Saturday, October 24, 2015

Marital Aid

marital aid

From March 17, 2013, that's "Marital Aid."  C.I. noted:

Barack crouches on all fours with a Drone behind him as he declares, "With the courts getting too curious about my Drone War, I think I'll just tell them my drones are marital aids.  That should get them to back off."  Isaiah archives his comics at The World Today Just Nuts.

When I think of The Drone War, I think of the cheap whores like Katrina vanden Heuvel who whored and continue to whore for Barack.

I think of all the ways they betrayed the American people -- and specifically the left -- to whore for Barack and the damage it's done to the country.

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

Saturday, October 24, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Russia allegedly gets an invitation, sex addict Brett McGurk gets a promotion, Barack courts charges of playing the weasel (no, he's not Brett's latest conquest), Congress hears about veterans academic needs, and much more.

Ryan Kaufman:  I served in the U.S. Army from 2000-2003. I was deployed with the First Brigade Combat Team in October 2001 to Kuwait and Afghanistan as a Signal Support Systems Specialist. Upon my return, the proper procedures were not in place to catch what I was dealing with. At 19-years-old, I came home and was afraid of the dark; couldn’t sleep; and had a hard time eating. If the task was not mission critical, I could not find the motivation within myself to complete the task. Two months after I returned home, I caused an accident, almost killing myself and a friend. I was charged with driving under the influence. Everyone, including myself, thought I just had a problem with alcohol. But then I tested positive for marijuana. The Army left me no choice; I was discharged with a General under Honorable Conditions. During this same time period, my mother was diagnosed with stage four cancer of the throat and lungs. She was given six months to live and made it to December 2003. Six months after my discharge, I was homeless. A year prior I was part of the world’s greatest machine, the United States Army. But by December 2003, I found myself walking into a homeless shelter, unable to feed or house myself. I could not comprehend how this had happened. Shortly thereafter, I was granted a couch in a friend’s basement. I wish I had straightened my life out then, but this would not be my last experience with homelessness. In September 2004 I enrolled in college for the first time. My discharge left me without the GI Bill, so I took out Stafford Loans like the rest of the civilian population. I attempted college two more times following this 2004 attempt. I failed out in the first semester each time. Juggling work, relationships, family, and an addiction is not conducive to a learning experience. I would repeat the homeless cycle and enroll in college two more times, in 2008 and 2010. By 2011 I finally found permanent sobriety. After four years of documented VA therapy, and appeal after appeal, I was granted a service connected disability in October 2012. With school constantly on my mind, I immediately applied for the Vocational Rehabilitation/VetSuccess Program, was interviewed, approved, and enrolled in another college, after paying the back balances on my student loans.

August 1, 2009, the Post-9/11 GI Bill went into effect.  This legislation was Congress acknowledging the need for a new GI Bill -- due both to the increase in the veterans population that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were and would be creating and the changing needs since the GI Bill (Serviceman's Readjustment Act of 1944) was created in response to WWII.

We covered Congressional hearings that led to the legislation in the past.  Thursday, the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity explored one aspect, the VetSuccess On Campus program (VSOC).

Chair Brad Wenstrup:  The program is in place to provide veteran service members and their dependents with assistance and counseling as they are using their GI Bill or attending school through Voc Rehab.  VSOC is an additional resource for veterans and service members as they transition from active duty to student life and further assist them as they work towards meaningful employment following their military careers.  Each school with a VSOC program has a Voc Rehab counselor in place to assist students attending that school.

Appearing before the Subcommittee were: Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America's Ryan Kaufman (already quoted at the start), Student Veterans of America's William Hubbard, Dr. Lawrence Braue (retired Lt Col, Director of the Office of Veterans Services at the University of South Florida where the first test VSOC was launched in June 2009), the University of Cincinnati's Veterans Programs and Services Manager Terence Harrison and the VA's Jack Kammerer.

As noted, US House Rep Brad Wenstrup is the Subcommittee Chair. US House Rep Mark Takano is the Ranking Member.  He noted some of the issues VSOC can assist with.

Ranking Member Mark Takano:  Obstacles could include VA benefit issues, questions about where to go for mental health counseling, concerns about financial or legal issues or job market information.  We know from many studies that successful transition from active duty to civilian life requires significant planning and support from the military and the VA.  Transitioning from active duty to campus life can be even more daunting -- especially for first generation college students.  Add the burdens of injury or PTS [Post-Traumatic Stress], and it is not hard to imagine why graduation levels are not as high as we would like them to be  for veterans using their GI Bill benefits. Now this is where the VSOC counselor comes in, however, they are easily accessible on campus so problems are resolved as quickly and as easily as possible.

