Thursday, March 24, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq still has no vice presidents, it still can't pull together a Cabinet, a prison riot takes place today, the faux peace 'leaders' emerge to . . . continue their silence on Iraq, and more.
The Nation therefore takes the following stand: We will not support any candidate for national office who does not make a speedy end to the war in Iraq a major issue of his or her campaign. We urge all voters to join us in adopting this position. Many worry that the aftermath of withdrawal will be ugly, but we can now see that the consequences of staying will be uglier still. Fear of facing the consequences of Bush's disaster should not be permitted to excuse the creation of a worse disaster by continuing the occupation.
The illegal war continues and Katrina can't be bothered with it. In that same editorial, they trashed "Senators Hillary Clinton, Joseph Biden and Evan Bayh, who continue to huddle for cover in 'the center.' They offer little alternative to Bush's refrain 'We must stay the course!'" Let's pretend for a moment US forces leave Iraq at the end of 2011 (it's not happening). Would some being sworn into office in January 2009 and keeping troops in Iraq in 2009 and 2010 and all of 2011 be "a speedy end to the war in Iraq"? Of course not. But The Nation refuses to call Barack out on that reality.
In the midst of her blog post today, Katrina wants to talk costs of the Afghanistan War but, having wasted her academic career fraternizing with professors, she never learned how to do her own calculations so she's left to raid the work of others which forces her to include Iraq for one paragraph:
You wouldn't know about all the real long-term costs from the sparse media coverage. For example, when taking into account caring for the physical and psychological wounds of returning soldiers, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard professor Linda Bilmes estimate the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will reach $4 trillion to $6 trillion. (This looting of our Treasury at a moment when people also say they would opt for cuts in defense spending over cuts in Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security.)
Now watch what she follows that with:
But until people wake up, speak out, organize and mobilize to pressure their representatives and President Obama, the opposition numbers reflected in the polls won't mean much, and the staggering numbers describing the costs of this war will continue to climb.
But regardless of whether the U.S. military withdraws as scheduled or a small successor force is agreed upon, the State Department will take on the bulk of responsibility for their own security. Therefore, Congress must provide the financial resources necessary to complete the diplomatic mission. Consideration should be given to a multiple-year funding authorization for Iraq programs, including operational costs (differentiated from the State Department's broader operational budget), security assistance, and economic assistance programs. The price tag will not be cheap -- perhaps $25 - 30 billion over 5 years -- but would constitute a small fraction of the $750 billion the war has cost to this point.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee estimates that the next five years in Iraq could cost US tax payers $30 billion dollars. Yet Katrina vanden Heuvel, who can't find the courage to call for an end to the Iraq War, wants to insist other people need to wake up? Seriously?
Treating the Democratic leadership's hollow pledge to "keep fighting" as good coin, the Nation writes, "Pelosi and Reid are right when they say this is not the end of the fight over money for Iraq." The only problem, it suggests, is that "there are still prominent Democrats who don't get it" -- Levin, Hoyer and Co. --and they "are slowing movement toward unity in support of withdrawal."
The "unacceptable votes" cast by these supposedly rogue Democrats "should raise the ire of antiwar activists and the American people," the Nation affirms, and those who cast them should be "held accountable for extending the war."
The editorial concludes, "Americans must make it clear that when the next chance comes to use the power of the purse, our representatives should follow the will of the people and call a halt to Bush's disastrous war."
Nothing could more clearly sum up the Nation's political function. It seeks to delude its readers into thinking that the ongoing complicity of the Democratic Party in the launching and continuation of the war in Iraq is a matter of a "razor thin" majority in Congress and the wayward votes of a few political miscreants. Thus, the perspective it advances is that these few politicians -- mere warts on an otherwise healthy political body -- should be shamed, and the public should wait for the Democrats to do better next time.
Everything here is reduced to the small change of party politics and petty maneuvers in the halls of Congress. It leaves unanswered the big and obvious questions of why the Democrats are incapable of mounting a genuine opposition to the war and why the party's congressional leadership has no intention of doing either of the two things that could force its end -- blocking all funds for the Iraq occupation or impeaching Bush for the war crimes and anti-democratic abuses that have been carried out under his administration.
