Monday, May 9, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, a sexist tries to bully the Peace Mom, an attempted prison break in Iraq results in the loss of multiple lives, the security posts remain vacant in Iraq, US Senator Patty Murray continues fighting for those who take care of their wounded veterans, and more.
Congress passed the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 but, as snapshot after snapshot has noted, that wasn't the end of it. Senator Daniel Akaka was Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee when it passed and he has since gone on to steer the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs as Chair. That could have meant the ball got dropped and the act forgotten. Instead, Senator Patty Murray has stayed on this issue and fought and cajoled to get the VA to implement the act and implement it the way Congress intended. She continues to provide oversight and leadership on this very important issue. Today her office issued the following news release:
(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affair Committee, sent a letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) Eric Shinseki urging him to increase the amount of assets a spouse of a veteran receiving VA long-term care is able to protect to current levels. Currently, the allowance is based on the amount allowed under Medicaid programs in 2002 and has not been adjusted for increases in the cost of living. The letter also advises Secretary Shinseki to index the allowance for the future to offset the effects of inflation. The change would affect the spouses of veterans who are receiving long-term care.
"As a result of Committee oversight, I learned that the spouses of veterans who are required to make co-payments for VA extended care are allowed to keep less in financial resources than are the spouses of Medicaid recipients. I do not believe that this inequity was VA's intent at the time the applicable regulation was issued, and I urge you to eliminate this harmful discrepancy," wrote Senator Murray.
Full text of the letter is below:
May 9, 2011
The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420
Dear Secretary Shinseki:
As a result of Committee oversight, I learned that the spouses of veterans who are required to make co-payments for VA extended care are allowed to keep less in financial resources than are the spouses of Medicaid recipients. I do not believe that this inequity was VA's intent at the time the applicable regulation was issued, and I urge you to eliminate this harmful discrepancy.
I served on the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs when we considered and reported legislation to mandate extended care to certain veterans. Enacted as the Veterans Millennium Health Care and Benefits Act, Public Law 106-117, I fully expected that VA would take the needs of the spouse of such veterans into account when establishing co-pays and the amount of exempted financial resources.
The VA set the spousal resource protection amount at $89,289, basing the figure on the
amount allowed by 23 State Medicaid programs in calendar year 2002. While Medicaid programs have continued to adjust the allowable amount to offset the effects of inflation -- the allowable amount for 2011 is $109,560 --- the comparable amount for the spouses of our veterans in extended-care facilities remains frozen at the 2002 level.
Unlike the VA, Medicaid indexes its spousal allowance. I believe that the spouses of our veterans receiving extended care should receive no less and therefore hope that you will consider raising the spousal resource protection amount and indexing it for the future. As many of the veterans in extended-care facilities are exempt from co-payments, I believe
that the cost of doing so would be minimal. I am enclosing a memo prepared by Committee staff that may be of assistance to your staff.
Thank you for your consideration of my request. I am confident that, working together, we can ensure that the spouses of veterans who receive extended care can avoid depleting assets urgently needed for their own retirement years.
Specialty Media Director
U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Again, Senator and Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Murray continues to follow up on this issue and tackle the bureaucracy. "Bureaucracy," as Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan attempted to point out on TV, is composed of people. Cindy attempted to explain that to the highly sexist Drew Pinsky -- who holds no degree in psychology or psychiatry. (We covered this topic at Third yesterday, FYI.) Pinsky, who goes by Dr. Drew, had Cindy on his show in the latest of his never ending attempts to popularize sexism and blame the women's rights movement for all the ills in the country -- apparently including that he was both born Drew Pinsky and that he was born in a man's body.
