Monday, September 28, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri gets even cozier with his 'friends,' former Ba'athists in Syria get some press attention, Ehren Watada gets some good and long overdue news, and more.
Violence in Iraq today gets attention. Timothy Williams (New York Times) says 18 dead and fifty-eight injured -- actually the numbers higher -- and that "both Shiite and Sunni areas of the country" were attacked.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports two Baghdad roadside bombings which resulted in the deaths of 3 Iraqi soldiers and twenty-nine people wounded, a Saqlawiyah house bombing (home belonged to "an intelligence employee"), a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the lives of 2 police officers (two more wounded) and an Anbar Province suicide bombing in which a man took his own life and the lives of 6 police officers (eight more wounded). Imad al-Khuzaii, Mohammed Abbas, Missy Ryan, Dominic Evans and David Stamp (Reuters) note the suicide bombing involved "water tanker truck packed with explosives". Xinhua adds, "The bomber rammed his explosive-laden car into the entrance of the police station in the city of Rawa, some 250 km northwest of Baghdad". Reuters notes a Tal Afar bombing in which 2 people died (one person was injured), a Riyadh mortar attack left three people injured and, dropping back to Sunday, a Kirkuk bombing which injured a police officer. Imad al-Khuzaii, Mohammed Abbas, Missy Ryan and Dominic Evans (Reuters) report a minibus sticky bombing has led to 3 deaths and two people injured in Saniya.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 elderly man (retired police officer) was shot dead in Mosul. Reuters reports 1 man shot dead in Baghdad (according to Iraqi police) and that Iraqi forces shot dead 2 'suspects'.
Iran's Press TV reports the corpses of 4 "Kurdish militiamen" were discovered "between Mosul and Tal Afar with gunshot wounds in the head."
Thursday, there was a prison break in Tikrit with sixteen prisoners escaping and, by yesterday, 6 of the 16 were said to have been captured. Saturday CNN reported 2 more escapees were captured this morning during "house-to-house searches" for a total of 8 prisoners now captured. Xinhua reported Saturday that a US military drone crashed in Mosul. Jamal al-Badrani, Mohammed Abbas and Robin Pomeroy (Reuters) added "that the drone struck the local offices of the Iraqi Islamic Party, Iraq's biggest Sunni Arab political group, the military said." Timothy Williams (New York Times) explained, "The American military said it was not clear why the small remotely operated plane fell from the sky in the Ghizlani neighborhood in west Mosul, one of the most violent areas of a multiethnic city contested by various religious and ethnic groups." September 14th, US Air Force announced: "An Air Force MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft crashed in central Iraq at approximately 12:45 p.m. Baghdad time on Sept.14. The crash was not due to hostile fire. The crash site has been secured and there were no reports of civilian injuries or damage to civilian property. The aircraft is a medium-altitude, long-endurance, remotely-piloted aircraft. The MQ-1's primary mission is conducting armed reconnaissance. A board will be convened to investigate the incident." Mike noted that in real time. So this is at least the second drone crash this month.
As violence continues, Nouri al-Maliki, thug of the occupation, continues to hold hands with those who traffic in violence. Friday's snapshot included Anne Tang (Xinhua) report where she quoted Nouri al-Maliki, thug of the occupation, stated of allegedly violent prisoners in Iraqi prisons, "Those people, who had been involved in killing Iraqis must be punished. [. . .] We hear voices calling for release of criminals under claim that they have been defending rights of minorities and (religious) sects, forgetting that those criminals had been behind catastrophes." Nouri's words were laughable then and only more so after the weekend's news. So happily in in bed with the League of Righteous that no only will he sleep in the wet spot, he'll also release them from Iraqi prisons. For those late to the party, the League of Righteous has claimed credit for the deaths of 5 US service members and for the deaths of 4 British citizens (three confirmed dead, four assumed) and they continue to, presumably, hold a fifth. Let's go to the June 9th snapshot:
This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."
