Thursday, August 11, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Senator Patty Murray raises concerns about the treatment of female veterans, Political Stalemate II continues, house bombings are still the new fad in Iraqi violence, and more.
Starting with women veterans. Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and her office notes:
(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Patty Murray and Illinois Senator Dick Durbin sent a joint letter to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki expressing their concern about the placement of homeless female veterans in unsecure housing in Chicago, which jeopardized their safety. Chairman Murray and Senator Durbin's letter asks VA for assurances that homeless female veterans across the country who are being cared for by the Department are housed in appropriate, safe and secure conditions.
The full text of the Senators' letter is below:
The Honorable Eric Shinseki
Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420
We are writing to express our strong concerns regarding the privacy, safety, and security of homeless female veterans who participate in the grant and per diem (GPD) program. As you know, women veterans are more likely than their male counterparts to become homeless, and VA must be prepared to serve the unique needs of this growing population.
We were recently informed that several homeless female veterans were placed with a provider in Chicago, Illinois, which was only approved to house male veterans. As you know, sexual trauma and domestic violence are prevalent in the homeless women veteran population. Furthermore, placing these women into a mixed-gender environment often exacerbates their trauma. While we understand VA has taken immediate action to remove the women veterans from this facility and to immediately stop per diem payments to this provider, the failure to mitigate the privacy, safety and security risks for these female veterans is simply unacceptable.
Although this appears to be an isolated incident, the problems raised in Chicago do call into question the Department's ability to exercise effective oversight over its GPD grantees and to provide the type of care that homeless female veterans truly need and deserve. In order to ensure that a situation like this never occurs again, we request that you provide us with the results of an inventory of active GPD grantees to certify that there are no ongoing inappropriate placements of homeless female veterans at other facilities or housing situations. Please also provide a description of the measures VA is taking to ensure that homeless female veterans are not housed in inappropriate housing situations in the future, including a description of the grantee inspection process. We expect a detailed briefing to our staffs on these matters as soon as possible.
Secretary Shinseki, we appreciate your commitment to ensuring the highest quality care for homeless veterans. We are grateful for the leadership you have displayed in fighting to end veteran homelessness once and for all and look forward to continuing to work with you to achieve this mutual goal.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the NATO air strikes against Libyan state television which took place last Saturday in Tripoli, killing three journalists and injured fifteen staff members according to its director of the English service, Khalid Basilia. According to agency reports, NATO confirmed that it bombed the transmitters without giving any details of casualties, posting on its website that their aim was to degrade Libyan leader Gaddafi's "use of satellite television as a means to intimidate the Libyan people and incite acts of violence against them." "We utterly condemn this action which targeted journalists and threatened their lives in violation of international law. These kinds of actions that use violence to stifle dissident media spell catastrophe for press freedom," said IFJ General Secretary, Beth Costa. The IFJ says that the bombing is in contravention of UN Security Council resolution 1738, passed in December 2006, which explicitly condemned such attacks against journalists and media, and clearly established that media equipment and installations constitute civilian objects and are not to be considered target of any type for military reprisals. The IFJ has continually protested these kinds of attacks since the 1999 NATO bombing in Belgrade of the Serbian broadcaster RTS, which killed 16 people. At the time, NATO said the station was a legitimate military target because it was a "propaganda mouth piece" for the regime of Slobodan Milosevic regime. The IFJ says there is no justification for the action under international law and calls once again on NATO to refrain from such attacks against media. "Our concern is that when one side decides to take out a media organisation because they regard its message as propaganda, then all media are at risk," said Costa. "In conflict situations, international law is clear that unarmed journalists cannot be treated as combatants, irrespective of their political affiliations."
For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 210
The IFJ represents more than 600.000 journalists in 131 countries
Barack Obama declared war on the Libyan government back in March but has hid behind NATO and claimed that it was not a war to avoid getting Congressional approval. He also insisted that it was to protect protesters in Libya from a violent government response. Barry Neild (CNN) notes that with protests and riots breaking out in England, the governments of Libya and Iran are "mocking Britain over riots" and that "The criticism came as other nations around the world reassed their usually peaceful views of the UK, revising official advice to Britain-bound travelers and publishing newspaper headlines and editorials likening London to the troublespots such as Somalia's Mogadishu."
Michael Smith: Michael, the actions that the Obama administration took against Libya is really a perversion of the law. Explain what they did in order to justify not going to Congress.
