Saturday, April 21, 2012

Erdogan responds to Nouri, Allawi wants a meet-up in the KRG

Ayla Jean Yacklery (Reuters) reports, "Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday regjected charges he sought to inflame sectarian divisions in Iraq with recent criticism of its government and accused his Iraqi counterpart of trying to gain 'prestige' in an escalating war of words between the neighbours." Yesterday, Nouri al-Maliki abandoned his brief 13 day attempt to be nice to the Turkish government and publicly lashed out at them. Al Jazeera adds:

"We don't differentiate between Sunnis or Shias. Arab, Kurd or Turkmen, they are all our brothers," Erdogan told reporters in comments reported by the NTV news channel.

"If we respond to Mr. Maliki, we give him the opportunity to show off there. There is no need to allow him to gain prestige."

Turkey, which is majority Sunni, has been seen as a key ally and even a role model for Iraq, because of its secular constitution and close relations with the West, including membership in NATO.

Iraq is Turkey's second largest trading partner after Germany, with trade reaching $12 billion last year, more than half of which was with the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region. 

With everything else Iraq is facing, you'd think Nouri al-Maliki would have the brains not to also antagonize one of its neighbors. But Nouri's never been known for brains. He's the simpering fool who stalls and stalls over and over as the chaos he creates and stokes rages.

Dar Addustour reports that there is now a large dispute between Nouri and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaafi over the issue of the Iraq Central Bank which the Speaker refuses to allow Nouri to take control of. Nouri's slate is State of Law, al-Nujaafi belongs to Iraqiya. The two are political rivals. Nouri has made a big push this month to seize control of the bank and Parliament rebuffed him. It is the latest in a series of power grabs on Nouri's part. The two are part of the "three presidencies." That refers to them and Jalal Talabani, President of Iraq. Normally Jalal would be attempting to soothe nerves right now and mediate. However, he's too busy trying to smooth over the situation with Turkey and with the KRG and other things to be much help with Nouri's latest skirmish. Other things?

Dar Addustour also reports Talabani is in Sulaymaniyah speaking with Ayad Allawi (leader of Iraqiya) about how to resolve the political crisis. Also attending the meeting were various political leaders including KRG Vice President Kosrat Rasul Ali and PUK Deputy Secretary-General Barham Salih. (PUK is one of the two dominant Kurdish political parties. Jalal Talabani heads PUK.) Alsumaria adds that the Allawi and Talabani also discussed a recent assassination attempt on Allawi at Baghdad International Airport (Nouri is responsible for the security there) and that Allawi does not feel comfortable returning to Baghdad currently due to that recent assassination attempt. Allawi may be leveraging the attempted assassination to make sure that if a national conference is held anytime soon, it will be held in the KRG. He's called for it to be held there and he's now got a reason to further argue for it to be held there. Since December 21st, Talabani and al-Nujaafi have been calling for a national conference to address the political crisis. March 23rd, Talabani announced that the national conference would be held April 5th. 24 hours before the conference was finally to be held Speaker al-Nujaafi announced it had been called off and State of Law announced they were in no hurry to resume talks.

As the political crisis continues, so does the violence. AP notes 2 Baghdad bombings have killed 4 people and that another thirteen have been injured. Alsumaria reports that a man shot dead in Mosul was discovered ont he side of the road today.

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PTSD and the reporter who made a fool of herself

I've never watched Dr. Phil a day in my life, either on his own show or on Oprah's, and considered an article iffy (for inclusion) here as a result.  But it's by Niki Cruz who really doesn't know how to read so we'll jump in.  At the Inquisitr, Niki rants and raves that Dr. Phil called veterans "monsters."  I haven't seen the segment, have no intention of viewing it, but based on what leaks through Cruz' rant, "monsters" was in the title of the program and, if used, referred to a small segment of veterans who may or may not suffer from PTSD and, returning home, abuse their spouses.

