Tuesday, January 11, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, look who's letting down veterans now, a fishing expedition (or alleged one) leads Iraq yet again into conflict with Kuwait, Muslim and Christian leaders gather in Copenhagan to address the issue of violence, an American activist says she won't give testimony to the grand jury because it could risk the lives of Palestinians, and more.
US Senator Mark Warner is a Democrat. We're noting that party identitifcation for a reason that should become obvious after we deal with what Warner's done this week. Monday, he held a press conference to discuss a new report on female veterans' health. WTVR reports that the study found female veterans "more likely to suffer from mental health conditions than their male counterparts" and quotes Warner stating, "It became evident to me that this challenge was growing exponentially -- in this conflict, perhaps higher than any other in the past -- and that there was a particular concern in the changing nature in the conflict particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, in terms of our women veterans." Corinne Reilly (Virginian-Pilot) quotes Warner stating, "Even if we continue to say that women don't serve in combat, the truth is they do. The claims rules need to reflect that."
The report is entitled [PDF format warning] "Review of Combat Stress in Women Veterans Receiving VA Health Care and Disability Benefits" and is from the VA's Inspector General's office and utilized "almost 500,000 male and female veterans who separated from the military from July 1, 2005 to September 30, 2006 for their experience transitioning to VA and using VA healthcare and compensation benefits through March 31, 2010." Among the findings were that women were more likely to be recognized as suffering from PTSD by the VA if they had filed paperwork for Military Sexual Trauma and they found that "VBA denied female veterans' disability claims for PTSD more often and denied male veterans' disability claims for other mental health conditions (excluding PTSD) more often." And:
Although female veterans generally were more likely to be diagnosed with mental health conditions after separation from active military duty, they generally were less likely than their male counterparts to be diagnosed with the specific mental condition of PTSD. The proportion of female OEF/OIF veterans who were diagnosed with PTSD (by VA or DoD) was 12 percent for active component and 16 percent for reserve unit, while the proportion for their male counterparts was about 17 percent for both active and reserve unit.
A problem that repeatedly pops up in the study is that women are not aware of the services available. Solutions in the report include postings at the VA listing available services and increasing the online listings of the services. In addition, Women Veterans Coordinators state that they need more training in MST -- the report notes that MST claims processing training currently is under the umbrella of PTSD claims processing, with no individual instruction for MST itself. The training the Womens Veterans Coordinators are asking for includes sensitivity training and that training specifically for claims processors. From the report:
At one regional office, the Women Veterans Coordinator is participating in a state-provided training program for victim advocates because VBA has not provided her with any training. This Women Veterans Coordinator told us that she has experienced difficulty in effectively managing conversations with veterans who were very distressed by their MST experience.
American Women Veterans Founding Member and Advisor, Kristen Rouse and Veterans' Advocate, Victoria Stattel, both very recent veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, are meeting with Senator Mark Warner this afternoon in Hampton and Richmond, Virginia to discuss the findings of the latest internal study on women veterans requested by Senator Mark Warner of Virginia. The findings show that women veterans were more often diagnosed with depression rather than evaluated for Post Traumatic Stress/Combat Stress, most likely due to the combat exclusion policy and the lack of understanding of servicewomen's increased role in combat.
In a meeting last year, Senator Warner met with women veterans representatives throughout Virginia and with their guidance, it was concluded that an internal review by the Veterans' Administration was the next best course of action. Due to the Senator's diligence, the VA conducted the review. These new findings have highlighted some of the misunderstandings about the nature of servicewomen's involvement early on in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the past, in order to be considered for diagnosis under Post Traumatic Stress, a servicemember had to have received a combat badge or Purple Heart. Many in the military understand that despite having served in direct combat, the combat badges/ribbons are not always awarded. Since the change in this policy, many more veterans are receiving the proper diagnosis and treatment however, those that were previously misdiagnosed have not. In an AWV supported letter from Senator Warner to Secretary Shinsecki, the Senator asked on behalf of all women veterans, that the VA reach out to those men and women and ensure that they know they can be re-evaluated.