Pinsky attempted to guilt trip Cindy Sheehan over the journeys and trips she takes to advocate for peace. If you're confused, Pinsky made it clear that Cindy should have been at home with her children like a 'good little woman' -- that would be her adult children, by the way. Now Pinsky's children only turned 18 last year (triplets, most likely fertility issues required that drugs be used for conception) but he didn't feel the need to stay home with them when they were children. It's really telling that at this late date, a woman with grown children (they've all been adults since Cindy started the first Camp Casey) would have to justify her 2011 actions and whether or not her actions are both hurting and keeping her away from her children. It's past time that internist Pinsky's long track record of sexism and idiociy (for one example of the latter, note this Jezebel post and the comments) was widely noted. As Amanda Marcotte (Slate) wondered last year, "Can America Just Fire Dr. Drew?" Pinsky wanted to attack Cindy Sheehan because she stands for peace -- indicating yet again that the man is very sick.
Daria Chernyshova: What happened to the antiwar movement so active just prior to Bush's war in Iraq? Mass demonstrations in the streets, on city squares and in front of the White House. Where are they, brave fighters for peace? Activists adamentally opposed to military interventions have always tried to reflect public opinion and influence policy makers. How much has changed? The anti-Vietnam War movement had a major impact.
Male voice over reading from Tom Wells' The War Within: America's Battle Over Vietnam: By 1968, faced with widespread public opposition to the war and troubling prospects in Vietnam, the Johnson administration halted the bombing of North Vietnam and stabilized the ground war. This policy reversal was the major turning point.
Daria Chernyshova: It would appear it's difficult to witness history repeat itself. Numbers show antiwar rallies have significantly decreased over the past years. Some claim this is because of the election of Barack Obama to the US presidency. As a Democrat he rose to power opposing the war in Iraq and promising to end it.
President Barack Obama: By August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end.
Daria Chernyshova: Expectations were high when Obama entered office and after he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Nonetheless, on the sidelines of the Nobel Committee's ceremony antiwar activists expressed their concern.
Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan: This peace prize is a slap in the face to us, [the sound of cheering] all of us, all of us who have been working and sacrificing for true peace for years.
Daria Chernyshova: After two years in office many do not see a difference between Barack Obama and George W. Bush -- at least in terms of foreign policy. Obama inherited two wars -- neither of which has ended. And the United States is now involved in military action in Libya. It would appear that the antiwar movement today has gone AWOL. Daria Chernyshova for Crosstalk, RT.
Peter Lavelle: Alright, I usually like to reward the person who had to get up earliest for this program but we have two people from Los Angeles today. But I'm going to go to Angela anyway. Uhm, I read Antiwar.com every single day, many times a day, and you do a wonderful service. But you know, Antiwar.com, that was something that really brought people together when Bush was going to war, an illegal war that he was pushing and mainstream followed along. And now, and I think you're a wonderful success, but where is the antiwar movement today? We have a lot more war. If you read Antiwar.com, the United States is contemplating military action in even more places right now beyond Libya. So Angela, what happened?
Angela Keaton: Well -- and I owe one of these anwers to one of these guests here today -- but the sobering, unfortunate answer is that neoconservatives and nationalists were right, it was an anti-Bush movement more than it was an antiwar movement. And that's where it went. Barack Ob -- Partisanship is so strong in the US and Democrats are so wedded to Barack Obama and so afraid of weakening him, they will put up with any number of moral indecency to allow him to keep his vaunted position, including the situation and also because Barack Obama -- there's no leadup, public leadup to Libya, so there's no chance for organization. The fact that Democrats are afraid to criticize Obama and the fact that there was so little public debate on Libya says really terrible things about the future of democracy in the US. So this is a very -- it's actually, the whole situation is a bit of a microcosm, a reflection of what I think is actually going on in the US right now.
Peter Lavelle: Thaddeus, if I can go to you, too, also in Los Angeles. The empire -- it's appetite for war is insatiable. So was the antiwar movement really all about George W. Bush -- as Angela pointed out and as I'm sure Michael's going to tell us in a few minutes? Go ahead.
Thaddeus Russell: I agree with everything that Angela said. I think that, in a large part, the antiwar movement during Bush was really about, unfortunately, personality in a sense. He was seen as sort of this disreputable, low brow Texan who was very crude in his ways but what we've gotten is an imperialist who is actually very refined and very articulate. And I would just say, liberals now are basically the more effective -- and always have been -- the more effective imperialists than conservatives who usually tend to use brute force and very crude rhetoric. So that, I think, is one reason but we can talk about many others for why there is no antiwar movement and why there are actually more wars now than before.
