Friday, November 9, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Veterans Day is Sunday in the United States, the former governor of the Central Bank in Iraq sees a power grab, Saudi prisoners in Iraq prisons suffer, Nouri's attorney declares a bill Parliament is considering would not -- even if passed -- apply to Nouri, rebellion in the streets and in the mosques over Nouri's plans to kill the ration-card system, threats from Nouri's government to a Russian oil company, and more.
In the United States, Veterans Day is Sunday. In some areas it will be observed on Monday. (And some events will take place on Saturday to observe it.) Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and she will be attending an observation in Washington state on Monday. Her office notes:
FOR PLANNING PURPOSES
Friday, November 9th, 2012
Contact: Murray Press Office
MONDAY: Senator Murray to Speak at Veterans Day Memorial Service in Seattle
Murray: Veterans Day is a time to reflect on the shared duty we owe to our nation's veterans
(Washington, D.C.) -- On Monday, November 12, 2012, Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, will attend Evergreen Washelli Cemetery's 63rd Annual Veterans Day Memorial Celebration with veterans and their families. She will give remarks on the importance of honoring the shared duty owned to our nation's veterans, specifically in ensuring veterans can easily access the care and benefits they deserve. The event is a Service of Remembrance and will take place at the Doughboy statue at the base of the Veterans Memorial Cemetery.
WHO: U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Veterans and their families
WHAT: Senator Murray will give a speech at Evergreen Washelli Cemetery in
US House Rep Jeff Miller is the Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. And his office has released the following:
I often wonder if we do enough to honor our veterans. These are, after all, the men and women who, at great peril to themselves, put on the uniform of our country and defend all that it stands for. They don't do it for the gratification of their fellow Americans; instead they do it for love of country and an overwhelming sense of duty. Just because their call to arms is not with the expectation of any repayment or gratitude, it does not mean we can't find ways to celebrate their service. We have an obligation to our veterans to provide for them with the care and support they need to live full lives. Veterans Day is a great opportunity for all Americans to take part in the celebration of our nation's most vital resource, our servicemembers, veterans, and their families. But to truly and fully appreciate our veterans, we need to honor them 365 days a year, and not just on
Happy Birthday USMC!
The Marine Corps is celebrating its 237th birthday this weekend. Thank you to all the men and women who have served in this elite force. Please watch this birthday video, produced by the Marine Corps to commemorate the special occasion. Semper Fidelis.
Running for Veterans
Former Marine Corps Sgt. J. Brendan O'Toole will be running across America to raise money for veterans. You can read more here about O'Toole's service and what inspired him to put aside a year of his life to help our veterans as they return home.
A Great Cause
Earlier this week in anticipation of Veterans Day, Chairman Jeff Miller sat down with MSN to discuss the issues facing the veterans' community today. The interview is available on MSN's new "causes" page, aimed at raising awareness to a variety of issues facing America today.
Thoughts on this Veterans Day
As Chairman Miller does every month, he penned an op-ed in Wreaths Across America's newsletter. This month's article is dedicated to Veterans Day and how it remains vital that we continue to increase our support for veterans. Wreaths Across America will take place on December 15 this year. Committee Member, Dr. Phil Roe, a veteran himself, also shares his thoughts on this Veterans Day. Read more here.
We're going to include Texas Governor Rick Perry's statement in a moment but first there are two eateries observing Veterans Day. California Pizza Kitchen nationwide on Sunday and Monday and Applebees across the country on Sunday. Veterans and active duty military -- have identification or be in uniform -- visiting California Pizza Kitchen either day will recieve a free non-alcoholic beverage and a free pizza and those visiting Applebees on Sunday will receive a free entree (choose from three-cheese chicken penne, a bacon cheddar cheeseburger, oriental chicken salad, 7 ounce sirloin, chicken tenders platter, fiesta lime chicken or double crunch shrimp). Are there more? There probably are. Those two e-mailed to note their observance of Veterans Day. So if you're a veteran or active duty, you should surely stop by.
