Friday, June 3, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq is slammed by bombings, activists demonstrate in Baghdad's Tahrir Square despite intimidation efforts by security forces, Adam Kokesh gears up for his dance party, and more.
Iraq War veteran Adam Kokesh holds the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Dance Party tomorrow at noon. Young Americans for Liberty (a continuation of 2008's Students for Ron Paul) picks Adam Kokesh as their Rebel Of The Week. John McKenna explains, "Dancing, even if you are the worst dancer known to man, is a free act of expression, which I'm pretty sure is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Banning it as a 'dmonstration' is bad enough, but the Gestapo-like reactions of the Park Rangers was beyond unnecessary." What is McKenna talking about? On last night's Adam vs. the Man, Adam spoke with Medea Benjamin and Tighe Barry and, in a column, Medea explains what happened last weekend:
It was Memorial Day weekend. My partner Tighe Barry and I were on our way to New York, but we decided to make a quick trip to the Memorial to support the dancers. When we got there, two park policemen were talking to the group. We moved closer to hear what they were saying and overheard someone ask the police how they define dancing. Tighe put his arms around my waist and started swaying, illustrating how hard it is to define what, precisely, is dancing. Suddenly, to our utter amazement, we were set upon by the police. They yanked us apart, handcuffed us and shoved us on the ground. That's when three members of the group put on their headsets and started boogying. The police went wild, bodyslamming, chokeholding, and jumping on top of them. The police cleared out the entire Memorial as if they were protecting the tourists from some kind of terrorist threat, then threw us in a paddywagon and hauled us off to jail. Three hours later, after mug shots and fingerprinting, we were charged with "dancing in a restricted area" and cited to come back to court.
Adam got the body slam, the choke hold and the arrest for the 'crime' of rhythmic movement. He is fighting back and there will be a Dance Party at the Jefferson Memorial this Saturday at noon. More information can be found at RT's Adam vs. the Man. Especially refer to Wednesday's broadcast. In addition to Adam's program, you can also find out information at this Facebook page on the event and on solidarity events taking place around the world.
May 11th, Senator Patty Murray, Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, held a press conference to explain Hiring Heroes Act of 2011, a Senate bill to assist veterans with employment. Among the things that the bill would do:
* Makes participation in the Transition Assistance Program mandatory for separating servicemembers;
* Requires that each servicemember receive an individualized assessment of jobs they may qualify for when they participate in the Transition Assistance Program;
Transition Assistance Program (TAP) is supposed to help service members transitioning to veteran status with a number of issues that will come up in the civilian world such as how to market skills. "TAP is a program," US House Rep Marlin Stutzman declared yesterday, "that is supposed to help discharging veterans transition from the military into civilian careers. VA also has a portion of TAP where they educate the servicemembers on the multitude of services that are available to them once they become veterans."
Subcommittee Chair Marlin Stutzman: I do have a couple of questions for both of you. You mentioned the figure of 45% of service members attend TAP. Is that for all branches? Am I wrong in that the Marines do require, it is mandatory for their service members to attend TAP before they are discharged? And do we know if their percentages are any higher than the other branches?
Christina Roof: When I spoke with Marine Corps officials last week, I was told it is mandatory that their Marines complete the TAP program. I was also told there were some exceptions, of course, you know, like critical injuries involved and so on. But I was told last week that it is mandatory that all their Marines complete TAP before their service discharge.
Subcommittee Chair: Marlin Stutzman: So that's with no exceptions? Every Marine coming out does -- has completed TAP or . . .
Christina Roof: Again, I can only go on what they told me which was, it is mandatory which I think is a great idea that should be across the board. I can't speak, again, to each individual case but it seems like they are enforcing it.
Subcommittee Chair Marlin Stutzman: So would the 45% number have Marines in that percentage? Or do we not know more of -- the demographics or --
Christina Roof: I'll let my colleague, I think that was his number.
Marco Reininger: Sir, if I may, I'm not 100% sure whether or not this number includes the Marine Corps but I believe that making it mandatory DoD wide would be the right solution here. That same survey indicated that many veterans didn't attend the TAP program where TAP courses were offered because it had a reputation of being redundant, not really useful for making a successful transition. And, in some cases even, commanding officers wouldn't let them go. This is what they say, again, this is what the survey indicated. So mandating it DoD wide for all service branches would be the right answer here, sir. And, of course, along with that comes having to overhaul the program so that it actually works and makes sense for people to actually attend.
[. . .]
