Friday, December 14, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, protests against Nouri continue for day four in Iraq, Nouri's lashing out that means he feels comfy, US House Rep Lynn Woolsey winds down her Congressional service, a needed bill that Senator Patty Murray fought for in the Senate may die because the House doesn't think it's the 'right time' to vote on it, the Pentagon releases the latest suicide data for the Army, and more.
US House Rep Lynn Woolsey was one of the creators of the Out of Iraq Caucus in the House of Representatives. Alongside other brave voices in the House like Maxine Waters, Woolsey stood firmly against the Iraq War. She did not seek re-election this year and this week spoke on the House floor about war and peace (video here).
US House Rep Lynn Woolsey: Mr. Speaker, throughout my career in public life and even before, nothing has motivated me more than a desire to end wars and violent conflict. When I was a small girl saying bedtime prayers or making a birthday wish blowing out the candles, I always asked for world peace. So no surprise that, over a decade ago, I opposed the Iraq War before it even started. It was appalling that we would invade a nation that hadn't provoked us, that had nothing to do with 9-11 and did not have weapons of mass destruction. It was a lonely fight at that time. But I didn't do it to be loved. It was a matter of principle. Barbara Lee, Maxine Waters and I formed the triad, Woolsey, Waters and Lee, to organize our opposition. We held forums, we developed an Out Of Iraq Caucus, we traveled around the country. And in January 2005, I offered the first amendment here on the House floor calling for our troops to be brought home. Some of my own party thought that it was a mistake, that we wouldn't get any votes or enough votes and that we would be embarrassed. Well I told them that even if I were the only one voting to bring our troops home, I would not be embarrassed. Well as it happened, we got 128 bi-partisan votes that very first time. So you see, Mr. Speaker, when you lead, people follow. Because a handful of progressive leaders and progressives in our country that were vocal and fearless, eventually public opinion turned. It turned against the Iraq War. It turned towards peace. If we and other outspoken political advocates hadn't ignored conventional wisdom and hadn't pressed for peace, the war in Iraq could still be going on today. In April, Mr. Speaker, of 2004, I began speaking on this very spot of the House floor about my very strong anti-Iraq War convictions. Eventually, these speeches focused on Afghanistan where we've now been waging war for more than 11 years despite more than 2,000 Americans dead and nearly $600 billion wasted. Even though, we are undermining our own interests and failing to bring security and stability to Afghanistan. Over the last eight-plus-years, I've spoken here nearly every day that I could to drive home what a moral disaster and strategic failure these wars have been. When constituents and others call or come up to me and thank me, I say, "But we're still there." I don't deserve thanks until all of our troops are home. You know, Mr. Speaker, because you've been here for many of them, my speeches haven't been just about bringing our troops home. They've offered a new vision for global engagement. From here, I've outlined my Smart Security Platform which calls for development in diplomacy instead of invasions and occupations, civilian surges instead of military surges. Smart Security means helping other nations educate their children, care for their sick and strengthen their democratic institutions. Smart Security says we can make America safe by building international goodwill, by empowering people with humanitarian assistance instead of sending troops or launching drone attacks. It's the right thing to do. It's the smart thing to do. And it costs pennies on the dollar compared to military force. So, Mr. Speaker, today I'm delivering that message for the 444th time and my final time on the House floor to speak on five minute special order. This is the last of my special order speeches on war and peace and Smart Security. I'm retiring from Congress at the end of this year and I believe part of my legacy will be that I worked diligently for peace and a safer world. So in closing, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to acknowledge that sometimes I've been accused of wanting a perfect world but I consider that a compliment. Our founders strove for a more perfect union. Why shouldn't we aim for a perfect world? You see, I'm perfectly and absolutely certain that if we don't work towards a perfect world we won't ever come close to providing a safe, healthy and secure world for our grandchildren and their grandchildren. So I thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank my wonderful staff who have helped me over the last twenty years to work for a perfect world which means peace, health and security for all. I yield back. Thank you all.