And if you're not a veteran or active duty? You can certainly keep in mind that California Pizza Kitchen and Applebees made a point to honor Veterans Day when a lot of others did not. Stan says he loves Applebees Bourbon Black & Bleu Burger. Ann states, "I can't tell you about calories, I've never asked and I don't want to know but their oriental chicken salad is a meal and then some." Myself, I'm a pizza addict. There are months I go "meat free" with the exception of anything on a pizza. At California Pizza Kitchen, I can't pick just one. Because of calories, I try to avoid anything other than thin crust. But if I'm having original crust (which is thicker), it will be because I'm having the Hawaiian BBQ Chicken. Any and all of the thin crust pizzas, I've eaten and loved. Kat, Wally, Ava and I are on the road most weeks and there are times when we finish speaking with a group and it's too late so we'll hit a grocery store. In the frozen foods section at many grocery stores you can find California Pizza Kitchen frozen pizzas. If it's the four of us, we usually go with their BBQ Recipe Chicken (and get two because Wally and I can eat pizza -- wolf it down in fact). I'm making a point here to plug two places that are making a point to observe Veterans Day.
There will be observations throughout the country. I'm noting events that were mailed to the public account and one that a friend requested we note.
Rick Perry is the Governor of Texas. His office notes:
Gov. Rick Perry today highlighted Texas' ongoing commitment to helping our nation's veterans and their families receive the services and support they need when they return from duty, including initiatives to help skilled veterans find jobs. The governor spoke at an annual Veterans Day ceremony honoring local veterans.
"Americans have consistently sent their best and bravest to confront the forces of darkness throughout the world, and time and again, our military members have proven up to the challenges posed by these forces," Gov. Perry said. "In Texas, we will always remember the courage and dedication of our men and women in uniform, and do everything we can to help them heal and return capably to the workforce."
The governor called for a constitutional amendment extending a full property tax exemption to spouses and children of members of the armed forces who were killed in action, building on the current $5,000 tax exemption that spouses and children currently receive. Gov. Perry signed House Bill 3613 in 2009, which granted a property tax exemption to 100 percent disabled veterans. This exemption was extended in 2011 to the surviving spouses of those veterans through Senate Bill 516.
Gov. Perry touted a new, industry-driven initiative by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) that will help connect veterans with job opportunities, and provide veterans and employers with funds for training and occupation certifications in the energy industry. TWC is dedicating existing general revenue funds to help offset training costs for the veteran and employer.
He also reiterated his support for TWC's Hiring Red, White & You Campaign, which connects veterans with employers and job opportunities in Texas. TWC is partnering with 28 local workforce development board areas and the Texas Veterans Commission to host veterans' job fairs across the state on November 15.
(If you're wondering why his office is noted and 49 others aren't, his office sent that to the public account and I shared my thoughts earlier this morning. We can repeat them in another entry but the focus above is on veterans.)
Aaron Schacter: I wonder if it angers you at all that the military is so tight-lipped about what goes on in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Bill Corcoran: Yeah, I am. I definitely am. I feel that there should be more transparency. I don't see any reason to keep it so quiet and hidden right now. I think they'd just as soon see it disappear altogether and when they phase this thing out, it'll be like somebody will wake up one day and say, I haven't heard anything on that Afghanistan war for a while. And then they'll say, oh, that's because we pulled out of there three months ago.
Krys Boyd: What's fascinating about this issue is that, in some ways, in order to come back in one piece you have to set aside normal human empathy to survive. Is that right?
Col Herman Keizer Jr.: Yeah, and one of the problems when going to warwar is that you're trained really to kill and take life. The military says that you're here to kill people and break thing. Sso they have to train them. And one of the discussions I've had a lot with the senior military is we train them to be so reflexive that that they just move and engage the enemy before they think about it. And in some sense, that's the best reaction you could ask for on the battle field. The last thing you want is for somebody to scratch their head and say, "Do I shoot or don't I?" And so the military, it does train them and it does train them very well so that they are now very reflexive in their responses on the battlefield but those reflexi actions are reflected on later and then the moral kind of injury begins to set in. Several of the stories coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan are where people are in automobiles and coming towards them and they're in some kind of firefight already. And here they see these other vehicles coming towards them and they yell at people to stop and for some communication reasons or something they don't stop. So the suspicion is that it's the enemy and then you shoot. And you see a baby flying out of the back of the car, you know, you know, dead in its mother's arms. And the mother holds it up and it's says to the soldier why? And the soldier says why? It's just one of those fog of war kinds of things that cause real moral ambiguity.
Krys Boyd: So they're left -- the people who have gone through these experiences with the question of: who am I? Am I this person who had to shoot, who did shoot? Or am I the person who comes home and thinks, how could I have hurt a child? Or an innocent person
Rita Nakashima Brock: And I think that soldiers have different responses to those situations. Some people say, 'Well I did the right thing because it could have been an enemy. And others will say, "How could I have killed a child? How could I have done that?" It's not -- There's not a one size fits all response to war but it is true that there's -- especially in insurgency wars like we're fighting -- even the military moral code of not killing civilians doesn't apply.
