By the beginning of Franklin D. Roosevelt's Presidency, Thanksgiving was not a fixed holiday; it was up to the President to issue a Thanksgiving Proclamation to announce what date the holiday would fall on. Tradition had dictated that the holiday be celebrated on the last Thursday of the month, however, this tradition became increasingly difficult to continue during the challenging times of the Great Depression.
Roosevelt's first Thanksgiving in office fell on November 30, the last day of the month, because November had five Thursdays that year. This meant that there were only about 20 shopping days until Christmas and statistics showed that most people waited until after Thanksgiving to begin their holiday shopping. Business leaders feared they would lose the much-needed revenue an extra week of shopping would afford them. They asked President Roosevelt to move the holiday up from the 30th to the 23rd. He chose to keep the Thanksgiving holiday on the last Thursday of the month, however, as it had been for nearly three-quarters of a century.
In 1939, with the country still reeling from the effects of the Great Depression, Thanksgiving once again threatened to fall on the last day of November. This time President Roosevelt did move Thanksgiving up a week to the 23rd. Changing the date seemed harmless enough, but it proved to be quite controversial. Small business owners felt it put them at a disadvantage and they sent letters of protest to the President.
While Thanksgiving is tomorrow, US Vice President Joe Biden celebrated early. CBS News reported Monday, "The Bidens hosted wounded warriors for Thanksgiving dinner. It was their fourth Early Thanksgiving for servicemen and women and their families. At the dinner were five from the Army, four from the Marines and one from the Air Force." On Thanksgiving, the American Legion notes:
Two thousand veterans across America are $60 richer for Thanksgiving, thanks to checks sent to them by The American Legion to pay for food during the holiday. The checks went to veterans who have disabilities suffered while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Included with each check was a letter from the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes, the Connecticut-based organization that donated the money, thanking veterans for their "enormous personal sacrifices."
Verna Jones, director of the Legion's Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Division, said that $60 can make a big difference for a veteran's family on Thanksgiving Day – especially if that veteran is out of work. "Given the high jobless rate among our younger veterans and the state of our economy, these checks do a lot for veterans and their families," she said. "Over the years that we've been distributing these checks, you'd be surprised by the thank-yous that we get back. Veterans call us and say, 'You know what? I would not have had a Thanksgiving meal for my family – I didn't know how I was going to put food on the table for my children – and this check came, and I was able to give my family a good Thanksgiving.' And they have food left over to carry through the rest of the week."
The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) estimates the average cost this year for a 10-serving Thanksgiving dinner is $49.48. AFBF says that amount of money can provide a 16-pound turkey, 12 rolls, a 1-pound relish tray of carrots and celery, a half-pint of whipping cream, 14 ounces of cubed stuffing, three pounds of sweet potatoes, one gallon of whole milk, 12 ounces of fresh cranberries, one pound of green peas, 30 ounces of pumpkin pie mix and two pie shells.
Turkeys cost slightly more this year, according to the AFBF. In 2011, a 16 pounder went for an average price of $21.57; this year it has increased to $22.23.
The American Legion's national headquarters contacted its department service officers across the country, asking them to submit contact information for wounded or disabled veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Then the Legion started mailing out checks last week.
Jones said many disabled veterans can't work or are working part-time, and sometimes are still waiting for disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. "So a $60 check showing up in your mailbox that makes it possible to treat your family at Thanksgiving – it makes it seem more like Christmas," she said.
The jobless rate for veterans who have left active duty since 9/11 stands at 10 percent, higher than the national average of 7.9 percent. Women veterans are even worse off, with an unemployment rate of 15.5 percent.
The letter that accompanied the checks thanked veterans for their "enormous personal sacrifices" and said the $60 was being presented by the coalition and The American Legion "to help you celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday by sharing a special meal with those closest to you." A "Thank You and Get Well" card was also enclosed.
"On behalf of our organization and the Legion," the letter continued, "please accept this gift and card as a combined gesture of gratitude, along with our best wishes for a wonderful holiday and continued success along your personal road to recovery."
The American Legion has chapter throughout the country. Many will be hosting Thanksgiving dinners tomorrow for veterans and many of those dinners will be at no charge. If you are a veteran and don't know where your closest American Legion chapter is located, you can visit the American Legion website and in the top right-hand corner there is a gold box labeled "FIND IT QUICK" -- in the box click on "Find a Post" and a pop up will allow you to enter the address you are at and search for the closest chapter.