Lynn Woolsey is a Democrat who was first elected in the Novembe 1992 elections (a "Year of the Woman" in real time and the first time the genderquake was undeniable in the elections). She has served California's sixth district. Lynn Woolsey succeeded Barbara Boxer in the seat, Boxer, in the "Year of the Woman" 1992, was elected to the US Senate. Greg Cahill (Pacific Sun) interviewed Lynn on her time in the US Congress. Excerpt:
Now the wars are winding down, and the economy is in recovery. Why leave the job now?
[Lynn Woolsey:] I'm a person whose timing has worked for her. Actually, I thought I'd be in Congress for 10 years. And then all of a sudden, zip, it's 20. I'm 75 years old. And I've gotten on an airplane every week that we're in session on a Monday or Tuesday morning and fly back on a Thursday or Friday afternoon. Week after week after week. And I'm tired of doing that. It doesn't work for my body and it doesn't work for my soul. During the last Congress, the 111th Congress, I toyed with the notion that that should be my last term. But Jared Huffman hadn't termed out in the state Legislature yet. And I wasn't 100 percent sure about that decision. So I ran and got re-elected knowing that would be my last term. [House minority leader Rep.] Nancy Pelosi asked me, "When did you know?" And I said I knew when I walked backed into Congress and said to myself, "I really wish I hadn't done it this time." I felt like, I don't know why I'm here--I don't want to be here. I didn't stop working--we worked our hearts out these last two years. But I just knew it was time. I was sick and tired of money and politics. I mean, it's going to ruin our democracy if we don't do something [about campaign finance reform]. And I gave lots of notice.
You're retiring from politics but it sounds as though you plan to stay quite active.
[Lynn Woolsey:] Oh, I am going to retire. If Lynn Woolsey doesn't learn to sit down and be calm in what I consider to be the last quarter of her life, she'll be in trouble. I want to enjoy my life without all the spin. I mean, I've raised four kids and was a working mom and active in my community. I get to sit down.
As a member of Congress, Lynn didn't just mouth words. Nor did she cave when she made a stand. Her word counted for something and she took it very seriously. She will be missed.
And sad to say that as one of the strong left leaders leaves Congree, I find myself wondering if maybe on the left we just need to throw in the towel? I wondered that not because of the loss of Lynn Woolsey in the Congress but because of the garbage by Gareth Porter at Truthout. I'd seen him in his too long Real News Network interview and thought, "Maybe he just doesn't speak well on the subject." But now his promised 'big piece' on counter-insurgency is out and the natural response to it is to string together numerous curse words. Let's get two of his paragraphs in here.
The COIN manual ducked some central issues in the US wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan - most notably whether US troops should have been carrying out violent "cordon and search" operations, especially when they had little or no real intelligence to go on. Intent on staying within the political consensus of the military establishment, Petraeus opted not to criticize the tactic of violently invading private homes and seizing military-age males in the middle of the night in front of their families, which had become routine in Iraq.
But in one area, the manual staked out a bold new position. It called for the commander in a counterinsurgency war to influence the coverage of the war by the news media. "The media directly influence the attitude of key audiences toward counterinsurgents, their operations and the opposing insurgency," the section on "information operations" said. "This situation creates a war of perceptions between insurgents and counterinsurgents conducted continuously using the news media."
Did it duck "some central issues"? Well Gareth did too. Gareth's apparently opposed to searches that cart away males but that's about all he can really call out. The very notion of counter-insurgency -- long called out on the left in past wars -- is just accepted by Porter. As for "a bold new position," your ignorance exceeds your ethical decay. I don't care what your damn manual told you. I don't give a damn. Counter-insurgency has always included the media and 'messaging.' That you're too stupid to know that is appalling.
Here's the way this will go. I'll get e-mails about how "Gareth is really trying hard and, gosh, it's not easy and if you want someone to call out David Petraeus . . ." Gareth has a job to do. Does he do his job or not? No, he's not doing his job -- or he's doing it very poorly. As for calling out Petraeus, it may be a media fad at present but here we've always called out Petraeus.