Ranking Member Bruce Braley: Let me ask you this basic question. Isn't it true that the Department of Defense could make these programs mandatory, across the board right now without any further action by Congress if they wanted to? [They nod their heads.] That was a "yes" from both of you.
Marco Reininger: Yes, sir, absolutely, the executive branch could order this to be mandatory and that would most likely be the end of it as far as I understand the process.
At Third last month in "Hiring Heroes Act of 2011," we noted our support for Senator Patty Murray's bill including the mandatory aspect of TAP:
We think it has to be mandatory to be successful and we feel that way based on the many stories shared with us and those shared in public about returning service members. How you're gathered in a large group and told there's help available if you have 'emotional' problems, but nobody has 'emotional' problems, right? In other words, the VA's been able to avoid issues like PTSD by demonizing and ridiculing them when they should be providing treatment.
We can see something similar happening with the military's job skills training program. Wait. See it happening? It's already happening which is why Murray could state, in the news conference, "Today, nearly one-third of those leaving the Army don't get this training."
There are a lot of programs the military offers. There's a real problem getting the word out. In some instances, such as PTSD, it's hard to draw any conclusion either than the military wants to keep the numbers down. Making the program mandatory means it falls back on superiors if veterans aren't getting access to these programs.
Making it mandatory does make superiors answerable if TAP isn't attended. Why wasn't it attended? Why didn't you ensure that ___ attended it? Did you not understand it was mandatory and your role in this was to ensure that it happened?
Back to the Subcommittee hearing. The second panel was composed of VA's Thomas Pamperin, Ruth A. Fanning, Dept of Labor's Ramond Jefferson and DoD's Philip A. Burdette and Brig Gen Robert Hedelund. Staying with the topic of TAP, we'll note this exchange.
Subcommittee Chair Marlin Stutzman: General Hedelund, my question is with the Marine Corps policy that requires TAP, have you seen any negative effects? And how does the Corps enforce mandatory attendance?
Brig Gen Robert Hedelund: Yes, sir. Thank you for that question. First, no. No operational impacts by requiring Marines to go to mandatory TAP. As I mentioned in my opening statement, our goal is to make this mandatory requirement almost OBE because people will figure out this is something they need and want. That said, some of the discussion earlier from the first panel is relevant in that it is a bit of a leadership issue. Let's not forget that this event does not happen in a vacuum. And that's part of the issue right now with TAP is that it's a one-shot deal. And where it falls on a Marine's timeline to get out of the Marine Corps sometimes is convenient, sometimes not so much.
Now we'll note another hearing this week (I didn't attend this hearing) via press coverage. Jane Cowan reports on PM (Australia's ABC -- link includes text and audio) about the Wednesday House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee hearing.
JANE COWAN: In a report to Congress in the middle of last year the Pentagon said Iraq's security forces would continue to rely on US support to meet and maintain minimum standards. In March this year the US Senate heard there would be "loose ends" unless the Iraqis asked America to stay on. This is how the Democratic congressman Gary Ackerman puts it:
GARY ACKERMAN: Iraq seems to have been a marriage of convenience. Everybody seems to agree that there should be some kind of a divorce but when? And everybody thought that we were waiting for the final papers to come through and now we seem to have some remorse about that. Maybe we're sticking around for the sake of the children, and now they're all saying we should leave, although they really mean we should stay but we ain't staying unless they ask us it seems like a mess. I don't know how you explain that to the civilian population that's going to be asked to pay for child support.
JANE COWAN: The Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had been saying for months he'll stand by the deal but recently did a turnaround, saying he'd support keeping some troops beyond the deadline if he can get most of the country's politicians to agree.
Sophie Quinton (National Journal) adds, "Testifying experts stressed that the United States is expected to continue to influence Iraq by civilian means. The State Department is scheduled to take the lead role in supporting Iraq's security, political, and economic development in October 2011, and the U.S. Agency for International Development will continue its capacity-building efforts." Quinton quotes the State Dept's Patricia Haslach (Iraq Transition Coordinator) telling the Subcommittee, "We're not done. We have no intention of leaving Iraq." John T. Bennett (The Hill) emphasizes US House Rep Gary Ackerman's remarks:
"Most Americans believe we're done in Iraq," said Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Middle East and South Asia subcommittee. "That is at odds with the reality in Iraq.
"The American people thought they had already bought this and paid for this," Ackerman said. "That appears to not be the case."
So, too, did members of Congress.
