Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Bush Burn Out and Burn Pits

The idiot David Frum feels Brett McGurk has been wronged. For some strange reason, he's tossing those statements from The Daily Beast instead of a prison cell.  Conrad Black's momentary fancy became America's permanent nightmare and  he didn't just cheer on the illegal war, actively repeated lies to attempt to sway public opinion.  Bully Boy Bush's former speech writer -- how bad is Frum?  Bush fired him -- supports Frum.  He doesn't give a damn about the Iraqi people.  But he never gave a damn about them.  He pretended to in order to call for illegal war.  The idiot Frum wants to liken McGurk and Gina Chon to Averell Harriman and Pamela Married For Money Too Many Times and destroyed too many families.  (Sorry, I don't play the Democratic party line on that piece of trash and never have.  The one time in her life Ann Coulter was right may have been when she insulted Pamela.)  The reason that McGurk and Chon's releationship was unethical was because a reporter doesn't sleep with her source.  She also doesn't keep that information from her editor.  She also doesn't allow her source to vet her copy.  All three are wrong.  They become doubly wrong when the source is also a government official.  Then you're not just letting your source vet your copy, you are, in effect, letting the government vet your copy.  Those are complex issues, far too complex for Frum.

So of course he can't even consider how a host country would look upon McGurk.  As we noted of Kaplan's ravings yesterday:

Kappy writes a column about Brett McGurk's nomination while never once considering the Iraqi people.  Iraqiya is mentioned (in a bad paragraph).  Iraqiya is popular, they are not the Iraqi people.  The Iraqi people are approximately 30 million and Foolish Fred wants you to know how wonderful his man crush Brett would have been in the job.  No, he wouldn't have been good in the job.  The clerics, including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani (al-Sistani is the only true calming influence in the country, if he requests that the temperature of rhetoric be lowered, it gets lowered), could not be comfortable with McGurk.  He came to Iraq a married man.  He had an affair in Iraq.  On top of that, he left his wife.  He divorced her.  Gina Chon would have been his "_____" if she'd accompanied him to Iraq.  What's the big debate in Iraq today?  Raheem Salman (Reuters) reports, "An Iraqi government decree banning soldiers and police from wearing beards on duty has revived a debate over religious practices in a country where sectarian divisions between Shi'ite and Sunni still fester close to the surface."  What McGurk and Chon did -- both married when they began their affair in Iraq -- goes against fundamentalist teachings and also insults the host country since he violated his vows while he was in Iraq.  Iraqi women would not have been able to access the Embassy because of fear of what would be said about them (and the fear that words could lead to 'honor' killings -- where women have supposedly disgraced and brought dishonor to their relatives so the women must be put to death by their relatives).  We've got over half the population right there.

Frum leaves all of that out.  And while idiots like Kaplan and Frum don't grasp the way McGurk is seen in the Arab world, others did.  And while idiots like Kaplan and Frum don't grasp the power of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Iraq, others do.  Alsumaria reports this morning that the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq Martin Kobler met today with al-Sistani.  And what did he say after?  That the UN was very concerned about the ongoing political crisis.  And who did Kobler take that concern to?  The Grand Ayatollah.  An American, non-Muslim, who came to Iraq as a married man and slept with a woman who was already married?  Chon and McGurk can have all the weddings in the world they want, the Grand Ayatollah would not have received McGurk.  McGurk's actions, in the Arab world, were an insult to marriage, to the host country and to vows.  He would have no standing.  When the White House finally grasped that (last Sunday night), McGurk was offered the chance of announcing his own withdrawal.

What did Kobler speak to al-Sistani about?  The political crisis, the lack of basic public services, the stalled oil and gas law.  He wasn't there seeking religious counsel, he was there courting (and paying respects to) the person who's probably the most powerful in Iraq.  In another article, Alsumaria notes Kobler last visited al-Sistani November 21st of last year. 