Those are the names of the 5 US service members that the League of Righteous claim credit for killing. Let's name the five British citizens kidnapped in Baghdad May 29, 2007: Alec Maclachlan, Jason Crewswell, Alan McMenemy, Peter Moore and Jason Swindelhurst. All but Alan McMenemy and Peter Moore have been turned over dead. The British government assumes that Alan McMenemy is dead while his loved ones continue to hope otherwise. Peter Moore is considered to be alive at this point by the British government. Today BBC News reports that an inquest has been informed Alec Maclachlan died of "a gunshot wound to the head."
"Those people, who had been involved in killing Iraqis must be punished. [. . .] We hear voices calling for release of criminals under claim that they have been defending rights of minorities and (religious) sects, forgetting that those criminals had been behind catastrophes," asserted Nouri. But killing US service members and British citizens is apparently okay? And did we mention that the theory in the British press is that the five British citizens were kidnapped because Peter Moore's work was revealing corruption in Nouri's ministries?
Sunday Muhanad Mohammed, Suadad al-Salhy, Mohammed Abbas, Missy Ryan and Sonya Hepinstall (Reuters) reported that more members of the League of Righteous were released from jail this weekend: "Many of a total of around 100 prisoners released in recent days were part of the Shi'ite militant group Asaib al-Haq, or Leagues of Righteousness, said Jassim al-Saedi, a senior member of the group. He said negotiations were ongoing to secure the release of up to 500 more Asaib al-Haq detainees. " He's quoted saying 200 members of the group will be released when they're done but only 97 have been released so far. The group differs over the numbers. AFP quoted League of the Righteous spokesperson Salam al-Maliki who states, "I can confirm the release of a number of our group last night . . . 23 were freed yesterday. Eighty-seven of our group were released last week, and 120 are supposed to be freed this week." He brags about all the "negotiations we are holding with the Iraqi government." Xinhua adds, "Salm Al-Maliki, former Transport Minister, representing al-Sadr's bloc in former Shiite Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's government, said the release is 'part of an accord between the group and the current Iraqi government, led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.' He did not elaborate the accord."
Today Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) sums prior events this year, "Earlier this year, there were reports that negotiations linked to attempts to bring the League of Righteousness into the political process might secure the release of some or all of the five men. Three senior figures in the group, including Laith al-Khazali, the brother of its leader, were released by the Americans at the time. Instead, the bodies of three of them were handed over while the fourth security guard, Alan McMenemy, from Glasgow, was also said to be most probably dead by the government."
Reached for comment, Brian S. Freeman, Jacob N. Fritz, Johnathan B. Chism, Shawn P. Falter, Johnathon M. Millican, Alec Maclachlan, Jason Crewswell and Jason Swindelhurst said . . . Oh, they can't speak. They're dead. And their governments' alleged 'leaders' have chosen not to speak in defense of them. Instead it's make nice with Nouri and his friends who kill civilians and US service members. That's what happens when the US government decides to install thugs into leadership. And let's not pretend that this move doesn't betray everyone sent over to fight an illegal war in Iraq.
While Nouri rushes to big-tent with members of the League of Righteous, he continues to block efforts at bringing in former Ba'athists. This animosity is at the root of his efforts to create an international incident between his country and Syria where many former Ba'athists have moved to. Andrew Lee Butters (Time magazine) observes that "Maliki's government has shown little interest in even opening a dialogue with Syria or the former Baathists about their eventual return to Iraq." [Time has video of displaced Iraqis residing in Syria here.] Andrew Lee Butters notes that there are basically "two factions: a hard-line group led by a former vice president in Saddam's government, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, and a more moderate but less powerful group led by Muhammad Younis, a former adviser to Saddam's executive council. Younis's group began reaching out to the Iraqi government in 2007, holding a conference to reevaluate the mistakes of the Saddam regime, reject their old Baathist ideology, and adopt more democratic policies. (See pictures of Saddam Hussein.) Following the August bombings in Baghdad, al-Douri's faction has also shown signs of moderating. In an interview with TIME earlier this month, the unofficial spokesman for the group, Nizar Samra'y, said it is more concerned about the growing Iranian influence on Iraq's government than in forcing U.S. troops out of the country." Stephen Starr (Asia Times) quotes scholar and author Fadhil Rubayieh on the assertions by Nouri that the August 19th Baghdad bombings result from former Ba'athists in Syria, "I don't think any Iraqi Ba'athist people were responsible for the bombings -- there's no way they could have pulled off something as big as that. [It was] the biggest [bombing] in Iraq for six years. [. . .] Maliki does not want to see the Ba'athists succeed in regaining any sort of political legitimacy, and as such, blamed them for the bombing." Starr also notes what many avoid: the day before the bombing, Nouri was in Syria and demanding 179 former Ba'athists be handed over. His demand was rebuffed. Immediately after the bombings, Nouri begins insisting former Ba'athists were responsible and floating the laughable notion that the secular Ba'athists were now in partnership with the religious fundamentalists in al Qaeda of Mesopotamia.