The things that I have done that I regret
The things I seen, I won't forget
For this life and so many more
And I'm trying to find my way home
Child inside me is long dead and gone
Somewhere between lost and alone
Trying to find my way home
-- "Trying To Find My Way Home," written by Jason Moon, from Moon's latest album Trying To Find My Way Home
It wasn't until after being misdiagnosed with major depression and insomnia, after telling a VA mental health worker what he'd seen in combat only to be told to "just forget about it," after a failed suicide attempt, that music resurfaced and quite literally saved his life. Today, Jason Moon works with veterans of all wars to put the emotions of combat and the hidden terror of dealing with it alone into song. WarriorSongs is a non-profit that matches veterans with songwriters and together, a song becomes the saving grace that embodies what veterans so often cannot find the words to say. How war impacts the human soul. How combat affects the mind. How life after war is never a matter of "just getting on with it."
And how there is hope. For healing, for managing symptoms, for making something meaningful out of something that took all meaning away.
"It was an incredibly dark time," recalls Moon. "The VA system wasn't prepared for PTSD when my unit got home. No one even mentioned it to me. So all that time I thought I was weak, that there was something wrong with me, that I was the only one this was happening to. I mean, they tried me on nine different anti-depressants and several different sleeping pills -- but when the cause of your symptoms is not depression or insomnia, those pills do weird things to you. I started drinking, I'd go out looking for a fight, I was hypervigilant, couldn't work, couldn't do anything. After four years of this, I took all the pills I had and some alcohol. I was done."
But life wasn't done with Moon yet. "I woke up three days later in the hospital. The VA finally decided I had PTSD -- but only thanks to a music therapist who happened to have a pamphlet on it and gave it to me. It laid out every symptom I'd had for the last four years. It meant I wasn't weak or alone. There was a name for this and a reason I was feeling the way I was," Moon says. It took a suicide attempt to get the attention he should have had from the day he arrived home. "All of a sudden, I had the top professional at the VA attending to me, they got my medication figured out, I was able to get three to four hours of medicated sleep. I took every program they offered from biofeedback to meditation, to breathing exercises."
But his big "aha" moment came at a Soldier's Heart retreat -- where they take groups of vets and lead them through a healing process based on the ancient traditions of warriors. "I had Vietnam vets coming up to me, one after another and telling me: 'hey, I lost my marriage, my kids, I've lost it all, don't wait 30 years to deal with your war.' I realized if it could happen to these hard-core veterans, it could happen to me. I knew I had to fight to win this battle."
And for those who are fortunate enough to be able to spare some money and are looking for a worthy cause, this is the donation page for Paralyzed Veterans of America. (That is not a guilt trip. Times are tough, most people are struggling, the economy remains in the toilet. I'm not suggesting anyone do without or suffer to make a donation. I'm merely tossing that out as a worthy organization if, this time of year, you're looking for one to make a donation to.) We'll note another organization worthy of donations at the end of the snapshot.
In Iraq, the rains have been falling with significant consequences. Tuesday, All Iraq News reported that the rest of the week would be rainy and foggy. And Iraq had already seen heavy rain fall. Sadr City was one of the areas effected. Joseph Muhammadwi and Mahmoud Raouf (Al Mada) reported on the flooding of Sadr City and included a photo of the water up to the frame of a mini-van. Despite the flooding and continuing heavy rains, traffic police stand outside directing vehicles. One resident jokes that Nouri can replace the food-ration cards with free small boats. The water's flooded the streets and also gone into homes and schools and a makeshift bridge of bricks has been constructed to allow access to one school. Dar Addustour noted that many of the cities, such as Kut, have been hit with the heavy rains. Baghdad residents protested the lack of public services -- proper sanitation (i.e. drainage) would alleviate a great deal of the standing water. Nouri's had six years to address Baghdad's sewer system and done nothing. AFP reports today the heavy rains in Kut led to houses collapsing resulting in the death of six children and leaving one adult male injured.
Amani Aziz (Al Mada) reports that Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc is ready to oust Nouri al-Maliki over the arms deal which has led to confessions from State of Law that there was huge corruption in the Russian arms deal. MP Jawad al-Hasnawi states it is a logical step to remove him after Nouri signed the deal while refusing to provide details including who were the go-betweens. This was the deal -- that's now supposedly broken -- that found Nouri signing a contract worth $4.2 billion. Alsumaria reports the Kudistan Alliance today announced that an investigative committee was being formed in Parliament to review the Russian arms deal. Omar Sattar (Al-Ayyam via Al-Monitor) adds, "The Iraqi parliament's Security and Defense Committee collected the names of more than 50 MPs demanding the formation of a committee to investigate the caneled Russian arms deal. The committee has confirmed its intention to interrogate all the officials whose names were linked to this case." Dar Addustour reported yesterday on Nouri's plan to isolate Jalal and that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi, Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi and KRG President Massoud Barzani are in conversations with people assuming it is over withdrawing confidence in Nouri.
