Wednesday, June 13, 2012. Chaos and violence continue as Iraq is slammed with bombings which leave over 70 dead, the issue of burn pits is raised in the Senate, modern day sob sisters try to turn Brett McGurk and Gina Chon into a modern day King Edward VIII and Mrs. Wallis Simpson, Republicans ask Barack to withdraw the nominee, and more.
"The second bill I'd like to mention," declared Senator Patty Murray this morning, "is the Servicemembers Rights Enforcement Improvement Act of 2012. This is a bill that I wish wasn't necessary but one that circumstances demand. It builds on current protections put in place to help shield our nation's heroes from unemployment and foreclosure. These protections have been violated in a disturbing number of cases within the past several years. This bill would strengthen the ability of the Department of Justice and Office of Special Counsel to investigate and enforce the employment protections of USERRA, which are so important to members of the National Guard and Reserve. And it would improve the protections of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act as well as how they are enforced. I introduced this bill because we as a nation owe it to the men and women who serve with dignity a guarantee that the protections put in place to ease their burden will be enforced when they return home. This legislation will ensure the Departments charged with enforcing these valuable protections have the tools they need to get the job done."
She is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and was presiding over today's hearing on various veterans bills. The one above, in addition to home issues, goes to additional resources to pursue those employers who illegally are refusing to allow Guard and Reserve members to return to the civilian jobs that they have to leave when they are called up for trainings and deployments. They cannot be fired because they have been called up by the military. This is not a new legal standard. But employers are regularly breaking the law and firing Guard and Reserve members. Most recently, Home Depot had a store in Arizona which had done that. To the corporation's credit, Home Depot did not attempt to fight the charges or drag it out but instead immediately settled with the Justice Dept which noted, "Under the terms of the settlement, embodied in a consent decree that has been submitted for approval to the federal district court, Home Depot will provide Mr. [Brian] Bailey [Army National Guard soldier] with $45,000 in monetary relief and make changes to its Military Leaves of Absence policy. The settlement further mandates that Home depot review its Military Leaves of Absence policy with managers from the district where Mr. Bailey worked." This is only one example, there are many others.
Servicemembers Rights Enforcement Improvement Act of 2012 -- Amends the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (the Act) concerning the protection of servicemembers against default judgments to require a plaintiff, before filing an affidavit, to conduct a diligent and reasonable investigation to determine whether or not the defendant is in the military service, including a search of available records of the Department of Defense (DOD) and any other available information.
Makes a private right of action for a violation of the Act retroactive to December 19, 2003.
Allows a veteran on whose behalf a complaint of a violation of employment or reemployment rights is made by the Attorney General (AG) to intervene in such action, and to obtain appropriate relief. Requires the AG, within 60 days after receiving a referral of an unsuccessful attempt to resolve a complaint relating to a state or private employer, to notify the person on whose behalf the complaint is submitted of either the decision to commence such an action or of when such decision is expected to be made. Requires, in the latter case, such decision to be made within an additional 30 days. Requires the AG to commence such an action when there is reasonable cause to believe that a state or private employer is engaged in a pattern of practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of such employment and reemployment rights and benefits, and that the pattern or practice is intended to deny the full exercise of such rights and benefits.
Provides the Special Counsel with subpoena power to require the attendance and testimony of, and production of documents from, federal employees, to be enforced through the Merit Systems Protection Board.
Authorizes the AG to issue and serve a civil investigative demand for the production of documentary material relevant to an investigation under the Act.
The Committee heard from two panels about proposed bills. The first panel was the VA's Curtis Coy. The second panel was IAVA's Tom Tarantino, Military Officers Association of America's Robert Norton and Student Veterans of America's Peter Meijer. Bills are proposed legislation that, if passed by both Houses of Congress, go to the President for his or her signature and are signed into law or vetoed. A two-thirds majority of Representatives and Senators can override a presidential veto. And this is explained at the Kids in the House website (which I promised a friend I'd link to over a month ago). The House Leadership and the Office of the Clerk are responsible for the Kids in the House website and it's a strong (and free) resource for kids, parents, teachers, people who would like to learn more about the way the House works.
