Friday, March 9, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Iraqi Emo youths and LGBTs remain targeted, a document said to be from the Interior Ministry explaining how to kill the LGBTs surfaces, the political crisis continues, the US Senate discussed Iraq and more.
"In Iraq," US Senator John McCain declared Tuesday, "Prime Minister Maliki continues to centralize power at the expense of the other political blocs while the threat posed by al Qaeda appears to be growing along with the kinds of horrific, spectacular attacks, like the one we saw yesterday." He was referring to Monday's attack on Haditha security forces which left at least 27 dead with three more injured. Senator Carl Levin is the Chair of the Committee, McCain is the Ranking Member. General James Mattis (Commander of US Centcom) and Admiral William McRaven (Commander of the US Special Operations Command) were the witnesses appearing before the Committee. We had to hold this to cover the Veterans Affairs Committee hearings this week (and there's a House VA hearing we still didn't get to).
The drawdown in Iraq is a drawdown. The military's been clear in their use of "drawdown" and "reposturing" and just as clear in the non use of the term "withdrawal." There are at least 200 US service members guarding the American Embassy in Baghdad and the various consulates. In addition, there are US service members present as "trainers." Nouri al-Maliki has publicly spoken this year -- and repeatedly -- on this issue. The number he supplies publicly is 700. You don't read that in the US newspapers. His number may be too high, it may be too low. Maybe if US newspapers weren't so busy attempting to spin and reported facts, we'd know what the number was. At this point, the only number given is Nouri's number of 700. And there are more, as US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey admitted to Ted Koppel last December on NBC's Rock Center with Brian Williams.
MR. KOPPEL: I realize you can't go into it in any detail, but I would assume that there is a healthy CIA mission here. I would assume that JSOC may still be active in this country, the joint special operations. You've got FBI here. You've got DEA here. Can, can you give me sort of a, a menu of, of who all falls under your control?
AMB. JAMES JEFFREY: You're actually doing pretty well, were I authorized to talk about half of this stuff.
In addition, the US State Dept has its largest mission in Iraq and Iraq is the mission they have militarized. There are 16,000 foreigners working for the US State Dept in Iraq -- that includes a large number of contractors.
Iraq is reported badly if at all by most outlets today. You get the Josh Rogins who want to pretend they're journalists but don't want to be held to the guidelines of journalims if it interferes with them completing another page in their slam book. The US occupation of Iraq continues. It hasn't ceased. Moqtada al-Sadr grasps that. So many in the US press pretend otherwise.
In addition to those US service members still in Iraq, there are the thousands stationed in the region around Iraq. General James Matthis noted to the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday that most US troops had left Iraq.
General James Mattis: The question then becomes: How do we maintain our presence with a light footprint? To accomplish this, the USCENTCOM AOR will assume an increasingly maritime character with special operations forces (SOF) and strong air enablers. Naval forces -- with embarked troops -- provide presence and a cost efficient means of rapidly projecting power in a crisis to execute contingency operations. Sustained naval presence and response forces provide a lighter footprint on the ground and are vital for reassuring our partners, deterring those with malign intent and tempering destructive actors from fermenting trouble in the region. The maritime environment also permits freedom of action unfettered by international boundaries and agreements. However, the stacked Iranian threats in our AOR of ballistic missiles, long range rockets, mines, small boats, cruise missiles and submarines demand stronger naval presence and capability to protect vital sea lines of communication.
The US news industry is a story of budget cuts. So Americans get less and less news from the news industry. Less and less coverage. It's much cheaper for Diane Sawyer, Scott Pelley and Brian Willaims to, for example, waste three or more minutes of airtime 'reporting' on some YouTube sensation where a pet does a trick. Pets can be house broken. News anchors, I'm not so sure. As the news industry goes for the cheap and the banal, Americans are less and less informed about what is going on due to this news failure.
