Friday, January 22, 2010

The constitutional crisis in Iraq

The accountability commission is the successor to the destructive de-Baathification commission that sought to keep anyone with ties to Mr. Hussein out of government. Its chief, Ali Faisal al-Lami, is hardly an impartial judge. He is a candidate on the slate led by the Shiite leader Ahmed Chalabi, a relentlessly ambitious force in Iraqi politics who lured the Bush administration into the 2003 invasion and wants to be prime minister.
Both the accountability and the election commissions are part of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki's government, and he issued a statement supporting their decisions. But American officials say Mr. Chalabi is the main manipulator. Mr. Chalabi's absurd charge that the United States wants to return the Baath Party to power is typical of his divisive and destructive brand of politics.

The above is from the New York Times' editorial "Sunnis and Iraq's Election" and it's a strong editorial throughout. Any section would have worked as an excerpt but the above is especially important when various outlets are running lies by another Chalabi. (I'm referring to that bad column insisting "It's a CIA plot!" Insisting that the entire pan Arab movement was a CIA plot and that the CIA is now working to re-install the Ba'ath Party.) Those lies are out there and good for the Times' editorial board for calling them out. The administration is deploying Vice President Joe Biden to Iraq as Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported. From her article:

The expected visit showcases U.S. concerns that the decision to bar 511 candidates -- the most prominent of whom are Sunni Arabs -- could stoke sectarian violence and undermine elections as the U.S. military prepares to significantly reduce its presence here. The removal of candidates purportedly adhering to the ideals of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party could reverse efforts to bring disenfranchised Sunni communities into the fold and inflame old divisions, wiping out the security gains of the U.S. surge.
If the Americans "fail in guaranteeing democracy, they should leave right away from Iraq, because their presence means nothing," said Saleh al-Mutlak, a prominent Sunni lawmaker now barred from running. "If they can't protect democracy, then what are they here for?"

That's al-Mutlak's opinion, in yesterday's snapshot, we noted Jalal Talabani (President of Iraq) calling for no interference. Reality: Iraq's puppet government is receiving far more US tax dollars than most Americans are aware of. That puppet government is propped up and that's offensive enough. That US tax dollars are going to be further used to knock out Nouri's political opponents? The US should make very clear how easy it is to pull funds. No, Jalal, you don't have to do what the US wants. But you also don't have to receive US funds. Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) observes, "Reflecting U.S. concerns, Vice President Joe Biden has proposed deferring a decision on the candidates until after the elections. Talabani said Biden is expected in Iraq soon to discuss the proposal. But in a sign that he may receive a less than warm welcome in Baghdad, the Iraqi president slammed the suggestion as contrary to the constitution."

Alsumaria TV reports the presidency council is meeting today on the issue. Guess what? This didn't happen this week. It didn't just emerge last week. And Iraq's Shi'ite vice president has not been in Iran for three weeks. Talabani can thump his chest all he wants but the fact is he failed to demonstrate leadership and allowed a scandal to turn into a constitutional crisis. That's on him.

In the US, Matthew D. LaPlante (Salt Lake Tribune) reports that US House Rep Tim Bishop is leading on the issue of a federal registry for veterans exposed to burn-pits in Iraq and Afghanistan:

Military members concerned that exposure to toxic open-air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan may have caused long-term health problems can face a significant obstacle if they try to prove their ailments are connected to their service.
The U.S. military has not compiled a complete history of its burn pit use; nor does it have a way to account for where many of the 2 million members were exposed to pits while serving at war between 2001 and 2009.
New legislation introduced this week by Rep. Tim Bishop would change that. The New York Democrat is asking Congress to sponsor an official registry documenting the tens of thousands of troops exposed to the pits, where the military has discarded of much of its combat trash including chemicals, plastics, vehicle parts and medical waste.

Wednesday, Bishop's office issued the following:

Washington, DC -- Today, Rep. Tim Bishop (NY-1) and lead cosponsor Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (NH-1) introduced the Military Personnel Toxic Exposure Registry Act. This bill builds on successful legislative efforts over the last year to prohibit the disposal of toxic waste in open air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan and to ensure that the thousands of troops exposed to these dangerous burn pits receive proper medical care.
"The passage of the first official prohibition on burn pits in last year's defense bill was a significant victory for the health of our troops and veterans," said Bishop. "However, it is critical to have an official registry documenting the tens of thousands of troops exposed to these toxic burn pits in order to remove obstacles to accessing the VA benefits which many of them will need as a result of exposure. In addition, we are pushing for a ban on the open-air burning of large quantities of plastics, which has been widely documented to occur despite the clear health dangers. I will continue to fight to bring an end to these reckless policies which endanger our troops and to ensure that our veterans receive the medical care they need."
"The toxins emitted from burn pits can cause serious and chronic health problems, and our troops shouldn’t have to worry about becoming ill from toxic air produced on their own bases," said Shea-Porter. "“We must limit their exposure as much as possible, and this legislation will help continue the process of protecting them from these dangerous burn pits."
The new legislation calls for a complete history of all burn pits used in Iraq and Afghanistan; a registry of all troops exposed to those burn pits; physical examinations for those exposed to burn pits; annual reports to Congress on burn pits related sicknesses; and a ban on the burning of plastics in large burn pits. Copies of the new bill are available upon request.
"This new legislation is exactly what we need," said John Wilson, Assistant National Legislative Director, Disabled American Veterans. "It is critically important that our government takes the next logical step to protect and care for our veterans who are suffering and who will potentially suffer from exposure to toxic fumes and debris in Iraq and Afghanistan. Likewise, we must also acknowledge and assist survivors of those service members who died from this exposure. We at the Disabled American Veterans strongly urge the military to determine and document what has been put into these pits and who has been exposed to them. The Military Personnel Toxic Exposure Registry Act has the DAV's support. We applaud Rep. Tim Bishop of New York and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire for co-sponsoring this hugely important legislation."