Turning to an Iraq War veteran who was pulled from Iraq and thrown behind bars, Bradley Manning. Major news in the ongoing case against Bradley. Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December. At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial. Prior to today, Bradley had yet to enter a plea and has neither affirmed that he is the leaker nor denied it. The court-martial was supposed to begin before the election but it was postponed until after the election so that Barack wouldn't have to run on a record of his actual actions.
PFC Manning has offered to plead guilty to various offenses through a process known as "pleading by exceptions and substitutions." To clarify, PFC Manning is not pleading guilty to the specifications as charged by the Government. Rather, PFC Manning is attempting to accept responsibility for offenses that are encapsulated within, or are a subset of, the charged offenses. The Court will consider whether this is a permissible plea. PFC Manning is not submitting a plea as part of an agreement or deal with the Government. Further, the Government does not need to agree to PFC Manning's plea; the Court simply has to determine that the plea is legally permissible. If the Court allows PFC Manning to plead guilty by exceptions and substitutions, the Government may still elect to prove up the charged offenses. Pleading by exceptions and substitutions, in other words, does not change the offenses with which PFC Manning has been charged and for which he is scheduled to stand trial. PFC Manning has also provided notice of his forum selection. He has elected to be tried by Military Judge alone.
Iraqi children, August 18th we noted,Alsumaria notes that an 18-year-old male has been arrested in Basra. He is a suspect in the kidnapping, rape and murder of a four-year-old girl." Now dropping back to October 13th: "Violence that is presumably unconnected to the war -- but who knows in a war zone -- includes the rape and murder of four-year-old Abeer Ali Abdul, reported by Al Mada. She is the second girl in her area of Nasiriyah to be kidnapped and found murdered." AP covers the story today. They noted the two rapes and murders are not thought to be linked. In the first case, Banan Haider is the name of the victim, an Iraqi soldier has been found guilty. Usual caveat: Iraq does not have a functioning legal system and 'confessions' via torture are very common. As a result, the guilty may or may not be the ones convicted. At this site, we do not accept the lying premise that 'confessions' under torture are confessions. We do not endorse torture and we don't even casually embrace it here. The man may or may not be guilty. What is known is that Banan's parents want him to be publicly executed to 'teach a lesson.' I'm sorry, Iraq's crime rate has dropped recently?
So far this year, Iraq is known to have executed 119 people. It has ignored calls from the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and others to impose a moratorium on the death penalty. Despite the fact that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani insists he is against the death penalty and regularly basks in applause for that stance, he has not blocked one execution. (His 'opposition' is refusing to sign the death warrants, leaving it for a vice president to sign it. As president, he could object to any or all executions and stop them immediately. He refuses to use that power.)
It doesn't appear that executions are dettering crime. But then, they never have. Crime is a risk and a person acts on impulse (crimes of passion) or weighs the risks. Few people, especially younger in life, ever picture themselves dying or being executed in their own near future. Do you know who has to factor in the threat of death? Attorneys in Iraq. Specifically, Thamer Qamqoom (Okaz/Saudi Gazette) reports that Iraqi attorneys who have Saudi prisoners in the Iraqi prison system are receiving death threats. Of the clients, Qamqoom reports:
Abdul Rahman Al-Jurais, who is defending Saudi prisoners in Iraq, said one of the Saudi prisoners, Malwah Zaid Al-Shammary, has been suffering from amnesia and is now mentally handicapped as a result of being tortured by Iraqi prison officers. He said the prisoner's family authorized him to arrange for their son to return to Sakaka, where he was born and raised. He entered Iraq in 2008 and was later placed in a notorious prison. Currently, he is an inmate at Krobar Prison near Baghdad Airport. Malwah's brother said: "My brother suffers from chronic psychological disorders. That's what I was told by some prisoners. "I urge authorities including the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations Commission to save my brother. "He should be transferred to a mental health hospital immediately."
But Iraq can't stop issuing death penalty sentences. Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi has been sentenced to death four times in the last weeks. (Tareq is a political rival of Nouri al-Maliki's. Tareq belongs to Iraqiya -- which won the most seats in the 2010 parliamentary elections -- and he is Sunni.) AFP notes that yesterday it was announced that two bodyguards of Tareq have been given death sentences. This is in addition to the six announced earlier this week.