Michael Ratner: Well the use of military force by the president has to be authorized by Congress under the United States Constitution. That's very clear. And it's not just war, it's use of -- it's hostilities, it's really any military action anywhere in the world other than in self-defense. So we start from the premise that military actions, whether in Libya, killing people in Somolia or Yemen, etc., has to be authorized by Congress. In some cases the president claimed that the authorization to use military force passed in 2001 -- after 9/11 -- gave him authority. But in other cases, he's just asserting raw, naked power. He's claiming that because these don't amount to large wars that the Constitution doesn't apply and he doesn't have to go to Congress. Now then what happened because this is a common claim of presidents whether it's in Libya or Somolia, Congress after Vietnam built in a safety trigger. They said, "Lookit, you still need our consent to go to war, or to go into hostilities or bomb people, etc. But we're going to put in a safety trigger. If you do that, if you engage in hostilities and you don't come to us first like you're required to do under the Constitution, then you have sixty days to come back to us and get authority or within sixty days all troops have to be automatically withdrawn." So it's a safety figure because they knew the president would do exactly what Obama is doing, violate the Constitution. They put in a safety trigger that said you have sixty days to get authority, if you don't have authority then you then have 30 more days to get all the troops out, a total of 90 days. So in the case of Libya, of course, the 90 days have passed and the War Powers Resolution had required that all those troops be brought out. So we had a sort of double system. Is that clear, Michael?
Michael Smith: Well as a practical matter, the political will in this country is lacking to do anything. Technically what he did is a crime and he can be impeached for it and tried and gotten out of office but I don't think that's going to happen.
Michael Ratner: It's a high crime or misdemeanor. It's true violation of the Constitution, it's a violation of Congressional statute, you could impeach him. But good luck. We've never -- we've never successfully impeached anybody. I mean, we had, you know, Andrew Johnson after the Civil War was at least tried and acquitted eventually but I think that was the case. Nixon, rather than be impeached, resigned. Clinton made it through. Bush made it through. So what do you say, Michael? It looks like it's not a really good lever.
FYI, Michael Ratner has teamed with Margaret Ratner Kunstler for the just released book Hell No, Your Right To Dissent. Back to the Libyan War, as Michael Ratner noted, Barack is in violation of the War Powers Act. A group of men, thought to be former citizens of Libya and supporters of the so-called rebels (Transitional National Council) stormed an embassy today. Al Jazeera reports the the Libyan Embassy in Stockholm was attacked with people hanging the flag of the TNC and tossing any photos of Libya's leader Muamma Gaddafi "out of its windows." Al Jazeera notes 7 men were arrested.
The Secretary-General is deeply concerned by reports of the unacceptably large number of civilian casualties as a result of the conflict in Libya. He expresses his sincere sympathies and solidarity with the Libyan people, in particular, those who have lost loved ones in the recent attacks carried out in the country. The Secretary-General calls on all parties to exercise extreme caution in their actions, in order to minimise any further loss of civilian life.
He once again reiterates his strongly held belief that there can be no military solution to the Libyan crisis. A ceasefire that is linked to a political process which would meet the aspirations of the Libyan people, is the only viable means to achieving peace and security in Libya.
The Secretary-General urges all Libyan parties to immediately engage with his Special Envoy, Mr. Abdul Ilah Al-Khatib, and respond concretely and positively to the ideas presented to them, in order to end the bloodshed in the country.
Jacob Zuma is the President of South Africa. AFP quotes him stating, "We have found ourselves in a situation where the developed world has decided to intervene in Africa in a manner that was not agreed to when the UN resolution 1973 . . . was passed. We have found this resolution being abused in a manner that is totally unacceptable." Zuma, like the African Union, wants the violence stopped and peace talks to take place. (He does not see Gaddafi being a part of those talks.) While the African Union has repeatedly called for the matter to be left to the regional powers (which would not include the US or NATO), the White House wants Gaddafi out of power and wants to split Libya up into at least three regions. The Council on Foreign Relations loves every war -- at least until continuing to love it reveals their War Hawk nature, at which point (as with Iraq) they finally start calling for an end to it. Today they offer Daniel Serwer 'explaining' what can be done with Libya after the US kicks out Gaddafi (I'm not saying that will come to be, but that is the premise of Serwer's paper, Gaddafi is gone). As with the selling of the Iraq War, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies is at the forefront of the calls for violence. That did not register at the start of the Iraq War. Hopefully, people will notice it this time. Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies is nothing but a hotbed little War Hawks.