If you're going to write about counter-insurgency, you need to know about it. It's war on a native people. The occupier tries to make a group of natives undesirable so that the rest of the population will turn on the undesirables. To make people undesirable, you demonize them, you make it difficult for people to befriend or help them. You do other things as well. To do these other things, you tell yourself lies. For example, labeling the native (non-South) Vietnamese media "propaganda" allowed counter-insurgency to target the media and to justify the lying. Counter-insurgency includes outright murder. People are targeted for murder to frighten the population at large. You saw that in Iraq and you've seen it throughout the US usage of counter-insurgency. Take the Phoenix Program during Vietnam. As the RAND Corporation noted, while its supporters cheer the program, its "detractors condemn it as a merciless assassination campaign." Let's go to the CIA for some whining:
The Phoenix program is arguably the most misunderstood and controversial program undertaken by the governments of the United States and South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It was, quite simply, a set of programs that sought to attack and destroy the political infrastructure of the Lao Dong Party (hereafter referred to as the Viet Cong infrastructure or VCI) in South Vietnam. 1
Phoenix was misunderstood because it was classified, and the information obtained by the press and others was often anecdotal, unsubstantiated, or false. The program was controversial because the antiwar movement and critical scholars in the United States and elsewhere portrayed it as an unlawful and immoral assassination program targeting civilians.
We called it out because it was unethical and it was illegal and, yes, we called it out. Today Gareth Porter can't even do that. A ho-hum piece where this may be objectionable . . . The ignorance and the cowardice is appalling. At this late date, if we on the left can't call out counter-insurgency, that's on us, we're just pathetic and ineffective. Via Z-Net, here's an excerpt of a January 10, 2005 broadcast, Katie Couric (then host of NBC's Today) discussing with retired Gen Wayne Downing the article Newsweek published on the Salvador option possibly being brought to Iraq (Michael Hirsh and John Barry were the authors of the Newsweek article).
"Gen. DOWNING: Well, Katie, I -- I think this term is very unfortunate because this El Salvador thing brings up the connotation of death squads, of illegal activity that took place in -- in -- by some of the El Salvadorian military 20 years ago. But I think what they're considering is to use a special -- or more special Iraqi units trained and equipped and perhaps even led by US Special Forces to conduct strike operations against this -- this insurgency, against the leaders of it, which of course is a very valid strategy, a very valid tactic. And it's actually something we've been doing since we started the war back in March of 2003.
"COURIC: But is this going to be used more, or in greater numbers? According to Newsweek, they're going to -- the -- the US Special Forces will train specially chosen Kurdish forces and Shiite militiamen.
"Gen. DOWNING: Right.
"COURIC: So does this signal a -- a -- I guess an escalation of this technique at least?
"Gen. DOWNING: I wouldn't say an escalation, Katie. I -- I think what we're looking at is -- there are already some special units formed. We have special police commandos now of the Iraqi forces which conduct these kind of strike operations. I think what we're looking at is another type of unit. In other words, they -- they've got 10 tools right now in their tool box, this is probably adding a -- an 11th or perhaps even a 12th tool. But -- but, Katie, I -- I really want to emphasize what they are going after here. These -- these insurgents leaders, these are terrorists. These are people who have been decapitating hostages. These are the people who have been planning and -- and perpetrating these suicide bombers...that has killed thousands of -- of friendly Iraqis. These are very, very legitimate targets, and actually part of the overall strategy for countering this insurgency...
"COURIC: But in El Salvador many innocent civilians were killed when these kind of tactics were employed. Are you concerned about that, or the possibility this will increase anti-American sentiment in the general Iraqi population?
"Gen. DOWNING: Katie, this has nothing to do with El Salvador. Those operations that were conducted down there were conducted by -- by renegade military leaders. This is under the control of the US forces, of the current interim Iraqi government. There -- there's no need to think that we're going to have any kind of a -- a killing campaign that's going to maim innocent civilians.