Cruz needs to learn to read and write.  Fundamentals for the profession she has chosen.  She also needs to grasp that victims of domestic abuse are not rendered invisible because, in her mind, they're married to 'heroes.'  We don't have heroes in this country.  Check your 1040 for the box you check for "hero" -- you won't find it.

America is made up of people.  All flawed, many deeply flawed.

Trying to hide behind the flag and the military because something crawled your ass, Niki Cruz, is something you should do in private.

Spouses who suffer abuse exist and they don't need to be hidden.

As Cruz rants and raves, what she appears to be describing is a Dr. Phil show that focused on such spouses.  Good.  They deserve a spotlight.  Their problems are real.  Whether or not their attackers suffer from PTSD, I have no idea.  But the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War are not the first wars to result in domestic abuse among returning veterans.  I don't believe this has ever been a dominant feature of the end of the war, but it has been a part of it.  Those who were abused don't need to suffer in silence.  What your attacker and abuser does for a living or did for a living provides no excuse for beating you.

Everyone has a right to expect safety and that includes safety in their own homes.

Cruz both concludes her article and flaunts her everlasting ignorance with these two paragraphs:

Of course, the only common link between all the stories featured in this “From Heroes To Monsters” special is the violent nature of these soldiers, putting a giant stereotype on people who deal with PTSD. A recent study uncovered by The Washington Post’s David Browne says that the link between PTSD and violence is weak,  "Post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury can increase a person’s anger and hostility and diminish his or her self-control. But the link between those disorders and outright violent behavior is weak and hard to pin down with certainty."
With that said, it’s easy to deduce that Dr. Phil may just be exploiting yet another popular hot topic to pull in viewers. What do you think?

What do I think?  I think you're an idiot, an enable of abuse and a fool who shouldn't link to articles claiming they back you up when, in fact, they bury you.  The David Brown article at the Washington Post and at Stars and Stripes (where Cruz  links) includes this:

Veterans with PTSD are two to three times as likely to be physically abusive of their wives and girlfriends as those without the diagnosis. They’re three times as likely to get into fistfights when they go to college. One study showed they are especially prone to“impulsive aggression,” but that “premeditated aggression”  -- the kind of act Bales is accused of  --  was far more common in veterans without PTSD than in those with it.

The link that Cruz wants to maintain isn't there and to argue doesn't exist based upon David Brown's article (and it is "Brown," not "Browne") is right there in the article.  Two to three time more likely to physically abuse.  It's right there.

Do you grasp what Cruz is too stupid too?  That the very article she cites for backing betrays the idiocy of her rant.

I have no problem advocating for veterans issues here.  But I don't mistake veterans for saints.  Meaning I realize that, like every segment of the US population, veterans are capable of domestic abuse.  Are they all domestic abusers?  No.  The majority aren't.  The majority of the general population doesn't practice domestic abuse either. No  military or veteran spouse (wife or husband) has to live through physical abuse and, on top of that, has  to do so in silence because some idiot like Niki Cruz is more interested in hero worship than reality.

As we have repeatedly stressed here, since the beginning of documented wars, the returning have included some who suffer from what we are classifying today as PTSD (it has had other names in other eras).  Of the group with that coping mechanism they struggle to turn off, most will not resort to violence.  Those who do resort to violence are far more likely to self-harm (whether through drinking, drugs, cutting, self-mutilation, etc.) than to hurt others.  It is a small percentage of the veteran population that will ever harm anyone else off the battlefield (which may provide little comfort when Barack has -- like Bully Boy Bush before him -- declared the whole world a battlefield).

I can write that without ever having the urge to cover up domestic abuse.  It's a shame that Niki Cruz feels that she has to distort reality on behalf of veterans.

No one should be forced to suffer in silence.  That includes those with PTSD.  Cord Jefferson (BET) shines a light:

The psychological problems these soldiers face might not be so bad if they were treated properly, like any illness or injury. But because you can’t see PTSD the way you can see a bullet hole, doctors have a problem recognizing it without soldiers self-diagnosing themselves and then asking for help. As it stands, less than half seek help.

