Thursday, November 13, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, a plane crashes in Iraq, Military Families Speak Out calls out VA Secretary James Peake, and more.
Earlier this week the US Secretary of Veterans Affairs appeared on PBS' NewsHour and Military Families Speak Out has issued a press release rebuttal:
Nationwide -- Members of Military Families Speak Out are condemning comments by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs suggesting that the dramatic increase in the suicide rate among young veterans is not connected to the war in Iraq. The suicide rate among male veterans under the age of 29 is now twice that of the general population.
In an interview aired Monday November 10th on PBS's NewsHour, Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Peake said that Veterans' suicides are the result of:
"the same kinds of issues that have to do with suicide in the general population. It is issues of failed relationships, senses of hopelessness, transitions in life, that are at the root cause . . . we're not making a direct correlationw ith combat."
Specialist Scott Eiswert committed suicide in May after being told by a friend that his unit of the Tennessee National Guard would be returning to Iraq. His widow, Tracy Eiswert, a member of Military Families Speak Out, expressed outrage at Secretary Peake's comments:
"I am not a statistic. We are a military family. We are real people with real experiences as a result of my husband's PTSD and his suicide. He wasn't that way before he went to Iraq, he came back changed."
After returning from a tour of duty in Iraq, Spc. Eiswert had been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by civilian doctors, but the Veterans Administration denied that his condition was the result of his experiences in Iraq. The Veterans Administration reversed that ruling in August. Tracy Eiswert said:
"It took him having to put a gun in his mouth for the military to admit that the changes in my husband were a result of the war. If they had admit that the changes in my husband were a result of the war. If they had admitted that earlier he might still be alive."
Kevin and Joyce Lucey are members of Military Families Speak Out and the parents of Corporal Jeffrey Lucey, a Marine Corps Reservist who suffered severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of his service in Iraq in 2003. Shortly after being turned away from a Veterans Administration hospital, Corporal Lucey killed himself on June 22, 2004. Kevin Lucey said:
"Secretary Peake's words are the kind of self serving comments that this nation does not need to hear from the Veterans Administration and its leadership. This is why many regard this VA administration to be steeped in disgrace and dishonor when it comes to our loved ones. They feel that they need to explain away, rationalize, justify or minimize -- instead of committing their resources, time and efforts to create the best healthcare system on God's earth."
Joyce Lucey also had strong words for Secretary Peake:
"This is dishonorable, disgraceful and shameful behaivor from someone who is charged with giving the best of care to our warriors. With this type of message and thinking, is it any wonder that many of our troops and veterans don't seek help from those who are so callous and uncaring?"
Specialist Joe Hafley, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and Military Families Speak Out who has had to fight to get treatment for his own Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, agreed. Hafley served in Iraq with the U.S. Army Reserves from 2004 - 2005, and his brother, a Major with the U.S. Army Reserves is scheduled to deploy to Iraq early next year.
When Hafley returned from Iraq, the Veterans Administration diagnosed him with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, and severe depression -- but ruled that none of those conditions were the result of his service in Iraq. He said:
"My treatment at the VA was belittling and frustrating. To have them diagnose me with PTSD and not attribute it to my service in Iraq is a slap in the face. To have them tell me the problems could be the result of a failed relationship rather than the result of my experiences in combat makes me feel that as a veteran I have no place at the VA.
"The thing that is most baffling to me is that this 800 pound gorilla in the room, not being addressed. Why are we feeling hopeless? Why do we have failed relationships? The common denominator is we all served in Iraq. Maybe my feeling of hopelessness is that I served my country with honor and I am still trying to figure out for what reason? For what just cause?
"Secretary Peake, it doesn't matter how many additional mental health workers you hire if you as the person at the top still feel we are just losers that failed to adjust or that we entered our military service unit. No amount of false support will help us."