The government pretends that counter-insurgency has been proved to be effective. That actually hasn't happened and I don't understand why a Gareth Porter or anyone else would accept the premise that counter-insurgency is 'good' but has a few aspects that may be troubling? I don't get that at all. Tom Hayden called out counter-insurgency during Vietnam. He's one of the few voices who've called it out during the Iraq War. In a column on Petraeus a few weeks ago, he included this paragraph:
As this test of wills unfolded, Petraeus, with the help of an inbred, fawning mass media, had become knwon as "the greatest soldier of his generation," the counterinsurgency strategist who staved off a dishonorable American retreat in Iraq, the guiding hand behind The U.S. Army-Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, the man who would revive the South Vietnam "Phoenix Program" from the ashes of disgrace. The Petraeus field manual rallied a cult of true believers who have been convinced for thirty years that America's war in Vietnam would have been won if only the politicians back in the States had not pulled the plug on Phoenix because of claims of torture plus photos of emaciated Vietcong prisoners held in tiny cages. (This is all true, not a screenplay. Please see the Field Manual for more on the pacification program, pp. 73-75; see also, "Countering Global Insurgency," by Petraeus top counterinsurgency advisor, David Kllkullen, in the Small Wars Journal, November 30, 2004)
Nicola Anderson (Independent) reports that Kallada Abdul has just become a citizen of Ireland. Six years ago, she left Iraq due to the violence and went to Ireland where her son Dr. Mudafar Altawash had already moved to several decades ago. At 83, it is thought that Kallada might be the oldest "to ever become a new citizen." She is among millions of refugees who have left Iraq since the start of the Iraq War in 2003. She is also among a small number of lucky refugees who have been granted asylum and/or citizenship in a host country. Deborah Amos's excellent 2010 book Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East charts the lives of some who fled Iraq due to the violence. Among those who have fled Iraq or moved to the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government -- semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq) due to safety concerns are Iraqi Christians. As Sean McLachlan (Gadling) observed earlier this month:
The Christian Community in Iraq is a lot smaller than it was in 2003 when the Coalition invaded. During the occupation, radical Muslims claimed the Christians were helping the invaders and used this as an excuse to attack them. Churches and shops were bombed and individual Christians were murdered or told to leave on pain of death. In an interview with the BBC, the priest at St Joseph's Chaldean Church in Baghdad said that in the past nine years his parish has shrunk from 1,200 families to 300. The New York Times reports that before the war the Christian population was estimated to be as high as 1.4 million, and has now dropped to less than 500,000.
The violence and the targeting has led surviving Iraqi Christians to consider leaving. Among the violence, the October 31st, 2010 attack on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad. Today, Nouri attended the latest reported opening of the Church (this one's supposed to finally be the real one) and Alsumaria reports he used the opportunity to accuse the European Union of being responsible for Iraqi Christians leaving Iraq. He gave a speech at the Church where he declared the EU had needed to stop encouraging Christians to leave and that all can live in Iraq in harmony. All Iraq News notes the head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, Ammar al-Hakim attended the ceremony. Nouri's blaming the European Union for his own failure to protect Iraqi Chrisitans. He hasn't felt able to lash out like this since November of 2010 when he publicly attacked France for providing medical treatment for survivors of the assault on Our Lady of Salvation Church.
When Nouri's cocky, it's usually a sign that he's about to screw someone over. The breathing space some believe was created yesterday when Iraqi President Jalal Talabani announced Nouri and the KRG had reached an agreement with regards to the military stand-off that was taking place in disputed areas may have just gotten a lot smaller. With Nouri, the pattern is he makes deals that he then refuses to honor. That's not just my opinion, Al Mada notes Nouri's refusal to honor agreements in his second term as prime minister and they zoom in on the Erbil Agreement (publishing it in full). As they note, the longest political stalemate in Iraq followed the 2010 elections. In those parliamentary elections that Nouri's State of Law was supposed to overwhelmingly win, the voters went another way. Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya came in first place. Nouri's State of Law came in second place.
Per the Constitution, Jalal Talabani should have named someone from Iraqiya prime minister-designate. Per the Constitution, that person would then have 30 days to create a Cabinet (select people, nominate them to be Ministers and have Parliament vote to approve them). Success at that would mean the person was no longer prime minister-designate but was now prime minister. Failure to create a Cabinet in 30 days would result in Jalal naming someone else to be prime minister-designate, per the Constitution.
Washington has little political and no military influence over these developments [in Iraq]. As Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor charge in their ambitious new history of the Iraq war, The Endgame, Obama's administration sacrificed political influence by failing in 2010 to insist that the results of Iraq's first proper election be honored: "When the Obama administration acquiesced in the questionable judicial opinion that prevented Ayad Allawi's bloc, after it had won the most seats in 2010, from the first attempt at forming a new government, it undermined the prospects, however slim, for a compromise that might have led to a genuinely inclusive and cross-sectarian government."
