Friday, June 10, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq's border problems now include the one they share with Syria, Allawi says Iraq needs help to end the political stalemate that has gripped the country, and more.
We'll start with this by Iraq Veterans Against the War's Adrienne Kinne:
The US Social Forum is taking place in Detroit, MI from June 22-26, 2010 and IVAW will be there!
1) IVAW will be leading a GI Resistance Workshop. Iraq and Afghanistan War Resisters will testify to the struggle and value of resisting militarism and discuss what support is needed to build the GI Movement. http://organize.ussf2010.org/ws/building-gi-resistance-movement
2) Building a Military Resistance Movement: Veterans, Service Members & Allies Organizing Together. This workshop, lead by IVAW and Civilian- Soldier Alliance will be an introductory training on supporting war resisters and being a strong and accountable ally to veterans and service-members organizing for change. http://organize.ussf2010.org/ws/building-military-resistance-movement-ve...
3) Veterans and Military Families: Impact of the Wars; Impact on Movements. An exploration of how veterans and military families use their unique voices and perspectives to end wars and promote peace and social change. http://organize.ussf2010.org/ws/veterans-and-military-families-impact-wa...
In the US, the morning began with AFP reporting a car bombing in Baquba today has resulted in at least thirty-two people injured. BBC News explains the bombing targeted a police officer's home and that a Tuz Khormato car bombing which claimed 7 lives and left at least fifty injured in a bombing targeting a Shia Turkmen councillor. Tim Arango (New York Times) reports the death toll has risen to 9 for the Tuz Khomato bombing. DPA notes a Baghdad home invasion in which a Water Resources Ministry worker, his wife and their two sons were all shot dead. Of the Baghdad home invasion and that the wife was pregnant while adding that Hossam al-Majmaai ("chief of the Awakening Councils tribal security force in Diayala province") survived an assassination attempt.
As noted in yesterday's snapshot, Turkey and Iran continue to shell northern Iraq. Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) explains today, "The Turkish military today said that they had killed over 100 Kurdish rebels in the past month of attacks on northern Iraq's Kurdistan region, including 20 in the past week. Most of the deaths came in air strikes against the region, but earlier this week hundreds of Turkish soldiers also briefly marched into Iraqi Kurdistan in 'hot pursuit' of rebels, sparking a multi-hour gunbattle." Iraq shares borders with Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria. Two of those borders -- Iran and Turkey -- are now sources of violence. A third may be emerging. Tim Arango (New York Times) reports 7 Iraqi soldiers were killed near the shared border with Syria today by unknown assailants.
In addition, Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Baghdad International Airport was shelled with mortars Friday afternoon, a Thursday night Babuba police station bombing claimed the live of 2 police officers with three more wounded and, dropping back to Wednesday, a Mosul sticky bombing which clamed the life of 1 police officer. Reuters notes a US interpreter, Hameed al-Daraji, was shot dead last night in his home by his son and his nephew due to being seen as a collaborator and traitor to Iraq.
Today the Washington Post offers an editorial entitled "The Senate picks a bad time to slash funds for Iraq" and it's a notion that we disagree with. But we'll pan for gold and ignore the alleged calamity that may result/is resulting from the Senate halfing Barack's request for $2 billion for the Iraq War to $1 billion. The board thinks it's a good thing that Iraq's spending so much on their security forces that that they have "needed bailouts from both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to fund its budget" and even more so that US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill and Gen Ray Odierno have written a letter about how Iraq (quoting letter) "will have to issue new debt to cover its budget deficit in 2010." Note where the money goes, note where it doesn't go. Note also that 'security forces' have not stopped the violence (though they've frequently actively contributed to it).
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance. Together, the two still lack four seats necessary (or so it is thought) to form the government.
CNN interviewed Ayad Allawi and they report he states that the stalemate will continue and the country "needs a lot of support to get out of this bottleneck and to secure its borders, to secure its stability, and to form a government." Meanwhile Jeffrey Feltman, US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, is in Iraq in an attempt to minimize the damage Chris Hill's doing. Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) interviews him:
Q: Do you feel there's a risk of another sectarian war, or has that danger passed?
I don't think anyone should be complacent. There is a history here. But in general Iraqis have turned to politics rather than violence as reflected in the political spectrum, as reflected in the elections and these are encouraging signs.
Q: What is the worst-case scenario for the road ahead, and what is the best?