Each session finds many bills buried in committees, a smaller number being passed on for a floor vote of the full house (House or Senate) and a smaller number being referred to the other chamber after passage. It is very important to get the bill out of Committee and that's why you will see lawmakers who do not sit on a Committee show up for that Committee's legislation hearing. Senator Frank Lautenberg, for example, testified to the Committee today about his concerns that efforts must be made to preserve the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill. He has proposed the GI Educational Freedom Act of 2012 (co-sponsors are Senators Richard Blumenthal, Scott Brown, Tom Harkin, Jeff Merkley and Marco Rubio.
Senator Frank Lautenberg: I was proud to work with Senator Webb and former Senators [Chuck] Hagel and John Warner to create a new GI Bill for the 21st Century. The new GI Bill is making a real difference for thousands of veterans and their families every year. As our veterans return home from war, we must work to make sure that this important benefit is protected for years to come. That's why I am outraged to hear that bad actors in the education community are taking advantage of our heroes. By using misleading advertising, they rope veterans and their G.I. Bill benefits into an education that does not adequately prepare them for employment. The VA offers counseling services to help veterans navigate the educational process. But the services are available only to veterans who specifically request educational counseling. One thing is clear: The VA's current approach is not sufficient. Last year, out of the hundreds of thousands receiving VA educational assistance, fewer than 6,500 beneficiaries requested this counseling.
There were four other non-Committee Senators who spoke about bills. Our focus today is one one bill.
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.
Chair Patty Murray: Thank you very much, Senator Udall. And thank you for your critical work on this. I really appreciate it.
Senator Mark Udall: And I would also ask to be excused unless there are questions from the Committee.
Chair Patty Murray: Absolutely. I appreciate it very much.
Senator Mark Udall: Thank you very much.
Chair Patty Murray: Senator Nelson?
Senator Bill Nelson: Madam Chairman, Senator Burr, members, I want to second what Senator Udall just said. We've had a number of cases of the burn pit exposure in Florida and it is horrific. So thank you, Senator Udall, for that testimony.
Senator Nelson and Chair Murray spoke highly of the bill Senator Udall is sponsoring. Certainly, any time the Committee Chair considers your bill important, that's a good thing.
And S. 1798 has a great deal of support in the Congress. For example, along with Senators Udall and Corker, the bill has the following Senate co-sponsors: Senators Lamar Alexander, Jeff Bingaman, Richard Blumenthal, Bob Casey, Dean Heller, Claire McCaskill, Jeff Merkley, Bill Nelson, John D. Rockefeller IV, Bernie Sanders, Chuck Schumer, Olympia Snowe, Jon Tester and Mark Udall. In the House, the co-sponsors of H.R. 3337 are Representatives Joe Baca, Roscoe Bartlett, Dan Benishek, Shelley Berkley, Earl Blumenauer, Madeleine Bordallo, Russ Carnahan, Andre Carson, Kathy Castor, Judy Chu, David Cicilline, Gerry Connolly, John Conyers, Joe Courtney, Mark Critz, Peter DeFaio, Bob Filner, J. Randy Forbes, Trent Franks, Tim Griffin, Raul Grijalva, Luis Gutierre, Richard Hanna, Vicky Hartzler, Joseph Heck, Martin Heinrich, Randy Hultgren, Steve Israel, Hank Johnson, Walter Jones, Marcy Kaptur, Larry Kissel, Tom Latham, Barbara Lee, Daniel Lipinski, Fran LoBiondo, Billy Long, Blaine Luetkemeyer, Ben Ray Lujan, Tom Marino, Jim McDermott, Jim McGovern, Mike Michaud, Tim Murphy, Elenor Holmes Norton, Richard Nugent, Alan Nunnelee, William Owens, Steven Pearce, Chelle Pingree, Bill Posey, Charlie Rangel, Scott Rigell, David Roe, Jon Runyan, Tim Ryan, Adam Schiff, Allyson Schwartz, Adam Smith, Pete Stark, Mike Thompson, Paul Tonko, Michael Turner and Robert Wittman.
That's a lot of support for proposed legislation.
But remember this?
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.
That's then-Senator Evan Bayh speaking to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on behalf of the Burn Pit Registry October 21, 2009. Just like Senator Udall did today.
And Bayh believed there would be action on it. He believed in the issue and he had support in Congress. But the person who killed Bayh's bill is still on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. He's not running for re-election (he can't after that and after his fit over the benefits Secretary of the VA Eric Shinseki extended to the victims of Agent Orange). But he's still on the Committee. And as I watched Senator Jim Webb in the hearing, I saw the same bored look he gave when Bayh spoke of the importance of this proposed legislation in 2009.