Exacerbating all these problems is that African-American women, who make up nearly a quarter of the 150,000 female soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, are suffering PTSD at disproportionate rates. Women in general are more likely than men to suffer from PTSD, and the military environment enhances that, as female soldiers are likelier to face traumatic sexual assaults, many of which go unreported.

Frugivore reported:

"African-American women in combat zones continue to experience higher rates of PTSD due to assaults that are never reported. To make matters worse, only 15 Veteran Affairs centers in the United States provide residential mental-health treatment specifically for women with PTSD. Thus, it’s truly become a struggle for African-American women to reintegrate themselves back into their civilian lives and begin the process to heal from PTSD."

While Niki Cruz runs around trying to stop discussions, Cord Jefferson adds a valuable element to the public discourse.

Let's move to PTSD treatment.  Those who treat their PTSD are far less likely to have the problems that may result from untreated PTSD.  As we've noted before, what works for one person won't necessarily work for everyone.  PTSD is a coping mechanism, it kicks in as a survival instinct.  It should be applauded because it's the mind's response to a serious threat of danger.  PTSD becomes a problem when you're out of that situation where you needed that extra boost to survive.  You're in a calmer place but you're not able to switch off the mechanism.

There are people who can turn it off themselves with no help from anyone.  There are others who need assistance (most will) and the mechanism and the way it kicked and the why it kicked in will differ from person to person which is why there is no one treatment that will work for everyone.

Sadly, too many are being put on pills.  Sadly, the Pentagon attempts to promote pills as the sure path.  That's disturbing at any time.  It's especially disturbing when a number of service members and veterans are already over-medicated (indicating they are not receiving treatment, they're being handed pills to shut them up).  Even more upsetting when Kate Johnson (Medscape) reports on the science:

New brain imaging research showing increased cannabinoid receptors in the brains of patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) suggests a potential treatment target for the disorder.
Using positron emission tomography (PET), investigators from New York University Langone Medical Center in New York City found that expression of the CB1 cannabinoid receptor was increased in both the amygdala and the anterior cingulate of patients with PTSD vs healthy control participants.
"Believe it or not, at least to my knowledge there has not been a single pharmacologic treatment developed [for PTSD] to this day that is really based on neuroscience evidence," principal investigator Alexander Neumeister, MD, from New York University Langone Medical Center, told delegates attending the Anxiety Disorders of America 32nd Annual Conference.

I do believe it.  Medical incompentence generally leads to throwing pills at a problem.  The current drug cocktail mix will work for some.  If that includes you, stay with it.  It won't work for everyone and it will be laughed at in a few years as the work of Neumeister and others reveals how flying-blind that approach was.  Some people can treat PTSD in counseling sessions -- solo and/or group.  Some can treat it peer-to-peer.  Some can treat it via creative outlet -- journaling, writing, etc.  Some can treat it with dogs trained to recognize when nerves are heightened. 

Nick Ortner (Huffington Post) notes another potential treatment:

In honor of Military Families Week, I wanted to share some of the incredible EFT work being done with veterans suffering from PTSD. The fact is, we've found an important tool that promotes recovery from PTSD in war veterans. It's the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), otherwise known as Tapping, which combines Western psychotherapy with the Eastern "acupressure points" used in acupuncture.
EFT Tapping offers numerous important benefits for veterans suffering from PTSD:
• EFT Tapping, or Tapping, is easy, requires no equipment, and can be done anywhere for any amount of time.
• Tapping is providing recovery from severe PTSD in some veterans in a matter of days, whereas years of conventional talk therapy and medication often lead to little or no improvement.
• Tapping is providing deep, lasting relief from a wide range of PTSD symptoms -- phobias, sleep issues, physical pain, mood and emotional issues, violent behavior, night terrors, substance abuse, and more.
• Tapping has no side effects, and can be practiced on your own at zero cost.
• You can do your own Tapping. (You can learn how in under 5 minutes.)

