Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hillary on the rise, Michelle on the fall

This is from Hillary is 44's "Happy New Year - The Presidential Race Began Today:"

The fiscal year ends tonight and the horror numbers are too many to total. It’s a new year in D.C. tomorrow too as Rahm Emanuel scurries down the rope tied to the dock and leaves the sinking Titanic. A new poll from Gallup, headlined on DrudgeReport, signals the long year of 2012 presidential politics has also begun.

The Gallup poll is noteworthy simply because it exists. The numbers in the poll are not entirely irrelevant but what matters is that the once crazy idea of a Democratic nomination fight is rapidly becoming conventional wisdom.

Our regular readers will recall that we do not think there will be a direct Hillary Clinton nomination challenge to the albatross Barack Obama.

“While we don’t think Hillary Clinton will directly challenge Obama for the nomination in 2012, we do think it is the job of sensible Democrats and smart Hillary supporting websites to drive Obama from the 2012 race. It is also the job for American citizens who care about the country.”

Our job just became easier because now Gallup is fielding polls questioning the once unquestionable. This unexpected poll reflects to a large extent the vast majority of Democrats and Obama Dimocrats who refuse to believe there will be a Republican death dealing wave this November.

It's all bad news for Barack & company these days. Just the thought of Hillary running results in 37% of Democrats declaring they'd support her. Mr. Ken doll can't work up the enthusiasm of years past and he's doing an awful job as president and now comes the news on She-Hulk's loss:

A bloc of progressive House Democrats resisted heavy White House lobbying and an eleventh-hour push to broker a compromise on a child nutrition bill, ending chances that the legislation — a pet project of first lady Michelle Obama — would pass before the November midterm elections.

At the root of the impasse: a proposed $2.2 billion cut in future funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides food stamps for the poor. Despite personal appeals by the first lady, the Democrats balked at what they saw as a plan to pay for the nutrition bill by quietly cutting SNAP — an essential food safety net that lawmakers had already borrowed from to pay for emergency aid to states.

Ha ha She-Hulk. Michelle, if you missed it, is planning on showing up to campaign for Dems. As what? The new Laura Bush? What has she done?
Not a damn thing.
Don't dig around in her past, what has she done as First Lady. (We're being kind by not digging in her past.) Not a damn thing.
Excuse me, she's wasted tax payer money.
That she's done.
That she can take credit for.
If you need someone to blow money, She-Hulk's the go-to.
But otherwise?
She's done nothing.

And now she won't be able to brag about herself at campaign stops. Oh, wait a second. We're talking about She-Hulk Obama.
Now she won't be able to brag about herself as much.
As much.
She'll still brag. That's what she does.

Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, September 30, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, talk of Iraqi civil war increases, Congress explores the true costs of war, Congress is informed that current economic problems will continue for 20-to-30 years, Iraq's political stalemate continues, and more.,

Logan Mehl-Laituri. That's the name of the Conscientious Objector whose question led US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to spin so wildly yesterday. Video of Gates' appearance at Duke University is posted online and Logan comes in at approximately 45 minutes and thirty seconds.

Logan Mehl-Laituri: Thanks, Mr. Secretary. My name is Logan Mehi-Laituri and I served in the army as an artillery forward observer from 2000 to 2006. First at Fort Bragg, just south of us, and then at Scofield Barracks, Hawaii I deployed in support of OIF 2 in January '04 and I returned with three combat decorations in February '05 after which I came to the point as a noncommissioned officer where I, for religious, moral and ethical reasons, I could no longer carry a personal firearm. In response to my application to be a noncombat conscientious objector to my unit -- for which I earned the titles of "coward" and "traitor" -- I was involuntarily but honorably discharged in 2006 and I now speak to you as a div[inity] student actually as a master of theological studies, hopefully, I'll graduate in 2012 with a masters degree. My question is, -- My question is as a Christian, I'm concerned that I'm not able to respond to my -- the denominational body that I belong to when they deem certain wars to be unjust as was the case with the Iraq War in 2003. Furthermore, as a Christian, I also must oppose this slavery of moral ambiguity that requires servicemembers for, on the one hand, telling them that -- that they forfeit their moral agency to the commanders and the officers that are appointed above them but then, on the other hand, they're required to refuse to obey these "unlawful orders" which are nowhere defined in the UCMJ leaving incredibly important juridical concept to a commander's discretion. So I'm wondering what your office might do to correct this -- this tarnishment on our national integrity but also on --

Peter Feaver: I think we have that question.

Logan Mehl-Laituri: what can be done.

Peter Feaver: This is hard enough to answer as it is

Robert Gates: I would say, first of all, this goes to the heart of my remarks tonight in an all volunteer army. One does undertake a contractural obligation when enlisting but there is certainly no obligation to reenlist and one should know, anyone who's joined the military since 2002, should know that they're going into war with all the --

Logan Mehl-Laituri: I joined in 2000.

Robert Gates: -- so I think it ultimately it has to be the choice of the individual.

Peter Feaver was a sycophant in the Bush administration who moved over to Duke and has called in favors repeatedly in an attempt to establish an academic reputation -- if one can be built around the 'get' of an hour of softball questions publicly tossed to hero and bedroom wall pinup Karl Rove. Amazingly -- or maybe not so, Feaver went to the trouble to write up a little mash note to Bobby Gates, a little Valentine at Foreign Policy, but chose to ignore the most important part of the evening (the above exchange). Peter did make time, however, to weigh in on his own hair. By contrast, at Vanity Fair, Henry Rollins offers a reality check on Gates' speech:

Since war as we know it has no end in sight if some people get their way, more fodder is needed to shove into that big defense cannon. Without more people signing up for the war without end, the Pentagon's toy will run out of batteries!
"But in reality, the demands on a good part of our military will continue for years to come. And, it begs the question: How long can these brave and broad young shoulders carry the burden that we -- as a military, as a government, as a society -- continue to place on them?"
Oh no! How dare you learn from history and not seek to repeat it! Were you actually reading those books? Don't tell me you're in the invasion-and-occupation-of-Iraq-was-a-catastrophic-mistake-that-killed-perhaps-millions-and-drained-America's-cash-reserves crowd. What a drag! What if the demands on a good part of the military won't continue for years to come? What if we had the guts to find peaceful ways to resolve conflict? Could you handle that? The question begged is: Are you ever going to face the world with something other than a hammer and stop calling every problem challenging America a nail? There is no way forward for Mr. Gates besides more human bodies, more hammers.

We covered Logan Mehl-Laituri's exchange in yesterday's snapshot but didn't quote from Logan or identify him because, honestly, I was half-paying attention during the question and answers until I heard "conscientious objector" (Gates' reply was covered). To the objections noted yesterday of Gates' response (which is an attack on Christianity -- as e-mails from community members and visitors overwhelmingly agree), Ann (and her parents) add, "Gates is claiming contracts trump God. That's not how it works. And that is offensive to a large number of Christians. It is offensive to my parents and it is offensive to me. A contract does not trump your religious beliefs and how dare Robert Gates claim that it does. [. . .] Let me make it really clear for Gates who apparently doesn't know a thing about Christianity: He can vote in every election, he can drive the speed limit, he can pooper scoop after his dog, he can obey every state and federal law, every municipal code and that won't get him into heaven. In the Christian world, which is what the question he was asked was about, God trumps all. If Gates can't grasp that, it's on him. He owes American Christians an apology."