The explanation is to be found not in the "razor thin" majority that the Democrats have in Congress -- that never stopped the Republican Party from forcing through its right-wing agenda when it held the leadership -- but in the class nature of the Democratic Party and the character of the war itself.
It's the craven nature that allows elected Democrats to think they can continue to fool their constituents into thinking they any any way stand for peace and/or rationality. It's what allows the always embarrassing Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer to do what they did today. No, not the hair. But please, please, let's get a rule in place. If you're not an entainer and you're over 70-years-old, you wear you real hair in public, not bad wigs that you hope make you look '40-ish.' And Barbara, after we can all agree on that, let's do something about the racoon eye-liner you favor, okay? Members of Congress should look age-appropriate, not as though they're aging sex pot left over from a 60s Matt Helm film. There is something truly sad about supposedly powerful, supposedly mature women who turn themselves into objects of scorn and ridicule in the mistaken belief that they can shave multiple years off. That self-deciption is probably in part why Carla Marinucci (San Francsico Chronicle) can report that Babsie and Nance came out today in favor of the unconstitutional attack on Libya -- it is an attack on Libya, not on the leader, get real, those bombs fall on people. As John V. Walsh (Antiwar.com) notes today, "Partisan considerations should not impede the move to impeach Barack Obama. When George W. Bush was president, many on the Democratic Party Left called for his impeachment. They must do the same for President Obama who has more clearly violated the Constitution than President Bush since he did not even seek the dubious Congressional 'authorization' which George W. Bush asked for and received. If the Left cannot do this, its credibility will be in shambles, and quite deservedly so. On the other side clearly there is reason to indict Bush, and some on the Left are calling for that as are certain authorities in European countries where the former President dare not go. But at the moment Barack Obama is in charge and capable of greater damage if he is not stopped by impeachment. Impeachment of Barack Obama can no longer be avoided." Unless you're Katrina vanden Heuvel, a hopeless hypocrite who is unable to call out the continued Iraq War. Falls silent on the topic even on the 8th anniversary. Shameful.
On this day last year, Spc. Derrick Kirkland, who I served on a tour in Iraq with, hanged himself in his barracks room. He was found dead on March 20th.
This date also marks the date of the brutal invasion and occupation of Iraq by the United States. These two dates now mark two specific but not isolated atrocities committed by this government.
Derrick Kirkland was killed by this government -- for sending him to a war we had no reason to fight, then neglecting him when he asked for help.
He was in Iraq on his second tour and was sent home early because the pains of PTSD and other issues were to much to bear alone. Kirkland had tried three times before to kill himself. Despite 3 suicide attempts, Army psychologists labeled him a "low" risk for suicide. He was ridiculed and mocked by his chain of command, who then placed him in a barracks room by himself. He was there only 3 days before he took his life.
As someone who has battled though the Army medical system, I can tell you that it is not designed to help anybody. In fact, it sets up barricades to ensure soldiers stay in the military, despite seeking help. There are only a fraction of the number of psychiatrists that are needed. Appointments are months apart and treatment is reduced to nothing more than "checking boxes" to make soldiers legally ready for another deployment. Kirkland is not an isolated incident. In 2009 and 2010, more soldiers killed themselves than were killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Soldiers are killing themselves on an average of one per day.
If you want to know how much our chain of command cares about us, just look at what our executive officer Major Keith Markham, in memos he sends to other officers: "We can accomplish anything we put our minds to ... with an endless amount of expendable labor." The "expendable labor" this officer is speaking about is Derrick Kirkland, and every other soldier who has lost their life to suicide, and in combat.
Officers build their careers off of the backs of enlisted soldiers. Officers like Major Markham, General Petraeus, and everyone in the Pentagon, don't care about its soldiers -- our friends, loved ones, husbands, daughters, sons and wives. If this government does not care about its own soldiers then why would we even begin to think it cares about "liberating" peoples of another nation? This is why we say 'this is not our war' and service members have an absolute right to refuse orders to Afghanistan and Iraq!
