Thursday, February 10, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Shi'ite pilgrims are targeted, Iraqi Christians migration is studied, Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan names names and declares, "But the people who are high up in the anti-war movement, high up in these organizations that literally used me to promote anti-Bush -- you know, the anti-Bush agenda -- which I was anti-Bush, I still am anti-Bush -- to promote that agenda without following through on, you know, what I felt was the most important thing and that's ending the wars.," and more.
Abby Martin: You know, it seemed like when you were the figurehead of the peace movement, the mainstream media was fully behind you and then it seemed like they turned against you and the antiwar movement turned against you too. They used you as a symbol and they used you as kind of a scapegoat. Do you want to elaborate on that? What did you think about when that happened?
Cindy Sheehan: Uh, well first of all when I went to Crawford in 2005 it was a media circus. I remember like on the third or fourth day, there was this really cool AP photographer named Matt and he was down there constantly. And every day, I'd say, "Matt, is it a media circus yet?" And he'd go, "Not quite. Not quite." Then about Thursday, it was a media circus. He agreed that it was a media circus. And I think that -- You know, I used to think that the media was biased towards the right when Bush was president. And so a lot of that media -- and all the media, when they started to realize that I was like serious, I wasn't just a fluke and I wasn't going to go away, they like put the brakes on it and started to marginalize me, painting me as just a grieving mother or a slightly off-kilter because of my grief. And so that started to happen that summer. But still the so-called progressive liberal media, I was still like featured so many times on, you know, like Randi Rhodes or Stephanie Miller or Ed Schultz or whomever was considered on the left up until the Democrats came back into power in 2007. And then they didn't like it that I was saying the same thing about the Democrats that I said about the Republicans. So that came to an end. And I realized then when the Democrats came back into power -- and, you know, I'm just naming names. You know. Organizations like United For Peace & Justice and MoveOn. I realized then that they were not peace organizations. You know, United For Peace & Justice should really be United For Electing Democrats. And MoveOn really is like 'Let's Move On To Full Democratic Tyranny of Our Government.' And so, yeah, they didn't like somebody who realized that it was a systemic problem not a problem of political parties or -- You know, it wasn't just a problem for one side, it was a problem for the world. And so it's been hard -- especially since Obama's been elected because, especially in the beginning, I felt like I was one of the only people in this entire country who was saying, "No, he's -- First of all, why did you support him when he said he was going to send more troops to Afghanistan? When he said he was going to increase hostilities to Pakistan? And, you know, all of his hostile rhetoric against Iran and places like that. And his votes during the Senate? Supporting war, paying for the war, supporting the reauthorization of the Patriot Act for example? Things like that." I was like, "How can you? We have good candidates."
Abby Martin: Right.
Cindy Sheehan: We have Cynthia McKinney. We have Ralph Nader. They always have said and done the right things. So why are you supporting someone who's against what you supposedly believe in? You were against those same things when Bush was president. Why are you now pro these things now that Obama's president? So it was really, really hard, you know. But I never once considered saying, "Oh, let's just give him a chance. Let's wait and see." You know, because of the three days after, the three days after he was [sworn in] he bombed Pakistan. So it-it seems to be getting a little better. A lot of people are starting to come around. But I think that it's just -- it's just like finally, two years into this administration, you're against the wars again.
Abby Martin: Again, yeah. That's why I loved that, I remember I saw you immediately after Obama got elected, I think I saw you in San Diego speaking at the peace rally.
Abby Martin: "We shouldn't be shocked that he's doing them. He's an aggressive imperialist. This is -- this is who he campaigned on -- as." So I loved that. You didn't skip a beat. So that means you're a true advocate for peace. And a lot of people align themselves with the Democrats and think that's-that's an alternative and that's for peace. It doesn't make any sense. They're both aggessive imperialists, they're just two sides of the coin.
Cindy Sheehan: But there's -- but there's some people who are so-called anti-war, so-called peace activists who know the two party system is a sham, who know the Democrats are no different from the Republicans. But still it's about political party over policy and over peace and over progressivism. And so we can't -- There's some people who had just had it after eight years of the Bush administration, like all of us did. And they wanted a change and they didn't care what Obama was saying. They saw how he was saying it, they didn't hear what he was saying. So those people are one thing. But the people who are high up in the anti-war movement, high up in these organizations that literally used me to promote anti-Bush -- you know, the anti-Bush agenda -- which I was anti-Bush, I still am anti-Bush -- to promote that agenda without following through on, you know, what I felt was the most important thing and that's ending the wars.