Logan's remarks are deserving of -- and are now part of -- the historical record. It's a shame so many elected to look the other way.

"Let the record show that members in attendence, besides the Chair, are Mr. [Harry] Mitchell of Arizona, Mr. [Harry] Teague of New Mexico, Mr. [Ciro] Rodriguez of Texas, Mr. [Jerry] McNerney of California and I would ask unanimous consent that our collegue, the gentleman from North Carolina, Mr. [Walter] Jones be allowed to sit at the dais and participate as a member of this Committee for the purpose of this hearing," House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Bob Filner declared at the start of today's full committee hearing entitled "The True Cost of the War." He would go on to note that US House Rep and House VA Committee member Zachary Space ("from Ohio") was also present for the hearing and that non-Committee member Jim Moran (Rep from Virginia) was present and that he would also be sitting at the dais and participating, for today's hearing, as a Committee member. US House Rep George Miller (California) also joined the hearing during the first panel. But where were most of the members? What was going on? Congress adjourned today before the hearing. Congress wasn't in session. Those participating stayed on to participate while others in the House rushed to return to their districts and begin campaigning.

We're going to note a lengthy portion of Chair Filner's opening remarks and three things before we do. One, these are his stated remarks, not his prepared, written opening statement. Two, pay-go means that you have to have the money in the budget when you approve the spending. He'll note that the Defense Dept's budget isn't required to do that. That means that department makes a request and gets it even though the money isn't there which is what they mean by "taxing your children" (or grandchildren) because when the money's not there, the bill has to be paid by someone and it falls on the future tax payers. Third, Bob Filner has spoken out against the VA's use of "personality disorder" discharges to avoid covering veterans' needed treatment (he did so most recently in a September 15th hearing). He brought up the topic in a single-sentence today and I'm not sure it's clear in the statement if you're just reading it (the tone of his voice made it clear if you were at the hearing).

Chair Bob Filner: It struck me as I looked at a lot of the facts and data that we-we see across our desks that, as a Congress, as a nation, we really do not know the true costs of the wars we are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. [. . .] We all look at the data that comes from these wars. It struck me one day that the official data for, for example, the wounded was around 45,000 for both wars. And yet we know that six or seven hundred thousand of our veterans of these wars -- of which there are over a million already -- have either filed claims for disability or sought health care from the VA for injuries suffered at war -- 45,000 versus 800,000? This is not a rounding error. I think this is a deliberate attempt to mask what is going on in terms of the actual casualty figures. We know that there is a denial of PTSD -- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It's a 'weakness' among Marines and soldiers to admit mental illness so we don't even have those figures until maybe it's too late. We all know that women are participating in this war at a degree never before seen in our nation's history and, yet, by whatever estimate you look, whether it's half or two-thirds have suffered sexual trauma. The true cost of war? We know that over 25,000 of our soldiers who were originally diagnosed with PTSD got their diagnosis changed or their diagnosis was changed as they were -- had to leave the armed forces, changed to "personality disorder." And not only does that diagnosis beg the question of why we took people in with the personality disorder, it means that there's a pre-existing condition and we don't have to take care of them as a nation. Cost of war? There have been months in these wars where the suicides of active duty have exceeded the deaths in action. Why is that? When our veterans come home from this war, we say we support troops, we support troops, we support troops? 30% unemployment rate for returning Iraqi and Afghanistan veterans. That's three times an already horrendous rate in our nation. Guardsman find difficulty getting employment because they may be deployed. Now a democracy has to go to war sometimes. But people have to know in a democracy what is the cost. They have to be informed of the true -- of the true nature -- not only in terms of the human cost, the material cost, but the hidden cost that we don't know until after the fact or don't recognize. We know -- Why is it that we don't have the mental health care resources for those coming back? Is it because we failed to understand the cost of serving our military veterans is a fundamental cost of the war? Is it because we sent these men and women into harms way without accounting for and providing the resources necessary for their care if they're injured or wounded or killed? Every vote that Congress has taken for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has failed to take into account the actual cost of these wars by ignoring what we will require to meet the needs of our men and women in uniform who have been sent into harms way. This failure means that soldiers who are sent to war on behalf of their nation do not know if their nation will be there for them tomorrow. The Congress that sends them into harms way assumes no responsibility for the longterm consequences of their deployment. Each war authorization and appropriation kicks the proverbial can down the road and whether or not the needs of our soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan will be met is totally dependent on the budget priorities of a future Congress which includes two sets of rules: One for going to war and one for providing for our veterans who fight in that war. We don't have a budget for the VA today as we are about to enter the new fiscal year. We are trying to provide for those involved in atomic testing in WWII -- who were told would be no problems and yet they can't get compensation for cancers. We cannot -- This Committee and this Congress has a majority of people who say we should fully compensate the victims of Agent Orange for injuries in WWII -- I'm sorry, Vietnam. Yet was have a pay-go rule on a bill that's coming out of here. They say it's going to cost ten billion dollars or twenty billion over the next ten years. We don't have it. Why don't we have it? They fought for this nation. We're trying to deal with the Persian Gulf War still -- not to mention all the casualties from this one. So we have to find a pay-go. But the Dept of Defense doesn't have to. So they system that we have for appropriating funds in Congress is designed to make it much easier to vote to send our soldiers into harms way. That's much easier than to care for them when they come home. This Committee and everyone of the people here has had to fight tooth and nail to get enough money for our veterans. We got to fight for it every day. We've been successful in the last few years but we don't know if that will -- if that rate of growth will continue. This is morally wrong in my opinion and an abdication of our fundamental responsibilities as members of Congress. It is past time for Congress to recognize that standing by our men and women in uniform -- meeting their needs -- is a fundamental cost of war and we should account for those needs and take responsibility for meeting them at the time that we send these young people into combat.Every Congressional appropriation for war, in my view, should include money for what, I'm going to call it, a veterans' trust fund that will ensure the projected needs of our wounded and injured soldiers are fully met at the time that their going to war is appropriated. It's not a radical idea. Business owners are required to account for their deferred liability every year. Our federal government has no such requirement when it comes to the deferred liabiilty of meeting the needs of our men and women in uniform even though meeting those needs is a moral obligation of our nation and a fundamental cost. It does not make sense fiscally, it does not make sense ethically. If in years past, Congress had taken into account this deferred fiscal liability and moral obligation of meeting the needs of soldiers, we would not have the kind of overburdened delivery system that we have today in the Veterans Administration. And would veterans and their advocates on Capitol Hill have to fight as hard as they do every year for benefits that should be readily available as a matter of course? Would they have to worry as much as they do today that these benefits will become targets in the debate over reducing the federal budget? Listen to this statement by one of the co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility -- that's trying to figure out how we balance our budget -- former Senator [Alan] Simpson said, "The irony is that veterans who saved their country are now in a way not helping us to save this country in this fiscal mess." That is, they should defer their health and welfare needs because of a budget problem.