For The NewsHour report (link has text and video), Tracy Eiswert explained of her husband to Betty Ann Bowser, "He said he felt belittled because they didn't take what he was saying seriously. 'This is what it happened to me over there.' You know, and they wanted to talk about, 'Well, how's your marriage? Or how was your childhood? How was your dad with you?' And he's like, 'Well, what's this got to do with why I'm here today?'" Meanwhile Aaron Glantz (OneWorld) reports that Vietnam Veterans of America and Veterans of Modern Warfare "filed a class action lawsuit this week to help ensure bureaucratic delays no longer keep disabled U.S. veterans from getting the financial help they need, when they need it most" and they are asking "a federal court to order interim benefits to be paid to a veteran if an initial claim for disability compensation takes longer than 90 days to be processed or an appeal of a denied claim takes longer than six months."
Reuters reports a civilian plane, Falcon Aviation Group Ltd, with FedEx cargo has crashed in Iraq "killing all seven people on board".
Moving to yesterday's Mosul shooting. Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that eight US soldiers were shot yesterday with two of them being shot to death and alleged shooter Barzan Mohammed reportedly used an AK-47 submachine gun in "the shooting spree". Sam Dagher (New York Times) explains what Iraqi officials and eye witnesses are saying: Mosul police's Brig Gen Abdul-Karim al-Jubouri, "a senior official in the Ministry of Defense and an officer of the Nineveh Operations Command" all say there was "a quarrel between an American and Iraqi soldier" at the onset; 2 Iraqi soldiers and one Iraqi Army officer (all witnesses) described the US patrol arriving at the Iraqi post and "[a] heated arugment" taking place "between one of the American soldiers and an Iraqi soldier identified as Barzan Mohammed Abdullah, prompting the American to curse at the Iraqi, spit in his face and slap him, the Iraqis said. The Iraqi soldier then opened fire on the American, they said, and other American soldiers responded with a barrage of gunfire at the Iraqi." Ernesto Londono and Qais Mizher (Washington Post) note that US Maj. Gen. Mark P. "Hertling dismissed reports by Iraqi officials who suggested that an altercation between Iraqi and American soldiers preceded the gunfire in Mosul, but he said he had no information on the shooter's motive. He said U.S. and Iraqi officials are jointly investigating the incident."
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG) Staffan de Mistura expressed his shock and outrage at the continued targeting and killing of religious minorities, following the murder of two Christian sisters in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, which has recently seen thousands of its inhabitants flee their homes after a campaign of threats and attacks.
The SRSG noted that this cowardly attack came hours after the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported that some recently displaced Christian families are beginning to return to Mosul as the security situation in the city shows signs of improvement.
He said Mosul has historically been and must remain the cradle of religious and ethnic diversity, reiterating the United Nations' position that respecting and guaranteeing the rights of minorities in Iraq is "absolutely fundamental to a stable and democratic future for our country."
Mr. de Mistura called on the Iraqi Government authorities to do everything in their power to safeguard the human rights and protection of Christian, Yezidis, Shabak and other minorities -- all of whome have been the victims of terrible attacks -- and to ensure that those responsible for these attacks are swiftly brought to justice. The SRSG also urged local authorities, as well as the Kurdistan Regional Government, to assist in protecting the rights of minorities and their religious identity, as well as in ending impunity for these criminal attacks.