Nouri's 'leadership' and other topics were addressed in the most recent episode of Inside Iraq which Al Jazeera began broadcasting Friday night.
Jasim al-Azzawi: To discuss the UN Commission to Human Development report in Iraq, I'm joined from Baghdad by Mahdi Hafedh -- a former Iraqi planning minister and one of the participants in the Paris roundtable discussions -- and from Washington by Stuart Bowen -- the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction -- and from London by Sami Ramadani -- a senior lecturer of sociology from the London Metropolitan University. Gentlemen, welcome to Inside Iraq. Mahdi Hafedh, you participated in this UNESCO roundtable discussion in Paris and the word "progress" was repeatedly mentioned by you as well as by other participants as well as the UNDP report. So what is the definition of "progress" when comes to Iraq?
Mahdi al-Hafedh: You see actually it is quite clear now. It is not easy to say this is a progress or not. The only thing I can say is that the report was not only about the sustainable development in Iraq but it was in general about the document itself. That is why I think that this matter has to be defined in a very clear way. This is what I understand from the progress in the report.
Jasim al-Azzawi: If we tackle the political aspect, Mr. Bowen, and you are a seasoned politician, you know this is an election season in Iraq so everybody is trying to say, "Iraq has left the woods, we are out of the tunnel and progress is all over the place." You are a frequent visitor to Iraq. Your organization is sanctioned by the US Congress. You elevate a quarterly report to Congress. From what you have seen, and you were in Iraq recently, can you say progress is at hand?
Stuart Bowen: Well there is progress but it is fragile. I was in Baghdad just over a month ago when the recent car bombings occurred. It reminded me of what I felt and saw in 2006 and 2007. Certainly one of the largest attacks in years in Iraq. Very devastating on the ministries effected. And-and I think it's-it's emblematic of the continuing challenges that the Iraqi security forces are going to face through this fall, through this very volatile election season.
Jasim al-Azzawi: And yet, Sami Ramadani, with two power centers in Iraq -- one in KRG and one in Baghdad -- and the constant tension between the two regions, let alone between the parties, the most critical thing for the Iraqi national reconciliations and yet it is not even on the horizon.
Sami Ramadani: Doesn't look like it. In fact, it's receding into the distance even further. And the two centers of power you mentioned are the two main centers of power. You could talk about even more centers of power. If you take the state of the country in general you'll find really practically there is no such thing as a proper central government in Iraq which has tremendous influence in the various regions. There is a state of disintegration in the country, I feel, administratively which reflects itself on the economic, political, social levels. There is a degree of chaos which is escalating rather than improving the country in general, Jasim.
Jasim al-Azzawi: And yet, Mahdi Hafedh, this period between now and the January election, when there is a general election, as well as when American forces start pulling en mass perhaps by summer of next year, is the most critical in the history of Iraq after 2003. As a politician and a member of the Iraqi list and a member of Parliament, do you see Iraqi politicians and power leaders and elites coming together to solve the issues?
Mahdi al-Hafedh: I don't think so because of all the problems in the country is depending upon how the other forces be able to cooperate with the others. For the time being, I feel that there is a bigger problem now and that's why I think it is still at the beginning and I feel that this will not be suddenly happen unless there is something to-to create those who are well understand each other.
