Tuesday, May 8, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, AP takes dictation from the White House, US House Rep Corrine Brown goes bat s**t crazy in an open hearing, Nouri takes his Council of Ministers on the road, and more.
This morning, the US House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing. We may cover it tomorrow in terms of issues discussed. Today, we'll note that there is no excuse for the behavior of one member.
Corrine Brown made an ass out of herself. She was so out of control that censure should actually be considered for her actions. In fact, "actions" is too mature for the behavior she exhibited. The term is "tantrums." She threw tantrums.
Democrats better realize most of America doesn't give a damn that you don't control the House. They do care that you're being increasingly hostile.
Now if that's to other lawmakers, it's not appropriate but people will write it off and roll with it. When that behavior is directed at witnesses, you need to self-check.
Corrine Brown was out of control. There was no excuse for it. A witness, Dr. Nicole L. Sawyer, was answering Chair Jeff Miller's questions when Brown attacked her. Brown did not have the floor and knew she didn't. But she jumped in to attack the witness -- the obviously startled witness. We're being kind and not quoting. How is that being kind? I never quote Corrine Brown in full because she can't speak proper English. A member of the US Congress delcaring, this is just one of them today, "You only know what go on in your area!" is a public embarrassment. Brown got degrees, for something other than learning, and she made it into the US Congress. You'd think she'd have enough self-pride to have learned how to speak properly. She can't so, check the archives, we quote her selectively to avoid embarrassing her. If most of America saw examples of Brown's speaking, they would be appalled. She sounds like she never made it out of middle school. As a member of Congress, its upon her to educate herself so that she can speak proper English.
When a witness is responding to the Chair, Brown needs to learn not to interrupt. The witness wasn't saying anything outlandish or hostile and was clearly confused by Brown's tantrum. By Brown suddenly yelling out in the middle of the witness' answer. After Brown's tantrum, Miller again asked the witness to speak. The doctor did so and attempted to bring Brown into her response which sounded a lot like conciliatory remarks before Brown cut her off and started screaming that the chair better tell the witness not to talk to her, better tell the witness to address her remarks to the chair.
There was no excuse for Corrine Brown's behavior. She's long been the joke of Congress because of how she speaks and how she never knows what she's talking about. We'll touch on that last thing. Corrine at another point in the hearing was throwing a tantrum in defense of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and insisting that this wait time results were skewed -- the results are from the VA's Office of the Inspector General. They are not skewed, they are not partisan. They are independent.
But Brown's loves to show just how stupid she can be. "They trying to," the uneducated idiot declared at one point. That would be: "They are trying . . ." It's called English. You're a member of the US Congress, you should know proper English. But, anyway, Brown was going on about how there are so many referrals outside of VA and these referrals aren't factored in.
There's no excuse for Corrine Brown's repeated stupidity and there was no excuse for her attacking a witness, for her belitting the witness, for her attacking the degree the witness has ("She's an educational doctor! She's not a medical doctor!"), for her attacking educators (as Chair Jeff Miller noted) and for her sour attitude.
The witness is not a VA employee. The witness has her own psychology practice in Exeter, New Hampshire. She has worked on many veterans issues (I don't know her but I do know of her, I believe Elaine knows her) including setting up wellness programs and addressing TBI and PTSD. She did not deserve to be snarled at and hissed at and attacked. Unlike Corrine Brown, Nicole Sawyer has gone out of her way to help veterans. And that includes many efforts that had no payment at all.
And there was Corinne Brown telling the witness that all the members of the Committee care about is money. (The Chair rightly took offense to that.) If I were running against her (she has an opponent in the Democratic Party primary and she'll be facing a Republican in the general election), I'd simply run the video of her declaring all that Congress cares about is money. Over and over. With a slogan like, "Corrinne Brown knows her priorities." "We just care about the money. We just care about the money. We just care about the money. We just care about the money." I'd run that ad over and over and over. And she wouldn't be re-elected.
She'll try to claim that she was attempting to say that Congress should care about more than money but that's not what she said, that's not what she indicated.
The witness was explaining that you cannot do mental health in "cookie cutter" fashion. And she was explaining how, for example, eight visits to a psychologist or social worker or psychiatrist wouldn't be enough for most veterans with mental health needs.
Corrine Brown told her that would have to be enough because that's what they [Congress] had decided and that's what they were willing to pay for.
So Corrine Brown not only attacked a witness, she proclaimed that a veteran who can't manage mental health in 8 appointments is then on his or her own.
I've seen crazy behavior in hearings before. And since we've been attending for the last six or seven years, I've seen, for example, Steve Buyer attack a witness and then storm out. Slamming the door as he left the hearing. But nothing before was like today. In fact, all the worst moments of the last seven years combined couldn't equal Corrine Brown's outrageous behavior and outrageous statements.