FYI, the original plan (on Wednesday) for Thursday's snapshot was to highlight this hearing and another VA hearing (this one was in the afternoon, the other started at nine) and note how few press attended and how the dog-and-dog show (Benghazi and Hillary) consumed all the press' attention.  That plan drifted away the minute it was reported Thursday that a US service member had been killed in Iraq.

From Thursday's hearing:

Chair Brad Wenstrup:  Mr. Kaufman, I want to specifically thank you for your service and having the courage to share your incredible story.  It's uplifting and gives us all a lot of hope.  It's clear from your testimony that the Voc Rehab program has really given you opportunities that you need to be successful.  So what do you believe could be done to improve the program and make sure that we have the opportunity to help hundreds, if not thousands, of veterans be successful and have stories like yours -- hopefully, not the first part but the later part?

Ryan Kaufman:  Yes, sir. I thank you for the compliments, Mr. Chairman.  In regards to policy, I would have to defer to any of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America's DC policy team.  But, in my experience, the relationship matters.  So the relationship that I with my VR&E [Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment] counselor matters.  And I live in rural America and geographical lines get redrawn on a regular basis and case loads get switched.  And as a -- as a gentleman who struggles with trust, putting me on a new caseload -- just like with my VHA doctors -- throws me for a loop and now I'm having to remember which person to get a hold of, what's their phone number?  Right when I memorize somebody's phone number, it may change to a new individual.  But opening in particular the VSOC counselors to many more campuses -- especially as Mr. Hubbard said from the SVA -- to campuses that don't have a lot of resources would be very beneficial -- especially in my area -- because we're making an investment in the veteran, we're not making an investment in the particular institution.  And our job is to make sure that the veteran is successful.  Does that answer your question, Mr. Chairman?

Chair Brad Wenstrup:  It does.  It's very helpful.  Because I think one of the things that you touched on is important.  You know, as a physician, I always find it important that once in a while I may be able to pinch hit for somebody in my practice but that's a relationship between you and the patient that really needs to be sustained.  Somebody can cover for you once in a while but to really be successful, you need that time and time again to build that bond.  So that input is very helpful to us and that may be something that we need to make sure that we monitor and that we are providing some consistency for people because you're at a point in your life where a lot of things are very inconsistent -- and, let's face it, when you're in uniform, things are pretty consistent so that's a big shift, when you go from that.  You know, I've said during my deployment, "I hate being away from home."  But it was a simple life except for the fact that people were shooting at me.  And from that stand point, I wore the same clothes every day.  So that's a transition and you need some consistency in your life.

The hearing was poorly attended.  The only press report I've found on it is Joseph Morton's report for the Omaha World-Herald.

We'll note this exchange from the hearing:

Ranking Member Mark Takano:  Are you a public university or a private university?

Dr. Lawrence Braue:  We are a public university.

Ranking Member Mark Takano:  And what's your total student enrollment?

Dr. Lawrence Braue:  Total student enrollment is 48,000 --

Ranking Member Mark Takano:  So 48,000 --

Dr. Lawrence Braue (Con't):  a little over 48,000.

Ranking Member Mark Takano:  How many counselors do you have available?  I mean, just generally, your counselors available to the general student population?

Dr. Lawrence Braue:  We have one VSOC counselor on campus.

Ranking Member Mark Takano:  One VSOC.  But let's just talk about counseling in general, not counseling that's available to veterans.  I want -- I want the Committee to understand the plight of community colleges and public universities in terms of the availability of counselors generally and the general challenge of retention to students who come to public universities.

Dr. Lawrence Braue:  Well we have VA counselor, just the one.  We have other counseling services on the campus that are open to all students.  They're not heavily utilized by our student veterans because they just are not experienced with the issues that our student veterans face.  And our veterans won't go to them.