AWV Founder, Genevieve Chase said, "It's important to have the appropriate diagnosis not only for disability rating purposes but also because combat veterans must receive relevant and timely treatment. The treatment for depression is not the same as treatment for Post Traumatic Stress and the latter, if addressed and treated quickly, will ensure that our veterans are better able to acclimate back into civilian society more quickly. The goal here is to prevent our combat veterans from spiraling downward to more serious issues like substance abuse, homelessness and even suicide."
As noted, Mark Warner is a Democrat. As noted many times before, I'm a Democrat. We avoided spending September and October demagoguing for partisan purposes and, in fact, called out the nonsense aimed at some Republicans -- including John McCain -- that really didn't have anything to do with anything except, "Let's get some blood and score one for the Dems!" The elections are over. In the House, the power switched to the Republicans who, by their own words, were going to be ready to govern from day one. When this month does day one begin?
There is no scheduled hearing for this month for the House Veterans Affairs Committee. This would not have happened -- and did not -- when Democrat Bob Filner was Chair. Republican Jeff Miller is the new Chair. In fairness to him, rarely does someone with his standing become Chair. He was the fifth ranked Republican on the Committee prior to the mid-terms. What happened? Steve Buyer (who was Ranking Member) stepped down and did not seek re-election. Next in line was Cliff Stearns who out ranked him and was re-elected but Miller ended up Chair. Jerry Moran is now US Senator Jerry Moran and Henry Brown did not seek re-election. All were ahead of Jeff Miller.
But the GOP claimed they were ready to lead. So where's the leadership? Forget holding a hearing, they haven't even scheduled any. If you're supposed to be demonstrating to the country how you hit the ground running, you're failing and the House Veterans Affairs Committee is one of the most followed Committees. Ways & Means? The Beltway cares about that and little else. Veterans Affairs is followed around the country by veterans, veterans families, veterans advocates. The only thing the GOP can currently point to with regards to this Committee is that they finally found a woman they could appoint to the Committee. In the 111th Congress, they had eleven Committee members and not one was a woman. In the 112th, they've found US House Rep Ann Marie Buerkle and that is something. The largest growing population in the veterans community is what? As the report we referenced earlier notes, it's the female veterans.
Last January alone, under Bob Filner's leadership, there were four hearings. Currently there are none scheduled for the month. Not one hearing scheduled in a month when the VA Inspector General's office issues a report. Not only is the House Veterans Affairs Committee one of the most followed Committees in the House, the US continues to fight two wars, producing new veterans every day. At a time of war, it really does not look good for the new leadership to be unable to even schedule a hearing. (As disclosed many times before, I know Bob Filner. I think the world of him. That's not what this is about. This is about the GOP making promises in the campaign and yet already veterans get tossed to the curb. Don't like the criticism, get off your butts and schedule a hearing.)
Yesterday Iraq and Kuwait were once again at odds. Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) reports that the incidnet involved an Iraqi fishing boat and Kuwait's Coast Guard, that the two exchanged fire and 1 Kuwaiti Coast Guard was killed. BBC News notes that Iraq's government maintains that 3 of their fisherman were injured and four are missing. The Kuwait Times includes that "HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah sent a cable of condolences to the family of [Lance Corporal Abdelrahman] Al-Wadi. The Amir lauded the virtues of the martyr and the great sacrifice he made in defending his country. He also expressed his deepest sympathies to the family of the martyr and prayed to Allah Almighty to bliss the deceased with mercy. HH the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah sent similar cables." John Leland and Omar al-Jawoshy (New York Times) observe, "The Iraqi and Kuwaiti authorities offered different accounts of the clash." Arab Times offers this account: "The boat refused to stop when ordered by the guards, leaving no option but the use of force and the Iraqi sailors returned fire. Sources disclosed that after the Iraqis were chased down, a senior officer ordered the martyred officer unto the Iraqi boat to conduct a search of the Iraqis as a precautionary measure. He said the Iraqis who were eight in number got hold of the officer, beat him and injured his head, forcing the senior officer to call for reinforcements from the air and navel forces. The boat was sunk after heavy shooting that ensued." AFP quotes Nouri al-Maliki's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh stating the two countries need to work together to provide security and that Iraq is investigating the incident.