I support the registry. I think it's needed. I supported when Bayh proposed it and I applaud Evan and former-Senator Byron Dorgan for all the hard work they did highlighting the burn pit issue, educating the Congress and we the American people on this issue.
I find it appalling that there's been no leadership on this issue from the White House. Barack Obama has repeatedly lied about the American people with regards to Vietnam. Most recently, he did so on Memorial Day.
If the veterans of Vietnam were betrayed (I believe they were), it was the government that betrayed them. It betrayed them first of all by sending them to Vietnam. It further betrayed them when they returned. We can list one example after another but the one that's pertinent here is the Agent Orange registry. It was not until the 90s that it was created. Agent Orange was a destructive agent used in Vietnam and the effects on people exposed to it were severe.
It was not the American people that ordered Agent Orange to be sprayed. It was not the American people that fought one legal battle against Vietnam veterans after another denying that Agent Orange did any harm. It was not the American people that did not support an Agent Orange Registry which could be used to ensure medical care and medical benefits.
It was the American government. And it's the American government today -- the one he heads -- that's refusing to allow a Burn Pit Registry. Let's hope everyone following the issue registers that. And registers how hollow his words are when he starts talking about 'turning your back on veterans' if he's refusing to champion the Burn Pit Registry.
Why is it needed right now? Because there's still a small focus in the press on veterans. Iraq's off the page, Afghanistan's sliding. Once the attention's gone, it's gone. And that was part of the problem with the Agent Orange Registry. Many politicians and officials knew their refusal to implement it wouldn't result in massive press coverage. Vietnam veterans couldn't afford all the years they had to wait (and many have only received help and recognition since Eric Shinseki became VA Secretary). Iraq and Afghanistan veterans can't afford to wait years either.
Turning to the topic of Two and a Half Men . . . James Jeffrey, Ryan Crocker and adolescent Chris Hill signed a letter. Josh Rogin (Foreign Policy) reports the three signed a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee insisting that Brett McGurk is qualified to be the US Ambassador to Iraq. Jeffrey is the outgoing US Ambassador to Iraq. Chris Hill was the nightmare ambassador. Prior to Hill's brief stint, Ryan Crocker served as US Ambassador to Iraq. Rogin writes, "In their letter, the former ambassadors argue that McGurk showed his understanding of the complexities facing Iraq in his June 6 confirmation hearing and said that he has the full trust and confidence of the current leadership team at the embassy. " I'm sorry, where were they?
They weren't at the hearing. I was. How can they vouch for his performance at a hearing they didn't attend?
They can't. And this isn't the 1960s. Meaning forget the press coverage because there was none. Note to what passes for a press corps: Your 'great job, Brett!' wasn't reporting. Most outlets ignored the hearing completely (including TV evening news). Find a report where they report what McGurk said and examine if it was accurate. You can't find that in the MSM. We covered it here, the hearing, in three snapshots. We covered what he said versus reality. We covered it in the editorial for Third as well:
It's really easy to pretend someone's 'qualified' when you refuse to do the work required to vet the nominee. Those links above don't go to MSM reporting on the hearing because there is NO MSN reporting on the hearing. They go to the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday snapshot (as well as a 2008 snapshot for Petreaus' testimony in 2008). The press didn't do the job they're paid to. You can say they're overworked and many are. But that doesn't excuse anyone filing a 'report' that fails to examine one word of what was said, that fails to provide context. There's a world of difference a transcript and a report or a 'feelings check' and a report. No reporting was done by the MSM on McGurk's hearing.
AP reported this morning that Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee were drafting a letter that would ask the White House to pull McGurk's nomination. Aamer Madhani (USA Today) posted the letter which expresses concern over his management experience and his judgment (as well as his ability to work with Iraqis -- remember the political slate that won the 2010 elections, Iraqiya, has asked that he not be made ambassador).
Now before the hearing we were reporting on the e-mails. I say that because I cannot believe the stupidity of so-called professional writers. Tuesday, June 5th, we were reporting on the e-mails between Brett McGurk and Wall St. Journal reporter Gina Chon who began an affair in 2008 and concealed it from their superiors. Yesterday, Chon lost her job. Lisa Dru (Business Insider) reported on the news as well and includes the Wall St. Journal's statement:
Wall Street Journal reporter Gina Chon agreed to resign this afternoon after acknowledging that while based in Iraq she violated the Dow Jones Code of Conduct by sharing certain unpublished news articles with Brett McGurk, then a member of the U.S. National Security Council in Iraq.