Ranking Member Mark Takano:  I understand that.  But what I'm trying to get at is -- I come from the California community colleges and we have such a shortage of counselors generally.  So one of the requirements has been to have every student take a counseling class, they get a one unit for that class. So that the issues a counselor would deal with can be dealt with "more efficiently." And community colleges, for example, have a general issue with retention.  And so what I'm trying to get at is the general counselor shortage. I come from a public school setting where out of 4,000 persons in a freshman class you might have two counselors assigned.  So basically you have a five-hundred-to-one counseling burden. Right?  So I'm just trying to say I don't believe the counseling function in higher education, higher public education, is much better. Probably even more difficult.  The amount of time a counselor will spend with a regular student.  Now I'm just trying to go through this background in order to shine a little clearer light on what the challenges are when we deal with a veteran who has a much more complex set of issue.  So we already have a challenge in terms of retention in the general student population.  Now we're talking about how we address veterans who have been through -- who carry a lot of other issues with them. So my thought is -- So you're telling me this VSOC counselor also has a VR&E caseload of about 50, you say?

Dr. Lawrence Braue:  Yes, sir.

Ranking Member Mark Takano:  So is that generally the case, Mr. Kammerer, the VSOC counselors also carry -- the VSOC counselors also have a VR&E function?

Jack Kammerer:  That's a good question, sir.  Thank you for asking.  Of the 79 counselors, I work a regular spreadsheet of their  caseload.  We currently do not have a policy that says VSOC counselors cannot touch a traditional caseload.  As Dr. Brau pointed out, we run the gamut from zero up to what I might call a full caseload.  When I testified to the Committee in July, I said our average caseload was about 139 per counselor.  So for FY15, I think that was accurate.  So Dr. Brau's math was about right in my head when he said if his counselor -- if his VSOC counselor -- had 50 cases, that was about 1/3 of the average caseload. We are looking at a policy to limit the caseload of traditional cases, Mr. Takano, the challenge we have is many of the veterans on campus are Chapter 31 clients. Or some of them.  And we need to serve those veterans on campus with Chapter 31 services -- the traditional range of support that our counselors provide. I use the example, in Los Angeles, of the VSOC counselor that serves three -- We have a cluster of three institutions in Los Angeles.  The challenge is, in Los Angeles, the regional office is on the other side of town from those  institutions.  So if we didn't serve those veterans on campus with the VSOC counselor with their Chapter 31, we would either have to have counselors come from across town from the R.O. to the campus or we would have to ask the veteran to come to the RO which is not a good idea in Los Angeles traffic.  So, in many cases, I spoke to a counselor this week who is visiting for other purposes -- who's a VSOC counselor -- and she carried a caseload of 62 cases and she was comfortable with that in her current situation.  So it is a balancing equation, Mr. Takano, in terms of --

Ranking Member Mark Takano:  Well --

Jack Kammerer (Con't): -- serving the veterans.

Ranking Member Mark Takano (Con't):  -- here's -- [to the Chair] if I may? -- Mr. Kaufman, I also want to express how moved I was by your testimony.  And thank you for your courage.  And thank you for your service to our country.  Thank you for continuing to serve our country by being so open about your life and the struggles -- and for being such a success.  You'll be -- You already are a hero, you'll be a bigger hero to show -- No, seriously [in response to Kaufman shaking his head "no"], I have veterans in my community dealing with a number of issues and to see somebody get through that is going to be an enormous inspiration to them.  Now tell me about -- You talk about your relationship with your VR&E.  Because you're getting your education benefits through your VR&E, not through 9/11.  VR&E is a much more generous program if you can qualify for it.  You initially went through taking out loans, you didn't really know about your education benefits.  Was it the VSOC counselor that got you straightened out? Is that what happened?

Ryan Kaufman: So, first of all, Mr.  Takano, thank you for the compliments.  It was -- It was actually, it would have been a Mr. Harrison or a Dr. Braue that pulled me to the side and advised me of VR&E.

Ranking Member Mark Takano:  Uh-huh.

Ryan Kaufman:  And then a year later we got a vital counselor.

Ranking Member Mark Takano:  Uh-huh.

Ryan Kaufman: What the vital counselor can provide is VA benefit access sooner -- almost immediate  rather than me attempting to contact my VR&E counselor who may have -- especially in September and in January -- when she may have 150 veterans trying to reach her.  This vital counselor, if I'm having benefit issues, backpayment issues or over payment issues, he has the ability to contact the VBA on my behalf and then relay any news from the VBA.