Peter Lavelle: Well, Michael, you've written probably the most authoritative report on this to date. If you could give my audience the title of that report. But , I mean, you basically say it was really just about Bush, is that right?
Michael Heaney: Well I think it's a little bit more than that. I would say that it's both about being antiwar and about being anti-Bush. So I believe that the people who participated in the antiwar movement were genuinely and earnestly antiwar and that was the reason why they participated. But it was President George W. Bush that made the events seem so threatening. And once President Bush went away, people felt less threatened and were thus less likely to participate. I guess I would also add that the antiwar movement has not gone away completely but rather it has gotten very small so that what is really left is the hardcore, the highly organized, dedicated people. In other words, it's become a movement in abeyance now rather than a mass movement.
[And that's all I care to hear from the quack. He then starts repeating his quack study. Quack? If you're talking about whether people feel a sense of danger or not, you social science study needs to factor in the media and the coverage. Michael Heaney managed to do a 'study' in a world where the media not only doesn't have any impact at all, it doesn't even exist. Quack.]
Peter Lavelle: Angela, what do you think about that because I guess you could argue that the average American citizen is even more threatened now by more wars but the perception isn't there. How do we -- how do we square the circle on that?
Angela Keaton: Well think about it for a second. In the beginning, towards the end of 2009, the beginning of 2010, 63% of Americans were theoretically against the war in Afghanistan but when you actually ask people what they vote on, only 2 and 1/2 percent voted -- would vote the war being a deciding factor in what they did in the ballot box. This is not a bread and butter issue. The antiwar movement, this is post-Vietnam era antiwar movement, has no draft to coalesce around. People don't know anyone who died in Afghanistan or Iraq. It's just, it's not -- it's not -- People are going to -- Political action is ultimately about the pocket book and their home life and this just doesn't -- just doesn't -- It's not that important. You don't have to pay attention. You don't have to watch the news in and out every day, it's not even in people's faces. So it's not -- It doesn't grab and galvanize people. Like Michael was saying, there's just not -- people are not going to be moved to action on it.
Peter Lavelle: Thaddues, if I can just kind of again, to echo the point Angela was making right there, I mean it's an empire that can fight its wars but it doesn't have to necessarily stir up anybody's emotions because that's exactly what they want to do.
Thaddeus Russell: I slightly disagree with Angela -- although I agree with her in general on almost everything. I do think there was a significant antiwar movement during the Bush administration. I was at many demonstrations in New York that had hundreds of thousands of people at them. They were less than what they had in Vietnam and she's absolutely right that a draft certainly provokes an antiwar movement, great numbers of casualties provoke an antiwar movement. But what -- the point I want to make here today and I think this is very important is it's really about what happened with the left and liberals which is that they merged their identity with the head of empire during the campaign and since. And that is why they have left the antiwar movement in droves because now they are part of the empire. They have become a part of this global effort to remake the world in our image. And that is really the tragedy. The left and the liberals in this country need to really need to take a close look at what they did with Obama and begin to psychologically distance themselves from him. They need to start saying, "Not In Our Name!" Which is what they used to say during the Bush and during Vietnam and they no longer say that.
Of course Not In Our Name -- the organization -- closed shop in 2008. Couldn't be around to call out a Democratic White House. They actually beat a faster retreat than even the pathetic United for Peace and Justice (which waited until after the 2008 election to waive the white flag). We'll move over to Scott Horton's Antiwar Radio from last week (May 4th, audio link) when he spoke with Veterans For Peace's Joey King about the Libyan War and other topics. We're going to focus on the observations on the peace movement. Excerpt:
Joey King: And I'm sure you would agree that the Democratic activists that were so against the wars of George Bush seem to have faded away on election day after Barack Obama became president. And it's very disturbing to me because if George Bush would have done the same thing [Libyan War], you know, the Democratic activists that were against the war -- you know, the MoveOn.orgs or whomever -- would have been far more stringent than they have been with this escalation in Afghanistan and now Syria.
Scott Horton: Well you know I saw the most ridiculous poll number like that the other day that had -- I think it was just yesterday -- that had 70% of the American people are against the war in Afghanistan but then it was 70% of Democrats approve of Barack Obama's handling of Afghanistan.
Joey King: Yeah, there is definitely a disconnect. And I guess the easiest way to explain that is a mile wide and an inch deep. They just don't seem to be as opposed to the war of Barack Obama as they were when George Bush was in charge and, I know, I listen to Cindy Sheehan interview that you did, I don't know, two months ago when you had her on and she -- That's been a constant complaint of hers, is the fact that the Democrats seem to be okay as long as it's a Democratic war but not okay when it's a Republican war. And it's -- it's definitely a double standard. It's laughable.
Scott Horton: Yeah well it really is sad. You think back to even 2002, 2003, it was pretty obvious that most of the people protesting that war were at the very least silent if not supportive of Bill Clinton's war in Kosovo --
Joey King: Sure.
Scott Horton: And if it had been anybody but a bunch of oil executives and neocons planning the thing, if it had been Bill Clinton's third term and he had said we're going to go liberate the Iraqi people and whatever and we're going to go to the United Nations for resolutions saying it's okay first, they would have gone right along with it. It's just that it was a bunch of guys -- I mean, they thought Bush was from Texas, anyway, like in the TV show. And so they just didn't trust 'oh cynical Texan Republican oil man Christian types that we don't like, they couldn't possibly have good motives.' But if Bill Clinton and Madaline Albright had been implementing the exact same policy, they would have been for it. So now, here we are again, it's just the same thing.
Joey King: Yep, you're exactly right. The actions are not important. It's whether you have a "D" or an "R" behind your name. That is the most important thing, unfortunately.
Scott Horton: Well and certainly we can see all the sudden this re-emergence of, at least, the war skeptical right if not the antiwar right in this country. But it's not based on everyone went back and read Garet Garrett or anything like that. It's just that they don't like Barack Obama, 'So why would you put him in charge of a war, you know? He's a Kenyan secret agent, here to get us,' you know?
Joey King: Exactly. And it's something that we've probably done a poor job of and I hope that we can -- we can do better as far as reaching out to the antiwar right which I know is a large part of your audience and we have probably done a poor job of reaching out to those folks because -- I guess the easiest way to explain it, in my local chapter here in Nashville, we've got a pretty hard core Libertarian and a pretty hard core Socialist and they both agree that war sucks. They disagree on the causes of war. But they definitely agree that war sucks and we're all opposed to war. So it's probably something that we need to do on our end to outreach to some of the folks with the more Libertarian minded.
Yesterday Dahlia Wasfispoke with Press TV (link has video that is not working currently) about the so-called withdrawal and stated, "We've heard time and again that when we reach a certain benchmark, US forces will withdraw from Iraq, but as most things that have come out of the mouth of the United States' government, it's dishonest. [. . .] We [US] intend to stay there as basically the vice-royalty in Iraq, as a colonial presence."
Colonial presence would explain all the members of Congress visiting Iraq over the weekend. First up, Saturday, Nancy Pelosi led a delegation on a visit to Iraq. The one-time Speaker of the House got that position by campaigning -- in 2006 -- to end the Iraq War. She was one of the faces of the Democratic Party effort that promised if the American people gave the then-minority party control of just one house of Congress, the Iraq War would end. With just one house, America was told, they would have investigative power and so much more. Many Americans believed Pelosi & Co -- so many, in fact, that Democrats were not given control of one house, they were given control of both houses of Congress. And in January of 2007, the 110th Congress was sworn in.
Did the Iraq War end?
Has Nancy expressed remorse?
But she visited Iraq Sautrday and she Tweeted about it.