Repeating, you're not there to attack the witnesses. And if you're on the Veterans Affairs Committee, you never should make the statement that 8 appointments is enough to heal someone. You should never be that stupid. I was asked by a veteran attending the hearing, after the hearing, "Did she say that we should be well in 8 appointments?" Yes, that is what she argued.
At one point she wanted to (loudly) insist, "I've been on this Committee for 20 years." Well in that time you should have learned how to conduct yourself. The fact that you haven't learned that doesn't give you permission to attack a witness whose only crime is attempting to answer the questions she was asked.
Brown and others need to realize that the VA's done a lousy job. Serving the needs of veterans is not playing partisan politics. Some of Brown's most outlandish behavior today can be pinned on the fact that Shinseki and the VA he heads were being called out and she saw her role as Democratic Party heavy weight. Next time, she should remember that on the Veterans Affairs Committee, she's supposed to represent veterans and she's on a committee that's supposed to provide oversight of the VA.
We could point out that with the exception of this latest audit -- the one Corrine Brown attacked repeatedly -- which resulted from the work of Senator Patty Murray (Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee), everything else has been the press. It was the Washington Post that made the Walter Reed scandal news, not the House Veterans Affairs Committee. Time and again, the body that's supposed to provide oversight of the VA has done a sorry job of that and when Corrine Brown thinks that, on top of that, she can attack health care providers in a meeting, insist that it's all about money and that mental health issues can be solved in 8 sessions, that woman has serious problems and her peers need to pull her aside and convey that message to her.
Turning to Iraq where press outlets work overtime to lie. Sameer N. Yacoub of AP manages to top Reuters for worst reporting and who would have thought that was possible? Yacoub breathlessly announces, "Interpol on Tuesday put Iraq's fugutive Sunni vice president on the equivalent of its most-wanted list at the behest of the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad." First off, Yacoub, it's "INTERPOL" not "Interpol." Just as it's "CIA" and not "Cia." With a byline and end credits that reads like a Biblical epic from MGM in the 50s, Reuters offers Suadad al-Salhy, Vicky Buffery, Seda Sezer, Patrick Markey and Janet Lawrence 'explaining' that "Interpol called for the arrest of fugitive Iraqi Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi . . ."
INTERPOL -- begged by the US -- issued an "alert." They did not issue an arrest warrant. They issued "thousands" of alerts a year (conversation with INTERPOL at 2:35 PM EST today). The alerts are not "arrest warrants." They are not presented by INTERPOL as being "arrest warrants." Why is the press still (we touched on reality this morning)? "My best guess? I think you know the United States government can be quite persuasive." Apparently. And the press can be very compliant -- to put it kindly. Here's the INTERPOL press release on the issue:
LYON, France – At the request of Iraqi authorities, INTERPOL has published a Red Notice for Iraq's Vice-President, Tariq Al-Hashemi, on suspicion of guiding and financing terrorist attacks in the country. The Red Notice for Al-Hashemi represents a regional an international alert to all of INTERPOL's 190 member countries to seek their help in locating and arresting him, following the issue of a national arrest warrant by Iraq's Judicial Investigative Authority as part of an investigation in which security forces seized bombing materials and arrested individuals. The publication of the INTERPOL Red Notice for Tariq Al-Hashemi will see INTERPOL's Fugitive Investigative Support unit and the Command and Coordination Centre at its General Secretariat headquarters closely liaise with its National Central Bureaus in the region and worldwide to pool and update all relevant intelligence. "The INTERPOL Red Notice against Tariq Al-Hashemi will significantly restrict his ability to travel and cross international borders. It is a powerful tool that will help authorities around the world locate and arrest him," said INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald K. Noble. "This case also clearly demonstrates the commitment of Iraqi authorities to work with the world police community via INTERPOL to apprehend individuals facing serious charges," added the Head of INTERPOL. Containing identification details and judicial information about a wanted person, a Red Notice is circulated to police in all of INTERPOL's member countries and seeks the apprehension of a wanted person with a view to their extradition. A Red Notice is not an international arrest warrant. Many of INTERPOL's member countries however, consider a Red Notice a valid request for provisional arrest, especially if they are linked to the requesting country via a bilateral extradition treaty. In cases where arrests are made based on a Red Notice, these are made by national police officials in INTERPOL member countries. INTERPOL cannot demand that any member country arrest the subject of a Red Notice, and an individual wanted for arrest should be considered innocent until proven guilty.
"A Red Notice is not an international arrest warrant." We covered that this morning. With "thousands" of these issued each year -- in addition to actual "arrest warrants," pay attention Associated Press, Tareq al-Hashemi did not become 'public enenmy number one' or, in fact, make INTERPOL's most wanted list. As I was told this afternoon (while the House Veterans Affairs Committee was taking a very long break for votes), there is no "high priority or even priority, we put out a Red Notice. We are not pursuing the matter."