Ranking Member Mark Takano:  Your story and your challenges are giving me a window into understanding what happens and how people become homeless and how they go through initial mis-steps. I'm concerned about the caseload of VR&E of 50 people to that one VSOC person.  I mean, you have a huge student veteran population. I can imagine that counselor just totally being consumed by those 50 VR&E.  I mean, it's a lot of work.  You hear Mr. Kaufman's story, you see how much time and energy it takes for that trusted person to do their job.  That's just a lot -- 50 cases, 50 people.  I'm not saying all of them will be as intense as Mr. Kaufman but I can imagine that a lot of them are.  So I can't imagine that we don't have a presence on campuses.  That's my thing. Mr., go ahead, Mr. Braue.

Dr. Lawrence Braue:  Thank you, sir.  I completely agree. The -- Having this VetsSuccess counselor on campus is essential.  It's absolutely essential. The caseload -- the Chapter 31 caseload that she has does take away from her ability to meet the needs of other people who might need her services.  And it is -- Chapter 31 cases, it can be intensive.  Especially having her on campus, it makes her more accessible than most VR&E counselors who only come to campus once in a while.  So her being on campus, her caseload, the members, the people that she is managing can walk in two or three times a week to see her which then exacerbates the problem of her not being able to reach other people so she's really spending more time on the Chapter 31s than she would if she were not a VR&E -- if she were a VR&E somewhere else.  So that becomes an issue too. 

From reality to the absurd . . .

CIA contractor Juan Cole has the nerve, the temerity to write a piece pondering what if the US had never invaded Iraq.

This would be the same Juan Cole who was a cheerleader for the illegal war during the lead up to it.

No link to Juan, he's paid by the CIA, he doesn't need the web traffic.

The war Juan Cole was so eager for has claimed millions of lives.

Thursday saw the death of yet another person in Iraq -- this time a US citizen.

  • On the tragic death, we'll note this Tweet:

  • NB: WH says POTUS did not sign off on Spec Ops raid that left US solider dead, says it was Def. Sec. Carter's call

  • That may stand as one of the all time cowardly moments for a commander-in-chief.

    The funeral hasn't even taken place and Barack's put out the spin that, "It's not me! It's Ash Carter!"  Shameful.


    Doesn't matter if it's true or not.  Reality Barack and The Cult of St. Barack has never been able to face: When you hold the position of president, you are responsible.  Even if Ash Cater authorizes the raid/rescue, he serves under you and you are responsible.

    Offering some realities, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon (Defense One) observes:

    Thursday’s events have thrust have into the public spotlight the rather plastic definitions of war and combat in which Americans have been operating now for a while. We may not by name or distinction be a nation at war, and we may not be a nation whose troops are part of full-scale, on-the-ground combat operations. But the men and women serving in those countries are indeed in a war zone and serving their nation in combat. They are at war whether or not we are as a nation.

    [. . .]

    American forces are in combat. Not saying it out loud allows us—and perhaps our leaders in Washington—to feel we are not a nation at war, even if some of us are serving in battle.

    In other news, the US government insisted Russia not be allowed to take part in air strikes over Iraq.  And the response?

    DEBKA File reports, "The Iraqi government is allowing the Russians to use the Al Taqaddum airbase that is also being used by US troops for operations against ISIS. However, Baghdad has yet to mention the Russian presence at the base, located 74 kilometers west of Baghdad." And Middle East Eye reports:

    The Iraqi government authorised Russia to target Islamic State group convoys coming from Syria, a senior Iraqi official said.
    The authorisation for Russia to target IS inside Iraq comes amid security coordination between Iraq, Russia, Iran and Syria.
    Hakem al-Zamli, chief of the Iraqi parliament’s security and defense committee, told Anadolu Agency on Friday that the measure contributed to weakening IS by cutting off its supply routes.

    Click here for the Andolu Ajansi report.

    Friday, the US Defense Dept announced:

    Airstrikes in Iraq
    Attack, fighter, and bomber aircraft conducted 15 airstrikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of the Iraqi government:
    -- Near Kisik, a strike destroyed an ISIL fighting position.
    -- Near Makhmur, a strike destroyed two ISIL weapons caches.
    -- Near Mosul, four strikes struck three separate ISIL tactical units, suppressed ISIL mortar fire, and destroyed five ISIL heavy machine guns, five ISIL fighting positions, and an ISIL tactical vehicle.
    -- Near Ramadi, three strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units, denied ISIL access to terrain, and destroyed seven ISIL fighting positions, four ISIL heavy machine guns, three ISIL mobility obstacles, two ISIL roadside bomb clusters, two ISIL mortar positions, an ISIL building, an ISIL vehicle, an ISIL bomb and an ISIL anti-tank guided missile system.
    -- Near Sinjar, three strikes destroyed 15 ISIL fighting positions and two ISIL command and control nodes.
    -- Near Tal Afar, two strikes struck two separate ISIL bomb-making facilities.