That was Monday. Today Baghdad and surrounding areas were slammed with bombings. Xinhua reports that a total of nineteen people were injured in bombings in Baghdad, al-Mahmoudiyah and Latifiyah. Press TV notes the large number injured and adds that a Salahuddin Province car bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left another injured. In addition, Reuters notes that a Baghdad home bombing claimed the life of 1 college professor, a Shirqat car bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer with eight more left injured and a Mahmudiya mini-bus bombing claimed 1 life.
A new wave of violence targeting Iraqi Christians began October 31st with the assault on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad. RTE News reports, "Some of Iraq's top religious leaders gather in Copenhagen this week for a three-day closed-door summit to try to end the sectarian violence that has recently struck the country's Christian community. Eight of Iraq's 'most influential' Muslim and Christian religious leaders are due to take part, according to the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME). Together with Denmark's foreign ministry, the Foundation organised the high-level crisis meeting." The Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk, Father Louis Sako (via Asia Times), weighs in:
The most important issue for our region, the Middle East, is religious freedom, namely the freedom of conscience of every individual. We Iraqis are visibly experiencing religious intolerance, discrimination, and persecution both Christians and Muslims. The pope is aware of what is going on and clearly states as much when he says that the violations, the many violations, bloody or not, are rooted in this. The list starts from the East and confirms Asia as that the continent, where religious freedom is most violated.
Religious fanaticism has become, unfortunately, a phenomenon that represents a real challenge for a harmonious coexistence between different religions. For this reason the Pope emphasizes that religious freedom is the foundation of peace: "Freedom of religion -- he clearly states -- is the fundamental path for the building of peace."
The nations of the Middle East are governed in one way or another, by theocracies. These countries should understand more so than nations that have a secular government, the value of freedom of religion affects every relationship and all activities. It is easier to understand the words of Benedict XVI when he says: "Peace, in fact, is built and preserved only when people can freely seek and serve God in their heart, life and relations with others." This respect is tied to the dignity of the human person as an absolute value after God.
Someone who has demonstrated little tolerance for other religions -- or for women or LGBTs or Sunnis or . . . -- is Moqtada al-Sadr who returned to Iraq last week. Michael Boyle (Guardian) weighs in with his take on what it means:
The return of Sadr to prominence in Iraqi politics is not a result that the US or UK should welcome, despite the measured support that Sadr offered for the government in his major address. To start with, there is a standing arrest warrant out for Sadr for his involvement in the murder of the respected Shia cleric Abdul Majid al-Khoei. That the current Iraqi government appears to be willing to permit his return without pursuing this matter does not increase one's faith in their respect for the rule of law. His continuing political influence in Iraq, despite these charges, is a visible symbol of the government's weakness and its dependence on those who nearly pushed Iraq into civil war not so long ago.
Then, while he has cautiously embraced the Iraqi government, Sadr remains deeply hostile to the US and UK, reminding his followers yesterday that the US, Britain and Israel are the "common enemies" of the Iraqi people. He has called on his followers to continue the "resistance" against the US, though, of course, he has remained vague about what exactly that means. That is precisely the point: "resistance" is whatever he wants it mean at that moment, which will almost by definition be opposite to what the US would like to see happen in Iraq. His return as the vanguard of the resistance may destroy American hopes to remain in Iraq in a support capacity, after their withdrawal at the end of the year.
Sadr may sometimes play the part of a pragmatic politician, but he is not a natural democrat and would be willing to play any card -- including violence -- to maintain his influence. Despite his careful tone in recent statements, it is unlikely that he has suddenly become a voice for tolerance and reasonable government. His prominence is likely to alarm moderate Sunnis and Kurds, and if he continues to agitate for sectarian causes, it is possible that he may undermine the fragile compromise that permitted the formation of an Iraqi government. Even worse, his instinct is for Hezbollah-style quasi-religious rule, and his movement's control over a number of key ministries (including housing and labour) means that little stands in his way of achieving this. The real losers in his return will be those Iraqis who wish to see their government work on a non-sectarian basis, because his movement is likely to seek to transform their religious preferences into government policy.