Hundreds of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are becoming sick and even dying from what appears to be overexposure to dangerous toxins produced by these burn pits. Symptoms include chronic bronchitis, asthma, sleep apnea, chronic coughs, and allergy-like symptoms. Several also have cited heart problems, lymphoma, and leukemia. While the Department of Defense has officially maintained that burn pits pose no long-term health risks, senior DOD and VA personnel have recently spoken out about the health hazards of burn pits. In addition, Agent Orange and Persian Gulf Syndrome have taught us that we must be vigilant in monitoring and treating our veterans long after they have returned from the battlefield.

The National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2647), which has been signed into law, included important provisions to protect the thousands of troops exposed to open, toxic burn pits used in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have sickened hundreds of troops. These provisions were based on the Military Personnel War Zone Toxic Exposure Prevention Act, (HR 2419) introduced May 14, 2009 by Bishop and Shea-Porter.

Section 317 of the National Defense Authorization Act enacted into law for the first time the following provisions related to burn pits:
· Prohibit the use of burn pits for hazardous and medical waste except if the Secretary of Defense sees no alternative;
· Require the Department of Defense (DOD) to report to the congressional oversight committees whenever burn pits are used and justify their use, and every six months to report on their status;
· Require DOD to develop a plan for alternatives, in order to eliminate the use of burn pits; further, DOD must report to Congress how and why they use burn pits and what they burn in them;
· Require DOD to assess existing medical surveillance programs of burn pits exposure and make recommendations to improve them;
· Require DOD to do a study of the effects of burning plastics in open pits and evaluate the feasibility of prohibiting the burning of plastics.

Further documentation, news reports and troops’ stories about the burn pits are available at this website to help veterans find and share information about burn pits:

In the Senate, Evan Bayh has led on the issue. His bill is currently buried in the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs -- and has been since October. For the first time in months, next week sees the committee discuss some bills before the committee (January 28th).

Meanwhile Iraq War veteran Michael Robert Jarrett died in Balad January 6th. Dixie Pettit (Ramona Sentinel) reports that a memorial will be held for him this Saturday at the Bonham Bros & Stewart Morturary:

"Mike was 6'5", 160 lbs, lean and had a smile that would brighten a room," said his mother, Brenda Jarrett. "People always remembered him by face and personality. Like so many young boys, he needed direction. He joined the Army in August 2008, deciding the military was something to help him get the direction he was searching for. His test scores were super high. It qualified him for being a 15 Romeo, a mechanic for Apache helicopters.
"Mike was a Boy Scout since Tiger Cubs at 6 years old up to a Life Scout," said his mother. "He loved camping with the Boy Scouts, in the desert with friends, riding three-wheelers. He always found it easy to make friends. Whether digging for crabs at the beach or hanging out with buddies, he had a way of getting everyone around him involved in what he was doing."
Jarrett served as a mentor and teacher to the younger Scouts at camp and enjoyed the flag retirement ceremonies at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post.

Michael Robert Jarrett is one of 4374 US service members who have died serving in the Iraq War. The death toll also includes Casey Sheehan. Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan's (not work safe due to the f-word) "Let the Sunshine In" (Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox) reflects on attending the current revival of Hair:

At the end of the musical, Claude Bukowsky dies and the cast sings, "Let the Sunshine," with anger and sorrow on their faces -- not the joy that such a happy sounding song would seem to elicit. The cast leaves the stage singing, Claude is lying on the stage in his dress uniform, and I heard a few sniffles in the audience, although tears were streaming down my face. Then, in true American fashion, the cast comes back -- cut to happiness -- Claude is alive and dancing -- and we are all supposed to go on the stage and dance and pretend like everything is okay.
I was sad up to that point, but in a poignant way. The performance truly captured how f**ked-up war really is -- but when the cast and audience started dancing with joyful abandon, I began to panic and had to leave the theater. I shocked myself in the lobby when I stopped to look in a mirror to put my hat and scarf on -- and staring back at me was a "normal" Cindy -- there was not one hint on my face of my shock and horror and that's when I burst out sobbing. How can it be possible to be so broken inside and look so calm on the outside?
One thing we have learned since 1967 -- wait a second -- there is NOT ONE THING we have learned since 1967.
War is still the most f**ked-up, mentally deficient and morally bankrupt activity that was ever developed by mankind, and most Americans don't even think about that fact for even a few seconds everyday. And if they do, don’t worry --dancing is right around the corner.

The following community sites updated last night:

Finally, Ann Talbot's "Dutch inquiry finds Iraq war illegal" (WSWS) notes the ongoing Iraq Inquiry and many other things including the Dutch finding that the Iraq War is illegal:

A Dutch commission of inquiry has concluded that the US-led 2003 Iraq war was illegal under international law. The conclusion has far-reaching implications. Potentially, it could open up leading politicians and military figures in the US and Britain to prosecution for war crimes.
Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende of the Netherlands set up the Davids Commission in order to avoid a full parliamentary inquiry into the Dutch role in the invasion of Iraq. He headed the caretaker government at the time of the invasion and has rejected the report’s findings. The fact that a commission which was set up with the intention of producing a whitewash has had to come to such damning conclusions points to the weight of evidence that exists for the illegality of the war.
The attempt to maintain the lie that the war was legal is becoming increasingly difficult. The Dutch report entirely rejects the central argument used to justify the actions of the British government and claim that there was a legal basis for the invasion.

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