    -- Near Sultan Abdallah, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

    As The Four Tops once pointed out, "It's The Same Old Song."  Patrick Cockburn (Independent) explains:

    The main US-led action after Isis emerged as a powerful force last year has been an air campaign that has carried out 7,000 strikes in Syria and Iraq. But it is clear they have not worked, for inter-linked military and political reasons: guerrilla movements do not present enough targets to be defeated by airpower alone. 

    Finally, the retired general who was an idiot has retired/been forced out of his post as Special Envoy. Idiot?  He was an ambassador now and refused the title preferring to be called "general."  If you don't want the post, don't take it.  Now Brett McGurk will step in as Barack's Special Envoy for Iraq and Syria.  And Brett will get right on the job just as soon as he can pull his dirty dick out of wherever he plugged it last.  (Oh, Gina Chon, you didn't really think he was being faithful, did you?  He cheated on his wife to be with you.  It was fun and exciting, remember?  Now your his wife and it's other women that get to have the fun and excitement of extra-marital affairs with your husband.)

    Read on ...

    Sunday, October 11, 2015

    Keystone Barack

    keystone barack


    From March 3, 2013, that's "Keystone Barack."  

    C.I. noted:

    Dressed like a Keystone Cop, Barack explains, "I'm supporting the Keystone Pipeline because I like my frackers with cheese."  Valerie Jarrett asks, "You do realize how hard we've all worked the last four years to make him look smart?"  Isaiah archives his comics at The World Today Just Nuts.

    I like the comic, I like Valerie Jarrett in it.

    But I can't believe that two years later finds Barack still trying to pimp this hideous deal.

    It's not all his fault, though.

    It's also the fault of the Cult of St Barack which keeps giving him excuses when they should be loudly denouncing him.

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

    Saturday, October 10, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the PUK political party appears willing to stir up and incite in the KRG, Congress discusses the Ashraf community, concern is expressed over exactly how long Haider al-Abadi will remain prime minister of Iraq, and much more.

    Wednesday, former US Senator Joe Lieberman declared, "I will just say briefly that the very fact of this hearing is important today because the greatest because the greatest enemy of the people in Camp Liberty is invisibility."

    What was talking about?

    The Ashraf community.

    Background:  As of September 2013, Camp Ashraf in Iraq is empty.  All remaining members of the community have been moved to Camp Hurriya (also known as Camp Liberty).  Camp Ashraf housed a group of Iranian dissidents who were  welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. This is key and demands the US defend the Ashraf community in Iraq from attacks.  The Bully Boy Bush administration grasped that -- they were ignorant of every other law on the books but they grasped that one.  As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp repeatedly attacked after Barack Obama was sworn in as US President. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out."  Those weren't the last attacks.  They were the last attacks while the residents were labeled as terrorists by the US State Dept.  (September 28, 2012, the designation was changed.)   In spite of this labeling, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."  So the US has an obligation to protect the residents.  3,300 are no longer at Camp Ashraf.  They have moved to Camp Hurriyah for the most part.  A tiny number has received asylum in other countries. Approximately 100 were still at Camp Ashraf when it was attacked Sunday.   That was the second attack this year alone.   February 9th of 2013, the Ashraf residents were again attacked, this time the ones who had been relocated to Camp Hurriyah.  Trend News Agency counted 10 dead and over one hundred injured.  Prensa Latina reported, " A rain of self-propelled Katyusha missiles hit a provisional camp of Iraqi opposition Mujahedin-e Khalk, an organization Tehran calls terrorists, causing seven fatalities plus 50 wounded, according to an Iraqi official release."  They were attacked again September 1, 2013 -- two years ago.   Adam Schreck (AP) reported back then that the United Nations was able to confirm the deaths of 52 Ashraf residents.

    Those in Iraq remain persecuted.

    Lieberman was testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday (we covered part of the hearing in the Wednesday's Iraq snapshot).  Senator John McCain is the Chair of the Committee, Senator Jack Reed is the Ranking Member.  Lieberman was one of three witnesses appearing before the Committee.  The other two were  retired US Gen James Jones  and retired US Colonel Wesley Martin.

