Friday, August 5, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Ban Ki-Moon gets a new special envoy to Iraq, talks continue to extend the US military presence in Iraq, Barack places two million ahead of thirty million (in an apparent attempt to make up for releasing the killers of 5 US soldiers -- blood money doesn't wash, Barack), Nouri attempts to ensure protests do not get covered, and more.
Starting with the Libyan War. Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is the special correspondent on Libya for Pacifica Radio's Flashpoints. Over the weekend, his latest article (for the Centre for Research on Globalization) addressed the apparent plan (by the US and NATO) to divide Libya into three individual countries and notes the historical efforts to do this, "There have been longstanding designs for dividing Libya that go back to 1943 and 1951. This started with failed attempts to establish a trusteeship over Libya after the defeat of Italy and Germany in North Africa during the Second World War. The attempts to divide Libya then eventually resulted in a strategy that forced a monarchical federal system onto the Libyans similar to the "federal system" imposed on Iraq following the illegal 2003 Anglo-American invasion. If the Libyans had accepted federalism in their relatively homogenous society they could have forfeited their independence in 1951." On today's second hour of The Diane Rehm Show, Al Jazzera's Abderrahim Foukara spoke briefly of the possible plan to "partition" Libya.
For those who've forgotten, US President Barack Obama never served in the military but sure does love to send the US military into war. (The term for that is "chicken hawk.") A CIA-backed group of exiles (sounds a lot like Iraq, doesn't it?) wanted control of Libya and began a 'civil' war. March 19th, on the 8th anniversary of the ongoing Iraq War, Barack announced that the world was getting another war, though he insists that the war not be called a "war." Fancy Pants was out of the country when he gave his speech which included:
Today I authorized the Armed Forces of the United States to begin a limited military action in Libya in support of an international effort to protect Libyan civilians. That action has now begun.
[. . .]
I've acted after consulting with my national security team, and Republican and Democratic leaders of Congress. And in the coming hours and days, my administration will keep the American people fully informed. But make no mistake: Today we are part of a broad coalition. We are answering the calls of a threatened people. And we are acting in the interests of the United States and the world.
Please note, these were comments to the press as he traisped through Latin America. There was no White House address proper to inform the American people what was being done in their name. As the US Embassy in London noted, "The United States will contribute its 'unique capabilities at the front end,' he told reporters traveling with him in Brasilia, Brazil, March 19. Obama added that the use of force was not his first choice and 'not a choice I make lightly'." Muammar Gaddafi is the leader of Libya. While exiles funded by the CIA (and later by France and other governments) may have wanted him out, the Libyan people living in Libya didn't seem to share that desire then and do not share it now. What the Libyan War has done is take those who were doubtful or unsupportive of Gaddafi and made them firm supporters. Why? Because being attacked by an outsider tends to bind people together all the more tightly -- that is the purpose of a common enemy. What Barack insisted would last only a few weeks has now lasted months. The effort to allegedly protect civilians has bombed food warehouses, water plants and medical centers. Children have been killed by the NATO bombings and, yes, that does include some of Muammar Gaddafi's grandchildren -- something that should result in universal shame not cries of, "We got his six-year-old! We took his six-year-old out!"
Recent reports indicate that continued military operations in Libya are imposing increasing hardship on civilians and may have also resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians. Yesterday's Washington Post reports that "a hospital worker in western Libya said that NATO froces struck a local hospital on Monday and killed seven people, including three doctors" in Zlitan, Libya and may have also bombed food warehouses. In addition, The Washington Post reports that residents of Tripoli are experiencing significant gas shortages and high food prices. If the reports of civilians killed by a NATO strike are true, the U.N. and the International Criminal Court must take immediate actions to hold member states and NATO's top command in Libya accountable.
It is an illegal war. Barack did not get authorization for it. He has refused to follow the War Powers Act. And the side he backed is questioned more each day. As James Kitfield (National Journal) pointed out on the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR) today, it's becoming obvious that enough work was not done on researching the 'rebel' side. That's becoming obvious because of a development last week: a member of the Transitional Council was killed. The Transitional Council is the so-called 'rebels' fighting to 'free' Libya. Thursday of last week on Flashpoints (KPFA, Pacifica), guest host Kevin Pina spoke with Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya about the death (Flashpoints Radio airs live on KPFA from 5:00 to 6:00 pm PST, Monday through Friday).
