Friday, December 04, 2009

Pressing for answers

One month after Army Staff Sgt. Amy Seyboth Tirador died in Iraq, new details have emerged about her death but not enough to satisfy her mother, who is calling on elected officials to expedite a military investigation into how Tirador's life ended.
The 29-year-old soldier from Colonie was shot in the back of the head while walking to her military intelligence job from her room on the Army's Camp Caldwell in Kirkush, her mother Colleen Murphy said Thursday.
Murphy said a military agent with the Army's Criminal Investigation Command in Iraq told her Tuesday that her daughter was killed outdoors around 8 p.m. Nov. 4 while making the approximately 100-yard walk on the secure but unlit base in eastern Iraq.

The above is from Dennis Yusko's "Soldier's mom: How did Amy die? Colonie woman seeks help of elected officials in pushing for answers about Iraq death" (Albany Times Union). Colleen Murphy is trying to find out the truth about her daughter's death and knows if she doesn't push on it, nothing will happen. Pat Tillman's family had to push and push for the truth and even with all their determination, it took forever to get reality as opposed to the 'findings' the miltary was initially offering. Lavena Johnson's family has still not received the answers they need about their daughter's death in Iraq.

Thomas E. Ricks cannot seem to stop disgracing himself these days and, earlier this week, he wrote another one of his sexist posts about how it's the older men who send the boys to die in Iraq and Afghanistan. The boys? Does Ricks really not know how many women have died serving in Iraq and Afghanistan? Even the article he linked to acknowledged that. But for Ricks it's all about the boys.

And his sexism and general and increasing stupidity that means someone like Murphy has to fight. Ricks was supposedly going to be writing at Foreign Policy about Iraq. He was supposedly going to keep a light on that war. Instead, he pimps counter-insurgency and blathers on endlessly about Afghanistan. Maybe once or twice a week, he'll write two to three sentences on Iraq and we're all supposed to be blown away.

Colleen Murphy's story could use some attention and it's only one of the many stories in need of real press coverage that would push to address the issues.

Other things in need of real press coverage. Senator Evan Bayh's bill for a federal registry for those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan who may have been exposed to toxins. Such a registry, like what now exists for Agent Orange, would be incredibly helpful to the veterans. Bayh introduced the bill. The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has had the bill since October. And done nothing. And has no hearings (not even mark-up hearings) scheduled this month.

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee could get it off its lazy ass and send the bill to the floor and Pelosi could easily get it through the House. It's not a controversial bill and it's one that has broad support within Congress and outside of it. Which, pay attention, is really beneficial to incumbents. This is a no-brainer bill. It has wide support. Passing it improves the image of Congress at a time when the polling shows the public less than pleased with the Congress' performance. (The bill dies January 3, 2011, if not passed and thank you to a friend and Senate staffer for calling me to clarify that.)

But the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has a chair who, while nice and caring, is really too old now to do the duties required to chair a committee. And while this bill sits stalled because there was no real leadership on that committee (Bayh does not serve on that committee), when the process has to start all over, someone better explain why people unable to hold regular hearings are chairing committees. Robert Byrd was relieved of his duties. Daniel Akak needs to step aside and let someone else chair the committee. I do not know a Committee, in the House or Senate, that has met less than the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (this year or last). There are subcommittees which meet less, yes. But standing committees, full committees? No. If the chair is not up to running a committee, then he or she needs to step down.

And that while the US fights wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and Pakistan) and while so many service members return wounded, for a veterans affiars committee to do so little is very troubling. The House has a Veterans Affairs Committee. They never stop meeting.