In 2008 Ms. Chon entered into a personal relationship with Mr. McGurk, which she failed to disclose to her editor. At this time the Journal has found no evidence that her coverage was tainted by her relationship with Mr. McGurk.
Ms. Chon joined the Journal in 2005 in Detroit, followed by an assignment as Iraq correspondent in Baghdad from 2007 to 2009. She also reported for the Journal from Haiti in 2010 in the aftermath of the earthquake and has served as a M&A reporter for Money & Investing in New York since April 2010.
Dru's done a fine job reporting on the e-mails and the issues. We're about to get to two who are doing a lousy job.
Reality, Chon was asked to resign and given the choice of resigning or being fired. She opted to resign. Let's start with Maressa Brown whose work experience is "entertainment and women's magazines." It shows, dear, it really shows. Maressa Brown's "not quite sure Chon should have had to lose her job over the affair itself" -- if your company has a code of ethics, you follow it or your risk losing your job.
In addition, those ethics were the same code of ethics of any professional news outlet. Now I know, in entertainment writing, you're encouraged to sleep with your interview subject. But in most fields of journalism, you're only paid for the story, not for also granting sexual favors.
Maressa Brown might want to consider that and might want to consider that Gina Chon's little love life shouldn't mean a thing to the readers of the Wall St. Journal. They shouldn't know about it, they shouldn't follow it. Those rules, ethics, they exist for that reason.
The public is supposed to be able to trust that everything is ethical. Gina Chon's decision to sleep with her source was grounds for instant termination. Michele Norris is one of the finest radio journalists around. She's a host of NPR's All Things Considered. She's got reporting chops and she's earned a reputation of being a fair and accurate journalist. To ensure that she's seen that way, she and NPR agreed early on that if her husband was working for a campaign, she couldn't cover it. Last October, Norris went on an extended leave from All Things Considered. She explains why here:
I need to share some news and I wanted to make sure my NPR family heard this first.
Last week, I told news management that my husband, Broderick Johnson, has just accepted a senior advisor position with the Obama Campaign. After careful consideration, we decided that Broderick's new role could make it difficult for me to continue hosting ATC.
Given the nature of Broderick's position with the campaign and the impact that it will most certainly have on our family life, I will temporarily step away from my hosting duties until after the 2012 elections.
I will be leaving the host chair at the end of this week, but I'm not going far. I will be wearing a different hat for a while, producing signature segments and features and working on new reporting projects. While I will of course recuse myself from all election coverage, there's still an awful lot of ground that I can till in this interim role.
This has all happened very quickly, but working closely with NPR management, we've been able to make a plan that serves the show, honors the integrity of our news organization and is best for me professionally and personally.
I will certainly miss hosting, but I will remain part of the ATC team and I look forward to contributing to our show and NPR in new and exciting ways.
My very best,
Again, Michele Norris a well known reporter with a sterling reputation for her work. And yet, she follows the rules. She goes out of her way to make sure there is no appearence of a conflict of interest. She doesn't say, "Oh, well, everybody knows my husband is working on campaigns so since everybody knows, it doesn't matter." She's a serious journalist who takes her profession seriously.
Dow Jones cannot afford the reputation of employing Little Ms. or Mr. Hot Pants who's going to sleep with the source and then possibly cater the news to benefit their lover. Dow Jones has a reputation to uphold. Chon probably could have gotten away with what she did -- which wouldn't have made it ethical -- if she'd worked for a different outlet. But Dow Jones is a considered a trusted name and the reason for that is they don't tolerate unethical reporters.
People need to let go of the idea that this is love story or it's a happy ending. I'm not concerned with whether Chon's found happiness or not. I'm concerned with the fact that she was the chief reporter on Iraq for the paper in 2008 and she was sleeping with a US government official. That would be the ultimate embed. How much did that color what she reported?
I don't know and that's a question that a real news outlet never wants any news consumer to have to ask. That's why there is a code of ethics.