As rumors continue to circulate about the corruption involved in the arms deal, All Iraq News reports Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh felt the need today to publicly deny that he had any involvement in the deal. Alsumaria adds that al-Dabbagh declared he warned Nouri about suspicions before Nouri left on the trip to Russia.
Nouri's problems never go away. Al Mada reports that in the Kurdistan Regional Government, the KRG is able to meet 85% of the electricity needs in the region but in the rest of Iraq that Nouri's responsible for? Nouri's still not even able to meet 50% of the electricity needs.
Security's needed in Iraq as well. Alsumaria reports that 1 Sahwa and one assailant were killed in a Baghdad clash, a Bahgdad home invasion claimed the life of 1 council member and 2 of his sons, a Mosul kidnapping resulted in the abduction of a Ministry of the Interior employee and a Kirkuk roadside bombing left a husband and wife injured.
Tensions continue in Iraq and threaten to roll the region over Nouri's decision to send forces into Iraq's disputed areas. That should come as no real surprise. Dropping back to the July 26, 2011 snapshot:
Of greater interest to us (and something's no one's reported on) is the RAND Corporation's report entitled "Managing Arab-Kurd Tensions in Northern Iraq After the Withdrawal of U.S. Troops." The 22-page report, authored by Larry Hanauer, Jeffrey Martini and Omar al-Shahery, markets "CBMs" -- "confidence-building measures" -- while arguing this is the answer. If it strikes you as dangerously simplistic and requiring the the Kurdish region exist in a vacuum where nothing else happens, you may have read the already read the report. CBMs may strike some as what the US military was engaged in after the Iraqi forces from the central government and the Kurdish peshmerga were constantly at one another's throats and the US military entered into a patrol program with the two where they acted as buffer or marriage counselor. (And the report admits CBMs are based on that.) Sunday Prashant Rao (AFP) reported US Col Michael Bowers has announced that, on August 1st, the US military will no longer be patrolling in northern Iraq with the Kurdish forces and forces controlled by Baghdad. That took years. And had outside actors. The authors acknowledge:
Continuing to contain Arab-Kurd tensions will require a neutral third-party arbitrator that can facilitate local CMBs, push for national-level negotiations, and prevent armed conflict between Iraqi and Kurdish troops. While U.S. civilian entities could help implement CMBs and mediate political talks, the continued presence of U.S. military forces within the disputed internal boundaries would be the most effective way to prevent violent conflict between Arabs and Kurds.
There is no neutral third party present today. The study came out in 2011. Where was the White House? Diaa Hadid (AP) explains, "The commander of Kurdish forces dispatched fighters to a disputed northern area of Iraq Wednesday, as tensions mounted between Iraq's central government and the Kurdish-ruled autonomous region." Alsumaria quotes the Ministry of Peshmerga's Anwar Haji Osman stating that the Peshmerga remain prepared to act if needed.
AFP quotes Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stating, "The [Baghdad] regime wants to lead this [country] into a civil war." He's referring to the crisis Nouri's provoked by sending his forces (Tigris Operation Command) into disputed territories in the north. Trend News Agency sums up the comment and notes a skirmisk outside Tikrit that appears to be last Friday's -- but that claimed 1 or 2 lives depending upon the outlet (1 of Nouri's forces and some outlets also noted a civilian) whereas Trend News Agency is saying "12 Iraqi soldiers and one civilian" died in the skirmish. Unless the wounded died -- which the Iraqi press hasn't covered, if the outlet's covering Friday's incident, their fatality numbers are incorrect. Liz Sly (Washington Post) offers a different take on who was involved with the fight on Friday -- it involves unpaid for gasoline, the Iraqi police, the Tigris forces and Kurdish guards with, in the words of Tuk Hurmatu's Mayor Shalal Abdul, "everyone started shooting at everyone else." Sly also establishes just how up-in-the-air and tense things are:
But Kurds said they suspect that the reinforcements, which include tanks and heavy artillery, signal an intent to attack their forces. "If the central government keeps sending these extra troops, we fear there may be clashes," said Jabar Yawar, the pesh merga's secretary general. "If one bullet is fired, the whole of the disputed areas will erupt in flames."
Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) observes, "The fight goes well beyond just Kirkuk, however. KRG officials have been predicting a fight for years, and earlier this month Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki demanded the KRG transfer the Peshmerga to his personal control. With Maliki also the nation's Defense Minister, Interior Minister, Public Security Minister, etc, he currently directly every single force in Iraq except for the Peshmerga."
Remember when, at the start of 2011, Iraqiya said Nouri was staging a power-grab by refusing to nominate people to head the Ministry of the Defense, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of National Security? And remember how the Western press scoffed, rolled their eyes and swore Nouri would nominate people to those posts in a matter of weeks?
Weeks? Weeks turned into months and now we're approximately six weeks away from the two year mark when they were promising Nouri would fill those spots. And he never has. That was a power grab.
It's a power grab today on Nouri's part -- sending troops into disputed territories. Condi Rice pens a piece that tells you all you need to know about US policy in one sentence: "If Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki cannot count on the Americans, he will take no risks with Tehran." Condi is the former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor during the Bully Boy Bush years. Bully Boy Bush installed Nouri as prime minister. Ibrahim al-Jafaari was the choice of the Iraqi Parliament (which -- on paper -- elects their prime minister). Bully Boy Bush said no and wanted Nouri to get the job. The US puppet went on to run secret prisons -- bravely and repeatedly exposed by Ned Parker and the Los Angeles Times -- and do other crimes against humanity.
But Barack Obama loves Nouri al-Maliki. So much so that when Nouri's State of Law came in second in the 2010 elections and this meant that he didn't get a second term, Barack pulled out his penis and pissed on the Iraqi people, pissed on their votes, pissed on their Constitution and pissed on any thoughts of democracy. Nouri would get a second term, Barack would ensure it, votes be damned. So the White House backed Nouri as he refused to budge, refused to give up the post he no longer had. For eight long months this political stalemate continued in Iraq. Then the US government negotiated the Erbil Agreement, a contract that they swore was legal and that the US government would stand by. The parties signing the contract? All of the leaders of the political blocs. Kurds wanted Article 140 of the Constitution implemented? Okay, you let Nouri have his second term, he'll implement that. That's how they got people to sign off. What was Nouri willing to trade to have a second term?
Nouri used that contract to get the second term and then refused to honor it.
And Barack did nothing. Gone were the promises of the US government standing by this contract.
Why? Because, as Condi puts it, "If Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki cannot count on the Americans, he will take no risks with Tehran."
The White House has put the interests of Iraqis behind -- far behind -- the desires of Nouri al-Maliki and they have done so repeatedly and done so because they doubt there would be a better puppet for the US government. So they look the other way as he demonizes Iraqi youths -- starts a witch hunt on Emo and LGBTs. That came from the Ministry of the Interior -- they sent out a letter, they went to schools encouraging the targeting, this was all Nouri. He's refused to nominate anyone to head the Ministry of the Interior which makes him the head of it. Add that to the secret prisons. Add that to his possible involvement in murder (the former governor of Basra, journalists including Hadi al-Mahdi). But it doesn't matter to the White House. Like Condi Rice, they believe, "If Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki cannot count on the Americans, he will take no risks with Tehran." So they indulge the petty tyrant. And dishonor the Iraqi people.
Hints by al-Maliki and his supporters in parliament that they will seek a majority government have become more frequent, even as news reports say that the president of the Kurdistan region, Masoud Barzani, has been leading a movement alongside Allawi and others to thwart al-Maliki's efforts to create such a government. Al-Maliki has also been quick to respond to his political opponents' threats to oppose his running for a third four-year term in 2014. Discussion of a majority government emerged earlier in the year from within al-Maliki's camp, as a response to threats of a motion of no confidence issued by his opponents in parliament, specifically members in Allawi's coalition and the parliamentary faction supporting Barzani.
There are three likely scenarios that could play out as a push for a majority government grows, beyond the maintenance of the status quo. The first, as some of al-Maliki's supporters have speculated, would be that some members of the Iraqiya and Kurdish parliamentary coalition join elements of the Shiite coalition to form a majority government that maintains at least a minimum level of sectarian and ethnic representation. However, the viability of this scenario is uncertain, at least in the current parliamentary session, and it is even less likely given the lack of international and American support.
The second scenario would be the resurrection of the 2005 Shia-Kurdish coalition which would keep Iraqiya out of the government and maintain the historical Shiite-Kurdish alliance. If this were to occur, it would completely exclude the bloc that represents the Arab Sunni population from the government and could possibly lead to the return of armed Sunni rebellion -- something al-Maliki's ally, former Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari, has warned of.