The TNC (so-called 'rebels') assassinated Abdel Fatah Younes. He had defected from Gaddafi's side early in the war and was with the TNC, even holding a position in it. And then the TNC began to doubt him and murdered him. While a large number of TNC-ers are exiles (some from America, some from elsewhere), without actual Libyans on the TNC's side, it's going to be very difficult for them to continue to pretend to represent the will of the Libyan people. And when one of the highest ranking defectors in the TNC is still not trusted, it does not instill a sense of security in others who defected over to the TNC side. Patrick Cockburn (Indpendent of London) observes:
This week the head of the TNC, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, sacked his whole government on the grounds that some were complicit in the killing. He was apparently forced to do so in order to quell the rage of the powerful Obeidi tribe to which Younes belonged.
A ludicrous aspect of the whole affair is that at the very moment the rebel leaders are at each other's throats, they are being recognised by country after country as the legitimate government of Libya. This week TNC diplomats took over the Libyan embassies in London and Washington and are about to do so in Ottawa. In a masterpiece of mistiming, Britain recognised the rebel government on the day when some of its members were shooting their own commander-in-chief and burning his body.
Noting Cockburn's article last night, Elaine observed, "The Libyan War receives more attention from the international press these days, have you noticed that? I am sure another wave is due any day now on how godly and saintly and wonderful the so-called 'rebels' are. This 'brief' mini-cakewalk that Barack promised is now what, five months old? When it's in year whatever, do you think people will give a damn?"
Yesterday, the State Dept's spokesperson Victoria Nuland was quizzed about her claim that TNC was "a sign of vibrant transparency and democratic accountability and she responded, "I think we stand by what I said yesterday, which is that this is an opportunity for renewal not only in political terms, but in terms of the confidence that the Libyan people are going to to have in TNC leadership." The TNC murdered one of their own and Victoria Nuland wants to talk "opportunity for renewal"?
Turning to the Iraq War, if it ends at the end of 2011, why are they still deploying troops to it? Today the Providence Journal reports a send-off is scheduled this Friday (9:00 a.m., Quonset Air National Guard Base) for two units of the Rhode Island National Guard who are deploying "to Iraq for a year. They will provide aviation support for combat and reconstruction operations, the National Guard said." Jennifer Quinn (WPRI) also notes the deployment, "A Company, 1st Battalion 126th Aviation and D Company 126th Aviation will deploy ti Iraq for one year."
March 7, 2010, Iraqis voted. The elections would determine members of Parliament who would then determine who was prime minister who would then determine with the Parliament who made up the Cabinet. This is not a lengthy process. Or it's not supposed to be. But it drug on for a little over nine months creating Political Stalemate I. In November 2010, a deal was hammered out, the Erbil Agreement, saying Nouri and State of Law would get this, Iraqiya would get this, etc. This deal allowed Political Stalemate I to end. And Nouri became prime minister-designate that month. And Nouri quickly disregarded the other elements of the deal, refusing to honor them and starting Political Stalemate II.
Nouri was named prime minister-designate in November. Per the Constitution, he then had 30 days to nominate members of his Cabinet and have the Parliament approve them. But Nouri never nominated a full Cabinet. And to this day, the positions of Minister of the Interior, Minister of Defense and Minister of National Security have never been filled. Every few weeks comes the speculation that finally Nouri is going to make nominations. It's August, eight months after the positions should have been filled. Will Political Stalemate II last longer than the first one?
Dar Addustour states that "informed sources" state that the issue will be resolved "net week" and that the candidates have already been decided. Al Rafidayn states three nominees will be named by the National Alliance and credits the recent House Party at Jalal's for ending the impasse.
The Erbil Agreement called for the creation of a National Council on security issues and called on Ayad Allawi (whose Iraqiya came in first in the March 7th elections) to head the new body. On the first day Parliament met following the Erbil Agreement, many members of Iraqiya walked out when the agreed to creation of this body was immediately tabled. Al Sabaah reports that people expect today's session of Parliament to be "heated" due to the fact that the issue of the National Council is on the agenda -- finally on the agenda. Aswat al-Iraq reports that National Alliance MP Abdul-Hussein Abtan objected at the first reading of the draft law and is stating that the council would have too much power.