Bully Boy Bush installed Nouri as prime minister in 2006 (the Iraqi Parliament wanted Ibrahim al-Jafaari to be prime minister). In 2010, Barack loved Nouri. How do you make someone prime minister when they didn't meet the criteria outlined in the Constitution?
You set aside the Constitution. Barack had the US government spend forever negotiating a contract, popularly known as the Erbil Agreement because it was signed in November of 2010 at a political meet-up held in the KRG capital of Erbil. The US government went around asking the leaders of the political blocs what they really wanted. A wish list was prepared. These things were then offered in the contract in exchange for their agreeing (in the contract) to allow Nouri al-Maliki to have a second term. He'd already held up the process by 8 months. Eight months after the election, Iraq still didn't have a prime minister. Nouri brought things to a stand still and was able to do that because he had Barack's support.
And what of the rewards the political leaders were supposed to receive (such as the implementation of Article 140 in the Constitution, the creation of an independent national security body, etc.)? It just wasn't time, Nouri insisted. Within weeks, Iraqiya was stating Nouri was breaking the contract. The US government swore it wasn't so. The same US government that swore it was a valid contract and that the President of the United States gave his word to fully back. But Nouri tossed it aside -- Iraqiya was right -- and the White House revealed themselves to be a snake pit of liars and users who say anything to get what they want. (Yes, that is Barack's reputation in Iraq. No, it's not pretty but it was earned by his actions.)
Since the summer of 2011 the current stalemate (Political Stalemate II) has been going on as Iraqiya, the Kurds and Moqtada al-Sadr have called for the Erbil Agreement to be implemented. The US government has remained silent on the issue -- the White House is always silent when it's time to call Nouri al-Maliki out.
They've rewarded the tyrant -- in Republican and Democratic administrations -- who has repeatedly been caught running torture cells in prisons and detention centers. Nouri won nothing in the recent battle which is another reason to watch him closely. But, more importantly, no one else did. The deal Iraqi President Jalal Talabani outlined basically just turns the clock back to a time right before Nouri sent the Tigris Operation Command forces into the disputed areas. There is no concession won that Nouri will now suddenly follow the Constitution and implement Article 140 as he's required to do -- as he was supposed to some time ago. Fakhri Karim (chair and editor of Al Mada) observes in a column today that Jalal has wasted too much time appeasing and has refused to use his powers as president to hold Nouri in check. He notes Nouri's blatant violation of the Constituion and how, despite this increasing, Jalal just ignores it and works on repairing dialogue when he should be using his role as president to protect the Constitution.
He's correct. And a growing number of people find Nouri's actions and statements outrageous and embarrassing. Kitabat reports hundreds turned out in Nasiriyah yesterday to protest the verbal attack Nouri launched Monday on Moqtada al-Sadr and that some of the signs carried call for an Iraqi Spring -- similar to 2011's Arab Spring. As Kitabat has previously reported, there are already plans by Iraqi youth to take to the streets in January Protesters in Nasiriyah said Nouri was guilty of covering up corruptions and protecting thieves of the public money. They burned photos of Nouri al-Maliki and chanted that this was the final warning. This was only the latest protest this week following Nouri al-Maliki publicly attacking cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr in a speech on Monday. Dropping back to Tuesday's snapshot:
In Basra and Baghdad today, protests took place against Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Al Mada reports photos of Nouri were burned and he was denounced loudly. As noted in yesterday's snapshot, Nouri used a Monday speech allegedly about human rights to attack Moqtada al-Sadr -- cleric and movement leader. Dar Addustour adds "thousands" poured into the streets in Baghdad at two o'clock in the afternoon. As they marched to a central location, Muzaffar Square, they chanted slogans. Nouri can take comfort in that his wasn't the only photo burned -- there were also a few photos of former leader Saddam Hussein that were set on fire. All Iraq News notes that as the protests took place, Moqtada al-Sadr issued a statement noting that the Iraqi army must be armed but not via corrupt deals (like the Russian deal Nouri signed and then called off) and that all arms must be to defend Iraq and not used to attack Iraqis. Please note that all three previous links have a photo of the turnout in Baghdad, it was huge. Just how large it was may be best captured in the photo Kitabat runs. At the Basra protest, Sheikh Khalid al-Issawi tells Al Mada that the protest is to convey the outrage over Nouri's verbal attack on Moqtada while, in Baghdad, Sheikh Taha Altablawbawi explains that the people of Sadr City, elders, intellectuals, children, all, are serving notice that attacks on Moqtada al-Sadr will not go unnoticed and will result in a response. Protester Sam Abdul-Mahdi tells Alsumaria that this is the start of protests in Basra and that Nouri should retract his attack on Moqtada. The Iraq Times reports that Nouri ordered helicopters to fly overhead during the Baghdad protest and that some Sadrists saw that as an attempt at intimidation.