General James Mattis: Our successful military drawdown from Iraq puts the need to develop a new strategic relationship with the Iraqi government at the forefront of our regional policy. The Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq (OSC-I) has been established and testifies to our respect for Iraqi sovereignty. Our relationship going forward will be based on mutual respect between two sovereign nations. USCENTCOM will work to expand security cooperation activities and deepen our military-to-military ties with Iraq while helping to expand its military engagement with key regional partners. Simultaneously, we remain clear-eyed, recognizing Iran's access to and efforts to subordinate Iraq and work to counter that malign influence. OSC-I -- working under Chief of Mission authority and with the full support of USCENCOM -- is the lead proponent for executing the military component of our intent. Thank you for your fast action in support of our special authority for OSC-I and for your continued patience as we work through a successful transition. The danger from al Qaeda in Iraq is still serious and it remains capable of spectacular attacks against the people and the government there even as it takes advantage next door in Syria to mount attacks there.
The Congress, the Pentagon and the State Dept continue to have to address Iraq -- that's staffing, that's budgeting. But the news media tells Americans that the mission (occupation) has ended.
We'll note this exchange from the hearing.
Ranking Member John McCain: General, are their strong indications that al Qaeda is making a comeback in Iraq?
General James Mattis: Yes, sir. Particularly in the western Iraq area but the threat is extending into Baghdad.
I think al Qaeda in Mesopatamia is both a catch-all to blame anything on and, especially for the US government and the US press, a device that allows denial. If al Qaeda in Mesopatamia is responsible, then there's no need for the US government of US press to factor in just how much US actions have resulted in a government that so many Iraqis oppose. You might also think that since the US went into a trillion dollar debt over the Iraq War -- a debt that will weigh on the country for decades to come -- the news media might continue to cover Iraq as a result of the money invested but you would be wrong. Then again, maybe the news media avoids Iraq for that reason -- don't you dare let the taxpayers know just how poorly their money was spent.
Maybe that's why Senator Claire McCaskill's comments at the hearing weren't noted? Specifically when she observed, "I can give you anecdotally disasters in Iraq. In fact, I am trying to compile all the infrastructure we build in Iraq and what the status is of it today. But I think everyone knows, it's not a pretty picture. How much got blown up? How much was never utilized? How much sits crumbling? And -- and that's all an incredible amount of resources of our country that we have invested."
The press is supposed to be a watchdog and provide oversight. Does it really look like that's happening today?
We'll note this exchange from the hearing.
Senator Ben Nelson: I've got a number of concerns about our presence in Iraq at the current time. I don't think that I have a clear understanding of what our mission is there. And it's further complicated by the fact that we've got questions about the new embassy which is a significant -- in terms of size -- building with a significant number of security contractors located there -- perhaps not even functioning in a security role outside of the embassy. And the embassy continues to be expanded. And I understand, perhaps, the State Dept is now in charge of establishing what our mission in Iraq is. Can you -- either of you -- help enlighten me about what our mission truly is in Iraq today? And how that might relate as well to the providing of security by contractors and the continuing expansion of a building that seems to be gargantuan in size already. General Mattis?
General James Mattis: Sir, as far as our mission in Iraq, it's going from a military-led effort in Iraq over the last eight years to a State Dept-led mission under the Ambassador. There I do have a Lt. General with a small footprint on the ground, part of the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq and they are engaged in everything from the sales of certain military equipment, providing contractor-led training, to organizing the Iraqis who want to go to military schools in the United States. We've maintained those relationships, that's what they're doing. As far as the security contractors, sir, who actually protect the embassy, those come under the US embassy, under the State Dept. But having been there recently, they're simply doing the guard duty you would expect in a high threat area. And as far as the size of the building, sir, I'm really not competent to respond on that part of the question.
Senator Ben Nelson: But it is big, isn't it?
General James Mattis: It's big.
Senator Ben Nelson: Thank you. In trying to understand the role of the contractors there in providing security, in other embassies in other countries, are we required -- do we require ourselves to provide security or do we look to the host nation to provide security?
General James Mattis: Sir, the host nation provides the external security outside the grounds. Inside the grounds, it's sovereign territory and we do that. We do that generally with contract guards, many of them are long serving guards there, and inside the building itself, you have Marine security guards.
Senator Ben Nelson: Is that the way it works in Iraq? In Baghdad?
General James Mattis: Yes, sir. It is.
Senator Ben Nelson: The Iraqis provide the external security?
General James Mattis: They do, sir.
Senator Ben Nelson: And if our personnel are moving from one place to another, who provides the security?
General James Mattis: That security is provided by our own -- our own contract guards.
Senator Ben Nelson: What level of security would the Iraqis provide externally to the -- to the Embassy?