Bonnie Goldstein (Washington Post) wants to talk about the "brutal" confirmation process while, as an aside, noting the e-mails didn't come up in the hearing. No, they didn't. As I explained here already, I learned about the e-mails in a senator's office (a senator on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee). (I overheard a conversation, there was not a leak.) That was Tuesday afternoon. The Committee was aware of the e-mails on Tuesday (the day before the hearing), they just weren't aware if they were genuine or not. (I can say a great deal more about that on the Democratic side but I'll stay silent right now while I wait to see what happens.) McGurk was fawned over. In addition, this story should have been all over but it's not. The Washington Post is covering it. One of the few papers that is. CJR has daily blogs and were just posting about 'racy e-mails' last week but they've ignored this story and the ethics involved. Goldstein writes:
Having read some of the correspondence in an excerpt in the Above the Law blog, I have to say it presents unusual but material evidence of McGurk's qualification to work with the reconstruction team and the Iraqi government. His sequencing choices notwithstanding, the written correspondence indicates the nominee possesses confidence, sincerity and a lovely sense of humor (a quality I suspect he's needing to call on in great quantities as this painfully personal matter gets sorted out in public ... ).
Next time, try reading the e-mails posted, not excerpts and trying paying attention to what you're reading not on how wet it makes you.
In the e-mails it is very clear -- and was on Tuesday afternoon when I left the senator's office and pulled up the e-mails on my iPhone. It wasn't hard, it wasn't difficult. And maybe next time you should read all of them before weighing in. Brett McGurk's words are very clear. Ryan Crocker did not know about the affair. Whether Crocker wants to take a bullet for him now or not doesn't matter. It's in writing, Crocker didn't know, McGurk was concealing the affair. Now he was married and that's one reason he was concealing. But that doesn't excuse it, it actually adds to more problems because when the government sends you to another country to represent the US, you put your best face forward. Not your trashy, bootie call face. But your best face.
(Scary thought, what if trolling for women is the best face of Brett McGurk.)
It sure is cute to read Bonnie's stupidity and Maressa's as well. Little girls, grow the hell up and pay attention, we're going to go over it one more time.
Iraq is a country. It's not a mythical place. People actually live there. Children are born there. For children to be born -- pay attention, girls -- women have to be present.
The Iraq War has destroyed the rights of women in Iraq. Now I know, Maressa and Bonnie, that you're both too lazy to have ever attended a hearing in the last year on what the State Dept's doing in Iraq. But among the excuses they've sent lower-level flunkies in with is that they are working on women's rights.
Yes, the country that destroyed Iraqi women's rights now will supposedly fix them.
So Bonnie, Maressa, tell me how in a country in which so many males are embracing fundamentalism, in which so-called 'honor' killings regularly take place (women are put to death -- usually by family members -- for so-called crimes against 'honor' -- sex, divorce, being the victim of a rape, etc.), tell me how Iraqi women can comfortably visit the Embassy if Brett McGurk is the Ambassador?
Brett McGurk is all over the Iraqi press. Kitabat, you name it. They are covering this story. No surprise. And McGurk's got a little reputation now in Iraq. So tell me please, Bonnie, Maressa, how the hell are Iraqi women going to be served by a US Ambassador they can't be alone with unless they want to risk an honor killing or something more.
Let's be really clear, the only males that get killed for these so-called 'honor' killings are ones thought to be gay. The man that sleeps with a woman or that rapes a woman or that divorces is not put to death. Just the woman.
And you want to tell me that Mr. Can't Keep It In His Pants is the best Iraqi women can hope for?
Bonnie and Maressa, it's time you both woke up and realized that your little fantasies of romance are something you should save for when you're alone, Right now you should be focusing on Iraqi women. No, it won't bring you to orgasm, but less focus on yourself for once in your lives might make you better women.
Essay topic: What is the connection between thinking and writing? Short answer: Maressa and Bonnie demonstrate there is none. They not only ignore the fact that a man who sends out blue balls e-mails to a woman he has not yet slept with probably isn't the one to supervise female employees, they also don't even bother to consider the fate of Iraqi women. Shame on you both, shame, shame.
Here's another tip for those covering it, 'McGurk didn't disclose any classified . . .' You don't know what he did. He's never gone on the record about this relationship. He's avoided the press and it wasn't raised in his hearing. RT gets it right, "Though the Journal believes that Chon disclosed information on unpublished articles with McGurk, it is not yet clear if he had shared any classified intel with the reporter. " It is not yet clear. You stumble onto a topic at the last minute, manage to write a few paragraphs and want to pretend like you know what took place when no questions have been asked, let alone answered? Margaret Carlson writes a column on the topic for Bloomberg here and I'll be kind and leave it at that. (Tomorrow we may devote several paragraphs to it.)