Abby Martin: Right. There isn't. And just going along with what you're saying, it's astounding, that video I sent you about just interviewing people in the Bay Area and how asleep they are. All these people, they love Obama but they don't know why. They can't tell you one thing that he's doing.
Abby Martin: And just encountering other peace activists. Do you think -- Do you see more of a trend now, like you said, two years into his presidency, finally, do you see people waking up more and saying, "Oh my G**! I was duped!"
Abby Martin: So you are encountering that a lot more?
Cindy Sheehan: Yes and just like it happened when Bush was president that so many Republicans e-mailed me and said that they felt the same way. You know, at first they hated me but then they really started to research or he did something that sent them over the edge or whatever. And that started happening at the end of the Bush administration. And it's starting to happen now too because, I think really, the people who were opposed to Bush and opposed to his policies are -- I would think they were more of the intelligent people in our country. So it's not going to take them eight years to wake up like it took some Bush supporters. I'm not saying Bush supporters are stupid. [Laughter.] I guess I am saying that. If you supported Bush and still support him, what's the matter with you? Really. Come on.
Abby Martin: It's just, I almost feel like they're -- Yeah, I'd love to give people the benefit of the doubt and be like, you know, it's going to take you a couple of years to wake up. But I mean, if you got it and you woke up during the Bush administration, I don't see how you got duped at all.
Abby Martin: There was really no -- I just don't see it. No change in civil liberties, no change in foreign policy.
Cindy Sheehan: Except for the worse. Except since Obama's been president, many things have gotten worse.
Abby Martin: Oh, yeah, exactly.
Again, you can stream it here at Media Roots Radio. Time permitting, we'll note more of the interview tomorrow. It's a really frank and important interview (as is to be expected from Cindy). And she has praise as well, including for World Can't Wait which she sees as a real organization dedicated to peace. (In fact, World Can't Wait should make their slogan, "Peace Mom approved.")
Death was in the ancient fortress
Shelled by a million bullets
From gunners, waiting in the copses
With hearts that threatened to pop their boxes
As we advanced into the sun
Death was all and everyone
-- "All and Everyone," written by PJ Harvey, from her forthcoming album Let England Shake released next Tuesday
CNN reports that an Al-Dujail "suicide bomber drove into a rest tent for Shiite pilgrims" and took his own life and that of 8 other people while thirty more were left wounded. Xinhua has the pilgrims marching and a car rigged with explosives going off as they passed and notes: "The pilgrims were heading to Samarra, some 110 km north of Baghdad to mark the death of Iman Hassan al-Askari at his tomb in the shrine of Ali al-Hadi in the Sunni dominated city. The shrine of Ali al-Hadi is one of the four most revered Shiite shrines in Iraq. It contains the tombs of Ali al-Hadi who died in 868 A.D. and Hisson Hassan al-Askari who died in 874 A.D." AFP adds, "The mosque itself was built in 944, and the golden dome was added in 1905." The golden dome, Lara Jokes (AP) reminds, was "sheered off" in February 2006 bombings, "Its destruction in 2006 sent Iraq into a downward spiral of violence between Sunnis and Shiites that left whole neighborhoods around the country cleansed and divided by sect." Sabah al-Bazee, Waleed Ibrahim, Jim Loney and Mark Trevelyan (Reuters) notes 8 people died and quotes Raysan Abood stating, "I know them by name. They were our friends and they were delivering food and tea to the pilgrims who came from other towns." They also note it was a suicide car bombing. In other reported violence?
Michael S. Schmidt (New York Times) reports a Baghdad bombing which left two people injured. Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing injured one Iraqi soldier, a second Mosul roadside bombing wounded one police officer and a third Mosul roadside bombing left a young girl injured.
-- "The Glorious Land," written by PJ Harvey, from her forthcoming album Let England Shake released when? This Tuesday.
Alsumaria TV reports protests took place in Babel Province today with one protest calling for the release of prisoners and another calling out the continued lack of public services. Dar Addustour reports the the Council of the Bar Association issued a call for a Baghdad demonstration calling for corruption to be prosecuted, for the Constitution to be followed and sufficient electricity in all the schools. Nafia Abdul-Jabbar (AFP) reports that approximately 500 people (mainly attorneys "but also including some tribal sheikhs") marched and that they also decried the secret prisons. They carried banners which read "Lawyers call for the government to abide by the law and provide jobs for the people" and "The government must provide jobs and fight the corrupt." Bushra Juhi (AP) counts 3,000 demonstrating and calls it "one of the biggest anti-government demonstrations in Iraq" this year. Juhi also notes that attorneys staged smaller protests in Mosul and Basra today. Al Rafidayn reports that five provinces saw protests yesterday as the people demanded reliable public services and an end to government corruption. Noting the Babylon Province protest, the paper quotes Amer Jabk (Federation of Industrialists in Babylon president) stating that the provincial government has not provided any of the services the province needs, that basic services have deteriorated and that heavy rains have not only seen streets closed but entire neighborhoods sinking. Hayder Najm (niqash) observes protests have taken place across Iraq, "The protesters' grievances have been many and varied: the quality and level of basic services, government restrictions on civil liberties and freedom of expression, violations against civil servants, and the rampant financial and administrative corruption within state institutions. [. . .] Eight years after the US invasion of Iraq, the electricity supply in most areas of the country still does not exceed two hours a day, and the country still suffers from poor infrastructure, a weak transport network, and an acute crisis of drinking water and sanitation."
Al Qaeda in Iraq has targeted the country's fast-disappearing Christian population, describing them as "legitimate targets" and causing unknown hundreds of thousands to flee in recent years. Out of an estimated 800,000 to 1.3 million Christians during the Hussein era, now less than half are thought to remain in the country. Since an Oct. 31 attack on Baghdad's Our Lady of Salvation Church, thousands more Iraqi Christians have run to Turkey. Exact figures are unknown, but Chaldean Church records show more than 600 arrivals in December 2010 alone, which exceeds the total arrivals for all of 2009. The Oct. 31 attack began when Islamic militants with ties to al Qaeda took Sunday worshipers hostage. As police moved in, 58 people, including two priests, were killed. According to accounts of the carnage, a young child was killed when one of the attackers blew himself up inside the church. Over 100 more were wounded. The latest arrivals are seeking asylum in Turkey and applying for formal refugee status in the hope of transfer to third countries, such as the United States, Canada and Australia. According to Father Gabriel, a Turkish Chaldean priest from the east of that country and now on sabbatical from his parish in Brussels to assist refugees in Istanbul, the resettlement process takes about two years.
Some of the injured in the October 31st assault found medical treatment and asylum in France. Jim Bitterman (CNN) reports, "They are part of a group of nearly 60 brought here in early November after a bloody massacre at their church in Baghdad. In that attack, believed to have been carried out by al Quaeda, 56 people died, including two auxiliary priests, and more than 70 were injured -- among them the parish priest of Our Lady of Salvation, Father Raphael Kuteimi." The International Organization for Migration provides [PDF format warning] an update on Iraqi Christians through January 31st. The report notes that Erbil has seen an increase in Internally Displaced People families. It explains, "Monitors in Baghdad report that Christians continue to face grave threats. Some Christians remaining in Baghdad rely on newly-created security checkpoints near their homes for protection, and church leaders are in contact with Iraqi security forces for assistance in protecting their communities. However, despite increased security measures an atmosphere of extreme insecurity persists among Christians remaining in Baghdad and many still intend to move or emigrate." And beyond temporary?
An increasing number of displaced Christian families intend to integrate into their current location. IOM monitoring teams in the field report that a clear majority of the displaced Christians in Erbil, Dahuk, and Sulaymaniyah governorates now plan to settle in their current location due to stable security environments and welcoming host communities. However, a far smaller number of the displaced Christians in Ninewa governorate expressed a desire to remain in their location of displacement. Monitors estimate that fewer 10% of the displaced in the Bashiqa district of Mosul intend to integrate locally.
While many displaced Christian families intend to locally integrate, monitors also report increasing Christian emigrations. IOM monitors only assess internally displaced persons, but monitoring teams have been told by community leaders of increasing Christian emigration to Turkey since November 2010, which is confirmed by colleagues in Turkey as well as recent media reports.
Turning to England where the Tenth Imperial War Museum Film Festival Awards were held in London. Richard Moss (Culture 24.org) reports, ". . . Iraqi filmmakers dominated the honours in the museum's Annual Film Festival Awards by grabbing two out of the three main prizes. Doctor Nabil (2007), a searing documentary recounting the experiences of a surgeon working in a busy and under-resourced Baghdad hospital, won the Audience Poll for the young Iraqi documentary maker Ahmed Jabbar. Best Documentary went to fellow Iraqi Emad Ali for A Candle for the Shabandar Cafe (2007). The film tells the story of a the favourite haunt of Baghdad's writers and intellectuals which was destroyed in March 2007 by a suicide bombing which ripped the heart out of the historic Al-Mutanabbi street book market killing 26 people."
I have seen and done things I want to forget
A Corporal whose nerves were shot
Climbing behind a fierce, gone sun
I seen flies swarming everyone
Soldiers fell like loads of meat
These are the words, the words are these
Death lingering, stunk
Flies swarming everyone
Over the whole summit peak
Flesh quivering in the heat.
This was something else again
I fear it cannot explain
The words that make, the words that make murder
What if I take my problem to the United Nations
What if I take my problem to the United Nations
What if I take my problem to the United Nations
-- "The Words That Maketh Murder," written by PJ Harvey, from her forthcoming album Let England Shake
The Status Of Forces Agreement was misunderstood by many (and many understood it but chose to lie about it). The SOFA is a treaty. It's not a valid one for the US because it didn't follow the Constitution. Joe Biden knows that and he and Barack were opposed to it . . . until the day after the election when that lovely campaign website scrubbed the objection. Suddenly, they were happy to have the War Criminal George W. Bush's treaty and damn the Constitution and damn Senate approval. Bush pushed it through and a Democratic administration ran with it. Meaning that a precedent has been established -- call it another facet of the unitary executive view -- and future presidents will likely resort to it for treaties that cannot pass the Senate. That's not a minor damage and it's one that future generations will have to deal with it.
Having noted the legal aspect, let's move to what it was. As we have always explained, all the SOFA did was replace the UN Security Council mandate. There was not UN resolution to allow for war. It is an illegal war of choice started by War Hawks in various countries. But after the war started, the UN Security Council did do a resolution which made it legal for forces to be on the ground. It was a yearly mandate. It was renewed near automatically each year. The first time the renewal was a big problem -- so much so that even the US press had to take note -- was near the end of 2006 when the new prime minister Nouri renewed it. The Parliament was enraged. They said they had to be informed and they had to approve. This is important to grasping the SOFA, pay attention if you're new to the topic. They were right on that per the country's Constitution. Nouri swore that if it was renewed again, he'd get their approval. He was so full of regrets. Never trust a word from Nouri. In 2007, the UN resolution was again due to expire. Did Nouri go to the Parliament?
No, Nouri signed off on it on his own. If the Parliament and the people were enraged in 2006, a new word needed to be created for what they felt as 2007 drew to a close and 2008 began. The UN mandate kept Iraq in receivership on many issues. It didn't have true control over monies and assets. For certain things (the tag sale) the US wanted, it was in the US interests to stop using the mandate. For Nouri to get his hands on more oil money (oil money from before the war began), he needed to get out of receivership as well. So it was in both the US government and Nouri's interest to drop the UN out of the equation and draw up an agreement just between the two countries. In doing so, the repeat objection was known and discussed. It was thought that Nouri couldn't keep going back yearly, it was hurting him politically. So they'd make it a three year contract (actually they were yearly options which could run three years). Whatever happened after the three years (end of 2011), they could deal with then but Nouri wouldn't have to go through the yearly signing and deal with the backlash. When the SOFA was in doubt (in terms of being signed, not in terms of legal) Joe Biden was very clear about what happened if the US didn't get the SOFA: US forces had to immediately leave. If the UN mandate wasn't renewed by Iraq and an agreement didn't replace it, then US forces could not legally be on Iraqi soil. Making the agreement a three-year arrangement spared Nouri a great deal of grief. Nouri promised the Parliament that, if they'd vote for it, it would go to the people for a vote. That vote was supposed to take place in July 2009. Guess what? Nouri's promise? He never kept it.
That's Nouri. The same Nouri who courted the US government during the political stalemate by assuring them that support for Nouri meant an extension of the SOFA. Did he mean it? With Nouri, one never knows. Where the US government is currently is hoping that Nouri will extend the SOFA before the end of this year. (The SOFA waited until Thanksgiving Day, some of the UN mandate renewals came as the year was closing.) So it may yet happen. But the US government has a back up plan. US forces (and contractors) remain in Iraq past the end of this year but they get around it by taking these forces from under the control of the Defense Dept and putting them under the State Dept. This has been reported, this has been discussed in open Senate hearings (including last week in Tuesday's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing and in Thursday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing). So when Adm Mike Mullen, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declares, "all troops out of Iraq" by the end of this year, he's being dishonest which is also known as lying.
The UK government should learn from other countries' costly mistakes and resist the temptation to use the UK's internationally respected aid programme to pursue narrow military and security interests, Oxfam said today.
Whose Aid is it Anyway? a report published today by the international agency found that billions of pounds of international aid that could have transformed the lives of people in the poorest countries in the world has been spent on unsustainable, expensive and sometimes dangerous aid projects, as donor governments including the US, Canada and France have ignored international agreements and used aid to support their own short-term foreign policy and security objectives. Aid budgets have also been increasingly skewed towards Iraq and Afghanistan at the expense of equally severe conflicts and crises elsewhere.
Although the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan clearly increased the amount of aid the UK spent in those two countries, overall the UK has followed better practice than many other major donors.
There is a danger the UK will increasingly use aid to pursue foreign policy objectives, a move which would tarnish its reputation as a global leader on aid. During 2010, the coalition government has emphasised the need for greater integration of the work of the foreign office, ministry of defence and DFID, and has brought aid for priority countries under the scrutiny of the new National Security Council. There is also a requirement on DFID to show that UK aid overall is making the "maximum possible contribution to national security".
Kirsty Hughes, Oxfam Head of Policy, said: "British aid to fragile states is at a crossroads. Ministers have a choice between making every penny of British aid count for poor people or prioritising short-term security goals that risk leading to over-expensive, ineffective and often dangerous aid, while making little impact on security and stability."
Three reviews of aid, expected to report in the next two months, will be vital in determining the UK's path. A government-commissioned, independent review of UK humanitarian assistance in conflicts and natural disasters, led by Lord Ashdown, will assess the appropriate role of the military in humanitarian aid and two official reviews will determine the future of UK bilateral and multilateral aid.
Oxfam's report warns that 225 aid workers were killed, kidnapped or injured in attacks during 2010, compared to 85 in 2002. In part, this reflects the greater number of workers operating in violent places but a large part of the increase was due to a rise in politically motivated attacks. Aid workers' neutrality is compromised if local people see aid as a tool of the military.
Hughes said: "The stark lesson from the last decade is that politicising aid during conflicts does more harm than good. Ill-thought out 'politicised' projects alienate the very people whose 'hearts and minds' they seek to win. Blurring the role between civilian aid workers and the military turns aid workers and the communities in which they work into targets for attack."
Since 2001, more than 40% of the total increase in development aid from the OECD club of rich donors has gone to just two states, Afghanistan and Iraq, with the remainder shared out between around 150 other poor countries, the report found.
Standing at more than $1.5bn in 2010, aid funds used for short-term projects by US military commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan are now almost as large as the US' worldwide poverty-focused development assistance budget.
Lifesaving humanitarian aid for urgent needs amidst conflict has also been skewed. At best, humanitarian aid per head given annually to the Democratic Republic of Congo has been a twelfth of that spent in Iraq. This is despite the fact that thousands of civilians in the DRC die every year as a result of conflict and per capita income in the DRC is more than ten times lower than in Iraq.
In addition, 'War on terror'-led foreign policy in targeted countries has in some places made it harder for aid agencies to provide help to those who need it. New US and European anti-terror laws have prevented potentially lifesaving aid reaching areas controlled by proscribed groups.
Hughes said: "Britain should reinforce its reputation as a world leader on aid by ensuring that all UK aid is focussed on tackling poverty and meeting vulnerable people's needs. This would do more for Britain's standing in the world than choosing to use aid as a tool of foreign policy.
"Aid will only win hearts and minds when it is clearly distinct from military efforts and aimed at reducing poverty and suffering, rather than addressing the short-term security problems of donor governments."
To arrange an interview, obtain a copy of the full report or for further information contact: Jon Slater on 01865 472249/ firstname.lastname@example.org or Rebecca Wynn 01865 472530/ 07769 304351/ email@example.com
Though the issue gets little traction from the US Panhandle Media, the latest Guardian Focus podcast focused on it. Madeleine Bunting explained, "In recent years a disproportionate amount of aid has been swallowed in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq alongside UK military operations. UK aid to Afghanistan alone is set to increase by forty percent over the next three years. I'm Madeleine Bunting and this week's Guardian Focus podcast examines what some call the securitization of aid -- the subordination of aid and development programs to defense and security objectives. And we ask: What is the role aid should play in a war zone?" With that she began a discussion with the Guardian's Jonathan Steele, the European Council on Foreign Relation's Daniel Korski, Oxfam's Mike Leis and War on Want's John Hilary. Excerpt:
John Hilary: I think it's wrong to suggest that the British intervention in Afghanistan has anything to do with development. It's been made quite clear by the government -- [Prime Minister] David Cameron in many of his speeches and also recently in the National Security Strategy -- that Britain's role in Afghanistan is drive by British interests of security and also of geo-strategic principle. It's not a humanitarian intervention a la Blair Doctrine or any of the ideas which have been dealt with over the last ten years. It's a military and strategic intervention. And from that follow all the other consequences. Particularly not for us around the politicization of aid because aid has always been political but around the militarization of aid. Not just the delivery of aid by military or joint-military and civilian teams, but also the use to militarize the Afghan state and that's become one of the characteristics of British and US interventions across the world. It's not just Afghanistan here. You look at Iraq. You look at occupied Palestinian territories where I was some months ago and spoke to the representatives of some European there. They were horrified at the level of militarization of the state. And that's becoming almost the leading theme for us -- build up a state, militarize it, make it stronger --
Madeleine Bunting: Can you explain how aid militarizes the state? And presumably in this instance you're talking about the Afghan state.
John Hilary: In Afghanistan, almost half of the aid given by the US government, for example, has gone to arming the police and building up the military. And so that formation of a highly militarized state with very over, excessively armed police officers with rocket propelled grenades and all of that, that's become a facet of life in terms of our interventions. Again, in Palestine, instead of building up a democratic system, you put all of your eggs in that one militarized basket. You try to build up the strong, excessively hyped state and that's your model for dealing with instability. And that whole stabilization agenda -- this is the whole thing which is sort of forwarding this -- the stabilization agenda is explicitly a militarized agenda not a development agenda.
More room would mean we'd include more. It was an important discussion. One key point in terms of the US, the State Dept and USAID are lumped together in budget and by Barack. In the US, some remember the wars continue. Daniel White (Maine Campus) writes:
In setting out to eradicate an enemy, the United States is creating more enemies.
These wars are happening and here we are at a university, safe and blissfully preoccupied with where our place in society will be. These wars are not a part of our daily awareness, so it is hard to feel connected to them. It is also hard to feel we can make a difference, even if we do oppose war. I am telling you it is worth the effort.
The powers that be prefer the public doesn't know what is going on because people cannot organize against something that is unknown to them. Knowledge is power and there is power in numbers. There is a growing movement on campus to gather strength and support to protest the injustice of these wars and the system that perpetuates them.
If you feel opposed to the wars as we do and want to be a part of something meaningful, please participate in the Maine Peace Action Committee on campus. What you do matters.
How can we forget those American Jews who have fought in these wars, and the 37 who have died? How can we ignore or minimize their sacrifice? Part of the answer lies in the complex attitude toward these wars, burdened as they are with faulty missions and uncertain outcomes. What are we hoping to accomplish in Afghanistan? Why did we invade Iraq in the first place? The imperative to defend Israel is clear and -- in the minds of some, holy -- while our wars just seem intractable.
Listen to the family members of the fallen, and those explanations become empty excuses. "I think people are surprised to learn that Jews serve in the military in America because people think that any Jew interested in serving in the military is going to serve in the IDF," says Beverly Wolfer-Nerenberg, whose brother, Stuart, was killed in Baghdad. "I think that people overlook the fact that Jews living in this country are patriotic and do have a sense of duty and gratitude and are grateful for what this country has given to us over the years."
The truth is, we overlook that fact in ourselves. In some of the painful interviews collected for this week's "Profiles of Our Fallen" feature, we heard from parents initially worried and embarrassed about their childrens' choice. Melinda Kane, whose son, Jeremy, died in Afghanistan, described "the stigma that a nice Jewish boy from Cherry Hill would want to go into the military. It was really unheard of and sadly I was afraid that people would judge my son for being a certain way that was not who he was."
"Americans are used to being successful, and these wars have not been successes," says Mark Lytle, the historian who writes the most current chapters of the U.S. history textbook Nation of Nations. "It erodes the image that Americans are exceptional."
The wars have lasted almost a decade, cost hundreds of billions of dollars and claimed the lives of more than 5,000 U.S. servicemembers and tens of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans. The impact on the U.S. military, and military families, is obvious. What about people and places with no military connection?
Yesterday the US House Veterans Affairs Committee heard about JP Morgan Chase breaking the law and harassing veterans. We covered the hearing in yesterday's snapshot, Kat covered it in "Grading the new Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee," Wally covered it at Rebecca's site with "JP Morgan Chase's song and dance" and Ava covered it at Trina's site with "The crooks get away with it (Ava)." Stephanie Mudick is with JP Morgan Chase and was identified correctly in a paragraph but was wrongly called "Susan" in the transcript of her exchange with Ranking Member Bob Filner. I typed up the transcript and dictated the rest so it was my mistake (and I had "Susan" in my notes so I added a note to Kat, Wally and Ava's posts noting it was my error). My apologies for my mistake. (How was it right in the dictated portion? I was flipping through the various handouts including the prepared statements of the witnesses.)
We'll close with this from the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee:
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman, Senator Patty Murray, released the following statement on the joint report from the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development's on veterans homelessness which was released today.
"I commend the Obama Administration for taking real steps to shine a light on a problem that has for too long been ignored. For too long homeless veterans have been forgotten heroes. But this report provides an important foundation to better understand who these veterans are, the nature of the problems they face, and how to develop solutions to address their needs. This is a critical piece of the Obama Administration's laudable effort to prevent and end homelessness among veterans.
"What this report shows is a stark and finally more accurate picture of this serious issue. It shows that the disabilities and mental health challenges facing many of our nation's veterans put many of them, particularly those living in poverty, at greater risk of homelessness. It also shows that current economic conditions and the influx of young veterans are putting many more of our veterans at risk of homelessness."
"What this report calls on all of us to do is clear - more. We need to build on the work we have begun. With the HUD-VASH program that I restarted in 2008 we have been able to provide vouchers and supportive services for those who have sacrificed for our nation but are now homeless. We need to continue this program that has proven its worth.
"But we also need to do more to prevent veteran homelessness before it starts. That means prevention programs like the pilot program I worked with my colleagues to create near some of our nation's military installations. Prevention also includes focusing on getting our veterans into stable employment. We need to help veterans translate the skills and expertise they learned on the battlefield into the skills needed in today's working world.
"We also need the Administration to continue to come together as they have with this report. If we are going to bring veterans off the streets and into steady housing and employment we need VA, HUD, and the Department of Labor to continue working together. I look forward to working with all of these agencies, as well as the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness to put forth innovative and effective solutions to get our veterans into safe, secure, and stable housing."
As Chairman of the Senate Housing Appropriations Committee and the Veterans' Affairs Committee, Senator Murray has initiated and passed into law critical help for homeless veterans including the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program which provides housing vouchers and supportive services for homeless veterans and the Veterans Homelessness Prevention Demonstration (VHPD) program which provides housing, health and other supportive services at areas adjacent to military installations to help prevent homelessness. Both programs were cited by today's report as critical sources of help for homeless veterans.
Today's report shows that female veterans are twice as likely to be represented in the homeless population as they are to be the U.S. adult female population. Last Congress, Public Law 111-275, Veterans' Benefits Act of 2010, included provisions derived from legislation introduced by Chairman Murray which provides new support for homeless women veterans reintegrating into the workforce.
Chairman Murray has also introduced veterans jobs legislation that aims to reduce a rising unemployment rate among returning veterans.