Jasim al-Azzawi: Stuart Bowen, what is needed to break this deadlock that Madhi Hafedh alludes to?
Stuart Bowen: Well there are four issues that are confronting Iraq. They're not new ones but there very serious and they -- and they threaten the state. And they threaten -- they impede progress. Security, services, corruption and the Kurdish-Arab problem. On-on security, the August attack is-is just the most serious evidence of what has been a gradually increasing spate of attacks. Especially around Mosul and in the Kirkuk area in recent weeks. On services, I met with Deputy Prime Minister [Rafi al] Issawi during my August trip and he said that services, in his view, he's the -- he's the director of services for the Iraqi government, are worse now than they've been since 2003. That's a very serious concern for the Iraqis across the country, especially regarding access to electricity. He said in Baghdad, it's one to two, three hours a day. It's difficult to manage your business --
Jasim al-Azzawi: It makes you wonder whether it's lack of money, it's incompetence or, as you termed it once, this corruption which is eating the very fabric of Iraqi society as --
Stuart Bowen: Yes.
Jasim al-Azzawi: -- the second insurgency.
Stuart Bowen: That is the third issue, corruption. And -- and uh-uh-uh, Mr. Isawwi told me, as well as the members of the Council of Representatives who I met with on the Integrity Committee, those that work in the corruption fighting organizations in Iraq, that corruption is endemic, it effects every ministry and as Minister [Ali Gahlib] Baban the Minister of Planning told me at the end of last year, it's getting worse. And is certainly worse now than it has ever been. Uh, that coupled together with Kurdish-Arab conflicts in Iraq -- I went to Sulamaniyah [Province] during this August trip. I saw really an other Iraq. All the signs in Kurdish, Kurdish flags flying. For an Arab Iraqi to travel to Kurdistan, [they] have to show papers at the Green Line. These are little known facts that are evidence of, I think, a deep fissure that needs reconciliation and-and uh as-as was just said, reconciliation is slow in coming.
Jasim al-Azzawi: Sami Ramadani, listening to the two gentlemen, that must send shudders into your back.
Sami Ramadani: Well I think they're underestimating the problems in fact, Jassim. I think they're even worse. I mean, Stuart Bowen, for example, called them four-four problems. I see them as consequences. They might be problems in themselves now and they are obviously the four or five or six or seven main reasons for what is going on but ultimately all of these problems -- and Stuart alluded to some of them -- are consequences and they are consequences of the sanctions regime, thirteen years of sanctions, and the occupation of Iraq. The United States, having failed to control Iraq, relied on all manner of politicians who are self-seeking. Their political forces do not have genuine popular base in the country. And they rely on clans, on cliques and nepotism as a consequence as well. Corruption becomes a parallel. Corruption runs parallel to the fact that the United States increasingly relied on political figures and political forces which acquiesced with the occupation. And, by the way, Jasim, when we talk about services, we're talking about clean water. Clean water doesn't exist for most of the population now. Open sewers in the streets. I don't know if Stuart managed to visit some of the streets in Baghdad or the provinces. He would see the level of misery is unbelievable. The unemployment. Half of Iraq's doctors --
Jasim al-Azzawi: As a matter of fact, Sami Ramadani, --
Sami Ramadani: -- have left the country.
Jasim al-Azzawi: -- some of the people though have visited Iraq recently. I don't know whether it's their exaggeration but the way that they termed it, they said that it's "hell on earth." But Madhi Hafedh, would -- let me go on a limb and let me point a finger at perhaps the very cause of all this and correct me if I'm wrong. Is it the sectarian quota system that is ruling Iraq under the facade of democracy, is the mother of all problems?
Madhi al-Hafedh: Yes, it is. One of the reasons for that is that sectarianism has . . . [played the growth?]. And, in my opinion, this was one of the reason for this. I think that unless there is some measures to be taken, the problem will continue and then, in the meantime --
Jasim al-Azzawi: What measures? Like what?
Madhi al-Hafedh: I believe --
Jasim al-Azzawi: Like what? The Iraqi government including the Prime Minister is impotent in throwing anybody behind bars for stealing billions of dollars, so what is it -- what is it needed? I mean, al-Maliki himself says, "I cannot prosecute anybody."
Madhi al-Hafedh: Yes, this is true. I mean, al-Maliki is one person, although he is the most important person in the government, but there are several powers inside the government. You cannot speak anything now about Kurdistan. You cannot speak anything about the ministries where the other ministers from this or that group are ruling. In my opinion, that this has to be taken into consideration and this cannot be solved until the election takes place in January next year.
Meanwhile Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) reports continued problems luring foreign businesses to 'safe' Iraq: "A deal to lure $60 million in foreign capital -- one of only a handful of foreign investments in Iraq's state-owned industries -- collapsed. The American government recently gave the company $2.5 million to keep its main production line operating and its workers out of penury and, perhaps, insurgency." This as the International Business Times reports, "Oil and gas explorer Petrel Resources says its Subba and Luhais oilfield development in Iraq is at a standstill. Petrel generated no revenue in the six months to June 2009, against 8m in H1 2008. The company reported an interim loss of 0.228m, down from 0.417m." RTE Business quotes Petral's chair John Teeling stating, "Petrel is determined to stay in Iraq to participate in the growth."
Turning to peace news, Saturday Gregg K. Kakesako (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) reported that 1st Lt Ehren Watada will not "seek a second court-martial" and that they've "accepted the resignation of" Ehren and quotes Ehren stating, "The actual outcome is different from the outcome that I envisioned in the first place, but I am grateful of the outcome."
In June 2006, Ehren Watada became the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to the illegal war in Iraq. June 22, 2006, his unit deployed at 6:45 am and, as he had stated, he refused to deploy. For perspective, that was also the day the US Senate voted to end the illegal war by July 2007 -- a proposal made by US Senators Russ Feingold and John Kerry. Only 13 US senators voted to pull all troops by July of 2007.
Back then, the death toll for US service members in Iraq stood at 2512. It currently stands at 4346 and, no, the Iraq War has not ended.
In August 2006, an Article 32 hearing was held. Watada's defense called three witnesses, Francis A. Boyle of the University of Illinois' College of Law, Champagne; Denis Halliday, the former Assistant Secretary General of the UN; and retired Colonel Ann Wright. These three witnesses addressed the issue of the war, it's legality, and the responsibilities of a service member to disobey any order that they believed was unlawful. The testimony was necessary because Watada's refusing to participate in the illegal war due to the fact that he feels it is (a) illegal and (b) immoral. Many weeks and weeks later, the finding was released: the military would proceed with a court-martial.
On Monday, February 5, 2007, Watada's court-martial began. It continued on Tuesday when the prosecution argued their case. Wednesday, Watada was to take the stand in his semi-defense. Judge Toilet (John Head) presided and when the prosecution was losing, Toilet decided to flush the lost by declaring a mistrial over defense objection in his attempt to give the prosecution a do-over. Head was insisting then that a court-martial would begin against Watada in a few weeks when no court-martial could begin.
January 4, 2007, Head oversaw a pre-trial hearing. Head also oversaw a stipulation that the prosecution prepared and Watada signed. Head waived the stipulation through. Then the court-martial begins and Ehren's clearly winning. The prosecution's own military witnesses are becoming a problem for the prosecution. It's Wednesday and Watada's finally going to take the stand. Head suddenly starts insisting there's a problem with the stipulation. Watada states he has no problem with it. Well the prosecution has a problem with it and may move to a mistrial, Judge Toilet declares.
The prosecution prepared the stipulation and they're confused by Head's actions but state they're not calling for a mistrial or lodging an objection. That's on the record. Head then keeps pushing for a mistrial and the prosecution finally gets that Head is attempting to give them a do-over, at which point, they call for a mistrial.
The case has already started. Witnesses have been heard from. Double-jeopardy has attached. The defense isn't calling for a mistrial and Head rules a mistrial over defense objection and attempts to immediately schedule a new trial.