This week Iraq War veteran Lt Col Jim Gentry was buried. He died of cancer and that was likely due to his exposure to toxins (yes, KBR is connected, of course). He is one of the people whom the Congress heard from and realized there was a problem. Evan Bayh spoke highly of him in October, when he appeared before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. The federal registry would not just have benefitted Gentry, it was part of Gentry's and other veterans efforts to protect all who serve. And Gentry was buried on Tuesday and the needed bill is buried in a do-little committee where it may very will die. Bob Filner chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee which has already held two hearings this week and can even tell you that they'll be exploring rural veterans' issues in January. The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee? It has little direction and little focus. And an active chair might also do something about the vast number of members who skip hearings. With two to three hearings a month max, there's really no excuse for committee members not to even put in their token appearence on a hearing. But with the lack of leadership from the Chair, Dems on the Committee regularly miss the hearings.

I happen to like Daniel Akaka and think he's a wonderful person. But his running of this committee is not helping anyone and, I would argue, is hurting veterans. I have no business before the committee so I can say that. Many who appear before the committee and feel the same way can't. As for the press? They seem interested in many things but issues they could actually help on aren't among them.

And let's not just make it Big Media, let's call out Little Media as well. The Nation will serve as one solid example. You've got all that blather coming from The Notion and all their other blogs and nothing, nothing to show for it, nothing worth reading it. With two wars going on, seems like they could assign one of their bad writers to "veterans issues." Where at least once a week, they broke from their pressing topic of what they think Sarah Palin's just done and actually offered something that shined a light on a real need and actually benefitted someone. But that would be working and The Nation is as leaderless as the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

Wednesday, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer issued [PDF format warning] the following proclaimation:

I hereby order all flags flown in the State of Montana lowered to half staff on Thursday morning, December 3rd, 2009 until sundown on Friday, December 4th, 2009 to honor the memory of
U.S. Army Private First Class Michael A. Rogers. Private First Class Rogers died on November 27th, 2009 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Dated this 2nd day of December, 2009.
Brian Schweitzer, Governor

Brian Montopoli has a piece at CBS News on polling for Iraq two years ago and for Afghanistan today and I don't have time to look at it, so no quote, but a friend at CBS asked that we note it, so we will.

Meanwhile, in many of the reports, Barack's escalation announced this week is treated as his first. That is not the case. Dropping back to July of this year, Sherwood Ross' "Obama Has No Legal Authority to Escalate Afghan War and is Creating 'Humanitarian Catastrophe' in Pakistan" (Atlantic Free Press):

"President Obama’s surge of 21,000 troops now engaged in combat in Afghanistan comes on top of the 60,000 we already had there," says Francis Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law at Champaign.
"The Obama Administration simply ignored Section 4(a)(3) of the WPR when it announced the escalation," Boyle noted. "U.S. armed forces are in Afghanistan originally pursuant to WPR. Its requirement that the President get Congressional consent on substantial enlargement (of forces) was put there to deal with the kind of gradual escalation we saw in Viet Nam that eventually led to 550,000 troops being there," Boyle said.
"Clearly," Boyle added, "President (George W.) Bush never had authority from Security Council in the first place to invade Afghanistan, and the WPR requires that any enlargement of U.S. troops in a foreign nation be authorized by Congress."

Community sites updating last night:

Cedric's Big Mix
He's got that old man smell (and nothing else)
2 hours ago

The Common Ills
I Hate The War
8 hours ago

Thomas Friedman is a Great Man
NOSW -- the National Organization for Some Women
11 hours ago

Mikey Likes It!
Nutty Naomi Wolf, Brilliant Dashboard Confessional
11 hours ago

Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude
debra sweet tells the truth, guess who lies
11 hours ago

Desiree Rogers, get your fanny to Congress
11 hours ago

Ruth's Report
Thomas E. Ricks: Pig and Idiot
11 hours ago

Oh Boy It Never Ends
Barack and his apologists
11 hours ago

The World Today Just Nuts
Brokedown Democracy
11 hours ago

Ann's Mega Dub
Mail bag
11 hours ago

Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills)
The Kennedys always hated women
11 hours ago

Trina's Kitchen
14 hours ago

And that doesn't include Wally's "THIS JUST IN! HE'S DEMENTED!" which might be because he and Cedric posted a little earlier this morning.

The e-mail address for this site is

thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends