Thursday, May 12, 2011


Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Wednesday that he would engage in a months-long consultation with Iraq's many political factions before deciding whether to ask the United States to keep some troops in the country.
Al-Maliki said he would back a continued U.S. troop presence if he found that at least 70 percent of the country's political leadership favored such a move. He said he would try to reach a decision by the end of July.

The above is from Sahar Issa and Roy Gutman's "Iraqis will discuss whether some U.S. troops should stay" (McClatchy Newspapers). In approximately 7 months, 'all' US troops were supposed to be out of Iraq so Nouri's announcement is big news . . . unless you count on broadcast news.

Although in fairness to the big lazy, it's not like print did all that good of a job either. You have the newspapers that usually cover Iraq doing a solid job. You have AP working overtime with updates. And that's really all you have. (The Huffington Post has also been on top of the story, but I'm talking about papers.)

And the lack of interest in this development is all the more amzing when you grasp that broadcast news used the SOFA as their excuse to withdraw from Iraq. Never before in its history -- and ABC News has a pretty tawdry history, even if you leave out the CIA connections that dominated the network's news division in the early 60s -- had ABC News not kept staff in a region where the US had an official (as opposed to covert) war. But the SOFA was their excuse to bail. They made a big to do about how they'd be using BBC News to cover Iraq. What was that, once, twice? Three times? And then they were done with the whole topic. CBS thought (and still does) that Elizabeth Palmer could clone herself and cover the entire MidEast. Most appalling was NBC because it's also the cable network MSNBC -- meaning it has to produce more 'product.' While CNN had a staff in Iraq, stationed in Iraq, what did MSNBC have?

Nothing. They used Richard Engel (or misused) almost as badly as CBS did Elizabeth Palmer.

(Of the three commercial, broadcast news programs, NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams has done the best job of covering Iraq. That's not saying much, granted, but Brian Williams has shown a real interest in the continuing events and Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer have not. The latter two also lacked the interest or ability to provide context to the events and probably the reason Nightly News dominates the ratings is because -- whether you agree with his take or not -- Brian Williams does know how to provide context.)

Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) quotes Nouri al-Maliki stating, "This is a big national issue, and it needs a national consensus." It's a real shame no one in the administration is making the same point here in the US.

Jack Healy and Yasir Ghazi (New York Times) observe, "The future of the American military presence is one of the most volatile questions in Iraq. Military and political leaders from Iraq and the United States admit that Iraq’s security forces are not yet ready to defend Iraq's airspace or borders. Few Iraqis are glad to have American soldiers still here more than eight years after the invasion, but many worry that violence and terrorist attacks will increase if the American force leaves altogether." While some are saying the US government needs an immediate answer, Aaron C. Davis (Washington Post) reports that Nouri stated they need an answer "by August."

Ton of problems with Blogger/Blogspot this morning (which is why Wally and Cedric e-mailed their posts to their site this morning). Space permitting, we'll cover the next item in today's snapshot.

Chairman Murray Introduces Landmark Veterans Employment Legislation

Patty Murray

Senator Murray discusses her bill to provide help for veterans looking for work. Joining Senator Murray are from l to r Senator Chris Coons, Senator Jon Tester, and Eric Smith a currently unemployed Iraq War veteran.


With the unemployment rate among young veterans at over 27%, Chairman Murray introduces a landmark bi-partisan bill that will require job skills training for every separating service member; create new pathways to private sector and federal employment

WATCH VIDEO HERE of Senator Murray and Eric Smith, an veteran of two tours of duty in Iraq who has struggled to find employment at home despite the skills he acquired in the military.

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee introduced major legislation to help veterans struggling to find work and to address rising unemployment among our nation’s heroes. Senator Murray’s bill, the Hiring Heroes Act of 2011, is the first of its kind to require broad job skills training for all service members returning home and comes at a time when more than one in four veterans aged 20-24 are unemployed. In addition to requiring that each separating service member attend a transition assistance program, the bill will also create new direct federal hiring authority so that more service members have jobs waiting for them the day they leave the military, and will improve veteran mentorship programs in the working world. Read more about the bill here.

The following are Senator Murray’s remarks at today’s press conference:

Thank you all so much for coming out today.

I first want to thank Senators Tester, Begich, and Coons for joining us today to speak about this critical issue in their states and across the nation.

I’d also like to say a special thank you to Senator Murkowski who couldn’t be here today, but who has joined a growing list of sponsors and has helped to bring support from across the aisle to an effort that should certainly never be partisan.

I also want to thank Eric Smith for coming here from Baltimore to tell all of you a first-hand account of what it’s like to come home from two tours in Iraq serving our nation, only to have to fight every day to find work.

And finally I want to thank all of the veterans service organizations and their representatives that are joining us to help introduce this landmark bill – they include the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and the American Legion

Today, with the help of everyone here, we are taking a huge step forward in rethinking the way we treat our men and women in uniform after they leave the military.

For too long in this country we have invested billions of dollars in training our young men and women with new skills to protect our nation - only to ignore them once they left the military. For too long, at the end of their career we patted our veterans on the back for their service and then pushed them out into the job market alone.

And where has that left us today?

Today, we have an unemployment rate of over 27% among young veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. That is over one in five of our nation’s heroes who can’t find a job to support their family, don’t have an income that provides stability, and don’t have work that provides them with the self-esteem and pride that is so critical to their transition home.

And all too often we read about the results of veterans who come home - often with the invisible wounds of war –who can’t find the dignity and security that work provides. We read about it in skyrocketing suicide statistics, problems at home, substance abuse, and even in rising homelessness among our young veterans.

But I also have heard about it first-hand from the veterans that we’ve failed to provide better job support to. I’ve had veterans tell me that they no longer write the fact that they’re a veteran on their resume because they fear the stigma that they believe employers attach to the invisible wounds of war. I’ve heard from medics who return home from treating battlefield wounds who can’t get certifications to be an EMT or to drive an ambulance. I’ve talked to veteran after veteran who’ve said they didn’t have to go through the military’s job skills training program, or that they were never taught how to use the vernacular of the business world to describe the benefits of their experience.

These stories are as heartbreaking as they are frustrating. But more than anything they’re a reminder that we have to act now.

The bill we are introducing today allows our men and women in uniform to capitalize on their service, while also ensuring the American people capitalize on the investment we have made in them.

For the first time, it would require broad job skills training for every service member as they leave the military as part of the military’s Transition Assistance Program.

Today, nearly one-third of those leaving the Army don’t get this training.

This bill would also allow service members to begin the federal employment process prior to separation in order to facilitate a truly seamless transition from the military to jobs at the VA, Homeland Security, or the many other federal agencies in need of our veterans.

This bill will also require the Department of Labor to take a hard look at what military skills and training should be translatable into the civilian sector, and will work to make it simpler to get the licenses and certification our veterans need.

All of these are real, substantial steps to put our veterans to work.

And all of them come at a pivotal time for our economic recovery and our veterans.

You know, I grew up with the Vietnam War - and I have dedicated much of my Senate career to helping to care for the veterans we left behind at that time.The mistakes we made then have cost our nation and our veterans dearly and have weighed on the conscience of this nation. Today we stand on the brink of repeating those mistakes.

We can’t let that happen. Our nation’s veterans are disciplined, team players who have proven they can deliver under pressure like no one else.

It’s time for us to deliver for them.

Thank you.


Matt McAlvanah

Communications Director

U.S. Senator Patty Murray

202-224-2834 - press office

202--224-0228 - direct

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