Rep Walter Jones would note that he thought the Veterans Trust Fund was a good general first step and one he would be supporting: "I feel frustrated when I sit here, I've seen it for years, I see those kids at Walter Reed with their legs blown off, I see the moms crying, the wives crying. The kids are 19, 21-years-old and, as you said, it's 30 years from now that we've really got to be careful. [.. .] But Mr. Chairman, please know that you have my commitment to join in whatever effort we move forward on because we're not being honest, we're cheating the veterans, if we don't do what is necessary today."

The first panel was composed of professors Linda J. Bilmes and Joseph E. Stigliz (of Harvard and Columbia, economists who wrote The Three Trillion Dollar War) and Disabled American Veterans' Joseph A. Violante. There were three panels. Due to space limitations, we'll focus on the first panel today and return to this hearing in tomorrow's snapshot.

US House Rep Jim Moran: Mr. [David] Obey, myself, Mr. [Jack] Murtha, I think Mr. [Charlie] Rangel, perhaps Chairman Filner, we voted for an amendment that went nowhere but we did it for two or three years running -- it was Mr. Obey's idea -- to have a surcharge to pay for the war. If we were going to pursue the Iraq War, let's just figure out what the cost is and pay for it rather than making that decision to go to war but passing on the cost to our children and grandchildren to pay for it. It went down, I think there were more than 400 people voted against the concept but it doesn't mean it wasn't a legitimate issue to raise and I think it would have been the responsible thing to do. So my first question of two would be would you have been able to estimate what that surcharge would have been when we were actually making the decision? Is that consistent with the thrust of your testimony that that's how we should go about making the decision of whether or not to go to war in the future? Professor Stigliz?

Joseph E. Stigliz: I think it's an excellent idea for a number of reasons. First, I think - I think it's very important to have transparency and accountability in government. That you ought to know what you're doing and what it costs and citizens ought to know that if you want to get something you have to pay for it. Just like shopping. Anything. Secondly, we can calculate it. That's the point that we're making. You can't estimate it perfectly but you can't estimate Social Security perfectly. But you can get a fairly reliable estimate that would be the basis of a surcharge. And how -- whether you express it as a percentage of the defense appropriations or as a tax, a separate tax, you know, express it in a number of different ways. It would be very easy, actually, to do that. And the third point is the point that professor Bilmes made and the Congressman made which is: By doing that you would be setting aside money into a trust fund and that is the only way that you can insulate this money against what I see as the increasing budget stringency that our country is going to be facing and we should recongize that for the next twenty, thirty years we are going to be facing very difficult budgetary problems and they're not going to go away. And there is no easy way -- I have some views about how you could do it -- but there is no easy way out of that. And the reality then is that under the pay-go current framework that supporting these obligations that we've undertaken to our veterans has to compete with every other expenditure. And -- and there will be pressure. And the reference to the Debt Commission, the reference to former Congressman SImpson's testimony is evidence of that kind of pressure that will be put on veterans expenditures.

US House Rep Jim Moran: Well thank you, professor. You've mentioned in your testimony, and Professor Bilmes' as well, the fragmented costs of war. Just one example, in the Defense Appropriations Committee, we put 900 million dollars just for Traumatic Brain Injury and then, in this continuing resolution, I don't think there's two or three members who are aware that we added another 300 million dollars -- was a reprogramming of money for something else -- bringing up to 1.2 million dollars just for Traumatic Brain Injury, just for one year, Fiscal Year 2010. But the other question I wanted to ask -- and then I'll yield back the time and I thank the Chairman -- Senator [Jim] Webb and others in both the House and Senate strongly supported and was passed a GI Bill of Rights. The idea was to basically create a middle class again in the way that we did after WWII -- by enabling returning veterans to get higher education and to be able to lead to fuller, better employment prospects -- as you said, 30% of our veterans returning home are unemployed. But this also extends to the family, the wives and spouses. Do we have an estimate of the cost of that? And I know that [House Education and Labor Committee] Chairman [George] Miller would be very interested as well. What are we paying for that portion of higher education out of the same federal budget? Professor Bilmes?

Linda J. Bilmes: I mean, I don't have an estimate for that but I think it's a good question. And I think it is, like all of these numbers, it's a number that could be calculated. One of our overall points throughout the process of working on these issues has been that there's actually very little attention to getting robust estimates in the veterans field. And when you compare the amount of effort, for example, that goes into studying the Social Security system compared with the amount of effort that goes into studying the longterm costs of veterans -- whether it's the educational, the transition assistance program, the research funding, the benefits, etc. -- it's a tiny fraction, not in scale with the, you know, the actual absolute size of the liability. But unfortunately I don't have that particular number.

US House Rep Jim Moran: No, but it would be interesting to calculate.

Joseph E. Stigliz: Can I just make --

US House Rep Jim Moran: Yes.

Joseph E. Stigliz: -- one further comment about the importance of providing the kind of benefits, GI Benefits. As we move to the all-volunteer army, we are recruiting particular socio-economic groups into the army and other military services and these are often among the parts of our society that are less privileged. And unless we do that we will continue to have the problems of the 30% unemployment, which is a long run problem, for our society. And there's been reference made to high suicide rates, high problems of family -- Those problems are all compounded when people can't get a job and when people don't have the adequate education in a modern economy, it's very difficult to get the jobs. So I view this as part of our social obligation to those who fought for us which we are now really not fulfilling.

US House Rep Jim Moran: Absolutely and one cost -- a very substantial cost -- that we don't factor in is the burden on local, municipal human service programs because these folks -- a vast, a large number -- go back into the community but still have mental health adjustment problems, domestic abuse problems and so on related to their combat experience and its muncipalities responsibilities to care for them and we don't calculate that cost, let alone add it to the full cost of the war.

Again, we'll pick up more on the hearing tomorrow. Staying with Congress, Sam Stein (Huffington Post) reports that Senator Lindsey Graham believes that US service members in Iraq are and should be called combat troops (he also believes they should get combat pay -- which they are receiving) and he thinks the American people are dropping the ball in demanding that Congress focus on the wars (he is not, sadly, stating that more Americans need to be calling for an end to the wars). Still on Congress, Senator Daneil Akaka Chairs the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. His office released the following:


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, praised his colleagues for supporting a comprehensive veterans benefits package now headed to the White House for President Obama's consideration. If signed into law, this bill will expand insurance options for disabled veterans, upgrade compensation benefits and employment protections, authorize VA construction projects,and allow VA to keep using private physicians to quickly and accurately provide veterans with disability evaluations.
"I commend my colleagues for supporting this bill to upgrade the benefits that veterans have earned through their honorable service. I look forward to President Obama signing this important measure into law," said Akaka, a key sponsor of this legislation.
The Veterans' Benefits Act of 2010 (H.R. 3219, as amended), includes the following:

  • Raises an automobile assistance benefit for disabled veterans from $11,000 to $18,900.
  • Authorizes federal grants to provide job training, counseling, placement, and childcare services to homeless women veterans and homeless veterans with children.
  • Substantially increases the maximum levels of supplemental insurance for totally disabled veterans, as well as Veterans' Group Life Insurance and Veterans' Mortgage Life Insurance.
  • Provides retroactive Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance benefits for troops who were traumatically injured between October 7, 2001 and November 30, 2005, regardless of where their injury occurred.
  • Clarifies that the Uniformed Service Employment and Reemployment Rights Act prohibits wage discrimination against members of the Armed Forces.