Today Iraq was slammed with multiple bombings in what's been called the deadliest attack since December 18th (when most US troops left Iraq). AP offers a timeline of the attacks since then. Emily Buchanan (BBC News -- link is video) notes ten locations in Baghdad alone and that the first bombing struck at five this morning. In Kirkuk, Buchanan noted, the headquarters of Massoud Barzani's political party was targeted. (Massoud Barzani is the President of the KRG. His political party is the Kurdistan Democratic Party.)
Lee Moran (Daily Mail -- link is text, video and photos) reports most of the people targeted in Baghdad were pilgrims while security forces were targeted elsewhere in Iraq. Kitabat notes that the pilgrims are making the holy journey on the anniversary of the death of Imam Musa al-Kadhim Saturday. Moran counts 13 bombings across Iraq today. Alsumaria counts 32 bombings in 8 of Iraq's 18 provinces. There were also shootings as Mohamad Ali Harissi (AFP) notes, "Gunmen also attacked a house north of Baquba, killing a father and wounding his wife and three children, while a car bomb against a police patrol in the city wounded four people, the [police] colonel said." Alsumaria notes that Mosul saw a car bombing which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left another and two bystanders injured. Alsumaria notes the Baghdad bombings included one in the military barracks which injured four soldiers. In addition, Alsumaria notes 1 Sahwa was killed in an armed attack to the south west of Baquba -- this was a "Daughter of Iraq" (as the female Sahwa are also known).
The Telegraph of London counts 63 dead and notes, "The attacks were the third this week targeting the annual pilgrimage that sees hundreds of thousands of Shiites converge on Baghdad on foot to commemorate the 8th century death of revered Imam Moussa al-Kadhim." Yes, they were. And shouldn't someone be noting that, as AP reported early yesterday morning, that Nouri's spokesperson announced he had stepped up security. He had stepped up security. Now his plan is to make tomorrow a holiday. AFP's Prashant Rao re-Tweets his collegue's Tweet on the death toll:
Haddad Salih (BBC News) observes, "Soon after the attacks, websites of local political parties critical of Shia Prime Minister Nouri Maliki blamed the political crisis in which Iraq has been embroiled for the past few months. But Mr Maliki's State of Law coalition pointed the finger of blame at the recent failure of attempts by the prime minister's rivals to topple him with a vote of no-confidence." Well Nouri al-Maliki was supposed to appoint a Minister of Defense, Minister of Interiror and Minister of National Security to move from prime minister-designate to prime minister. He was named prime minister-designate in November 2010. He was made prime minister in December 2010. He has still refused to nominate anyone for the posts because this allows him to control them. So if there's a problem with the violence -- I think most people would agree there was -- that goes to Nouri. He's the Minister of Defense, he's the Minister of Interior, he's the Minister of National Security. Why won't he protect the people? That should be the cry he faces every day.
Back to the US and the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing. As usual, Kat will cover Ranking Member Richard Burr at her site tonight. There are other aspects of the hearing that we may cover tomorrow. If there's interest, we can easily include coverage of the hearing in tomorrow and Friday's snapshot. We are very limited for space tonight. So we'll note some of a news release from Committee Chair Patty Murray's office (and we'll note the release in full in tomorrow's snapshot):
Today, under questioning from Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that he has ordered the heads of every branch of the U.S. military to review diagnoses for the invisible wounds of war going back to 2001. The Secretary's announcement comes after Murray worked to spur a similar review by the Army which arose from hundreds of soldiers being misdiagnosed and in many cases accused of faking the symptoms of PTSD at Madigan Army Medical Center in Washington state.
"The Pentagon and the VA are losing the battle on mental and behavioral health conditions," Murray told the Secretary at today's hearing. Murray also noted that the Army has already begun a system-wide review saying "This is not just an Army disability evaluation system. This is a joint DOD and VA program covering all of the services. Why has the Department not taken the lead in evaluating and making improvements to this system?"
"What I've asked is the other service chiefs to implement the same approach that the Army's taken" Secretary Panetta responded. "…I'm not satisfied either. We're doing everything we can to try to build a better system between the Pentagon, the Department of Defense and VA. But there are still huge gaps in terms of the differences in terms of how they approach these cases and how they diagnose the cases and how they deal with them, and frankly, that's a whole area we have to do much better on."