Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Abdul Aziz al-Hakim has passed away . . . and, oh yeah, the death the media's glomming on as well

A death with significant implications has broken in the news.

File:Al-Hakim meets G.W. Bush.jpg

Yes, we mean Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. The Iraqi leader with ties to Iran -- pictured above with good buddy Bully Boy Bush. As noted June 3rd on Nouri's trip to Iran:

Iran's Press TV reported he flew to "Hakim's bedside in Tehran" this weekend because Abdul Aziz al-Hakim is receiving treatments for cancer. al-Hakim, like Nouri, is an Iraqi chicken who ran to exile, stayed in exile for decades and then, after the US invasion, was a 'respected' Iraqi . . . in the eyes of the US. al-Hakim grew up in Najaf and left Iraq in 1980 for Iran. Robin Wright (Washington Post) reported May 19, 2007 that al-Hakim had gone to Houston due to lung cancer: "Vice President Cheney played a role in arranging for Hakim to see U.S. military doctors in Baghdad, who made the original diagnosis, and for the current medical treatment in Houston, the sources said."

He has died. CNN notes, "Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim spent years in Iran as an exile, but returned to Iraq in 2003 following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. He had been an ally of both the United States and Iran." BBC observes of his political party Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC and ISCI), "The party has several senior cabinet members, and its militia - the Badr Brigade - wields considerable influence in Iraq's security establishment." Iran's Press TV calls SIIC "Iraq's most powerful party" and adds, "The death of Hakim will add to political uncertainty ahead of national polls in January and after a series of devastating bombings. " China's People's Daily Online (link has text and audio -- audio is in English) notes al-Hakim "became a member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council and served as its rotating presidency in December 2003." Iran's Fars News Agency adds, "Mohsen Hakim announced that the body of his father will be transferred to the holy city of Najaf in southern Iraq for funeral processions, reminding that the time and location of the ceremony for the Iraqi leader will be announced later. " The Iranian Students News Agency explains, "Since his hospitalization in Tehran, his elder son Ammar Hakim has taken control of the SIIC." Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters)reports that Ammar al-Hakim is expected to be his "likely successor as party leader" and adds:

Although ISCI lost ground to Maliki's Dawa in provincial elections last January, the well-organized and well-funded party has major clout and will be a formidable competitor in January.
ISCI has several members in top ministerial posts, and has influence in Iraq's security forces, which include members of ISCI's armed affiliate, the Badr Organization.
ISCI derives much of its support from the Hakim family name, revered among Shi'ites for its lineage of scholars and sacrifice in the face of assaults by Saddam and later by Sunni insurgents during the bloodshed that raged after the U.S. invasion.
Hakim's son Ammar appears to have been groomed for succession, given his regular appearances on behalf of and next to his father, but there are other key figures in the party.

The death will leave ripples throughout the political community in Iraq and raises many issues. Yesterday's snapshot covered the new Shi'ite coalition and noted Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) report on the new political coalition: "The 10-party Iraqi National Alliance includes two groups whose leaders are both in Iran -- the country's largest Shiite party, cleric Abdul Azis al-Hakim's Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, and the bloc of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr." Robert Dreyfuss (The Nation) was also noted in yesterday's snapshot and we'll note the opening paragraph to his "'Iraq Will Be A Colony of Iran':"

Iraq's Shiite religious parties, most with ties to Iran, have reestablished a political bloc called the Iraqi National Alliance. Among its founders are Ahmad Chalabi, the revered darling of US neoconservatives such as Richard Perle and Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute; Muqtada al-Sadr, the brooding, mercurial mullah who has mysteriously retreated to Qom, Iran's religious capital, for quick-study lessons on how to become an ayatollah; and, of course, Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, one of the founders of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which has changed its name but not its spots. SCIRI, the anchor of the new coalition, is now called the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), but it still acts as an arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which founded it in 1982, and its paramilitary Badr Brigade -- also a part of the new Iraqi alliance -- is a terrorist unit that operates pro-Iran death squads in Iraq.

Expect to see left outlets pore over the death and it's meaning, especially in terms of the ongoing illegal war . . . Oh wait. It's Iraq. They'll continue to ignore it.

Interestingly, Amy Goodman's already playing ghoul keeper on Democracy Sometimes! and turning her show today over to 'memories' of Ted Kennedy who has died of a brain tumor at the age of 77 after serving 46 years in the US Senate. Ted knew he was sick and should have stepped down. He was trying to alter the process for being replaced last week. Though he was allegedly making headway, his death changes that. Now that he's dead, no new laws can be passed because that's changing the rules once the game started.