Mahdi Nazemroaya: Abdul Fatah Younis has been declared dead. The circumstances around it exactly aren't known. We'll know at the press conference. And CNN will be present, BBC, Sky News, as well as various international news services.
Kevin Pina: Well Mahdi, explain to us who this man was and why it's so important. And obviously this is a breaking news story, you're breaking news on Flashpoints that this man was confirmed dead.
Mahdi Nazemroaya: Well this man was the former Interior Ministry of the government in Triopoli. He's a longtime friend of Col Gaddafi as well and he's also a member of the group of young Arab officers who started the revolution with Col Gaddafi. So it was actually a big surprise when he defected and joined the Transitional Council in Benghazi. Now his death, as I mentioned, the circumstances around it aren't known. I've heard different things I'm going to have to confirm. I was told that the rebel forces, the so-called rebels, have claimed that they killed him themselves because he was about to defect --
Kevin Pina: Defect back?
Mahdi Nazemroaya: Yes. He was going to do a second defection. Because a lot of the rebels are also tired of the fighting and I've heard that there might have even been negotiations for them to end the fighting and to come back. But anyways, I've also heard that he probably could have been killed by the government side. So this is not clear and it has to be confirmed.
This was a major development. Sunday at Third, we pointed out, "And what message does it send to defectors when they learn that the defector they put in charge of their forces was never trusted? The message is that no one in the so-called rebels trusts anyone. That's some form of team building exercise . . . for losers." Justin Raimondo (Antiwar.com) wrote an in depth column on the meaning of the murder. Excerpt:
Aside from the general barbarity of this act, which gives us a glimpse of what the rebel regime will look like if and when they take power in all of Libya, look at the curious factional line up in the rebels' internal power struggles. Although the Official Story, as promulgated by the NTC, keeps changing -- initially, a "pro-Gadhafi" faction in Benghazi, an "armed gang," was blamed for the killing, but there are too many Western reporters in town to keep a lid on the truth (or some approximation of it) for long. Now we are told that those responsible for the killing -- rebel soldiers -- have been arrested. However, whomever gets the Official Blame in the end isn't what's interesting: the real scoop is that our boy, Haftar -- think Ahmed Chlabi, Libyan version -- is aligned with the Islamists against the more secular elements, defectors like Younes and the Benghazi lawyers who make up the civilian leadership of the rebellion.
As in the Balkans, where US-trained and-funded "Kosovo Liberation Army" guerrillas fought alongside al-Qaeda's legions and NATO forces, so the same alliance is fighting to "liberate" Libya. It is as if a time machine has thrust us back in the Clinton years -- and indeed these are the Clinton years, redux, at least in the foreign policy realm, as this is the policy area that has been ceded to the Clintons by a disengaged and generally hapless President Obama. All of which puts in a new perspective recent boasts by top administration officials and various "experts" that we are on the verge of finally defeating al-Qaeda. Why, then, are they allying with Osama bin Laden's Libyan legatees?
James Kitfield: One thing about the Younis situation that worries me is that he was summoned by the Council itself, the Transitional Council apparently thought he had done something wrong and somewhere between being summoned and getting to the Transitional Council, he was murdered. So -- his tribe is now up in arms saying they may break off from the rebellion.
In an analysis published by WSWS yesterday, Peter Symonds explains, "The unexplained killing last week of the Libyan rebel military commander, General Abdel Fatah Younis, has highlighted the divided and unstable character of the NATO-backed Transitional National Council (TNC) and the military stalemate in its efforts to oust the regime of Muammar Gaddafi. The assassination has provoked a series of comments by British and French ministers that effectively reverse months of US and NATO propaganda predicting the imminent fall of Gaddafi."
Again, from the second hour of today's Diane Rehm Show, National Journal's James Kitfield:
James Kitfield: And one further complicating factor. People aren't really talking about but I believe it's in September the UN resolution that really okayed this runs out and given that NATO has gone way beyond what it originally said it was going to do which was just to protect people from massacre from the air to bombing command centers and taking out tanks, it's very hard for me to imagine that they get an extension of that [resolution] through the [United Nations] Security Council so that means that there might be a due-by-date on NATO airstrikes and power for this and that further complicates it.