General James Mattis: In that zone, when you go there, sir, you see that there are checkpoints set up some blocks away. They have patrols that go by. It's not just for our embassy, it's for other embassies in town as well as they provide the kind of diplomatic security that's expected around the world. Here in Washington, DC, some police men [and police women] can provide it because the threat is very low. In a place like Baghdad, prudent measures require the Iraqi army, the Iraqi police to do the security in a much more visual, obvious way.
If the State Dept is now in charge of the US mission in Iraq, why are they doing reports? When they weren't in charge, through 2011, they did the "Iraq Status Report." (Click here if you never read them.) Not anymore. And why isn't the State Dept regularly briefing on Iraq. They're supposedly in charge. They are answerable to the American people. They should be required to provide regular updates. They are operating in darkness, they are cloaking their actions and it's not surprising that a senator wants questions answered as to what the mission is. (Yes, I am aware that Victoria Nuland made comments Thursday -- only when asked -- on Iraqi women. I've never seen such ill-informed remarks. And that's despite the fact that we're referring to only a few sentences. I'll address them when I can do so a bit more calmly.) (And I've noted many times that I know Robert Kagan -- and often disagree with him. Victoria and Robert are married. I know Victoria as well. Check the archives, she's gotten no special treatment as a result of that.) They're not just spending taxpayer money, they are asking for record levels of taxpayer money and they can't be open about what they're doing? That should be unacceptable to everyone.
We'll note this exchange from the Tuesday hearing.
Senator Scott Brown: Regarding Iraq, I am as concerned as others are about the vacuum that has been created. And, as you know, al Qaeda in Iraq has carried out more attacks this year than it did in the entire second half of last year. Do you think there's a security vacuum there since we've left or what?
General James Mattis: It's not a security vacuum, Senator Brown, but it is a less capable Iraqi security force without our capabilities there. They're scrambling to try and fill in those gaps. We are working with our small footprint there to help them fill in those gaps but it is a concern, I know, for the Iraqi government and it is a concern for [US] Ambassador [James] Jeffreys.
Senator Scott Brown: Alright. You think al Qaeda -- You think al Qaeda's making a comeback in Iraq?
General James Mattis: Yes, sir, they are. It's not significant. It won't threaten the government. It will kill a lot of innocent people.
Senator Scott Brown: And what about the favoritism in the Iraqi government for the majority Shia political party? Do you think that's fueling another insurgency potentially and does this play right into al Qaeda's hands potentially to create that instability?
General James Mattis: It's not playing into al Qaeda's hands yet and I think that there has been some progress back into a political dialogue here in the last couple of weeks that I think is back on the right track. So it's -- I give you a cautious, optimistic view of this -- but it's very, very cautious at this point.
Wow. Mattis offers less spin than the US press. Which is supposed to be independent? That's right the US press. But they've rushed to tell you -- especially the New York Times -- that the political crisis is over. No such thing has happened. Mattis offered his "optimistic view" and it was more fact-based than anything the New York Times has offered on the political crisis. That's great for General Mattis, good for him. But that's damn lousy for the US press.
Brown and Mattis explored the political crisis. If you're the New York Times, you pretend that the political crisis kicks off on or around December 21, 2011. That's not accurate. The political crisis is ongoing and years-old. The easiest way to trace the current problems is to return to March 2010 when parliamentary elections were held and Nouri al-Maliki was unhappy with the results, stomped his feet for a recount and even after that was completed his State of Law still did not come in first. Instead, the Ayad Allawi-led Iraqiya slate came in first. Per the Constitution, President Jalal Talabani should have named Allawi the prime minister-designate and, at that point, Allawi would have had 30 days to put together a Cabinet -- failure to do so, per the Constitution, would mean Allawi's turn was over and a new prime minister-designate would be named. But Nouri used everything to hang on to his post, from the non-independent Supreme Court to the US White House.