Felicia Sonmez (Washington Post) adds, "Traveling with Pelosi are Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (Md.) and Democratic Reps. George Miller (Calif.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Nick Rahall (W.Va.), Anna Eshoo (Calif.), Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.), Steve Israel (N.Y.) and Cedric Richmond (La.)." Hisham Rikabi (Al Mada) reports that Pelosi was in Iraq as part of the continued effort "to convince the Iraqi government of the need to keep a number of US troops beyond 2011 and that Nouri told her extending the US presence would require an agreement on the part of all political blocs. Sunday's Iraq tweets came from Senator John McCain.
And all the visiting dignitaries couldn't put a once-independent nation back together again. Or even stop the blood flow as violence continued all weekend and continued to be reported today. Reuters notes 1 police officer was shot dead in Kirkuk today, an al-Zab roadside bombing left a teacher injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured six people, another Baghdad roadside bombing which injured seven people, a third Baghdad roadside bombing which injured two people, a fourth Baghdad roadside bombing left two people wounded, a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed ISCI's Hassan Jasim, and, dropping back to Sunday for the rest, Baghdad bombing by an alcohol store injured the store's owner, a Mosul clash in which 1 police officer was killed and 1 person shot dead in Talafar.
In violence reported over the weekend? Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor and al-Jazeera) points to one of the most violent incidents, one which took place Sunday.
Raheem Salman and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) report on a prison break aatempt of a suspect, Huthaifa Batawi, in the October 31st assault on Baghdad's Our Lady of Salvation Church. The death toll is 11 prisoners and six police officers: "The prisoners Sunday overpowered guards and killed a senior counter-terrorism general and five others before they were detained or shot dead. It was unclear how many detainees participated in the mayhem that lasted several hours." Jack Healy (New York Times) explains, "The melee inside the Baghdad prison began around 10 p.m. on Saturday when the man believed to have masterminded the church attack, Huthaifa al-Batawi, seized a police lieutenant's pistol, shot him in the head and led other inmates on a rampage, the officials said. It was unclear exactly where Mr. Batawi was when he grabbed the gun, but the authorities said that he and the other inmates had not been handcuffed, making it easier for them to overpower their captors, break out of a holding area and overrun the jail." Philip Caufield (New York Daily News) adds, "After killing his captors, al-Batawi freed nearly a dozen members of his crew, who snatched a cache of weapons -- including guns and grenades -- and attempted to overrun the prison, officials said." al-Batawi is among the dead.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) offers a detailed account full of details others missed out on. Hammoudi notes that the prisoners were being held "inside the heavily fortified compound of the Ministry of the Interiror in Baghdad" and Hammoudi observers:
It was a highly embarrassing setback for the Iraqi security services. Police said the detainees had all confessed to membership in the Islamic State of iraqi, the Iraqi extremist group linked to al Qaida and to planning and implementing a number of assaults, including the bloody attack on Lady of Salvation Church in October 2010, when more than 50 people were killed.
Appearing before reporters Sunday, four ministry officials gave a confusing and incomplete account of the incident and then departed after taking three questions.
It's a very strong, hard news report with much more to offer than just what's noted above. Great job by Hammoudi.
The residents of Camp Ashraf hail from Iran. They were in Iraq before the start of the Iraq War and, following the US invasion, the US made these MEK residents of Camp Ashraf -- these Iranian refuees who had been in Iraq for decades -- surrender weapons and also put them under US protection. They also extracted a 'promise' from Nouri that he would not move against them. July 28, 2009 the world saw what Nouri's word was actually worth. Since that Nouri-ordered assault in which at least 11 residents died, he's continued to bully the residents. April 4th, Iran's Fars News Agency reported that the Iraqi military denied allegations that it entered the camp and assaulted residents. Specifically, Camp Ashraf residents state, "The forces of Iraq's Fifth Division invaded Camp Ashraf with columns of armored vehicles, occupying areas inside the camp, since midnight on Saturday." Friday April 8th saw another attack which the Iraqi government again denied. Thursday April 14th, the United Nations confirmed that 34 people were killed in the April 8th assault on Camp Ashraf. Barbara Grady (San Jose Mercury News) reported that the dead included journalist Asieh Rakhshani who has family in California. The assault hasn't really registered in the US. By comparison, several British MPs have expressed their outrage.