When we quote from The Diane Rehm Show, we generally give one link. There are multiple today due to the fact that it was pointed out to me that last Friday's snapshot did not include any link for the excerpt. We were rushing (me dictating and my friend typing) and that was among many things that were forgotten. My mistake and my apology. To make up for it, we have included a link every time we noted it in this snapshot. On Diane's second hour today, CNN's Elise Labot had much to say on several topics and I'm passing that over to anyone in the community who wants to grab that at their site tonight.
2008 presidential candidate and former US House Rep Cynthia McKinney went on a fact-finding mission to Libya and has gone around the country since returning speaking out against what is happening. Black Agenda Report features many of her talks about Libya (some with video and some with just audio). She and others have more reports back coming. We'll run the full announcement tomorrow but there's not room in the snapshot. This is from the announcement:
A continuing mobilization against the U.S. war on Libya has taken place in cities across the country. Packed, standing room only audiences at major meetings have heard former Congressperson Cynthia McKinney report on her June fact-finding trip to Libya with the Dignity delegation. In every meeting the message rings out: Stop the U.S./NATO bombing of Libya.
In the coming ten days Cynthia McKinney is scheduled to speak at meetings in Boston on Saturday, August 6, in Los Angeles on Sunday, August 7, in Vancouver on Tuesday, August 9. McKinney will speak at the Millions March in Harlem of August 13 along with Minister Farrakhan and other opponents of war and sanctions on Libya and Zimbabwe. She is scheduled to speak at 2 meetings in North Carolina on Sunday, August 14 hosted by the Black Workers for Justice in Rocky Mount and later at a historic civil rights church in Durham.
National-tour, now to 19 cities, organized by International Action
Center in coordination with many antiwar and
community organizations from July 7 to August 28, 2011.
July 7 Thursday- Houston, TX
July 9 Saturday - Peacestock, Hager City, WI & Minneapolis, MN
July 10, Sunday – Albany, NY,
July 11, Monday –Washington DC,
July 14, Thursday – Northampton MA,
July 24, Sunday –Atlanta, GA
July 28, Thursday – Newark, NJ,
July 30, Saturday – New York City, NY
August 6, Saturday – Boston, MA
August 7, Sunday – Los Angeles, CA
August 9, Tuesday – Vancouver BC, Canada
August 13, Saturday - NYC with Millions March in Harlem
August 14, Sunday - Rocky Mount, and Durham, NC
August 19, Friday – St Louis MO
August 21, Sunday - Pittsburg, PA
August 25, Thursday - Baltimore, MD
August 27, Saturday – Detroit, MI
August 28, Sunday – Denver CO
If you're able to see Cynthia on the remaining dates, you should make the effort. She's been the strongest voice against the Libyan War and a real leader on this issue. (And she's an amazing speaker on any topic.)
The Goethe Institut has described the 58-year-old as "a globe-trotting diplomat." Gamal Nkrumah (Al-Ahram Weekly) offered of him in a profile, "He is a disarming mixture of joshing informality and intense enthusiasm, and appears to like questions rather more than answers." Current reports on the announcement (AFP, DPA, Reuters, etc) tend to ignore the three children and his spouse. The latter is surprising because in 2006, Britta Wagener was news. That's when her husband (Kobler) was Germany's ambassador to Egypt and and he made the second in charge at the embassy was Britta Wagner. Complaints were filed over it, there was a protest at a staff meeting in December of 2004 and issues of conflicts of interest were raised. If you read German, you can click here for one report on the issue. Also not being discussed is the fact that he's going from Afghanistan (UN Mission in Afghanistan) to Iraq at a time when so many are going the opposite way.
Kobler was previously Germany's Abassdor to Iraq for roughly one year (August 2006 through September 2007). Of that period of time, he told the Goethe Institut, "I never experienced anarchy before living in Iraq. In 2006 there was no trust, no system, nothing to give a backbone to the society. The situation had stripped people of all morality. At any moment children could be kidnapped, held for ransom, anyone might be caught in a bomb blast. It made me realize that Fate alone decides if you are born into a protected childhood."
Let's stay on the topic of diplomacy to note this Tweet by Al Jazeera and the Christian Science Monitor's Jane Arraf about Iraq's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hoshyar Zebari.