Al Mada reports that Iraqiya is warning that if changes do not take place in Iraq quickly, popular uprisings will take to the streets. Protests were taking place around Iraq in January. Demonstrators were calling out the disappearance of their loved ones into the 'justice system,' they were calling out the lack of jobs and the lack of basic services. This swelled into the massive protests that took place across Iraq February 25th. Iraqis took to the streets and, in Baghdad, Nouri sent his forces to attack. Iraqi reporters were kidnapped by the police after covering the protests, they were then tortured and forced to sign statements saying they had not been tortured. Haidi al-Mahdi was one of those reporters. It was after the protests, he and some other reporters were ordering lunch and seated a table when Nouri's forces barged over, used the butt of their guns to strike people and rounded up Haidi and the other reporters.
Al Mada notes that protesters also showed their support for Moqtada on Wednesday in Baghdad, Najaf, Basra and Maysan and that they called out Nouri and burned photos of Nouri. Al Mada reports that the protests continued in Baghdad and Najaf today for the fourth consecutive day. If you're not aware of those protests, it's because the non-Iraqi media hasn't been reporting them.
Turning to the US, Rick Wills (Tribune-Review) reports a memorial service was held today for Iraq War veteran and Afghanistan War veteran Major Benjamin Follansbee who "apparently hanged himself on Monday in his Fayetteville, N.C., residence". At this point, the death is not ruled a suicide. Yesterday, the Pentagon released their data on Army suicides for November. In October, there were 20 possible suicides according to last month's data. The Pentagon notes that 1 of the 20 has been ruled to not be a suicide. 9 of the remaining 19 were confirmed suicides and "10 remain under investigation." That's an update on October. For November? They believe there are 15 potential suicides and 2 have been confirmed as that while 13 remain under inviestigation. The Pentagon statement notes: "For 2012, there have been 177 potential active-duty suicides: 113 have been confirmed as suicides and 64 remain under investigation. Active-duty suicide number for 2011: 165 confirmed as suicides and no cases under investigation."
From service members to veterans, June 27th, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee -- which Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of -- held a hearing (we covered that hearing in the June 27th and June 28th snapshots). Tracy Keil was one of the witnesses and her testimony included:
My husband Matt was shot in the neck while on patrol in Ramadi, Iraq on February 24, 2007 just 6 weeks after we were married. The bullet went through the right side of his neck, hit his vertebral artery, went through his spinal cord and exited through his left shoulder blade. Matt instantly because a quadriplegic. When I first saw him 3 days after he was injured I was in shock, they explained to me that he had a "Christopher Reeve type injury." He would be on a ventilator for the rest of his life and would never move his arms or legs.
Matt and I looked at each other in his hospital room at Walter Reed and he asked me if I still loved him? I said "baby you're stuck with me!" at that moment we knew that we would be okay if we stayed in this together. I knew that we just needed to work really hard to get Matt off his ventilator to increase his life expectancy. Ultimately we moved to Craigh Hospital in Denver to be closer to family support.
Four weeks to the day of arriving at Craig Hospital in Denver, Matt was officially off of his ventilator and we could truly concentrate on him doing physical rehabilitation. Matt has regained about 10% function of his left arm but not his hand. He was feeling good and getting used to his new normal of being in a wheelchair and asking for help for everything.
It was while we were at Craigh hospital that we started talking about having a family. Craig doctors talked to us about in vitro fertilization and recommended some doctors for us to speak to when we were ready to start a family. We started to get really excited that even though so much had been taken away from Matt physically that we could still have the future we always dreamed of.