H.R. 3219 passed the House late last night, after clearing the Senate on Tuesday, September 28. The bill now goes to President Obama for his consideration. A detailed summary of the Veterans' Benefits Act of 2010 is available here: LINK.
The full text of the bill, as amended by the Senate, is available here: LINK.
Kawika Riley
Communications Director and Legislative Assistant
U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs
Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman

Turning to Iraq where the violence never ends in Iraq. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports, "At least two officers were killed and three civilians were wounded when police and gunmen traded fire in Baghdad on Thursday after an apparent bank robbery attempt, Iraqi Interior Ministry officials said." In addition, Steven Lee Myers and Thom Shanker (New York Times) report that there have been 23 mortar/rocket attacks on the Green Zone so far this month and "the intensity of the attacks has compounded a sense of anxiety here -- and back in Washington -- as Iraq's political impasse drags on almost seven months after parliamentary elections in March."

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted last month, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's six months and twenty-three days with no government formed.

Noting the rumors swirling that Nouri's got the post,
Jason Ditz ( observes, "But can he form a government? That is less than clear, as much of the INA has already ruled out participating in a government giving Maliki a second term, and even a small portion of the State of Law bloc is opposing him. The Iraqiya bloc, which has the biggest plurality, has also ruled out working with Maliki." Hurriyet Daily News reports today that Joost Hilterman (International Crisis Group) has stated, "There are two ways in Iraq. Without a government, which is the very bad scenario, it can lead up to the return to civil war." The alternative, as he sees it, is for Iraq to form a government encompassing a wide range of groups. He's not the only one worrying over civil war. Noting Leila Fadel's recent report for the Washington Post about the decision to purge Sahwa ("Sons Of Iraq" and "Awakenings") from Anbar Province's police force, David Bender (Foreign Policy) notes:

The big question is how will the Sunnis respond? Should they decide they have no stake in the success of the next government, what will be their next move? Sunnis could cease their security cooperation with Baghdad, but a return to the sort of civil war we saw between 2005 and 2007 is unlikely. The Iraqi government of today, for all its problems, is significantly more stable than it was in 2005, and Iraqi security forces are dramatically more capable. Still, parallel efforts -- not cooperation but a sharing of similar goals -- by disaffected Sunnis and an AQI looking to reconstitute -- could keep Baghdad and Iraq's west violent and unstable for years to come.

For more on Sahwa, Sam Collyns (BBC News) reports here -- text and video. Spero News reports, "An independent United Nations human rights expert today urged the Iraqi Government and the international community to provide more assistance to internally displace persons (IDPs) in the country and protect their rights, stressing that ending displacement must [be] considered a key element of rebuilding Iraq." But some countries -- such as England -- refuse to take the refugee issue seriously and continue forcibly deporting refugees back to Iraq. IRIN notes, "The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has expressed concern about the growing number of deportations of Iraqi asylum-seekers from Western Europe in the last two months. Special charter flights to take failed asylum-seekers home have increased in frequency, and Iraqis are being returned to parts of the country which are still unsafe, in contravention of UNHCR guidelines for the handling of Iraqi asylum applications, it says."

Meanwhile in the US a grieving mother is angry. US soldiers Gebrah Noonan and John Carrillo died in Iraq last week and are said to have been shot dead (with a third soldier wounded) by US soldier Neftaly Platero. Cindy Horswell (Houston Chronicle) reports efforts to reach the accused's wife and parents were unsuccessful "But neighbors across the street from a home on Birch Creek in Kingwood where he used to stay with family recall him as a quiet, unobtrusive person who didn't draw attention to himself. Military authorities said no charges have yet been filed and would not further discuss the pending investigation." Joe Goldeen (Stockton Record) reports John Carrillo Jr. died the day after the Thursday shooting and that he was "trying to break up a fight between two soldiers" when he was shot. His survivors include Reylene (wife) and two young children, Desiree and John Carrillo Sr. (his parents) and three young siblings. My Record Journal reports that while the Governor of Conn., Jodi Rell, the state's Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and others have contacted the family of Gebrah Noonan, they have not heard from US Senator Joe Lieberman and Gebrah's mother, Ling Noonan, was disappointed in the silence. WTNH adds:

Noonan's mother, Ling Noonan, released a statement thanking the community for all the support, as well as Gov. Rell, Sec. Bysiewicz, Attorney General Blumenthal, and Sen. Dodd and other local politicians for their condolences. But Ms. Noonan says she was disappointed in Sen. Joe Lieberman's response. Gebrah was Jewish and she stated frankly, "from a fellow Jew we expected more."

We're including the above not to pick on Joe Lieberman. His office is actually usually very good at contacting the families of the fallen in his state and he's already made plans to speak with Ling Noonan. But a few weeks back, we pointed out that government representatives in the House, Senate and in governor's offices were dropping the ball on this. We made a point of noting that Governor Jennifer Granholm (Michigan) is among the few whose office always notes the fallen publicly and contacts the families. If you're speaking with any of the families of the recent fallen, you'll quickly hear from them how few elected officials are noting their loved ones' passing. Joe Lieberman, again, is already addressing the issue. Every elected official should be doing a self-check right now on whether or not they are honoring the fallen. In the last few months, this is becoming a big issue with families of the fallen.

We have room for one more thing and I've been trying to work this into a snapshot all week. Libbyliberal is addressing the upcoming elections in her writings. This is from Libbyliberal's "The Secret is Not in Trying to Win a Rigged Game, It's Walking Away From It" (Corrente):

People of conscience need to call out both the rat bastards and the rabid rat bastards. Not protect and enable the Dem rat bastards because they are not as rabid as Repubs and Teapartiers. Which makes them even worse. They have potential still to be rational, humane and sane. Or do they?

I keep trying to figure out how to get farther this time. I also keep trying to figure out why there isn't a bigger tent for the people of conscience. Why the health care single payer folks couldn't have a fire in their collective belly to end the illegal wars and support those people of conscience and vice versa. I mean, I am guessing they do, but how to channel that support formally and effectively? And the climate change folk, and the women's rights folk.

There are so many fresh and not so fresh any more hells ... and we of course can not be fighting on every front. But we need each other collectively. Because so many of us get the travesty to humanity collectively on all of these fronts. But we need to form that effective and loud critical mass.

A lot of small choirs of conscience. How do we rally those with conscience into a focused voice? There is the theory of the 100 monkeys. Once the hundredth monkey gets the message of truth and reality, the entire monkey nation gets it. With Vietnam I think the hundredth monkey was actually Walter Cronkite. When he got it (being in the media helped for sure) the Vietnam War, so late in the game with so much devastation, lost traction. Though some never got it and came back with a vengeance as insane neocons. Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al. Power mad.

We have a window of opportunity here in the next six is it weeks. I hoped we could make demands. But we have the colossal ego of Obama who only seems to know the art of hypocrisy and we piss him off now. Yeah, no drama Obama seems to only have strike back power when it comes to us. Go figure. He must protect his EGO on all of this and we will not enable his EGO. And Obama's vast enablers are fighting for his "brand" and their egos, too, I suppose. Can't admit to the con. Can't see the forest of humanity and are lost among the "team trees".

mohammed tawfeeq
the new york times
steven lee myers
thom shanker
jason ditz
hurriyet daily news
the washington post
leila fadel

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The way they lie to the resisters

The Montreal Gazette reports that the House of Commons shot down a bill to provide asylum to US war resisters today in a 136 for, 143 against vote.