That's in reference to the Mosul attack that left 2 women dead and a third wounded. Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) notes, "On Wednesday, two Christian sisters were gunned down in Mosul and their mother was wounded. When police responded, unknown assailants detonated a roadside bomb, wounding three officers. The shooting underscores Christian fears in the city. Ten thousand or more Christians fled the city last month after a spate of about 15 killings of Christians in just two weeks." Sam Dagher (New York Times) explains that the older sister was Lamia Subaih Daoud, who worked for the municpal government and was the mother of three small children, was murdered first while waiting outside the family home on a bus and the assailants then stormed the house and shot dead the woman's twenty-three-year-old sister and wounded the women's mother. Dagher notes that Lamia's three children were asleep in the home "and survived the attack." The Melbourne Herald Sun supplies the name of the younger sister, "The intruders killed Lamia and Walaa Sabih and wounded their mother before booby-trapping the house. When police arrived a bomb went off, wounding two of them, an officer said on condition of anonymity." Asia News explains while both sisters were shot, the mother was attacked with a knife, that both sisters worked for the Office of the Treasurer of the Municipality of Wala, that their names were Lamia Sobhy Salloha and Walaa Sobhy Salloha and, "According to eyewitnesses the attack was carried out by a gang of 16-to-18 year olds who after attacking the residents of the house placed a bomb at the entrance and detonated it when a group of police agents came to the scene, killing two and wounding others." Aid to the Church in Need's John Pontifex (at Australia's Christian Today) observes, "Christians and other minorities are saying that the incident casts doubt on the Iraqi government's bid to improve security with a massively increased police presence in the city. . . . Speaking from northern Iraq in an interview with ACN, Fr Bashar Warda, who has overseen the charity's emergency relief programmes for people fleeing Mosul, said today's incident was having a 'dramatic' effect on the faithful, who now fear another wave of attacks against them. Fr Warda said: 'It is clear that many would think of leaving Mosul again. The government is trying to say the city is now safe and then suddenly you have incidents like this'." UPI notes: "Iraqi Christians began issuing accounts of targeted attacks against their community in July when parishioners claimed an Islamic group called "The Battalion of Just Punishment, Jihad Base in Mesopotamia" sent threatening letters to several churches." ZENIT quotes an Iraqi "Catholic leader" stating, "The government is trying to deceive the outside world, making them believe that they are acting correctly and that Christians are safe. In reality the situation is still very challenging."
Raheem Salman, Usama Redha and Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) offer an overview of violence in Iraq:
Since Monday, according to police statistics, roadside bombs, car bombs and suicide bombers wearing explosive belts have killed 58 people in the capital. Deaths elsewhere included two Christian women who police said were killed by unidentified gunmen in the northern city of Mosul, where Christians say they have been caught in the middle of a war for power between Kurds and Arabs.
Several Iraqis who witnessed the violence noted the heavy presence of Iraqi security checkpoints near Saadoun Street, in the eastern part of the capital, and elsewhere and said it showed that nobody could be trusted to keep them safe. Some also said it was a sign that Iraqi forces were not ready to protect the city if U.S. troops withdrew.
U.S. military officials said that this week's violence, coming after a steady downward trend in attacks, does not mean insurgents are staging a comeback, and they disputed the casualty figures provided by Iraqi sources.
Baghdad and its environs continue to experience an average of four attacks a day on security forces and civilians, compared with more than 20 a day about a year ago, Army Brig. Gen. William Grimsley, deputy commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad, said Monday after bombers killed 31 people in northeast Baghdad's Kasra district.
In some of today's reported violence . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing that claimed 1 life and left seven injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing that left six injured, a Mosul car bombing that claimed 1 life and left sixteen injured and a Mosul roadside bombing that left 2 people dead.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 police officer shot dead in Diyala Province.
In diplomatic news, Iraq's Ministry of Foreign Affairs notes the department's minister Hoshyar Zebari and his Syrian counterpart Walid Moallem held a press conference yesterday in Damascus where they "discussed ways to develop and activate bilateral relations between the two countries," Zebari alluded to Iraq sending an ambassador to Damascus and he "explained the positive results of his visit and his meetings with President Bashar al-Assad, and delivered the letter of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to president Asaad regarding the Iraqi government's stance on the US-Iraqi security agreement and stages of negotiation. Foreign Minister Zebari also stressed the Iraqi government's refusal to use Iraqi territory as a platform to launch military operations against Syria or any of the neighboring countries and expressed sympathy and solidartiy with the Syrian people."