I think that right now a worst-case scenario is that the government formation process be deadlocked to the point where institutions stop functioning. I don't see that happening, but one has to keep that in mind that that could happen. There are just a number of scenarios that are positive scenarios.… I would say an Iraq that is sovereign and self-reliant, that integrates into the region, where Iraq's communities feel their interests are represented.
In a new UN PSA, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie notes, "Having a home, a place where we feel safe, is something most of us take for granted. Yet those who flee from conflict and persecution no longer have a home. And it will be years before they can even return. In fact, many may never go home again. On this day, World Refugee Day, please remember the millions of people around the world forced from their homes whose only hope of returning is to not be forgotten." World Refugee Day is this Sunday (June 20th). In 'honor' of that, England, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands have been doing forced deportations of Iraqi refugees. Jim Muir (BBC News) reports that the UNHCR has started an investgation into whether or not British Border Agency employees beat Iraqi refugees, "The UKBA declined to comment on the specific allegations, but said minimum force would only be used as a last resort." Apparently grasping that their 'heartwarming' statement would not go over well, the UKBA sent David Wood out to make the press rounds. Tom Pugh (Press Association) quotes him stating, "We reject all allegations that Iraqi returnees removed from the UK were mistreated by our staff. We can confirm that 43 Iraqi nationals were removed on a chartered flight to Baghdad on Wednesday 16 June." Owen Bowcott and Sam Jones (Guardian) add, "Iraqi officials were alleged to have boarded the flight when it touched down early yesterday to help security staff employed by the UK Borders Agency (UKBA) punch and drag reluctant failed asylum seekers off the plane." What a great way for Great Britian to kick off World Refugee Day.
Let's switch over to the US. Senator Daniel Akaka is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. His office notes:
AKAKA AND BIPARTISAN COMMITTEE MEMBERS URGE INCREASED VA/DOD COORDINATION FOR TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY
Senators call for specific actions from Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a letter to the secretaries of Defense and Veterans Affairs sent yesterday, Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) and a bipartisan group of Veterans' Affairs and Armed Services committee members urged stronger coordination and better follow up on traumatic brain injury (TBI).
"For the past nine years we have been a nation at war, and traumatic brain injury has become the signature wound. The Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs have taken commendable steps to understand and treat TBI, but they must improve collaboration and share what they have learned. Veterans and their families should not have to wait nearly a decade for the government to adapt to the needs of the wounded," said Akaka.
The Senators called for specific improvements from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, including:
Last month, the Veterans' Affairs Committee held an oversight hearing on the state of care for troops and veterans suffering from TBI. In January 2008, Congress passed provisions authored by Chairman Akaka and approved by the Veterans' Affairs Committee to reform VA/DOD collaboration and care related to TBI as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. Akaka continues to work with committee members and others to ensure effective implementation.
To view the letter, click here: LINK
Communications Director and Legislative Assistant
U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs
Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman
In addition, Wednesday the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing which Chair Akaka brought to order noting, "Today we will discuss VA health care in rural areas. Rural settings are some of the most difficult for VA and other government agencies to deliver care. I beieve, and I know many of my colleagues on this Committee share the view, that we must utilize all the tools at our disposal in order to provice access to care and services for veterans in rural and remote locations." We covered the first panel in Wednesday's snapshot and we'll grab the second panel now. The second panel was made up of Brig Gen Deborah McManus, Yuckon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation's Dan Winkelman, the VA's William Schoenhard, the VA's Verdie Bowen and Dr. Robert Jesse (Dr. Jesse also appeared on the first panel). This section of the hearing was chaired by Alaska Senator Mark Begich. Verdie Bowen explained that it could be difficult getting veterans to register for the programs and Dan Wikelman noted obstacles for rural areas including access to basic services and the cost of them. As Brig Gen McManus noted, there are areas in Alaska that, forget the internet, do not even have phone service.
Chair Mark Begich: [. . .] General, I know you with your work with women veterans -- and I know the coordination that you're doing there -- even within women veterans, it's a small, I want to say it's about a third of them are signed up or taking advantadge. Can you elaborate a little on what you think and maybe following up a little bit on Mr. Bowen's comments regarding how hard it is to register. What are you finding specifically in the area with women veterans? I know it's a concern for me, I know it's a concern for Senator [Patty] Murray. Give me a little bit of thought on that.