Iraqis do not fear Muqtada's control over 12 percent of the seats in the Council of Representatives. What they fear is the cult-like following which he still commands among the poor, urban Shiite proletariat, perhaps the most potent, least sophisticated, and most manipulable force in Iraqi politics.
Muqtada's standing among this element of the populace would be enough by itself to make him a political force to be reckoned with.
But the real base of Muqtada's power, now as before, is the potential for mob violence posed by his most passionate supporters, as well as the more directed and disciplined threat posed by the Promised Day Brigade, al-Sadr's post-Mahdi Army militia.
Despite its leader's supposed new-found political respectability, an aura of violent illegitimacy still clings to the al-Sadr Trend: Indeed, at least two Iraqi laws bar organisations affiliated with a militia from political participation. The clear lesson for everyone concerned is that accountability under the law still does not apply to Muqtada al-Sadr.
However, eight years after the deployment of coalition troops in Baghdad, the question of ensuring security in the country still remains unsolved. US and Iraqi officials have quite a peculiar perception of the term "deadline." US troops still participate in combat actions, albeit as "advisors," under the nominal command of Iraqi forces. The parliamentary elections in March 2010 were conducted under the control of American soldiers. Is this the democracy that common Iraqis were dreaming of?
What about the forecast for 2011?
"A lot is going to depend on the United States-Iraq defense relationship going forward," said Charles Dunne, a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington. The expert does not exclude that American military men will stay in Iraq after 2011, which virtually means that Iraq would be occupied indefinitely.
Returning to the US, Jeff Hanks went AWOL when the military failed to provide treatment for his PTSD and turned himself in on Veteran's Day. CBS News reports that he's been order to deploy to Afghanistan in the coming days and he states he feels he has no choice but to deploy (despite suffering from PTSD). CBS News notes these two previous reports they've done on Jeff Hanks:
Michael S. Smith: As many listeners know, last September in a coordinated raid the FBI targeted anti-war and Palestinian Solidarity activists, raided their homes and subpoenaed them to appear before a grand jury. The 13 people, all of whom were critical of US foreign policy, later withdrew and asserted their right to remain silent. But in early December of 2010 subpoenas were re-issued against four of those targeted in the raids. Three women in Minneapolis -- Tracy Molm, Ahn Pham and Sarah Martin -- were sent reactivated subpoenas by Patrick Fitzgerald's office with new grand jury dates. We're joined by Chicago-based journalist and activist Maureen Murphy who also received a new subpoena. Maureen is managing editor at the website The Electronic Intifada. Though the site is not being targeted in the FBI probe. In a statement, The Electronic Intifada said, "Although The Electronic Intifada itself has not been a target, we consider the grand jury investigation and all the subpoenas to be part of a broad attack on the antiwar and Palestinian solidarity movement and a threat to all of our rights. Maureen welcome to Law and Disorder.
Maureen Murphy: Thanks for having me.
Michael S. Smith: Maureen, it seems that this subpoena for you to come before the grand jury is an attack on the antiwar movement and the Palestinian solidarity movement. What's your take on this? Why is it happening?
Maureen Murphy: Well I'm not entirely sure why it's happening. We do know that no crime has been identified and more and more people are being subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury and the numbers keep rising each week it seems. And there's no clear reason for us to be investigated as far as we can see. For example, there's nothing written on my subpoena that says I need to bring any documents or anything so we believe that the government is subpoening us so that we come before a grand jury and name names and tell us -- tell them how we organize so they can further disrupt our movement.
Michael Ratner: Let's back up for a second Maureen. Tell us what you got from the government. You got a subpoena? What is it? What does it ask you to do?
Maureen Murphy: I'm one of 23 activists now who have gotten the knock on the door. And on September 24th, a federal task force invaded the homes of several anti-war and solidarity and labor organizers in the midwest. So all of us now, 23 of us, have received subpoenas to appear before a federal grand jury in Chicago as part of what the government calls an investigation into material support for terrorism.
Michael Ratner: Now are you free to share with us what you're subpoena ask you to testify about?
