Saturday, October 29, 2011

Negotions continue, Moqtada calls for Nouri not to go to the US

Al Mada notes concerns over a US departure in Iraq as mass arrests, on the orders of Nouri al-Maliki, take place and KRG President Masoud Barzani has warned that civil war might breat out. Dar Addustour also notes KRG President Masoud Barzani has warned of the possibility of civil war in Iraq and has stated that the Kurds will attempt to prevent it and notes that Nouri has still been unwilling to resolve basic disputes. Al Mada notes that Barzani places the blame for the shelving of the Erbil Agreement on Nouri. Barzani is correct. Over eight months after Parliamentary elections (March 7, 2010), the results still weren't honored because Nouri al-Maliki (whose political slate came in second) refused to bow out and allow a new prime minister to be declared. Urged on by the US, which he now feels betrayed him, Ayad Allawi (leader of Iraqiya which came in first in the elections) agreed to shelve his claim on the office of prime minister. All sides gave a little -- except the US government which orchestrated the November meet up -- and the Erbil Agreement was formed. It allowed Political Stalemate I to end and a prime minister to be declared (still Nouri). But once he became prime minister-designate, Nouri trashed the agreement which included many other details and led to the current Political Stalemate II. Dar Addustour notes that National Alliance MP Abbas al-Bayait has voiced concern about the state of Iraq and the continued inability of Nouri to nominate ministers to head the Interior, National Security and Defense ministries.

Thom Shanker and Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) report, "The Obama administration plans to bolster the American military presence in the Persian Gulf after it withdraws the remaining troops from Iraq this year, according to officials and diplomats. That repositioning could include new combat forces in Kuwait able to respond to a collapse of security in Iraq or a military confrontation with Iran." Good for them for noting it, but why didn't anyone note it two Fridays ago (or the Saturday after) when covering Barack's assertions about 'all' troops coming 'home'? As Shanker and Myers note, this has been known for "months." We noted it two Fridays ago. And while it has been known for months, it was also known to be Barack's plan before Barack was ever sworn in. The New York Times might need to check their own archives for that story. Yeah, the 'end' was never what it was portrayed last week or, for that matter, still portrayed as by most outlets this week. And negotiations are ongoing with regards to the issue of 'trainers.'

The White House released the following statement today:

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 29, 2011 Statement by the Press Secretary on the Iraqi National Security Advisor al-Fayyadh visit with National Security Advisory Donilon
National Security Advisor Tom Donilon hosted Iraqi National Security Advisor Falah al-Fayyadh at the White House today. They held discussions to follow up on the productive Secure Video Teleconference last week between President Obama and Prime Minister Maliki. The two national security advisors reaffirmed the common vision of a broad, deep strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq as embodied in the Strategic Framework Agreement. The two held a far-reaching discussion of the elements of a fully normalized relationship between Iraq and the United States, including education, investment, and security. And they committed to develop additional mechanisms to establish a continuous strategic dialogue between the United States and Iraq.

Security discussions. The Cult of St. Barack? It sails right over them. Ongoing negotiations aren't sailing past Moqtada al-Sadr unnoticed. Dar Addustour reports Moqtada took to his online advice column to insist that Nouri al-Maliki should not go to DC in December where he is to take part in face-to-face discussions about 'trainers' and other issues. Moqtada insists that Iraqi forces need no assistance in maintaining security.

Still, Aswat al-Iraq reports, "U.S. forces carried out an aerial landing near a checkpoint and arrested an Iraqi along with his family, Karbala's Security Commission member announced today." And staying with violence, Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) notes that the death toll in the twin bombings in Baghdad Thursday evening has now risen to 36. With the exception of the wire service AP, US outlets appeared to work overtime to ignore the story. Hammoudi reports:

Hasan al Rammahi was at his home in the neighborhood when he heard the first explosion and sent out Ameer, his 11-year-old, to buy food from a nearby shop.
But Ameer was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and he was among those injured when the second bomb detonated. Passers-by took him to a hospital, where he was reported in stable condition after suffering serious bleeding in his liver and large intestine.
"I saw many dead people, among them one of Ameer's friends, and the mayor of our neighborhood," Rammahi said. "The scene was very terrible. My son lost part of his large intestine and a finger. The doctors saved his life and I am very grateful to them," said the father, his voice weak and shaking.

In today's violence, Reuters notes an attack on a Balad police checkpoint in which 1 police officer was killed and three more were left injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing left one police officer and two-bystanders injured, a Baghdad bombing claimed the life of 1 Ministry of Science and Technology employee, a Mosul bombing left three police officers injured, 1 woman was shot dead in Mosul, an armed clash in Mosul left a child on the sidelines injured and a Falluja suicide bomber was shot dead by the Iraqi military with one Iraqi soldier injured in the exchange.