For over eight months, Nouri refused to budge. This is Political Stalemate I. It is ended in November 2010 only when the US-brokered Erbil Agreement is signed off on by all parties. The agreement puts a number of things into writing including that Nouri can remain prime minister for a second term. All the political blocs get a little something in the Erbil Agreement -- such as a referendum on Kirkuk will finally take place or Ayad Allawi will head an independent security council. But Nouri gets named prime minister-designate and Nouri immediately calls off the census of Kirkuk that had been announced and due to start in December. Nouri insists that the security council headed by Allawi will need to wait. He gets made prime minister -- moved from prime minister-designate -- on the basis of the Erbil Agreement, not on the basis on the Constitution because the Constitution required him to name a Cabinet -- not a partial one, a Cabinet. Nouri didn't do that in the 30 days, he was in violation of the Constitution and a new prime minister-designate should have been named.
The White House and non-independent lackeys in the US press insisted that Nouri would soon name the empty posts. The most critical empty posts were the Minister of the Interior, the Minister of Defense and the Minister of National Security. Nouri's critics charged that he was intentionally refusing to name them because it was a power-grab on Nouri's part.
Naming them -- nominating them and allowing Parliament to vote on them -- means they have power and independence. Including, but not limited to, the fact that if Nouri wants to get rid of them, he has to go through Parliament. Once they're approved by Parliament, Nouri can't fire them on his own. (As he's found out with Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq who he's been calling for to be stripped of his post since December with no luck thus far.)
So who was right?
The White House and the US press or Nouri's critics?
It's 15 months since Nouri named his 'Cabinet' and still those three security ministries remain with no heads. It was a power grab. The National Allaince spoke candidly in February to the press stating they didn't want Nouri to name anyone to the post (State of Law is one of the components of the National Alliance, others include the Sadr bloc, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and other Shi'ite bodies). When this caused distress among some Iraqis, the National Alliance backed off from and disowned those statements.
But it was a power grab. Nouri controls three ministries that he wouldn't otherwise. These are the security ministries. As Iraq's security worse and worse over the last 15 months, it's time to grasp that this falls on Nouri.
The US press and the White House insisted for months after December 2010 (when Nouri provided a partial cabinet) that Iraq needed time and then all would be well. For awhile even detractors were willing to give it another week, another month . . . Until finally, over the summer of 2011, the Kurdish bloc begins demanding that Nouri return to the Erbil Agreement. That the Erbil Agreement be implemented. This is not confusing, this is not in doubt. KRG President Massoud Barzani -- among others -- has been very vocal publicly on this issue. But the New York Times and ignore that fact. Iraqiya joined the Kurdish call. Others followed.
In October 2011, Nouri's dislike for Sunnis became more pronounced. It was obvious by his treatment of the Sahwa (largely Sunni; forces who were put on the US payroll to stop attacking the US military). He refused to bring them into the process. Not just to bring them into the security forces but to bring them into the government in non-security jobs. October 2011, he began having Sunnis arrested throughout the country and Tikrit was among the areas. He lied and claimed he had intel from Libya. There was going to be an attempted coup, he inisted.
Insisted? Try confessed. If Freud got anything right, it was the criminal's compulsion to confess. Nouri was carrying on a coup against Sunnis. A large portion of the arrested were college professors. Sunni ones. They're now out of jobs. Even the many who've been released (supposedly all are in the process of being released). They haven't just been replaced with Shi'ites, they've been replaced with fundamentalists who now carry out attacks on Iraqi students. (The efforts to control Iraqi youths are typical moves by a despot in any authoritarian regime.)
While Nouri's slate (as well as his political party Dawa) are Shi'ite, Iraqiya was a mixing. It is Sunni, it is Shi'ite (Allawi himself is Shi'ite), it is Turkmen and much, much more. And that's what Iraqis voted into first place in the March 2010 elections. As with the provincial elections the year before, the 2010 elections saw Iraqis rejecting sectarianism and reaching for a national identity instead. The White House, Barack Obama, refused to honor the wishes and will of the Iraqi people and the political crisis is the fault of the White House.
Nouri and Barack posed and preened for the cameras in December 2011, claiming success in the 'new' Iraq. Reality would be visible by the end of the week when Nouri returned to Baghdad, ordered troops to patrol the homes of Iraqiya members -- tanks circled the homes -- he began attacking Iraqiya members publicly.