Maureen Murphy: My subpoena says nothing except to just show up. So that's why I think it's a fishing expedition. When they raided people's homes, they didn't even seem to know what they were looking for. For example, in one indiviuals home, they just basically took everything with the word "Palestine" on it. In another home, they were going through the possessions of a couple's child, stealing his high school poetry and questioning whether any of his t-shirts should have been taken in as evidence. So it's really outragous. And it's outrageous that the government has clearly expended a lot of resources on an investigation into people who have always worked publicly to advocate for a more just US policy. The -- on the first day of the raids, the FBI acknowledged that we served no threat to the American public. The only thing that has been harmed so far is the rights of us all to dissent and to organize to peacefully change US policy.
Heidi Boghosian: Maureen, let me make this clear. Were you one of the individuals who was served in September?
Maureen Murphy: No, I was visited by the FBI on December 21st.
Heid Boghosian: And was your home searched?
Maureen Murphy: No, they didn't come into my home.
Heidi Boghosian: They just served the subpoena?
Maureen Murphy: Exactly.
Michael Ratner: What happens next? You have a day to appear?
Maureen Murphy: Yeah. So several of us are scheduled to appear before a grand jury in Chicago on Januray 25th. So a national committee that has formed around the raids and subpoenas is calling for a day of action on January 25th. So already I've heard that more than 32 cities across the United States have commited to organizing actions in front of federal buildings and FBI headquarters to make it clear that this is not just about 23 people but that this is about an entire movement and entire social justice communities who understand that it could be any one of us who were raided on the 24th and it can be any one of us who can expect to receive a knock on the door from the FBI and to be brought in for this fishing expedition and so we have to make it clear that there is a broad movement that is going to stand up for our rights and that an attack on one is an attack on us all.
Heidi Boghosian: Maureen, do you plan to resist? Are you going to exercise noncooperation?
Maureen Murphy: I have already stated that I am not going to testify even though it means I risk being jailed for contempt of court for the life of the grand jury.
Michael Ratner: You get the subpoena, they ask you to come to the grand jury, you can consul your attorney but of course you can't bring your attorney into the grand jury room, and then you can assert the Fifth Amendment and then they have to give you an immunity against prosecution. You haven't been to the stage yet of asserting the Fifth Amendment. Is that right?
Maureen Murphy: That's correct. My understanding is that you have this first date and that that is whn you make your intention clear whether you intend to testify or not. And then it's after that that they impose on you what is called limited immunity. And that really means that they give you the choice of informing the government about the activities of other activists -- whether those activists are here in the United States or in places that some of us have traveled to like Palestine and Columbia -- or going straight to jail. And I want to make clear that one of the reasons that I am not testifying is that I believe that they want us to name the names of people that we've met in the places where we've gone to learn about the impact of US foreign policy. So I've done Palestine solidarity work and I've traveled throughout the West Bank and throughout the Middle East and I know that for Palestinian human rights activists to be singled out and to be named is basically a guaranteed jail sentence or worse. And I have no intention in playing any role in that.
In December 2010, under the direction of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, the FBI delivered nine new subpoenas in Chicago to anti-war and Palestine solidarity activists. Patrick Fitzgerald's office is ordering the nine to appear at a Grand Jury in Chicago on January 25.
In response we are calling for protests on Jan. 25 across the country and around the world to show our solidarity.Hundreds of organizations and thousands of people will be protesting at Federal Buildings, FBI offices, and other appropriate places, showing solidarity with the nine newly subpoenaed activists, and with all the activists whose homes were raided by the FBI.
Fitzgerald's expanding web of repression already includes the fourteen subpoenaed when the FBI stormed into homes on September 24th, carting away phones, computers, notebooks, diaries, and children's artwork. In October, all fourteen activists from Chicago, Minneapolis, and Michigan each decided to not participate in the secret proceedings of Fitzgerald's Grand Jury. Each signed a letter invoking their Fifth Amendment rights. However, three women from Minneapolis -- Tracy Molm, Anh Pham, and Sarah Martin -- are facing re-activated subpoenas. They are standing strong and we are asking you to stand with them --and with the newly subpoenaed nine activists -- by protesting Patrick Fitzgerald and his use of the Grand Jury and FBI to repress anti-war and international solidarity activists.