He's ignoring the US Constitution which forbids double-jeopardy. He thought he could give the prosectution a do-over. That's not how the justice system works in the US, double-jeopardy is banned. In November of 2007, US District Judge Benjamin Settle ruled, "The same Fifth Amendment protections are in place for military service members as are afforded to civilians. There is a strong public interest in maintaing these rights inviolate." The military stated then that they would appeal. October 22, 2008, Judge Settle ruled there could be no retrial on the charges of missing deployment, participating in a news conference or participating in the Veterans for Peace conference. That left two charges up in the air which were questionable because the strongest charge was always going to be "missing deployment."
Watada was kept in the military all this time. His service ended in December 2006. Or should have. He was kept in the service to prosecute him. He was kept in the service and kept in limbo. His service contract expired in December of 2006 and instead of discharging him then, the military wasted his time and countless US tax payer dollars to conduct a nearly three-year assault on him. Audrey Mcavoy (Breaking News 24/7) reports that October 2nd is when the US military will discharge Ehren. At which point, Ehren can finally get on with his life. Michael Tsai (Honolulu Advertiser) quotes Kenneth Kagan, one of Ehren's two civilian attorneys, stating, "When the Army realized they could not beat him in court, they threw up their hands and looked for some way to handle the situation quickly and quietly." Iraq Veterans Against the War's T.J. Buonomo reflects on Ehren's news:
I am moved beyond words to hear of the imminent release of Ehren Watada from the Army. Ehren's exemplary moral courage was a great inspiration to me as a young Army officer struggling with how to respond to the Bush administration's abuses of power- from their manipulation of prewar intelligence and deception of Congress to their sanctioning of torture to their efforts to subjugate the Iraqi people under foreign multinational corporations and financial institutions.
I recall signing a petition in support of Ehren while still an Army officer -- a document that later ended up in my personnel file while under investigation for exercising my First Amendment rights. Five months later I was involuntarily discharged from the Army and joined Iraq Veterans Against the War. I have since followed Ehren's case and was elated to read that a federal court had intervened on his behalf, reaffirming his constitutional right not to be held in double jeopardy.
From news of a service member to veterans news, Friday, the VA was in the news cycle for still, STILL, not sending the checks to veterans participating in the education programs under the new GI Bill. These checks would cover tuition, would cover books, would cover living expenses. The news media ran with the month of September but, in fact, as e-mails have reminded, for some universities, the fall semester started in August. At one point early in the day Friday, the VA was attempting to lie that they were waiting for adds and drops. That was a lie. First off, many veterans are having to take out emergency students loans at their universities. These are short term loans and, no, this was not planned. Second of all, drops don't end this week. Many universities allow people to drop throughout October and into November. The VA is not doing its job and has attempted to spin. The VA notes the following in a release sent to the public e-mail:
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has authorized checks for up to $3,000 to be given to students who have applied for educational benefits and who have not yet received their government payment. The checks will be distributed to eligible students at VA regional benefits offices across the country starting October 2, 2009.
More information on emergency checks.
Information on VA regional benefits offices.
Meanwhile Cynthia Henry (Philadelphia Inquirer) quotes Robeen Billings who is among the veterans who have not received their payments, "The GI Bill is a mess. I'm struggling because my first semester is not paid. I'm commuting from Newark to Camden, living off my credit card." Who's going to pay the interest on the debt that Billings and others are having to run up because the VA dropped the ball? Henry reports:
Former Marine James Hambley, 25, of Maple Shade, has been caught short by the delay. Between his savings and GI Bill living allowance, he figured he could quit his job and attend CCC full time. Without the benefits coming in, Hambley has applied for a two-month deferment on his car and personal loans. He looked into a government student loan, but that money wouldn't be available until November, he said.
College advisers have told him that he shouldn't work more than 20 hours a week while taking 14 credits toward his engineering-science degree, Hambley said, but "that's not going to cut it" until the first check arrives -- in November, the government now tells him. He's out looking for work.