Iraq is rich in oil -- apparently not rich enough to do away with greed, however. MarketWatch reports, "OAO Lukoil Hodlings, Russia's second-largest oil producer, has received an offer from Exxon Mobil Corp. on the U.S. major's West Qurna-1 oil field project in Iraq, Lukoil Deputy President Andrei Kuzyayev was quoted as saying by Interfax Friday." Most of the time when someone has "received an offer," it's because they're attempting to sell something. In this case Lukoil is not selling, ExxonMobil is. Vladimir Soldatkin, Ashmed Rasheed and William Hardy (Reuters) note, "ExxonMobil has informed the Iraqi government it wants to pull out of the $50 billion oil project in southern Iraq. LUKOIL, which is already developing West Qurna-2, has previously said West Qurna-1 is 'too big for it to swallow', but on Friday said it would at least look into the proposal." After the decision last month to buy billions of weapons from Russia, it may appear Russia and Iraq are getting very close -- and they might be. But friendly? Do you threaten a friend? AFP reports, "Baghdad has told Russian energy giant Gazprom to either cancel its energy contracts in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region or abandon its work with the central government, a spokesperson said on Friday."
On the topic of government greed, Sinan al-Shabibi tells Prashant Rao (AFP), "Since 2009, they wanted to fire me, and they wanted money from the reserves. I think the main problem . . . is basically the reserves, because they thought we have a lot of reserves, and they want to use it for financing. The government wanted some money from the Central Bank. . . . Of course, the law does not allow that, the central bank law." Who is Sinan al-Shabibi? Dropping back to October 15th:
Al Mada reports today that Parliament sources say an arrest warrant exists for Sinan al-Shabibi, the Centeral Bank president, and that the people are seeing this as another effort by Nouri to take control of the independent institution. Alsumaria notes that al-Shabibi is currently in Tokyo at a conference and due to return to Baghdad later today. Dar Addustour offers a run down on what happened with the warrant itself It was issued by a judge who did not ask questions and when the news reached the Chief Justice Medhat al-Mahmoud, he ordered that the warrant be pulled. Iraqiya's spokesperson Maysoun al-Damalouji tells the outlet that it is necessary for the central bank to maintain its independence.
The next day, All Iraq News noted that Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc was accusing Nouri of targeting the Centeral Bank due to the independence of the institution.
Nouri and troubles are never far apart. Tuesday, his spokesperson announced that the food-ration-card system (a program by which Iraqis were able to get flour, sugar, and other staples) was being stopped. And that was supposed to be the end of that. It hasn't been the end of anything.
Alsumaria reports that today, during Friday prayers, the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani declared his objection to gutting the program. The statement noted that the government justifications for ending the program are neither logical nor acceptable and that those of faith in Iraq must object to the push to end the program due to the fact that it will increase the burden on the poor. Further, al-Sistani noted that the price of food cannot be left up to the merchants because each month of Ramadan has seen prices soar with the increased demand and the government has been powerless to do anything about it. To the insistence by Nouri supporters that the program must be gutted to fight corruption, al-Sistani responded that if the government has failed to prevent corruption, that is no reason to punish the citizens for its own failures. The statement ended with al-Sistani noting that his words were neither a political nor economic stand but instead an expression of the beliefs and hopes of the Iraqi people.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is a higher official that Nouri or most elected ones. That's in part because of his role as a spiritual leader and in part due to his biography. On the latter, he never fled Iraq. Under Saddam Hussein, he was persecuted. But he stayed in Iraq. The people know he will stay in Iraq. Unlike many of Nouri's now former Cabinet ministers, for example, he won't flee the country (those ministers often have accusations of theft attached to their names). Unlike many, he doesn't hold dual citizenship. He is an Iraqi who commands a great deal of respect in the country and that goes beyond Shi'ite and Sunni divisions.
It's not as if Nouri's not hoping for a third term as prime minister. Al Mada reports that Parliament's efforts to pass a law limiting the three presidencies (Speaker of Parliament, President of Iraq and Prime Minister) to two terms has resulted in State of Law (Nouri's political slate) insisting that, if such a law passes, they will appeal to the Federal Court. That's the court that has repeatedly and continually deferred to Nouri's wishes over and over, year after year, regardless of what the Iraqi constitution says. Nouri's attorney declared yesterday that, should such a law pass, it wouldn't be binding on Nouri.
Also Alsumaria notes two villages in Basra are being victimized by packs of stray dogs with six children and one man bitten in the last two days alone. The dogs have not been confirmed as having rabies at present (though that is a concern of the people in the two villages).