December 21st, while Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi was in the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government -- three provinces which are semi-autonomous and free from Baghdad's control), Nouri al-Maliki issued an arrest warrant against al-Hashemi claiming the vice president was a terrorist. al-Hashemi has remained in the KRG where he has been a guest of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and KRG President Massoud Barzani. The KRG has refused to hand him over to Baghdad. Tareq al-Hashemi has asked that the trial be moved to Kirkuk noting he did not believe he could get a fair trial in Baghdad. Last month, when 9 members of the Baghdad judiciary held a press confrence to announce he was guilty, they demonstrated al-Hashemi's was correct when he asserted he wouldn't receive a fair trial. (Guilt is determined at the conclusion of a trial, it is not determined by judges before the trial even starts.)
As AP and AFP noted Sunday, Nouri was again demanding al-Hashemi be handed over to him. Tuesday, theOman Tribune noted that al-Hashemi told Al Hurra he had no plans to leave the KRG and quoted him stating, "I will stay in Kurdistan unless Kurdistan says that the status of Hashemi is causing us embarrassment."
Though the New York Times pretends it's nothing, this political crisis is not a minor thing. As Daniel J. Graeber (Oil Price) obsereves, it's even effecting the oil industry, "Baghdad announced triumphantly this week that oil production increased to more than 3 million barrels per day for the first time in more than 30 years. Exports, the government said, should increase substantially once a new floating oil terminal starts operations later this week. The IEA in December said crude oil production in Iraq could reach an average of 4.36 million bpd by 2016, about half of what Riyadh produces. The agency warned, however, that Iraq's fractured political system might be as much of an obstacle as anything."
How do you resolve the crisis? Starting December 21st, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujfafi and President Jalal Talabani began calling for a national conference. Instead of supporting the call, Nouri dragged his feet. Now he's insisted that the Arab Summit (scheduled to kick off in Baghdad on March 29th) had to be the focus and everything else must be put on hold. It's another delaying tactic on the part of Nouri. Meanwhile Al Mada reports that the Sadr bloc is insisting Iraqiya should not raise the issue of the political crisis at the summit. Apparently the Sadr bloc is under the mistaken impression that the Arab neighbors are ignorant of what's been going on in Iraq for months? Al Mada also reports that Iraqiya's current position is that it will raise the political crisis at the summit.
Today Dan Littauer (Gay Star News) reports this morning, that's one of the ways Iraq's LGBTs, Emos and suspected LGBTs and Emos are being killed -- approximately 100 of them since the start of February is by beaten with concrete blocks. Littauer notes that another popular way of targeting them for death is "pushing [them] off the tops of high buildings." Littauer reports:
The report from the local LGBTQ activist indicates that Jaish Al-Mahdi (Mahdi Army) and Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous) are at least partially responsible for the murders. An anonymous official in Sadr city's municipal council affirmed that some people are recruited by extremist armed militias who carry lists stored in their phones with the names of emo youths and LGBTQ people to be murdered. It has also emerged that some officials are actually behind the killings. Colonel Mushtaq Taleb Muhammadawi, director of the community police of the Iraqi Interior Ministry, stated on 6 February that they had observed the so-called Satanists and emos. He added that the police have an official approval to eliminate emo people because of their 'notorious effects' on the community. The colonel declared to Iraq News Network that: 'Research and reports on the emo phenomenon has been conducted and shared with the Ministry of Interior which officially approves the measures to eliminate them. 'The Ministries of Education and Interior are taking this issue seriously and we have an action plan to "eradicate them". I will be leading the project myself and we have the necessary permits to access all schools in the capital,' added the colonel, thus possibly indicating at the very least Iraqi state complicity with the
It should be noted that Nouri al-Maliki is the one bringing the League of Righteous into the current political process. Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) adds, "The Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq warns of a surge in anti-gay attacks across Iraq, particularly in Basra and Baghdad. The attacks, which began in early February, have left at least 42 dead, according to the women's rights group. Militia groups have publicly posted threatening messages and even lists of suspected homosexuals to target. Many of the victims were tortured before their deaths. It is unclear if their deaths went unreported in regular news reports."
While many are silent, As Sheikh (Dar Addustour) takes on the issue of the attacks on the Emo youth. He notes a lot of the fear is based upon people not knowing what Emo is and that the media can assist in times like these by not falling back on silence but by clarifying what is taking place. He notes the variety of things Emo youth have been confused with -- including Satanists and vampires -- and how that alarms further. He points out that the hair and clothes are styles and the may be momentary fads or something longer lasting. He points out that you don't kill someone ("some young innocent") because you don't like the way they dress and that there is no blessing granted for murdering someone for those sort of reasons.