Al Jazeera and the Christian Science Monitor's Jane Arraf Tweeted today:
Jane Arraf reports on the events -- with context so many of her peers forgot to include -- for Al Jazeera here.
There is NO arrest warrant and Iraq wants to try him for executable crimes. We went over this this morning and if you don't believe me, Sinem Cengiz (Sunday Zaman) reported last week, even if Nouri filed a formal request for Turkey to hand al-Hashemi over, the Turkish government would have to refuse: "The legal obligations of Turkey stemming from being a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) prohibit it from handing any person over to another country if the suspect will likely be executed." Refer to the Council of Europe Human Rights Handbooks Series No. 8: The Right To Life, specifically the section on extradition and the death penalty, if this concept is new to you.
Is it that hard to grasp? No arrest warrant issued (as INTERPOL's own press release states) and the European Convention on Human Rights Treaty in effect, al-Hashemi is fine in Turkey. He's fine in the region expect in Iran or Kuwait. Jordan's willing to grant him asylum right now, Saudi Arabia has also indicated that they're willing to grant asylum. In addition (in terms of relocating somewhere else to live permanently), he can go to any European country that signed off on the ECHR if he chooses to.
Relocating? Nouri al-Maliki relocated Kurdish ministers today. He did so, AFP reports, by going to Kirkuk and holding a meeting of his Council of Ministers -- one which the Kurds chose to boycott. Oh, that Nouri al-Maliki, he really lights up a room . . . just by leaving it. Kirkuk is disputed with both the Baghdad-central government and the KRG claiming rights to it. Article 140 of the Constitution outlines how the dispute is to be resolved; however, it demanded those actions (census and referendum) be taken before the end of 2007. Nouri refused to honor the Constitution in his first term which should have been the clue to everone that he didn't deserve a second term. Rudaw reports the Kurdish Brotherhood List is stating it will now hold a meeting in Kirkuk and, in the words of the KBL's head Muhammad Kamal, "According to the Iraqi constitution, Kirkuk is a disputed region, so if Baghdad has a right to hold a meeting in the city, the KRG has the same right."
As the political crisis in Iraq continues, Al Mada reports that Ayad Allawi, leader of Iraqiya, states they are interested in dialoguing with all who are serious about ending the crisis; however, the chief means to do that is to re-instate the Erbil Agreement and that the issue of the targeting of Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi must be resolved as well. Before we go further, Dar Addustour reports Nouri is again targeting the Independent Electoral Commission, an arrest warrant has been issued for Saad al-Rawi who is one of the commissioners. Meanwhile things just got more difficult for the White House that never believed in self-determination. Not only are they working overtime to protect their pet and puppet Nouri al-Maliki, they're also having to work hard to make sure that if their efforts fail and Nouri's replaced, it's not with someone they despise. Dar Addustour reports that the White House is pulling out all stops to make sure that potential replacements do not include Moqtada al-Sadr or his supporters. Remember, it was a drawdown, not a withdrawal.
Al Mada notes that efforts to limit Iraqiya's power continues with the announcement (which should seem familiar, its made every other week) that a number (twenty to twenty five members) of Iraqiya will announce today the formation of their own political slate. You have to wonder how much US taxpayer money is wasted on this and wasted over and over again? Al Mada notes Moqtada al-Sadr says the Erbil Agreement must be implemented. They also reject a proposal State of Law floated last week: a withdrawal of confidnece that would require new elections for parliament which would then elect a prime minister which would then nominate a cabinet -- a process that could take over a year easily and would leave Nouri in power that whole time with no strong checks on him. The Sadr bloc is stating a no-confidence vote would be on Nouri and, per the Constitution's Article 61, would have nothing to do with other offices.
Article 61 of the Constitution, Section 8:
B. 1) The President of the Republic may submit a request to the Council of Representatives to withdraw confidence from the Prime Minister.
2) The Council of Representatives may withdraw confidence from the Prime Minister based on the request of one-fifth of its members. This request shall not be submitted except after an inquiry directed at the Prime Minister and after at least seven days from the date of submitting the request.
3) The Council of Representatives may decide to withdraw confidence from the Prime Minister by an absolute majority of the number of its members.
C. The Government is deemed resigned in case of withdrawal of confidence from the Prime Minister.
Per the Constitution, if the prime minister was ousted via a no-confidence vote, the Council of Ministers would be out as well. The prime minister-designate could nominate the same people for the same posts, but, per the Constitution, the Council of Ministers terms would all end with the no confidence vote.
For a no confidence vote . . .