Yes, the topic of non-withdrawal, Al Mada reports that Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc in Parliament is stating that they have not agreed to go along with or approve the plan to keep the US military in Iraq under the guise of trainers. The spokesperson calls it a betrayal of Iraqis and notes that if the issue was really training there would be no need to specify how many US soldiers would remain in Iraq. Jane Arraf adds:
Mohammed A. Salih (Christian Science Monitor) explores feelings on the issue in Kirkuk and finds many who want the US military to remain such as Mohammed Jassim who states, "Ideally, I would not want US soldiers to be ehre. But the reality makes me want them to stay. If they were leave now problems and tensions might emerge. There are many sides who don't want things to go well here." Part of the reason many in Kirkuk may want US forces to stay is that their oil-rich region is still a huge question mark. This despite the fact that Constiution of Iraq called for the issue to be resolved with a census and a referendum no later than the end of 2007. Nouri al-Maliki was prime minister then, he is prime minister now. He refused to follow the Constitution.
With the exception of Chris Hill (one-time US Ambassador to Iraq -- who infamously told the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee that it was "just an old fashioned land dispute"), diplomats with various governments and the United Nations have publicly spoken of how important resolving the issue of Kirkuk is to the future and stability of Iraq. Due to the oil there, everyone wants it. Due to the historical expulsions of various groups in differing waves, claims are made on the region. The central government out of Baghdad wants it and the Kurdistan Regional Government wants it. Tensions run high between Arabs and Kurds over this issue and these tensions threaten the future of Iraq as the RAND Corporation's recent report, entitled "Managing Arab-Kurd Tensions in Northern Iraq After the Withdrawal of U.S. Troops," noted. (See the July 26th snapshot for more on the RAND report.) While Arabs and Kurds are the large parties disputing who has the right to Kirkuk, they are not the only groups of people in Kirkuk. Among others, there are the Turkemen who first came to Kirkuk as far back as 1055. It's a very complex issue and the plan was to have it resolved by 2007. Despite that being written into the Constitution, it did not happen and the fate of Kirkuk remains unresolved today.
Zhang Xiang (Xinhua) observes that "the Kurdish bloc, the largest gainer in the Iraq War, hopes for a long-term presence of the American soldiers, especially in the disputable region of Kirkuk. Worries from the other religious party Sunni Muslim will be deepened as the Shiites in neighboring Iran will expand its clout without the threats posed by the U.S. military." Of course, Jalal Talabani has already stated his opinion that US forces need to remain in Iraq stated it to Chinese Television. From that interview last month:
Axes: On the subject of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, there are media reports talking about the agreement of the Iraqi parliament on this issue, hoping to keep U.S. troops in Iraq after the end of this year, while White House also hoped to extend the stay of troops U.S. in Iraq, what is your opinion on the subject of the withdrawal of U.S. forces or keep them?
President Talabani: First, this news is not true, that the Iraqi parliament decided anything for the survival of U.S. forces, the Iraqi parliament to now did not study the subject, well known that relations between Iraq and the United States determined agreement (SOFA), which provides for the evacuation of U.S. forces at the end of this year, as well as our (the strategic framework agreement) on the principles of relationships, the parties of Iraq and the U.S. insist on this agreement, which sets political and trade relations, cultural and technological ... etc. The theme of the survival of U.S. forces in Iraq, First extension of the agreement is not possible because the extension of the agreement requires approval by two thirds parliament and this can not be obtained, while you remain a number of American forces for training or not? I chaired the days before the two meetings of leaders of Iraqi political attended by all political actors, some views were clear and some are not clear, for example, the direction of the Sadrist movement, which to them (40) deputies in the parliament is the categorical rejection of the presence of U.S. forces, the direction of Kurdish leadership is to keep U.S. forces a limited number, at least in the disputed areas, and the rest They still studying this topic, Voattiyna Mhlten of Iraqi political parties to give us an answer within the prescribed time about whether they agree with the survival of a number of U.S. troops, and not all the troops, the Americans also do not want to keep all their forces, and proposed is that the number of U.S. troops for training, of course I want to say a thing which is that according to the reports of officers and the military leadership of Iraq, the military leadership of the Air Force, Navy and armor and infantry filed reports to the President and the Prime Minister in these reports say where he can not protect the Iraqi Air and the sea of Iraq and the Iraqi border after the withdrawal of U.S. forces, say they can protect the internal security but can not protect the atmosphere air, land and sea, our aircraft, American aircraft that we purchased had not yet reached, if reached need to be a period of training as well, for the Navy do not have boats enough to protect sea, which for us is very important, because the only source of the great Iraqi oil is the sea so we if hampered the export of oil will affect our economy, our line of oil passes through Turkey, this line is not sufficient for the export of oil, we now produce more than (3) million barrels per day and over the next year, God willing, we get to (4) million, then we need two others, we intend to extend another line through Syria, and run the old line passing through Syria broken now, as well as the oil pipeline to Aqaba through Jordan, only then we can export the quantities of oil we produce in the country, and as I said, Iraqi experts believe that Iraq remains a need to protect the air, sea and training the Iraq on the weapons that we bought from America, weapons, armor, Abrams tanks and aircraft (F16) and (F18) that we bought, we bought from America all were new to the Iraqis, we need the training, I noticed during the discussions between the Iraqi political forces that there is a tendency for the survival of a limited number of U.S. trainers, and the survival of a larger U.S. troop is not there a strong desire, as I said there is opposition to the survival of these forces by some forces.