Brig Gen Deborah McManus: Well when we look at our women -- female -- women veteran population, a lot of them are from the older wars and I think there's a cultural issue there. Many of them, they were in subordinate roles or support roles and their service was not greatly appreciated when they returned to the States. And also, a lot of them experienced Military Sexual Trauma whether its rape, sexual assault or harassment and so there was a fear of seeking help through the system so a lot of them just faded away. However, I think, it's different with our current OEF/OIF veterans. There are mechanisms so that they can report it and receive help. And a lot of times women do not recognize they're veterans and women have traditionally been in a caregiver role so I think there's a cultural issue but there's an education issue and when we did that veterans -- women veterans outreach campaign in November of '09 last year, we did see an increase in enrollment and use of services. 300 women additionally enrolled and 400 seeking services. So I think it's a routine, education system, let women know, they are vets too, they have earned these rights and these are their benefits. And a lot of them have female specific health care needs. So now they understand that the VA facilities can provide services in those areas as well.
Chair Mark Begich: Very good. Let me, if I can move over to this side, to either one of you who'd answer, is there more that the VA can do? And as an example was just given, how the outreach was done to increase the amount of women who recognized that they have benefits available to them but not be taking them for a variety of reasons as just described. Do you have any thoughts on that, Dr. -- Dr. Jesse then?
Dr. Robert Jesse: Mmm. A couple of things. I think the issues that have been brought up are really important. We've historically, in the health care side, measured access by wait times to clinic visits or wait times --
Chair Mark Begich: How many came through? How long they waited?
Dr. Robert Jesse: How long they waited. And-and all that's irrelevant if they don't know that they are entitled to services, they can't access those services, uh, they can't get to us, we're not connected to them in one way or another. And particularly as we move to our new models of care if you will where, uh, we're not talking about episodic access as a driving function but actually connectivity, that front end engagement becomes absolutely crucial. And we-we have an awful lot of effort going on trying to understand this now. Why don't people declare themselves as veterans on forms? Why-why can we repeatedly send people information and they just don't act upon it? Our assumption is, "Well, we sent it to you and you should have acted on it." And the simple answer is peope should probably be enrolled when they swear into the military. I mean we talk about seemless transition and there is a lot of discussion going on with -- between VA and Department of Defense, how do we best effect that? And I can only say that, again, this is the Secretary's, one of his top priorities and he understands these issues probably better than-than any of our leadership in prior years. So we are trying to understand this. We are trying to make it easier. But there are complex issues here. In terms of the women's issues, this gets, again, really interesting because historically we measure what we do in health care statistically, we look at quality statistically. But whenever we try and look at women's health issues, the numbers aren't big enough to make sense of the statistics and what we've really learned from this is we-we have to treat each individual as a [. . . "end"?] of one and try and understand how we can manage their health care needs in much more specific manner. And so the VA in the past several of years has done a lot of that, every VA facility now has women's health coordinators. We do have an office for women's issues that's very proactive in-in-in trying to develop these -- The issue of Military Sexual Trauma are extremely complex. Just to get them coming forward, I think, is, uhm, is happening because the discussion is coming out into the open. And again, we're-we're-we're willing to accept any help, any advice and we see these as very important issues and are trying to deal with them.
Chair Mark Begich: Do you -- So obviously for, if the General has some ideas, she'll be able to share them with you and you'll? That's good. I'll leave that to you two to go forward. Let me kind of narrow down if I can on one and that's the Rural Health Project. Mr. Winkleman laid out some concerns and I know you've heard from me more than once on this issue. The idea, and I think you had three suggestions, but I want to take it to a little broader and maybe, Dr. Schoenhard, if you could respond to this and that is, maybe be a little bold here, the effort and the idea is good. I don't think anybody disagrees with that. The implementation is the struggle. And it sounds like, based on the testimony, there might have been some linkages in the front end that might not have been put together as well and now we're trying to kind of patch it as we go along. I'm wondering if it's better to kind of freeze frame for a second on it and say, "Okay, let's sit down with our rural health care providers who've been in the business for years and have figured out how to deliver to the most remote areas of the world, in a lot of ways, health care and how to restart it"; rather than I think what's happening, the sense I get, I may be wrong about this but I hear from so many different people, it's almost like we are trying to patch a little issue here and patch a little issue when really maybe what we really need is to freeze frame it, stop it, step back, what's the right approach? Bring some of the people who've been in the field say what's the should we do differently? Just the fact that you have to go get -- opt in through another type of system before you're really in? You know, I can only tell you from my experience and Dan [Winkelman] has much more experience around this for rural individuals who live in rural areas for most of their life, that's just another piece of paper they're not going to read. They're just -- I don't want to say they give up, but they do less. Is there -- Is that too bold of an opportunity? I'm just trying to -- It seems like every time I talk about this issue it's like almost starting a knot and moving the knot . Give me your thoughts on that.