    The topic was the Ashraf community still trapped in Iraq at Camp Liberty.

    Senator Jeanne Shaheen: [. . . ] and to our witnesses for testifying to what I also believe is a travesty and that we have not lived up to the commitments that we have made to the people who are now at Camp Liberty.  I was in Iraq back in 2009 and we heard about this issue.  And I've had a chance to see the video -- a video of one of the attacks on Camp Liberty and the people being murdered.  So I think it's an area where we need to do much more to address what has happened there.  And I don't understand why people who have relatives here are not able to come and join their relatives and be resettled in America.  So I guess I appreciate that I'm asking you all for a subjective analysis of why the resettlement has been so slow.  But is it just beauractric foot dragging?  Is it because it has not risen to the level of some of the people at State who can make it happen to put pressure on Iraq to release the residents of Camp Liberty?  Or is there something else going on?  And General Jones or Senator Lieberman, I don't know if either of you have a perspective on that?

    General James Jones: Senator, I don't know the answer to that.  All I know is that for the last several years, things that look like they're finally going to move are replaced by another obstacle. The-the delisting of the MEK [a decision then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made under pressure from the US courts] would be the end of it but it was replaced by another listing [a  designation by the Dept of Homeland Security classifying the MEK as "third tier" -- a listing that is in violation of the court order served on then Secretary of State Clinton] -- that was, somewhat, in my view arbitrary.  But it has served to delay the process even more.  I don't think the Iraqi government has been particularly helpful.  They-they play cat and mouse with the residents.  Sometimes they deny food, they deny protection, they turn off the water, they don't take out the trash or garbage for days on end.  It's just a constant problem.  But I really think that the real answer is for someone in authority to just make a decision, "Enough, we're going to do the right thing.  We made a commitment to these people.  We didn't live up to it. It's time to finish it."  And I think it's that simple.  It's a humanitarian gesture. I frankly don't care what the Iranians think about this.  I think it's the right thing to do.

    Senator Jeanne Shaheen:  Senator Lieberman, one of the things I have heard from relatives of people at Camp Liberty that they're very concerned about is this requirement that they renounce MEK and concerned about what that might mean in the future and if somebody could use that and come back to address their ability to come back and live in the United States?  I've not had anybody explain that to me adequately why that is something people are being requested to do.  Have you had anybody explain to you why that's so important?

    Senator Joe Lieberman: I have not.  First, Senator Shaheen, let me thank you for the leadership that you've shown on this matter. You've been a real great advocate for the people in Camp Liberty and I know their families and friends appreciate it a lot.  This requirement of renouncing membership in an organization that is no longer considered a threat or a terrorist organization by any means -- and really there are questions of whether it should ever have been on the list of terrorist organizations seems to me to be very unAmerican.  It's like a -- it's a belief test. It seems contrary to the First Amendment.  And the truth is that there are a lot of people there in Camp Liberty who've had a long history with the MEK.  As I mentioned, they're-they're freedom fighters.  I mean, they were against the Shah [of Iran] for part of the revolution and then they turned against the Ayatollah because they replaced one dictatorship with a worse dictatorship.  So I have never -- to what extent members of Congress can to push the State Dept to explain that or really to rescind that because it's an unfair obstacle and you've made a good point: It's going to raise insecurity in the minds of people coming into the country that somehow this is going to come back three, four, five years from now and they may be subject to deportation. I-I would say to you, Senator King, the State Dept if they were here now would not question the promises made to the residents of Camp Ashraf and then Camp Liberty.

    Senator King?

    Lieberman was referring to an earlier and lengthy exchange that took place which included King noting that no one from the administration was present to testify.

    Senator Angus King: Several times you gentlemen used the term "the US made assurances," the term "solemn promise,""guarantee," and Col Martin, you mentioned a card.  What did that card say?  I'd like to know specifically: what assurances were delivered, by whom and when?

    Colonel Wesley Martin: Yes, sir.  This was the protected persons status under the Geneva Convention.  And I have a copy of it.  If you give me a second, I can find it real quick.

    Senator Angus King: Well I'd like to know what is says.

    Colonel Wesley Martin:  Okay. 

    Senator Angus King: What I'm searching for here is what are the assurances specifically and who delivered them and when.  I think that's a fair question given that seems to be the premise of this discussion.