Tuesday's snapshot noted on IVAW's co-chair Adam Kokesh's court appearance for being the victim of police state actions carried out Oct. 15th in Hempstead, NY on himself and thirteen other IVAW members who were trying to deliver debate questions for Senators John McCain and Barack Obama.. Kimberly Wilder (On The Wilder Side) provides an update, "I attended court today in the stands for Adam Kokesh. Adam was there with his attorney, and some other supporters. More to follow, and possibly a few photos of Adam and his attorney. The main outcome: Adam Kokesh will have his trial on Thursday, December 11th. Sounds like the trial would happen sometime after 10am. In addition, Wednesday, December 10th and Thurs. Dec. 11th are appearance dates for some of the other Hempstead 15. So, we will standby for which dates the IVAW folks would prefer the community come out in full force for." Adam (Adam Kokesh - Revolutionary Patriot) explains, "In requesting that I be released on my own recognizance (or ROR as everyone else had been) so I could get my bail money returned, my attorney was told by the prosecutor that he would like to have my bail raised! The judge declined, but that would have put me in jail again until I could get bail posted at the raised amount. The judge also declined Mr. Moore's motion to dismiss, or take an ACD, adjourn in contemplation of dismissal. The prosecutor conferred with the police officer who would be testifying, and came up with a date to schedule the trial. So trial is now scheduled for 9:30 AM on December 11th. For reasons I can't discuss, we are very excited about this going to trial." IVAW has just published Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan: Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupation in book form.
Turning to the 2008 presidential election, On The Wilder Side notes that Green Party of Connecticut officials have registered an objection that "'REGISTERED' WRITE IN votes were not counted in all towns across the state, as required by state law". Rebecca addressed the topics of write-ins Friday and noted that Cynthia McKinney (Green Party presidential candidate) received only 53 votes in Connecticut and Rebecca focused on Texas where the Ralph Nader - Matt Gonzalez ticket allegedly received 3,053. It appears many states have areas that were 'selective' in their counting. [That is not questioning the outcome or saying "The election was stolen!" That is noting write-in votes appear not to have been counted.] Joel S. Hirschhorn (Dissident Voice) reviews the election numbers:
This year, among the four most significant third-party presidential candidates, Ralph Nader without a national party did the best with 685,426 votes or 0.54 percent of the grand total (a little better than in 2004 with 0.4 percent but much worse than in 2000 running as a Green Party candidate with 2.7 percent). He was followed by Bob Barr the Libertarian Party candidate with 503,981 votes or 0.4 percent of the total (typical of all Libertarian candidates in recent elections, including Ron Paul in 1988), followed by Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party with just 181,266 votes or 0.1 percent, and then Cynthia McKinney of the Green Party with only 148,546 votes or 0.1 percent.
Showing the problem of ballot access, engineered by the two major parties, is that there were only 15 states where all four were on the ballot. In all but one, Nader received more votes than the other three third-party candidates. In four states only one of the four candidates was on the ballot; in one state none of them were ( Oklahoma ).
Nader's best state was California with 81,434 votes, as it was for McKinney's with 28,624 votes. Baldwin was not on the ballot there. Alan Keyes received 30,787 votes in California . Barr's best state was Texas with 56,398 votes. None of the other three were on the ballot there. In his home state of Georgia where he had been a Representative Barr received 28,420 votes (and none of the other three were on the ballot). Baldwin's best state was Michigan with 14, 973 votes. Nader was not on the ballot there.
In round numbers, Barack Obama raised $639 million or about $10 per vote, and John McCain raised $360 million or $6 per vote, compared to Ralph Nader with $4 million and $6 per vote, Bob Barr with about $1 million or $2 per vote, and Cynthia McKinney with only about $118,000 or less than $1 per vote. Money matters, but the ability of the two-party duopoly to keep third-party presidential candidates out of nationally televised debates matters more for media attention, money and votes.
Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader sounds warnings (at CounterPunch) today:
To its everlasting credit, the conservative American Bar Association sent to President Bush three reports in 2005-2006 concluding that he has been engaged in continuing serious violations of the Constitution. This is no one-time Watergate obstruction of justice episode ala Nixon that led to his resignation just before his impeachment in the House of Representatives.
Nearly two years ago Senator Obama, contrary to what he knows and believes, vigorously came out against the House commencing impeachment proceedings. It would be too divisive, he said. As one of one hundred Senators who might have had to try the President and Vice President in the Senate were the House to impeach. He should have kept impartial and remained silent on the subject.
As President, he cannot remain silent and do nothing, otherwise he will inherit the war crimes of Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney and become soon thereafter a war criminal himself. Inaction cannot be an option.
Violating the Constitution and federal laws is now routine. What is routine after awhile becomes institutionalized lawlessness by official outlaws.