That means the White House soon will have to start "selling a lot of members," Ackerman said, predicting that the "collision" of reality and lawmakers' desires "will not be pretty."
The Great Iraqi Revolution notes, "Informed sources in PM Maliki's Office: confirm news that the press has been buzzing with : Maliki has formed a secret committee with his direct oversight to complete the secret discussions with the Americans about the second security agreement." In related news, John R. Parkinson (ABC News) reports that Speaker of the House John Boehner has siad Barack Obama needs to "step up and help the American understand why these missions are vital to the nationaal security interest of our country. [. . .] I really do believe that the president needs to speak out, in terms of our mission in Afghanistan, our mission in Iraq, our mission in Libya, and the doubts that our members have frankly reflected they're reflecting what they're heaing from their constituents."
Iraq was slammed with bombings today. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports, "Seventeen people were killed and 50 others wounded in a blast from a container full of explosives left outside of the Presidential Palaces Mosque in central Tikrit, Iraq, officials told CNN. That was followed in the evening by another explosion when a suicide bomber wearing an explosives vest enetered a Tikrit hospital treating the wounded, Iraq interior ministry officials told CNN. Six people died and 10 were wounded at the hospital in the second attack." On the mosque bombing, BBC News notes, "Some reports suggest the bomb was hidden inside a fuel canister at the entrance to the mosque." AP explains, "The mosque was inside a government-controlled compound where many officials live, and most in attendance were security or government employees." Muhanned Saif Aldin and Tim Craig (Washington Post) quote MP Jamal Algilani stating of the government out of Baghdad, "The procedures that they are following don't meet the size of the responsibility that they are in charge of." Michael S. Schmidt (New York Times) quotes provincial counil member Hussein al-Shatub stating, "I don't know how they were able to put these explosives in such a secure area. I was at the main gate of mosque on my way to pray when the explosion occurred. I started evacuating injured people to the hospital. It was a huge explosion." Al Jazeera adds, "Al Jazeera's Omar al-Saleh, reporting from Baghdad, quoting government sources, said, 'Significantly, the compound houses the governor, police command and several other security directorates'." Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) offers one government response to the bombings, "Friday's explosions came less than 24 hours after four explosions hit another predominantly Sunni Muslim city, Ramadi, on Thursday night, killing five and injuring 27. Residents of Tikrit said that authorities had imposed a curfew until further notice."
Today was truly a violent day in Iraq and not the day for the US State Dept to issue a release promoting business in Iraq that opens with one bad lie after another until it sinks under its own spin:
Iraq today is emerging from years of civil conflict and economic isolation, and has the potential to again become what it was not so long ago: a prosperous country with a thriving middle class. Iraq is a market with tremendous potential.
By many estimates, Iraq has the world's third-largest oil reserves, and plans to explore for additional reserves.
Iraq's population is estimated at around 30 million, among the largest in the region, and is projected to grow more than two percent annually over the next five years.
According to the Iraqi government's National Development Plan, the government has plans to spend $100 billion of its own money on thousands of reconstruction and development projects over the next four years.
In recent years, there are a number of tangible signs that Iraq's economy is stabilizing and expanding:
Iraq's economy averaged an estimated 4.5 percent real growth over the past four years;
Oil production has increased an estimated 22 percent since 2005, and oil exports have increased an estimated 58 percent over the same period;
Consumer prices have stabilized, with single-digit inflation over the past three years after more than 50 percent inflation in 2006;
The Iraqi government has spent more than US $20 billion on reconstruction and investment projects each of the last two years.
The economic sectors in Iraq with the greatest investment potential include: energy, including both hydrocarbons and the electrical power sector; infrastructure such as architecture, construction, and engineering and transportation; information and communications technology; health such as medical technology, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and health care services; and agribusiness.
We'll come back to the State Dept's embarrassing days but you'll notice the release ignores the issue of unemployment. That issue, the lack of jobs, has been among the reasons Iraqis have been protesting.
Youth activists and others (including The Great Iraqi Revolution community) gathered in Baghdad's Tahrir Square to honor the detainees lost in the so-called 'justice' system in Iraq. People whose families have no idea where they are or if they are still alive. And, specifically, to show solidarity with the four arrested last Friday. Last Friday was "False Promises Friday." The Great Iraqi Revolution noted the four arrested: "THE 4 YOUNG ACTIVISTS WHO WERE ARRESTED TODAY BY QASSIM ATTA AND TAKEN TO A PLACE UNKNOWN - 27.5.2011 - THEIR NAMES ARE: JIHAD JALEEL, ALI ABDUL KHALIQ, MOUAYED AL TAYEB AND AHMED AL BAGHDADI. We pray God to have them released very soon."