Aswat al-Iraq reports that US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffery and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani met last night to continue discussions about keeping US forces in Iraq beyond the end of the year. Karamatullah K. Ghori (Asia Times) notes of the reasons (excuses) being given to argue for keeping US troops in Iraq:
In touting the line that Iraqi forces are inadequate to rise to challenges that remain largely undefined beyond the cryptic excuse of sectarian divide, the generals betray an appalling disregard for their own failure to train their Iraqi proteges sufficiently. If they couldn't do it in eight years, despite all the resources and numbers at their command, what's there to lend confidence to anyone that they'd be able to find the holy grail of a competent and fully trained Iraqi security force with a thinned-out and scaled-down presence? Iraqi politicians, representing the full spectrum of the country's myriad factions and clans, do seem to a certain extent to subscribe to the American angst on account of the Iraqi troops' half-baked ability to take charge of the gargantuan task of keeping the country secured against anarchy.
As part of the deal to open discussions (and to keep US troops in Iraq -- Nouri wouldn't have given in just for 'discussions'), Nouri's agreed to finally create the security council to be headed by Ayad Allawi that the Erbil Agreement promised last November. Al Mada reports that State of Law is attempting to fast track the issue through the Parliament and stating that no additional conditions have to be met to create the council.
Protests swept the MidEast and that included Iraq. Nouri al-Maliki tried to distract (his 100 days), tried to suppress (beating and jailing reporters covering the protests) and his assault continues. The Great Iraqi Revolution published the following:
The Green-Zone government will start pursuing and prosecuting the Iraqi activists and protesters who are using the Facebook to share protests news through the Articles of the - Electronic Crime Act - . The preliminary reading of the NEW E-Crime Act was a few days ago and here's its articles :
Article 4 - Whoever starts or runs a website with the intent to execute programes or ideas to disobey the public order or promote , facilitate or implement such actions will be sentensed with life imprisonment and a fine of not less than 25 million Iraqi Dinars and not more than 50 Iraqi million Dinars .
Article 6 - A sentence of life imprisonment and a fine of not less than 25 million Iraqi Dinars and not more than 50 Iraqi million Dinars will be executed if any citizen uses the computers or the internet with intent to commit one of the following acts : 1- Creating chaos in order to undermine the authorities using the country's electronic systems . 2- Provoking an armed rebellion, threatening of starting it or promoting it , inciting sectarianism, disturbing security or public order or offending the country's reputation. So the corrupt government has started a new law to use it as an excuse to pursue us and silence our voices, is this the "democracy" of the "new" Iraq ? the democracy that we lost our independence and 1.5 million Iraqi casualties for ?
Last week in al-Rifeiat, a US-Iraqi mission resulted in the deaths of at least 3 Iraqis (some reports say four). The New York Times' Tim Arango has covered the events here and here. Today Aswat al-Iraq reports on a joint-raid by the US-and Iraqi forces in a the village of Kidhr in which 1 small boy and a police officer were killed by the joint-forces and the child's father was left injured.Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing left twelve people injured and that there was a Baghdad rocket attack on the Green Zone. In addition, Aswat al-Iraq notes a Baghdad sticky bombing wounded two people.