I read that crap and it just pisses me off. That the vote failed?

No. That the liars keep lying to war resisters.

C.I. long ago explained that such a bill would NEVER pass in the Senate. They never point that out in their stories? No, they just lie. C.I. also pointed out how any law must be signed off on by the Queen of England because, unlike the US, Canada did not win independence from England.

To combat the lies, I went to the Canadian government's page on how a bill becomes a law:

NOTE: To become law, a bill must first be introduced in either the Senate or the House of Commons. It must then pass through various stages in each House: first, second and third reading. Then it must receive Royal Assent.


  • Public Bills
    These are proposals for laws that will affect the public in general. Most public bills are introduced by Government Ministers. Bills sponsored by the Government are numbered from C-1 to C-200 in order of presentation. If they are introduced first in the Senate, they are numbered starting S-1.
  • Private Bills
    These are limited in scope: they concern an individual or group of individuals only. They confer a right on some person or group, or relieve them of a responsibility.

Most legislation originates with the Government. Policy proposal requiring legislation is submitted to Cabinet by Minister(s).


  • Policy proposal is considered by the appropriate Cabinet committee and recommendations are made to the Cabinet.
  • If Cabinet approves, the responsible Ministry issues drafting instructions to the Legislation Section of the Department of Justice.
  • Draft bill is prepared in two official languages and approved by the responsible Minister.
  • Draft bill is presented to Cabinet for approval.
  • If approved it is ready to be introduced in Parliament.


    First reading in either the Senate or the House of Commons. Bill is printed.

    Second reading in the same House of Parliament. Members debate and vote on the principle of the bill. The House may decide to refer the bill to a legislative, standing or a special committee, or to Committee of the Whole.

      Consideration by the appropriate parliamentary committee (clause-by-clause study of the bill). Committee can summon witnesses and experts to provide it with information and help in improving the bill.
      Committee reports the bill to the House clearly indicating any amendments proposed. House considers amendments and votes for or against them.

    Debate and vote on bill as amended.
    NOTE: Once bill has been read 3 times in the House, it is sent to the Senate for its consideration.
  • Bill is presented to the Governor General for assent.
  • Governor General may assent to Bill in the Queen's name, withhold assent or reserve assent.
  • When Bill is given Royal Assent it becomes law.

What's Royal Assent? "Royal Assent completes the enactment process. Bills may be given Royal Assent in two ways: by the Governor General or her deputy in a formal ceremony that takes place in the Senate before an assembly of both houses, or by written declaration. "Where royal assent is signified by written declaration, the Act is deemed to be assented to on the day on which the two Houses of Parliament have been notified of the declaration" (Royal Assent Act, S.C. 2002, c.15, s.5). When a bill receives Royal Assent it is given a chapter number for the Statutes of Canada."

Governor General? Say what? From Wikipedia:

The Governor General of Canada (French [masculine]: Gouverneur général du Canada, or [feminine]: Gouverneure générale du Canada) is the federal viceregal representative of the Canadian monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, who is equally shared with 15 other sovereign nations in a form of personal union, as well as with the ten other jurisdictions of Canada, and resides predominantly in her oldest realm, the United Kingdom. On the advice of her Canadian prime minister only,[1] the Queen appoints the governor general to carry out most of her constitutional and ceremonial duties for an unfixed period of time—known as serving At Her Majesty's pleasure—though five years is the normal convention, as is a rotation between anglophone and francophone incumbents. Once in office, these individuals maintain direct contact with the Queen, wherever she may be at the time.[2]
[. . .]

Though the monarch retains all executive, legislative, and judicial power in and over Canada,[53][54] the governor general is permitted to exercise most of this, including the Royal Prerogative, in the sovereign's name; some as outlined in the Constitution Act, 1867, and some through various letters patent issued over the decades, particularly those from 1947 that constitute the Office of Governor General of Canada;[55] they state: "And We do hereby authorize and empower Our Governor General, with the advice of Our Privy Council for Canada or of any members thereof or individually, as the case requires, to exercise all powers and authorities lawfully belonging to Us in respect of Canada."[56] Amongst other duties, however, the monarch retains the sole right to appoint the governor general.[7] It is also stipulated that the governor general may appoint deputies—usually Supreme Court justices and the Secretary to the Governor General—who can perform some of the viceroy's constitutional duties in her stead,[57] and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (or a puisne justice in the chief justice's absence) will act as the Administrator of the Government upon the death, removal, incapacitation, or absence of the governor general for more than one month.[58]

You get it?

They need to stop lying to war resisters. C.I.'s rightly stated there are two ways the resisters will get asylum. A prime minister (not the current one) will issue an order (not a law) that will change immigration or a court will issue a verdict that they are allowed asylum under existing law.

But a new law?

Lots of luck.

And we see that today when a law -- not that NDP bulls**t of 'non-binding resolution' -- gets shot down in the lower house.

Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, September 29, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Robert Gates gets a tough question from a conscientious objector and the Secretary of Defense replies with what is an attack on Christianity, Senator Daniel Akaka receives an honor for his work on veterans issues, a House Veterans Affairs Subccomittee wonders why -- a year later -- no progress has been made on employment issues for veterans, the British pullout from Basra is examined, new rumors surface that Nouri will remain prime minister in Iraq, and more.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is currently taking questions at Duke University as I dictate this. He's grandstanded on the back of veterans and the military as he always does in that mincing manner he has. (Still crying over the death of PG, Bobby Gates?) We'll note his awful speech later in the snapshot but Gates got a little bit of a surprise when a 2006 Conscientious Objector stood up to ask a question.

The C.O. spoke of the demonization he received when he was going through the process and Gates grew visibly nervous and began shifting from foot-to-foot while his eyes darted wildly around the lecture hall at Duke's Bryant Center. "As a Christian," the CO expalined, "I'm concerned that I'm not able to respond to the denominational body I belong to when they deem certain wars unjust" as they did the Iraq War. He noted that, in contrast to the religious training and beliefs, soldiers are encouraged to "forfeit their moral agency to the officers" above them. And he wondered, "What your office might do to correct this tarnishment on our national integrity?"

By this point, Gates looked as if he was sucking on a lemon. War Hawks don't like being confronted. He began a snippy performance that seemed to prove true the rumors that he does a nasty camp Bette Davis impersonation. "I would say, first of all, this goes to the heart of my remarks tonight. In an all volunteer army, one does undertake a contractual obligation when enlisting. But there is certainly no obligation to re-enlist. And one should know -- anyone who has joined the military since 2002 has known -- that they are going into war with all of the moral challenges that can face people with -- So I think, ultimately, it has to be the choice of the invidivual."

Robert Gates is not a lawyer. He is a spinner. He's a damn good spinner if your goal is to advance illegal war or lies. If it's not, he's just a tired spinner who needs to create a job by retiring.

Volunteer army or not, the conscientious objector status is always recongized as a possibility or is Gates unaware that it remains on the books, has remained on the books since the draft ended, has remained on the books and has remained practiced for over thirty years? Is Gates so stupid that he doesn't know that?

(No, he's just a liar.)