An eye witness said that a military force raided an NGO, known as Where is My Right, and arrested 11 persons, including its secretary general, in suspicion for their relationship with the organizers of Tahreer Square demonstrations. "Four Hummer military vehicles and two 4-wheel drive cars surrounded the organization premises in Maidan Square, in the center of Baghdad, where they searched it and destroyed its computers," the source told Aswat al-Iraq. On the other hand, an activist said on the Facebook page for the Tahreer Square demonstrations, that the organization is an NGO that participated in organizing the demonstrations. The arrested persons were meeting to discuss how to release the four activists who were arrested last Friday.
On the four arrrested last Friday, Raheem Salman and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) speak with the families of the activists and one of the fathers tells the reporters, "I know about Ahmed that he loves his country, he loves freedom. I don't know where to go, whom to ask. Are our sons really criminals? .... Even if they have fake identities, why can't we see them? This is not a threat to the state's security." Meanwhile Jack Healy and Michael S. Schmidt (New York Times) note, "Rights groups said the people detained had been denied access to lawyers and visits with their families, and criticized the arrests as a ploy to stifle any dissent in the streets, even if it was peaceful and relatively low-key."
Turning to the political scene where everything's fallen apart over Nouri al-Maliki's refusal to keep his word and honor the Erbil Agreement (that agreement allowed the stalemate regarding selecting a prime minister and Parliament holding sessions to end by having the various political blocs agree on key issues and positions). Earlier this week, Iraqiya walked out on the process (Iraqiya was the political slate that won the most votes and the most seats in Parliament). UPI notes, "Iraqiya announced it was standing on the sidelines until Maliki's State of Law coalition met a series of demands. Iraqiya in its demands called for an end to 'security violations' in the country, partnerships in security and human rights and the approval of the Sunni-backed slate's list for top defense positions, the Voices of Iraq new agency reports." Aswat al-Iraq notes that Iraq's Sunni Vice President and Iraqiya member Tariq al-Hashimi issued a statement declaring Nouri "has no solution to the present crisis except fleeing from political forces by his weak promises. Maliki will not be able to achieve the national partnership, because he is eager for the (necessity leader) idea." al-Hashimi is calling for new elections. And Alsumaria TV reports, ""Head of the Islamic Supreme Council Sayyed Ammar Al Hakim believes that blaming the current downfalls in Iraq on national partnership is wrong, a source told Alsumaria. The present situation relies on partnership between the weak not between the strong and competent, Al Hakim argued."
And as that debate continues, back to a US government embarrassment. Eli Lake (Washington Times) reports on an emerging scandal involving the US State Dept and your right to know:
The State Department is blocking inspectors from the U.S. government's independent auditor for Iraqi reconstruction from conducting an assessment of the department's multibillion-dollar effort to train Iraq's police.
Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, discussed the standoff with the State Department in an interview this week.
"We have a long history of auditing the police training in Iraq," Mr. Bowen said. "It is simply a misapprehension to conclude that our jurisdiction only applies to bricks-and-mortar reconstruction. To the contrary, Congress has charged us with overseeing the expenditure of funds in Iraq."
In the interview, Gates explains he was always for the surge (and that he plans to write about what really took place on the Iraq Study Group he served on before becoming Secretary of Defense "and I will write about this later, but I was not the only one"). Siegel wanted to talk about the defense industry advertising on TV and in print in the DC area and Gates chuckled about how he believed the costs of that would show up "in one of our contracts" causing Siegel to laugh, "You'll end up paying for that ad is what you see.." That's not funny nor is it accurate. Gates doesn't "pay." The American tax payers pay. It's the American people's money.
And instead of asking about the 'surge,' why the hell wasn't Siegel asking about the realities of Iraq or does Siegel not pay attention to what actually happens in Iraq? Siegel -- and All Things Considered -- bungled things (at best) in real time when they should have been investigating and informing the American people that there was no case for war on Iraq. Eight years later, he wants to chuckle and laugh with Gates and present the notion that Iraq is somehow stable and things are groovy. That this passes for journalism is the strongest argument for defunding NPR.