Turning to the United States where President Barack Obama offered a number of proposals today. We disagree with his tax rewards for hiring veterans but before we get to that, we'll note this from Senator Patty Murray's office:
(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs' Committee commended President Obama on outlining new initiatives to promote veterans employment. Chairman Murray is the author of the bipartisan Hiring Heroes Act of 2011, which takes major new steps to put our nation's veterans into fulfilling jobs when they return home. Senator Murray's bill, which has companion legislation in the House of Representatives and is co-sponsored by 32 Senators, cleared the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee on June 29th and is set to be considered by the full Senate in the fall. "The President clearly knows that getting our economy back on track and getting our veterans back to work go hand-in-hand. Our veterans are disciplined, experienced, team-players with the unique expertise our employers are seeking. But we have to make sure they get their foot in the door. "That's why I'm working to pass the bipartisan Hiring Heroes Act in the Senate which provides job skills for every single member of the military who's separating from service. My bill, which has been passed out of Committee with unanimous support, will for the first time ensure that we are making the most out of the enormous investment we make in our servicemembers. Instead of patting them on the back for their service and letting our veterans go into the job market alone, my bill equips them with the resources needed to help find a rewarding career. "I welcome the President's bold ideas and initiatives to this effort and look forward to working with him in the months and years ahead. But I also hope to give this effort the jumpstart it needs now by putting the Hiring Heroes Act on his desk as soon as possible." INFORMATION ON CHAIRMAN MURRAY'S BIPARTISAN BILL IS BELOW: The Hiring Heroes Act of 2011 A bill to improve job training and placement services to ensure veterans who have served and sacrificed for our nation have jobs when they come home. Bipartisan legislation that for the first time takes a comprehensive approach to addressing the skyrocketing unemployment rates for our veterans. THE PROBLEM: A GENERATION OF UNEMPLOYED YOUNG VETERANS Veterans have the skills, determination, discipline and talent to succeed in the twenty-first century economy. But too often they face unique challenges that translate into trouble finding a job or starting a business. · Department of Labor data estimates that the unemployment rate for veterans age 20-24 has been as high as 27 percent.
· With the President's announcement that 33,000 U.S. troops will be pulled out of Afghanistan by the end of 2012, added to those already returning from Iraq, the problem of veteran unemployment will only grow larger.
· Returning veterans face certification barriers-- medics who return home from treating battlefield wounds can't get certifications to be an EMT or to drive an ambulance and truck drivers are unable to get CDL licenses. THE CONSEQUENCES: JOBS ARE THE BUILDING BLOCK OF A SUCCESSFUL TRANSITION Helping veterans find employment provides an income to support their families; creates self- esteem and pride; and is critical to avoiding veteran homelessness.
· The Institute of Medicine, citing a study by the National Center for Homeless Veterans, found an inability for veterans to translate military skills into civilian employment as being a primary cause of homelessness. It is also widely acknowledged, including in a recent RAND study, that employment difficulties are a serious risk factor for suicide among veterans.
· The dignity and security that work provides are critical in addressing some of the biggest challenges veterans are facing including skyrocketing suicide statistics, problems at home, substance abuse, and even in rising homelessness among our young veterans.
THE SOLUTION: THE HIRING HEROES ACT OF 2011: PROVIDING THE SKILLS TO SUCCEED The Hiring Heroes Act of 2011 is a landmark bill that for the first time authorizes programs aimed at improving the transition from servicemember to civilian employee.
· Provides job training for service members leaving our military by ensuring that every transitioning servicemember participates in DoD's Transition Assistance Program (TAP) which provides job skills training including resume writing, interview skills, and job search information. Currently, the TAP program is not mandatory even though we have a 27% unemployment rate among young veterans. · Provides a fast track to federal employment for veterans by allowing them to start the process of getting a job without having to wait months for their veterans preference. This will help more veterans have a job waiting for them the day they leave the service.
· Will finally move forward with helping service members transfer the skills they learned in the field back to civilian jobs by beginning to cut the red tape around training and certification barriers.
THE IMPACT: CAPATALIZING ON INVESMENTS WE MAKE IN OUR HEROES · We have invested billions of dollars in training our young men and women with new skills to protect our nation. Every servicemember receives formal training for a specialty within their service in addition to training in other areas such as leadership and strategic planning. When servicemembers leave, those valuable skills leave with them. Concurrently, many elements of the Government need dependable people with those same skill sets. It benefits the Government and the servicemember to keep them in the Federal system, and to streamline that process.