Meanwhile Kitabat notes that the Interior Ministry is declaring there have been no deaths and this is all a media creation. That would be the same Ministry of Interior that, please note, was declaring earlier this week that Emo was the number one threat to Iraq. Guess someone got the message about how badly this was making Iraq look to the rest of the world? Now the still headless ministry (Nouri never appointed a minister to head it) wants to insist that it is only a small number of Iraqi youth who are even into Emo. The ministry insists that the only truth on the subject of Emo is that which the government tells. But the Parliament's Security and Defense Commission also spoke to the media on Thursday and they spoke of the discovery of 15 corpses of young Iraqis -- Emos or thought to be -- discovered in one Baghdad neighborhood. Activist Hanaa Edwar also speaks of the large number of Iraqi Emo youths being targeted. Al Mada notes the Parliament committee stated that the security forces have failed to protect the Emo youth. Dar Addustour reports that activists Mohammed al-Kazimi has pointed out that the constitution of Iraq guarantees Iraqis the right to freedom of expression and that Emo youth are not unconstitutional.
Instinct magazine publishes what may be a document from the Ministry of the Interior giving the orders to kill Iraq's LGBTs and they interview Iraqi Ali Hili who now lives in England and remembers a time when he was able to live in Iraq without fear:
When the US and UK invaded Iraq. That ended the secular state of Iraq, and turned it into a very "dark ages", fanatical, religious period for Iraq. They brought us a Shi'ite government whose ideology is imported from Iran, they adopted their lifestyle strategy and cultural habits, and they tried to impose this on Iraq's society.
Turning back to the US, yesterday the Secretary of the Army, John McHugh, appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee. That was an interesting hearing but we're just going to quickly grab some figures McHugh provided. Specifically, he noted that "less than one-half of 1 percent of Americans [currently] serve in the Army [. . .]. Over one million soldiers and Department of the Army Civilians served courageously in Iraq. [. . .] Their heroic actions earned 8,238 awards for valor, including 408 Silver Stars and 16 Distinguished Services Crosses. Two Medals of Honor were awarded posthumously to Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith and Private First Class Ross A. McGinnis."
Scott Weakley tells Denver's 9News (link is text and video), "It isn't like you're in a Humvee where you can name the date, time and route you were on. With these post-deployment lung disorders veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are getting, we don't know [where they are coming from]." The former army Major spent 22 years in the military, he did marathons when not deployed, after his last deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, he returned to home to discover marathons were out and even trying for a half mile was impossible. Tests on his lungs reveal that they "are damaged, constricted and scarred" and that both together now function as if they are "just half of one." Weakley is among many who suffer from exposure to burn pits and he's trying to raise awareness on this issue. National Jewish Health is currently studying the issue and Dr. Cecile Rose is leading the study into exposure to "burn pits, desert dust and extreme humidity."
Rosie Torres: It wasn't the military it was the contractors that were running those burn pits. Everything was burned. I mean, amputated body parts, unused pharmaceuticals, batteries, tanks, you name it. Everything was burned there. Because I asked him, I said, "Well didn't you notice?" He's like, "No, no, I have pictures. I've seen the smoke, it's there, but when we ask questions, it's like, no everything's fine, everything's safe." Because they were told that too. So it never dawned on them. He was like, "We were just there to fulfill our mission. We weren't there to ask about smoke, you know?" It would go through the mess hall like when they were eating. The plume would just sort of hang all over. Like the air conditioner unit, would come in through there. There was like no escaping it, it was everywhere. What people fail to realize is that invisible wounds aren't just PTSD, I mean it's now toxic exposure too.
When Torres lost both of his jobs -- he was a captain in the Army Reserve and a Texas state trooper -- because of his ailments, his wife made the march to Washington. There, she fought to create a national registry that could link long-term health problems with burn pits in the future. "We need to make every legislator aware of our cause. These soldiers are from every state," Torres said. "I think what people fail to realize is invisible wounds aren't just PTSD, it's toxic exposure, too." Torres rallied congressional support from Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.). While the bill sits in front of the Committee of Veterans Affairs, Torres has started an online registry that is tracking more than 500 soldiers.