All Things Considered isn't the only pro-war outlet to be promoting the Iraq War these days. There's also The New Republic which has been around since 1914 and has a long and embarrassing history that would make for an epic mini-series. Following 9-11, the center-left magazine became ever more War Hawkish. And, as it did so, it lost more and more readers. Thomas E. Ricks 'young thang' Spencer Ackerman worked for The New Republic back then (he was later fired) and Ackerman was among the staff pimping the Iraq War. Among the staff? Howard Kurtz (then at the Washington Post) reported June 19, 2004:
Ever since the New Republic broke with liberal orthodoxy by strongly supporting President Bush's war with Iraq, the magazine has been getting a steady stream of e-mails from readers demanding an apology.
Now the left-leaning weekly has admitted that it was wrong to have backed the war based on the administration's claims that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction.
"We feel regret, but no shame. . . . Our strategic rationale for war has collapsed," says an editorial hammered out after a contentious, 3 1/2-hour editors' meeting.
"I wanted the editorial to be honest not just about the war and other people's mistakes but our mistakes," Editor Peter Beinart says. "We felt we had a responsibility to look in the mirror."
Pretty words from Petey but if they were at all truthful and represented the way the editors actually felt, T.A. Frank's hit piece would never have been published in 2005. From Dave Zirin's article decrying Frank's attacks on the peace movement:
Author Tom Frank -- clearly from the Glass School of Journalism the New Republic has made famous -- described sitting in on an anti-war panel sponsored by the International Socialist Organization, the Washington Peace Center, the DC Anti-War Network and other groups.
After having heard the 100 plus attendees cheer sentiments like "Money for Jobs and Education Not For War and Occupation," Frank became so riled up, he unloaded a deranged harangue about the suffering he would like to rain upon people daring to organize against this war. After Stan Goff, a former Delta Forces soldier and current organizer for Military Families Speak Out, expressed sentiments like "We ain't never resolved nothing through an election," Frank's jag began. Clearly too doughy to do it himself, Frank started to fantasize about a Teutonic strongman who could shut Goff up.
Frank writes, "What I needed was a Republican like Arnold [Schwarzenegger] who would walk up to [Goff] and punch him in the face."
As the panel continued, every cheer and standing ovation seemed to set Frank deeper down a path of psychosis. After International Socialist Review editorial board member Sherry Wolf asserted that Iraqis had a "right" to rebel against occupation, Frank upped the ante in his efforts to intimidate anyone considering entry into the anti-war movement.
Were the editors serious -- and not just trying to revive their failing magazine -- in the spring of 2004, the start of 2005 would have been a lot different. And some publications -- The Progressive or The Nation, for example -- may feel superior to The New Republic today. They have no reason to. Kat, Wally, Ava and I are speaking about the Iraq War to various groups probably 44 or more weeks a year. And people sometimes ask why that is? 'Isn't the Iraq War over?' No, it's not. 'But Americans turned against the war.' At one point they had. And it's doubtful there will be a signifcant change in the next five or so years. But the revisionary tactics by War Hawks following Vietnam weren't interested in changing everyon's mind by 1980, they were laying the groundwork for the real revisionary techniques that would follow in the 80s. And a truth that pollsters never like to admit, any poll with a strong response (oppose or support)? It's not really accurate. Let's say 63% of Americans felt the Iraq War was a mistake in 2007. As much as 10% of that may not be a feeling. As much as 10% of the respondents are not really following the issue. What they're basing it on (true in any poll with strong support or strong opposition) is the cues, the cues in public, the cues from the media, the herd mentality.
In that environment, you can't be silent. Unless you're trying to hand a victory to the War Hawks. While The Nation and The Progressive are silent about an ongoing war, The New Republic is always working it into columns. Fouad Ajami's latest (published at midnight) is entitled "Robert Gates Is Right About Iraq We've made progress -- and we shouldn't remove all U.S. troops." And maybe the first question should be: Why is The New Republic publishing a member of the right-wing Hoover Institution? The man's a moron and like most of the morons who were Academic War Hawks, he's with Johns Hopkins. No where in the article is there any indication that Ajami has been repeatedly wrong on the Iraq War since it started. And for a 21-year-old today, you're really expecting a lot if you think she or he is going to know who helped lie the US into war eight years ago.
EMILY BOURKE: As Australia buries yet another one of its soldiers killed in the war in Afghanistan, a new survey has found most Australians and Americans think the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have not been worth it.
The research by the US Studies Centre in the University of Sydney has revealed that almost a decade after the September 11 terrorist attacks the subsequent military campaigns are not helping to win the war on terror.
The data shows the majority of Americans and Australians are suffering war on terror fatigue and they're questioning the cost in blood and treasure.