We can stop these wars, but we need each other to do it. Those of us who mourned Kirkland's death, those of us who were sent to die in these wars, we know that this government cares nothing about us; we're just the cannon fodder in their wars for the rich. Those experiences have woken us up, and we are fighting back, and we will fight back until we stop these criminal wars!
It's a shame that the all the real leaders are outside of Congress. But apparently it's an unwritten law that Congressional critters must be de-spined before taking their oath of office.
While they pretend otherwise, Iraq faces many problems as a result of the ongoing war. This month's Iowa Insights podcast offers a look at life for Iraqi Sabah Hussein Enayah who is attending the University of Iowa's graduate program. Excerpt:
Iowa Insights: Sabah Hussein Enayah dreams of a safer, healthier future for her war torn country. That's why the thirty-one year old boarded a plane and traveled more than six thousand miles from Iraq to Iowa. [. . .] Enayah is one of the first five Iraqi students who arrived in the fall of 2010 on the University of Iowa campus. She is part of an estimated 80 Iraqi students nation wide participating in an educational initiative funded by the Iraqi government. Enayah heard about the program from a friend while working as a lecturer at Thi Qar University [in Dhi Qar]. She lived with her husband and two sons in Dhi Qar City, Basra, a region in southern near the Iraq Iraq-Kuwait border with spotty internet access. It took Enayah a dozen tries to apply for the program. Then she traveled five hours by car twice for an English test and an interview
Sabah Hussein Enayah: I went to Baghdad to-to interview. I go to interview because my husband, official, and he can't come withme .And my kids stay home. Baghdad very dangerous, explosions, risk. I can't take my kids with me. I went alone. [. . .] I met interview in Baghdad Thursday. And go back to my city after two days.
Iowa Insights: Enayah waited and wondered for months. She became pregnant with her third child. And finally, the good news had arrived. She had been selected. She arrived on the UI campus in August along with four male students from Iraq. They have become good friends although none of them had met before arrving in Iowa. The students received scholarships from the Iraqi government which covers tuition, room and board, medical insurance and benefits. They were selected through a highly competitive, merit based process. The process ensured representation across ethnic, regional, religious and gender lines. No easy task in a country that has long been divided along these demographics. Enayah and her colleagues were conditionally accepted into different graduate programs. [. . .] This pilot program is designed to cultivate the next generation of Iraqi leaders to help stabilize the country and address the pressing issues facing Iraqis. In particular, Iraqis in the region where Enayah lives experience high rates of cancer. She'd like to use her expertise in histology, the study of the microscopic anatomy of cell tissues to change this.
Sabah Hussein Enayah: I hope to improve our situation in Iraq. I want to open the lab, special lab, to make the test of hormones, of blood, of anything to help my population in my city because in my city we have [. . .] suffering from cancer. We have every day some suffering from cancer. Each organ. Liver, and heart, lung, breast.
Scott Horton: This is a very hard hitting piece there in the American Conservative magazine which is the flagship magazine of the anti-war right in this country and often times it's worth reading in depth but this article was really great and especially timely since it's now the 8th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. And primarily this article is concerned with the pollution of various kinds and the disastorous effects that this pollution has had for the people of Iraq. So that, I think as you even say in the piece, "Even though the American people would prefer to just pretend the Iraq War is ancient history or something, it's still going on for the people there." Can you tell us a little bit about the consequences and maybe some of the likely causes that we're talking about here?
Kelley B. Vlahos: Sure. I mean I -- I basically would call this if you're going to look at something that crystalized the US invasion of Iraq, I would say this is the greatest, you know, singular example of the tragedy of our invasion of Iraq -- if not the thirty year relationship we've had, the US has had with Iraq. This was a very difficult piece to write. But just to drill down a bit, basically it talks about the impact of, like you said, the pollution -- the impact of 30 years, really of war in Iraq beginning with the Iran and Iraq war in which we supplied monetarily and with weapons Saddam Hussein in the Iraq war and against Iran in which thousands and thousands of pounds of munitions were dropped, tanks and chemical weapons. Then you fast forward to the Persian Gulf War, another anniversary that was reached this week, the end of the Persian Gulf War 1991in which, again, we used heavy artillery and tanks notably with depleted uranium that still sits out in the deserts of Iraq. And then the more recent US invasion of Iraq and the last 8 years. So the impact of that on the landscape of Iraq has been devestating. And the greatest example we have right now is the increase of birth defects in places like Falluja, for example, and Basra which were very, very heavily hit -- both in this war, specifically Falluja, and in the Persian Gulf War, Basra. And what they're finding in a recent study that I -- that I mention in the piece, in Falluja they, scientists, have determined a 15% incident rate of birth defects among babies born in their General Hospital in 2010. And to sort of bring this into perspective, you know, an estimated 3% of every live birth in the US is effected -- is effected by birth defects and 6% worldwide. So we're talking a huge, auspicious number here. We're talking birth defects --
Scott Horton: Well hold on a second, Kelley. I was going to say if -- if people have young kids riding along in the back of the minivan right now, you might want to turn it to music before Kelley starts describing some of the birth defects we're talking about being found at the Falluja General Hospital.
Kelley B. Vlahos: Oh, yeah. I mean, as a mother, this is a particular difficult story for me to do because every time that I went to do research, Googling "birth defects Falluja" I would indiscriminately get photographs of these babies that were born and we're talking everything from congenital heart defects to what you would call skeletal malformations which could be pieces of the skull missing, missing eyes, missing limbs, additional limbs where there shouldn't be limbs, babies who are just lying there lifeless and limp because their heads are three, four times the size they should be. Things that you don't even want to see or ever hope to see, that will give you nightmares at night. And there are pictures and pictures and examples upon examples on the internet that, you know, I think most of us would probably -- not ignore, but never see unless we were investigating it ourselves. And this is sad because the evidence is there and we have basically, like you said earlier, have decided that the war is over but this is occuring. And they're looking for help and their own government isn't giving them help and we certainly aren't doing it. Now what are the causes? This is -- this is the big investigation that's going on. There's been -- There's many theories. One being that depleted uranium that I had mentioned earlier. Our depleted uranium basically is -- is a dense heavy metal that is used in both an armored plating on our tanks as well as in our munitions. Now the extent of how much we've used in this war is pretty much a secret because the military knows it's controversial. It's been controversial since the Persian Gulf War when it was used and our own soldiers were being exposed to it in friendly fire fights with tank battles. And they came home and complained of all sorts of illnesses but also birth defects in the babies that their wives were having. There had been many studies and many surveys done but the Department of Defense -- surprise, surprise -- has denied that depleted uranium has anything to do with incidents, increased incidents, of cancer birth defects among our soldiers so you can imagine that they don't want anything to do with anything that's happened among Iraqis. But anyway, so the use of depleted uranium is controversial but they're still using. The Air Force uses it, the Army, the Marines. And in places like Falluja which had been unbelievably pounded by US air power during 2004 and 2005 if you can remember, this was a big hot bed of Sunni resistance. They were the ones that hung the Blackwater contractors off the bridge, the Sunnis in Falluja. And so the Marines went in there and basically tried to basically restore order there, to take it out of control of the insurgents' hands. They managed to do that. They put -- They put the security in the hands of local uh-uh Fallujans and left and then they had to come back after George Bush -- the minute George Bush was re-elected in 2004. He -- He started another air campaign. So we're basically talking about large areas of the city just leveled. We're talking about GPS guided bombs just like plucking buildings out, plucking insurgents out. You know strafing going on. I mean, just -- you can imagine. Looking at pictures of Falluja today, it's a wasteland. But they managed to "pacify" them in the end. But anyway, so what's left there? And we can only imagine. So the babies that are being born today are, like I said, 15% of them in 2010 were being born with these birth defects. Is it the depleted uranium? Is it the fact that there's no sewage or clean water in Falluja? All sorts of -- I mean, the burning of the trash on the forward operating base, a little bit about that in the article. So we basically destroyed the ecology of Iraq. But we need to find out exactly what's causing the birth defects and also the high levels of cancer among Fallujans as well as the people in Basra which I mentioned earlier was also heavily hit too. The studies are there but they need the help not only to bring it to light and to do something about it. And we are-are so far ignoring the plight of these people. For all obvious reasons. It is -- It is an embarrassment and a humiliation. And it is anathema to everything we were told: we went into Iraq to save and to liberate these people.
The much celebrated withdrawal of the last U.S. "combat" forces from Iraq has come and gone and yet 50,000 U.S. soldiers remain. It defies common sense to define elite units of Special Forces soldiers as "non-combat," but that's not stopping the Pentagon or White House. Many of the departed soldiers have been replaced by private contractors and the cost of our occupation is shifting from the Pentagon to the State Department. The U.S. embassy is the same size as Vatican City and rivals any palace estate of the previous regime. It is our own unique symbol of power. The Iraqi government we protect has recently turned to violence to put down protesters trying to exercise the political freedom that we claim our very presence provides. As they say in Iraq, same donkey, different saddle.
Meanwhile Raman Brosk (Zawya) reports, "The National Coalition (NC) said Wednesday that the delay in voting for the deputies of the president was due to political necessities that emerged from the previous stage, while the Iraqiya list headed by Allawi assure that it didn't cause any delay in voting for the deputies. The Iraqi parliament postponed last month voting for the deputies of the president of the Republic because of the dispute over Khudair al-Khuzaie who was nominated for the post by Maliki's coalition." The Constitution of Iraq is very clear that, should something happen to the President, the vice president (the Constitution allows for two vice presidents) replaces the president and Parliament then elects a new president within 30 days. If there's no vice president, the Speaker of Parliament becomes president while waiting for Parliament to elect one in thirty days. Thirty days appears to be the most Constitution waits for an office to be filled. That's Article 75. Article 138, Second, section A makes clear that the vice presidents are supposed to elected at the same time as the President. November 11, 2010, Parliament elected Talabani for another term as president. Four months and thirteen days later, they still haven't elected a vice president. Do you wonder why Iraqis are upset with their do-nothing government? And Iraqis voted March 7, 2010. It is one year and 17 days after the elections and their country still has no vice presidents. Meanwhile Jalal's 77-years-old, has serious heart problems (and has had heart surgery), regularly stops in at the Mayo Clinic to have his arteries 'cleaned' while binging on saturated fat rich foods at every meal. You think the country doesn't need vice presidents?
In Cabinet news, Dar Addoustour reports that Iraqi List MP Nahida Daini states Khalid al-Obeidi will be the nominee for Minister of Defense.Al Mada reports that the National Council appears dead. This was the body that Joe Biden and the Kurds pushed in an attempt to end the political stalemate. Ayad Allawi, whose political slate won the most votes in the March 7, 2010 elections, would be put in charge of the newly created security body in exchange for Nouri al-Maliki being allowed to continue as prime minister. Apparently everyone was willing to play stupid or else they honestly didn't suspect Nouri might not live up to his word. Allawi walked out of Parliament the day the deal was formally announced and was right to. When Nouri refused to address the National Council immediately, it was clear (check the achives) that he was not going to create the body. And so he hasn't.
Allwai washed his hands of it weeks ago and announced he would not seek to head the non-existent body. He's now been angling for the post of Arab League president. Tim Arango (New York Times) notes that the rotating presidency of the Arab League will go to Iraq and that has some in government excited about the mark Baghdad might leave. Arango observes, "Iraq, with a democracy imposed by American force, is still a volatile tableau from which to draw lessons about how to establish a democracy in the Middle East. Insurgent attacks occur daily. Its prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, has raised alarms recently with moves to consolidate power over the judiciary and the security forces. Transparency International ranked Iraq as the fourth most corrupt country in the world last year, just ahead of Afghanistan, Myanmar and Somalia. Iraq is still more violent for civilians than Afghanistan, and American soldiers still die here, as one did Sunday from a roadside bomb in the south."