The following community sites -- plus, Cindy Sheehan, On The Wilder Side and Jane Fonda -- updated last night and today:

Closing with the topic of burn pits. Burn pits have resulted in many service members and contractors being exposed to chemicals and toxins that have seriously harmed their bodies. The Senate Democratic Policy Committee held hearings on this issue when Byron Dorgan was the Chair of the DPC. Click here to go to the hearing archives page. A registry is something that Leroy and Rosita Lopez-Torres are now working on. It should be noted that were it not for US Senator Jim Webb, the nation would already have such a registery. In October 21, 2009, then-Senator Evan Bayh appeared before the US Senate Veterans Affairs Committee explaining the bill for a registry he was sponsoring, advocating for it.

I am here today to testify about a tragedy that took place in 2003 on the outskirts of Basra in Iraq. I am here on behalf of Lt Col James Gentry and the brave men and women who served under his command in the First Battalion, 152nd Infantry of the Indiana National Guard. I spoke with Lt Col Gentry by phone just this last week. Unfortunately, he is at home with his wife, Luanne, waging a vliant fight against terminal cancer. The Lt Col was a healthy man when he left for Iraq. Today, he is fighting for his life. Tragically, many of his men are facing their own bleak prognosis as a result of their exposure to sodium dichromate, one of the most lethal carcinogens in existence. The chemical is used as an anti-corrosive for pipes. It was strewn all over the water treatment facility guarded by the 152nd Infantry. More than 600 soldiers from Indiana, Oregon, West Virginia and South Carolina were exposed. One Indiana Guardsman has already died from lung disease and the Army has classified it as a service-related death. Dozens of the others have come forward with a range of serious-respiratory symptoms. [. . .] Mr. Chairman, today I would like to tell this Committee about S1779. It is legislation that I have written to ensure that we provide full and timely medical care to soldiers exposed to hazardous chemicals during wartime military service like those on the outskirts of Basra. The Health Care for Veterans Exposed to Chemical Hazards Act of 2009 is bipartisan legislation that has already been co-sponsored by Senators Lugar, Dorgan, Rockefeller, Byrd, Wyden and Merkley. With a CBO score of just $10 million, it is a bill with a modest cost but a critical objective: To enusre that we do right by America's soldiers exposed to toxic chemicals while defending our country. This bill is modeled after similar legislation that Congress approved in 1978 following the Agent Orange exposure in the Vietnam conflict.

An important bill but one that never got out of Committee. Iraq War veteran Leroy Torres and his wife Rosie Torres have continued to battle on behalf of veterans exposed to burn pits and contiuned to educate the nation on the issue. The Torres have a website entitled BURNPITS 360. They are also on Facebook. It's a personal issue, Capt Leroy Torres was exposed to the burn pit on Balad Airbase. They note that a member of Congress is working on the issue.

From: The Honorable W. Todd Akin
Dear Colleague;
Please sign on to be an original cosponsor to legislation that is important to our veterans.  Numerous veterans have suffered serious health problems after exposure to open burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. This legislation will establish a registry, similar to the Agent Orange Registry and the Gulf War Syndrome Registry.  This is the first step toward providing better care for veterans who have been affected by open burn pits.
This legislation is already supported by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), American Veterans (AMVETS) and the Association of the United States Navy (AUSN).  And the issue of burn pits was recently reported on in the October 24th edition of USA Today (which can be found here)
This bill will also be introduced in a bipartisan/bicameral fashion with companion legislation being introduced by Senator Tom Udall (D-NM)
This bill is scheduled to be introduced on November 3rd, so please contact my office soon to become an original cosponsor.
W. Todd Akin
Member of Congress


Rep. W. Todd Akin

Open Burn Pit Registry Act of 2011

Department of Veterans Affairs

Based on recent accounts of health maladies of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and a possible link to toxic fumes released in open burn pits it has become necessary to voluntarily track and account for these individuals. 
This registry will ensure that members of the Armed Forces who may have been exposed to toxic chemicals and fumes while serving overseas can be better informed regarding exposure and possible effects. This legislation
is modeled after legislation that created the Agent Orange Registry and the Gulf War Syndrome Registry.
As drafted, the purpose of the
Burn Pit Registry  (bill text found here) is to:
• Establish and maintain an open burn pit registry for those individuals who
may have been exposed during their military service;
• Include information in this registry that the Secretary of the VA determines applicable to possible health effects of this exposure;
• Develop a public information campaign to inform individuals about the
• Periodically notify members of the registry of significant developments associated with burn pit exposure.
In order to ensure that the Veterans Administration conducts the registry in the most effective manner, the legislation:
• Requires an assessment and report to Congress by an independent
scientific organization;
• This report contains an assessment of the effectiveness of the Secretary
of the VA to collect and maintain information as well as recommendations
to improve the collection and maintenance of this information;
• The report will also include recommendations regarding the most effective
means of addressing medical needs due to exposure;
• This report will be due to Congress no later than 18 months after the date
which the registry is established.
• CBO states that this registry would cost $2 million over 5 years
We learned from this country's issues with Agent Orange that the need to get
ahead of this issue is of paramount importance. 
The establishment of a burn pit registry will help the VA determine not only to what extent the ramifications of burn pits may have on service members but can also be of great use in information dissemination. 
If you have any questions please contact Rep. Akin's office at 5-2561 and speak
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