William Schoenhard: Yes, Senator. I think the numbers on that speak for themselves. We obviously are struggling with getting veterans to sign up for this program. At this point, only 21% in the pilot have signed up and, of that, very few have asked for primary care authorization or mental health consulations. So I think the numbers speak for themselves. We need to improve. We have hired a
company to do a focus group to understand better why we haven't had more success in enrolling veterans but we welcome what Mr. Winkelman, Mr. Bowman have shared today. I think we need to sit down and understand together because IHS has assets on the ground, they are in the communities. They understand well what is needed there much better than anyone else that would be in a distant location with VA or anywhere else. And we should collaborate. And I think your suggestion that we freeze frame, we were talking a lit bit during the break, during the recess --
[Laughing] That was strategically done, you know that.
Yes, sir. We had good conversation and I welcome undertaking the discussion of the three recomendations that were shared and see how to better serve and better get veterans engaged with IHS in these locations.
Turning from veterans to service members, from Wednesday's snapshot: "For the month of April, the US Army announced yesterday, they can confirm 4 suicides among active-duty service memberrs with six still being investigated and there are nine ongoing investigations into May deaths. For the reserves, the US Army said there 7 suicides in April and 2 in May with ten more still being investigated." Jaime Tarabay reported yesterday on army suicides for Morning Edition (NPR -- link has text and audio):
Mr. EDWARD COLLEY: I'm Ed Colley. I'm the father of Stephen Colley, Private First Class, United States Army. Stephen committed suicide three years ago in May of 2007.
TARABAY: The last time Colley saw his son was at a family gathering in April 2007. Stephen, a helicopter mechanic, had been back in the country for about five months since a tour in Iraq. Colley says Stephen was detached. He spent the days watching cartoons. He fought with his wife.
TARABAY: From there it was a downhill stumble, struggling in a work environment an Army investigation later called hostile. On May 16, 2007, home alone, Stephen Colley argued with his wife through text messages. Edward Colley says at one point his son asked her if there was rope in the storage shed.
Mr. COLLEY: He had texted his wife that suicide was an option. She immediately called the appropriate folks at the base, but Stephen - unfortunately in this case, Stephen was a very, very smart boy. And he had figured out how to make sure that nobody else would interfere with his plan.
TARABAY: The plan was to overdose on medication and then hang himself from a tree. He was 22 years old. The military ruled his death a suicide. But for Edward Colley the hardest thing about his son's death is he believes it could've been prevented. The day before he killed himself, Stephen Colley took an Army mental health assessment - multiple choice questions, including some about intent to harm yourself. There were four possible answers.
Mr. COLLEY: And he picked the most severe, that he was thinking about committing suicide more than half the time.
TARABAY: And instead of acting on that information, the social worker who did Stephen Colley's assessment put him down for a sleep study in three weeks' time. The Army's own investigation said the established procedures failed to address his mental condition.
Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Philip Shenon (Daily Beast) reported Friday that the US government is attempting to track down WikiLeaks' Julian Assange. Mike Gogulski has started a website entitled Help Bradley Manning. Simon Lauder (Australia's ABC News) provides this update:
It has since been reported that American officials are searching for Mr Assange to pressure him not to publish the cables.
But an unnamed source in the Obama administration has told Newsweek that the US government is not trying to convince Mr Assange not to release the cables, but it is trying to contact him.
The World Today has also received an email from Mr Assange which says: "Due to present circumstances, I am not able to easily conduct interviews".
In an email to supporters this week, Mr Assange denies Wikileaks has 260,000 classified US department cables.
But he confirms the website has a video of a US air strike on a village in western Afghanistan in May last year.
The Afghan government said at the time of the attack that 140 civilians died.
TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Charles Babington (AP), Joan Biskupic (USA Today), Juliet Eilperin (Washington Post) and Doyle McManus (Los Angeles Times) join Gwen around the table. Gwen's column is "Covering the oil disaster." This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Jehan Harney, Melinda Henneberger, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Tara Setmayer and Genevieve Wood on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And at the website each week, there's an extra just for the web from the previous week's show and this week's online bonus is a discussion on the press' latest attempt to start Mommy Wars. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
Assault on Pelindaba
A Living For The Dead
60 Minutes, Sunday, June 20, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.