My husband is the most amazing man I have ever met, he is strong, honest and loyal and he wanted us to both have everything we always wanted before his injury and we agreed that this injury wasn't the end, it was the beginning of a new life, and we were in this together.
We had our whole lives ahead of us. Matt was just 24 when he was injured and I was 28. We are very fortunate that he survived his injuries that day and we made a promise to each other on our wedding day "For better or worse, in sickness and in health" I meant every word and still do today. It is a challenge for my husband and I everyday but we knew we still wanted to start a family. I remember back when he was in rehabilitation at Craigh Hospital it's all we could talk about was when we were going to be adjusted to our new normal and when we would we be ready to have children. We always knew we had wanted children.
In 2008 we moved into a fully handicap accessible home built for us by Homes For Our Troops. We were starting to feel like things were falling into place in our lives. We felt like we were starting to get back on track to where we were before Matt was injured.
His injury unfortunately prevents him from having children naturally. In mid 2008 I started asking the VA what services they could offer my husband and I to assist us with fertility. I can remember hitting road blocks at every turn. I decided to take things into my own hands and write letters and make phone calls to try and get anyone to listen to us that we needed help. Fertility treatments are very expensive and since I had left my full time job we were still adjusting to living on one income.
I felt helpless and hopeless and thought that our dreams of having a family may never come true. The VA finally said that they would cover the sperm withdrawal from my husband . . . that costs $1,000 and that they would store the sperm for us at no charge.
It was very difficult when I found out there was no help available for us from the VA or Tricare. I felt very defeated, sad, disappointed and in some ways I felt helpless. I researched everything I could about how to get Tricare to cover some of the costs but they couldn't because it was a direct result of my husband's injury and that fell under the VA. The VA said that they had no programs in place for this sort of thing. I even started asking non profits to assist with the cost and they couldn't help due to the other immediate needs of injured service members.
That's the story of one family. The Defense Dept estimates that there are nearly 2,000 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars who have suffered injuries that could impact reproduction. If you are a service member, you can get coverage via Tricare. But if you are a veteran, you currently have no coverage. Yesterday, Tracy Keil and her husband Iraq War veteran Matt Keil and their twins Faith and Matthew were in the Senate. They were present to hear Senator Patty Murray explain from the floor why her bill, the Women Veterans and Other Health Care Improvement Act of 2012, was needed. Murray explained, "This is about giving veterans who have sacrificed everything -- every option we have to help them fulfill the simple dream of starting a family. It says that we are not turning our back on the catastrophic reproductive wounds that have become a signature of these wars. It says to all those brave men and women that didn't ask questions when they were put in harm's way, that we won't let politics get in the way of our commitment to you." Lawrence Downes (New York Times) observes, "Disabled veterans won a big, unexpected victory today: the Senate passed Senator Patty Murray's bill to expand fertility services, including in-vitro fertilization, at the Veterans Affairs Department. Ms. Murray, the Washington Democrat and chairwoman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, sponsored the bill, S.3313, to help service members whose war wounds have left them unable to have children." Rick Maze (Marine Corps Times) states the just passed bill is already dead. Why? US House Rep Jeff Miller, Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, supposedly doesn't want it to be brought to a vote. As Miller's presented in a quote in that article by Maze, Miller favors it for the 113th session of Congress that will begin in January. If that's a correct reading of Miller (and Maze is one of the country's strongest reporters so it most likely is a correct reading), Miller's fiscal responsibility that he always touches on and how important it is to be a strong steward of public monies (tax payer money) is not being followed. There's no reason in the world that it can't be voted on in the House. They're not even on vacation yet. And why would you want to waste tax payer money starting the process up all over again in the 113th Congress? The bill needs to be put to a vote. It's not fair to veterans not to and it's not fair to tax payers. If every bill that passed in December was put on hold until the 113th Congress (when I say 'put on hold,' I mean it's stopped in its tracks. It will have to be revoted on in the 113th Congress, the entire process will have to start over), when are they going to accomplish anything. Tax payers paid for the printing of the bill, for the time spent researching the bill, for the time spent writing the bill and for the time spent presenting the bill. Tax payers have footed the bill on this. To not vote on it in the House is to waste the tax payer dollar.