THE COST: FULLY PAID FOR AND A COST SAVER
· The bill is paid for by allowing the VA to collect a home loan fee from those who utilize the benefit more than once. · There is also additional cost savings DoD savings from unemployment payments. Military unemployment payments have doubled since 2008. The military paid $882 million in unemployment benefits last year, up from $450 million in fiscal 2008. The 2011 figures are trending even higher.
We have endorsed the Hiring Heroes Act, it is needed and we applaud Senator Murray and the others for their hard work on the issue. But we do not endorse what Barack proposed today. Steve Vogel (Washington Post) reports of Barack's announced plan, "The proposed tax incentives would provide companies a $2,400 credit for hiring an unemployed veteran and $4,800 for hiring a veteran who has been unemployed six months or longer. An existing tax credit for firms that hire veterans with a service-connected disability would be increased to $9,600." The plan is already a flop on arrival. I've spoken with three members of the Black Caucus today to find out what the reception was from their constituents to this proposal? Not pleased.
Not a surprise. African-Americans have been hit hard by the Great Recession and a record number cannot find employment -- you have to drop back over fifty years to find a comparable situation. African-Americans can rightly make a claim to historical inequalities that require a remedy -- that is the legal basis for Affirmative Action. There is no legal basis at all for rewaring employers for hiring veterans. At a time when the country faces massive unemployment, Barack wants to waive through a tiny segment of the population which cannot claim any historical grievance. Supposedly people serve to protect the nation and for other noble ideas. If the nation is indeed a democracy, you're not going to put a class of non-aggrieved citizens ahead of all others.
If you use the figures bandied about, there's a million veterans needing employment now and another million to be added next year. The official unemployment rate is currently 9.1%. It's actually much higher and a conservative, but realisitc, estimate would be at least 16%. Barack's saying these Americans don't matter, don't hire them, don't employ them, hire these veterans and we'll give you thousands and thousand of dollars. (The White House estimates they'll spend $120 million in the next two years on this.)
That's not fair, that's not right. Senator Patty Murray's bill attempts to ensure that veterans are on equal footing. That means, for example, if you were a medical assistant in Afghanistan and you're applying for a related job in the US, you have certification from the military that allows you to be credited with and recognized for the training you've already recieved and the abilities that are your own. That would allow you to compete with anyone else with similar civilian experience for that job. Because in the civilian world, the person would have gotten a certification. Currently, in the military, certifications and licenses for various tasks (even including truck driving) are not awarded. So you return to civilian life with skills but with no documentation that you can show. That's not fair, that's not right. Senator Murray's bill aims at equalizing the playing field.
We support that 100%. We even support training centers for veterans to give them additional skills. But when you walk into a room for an interview, you should be on equal footing. The government stating (whispering), "Hire the veteran and we'll pay you cash for doing so," destroys equal footing.
Senator Murray's office has been very careful in their use of figures. When they use a figure, they can back it up. Not everyone has been so precise and the figure appears to be created by each news outlet. Again, I've spoken to three members of the Black Caucus today and, no, I wasn't surprised at all that people are voicing disbelief to their representatives about this plan. Barack proposes to give 2 million veterans a preference in hiring when, as Leo Hindery Jr. (Huffington Post) pointed out last February, 29.6 million Americans are unemployed. The numbers are not on Barack's re-election side.
By now, over 30 million Americans are unemployed. As they remain unemployed, they now have a target for their ire: Barack and his scheme to place veterans ahead of them. What was the crime of these 30 million which necessitates they be punished? That's what Barack's scheme does, it punishes the already unemployed. Not only does that not grab votes from the unemployed, but it also donesn't grab votes from the employed -- many of whom worry that next month may bring the layoff and they're seeing no relief from the White House, no action from the White House to help them. But they see Barack wanted to grand stand and take away their shot at equality by giving tax dollars -- their tax dollars! -- to companies for hiring veterans.
If the thought was, "Well, it will help us with veterans and veterans families." No. No, it won't. There are many reasons Ron Paul -- not Barack Obama -- leads on campaign donations from the military enlisted. And today's stunt is seen very poorly by the many veterans and veterans families already angered at Barack for his 'dance with terrorists' -- wherein he released the killers of 5 US service members in order to curry favor with a foreign government. For those late to the party, we'll again drop back to the June 9, 2009 snapshot:
This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."
The decision to release those people already strikes veterans and veterans families with the same sense of outrage expressed over the attack of the USS Liberty and that had many, many years to build. If Barack thinks a little blood money will wash that away, he's sadly mistaken.