    Colonel Wesley Martin: "This card holder is protected person under the agreement of the Fourth Geneva Convention.  Should the assigned person" uh, it's a little blurry "should an incident occur, we request that the person contact the [US] military police brigade."  And then it goes on the agreement that they made: "You are being offered your release from control and protection in exchange for your promise to comply with certain regulations."  And it clearly states they are protected, they will not be -- they will not be arrested, they will not be harmed.

    Senator Angus King: What did they have to do?

    Colonel Wesley Martin: And what they had to do, sir, is go ahead and sign an agreement --

    Senator Angus King: That's when they were moved from Ashraf to Liberty?

    Colonel Wesley Martin: No, sir. That was a whole set of different promises.  If I may, sir, Senator McCain, [holding clipped stack of papers], if I could, I'd like to make this submitted for the record.

    Senator Angus King: Well you can make it for the record but I want to know who made assurances -- 

    Colonel Wesley Martin:  Yes, sir.

    Senator Angus King (Con't): -- and what those assurances were.  And saying they were protected person under the Geneva Convention isn't a promise that the US will take you in.  I just want to understand what the promise is that we're being urged to honor.

    Colonel Wesley Martin:  Yes, sir.  I understand.  The first one is they would be protected and they would remain at Camp Ashraf.  That was 2004. That was with the US State Dept in agreement with the United States Dept of Defense and [then-Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld was the person that finally approved it -- but working with the State Dept.  The person that issued those cards, working with the Embassy, was US Brigadier General David Phillips --

    Senator Angus King: But it is your position that this Geneva Convention of being a protected person constitutes a solemn promise of the United States to look after these people indefinitely? 

    Senator Joe Lieberman: Part of this was -- correct me, Wes -- that these people gave up their arms.  They were disarmed.  And that was part of a post-Saddam [Hussein] policy in Iraq.  Gen Odierno was actually involved in some ways -- not at the higher level he ultimately reached -- but he was on the ground in these negotiations.  I'll tell you, Senator King, to me one of the most compelling -- I've had it happen two or three times -- most compelling moments in my own understanding -- or getting more understanding of what happened here was to hear leaders of the US military -- including Gen Phillips, but that includes people on up who were Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time standing up and saying at a public meeting, 'We made a promise to these people and we broke it.'  I mean -- 

    Senator Angus King: Well all I'm looking for was what was the promise, when was it made and who made it?  Perhaps you could submit that for the record?  That's what I'm interested in.

    Colonel Wesley Martin:  We can do that, sir.

    Senator Angus King: I'd appreciate it.

    Colonel Wesley Martin:  And matter of fact, I just did.

    Senator Angus King: The other -- the other piece that I want to follow up on is that I'm a little uncomfortable with this hearing because we don't have anyone here from the administration.  I'm old enough to realize that they're are always two sides to every story and you've made a very strong case.  In fact, the case is so strong, you have to wonder why isn't this -- what wasn't this taken care of some time ago?  And there must be some reason and I would like to hear -- perhaps, Mr. Chairman, we could solicit the comments of the administration, the State Dept or the Dept of Homeland Security to determine why this hasn't been dealt with?  I'm just -- Again, I'm not taking any side here but I-I-I'm uncomfortable not hearing both sides of the situation.

    Colonel Wesley Martin:  Yes, sir.  If I may, Congressman Dana Roehbacher offered them the chance of what you speak of. I would be at the table along with Colonel Gary Marsh and a representative of the State Dept.  They refused. I would love to sit at a table in front of you ladies and gentlemen and go through the issues with the US State Dept.  Every time we have made that offer, they've refused.  Earlier your question was the promises, the series of promises, especially in 2012 from [Secretary of State's Special Advisor on Camp Ashraf] Dan Fried that these actions would be taken to get them out of harms way.  He came to us.  And General Jones was on the phone calls as well as myself, [former FIB Director] Louis Freeh, [former Pennsylvania] Governor [Tom] Ridge, [former Governor of Pennsylvania] Ed Rendall, [former Governor of Vermont] Howard Dean and many others -- and [retired General and former Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] Hugh Shelton and others actually.  And 'we will do this, we will do this.'  And even one of the promises: "We're going to be out at that Camp on a continual basis."  And I have that one in writing in this packet.