As for 2002, the CO was specifically referring to the Iraq War. The Iraq War had not broken in 2002. All the lies Gates tells, it gets so hard for him to keep facts straight. The Iraq War started in March 2003. That's a fact. Equally true is that the administration lied repeatedly and the press went along with it. Finding out the truth about the Iraq War required real work. Lt Ehren Watada is one example of someone who had to do the work for themselves. In 2005, he was informed he would be deploying to Iraq in the summer of 2006. He began researching the war. He wanted to be able to answer any questions those serving under him might have. In researching the Iraq War, he discovered the realities including that it was an illegal war.

Lt Watada knew what Gates appears to have never learned: His pledge was to uphold the Constitution and he was required to refuse any illegal order. Is Gates unfamiliar with the Uniform Code of Military Justice? Gates does a vicious camp routine but he appears woefully short on the facts.

He also appears hostile to Christianity. Many Christian faiths are based on baptisms and on the Christian receiving the word of the God, a religious awakening. Gates appears completely ignorant of that fact. Anyone who joined before 2002 (or after) could very well have a religious awakening or a deepening of their religious beliefs -- those are core components and beliefs of Christian faith. Gates' bitchy little answer didn't recognize that reality.and showed extreme hostility to -- and prejudice against -- the Christian faith.

In a functioning government, Gates would be called to the carpet and told to issue an apology. That won't happen which will further lead to the suspicion among some Americans that defending religious freedoms only matters to the White House when the religion is Muslim. I'm not saying it's right, I'm not saying it's fair. I'm saying you're an idiot if you're ignoring the public perception of the White House -- demonstrated in multiple polls -- at this late date . And to allow your Secretary of Defense to launch what many Christians will see as an attack on the Christian faith and to not call it out will deepen the perception that some religions enjoy a "most favored nation" status at the White House.

"Some of the witnesses testifying before the Subcommittee may recall that we previously held a Federal Contract Compliance hearing on May 14, 2009," Subcommittee Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin declared this afternoon at the House VA's Economic Opportunity Subcommittee hearing. "In that hearing we received testimony from stakeholders highlihgting several concerns. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs lack the resources to enforce federal laws, the Vets 100 List was not available for public viewing and job listings -- as required by VEVRAA [Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act] -- were not available or easily accessible to veterans seeking employment. Unfortunately, the written testimonies we received for today's hearing express the same sentiments -- such as limited outreach by contracters and a failure to post announcements in the appropriate job listing services."

Herseth Sandlin was chairing a hearing on Federal Contractor Compliance and the two departments most responsible for contracting with regards to veterans are the Defense Department and Veterans Affairs but DoD was 'too busy' to appear before the Subcomittee today. Ranking Member John Boozman noted in his opening remarks "what appears less clear is the government's committment to enforcing the law."

DoD elected to skip the meeting today at a time when veterans unemployment is a serious issue. The full House Veterans Affairs Committee met this morning for a legislative hearing and US House Rep Cliff Stearns explained of his HR 3685, "Unemployment is at a record high today and unemployment in our veteran community is higher than at any time I can remember." This week Laura Clarizio (Examiner) noted of the weekly unemployment data that last week saw "[n]ewly discharged veterans claiming benefits totaled42,633, an increase of 537 from the prior week." Yesterday on PRI's The Takeaway, John Hockenberry and Celeste Headlee were joined by Stand Down's Dr. Casi Crockett and financial contributor Beth Kobliner to discuss the issue of veterans employment. Excerpt:

Beth Kobliner: If you look last year for unemployment for post-9/11 vets, then the general population or the non-vets. The rate was 10.2% for post-9/11 vets versus 9% for non-veterans. But the real story is when you look at young veterans, 18 to 24-year-olds. They have seen last year unemployment at 21% compared to 16% for non-veteran peers. So really, it's clear that the the job prospects for veterans are certainly no better than non-vets and, for young [veterans], they're much worse.

This is a pressing issue. And DoD chose to ignore the hearing. And yet, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the head of the Defense Dept, had the nerve to call out Americans for what he saw as "apathy." Gates spoke this afternoon at Duke Unveristy's West Campus. (Pentagon Channel streamed the speech live.) Completing his speech, Gates reached for a water bottle and proceeded to chug it. You'd probably be parched if you too had trashed Americans. Americans are apathetic, only 1% of them are serving Gates stated, and serving in the military is something the American people see as a task for "other people to do." Really? Well first of all, Gates clearly sees testifying to Congress as something "other people to do" since his lazy and inept ass couldn't send a single representative to the economic hearing today. And his grandstanding on the backs of veterans is rather weak since he and the DoD have done little to nothing to improve the employment rate for veterans. As for whether or not Americans are meeting challenges, the Iraq War is an illegal war. Bush administration hold over Gates has blood on both hands -- once for the last administration, once for the current. He needs to stop grandstanding, he actually needs to leave because he's doing such a poor job. If there's any apathy he's experiencing, it's the apathy that allowed him to remain Secretary of Defense when Bush was replaced with Barack.

21% is the unemployment rate for veterans aged 18 to 24 and Gates wants to offer quotes from letters John Quincy Adams wrote to his son -- yeah, like that'll put bread on the table. Gates needs to answer as to why DoD refused to send a representative to today's hearing.

The first panel was made up of Christina Roof (American Veterans), Joseph Sharpe Jr. (American Legion), Rochelle Webb (National Association of State Workforce Agencies), Richard F. Weidman (Vietnam Veterans of America) and Joe Wynn (Veterans Entrepreneurship Task Force) while panel two was composed of the Dept of Labor's Les Jin and the Dept of Veterans Affairs Jan Frye. Excerpt of the first panel:

Subcommittee Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: I'd like to just start out the questioning with a general one and it may touch on the end of Mr. Wynn's testimony, but I know that some of you have commented either in your testimony today or your written statements about perhaps the need for a compilation, some sort of a national listing, an official listing. For anyone that wishes to respond, who -- who's in the best position to compile and maintain that in your opinion?

Rochelle Webb: Madame Chairwoman, NASWA believes that a accurate list is needed and that it needs to be through a collaboration of all the federal agencies that are involved in contractor compliance. So we would look for not only OFCCP [Dept of Labor] to be involved but agencies such as ODEP [Labor's Office of Disability Employment] dealing with disability employment as well as representatives from the state work force agencies through our association, through the veterans program for DVETs [Directors for Veterans' Employment and Training] -- we also believe needs to be involved. One part of the puzzle will remain one part of a puzzle. We need all pieces working together to have a comprehensive solution that will work for both state and federal level agencies. Thank you.

Joe Wynn: Madame Chair, I'd just like to say that between the Veterans Employment Training Service Dept and Labor OFCCP -- between the two, they should be maintaining a list of federal contractors who are required to submit information about employment opportunities for veterans. And it's very important, too, that we get information included in that listing -- or if it needs to be in an additional listing -- on subcontractors. There are a lot of employment opportunities available through subcontracts. There are thousands of subcontracts tied in to each prime federal contractor. But that list needs to be compiled, made readily available and made available throughout the year -- not just at one time when the submission of the Best 100 [yearly Vets 100 Report due out each September] is done. Thank you.

Subcommittee Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Well thank you, Mr. Wynn. Any -- Ms. Roof?