The third scenario would be the revival of the "Erbil Alliance" between the Kurds, Sunnis, and the Sadrist bloc. However, this possibility already failed earlier in the year and does not currently have much resonance among politicians or the media, due to the prevailing mistrust between the three parties in this alliance.
In this climate, Nouri's moves are especially striking. Ipek Yezdani (Hurriyet Daily News) speaks with the KRG's Dr. Molla Basher al-Hadad and Yezdani notes, "Authorities in Baghdad want to run the country like a dictatorship that recalls Saddam Hussein's rule by using anti-democratic and sectarian policies, according to the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) top cleric." That's a description that certainly seem apt.
Yesterday, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was in Erbil where he met with KRG President Massoud Barzani. Al Mada reports that they were also meeting with the National Alliance. That is a large Shi'ite political group headed by Ibrahim al-Jafaari. Al Mada notes Talabani was surprised that Nouri was sending in the Tigris forces while he and Barzani were awaiting a delegation from the National Alliance.
In March 2010, Iraq held parliamentary elections. The winner was Iraiqya, headed by Ayad Allawi, which won the most seats. Any so-called 'majority government' that shuts out Iraqiya would be shutting out the most popular political slate in Iraq. Alsumaria reports Iraqiya's Haider Mulla is stating that mediation between Baghdad and Erbil is needed and that Iraqiya is more than willing to play the role of mediator. Already an Iraqiya member is acting as mediator. AFP reports Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi is speaking to political leaders on both sides "in order to defuse the crisis." Representing approximately a half-million of Iraq's 31 million people, Amin Farhan Jeju spoke today. All Iraq News reports that the Yazidi Movement for Reform and Progess head is saying Nouri is within his rights to send the Tigris forces into disputed area. Probably a good idea to read the Constitution before commenting on it. Just a thought. Also carrying water for Nouri is Shaker Darraji. All Iraq News notes that the State of Law MP is accusing the Kurds of upsetting the political process.
In the US, the winter holiday season has begun. Some people, this time of year, look for an organization to donate to. One of the many worthy organizations is Doctors Without Borders and their donation page is here. Where people are in need, Doctors Without Borders goes. That includes Iraq. Doctors Without Borders notes:
Domeez camp, near the city of Dohuk in the Kurdish region of Iraq, was set up at the beginning of 2012 and is now serving as a temporary home for nearly 15,000 Syrian refugees of Kurdish origin. Since May 2012, Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières(MSF) has been running a 24-hour clinic in the camp, in collaboration with Dohuk's Department of Health.
As the camp's main health provider, MSF has been offering medical consultations and mental health care to the refugees, while also providing training for local health staff. To date, MSF teams have provided more than 20,500 consultations.
"Until June, there were about 2,000 people settled in Domeez, and the camp was running well," says Anja Wolz, MSF field coordinator in Dohuk. "But in August, the situation deteriorated because of a sudden massive arrival of refugees. With up to 1,000 people crossing the border each day [at the time], the camp quickly became overcrowded and, despite the efforts of the authorities, the level of assistance was clearly insufficient."
For the past few months, major efforts have been made to improve the situation before the onset of winter. But at present, as roughly 500 people cross the border into Dohuk governorate each day, some of the newly arrived refugees in Domeez camp still have to share tents, blankets, mattresses, and food with other families.
"I arrived with two of my children, but had to leave my husband and my two other daughters behind," says a middle-aged Syrian woman. "We walked for more than six hours to cross the border. We don't have our own tent yet, so we must share with another family. I have a kidney stone and it is very painful. Since we arrived here I have been lying down all the time because of the pain. I need surgery to remove the stone. Here, we Syrians suffer from sickness, but also from the difficult situation we have gone through."
Most of the refugees in Domeez arrived with nothing, having left everything behind in Syria. Once in Iraq, they are issued with a six-month renewable residence permit by the Kurdish authorities, which allows them to look for work. Most find jobs as daily laborers. People who have been here for some time have begun to build extensions to their shelters, and some have opened small shops within the camp.
Some of the refugees have had no news from their families back in Syria, and many report having lost family members as a result of the violence.
"In our consultations, we see many patients suffering from psychological distress," says Wolz. "So in August we decided to open a mental health program to provide them with specific care." By the end of September, MSF's mental health team had carried over 290 psychological consultations.
The major US press organizations will not do this. They aggrandized General Petraeus through the surge and after, willfully ignoring the horrific consequences of the Iraq occupation and then abandoning coverage of Iraq when President Obama announced US troops were leaving Iraq at the end of 2010. (There is no press mention of the large US mercenary forces that remain in Iraq and the guerilla war there.)