Al Mada reports the announcement that militia groups will lay down their weapons. The announcement comes as a wave of assassination attempts plague Iraq and, the paper notes, as Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc attempts to install Ahmed Chalabi as Minister of the Interior. Which militia groups? It's not being announced. Alsumaria TV adds, "Representatives of armed factions who held an extended meeting with government representatives at the National Reconciliation Ministry affirmed that the reason for handing arms is the commitment to the agreement with the US that stipulates mainly the withdrawal of US Forces from Iraq. Iraq's National Reconciliation Ministry declined to name the armed groups for security reasons. None of these factions is related to the defunct Baath Party, the ministry said." BNO notes, "A number of armed groups inside Iraq, in its capital of Baghdad and other provinces of Salahaddin, Kirkuk, Diala and Mosul, have decided to throw their arms. They exceed five groups, which did not attack Iraqi citizens." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) quotes Amer Khuzaie, the Minister of State for National Reconciliation, "The national reconciliation is only with armed groups who carried weapons against the occupiers and not against Iraqi people." So there you have it: Groups have laid down arms. We can't know which groups. It would endanger them. But take the Iraqi government's word for it, progress is being made. No doubt just like in 2007 when Nouri was claiming huge progress was being made on providing electricity. Al Rafidayn notes criticism that claims this is an agreement between Dawa (Nouri's political parties) and the Ba'ath Party.
There's much more to note -- I'll try to grab religious issues tomorrow -- but I want to note an upcoming radio program and we're trying to note one announcement every day until April 7th. First radio. Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan notes that she will interview US House Rep Dennis Kucinich on her radio program Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox this Sunday:
I gave up on Robber Class politics a long time ago and I think that most politicians are motivated by cynicism and greed, and many of my supporters and comrades will tell me that Dennis is a shill to keep the antiwar segment of the Democratic Party tied to the party -- and I think they could be correct -- but Dennis will stand up for peace and against blatant power grabs no matter who is president. In fact, he and Ron Paul of Texas and Walter Jones of North Carolina (both R's) just co-sponsored a bill to have the troops out of Afghanistan by the end of this year -- it failed, but it got 28 more votes than last time. It might all just be a charade, but I also know that there is no great movement of civil society pushing hard to make Congress defund the wars to end them -- it's just not there. We are failing, too.
Of course, I would be thrilled if Dennis would leave the Democratic Party and become a Green, or Independent, like Bernie Sanders of Vermont, but we need his voice where it is, for now.
LISTEN TO THE SHOW SUNDAY AT 2PM (PDST), BESIDES DENNIS, MY GUEST ALSO WILL BE HISTORIAN, THADDEUS RUSSELL, WHO WROTE A FASCINATING BOOK CALLED:A RENEGADE HISTORY OF THE US. THAD ALSO GOES OFF ON OBAMA'S INSANE POWER GRAB.
The deadline for eligible service members, veterans and their beneficiaries to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP) has been extended to April 8, 2011, allowing personnel more time to apply for the benefits they've earned under the program guidelines.
The deadline extension is included in the continuing resolution signed by President Obama Friday, providing funding for federal government operations through April 8, 2011.
Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay was established to compensate for the hardships military members encountered when their service was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss Authority between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009. Eligible members or their beneficiaries may submit a claim to their respective military service in order to receive the benefit of $500 for each full or partial month served in a Stop Loss status.
When RSLSP began on Oct. 21, 2009, the services estimated 145,000 service members, veterans and beneficiaries were eligible for this benefit. Because the majority of those eligible had separated from the military, the services have engaged in extensive and persistent outreach efforts to reach them and remind them to apply. Outreach efforts including direct mail, engaging military and veteran service organizations, social networks and media outlets, will continue through April 8, 2011.
To apply for more information, or to gather more information on RSLSP, including submission requirements and service-specific links, go to http://www.defense.gov/stoploss.