Christina Roof: Just a really quick comment. AMVETS is looking forward to seeing the outcome of the presidential executive order bringing these agencies together: DoL, OFCCP, SBA [Small Business Administration] so that they can get a good understanding and stop doing things like duplication of efforts, taking this knowledge -- this wealth of knowledge and building a data base. So we're looking forward to seeing what comes out of that as well. Thank you.

Subcommittee Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: That's a good point. We know how important the interagency collaboration is in so many other areas. But I think, in addition to the collaboration, if we're going to make this happen, one -- somebody needs to ultimately have the -- bear the responsibility of maintaining it, right? And being the point of communication. And that leads me to my follow up question in terms of the Vets 100 Report. A number of you made different suggestions. Mr. Wynn just made mention of subcontractors. I think,, Dr. Webb, you may have in your written testimony as well. What kind of oversight and verification is needed over the Vets 100 Report to make it a meaningful exercise?

Rochelle Webb: Madame Chairwoman, NASWA believes that the oversight needed is first of all to review, and perhaps a study would be useful here, to see what type of information reported on the Vets 100 could actually help increase the effectiveness of contractor compliance. The way the Vets 100 Report is now, it's an annual report, it's a static snapshot in time. It's immediately outdated once it's submitted and, as Mr. Wynn has indicated earlier, it's very difficult for state agencies to know within your state who are the entities that receive subcontracts because the major contract could have been in another state. But there are employment opportunities that are lost unless they are uncovered by our DVOPs [Disabled Veterans' Outreach Program] and our LVER [Local Veterans' Employment] staff within the states on their outreach. But in Arizona where we have over 140,000 employeer, it's very difficult for a staff of just over 60 veteran staff to outreach that many employers to try to uncover which of those jobs are out of compliance or should be listed and are not.

Brief excerpt of panel two -- again composed of the Dept of Labor's Les Jin and the Dept of Veterans Affairs Jan Frye.

US House Rep Gus Bilirakis: Mr. Jin, what are your concerns with regards to NASWA's job central system?

Les Jin: Congressman, I think that the key thing is that we want to make sure that there's a system in place so that the priority referral provision for veterans is-is-is handled in a way that works for everybody, works for the veterans, works for the state and local organizations that put this together. So I don't have a specific concern but I think that we got a system in place that was developed and, you know, we would be happy to have conversations with the organization about any issues they want to raise. As far as I know, we have not done that and they have not reached out to us in that regard. One thing that I want to mention is that we have regulations, proposed regulations, as I mentioned, and during that process, we took a lot of comments from a lot of different stakeholders. My Director [Patricia] Shiu met with a lot of organizations, she had a webinar where she talked with over a thousand organizations and individuals concerned about veterans issues. She did townhalls in New Orleans and Chicago and San Francisco. She's got a lot of input and we just want to make sure that whatever changes we make are fully reviewed and-and-and everything is integrated into that decision.

Subcommittee Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin pointed out to Jin that NASWA recommended last year that "an official list of federal contractors" be generated by his department and she wondered if that had taken place? Jin danced around the topic in his immediate reply leaing to a redirect by the Chair ("Well, it was a recommendation made a year ago.), Jin stated "I was not hear until the last few months." But, in those months, he had no conversations on that topic.

From the US government to efforts in Iraq to form a goverment, Syria's Day Press reports, "President [Bashar] al-Assad's received on Wednesday a delegation from the Iraqi List led by Iyad Allawi. Talks dealt with the latest developments in Iraq and the ongoing efforts and negotiations among different Iraqi blocs to form an Iraqi government." DPA adds, "Allawi's meeting in Syria comes as a coalition of Iraqi Shiites, known as the National Alliance, are due to hold a third day of talks Wednesday evening after they failed to meet their own deadline to nominate a candidate for the position of prime minister." While that meeting was going on, Alsumaria TV notes, "Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al Moallem discussed with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon the situation in Iraq. [. . .] The Syrian Foreign Minister affirmed that Iraq's security is bound to the country's national unity stressing the necessity for all Iraqi components to take part in shaping up Iraq's future."

And if you're late to the ongoing stalemate, March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted last month, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's six months and twenty-two days with no government formed.

Suadad al-Sahly and Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) note that "despite increasing acrimony," the talk is Nouri will be nominated by the Iraqi National Alliance (State Of Law already has him as their nominee) and he will be Iraq's 'next' prime minister. Hurriyet Daily News reports, "A group of prominent Iraqi nongovernmental groups have gone to court to try to break the political deadlock that has left the war-torn country adrift without a government and, according to many, vulnerable to insurgent attacks and worsening social conditions, a report said." Brian Murphy (AP) reports that US Brig Gen Rob Baker states that the continued stalemate is not only encouraging violence among 'insurgents' but could lead other Iraqis not to report suspect behavior to the Iraqi forces or the US forces. Youchi J. Dreazen (CongressDaily) reports similar concerns expressed today by the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm Mike Mullen: "I'm extremely concerned about their inability to stand up this government. The politics there are from my perspective too slow . . . and the longer that lasts, the more I and others worry about what does the future hold."

It takes a lot of stupid for the US government to deny their own involvement in all of this. I'm not just referring to their continued backing of the unpopular Nouri al-Maliki. I'm also referring to their allowing him to push back the elections to begin with. This first happened under Bush and was okayed by Barack when the elections were pushed back to fall/winter of 2009. Once Barack was sworn in, other push backs took place. Nouri intentionally dragged his feet. That was obvious to all international observers. Which is how Iraq repeatedly missed one deadline after another -- all the while the US government insisting that elections would take place before the end of 2009 -- and that is how elections which should have taken place in mid-2009 did not take place until March of 2010. The six months and counting spectacle is shameful. But never forget that the US encouraged it and allowed it by repeatedly allowing Nouri to push back the date and to interfere with the passage of needed legislation by Parliament that would have allowed the elections to take place in 2009.

It takes a lot of stupid to hail 'progress' in Iraq when they have no government, when elections took place over six months ago and the results were not honored. When Nouri's term long ago expired but he remains in office, not as a 'caretaker,' but as a tyrant. And if you're missing the point, Alsumaria TV reports, "The Iraqi cabinet Tuesday approved a $733 million deal for Leighton Offshore Private Ltd. Singaporean Oil Company to build a new oil export terminal in the southern city of Basra, a spokesman for the Iraqi government said." That's not the actions of a caretaker government. A caretaker government ensures that electricity is supplied, that trash is picked up -- all the things Nouri's government has FAILED to do. A caretaker government does not negotiate a multi-million dollar contract.

The violence continues.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing wounded two people, two Baghdad bombings (one after the other) left five people injured, a mortar attack on the Green Zone and, in Beshdar, a man crossed over the border from Iran to Iraq and was reported to Kurdish intelligence who attempted to detain him but he set off a bomb taking his own life and injuring two Kurdish intelligence agents. Reuters notes a Saqlawiya home bombing which injured "three woman and a man" and, dropping back to last night for the following, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured six people and a Kirkuk roadside bombing which injured a police officer.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Samarra home invasion in which police chief Major Saeed was shot dead (it was his home). Reuters notes that last night 1 "tribal leader" was killed when his Mosul home was invaded.

