the decoration that Peralta was awarded (in 2008) is certainly a worthy honor.  But where I fault Panetta is in doling out information.  Yesterday there were stories based on what people were saying.
US House Rep Hunter has released Panetta's letter to him denying the Medal of Honor to Peralta.  Dunan Hunter's office released the following today:
Washington, D.C. -- This morning, Representative Duncan Hunter commented that he was "beyond disappointed" after receiving an official response from Secretary Panetta regarding the decision not to award the Medal of Honor to Marine Corps Sergeant Rafael Peralta.
"Sergeant Peralta is a hero," said Representative Hunter.  "He died in service to his country and he died protecting his fellow Marines.  He and his family are an inspiration to me and many others, for their courage, their dedication and their sacrifice.
"While I vehemently disagree with Secretary Panetta's decision, I do appreciate the fact that he took the time to personally examine the Peralta case and consider the new evidence that was submitted.  What is still unsettling to me and many others who have followed this case is the process that led to Sergeant Peralta's downgrade to the Navy Cross -- a high honor, but not the Medal of Honor.
"For the first and only time on record, Secretary Gates formed a scientific panel consisting of several forensic experts to refute the findings and recommendation of both the Marine Corps and the Navy.  Until then, there was absolutely no disagreement that Sergeant Peralta's actions were in the spirit and tradition of the Medal of Honor.  Secretary Gates manufactured the doubt -- the same doubt that led Secretary Panetta not to award the Medal of Honor.  I also have questions about the legal authority to conduct such a review in accordance to regulations -- something I intend to examine more closely.  
"In his letter, Secretary Panetta makes several points that, in all due respect, are the same arguments of convenience made by Secretary Gates.   
"He specifically raises concerns with the eyewitness accounts -- the eyewitness accounts of U.S. Marines who were engaged in combat and saw their brother do the unthinkable.  These Marines know what they saw. They stand by their statements.   There were in fact 5 eyewitness accounts that led to the original decision.  Four of the statements are independent of each other and all four are consistent.   And for the Medal of Honor, the standard has always been two eyewitness accounts.  Not three, not four, not five, but two eyewitnesses. 
"Meanwhile, the new evidence that was reviewed, including the video, as confirmed through multiple sources, was not previously considered.  The video, in particular, invalidates Secretary Gates' conclusion that the grenade detonated one to three feet from Sergeant Peralta's left leg. Also, the pathology report that was submitted identifies multiple distinct irregularities with Secretary Gates' findings, such as a piece of the grenade fuse lodged in Sergeant Peralta's flak jacket, center-mass.  Above all, this evidence was intended to invalidate Secretary Gates' judgment, as it clearly does.  It also reaffirms the original eyewitness accounts.
"The fact that Sergeant Peralta still has not been awarded the Medal of Honor he deserves is a severe injustice, not just for Sergeant Peralta, but his family, his fellow Marines and anyone who has been willing to fight and die for their country.   The only way to correct this error in judgment is to honor Sergeant Peralta with the award he deserves."
Hunter is a veteran of both the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War.  Panetta's is expected to be leaving shortly as Secretary of Defense. This isn't a time for confusion.  If he wants to deny the Medal of Honor in this instance, he needs to be clear and publicly clear as to why that is.  He may have made the right decision. Let's say he did to move onto how, if he did, he's now turned it into a bad decision.
He destroyed a possibly correct decision by the way he handled it.  People should not have to read a letter to Duncan Hunter to know that Panetta shot down the request.  (I didn't find the letter at all illuminating, others may.)  When he leaves, if he hasn't fixed this issue, this should be a mark against him in grading his tenure as Secretary of Defense.  Fixing the issue does not mean he should award Peralta the Medal of Honor.  If Panetta doesn't feel it's deserved, then that's the decision.  But he needs to be public about that decision.  He needs to own that decision.  Thus far, he hasn't.  (And when people refuse to own their decisions, I tend to feel that their decisions must not have been the correct ones.  I doubt I'm alone in drawing that conclusion.)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

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