Defend free speech! Defend the right to organize! Opposing war and occupation is not a crime!
Tell Patrick Fitzgerald to call off the Grand Jury!
Stop FBI raids and repression!
Please organize a local protest or picket in your city or on your campus on Tuesday Jan. 25 and e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know what you have planned.
Recently KPFA radio has been in convulsions since the Pacifica management laid off two of the Morning Shows hosts Brian Edwards Tiekert and Aimee Aillson because KPFA is in dire debt and the KPFA management had failed to propose a budget for 3 months. So Pacifica was forced to lay off workers based on seniority. Since then the paid member of KPFA's Union have essentially refused to take those jobs on the Morning Show at the same time claiming Pacifica was destroying the Morning Show and against local programming since it was airing a show out of LA while it attempted to get the union to agree to work on the Morning Show.
Now KPFA Worker group and the SAVE KPFA group led by LSB member Brian Edwards Tiekert (AKA BET) is claiming on their SAVE KPFA website that there new motto is to "BRING BACKthe Morning Show, HANDS OFF Hard Knock Radio & other locally-controlled programming." Wow ! The irony of this is so thick that only the Tea Party could be so arrogant to state such blatant misinformation. First it was OK with Brian and the KPFA management and KPFA union when it was Hard Knock radio that was one of the original the shows to be cut, even though that didn't follow seniority rules required by the union. And it has never been the least bit interest of the Brian Edward Tiekert crowd to support locally controlled programming until of course the Morning Show was replaced temporarily with a show from LA and this was only done because the Morning Show had spent the first days of their lay off using the Morning Show to campaign for their position and where not the least concerned to be the professional journalists they had been claiming they were and provide a balanced look at the issue of what is going on at KPFA. This is nothing new for those of us who have been laboring at KPFA for a while. The Union which claims to be concerned with Union busting now wasn't concerned about past layoffs and seems to be only concerned with BET being laid off since the Union members were not the least bit concerned when very drastic cuts were made to Flashpoints, Hard Knock, Full Circle and other people at KPFA over the last year. Now suddenly they are concerned ostensibly because the Morning Show raises SO much money - which it does - but not simply because of Brian and Aimee's talents but because it is a prime time show. But even though the SAVE KPFA group claims to be concerned with the ability of KPFA to raise money they have also refused to allow any Union members would take the job on the Morning Show. So their concern seems less with helping KPFA to survive then with their own jobs. Yet that concern has not been there when others were laid off, or even worse dragged off by police. As for Brian and SAVE KPFA's new found interest in local programming - one can not help but wonder why that was not present when Brian wrote to then Interim PD Sasha Lilley in 2009 suggesting a list of free syndicated programs that could be used to replace shows including the Women's Magazine since there would be less resistance by local staff when the shows were pulled if the syndicated shows didn't work out. This happened after Women's Magazine failed to support the current KPFA General Manager who in turn did all she could to get rid of Women's Magazine including asking Brian to draw up a list of possible NON LOCAL shows that could be used to replace us. So the hypocrisy runs deep. Much like the Tea Party facts are to be manipulated much like the audience. which I hope is smart enough to wade thru all the BS and make up its own mind. So check out this document written by Brian Edward Tieket [at this link] and ask yourself who is Brian ? Is it just a host or so much more? I know I thought Brian was my friend so it was extra hurtful to know this person i worked and talked with was writing a memo behind my back on how to get rid of the Women's Magazine. Funny they loved us when we first got the show and were on the KPFA management side.....
Grasp that Lisa is someone I was happy to note (she didn't ask it and I don't personally know her). I will not note David Bacon (whose work I value) on this issue -- which is good for David because there's a huge inconsistency in his public position. I will not note Brian Edwards-Tiekert on this issue. I don't give a damn what a sexist pig like Larry Bensky has to say on the matter. In fact, KPFA has suffered more than enough from the endless pontifications of Larry Bensky.
We noted a woman. Do not come at me with the woman who justified drone attacks, we won't be quoting her. Lisa's column is factually true and captures a lot of realities that people have swept under the rug for too long.