Moving on to the topic of burn pits and dropping back to the June 13th snapshot for an overview:

Senator Mark Udall:  Sitting in the audience today is Master Sergeant Jessey Baca a member of the New Mexico Air National Guard and his wife Maria.  [to them] Just give everybody a waive here, you two.  Master Sgt. Baca was stationed in Balad, Iraq and exposed to burn pits. His journey to be here today was not easy.  He has battled cancer, chronic bronchitis, chemical induced asthma, brain lesions, TBI, PTSD and numerous other ailments. Maria has traveled that difficult road with him.   They know first hand the suffering caused by burn pits and they need to know the answers.  It is because of them and so many others like them that we are here today.  Last year, I introduced S. 1798, the Open Burn Pits Registry Act with Senator Corker.  Representative Todd Akin introduced it in the House.  It is not a partisan issue.  We have each met with veterans and active duty members of the military and they have told us how important it is that we act now.  In both Afghanistan and Iraq, open air burn pits were widely used at forward operating bases.  Disposing of trash and other debris was a major challenge.  Commanders had to find a way to dispose of waste while concentrating on the important mission at hand.  The solution that was chosen, however, had serious risks.  Pits of waste were set on fire -- sometimes using jet fuel for ignition.  Some burn pits were small but others covered multiple acres of land. Often times, these burn pits would turn the sky black.  At Joint Base Balad Iraq, over 10 acres of land were used for burning toxic debris.  At the height of its operations, Balad hosted approximately 25,000 military, civilian and coalition provision authority personnel.  These personnel would be exposed to a toxic soup of chemicals released into the atmosphere.  According to air quality measurements, the air at Balad had multiple particulates harmful to humans: Plastics and Styrofoams, metals, chemicals from paints and solvents, petroleum and lubricants, jet fuel and unexploded ordnance, medical and other dangerous wastes.  The air samples at Joint Base Balad turned up some nasty stuff. Particulate matter, chemicals that form from the incomplete burning of coal, oil and gas garbage or other organic substances, volatile organic compounds such as acetone and benzene  -- benzene, as you all know, is known to cause leukemia --  and dioxins which are associated with Agent Orange.  According to the American Lung Association, emissions from burning waste contain fine particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and various irritant gases such as nitrogen oxides that can scar the lungs. All of this was in the air and being inhaled into the lungs of service members.  Our veterans have slowly begun to raise the alarm as they learn why -- after returning home -- they are short of breath or experiencing headaches and other symptoms and, in some cases, developing cancer.  Or to put it more simply, by Maria Baca, when she describes her husband's symptoms, "When he breathes, he can breathe in, but he can't breathe out.  That's the problem that he's having.  It feels like a cactus coming out of his chest.  He feels  these splinters and he can't get rid of them."  The Dept of Army has also confirmed the dangers posed by burn pits.  In a memo from April 15, 2011, Environmental Science Engineering Officer, G. Michael Pratt, wrote an air quality summary on Baghram Airfield.  And I would respectfully ask that the full memo be included in the record.  Referring to the burn pits near Baghram Airfield,  he said there was potential that "long-term exposure at these level may experience the risk for developing chronic health conditions such as reduced lung function or exacerbated chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, atherosclerosis  and other cardio pulmonary diseases.  Many of our service members are coming home with these symptoms.  I believe, like you do, Madam Chair, that we are forever in debt for their service, so we must ask the question, "How did these burn pits impact the health of our returning heroes?"  This bill is a step towards finding the answers we owe them.  The legislation will establish and maintain and Open Burn Pit Registry for those individuals who may have been exposed during their military service.  It would include information in this registry that the Secretary of the VA determines is applicable to possible health effects of this exposure. develop a public information campaign to inform individuals about the registry and periodically notify members of the registry of significant developments associated with burn pits exposure.  It is supported by numerous groups including BurnPits 360, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Association of US Navy,  Retired Enlisted Association, the Uniformed Services Disabled Retirees and the National Military Family Association.  Madam Chair and Ranking Member Burr, thank you for your attention to this important issue.  I look forward to working with both of you and members of your distinguished Committee on this important legislation.  Thank you and a pleasure once again to be with you today. 

That was Senator Mark Udall, as the Senate Veterans Committee hearing last week, explaining the basics on burn pits and what a Burn Pit Registry is needed.  Justice is also needed. Several Oregon National Guard soldiers who served in Iraq and were exposed to the cancer causing hexavalent chromium are attempting to get justice in a court of law.   Mike Francis (Oregonian) reports:

Lawyers for a set of Oregon Guard soldiers and for defense contractor KBR Inc. grilled three expert witnesses Wednesday about the effects and risks of exposure to hexavalent chromium one the first of two days of hearings in federal court in Portland.
The Iraqi water treatment plant at Qarmat Ali "would be a Superfund site in the United States" because of contamination by sodium dichromate, the carcinogenic compound containing hexavalent chromium, said Herman Gibb, testifying on behalf of the soldiers. Gibb, who worked for the Environmental Protection Agency for 29 years and now runs a consultancy in Virginia, performed a widely recognized study on the hazards of hexavalent chromium exposure at a sodium dichromate factory in Baltimore.