    Senator Angus King: Well I understand.  And I understand that the circumstances have changed because of Iran's influence in Iraq at this moment and that that raises the level of, as you said, stress in this situation and, perhaps, urgency.  I fully understand that.  I just want to get some of the details and some of the background.  And I want to understand why -- if it's so obvious -- we should do this that it's not being done.  

    King's time had run out.  Committee Chair McCain attempted to clarify a point.

    Chair John McCain:  I will just mention, Senator, that we have been trying for years to get the State Dept to react -- correspondence, meetings -- every method that I know of besides a Congressional hearing -- to try to get this issue resolved and these people who are now in greater and greater danger what we promised them.  And, I've got to say Colonel Martin, you didn't exactly describe it.  That was in return for -- That guarantee was in return for their giving up their weapons and in giving up their weapons we said we would guarantee their safety and gave them, under the Geneva Conventions. But that doesn't mean anything other than that the United States used that as a rationale for guaranteeing their protection.  And it's been going on now for years and -- Go ahead, General, go ahead, please.

    Gen James Jones:  I just wanted to say that we have worked diligently with the administration on a regular basis, on a daily basis.  All of Colonel Martin's reports have been sent both to the National Security Council and the State Dept.  And there are three of us at the table but it's part of a larger group including six former Ambassadors, a former Director of the FBI, a former Attorney General, 8 five-star generals, one former Speaker of the House, four former governors, six members of Congress, one White House Chief of Staff, 

    Some may have been bothered by McCain's clarification/lecture. But at least it wasn't like his September 29th outburst during an Armed Services Committee hearing when Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was not prepared to get too outraged (publicly, anyway) over cyber propaganda aimed at US (or 'US' -- most are offshore) companies when the US is doing the exact same thing.  This prompted a loud lecture from McCain that "glass houses" is not an argument for doing nothing.  (Which, for the record, is not the point Clapper was making.  He was attempting to say both sides engage in corporate espionage and he wasn't willing to grandstand on the topic as a result.)

    One of the moments from the hearing that should especially be noted?

    Colonel Wesley Martin:  [Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-]Abadi, as I mentioned before, is very weak.  And this is a golden opportunity for the United States to pressure him into allowing the residents to leave and for us to bring all the residents here. As I mentioned, there are enough families throughout the United States, we can absorb all of them. And when you think of all the torment and all the horror  they have had to go through for the past three, four years especially --  well since 2009 -- and yet they still remain loyal hoping that we will be able to do something to lift them out of that tyranny.  It's time to bring them out.  And it's only a matter of time before the fight between [former Iraqi prime minister and forever thug Nouri al-]Maliki and al-Abadi is going to come to a head.  And I fear Maliki has the strong support of the militias, Abadi will be out.

    On the struggle between Haider and Nouri, J. Matthew McInnis (National Interest) offered this near the end of last month:

    Following Abadi’s August 9 decision to eliminate Nouri al-Maliki’s position as vice president (which still needs judicial approval), Maliki made a well-publicized visit to Iran, meeting with Supreme Leader Khamenei’s senior foreign policy advisor, Ali Akbar Velayati and other Iranian officials. The prime minister is rightly worried that Tehran is plotting a Maliki restoration, perhaps by using the Iranian-aligned Iraqi Shia militia groups under Soleimani, such as Khataib Hezbollah, that are deepening their grip on large parts of the Iraqi’s security forces amidst the government’s campaign against ISIS.

    The violence never ends in Iraq.

  • | Sunni Iraqi Preacher Abdelmalek al-Saadi: Iraqi fleeing Sunni cities in not from Daesh only but also from coalition missiles

  • In addition, AP reports that a Husseiniya car bombing left 8 people dead and "nearly two dozen" injured. Isabel Coles (Reuters) notes 3 people are dead in the third day of protests in the Kurdistan Region which also saw "several offices of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)" torched.

    The KDP and Goran (Change) are the two main political parties in Iraq following the last KRG elections.  The once might Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) has slid to three.  That slide may be why the PUK is making statements that seemed time to inflame the outrage (which is over the lack of payment of government employees -- as a result of Baghdad continuing to withhold the KRG's percentage of the national budget).  All Iraq News reports that PUK MP Farhad Qadir is insisting that the issue of who will be president of the Kurdistan Regional Government has been blocked by the KDP.

    Not all protests have turned violent.  Outside of the KRG, the Friday protests continued.

  • Read on ...
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