Like his brothers, Ted enjoyed games and it's a credit to the tremendous strength of Joan Kennedy that she has survived post-marriage to Ted. When I heard the news last night, we were sharing tales including with a friend (male) who was with another friend (also male) in the hot tub with a bunch of what we will charitably call "starlets" in 1980 when Ted showed up looking for more funds for his run for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. Ted didn't hestitate to strip naked in front of all (never did) and hop in the tub and quickly become very good friends with two of the "starlets" until his advisors insisted (about 45 minutes later) that it was time to leave. I shared stories of Ted's love of the grape.

And when you listen to Amy Goodman, marvel over the fact that Walter Cronkite, a flawed but nice man who did leave a mark in broadcast journalism, was raked over the coals when he died. Yes, Amy had Danny Schecter on and Danny spoke kindly of Walter but she also had Robert Parry, still caught in Christopher Hitchens mode, trashing Walter -- and let's note, trashing him for things that were so stupid. But Ted?

"Liberal lion." Really? Some might say liberal failure. I'm confused, what did Ted lead on? I know what he opposed. He was also great at making speeches especially when he needed more campaign cash. But Ted led when? If he were a Baldwin brother, he'd be Stephen. And Stephen Baldwin's nice enough but he's outshone by all his brothers especially Alec and William.

"Liberal lion." But he gave us the hideous "No Child Left Untested" -- er, "No Child Left Behind." Bush couldn't have sold that without Ted's huge support. No Child Left Behind has done tremendous damage and because Barack's on board with it, it will continue to do so. Little known fact, the non-star Kennedys? Tend to work in fields that benefit from standardized testing being enforced. Never heard about that, now did you? Won't hear about it in the wake of Ted's death apparently either. No Child Left Behind was as helpful to the lower rung Kennedys as Bully Boy Bush was to brother Neilsie.

What did Ted accomplish? 46 years in the Senate? That's something to be proud of? He should be embarrassed that for his last year, he served despite not being able to attend. He made the case for mandatory retirement in Congress. They won't push it but they should. When you're 76 years old and you're diagnosed with terminal cancer, time to get out of the Senate.

That's not debatable.

Remember the lie? This year's lie? Don't Ask, Don't Tell would be repealed! And Ted was going to lead the fight in the Senate. Pointing out that reality here led to a lot of drive-bys, many insisting Ted was coping and would lead on the issue. Ted's dead. It's only a shock if you weren't in the know. That's why he was trying to shove Caroline into the Senate, he knew he was dying. His diagnosis was not one that treatment (especially at his age) means a long life or even a few good years. He knew that.

And so did Senate leaders. So when you were told Ted was to be the leader on this issue, you were LIED to. And Ted was used because the press couldn't get to him.

Congressional leaders have NO interest in repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell at this time. That's this year or next. Next year especially, which is an election year. There are more than enough votes in the House to repeal it (that's less the case in the Senate) but leadership in Congress fears repealing it means starting another "gay issue" (as it was explained to me by the White House). So Barack's not leading on it and Congress isn't. It's not getting repealed. Wake up to the fact that a push to make it appear that it would be was nothing but an effort to shut up the LGBT community.

Ted Kennedy's dead and you wonder if anyone will observe as Robin Morgan (at Women's Media Center) did back in 2008: "Young political Kennedys -- Kathleen, Kerry, and Bobby Jr. -- all endorsed Hillary. Senator Ted, age 76, endorsed Obama. If the situation were reversed, pundits would snort 'See? Ted and establishment types back her, but the forward-looking generation backs him.' (Personally, I'm unimpressed with Caroline's longing for the Return of the Fathers. Unlike the rest of the world, Americans have short memories. Me, I still recall Marilyn Monroe's suicide, and a dead girl named Mary Jo Kopechne in Chappaquiddick.)."

Walter Cronkite didn't drive in a car with any woman who ended up dead on the journey. But Walter got ripped apart by Amy Goodman and company. Ted? Hearts and flowers for someone I will say was ususally a nice man (but I'm a big money donor, had I been a woman who wasn't, I doubt that would be the case -- don't forget Ted was present when the rape took place -- but no one will mention William Kennedy Smith. (And, yes, it was rape. And, yes, the family knew that and you should have seen them work the phones to build up support for the rapist.)

Walter Cronkite was a kind person. As flawed as any of us. (Some, like myself, are hugely flawed. So Walter Cronkite and Ted Kennedy were far less flawed than I am.) But when Amy Goodman remembered Walter, she had to go ugly. With Ted, she can't even address reality.

And, point of fact, at 77-years-old, the symbolic senator who accomplished damn little (to have that safe seat and have accomplished so little is sad) really doesn't mean a great deal beyond the loss to his family and friends. Contrast that with the death of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim which will not lead to endless hours of discussion though it actually should for the future implications it will have on Iraq.

Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan remembers Ted Kennedy and notes:

I would like to extend my sincere condolences to the Kennedy family and the people of Massachusetts on the death of Senator Edward Kennedy.
I was invited to visit with the Senator in September of 2005 right after my first foray into presidential vacation adventures. I walked into an office on Capitol Hill that was a mini American History Museum. The Senator displayed his own art, memorabilia from the Kennedy family and even framed child's artwork from his children and various nieces and nephews.

Cindy is on the Vineyard and we'll note this:

MARTHA'S VINEYARD---CINDY SHEEHAN, Peace Activist, Gold Star Mother, Organizer of 'Camp Casey' memorials and a nominee for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize, will be arriving on Martha's Vineyard on Tuesday August 25, to confront President Obama on his engagement in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. She will issue a challenge to Obama on his escalation of troop presence in the Middle East and his continuation of war policies around the globe.

Her schedule of public events is as follows:

Wednesday, Aug. 26, 11am, Press Conference at Oak Bluffs Elementary School.

Wednesday, Aug. 26, 8pm, Peace Vigil, Ocean Park Bandstand, Oak Bluffs.

Thursday, Aug. 27, Friday, Aug. 28 and Saturday, Aug. 29: Boat trips with Cindy for peace movement leaders, press and public. These 'shipboard peace summit' meetings will leave Vineyard Haven twice daily on the 105 foot sloop 'SS Camp Casey' in the afternoons. Call for details. No charge, so reserve ahead. 207-604-8988 or email:

Saturday Aug. 29, 9 to 5 Peace Vigil Ocean Park, Oak Bluffs
and Walkabout around the Island

Saturday, Aug. 29, 8pm Cindy Sheehan speaking event "Peace Now, Again", Katharine Cornell Theater, 54 Spring St., Vineyard Haven.

Cindy is scheduling press and media interviews throughout the week. Call Laurie Dobson at 207-604-8988 or email: or Bruce Marshall at 802-767-6079.

In addition to these planned events, there will be impromptu gatherings during the week. A memorial site will be present on the island with an outdoor area designated as 'Camp Casey', a living tribute to her son Casey Sheehan, who died in the Iraq War, as well as honoring others who were war casualties.

The SS Camp Casey will welcome all those who wish to come to meet Cindy.She will be also available on the Vineyard for gatherings of visitors, which will be open to the public, the press, and anyone desiring to connect with those for whom the costs of war are a daily reality in their lives.

For information on the events, please contact Chris Fried at (508)-693-7741 and for information about Cindy, please contact Laurie Dobson at (207)-604-8988 or email:

No Vacations for Body Bags!
Cindy Sheehan on Dylan Ratigan, MSNBC, 21viii09

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Turning to the issue of veterans' health, from Monday's snapshot:

Today the Dept of Veterans Affairs announced that compensation claims for PTSD would be simplified: "The VA is publishing a proposed regulation today in the Federal Register to make it easier for a Veteran to claim service connection for PTSD by reducing the evidence needed if the stressor claimed by a Veteran is related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity. Comments on the proposed rule will be accepted over the next 60 days. A final regulation will be published after consideration of all comments received. Under the new rule, VA would not require corroboration of a stressor related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity if a VA psychiatrist or psychologist confirms that the stressful experience recalled by a Veteran adequately supports a diagnosis of PTSD and the Veteran's symptoms are related to the claimed stressor."

Those are issues US House Rep John Hall has worked on and is still working on (DoD's change, though welcome, does not go far enough). His office released the following yesterday:

Washington, DC – U.S. Rep. John Hall (D-Dover) today applauded the announcement by Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is proposing a new rule to make it easier for veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to receive the benefits they have earned. This new rule is another step forward toward full adoption of Hall's COMBAT PTSD Act (H.R. 952), legislation Hall wrote and passed through the full House Veterans' Affairs Committee to remove evidentiary hurdles that veterans seeking service-connection for PTSD currently face.
"I am optimistic that this new rule is going to be a giant step forward in getting veterans the benefits they have earned faster and easier," said Hall. "This rule should make major progress in clearing the VA's claims backlog. I will work with the VA and veterans during the comment period to ensure that the rule in application is as comprehensive and inclusive as my COMBAT PTSD Act."
Congressman Hall serves as Chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, which has jurisdiction over the VA's compensation system. Hall has been working for two years to change regulations at the VA that he says make it far too difficult for veterans seeking disability benefits. He has met with President Obama and VA Secretary Shinseki to urge them to change the way PTSD claims are handled at the VA. After Hall held several subcommittee hearings on the need for the COMBAT ACT, the VA acknowledged the need for such a change and committed to drafting a proposed rule.
"Veterans currently face an adversarial process when they seek treatment and compensation from the VA," said Chairman Hall. "Our servicemen and women have been forced to 'prove' a specific stressor that triggered their PTSD, even if they have already been diagnosed. They need to track down incident reports, buddy statements, present medals, and leap other hurdles to meet the threshold that VA mandates in order to receive desperately needed compensation. Just as our military adapts and reforms its strategies in every war it fights, the VA is now adapting to assist the surviving heroes of those wars."