The Cabinet was reduced by 17 positions last month. Nouri had promised everyone something in an attempt to sew up votes for prime minister. As a result, even with three ministry heads not named, Nouri kicked things off in December with a bloated Cabinet. Charges of corruption and protests led Nouri to propose trimming the Cabinet's ministers and deputy ministers. Bilgay Duman (Sunday Zaman) calls out the decision:
This decision which was taken with the agreement of political groups of the Republic of Iraq is seen that will cause new problems for Iraq even if it seems as positive at first. First of all, there is a big question mark that is about which tasks will be given to political groups whose ministries are taken over. On the other hand, associating ministries is in question. For instance, associating Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities is being discussed. However, the Ministry of Culture was afforded to the Coalition of Iraqi union under the leadership of Cevat El Bolani who is the former internal affairs minister and the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities was afforded to one person of Al-Sadr's group. In case of associating these two ministries, the possibility of being a moot question concerning it will be afforded to which group is pretty high. Because of the fact that there has not been any appointment to ministries, it is thought that the new assignments will raise problems in Iraqi politics. This situation may lead the Republic of Iraq to a new crisis. On the other side, the continuing discussions relating to the existence of American soldiers in Iraq and also the disagreement among political groups might deepen this crisis. In the forthcoming period, the issues such as reviewing of government or calling an early election may be anticipated to be brought up to the agenda again.
Patrick Seale (Gulf News) observes, "Iraq's new-found 'democracy', dominated by Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, is characterised by a great number of parties and splinter groups, all jostling for advantage. This produces a lot of heated talk but not much action — to the extent that a leading Iraqi (consulted for this article) described the Iraqi political scene as resembling that of the French Fourth Republic."
Filing early and never updating, Reuters notes Wednesday events that they didn't cover yesterday: two Kirkuk roadside bombings injured one police officer, 1 corpse was discovered in Kirkuk, 1 corpse was discoovered in Hilla, a Mosul roadside bombing injured a child, another Mosul roadside bombing injured a police officer, a Falluja roadside bombing injured eight people. Interesting. But today W.G. Dunlop Tweets:
Ali Yussef (AFP) reports 3 people were killed by a bombing of police officer's Ramadi home leaving 3 dead and 24 wounded. As we noted Monday, home bombings are the new craze in Baghdad -- Sunday an Iskandariya home bombing resulted in the death of 5 family members (nine more injured) and a Baghdad home bombing claimed the life of 1 Sahwa and the life of his son (two female family members were injured) and Monday a Haswa home bombing left four members of a police officer's family injured. In addition, AFP notes four bombings slammed Baghdad after sunset with at least ten people left injured.
Yesterday it was still news in Australia that the last 33 Australian soldiers were finally leaving Iraq. Yes, Kevin Rudd lied and said "Elect me and all soldiers come home." Why do you think it was so easy to defeat Kevin Rudd in the first place (Rudd didn't even make a full three years in the post). Jeremy Thompson (Australia's ABC) reports that John Howard's words may come back to haunt him. Howard was prime minister before Rudd. As Tony Blair and Bully Boy Bush lied to their own nations in the lead up to the war, so Howard lied to Australians. Now MP Andrew Wilkie wants Parliament to launch an inquiry into the war and wants Howard to testify before it. The article notes of the start of the illegal war, "At the time, Mr Wilkie was an intelligence officer with the Office of National Assessments (ONA) and resigned his post because he said the Government had no evidence Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction." David Ellery (Canberra Times) explains, "Mr Wilkie said yesterday that Mr Howard and former Coalition foreign minister Alexander Downer must be made to explain why they took Australia to war based on a lie in 2003. He wants an inquiry similar to the one being conducted by Sir John Chilcot in Britain." AAP adds, "No light had ever been shone on the behaviour of Mr Howard and former foreign minister Alexander Downer." News9 reports that Tony Abbott, opposition leader in Parliament, is already shooting down the idea of an inquiry. Meanwhile Dennis Jett (McClatchy Newspapers) notes that the US has had no inquiry:
Various Senate committees and special commissions put out reports five or six years ago, but they were set up to have a balance between Republican and Democratic politicians and given narrow mandates. The results were invariably weasel-worded conclusions that evaded the truth and provided little insight and no accountability. To the extent any blame was assessed, it was directed at unnamed bureaucrats. Instead of bearing any responsibility for the war and its aftermath, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell and Tenet rake in seven figure advances for their books and six figure fees for giving speeches to friendly audiences.
So why is there no interest in finding out what lessons can be learned from the Iraq experience, what went wrong and who is responsible? The four failures identified by the Chilcot committee apply even more to Bush since Blair was only acting as Bush's poodle. Does America suffer from NADD -- national attention deficit disorder? Or is there another reason.
The war was unnecessary because Saddam Hussein had no WMD. And he wasn't going to get any because the UN inspectors were doing an effective job. The war was illegal, because, as the legal experts in the British Foreign Office concluded, it was against international law. Bush used violations of Security Council resolutions to justify invading Iraq. He never bothered to ask the UN for the authorization that would have legitimized the invasion, however, because he knew he could not get it.