Absolute majority means more than half. There are 325 members of the Parliament. That would be 163 votes. When Nouri was trying to form a governing majority, even after Moqtada al-Sadr had come on board in October of 2010, Nouri was still four seats short of absolute majority. If a vote was taken and Nouri could hold State of Law together, he would have 89 votes via his political slate. The National Iraqi Alliance holds 70 votes. Their support would be a question mark since they are headed by Ibrahim al-Jaafari who is one of the names Moqtada al-Sadr is floating as the next prime minister should Nouri be ousted. Iraqiya won the most seats and they have 91 votes. If Iraqiya could keep their bloc together (that includes White Iraqiya and other offshoots) and get all of the National Iraqi Alliance, that's 161 votes right there. However, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq is part of the National Alliance and the White House has been making generous offers to Amar al-Hakim (leader of ISCI) to buy his support for Nouri. Though it currently appears al-Hakim is siding with DC, there are long term conflcits between Nouri and Amar al-Hakim (and they go back to the conflicts between Nouri and Amar's father) so his support for Nouri remains a question mark. (Their inabilty to get along is one reason why Nouri formed the State of Law political slate.) The Kurdistan Alliance is 43 seats. If the Kurds could pull together (doubtful), all of their seats total would be 57 seats. (Goran and the Kurdistan Alliance might pull together; however, it's far from likely that the Krudistan Islamic Union, for example, would pool their votes.)
In other news, Kitabat reports thousands poured into the streets of Erbil today as people demonstrated against the magazine Al-Hamsa which some are convinced is anti-Islam. Demonstrators threw bottles of water and stones and attempted to climb the barriers around the compound. 52-year-old demonstrator Said Ahmed Ali stated that the government was allowing insults to Islam and the Koran." The editor of the magazine was arrested.
Al Sumaria reports a Sahwa leader in Diyala Province, Sami al-Khazraji, has revealed his monthly salary has been cut and that was on the orders of Nouri and his Minstry of Reconciliation. Other Sahwa have been cut by 20% in the province and there are said to be over 7,000 Sahwa in the province with most in Baquba. Kitabat notes some Iraqi Christians are again calling for an autonomous home in Nineveh. Though the idea has been a non-starter in the past, if there was a time to press for it, it's probably right now when the issue of a potential no-confidence vote means every vote in Parliament counts.
This week's. Black Agenda Radio, hosted by Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey (first airs each Monday at 4:00 pm EST on the Progressive Radio Network), featured a conversation with Arun Gupta about Occupy. We'll note the section regarding the anti-war movement.
Arun Gupta: We only need to go back a few years to the anti-war movement to see the danger of being turned into a partisan movement. People can Google stuff about MoveOn's role. Norman Solomon wrote a lot about this, people like David Swanson, Tom Hayden. And essentially the argument is that MoveOn played a really opportunistic role is what a lot of people in the anti-war movement said then and tell me now -- that they were interested in glomming on the anti-war movement not because they were principled in terms of opposing war whomever was prosecuting those wars but they were seeking to gain millions of members which they did. And yet while they were gaining all these new members, they were never calling for a full, unconditional withdrawal. And when this came to a head in 2007, when the Democrats took over both houses of Congress, after they cyncially rode the anti-war movement to power at the last minute. About a month or two before the 2006 elections, the Democrats suddenly realized, "Hey, we could make all these big gains if we start to sound anti-war." And they did. Well once they got into power in 2007, there was a clamor to just cut the funding because that's the Constitutional process: Congress appropriates the funds. And they could easily cut the funds and the Pentagon would have had enough money to bring all the troops home. Instead, they didn't do that. And it was like, "Oh, we don't need the power of the purse, we'll set a deadline." And that collapsed because MoveOn played a role. Whether it would have passed is an open question, but what MoveOn ended up doing was essentially thrawrting the effort to bring the bill to defund the war before Congress. There were two bills, one was a Pelosi bill which was about the invade timetable and then there was, I think it was a Barbara Lee bill, which was about cutting off funding and it [MoveOn] refused to put the Barbara Lee bill before a vote by its membership. And this is the thing about MoveOn, it likes to present itself as "We're very Democratic, it's determined by the members." And at the time, the leader of MoveOn, he said, "Well we know it's going to pass, but it's not realistic." So they were subverting their own democratic forum, basically to serve the interests of the Democratic Party. And, of course, if we go back to 2007, what happened? All the efforts to end the war collapsed. And there's still US troops, thousands of troops, thousands of mercenaries, thousands of spies, in Iraq today. And on top of that, we have a president who, in 2011, was waging six different wars at once, who was asserting the right to the assassination of US citizens without due process and who was pushing policies with surveillance and indefinite detentions.
Glen Ford: And so what we have is an anti-Republican war movement which, of course, ends totally when there's no Republican in the White House. And I supposed what we could be looking forward to with an Occupy that seems to be dominated by the Rebuild the Dreams and MoveOns is a movement that opposes corporate rule but says nothing about the president of the United States' deep collaboration with corporate rule.