Hall's Combat Act would expand the definition of "combat with the enemy" in Title 38, USC to include active service in a theater of combat. Currently rules state that women are not allowed to serve in combat rules, so women often have a more difficult burden of proof when seeking service-connected benefits for PTSD. The COMBAT Act would essentially establish service in combat as the presumptive stressor for the incurrence of PTSD. The veteran would still need to be clinically diagnosed with PTSD, however, he or she would no longer need to "prove" the events that caused this diagnosis.
The VA published a proposed regulation yesterday in the Federal Register to make it easier for a Veteran to claim service connection for PTSD by reducing the evidence needed if the stressor claimed by a Veteran is related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity. Comments on the proposed rule will be accepted over the next 60 days. A final regulation will be published after consideration of all comments received.
Under the new rule, VA would not require corroboration of a stressor related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity if a VA psychiatrist or psychologist confirms that the stressful experience recalled by a Veteran adequately supports a diagnosis of PTSD and the Veteran's symptoms are related to the claimed stressor.
Previously, claims adjudicators were required to corroborate that a non-combat Veteran actually experienced a stressor related to hostile military activity. This rule would simplify the development that is required for these cases.

Independent journalist David Bacon is noted for his photography and his latest exhibit is "People of the Harvest, Indigenous Mexican Migrants in California." The reception for it takes place tomorrow evening at 6:00 pm at the Asian Resource Gallery (310 Eight Street at Harrison, Oakland, CA). The exhibit runs through next month and the gallery's hour are nine in the morning until six in the evening, Monday through Friday. Immigrant Rights News carries the following:

People of the Harvest is part of a larger project, Living Under the Trees, that documents the lives of communities of indigenous Mexican farm workers in California, through documentary photographs. The photographs in People of the Harvest were taken in 2009.
It's no accident the state of Oaxaca is one of the main starting points for the current stream of Mexican migrants coming to the United States. Extreme poverty encompasses 75 percent of its 3.4 million residents.
Thousands of indigenous people leave Oaxaca's hillside villages for the United States every year, not only for economic reasons but also because a repressive political system thwarts the kind of economic development that could lift incomes in the poorest rural areas. Lack of development pushes people off the land.
The majority of Oaxacans are indigenous people-that is, they belong to communities and ethnic groups that existed long before Columbus landed in the Caribbean. They speak 23 different languages.
"Migration is a necessity, not a choice," explains Romualdo Juan Gutierrez Cortez, a teacher in Santiago Juxtlahuaca, in Oaxaca's rural Mixteca region.
In California, indigenous migrants have become the majority of people working in the fields in many areas, whose settlements are dispersed in an indigenous diaspora. This movement of people has created transnational communities, bound together by shared culture and language, and the social organizations people bring with them from place to place.
People of the Harvest documents the experiences and conditions of indigenous farm worker communities. It focuses on social movements in indigenous communities and how indigenous culture helps communities survive and enjoy life. The project's purpose is to win public support for policies helping those communities to achieve social and political rights and better economic conditions.
The communities documented in this show are locacted in Arvin, Taft, Oxnard and Santa Paula, Santa Maria, Fresno, Greenfield, Watsonville and Marysville. They include Mixtecos, Triquis, Zapotecos, Chatinos and Purepechas.
The photographs are digital color images, which focus on the relationship between community residents and their surroundings, and their relations with each other. They present situations of extreme poverty, but they also show people as actors, capable of changing conditions, organizing themselves, and making critical decisions.
The project is a partnership between David Bacon, documentary photographer and journalist (The Children of NAFTA, UC Press, 2004, Communities Without Border, Cornell/ILR Press, 2006, and Illegal People - How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants, Beacon Press, 2008), California Rural Legal Assistance, especially its Indigenous Farm Worker Project, and the Binational Front of Indigenous Organizations (FIOB). Special thanks to Rick Mines and the Indigenous Farmworker Study, funded by the California Endowment, who made the documentation in People of the Harvest possible.

David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which just won the CLR James Award. Bacon is also on KFPA's The Morning Show today (each Wednesday) discussing labor and immigration issues.

Women won the right to vote with the 19th Amendment which reads: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation." Noting this sent to the public e-mail account:

To commemorate the anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, August 26th, the HerStory Scrapbook website ( is a compilation of over 900 links to articles, editorials, and letters in The New York Times Archive regarding the final four years of the fight for women’s suffrage.

The e-mail address for this site is

cindy sheehan