Domestic Policy abuses are also rampant. Just what are the limits of the statutory authority of the U.S. Treasury Department or the government within a government funded by bank assessments known as the Federal Reserve?
Don't read the $750 billion bailout law for any answers! The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi and the Majority Leader of the Senate, Harry Reid just sent a letter to Bush asking whether the White House believes the bailout law could be interpreted to save not just the reckless banks, but also the grossly mismanaged Big Three auto companies in Michigan.
Didn't Congress know what they were or were not authorizing? Or did the stampede started by the demanding Bush result in blanket, or panicked ambiguity by a cowardly Congress?
1- I didn't find this in the English media, but Arab media (including Al-Jazeera) reported today:
Iraqi Presidency Council said in its first reaction to Barak Obama winning the U.S. presidential election: there is only one U.S. policy in Iraq, and the changes that may occur during Obama's time "would be only technical."
2- As you've heard already, Obama picked congressman Rahm Emanuel to become the White House's chief of staff. Mr. Emanuel, an Israeli citizen who has served in the Israeli Army (he denies both), was the only one out of Illinois' nine congressmen who voted for the invasion of Iraq in 2002.
I know that the confetti has not settled down yet, but I think it's time already to ask the Obama-Biden campaign some questions about their foreign policy plans, especially regarding the U.S. role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and regarding ending the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
And winding this up, the GOP ticket was John McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin. The Republican governor's conference took place today and Texas Governor Rick Perry explained it was focused on "what's the Republican Party going to look like going forward." He then stated, "It gives me great deal of pleasure to introduce one of our collegues, one of America's great republican governors, Governor Sarah Palin."
Gov Sarah Palin: Thank you [to Rick Perry], thank you so much [to those assembled]. Thank you, Governor Perry. Thank you governors. Thank you very much. Thanks. Honored to be here and to speak with and to my fellow governors. It hasn't been that long since we all gathered. I don't know about you, but I managed to fill up the time. [Laughter] Let's see I had a baby, I did some traveling, I very briefly expanded my wardrobe [Laughter], I made a few speeches, I met a few VIPs including those who really impact society like Tina Fey [Laughter] and aside from that it was pretty much the same-old, same-old since we last gathered. But in the great campaign that has come and gone . . . And it was great. One of the nicer experiences that we had along the campaign trail was seeing so many of my RGA colleagues and I think you guys so much for your assistance with John McCain's good run. Each of you gave your all to the cause and were helpmates and positive additions to Senator McCain's good run. You were there to help when things were looking good and you were there to help when -- once in a while -- things weren't looking so good. And where I'm from in Alaska, life would be pretty lonely if all we had were fair weather friends. And you have been friends in all seasons and for that I will forever be grateful and I know Senator McCain also would be so appreciative.
Palin noted the campaign in her remarks.
Gov Sarah Palin: Along the trail, it was my husband, Todd, who was my right hand. And among his many willing -- winning qualities is the gift that he has of optimism and just thankfulness in all situations that he finds. And going forward, I'm going to count on those qualities a little more even. Because of course there was a disappointment after a loss in a national election like that. You run to win. You run the race to win. It's kind of relying on Todd with that optimism and the thanfkulness in all situations that I'm certainly going to be there with him along those lines. But far from returning to the great state of Alaska with any sense of sorrow or regret, we carried with us the best of memories and joyful experiences that really do not depend at all on political victory. For years to come, I'm going to remember all the young girls who came up to me at rallies to see the first woman having the privilege of carrying our party's VP nomination. And they inspired me. With an extra hurdel or two in front of us and in front of these young girls, I fell that we've got this mutually beneficial relationship now -- me and these young girls -- where we're going to work hareder. We're going to be stronger. We're going to do better. And one day, one of them will be the president because in America there will be no ceilings on achievement -- glass or otherwise. [Applause begins and grows ] And if I can help point the way -- [Pauses for applause to die down.] If I can help point the way for these young women or inspire them to tap into their own gifts and talents and strengths -- to find their own opportunities -- Well, it is a privilege.