Since the control of Camp Ashraf in Iraq, home to People's Mojahedin refugees, was transferred to Iraqi authorities, the residents of this camp have been subjected to a persistent and bloody repression. After the intervention of the Iraqi security forces on April 8, the UN confirmed the death of 34 people. The unacceptable acts of violence have been criticized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and condemned by the international community, but no effective protection measure has been taken since. In unison with human rights organizations, the Socialist Party condemns the violent repression against the inhabitants of Camp Ashraf and calls for ensuring of the protection of the Ashraf population. International humanitarian law requires that the Iraqi regime ensures the security of refugees and protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention. The protection of civilians must be a priority in all circumstances and France and the European Union must demand that this (protection) is ensured.
And there are problems with Kuwait as well, at least with a cell phone company located there. AFP reports that Iraqis are gearing up to boycott Zain due to the company's alleged gaps in service throughout Iraq. On the violence, it all takes place as Dar Addustour reports that Iraqiya is threatening to withdraw from the process as a result of Nouri's nominees for the security posts. Various blocs are opposed to Nouri's nominees which were made without input from Iraqiya or, for that matter, Nouri's co-horts in the National Alliance. If Nouri's serious about these nominess, this may be an indicator of what he would like to do after June 1st if he is successful in demanding new elections.
Osama bin Laden was announced dead last week by US President Barack Obama. Vanity Fair has a reaction from an Iraqi (Sunni). The reaction provides various examples of violence and the main point appears to be: "Brother, Osama bin Laden's death was victory to childhood all over the world, nnot only United States because they are who suffered from him." Noam Chomsky has a brief piece entitled "My Reaction to Osama bin Laden's Death" (ICH) and he observes:
We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush's compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic. Uncontroversially, his crimes vastly exceed bin Laden's, and he is not a "suspect" but uncontroversially the "decider" who gave the orders to commit the "supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole" (quoting the Nuremberg Tribunal) for which Nazi criminals were hanged: the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country, the bitter sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region.
Today on Law and Disorder Radio(begins broadcasting at 9:00 am EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week), Michael Ratner, Heidi Boghosian and Michael S. Smith explore with attorney Shane Kadidal the issue of Guantanamo -- the never ending hell -- and what was done to children, the mentally ill and the elderly; and with journalist Will Potter they explore the efforts to demonize eco-activists. On WBAI, the hosts actually did three hours of fundraising this morning and addressed the reality that the courts were the place to try and convict. Most know Dalia Hashad as a former host of Law & Disorder Radio (and for her work with the ACLU and Amnesty). She weighs in on the death in "Bin Laden's Gone, the Problem Remains" (The Scoop): The world was not a better place with Osama bin Laden in it. But the rejoicing that has followed his death -- and the largely uncritical coverage of that bloodlust in the mainstream press -- demands careful consideration. It shows that after a decade of hard lessons, a significant portion of the U.S. population is still mired in the Why-do-they-hate-us? mentality, unable to critically reflect on America's role in the world, let alone understand the consequences of American military and economic policy. Here's what we should remember: The U.S. is engaged militarily in four countries (let's not overlook Colombia) and has operatives and "advisers" in uncounted others. By the most conservative estimates, hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians -- including thousands of children -- have died in U.S. military operations since 9/11. Drone strikes in impoverished Pakistani villages stoke resentment against our imperiousness. And as if to prove the point, people who can't find Pakistan on a map -- and who are happy to remain blissfully unaware of the names of the dead or the consequences that follow -- take to the streets to cheer the murder of a ruthless giant-killer whom we ourselves had a hand in creating. How does the press figure into all of this? Better to ask, How doesn't the press figure into all of this? As scary as it might be to report facts that fickle news consumers don't want to hear, catering to willful ignorance isn't journalism. It's propaganda.