The following community sites -- plus Cindy Sheehan, World Can't Wait, the Los Angeles Times, CSPAN and the Pacifica Evening News -- updated last night and this morning:

Lastly, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Commitee and she continues to demand answers regarding the changing of service members and veterans diagnoses and the false accusations hurled at the service members and veterans when they attempted to get the medical treatments they needed.  Her office issued this yesterday:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012 (202) 224-2834
Chairman Murray Requests Details of Military Review of Mental Health Diagnoses Since 2001
As historic review begins, Murray calls on Secretary Panetta, Pentagon to “clearly communicate the scope of the review as well as the impact on individual servicemembers and veterans”

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to request details on how the Department of Defense will conduct a major review of mental health diagnoses made since 2001. The review, which Secretary Panetta announced last week at a hearing with Senator Murray, comes after Murray has repeatedly pointed to inconsistencies in the Pentagon’s mental health evaluation system. In Washington state, those inconsistencies have led to hundreds of service members having their proper diagnosis of PTSD restored after being accused of lying about their symptoms.
“The Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs are losing the war against mental and behavioral health conditions,” Murray wrote. “As you acknowledged, huge gaps remain in how both the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs approach, diagnose and deal with these cases. A review across each service is a necessary step forward in addressing concerns I have been raising about both the disability evaluation system and the diagnosis and treatment of behavioral health conditions.”
In the letter Murray outlines four key issues the Pentagon must consider in proceeding with the review, including one about the timeline for this massive review. Murray also calls on Secretary Panetta to “clearly communicate the scope of the review as well as the impact on individual servicemembers and veterans.”
The full text of Senator Murray’s letter follows:
June 20, 2012
The Honorable Leon E. Panetta
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301
Dear Secretary Panetta:
As I stated during the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the Department of Defense FY 2013 Budget Request, the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs are losing the war against mental and behavioral health conditions. The recent events at Madigan Army Medical Center, where hundreds of soldiers have had their proper diagnosis of PTSD restored after being told they were exaggerating their symptoms, lying, and being labeled malingers, demonstrate the weaknesses within the Department of Defense in properly evaluating and diagnosing behavioral health conditions.
As you acknowledged, huge gaps remain in how both the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs approach, diagnose and deal with these cases. I was pleased to see you share my belief that a review of behavioral health evaluations and diagnoses in support of the disability evaluation system needs to be a Department led effort. A review across each service is a necessary step forward in addressing concerns I have been raising about both the disability evaluation system and the diagnosis and treatment of behavioral health conditions. I applaud your commitment to undertake this comprehensive review, however, I have questions about how the Department will proceed.
· Has the Department developed or provided guidance to the services in order to accomplish this review? If so, I would request copies of any guidance that has been developed or issued.
· What is the timeline for execution of this review? When do you expect the other services to begin this review and when do you expect findings and recommendations from each of the services?
· Which senior leaders at the Department and each service will be responsible for conducting this review and the development and implementation of recommendations?
· How will the Army’s current review be incorporated into this broader effort?
As the review begins, the Department of Defense must clearly communicate the scope of the review as well as the impact on individual servicemembers and veterans. Appropriate steps must also be taken to ensure the performance of this review does not adversely impact the timeliness of cases currently processing through the disability evaluation system.
Ensuring greater consistency in the evaluation and diagnosis of behavioral health conditions is not the only challenge currently confronting the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES). As highlighted by a recent Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing I held on IDES, the number of men and women enrolled in this system continues to climb, the number of servicemembers cases meeting both of the Departments’ timeliness goals is unacceptably low, and the amount of time it takes to provide benefits to a servicemember transitioning through the system has risen each year since inception. Both Departments must take immediate action to reverse these trends.
Following a recent discussion with Deputy Secretary Carter on these issues, I outlined a series of recommendations to improve the disability evaluation system. The letter to Deputy Secretary Carter dated June 6, 2012 outlining these recommendations is enclosed, and I urge you to act quickly to implement these solutions. I appreciate the opportunity, which you offered at the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, to discuss these issues with Secretary Shinseki and you in the near future, and I look forward to hearing your recommendations about how we can improve this system.
I appreciate your attention to this request and I remain committed to working with you to address these very serious issues.

Patty Murray

cc: The Honorable Carl Levin
The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki
Matt McAlvanah
Communications Director
U.S. Senator Patty Murray
202-224-2834 - press office
202--224-0228 - direct

The e-mail address for this site is