Turning to England and its role in the Iraq War, Defence Management Journal reports:

The British withdrawal from Basra in 2007 was "a huge mistake" and a "defeat" for the British Army, according to senior American commanders.
In the BBC's Secret Iraq documentary, one US General said the move by British troops from Basra Palace in the city centre to Basra International Airport left local people to be "terrorised" by militias.
General Jack Keane (ret'd) told the BBC's Secret Iraq programme: "I think it was a huge mistake to pull out of Basra and to go out to the airfield and to leave the people of Basra to be subjected to the Iranian surrogates who brutalised them, intimidated them, terrorised them."

In real time, we noted the regional withdrawal and then the Basra one and how embarrassing it was for the British military. Since, we've noted how the Iraq Inquiry has bent over backwards to avoid exploring those realities. (Known realities. Shortly before the Basra pullout, there was the abandoned base in the area, abandoned due to attacks, which the British military fled and which was torn apart by attackers in less than 24 hours.) Few outlets noted the reality on the British military mission in Iraq -- and even fewer of US outlets noted it. The
Telegraph of London always covered it and today their Thomas Harding reports:

Some of the evidence in BBC Two's Secret Iraq was not given to the Chilcott Inquiry into Iraq. The comments will revive debate about whether the British pull-out from Basra in September 2007 was a prudent tactical move or a humiliating retreat.
The retired US general Jack Keane says: ''I think it was a huge mistake to pull out . . . and to leave the people of Basra subject to the Iranian surrogates who brutalised them, intimidated them, terrorised them."
A US colonel, Peter Mansoor, who was executive officer to the US commander Gen David Petraeus, says Basra was in "dire straits". "I don't know that you could see the British withdrawal from Basra in 2007 in any other light other than a defeat," he said.

BBC News adds
that 45 women were killed immediately after the British left Basra and quotes one Basra resident stating, "They started killing unveiled women. I had to buy an Ak-47 for personal protection. They started killing people who sell alcoholic drinks and barbers who shave beards."

There's plenty of news that should be in this snapshot but there's just not room and I note that because we're closing with two press releases. The first one is from Senator Daniel Akaka's office. He is the Chair of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee and he has won an honor. I've called him out in past snapshots so it's certainly only fair that we note he has received an honor:


Washington, D.C. -- Today The Military Coalition (TMC) presented U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) with one of its highest awards in recognition of his leadership on behalf of veterans and their families, especially his role in passing the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act. Akaka received the 2010 Award of Merit at the Reserve Officers Association Building on Capitol Hill.
"I thank The Military Coalition for this honor, and for their service to veterans. I look forward to continuing our shared work on behalf of America's troops and veterans, as well as the families who support them," said Akaka, Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee.
"Senator Akaka has taken the lead on almost every aspect of veterans' benefit improvements this year. We're especially grateful for his leadership in winning compensation and health coverage for caregivers, many of whom have had to sacrifice their jobs and homes to provide full-time care for a wounded loved one," said Joseph Barnes, TMC Co-Chair and National Executive Driector of the Fleet Reserve Association.
The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Service Act was signed into law by President Obama on May 5, 2010. The law includes provisions to establish an unprecedented permanent program to support the caregivers of wounded warriors, improve health care for veterans in rural areas, help VA adapt to the needs of women veterans, and expand support services for homeless veterans.
The Military Coalition represents the interests of more than six million members around the world, including active duty, National Guard Reserve, and retired members and veterans, as well as their families. For more about TMC, click here [.]
Kawika Riley
Communications Director and Legislative Assistant
U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs
Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman

We're closing with a lengthy release by the VA. We're doing that due to the attacks on moves made by VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to ensure that Vietnam era veterans receive what they are owed. If you're late to the attacks -- the Congressional attacks -- on Shinseki, see last week's "Iraq snapshot" and "Iraq snapshot," Ava's "Senator Roland Burris (Ava)," Wally's "Senate Veterans Affairs hearing (Wally)," Kat's "Jim Webb: The new Bob Dole" and The Third Estate Sunday Review's "No friend to veterans." Here's the press release from the VA:

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki today announced the publication of a final regulation in the Federal Register that makes it easier for Veterans to obtain Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care and disability compensation for certain diseases associated with service in Southwest Asia (including Iraq) or Afghanistan.
"This is part of historic changes in how VA considers Gulf War Veterans' illnesses," said Secretary Shinseki. "By setting up scientifically based presumptions of service connection, we give these deserving Veterans a simple way to obtain the medical and compensation benefits they earned in service to our country."
The final regulation establishes new presumptions of service connection for nine specific infectious diseases associated with military service in Southwest Asia beginning on or after the start of the first Gulf War on Aug. 2, 1990, through the conflict in Iraq and on or after Sept. 19, 2001, in Afghanistan.
The final regulation reflects a determination of a positive association between service in Southwest Asia or Afghanistan and nine diseases and includes information about the long-term health effects potentially associated with these diseases: Brucellosis, Campylobacter jejuni, Coxiella Burnetii (Q fever), Malaria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Nontyphoid Salmonella, Shigella, Visceral leishmaniasis and West Nile virus.
With the final rule, a Veteran will only have to show service in Southwest Asia or Afghanistan and that he or she had one of the nine diseases within a certain time after service and has a current disability as a result of that disease, subject to certain time limits for seven of the diseases. Most of these diseases would be diagnosed within one year of return from service, through some conditions may manifest at a later time.
For non-presumptive conditions, a Veteran is required to provide medical evidence to establish an actual connection between military service in Southwest Asia or Afghanistan and a specific disease.
The decision to add these presumptives was made after reviewing the 2006 report of the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine (NASIOM), titled, "Gulf War and Health Volume 5: Infectious Diseases."
The 2006 report differed from the four prior reports by looking at the long-term health effects of certain diseases determined to be pertinent to Gulf War Veterans. Secretary Shinseki decided to include Afghanistan Veterans in these presumptions because NAS found that the nine diseases are also prevalent in that country.
The 1998 Persian Gulf War Veterans Act requires the Secretary to review NAS reports that study scientific information and possible associations between illnesses and exposure to toxic agents by Veterans who served in the Persian Gulf War.
While the decision to add the nine new presumptives predates VA's Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses Task Force (GWVI-TF), the overarching responsibility of the GWVI-TF is to regain Gulf War Veterans' confidence in VA's health care, benefits, and services and reconfirm VA is 100 percent committed to Veterans of all eras. The GWVI-TF began in fall 2009 and is not a static, one-time initiative but will continue to build on its work with annual reports issued every August. The group's focus centers on unanswered Gulf War Veterans' health issues, improving access to benefits, ensuring cutting edge research into treatments, and to make sure Veterans' concerns are heard and addressed. This includes continuing to solicit Veterans, experts, advocates and stakeholders to share their views to better inform the important work of the GWVI-TF. The GWVI-TF Report can be found at
Disability compensation is a non-taxable monetary benefit paid to Veterans who are disabled as a result of an injury or illness that was incurred or aggravated during active military service.
Last year, VA received more than one million claims for disability compensation and pension. VA provides compensation and pension benefits to over 3.8 million Veterans and beneficiaries.
Currently, the basic monthly rate of compensation ranges from $123 to $2,673 for Veterans without any dependents.
For information about health problems associated with military service in Southwest Asia and Afghanistan, and related VA programs, go to and
For information about how to apply for disability compensation, go to or

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