Use the link for more on that.  But the mind responds to a dangerous situation by turning on a mechanism that makes you hypervigilant when you need to be.  The survival mechanism becomes a problem only when you're removed from that physical situation but can't turn the mechanism off.  Different things will work for different people.  If you suffer from PTSD and one treatment, that you have given time to work, does not help you, explore another one. 

The following community sites -- plus Cindy Sheehan, the ACLU, Adam Kokesh and Liberal Oasis  -- updated last night and today:

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Friday, April 20, 2012

Iraq snapshot

Friday, April 19, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri bombs with Turkey but Barzani's a hit, US journalists are targeted, the political crisis continues, Rob Andrews justifies war for any reason, Panetta tries to dance around Congress, and more.
Starting in the US where journalists Tom Vaden Brook and Ray Locker have been targeted.  Gregory Korte (USA Today) reports that when Vanden Brook and his editor Locker began working on an article about fraud and waste in Pentagon contracting, the push-back was for fake websites and accounts to be created in their name to spread false rumors about them with the apparent hope that the two would be discredited and discouraged.  Vanden Brook is quoted stating he is still on the story, "If they thought it would determ from writing about this, they're wrong."  Locker echoes that sentiment stating, "This is a clear attempt at intimidation that has failed." Why would anyone want to intimidate the two?  Because this is about a lot of money.   Vanden Brook and Locker reported at the end of February:
As the Pentagon has sought to sell wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to often-hostile populations there, it has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on poorly tracked marketing and propaganda campaigns that military leaders like to call "information operations," the modern equivalent of psychological warfare.
From 2005 to 2009, such spending rose from $9 million to $580 million a year mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pentagon and congressional records show. Last year, spending dropped to $202 million as the Iraq War wrapped up. A USA TODAY investigation, based on dozens of interviews and a series of internal military reports, shows that Pentagon officials have little proof the programs work and they won't make public where the money goes. In Iraq alone, more than $173 million was paid to what were identified only as "miscellaneous foreign contractors."
Again, that's a great deal of money.  Ali Gharib (Think Progress) adds:
The Pentagon said it was "unaware" of such activity and deemed it "unacceptable." A source told Korte that the Pentagon had asked the related contractors if there had been any such activity, and all had denied it, but the inquiries were "informal and did not amount to an official investigation." After USA Today made inquiries to the Pentagon about the websites, they were taken down.
Meanwhile there is the ongoing conflict between Turkey and the PKK -- the PKK is a group that fights for Kurdish sovereignty and a Kurdish homeland.  The Turkish government sees the PKK as a terrorist organization.  Today's Zayman reports 1 female member of the PKK was killed by Turkey forces when the Turkish forces moved and notes, "The conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives.  The group is labled a terrorist organization by the European Union and the United States, which has supplied Predator drones to assist Turkey."  The PKK operates out of southern Turkey and nothern Iraq chiefly.  AFP reports that KRG President Massoud Barzani and Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met today in Ankara and discussed many issues including the PKK.   The Sunday Zaman notes, "Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the Turkish military would 'completely' halt military operations against the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) if the organization were to lay down its arms."  And they note, "The terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) should lay down its weapons for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani said on Friday during an official visit to Turkey." Hurriyet Daily News sums up, "Speaking separately but in unison, Turkish PM Erdogan and Iraqi Kurdish leader Barzani implore the outlawed PKK to cease its armed fight."
On the topic of Iraq and its northern neighbor Turkey, let's drop back to April 7th:
How bad are relations between Iraq and its neighbors? AFP reports Falih al-Fayaad went toTurky this week to meet with Turkish officials on Nour's behalf. As 2011 was winding down, what was Nouri doing? Oh, that's right, he was trashing the president and the prime minister of Turkey and doing so publicly and repeatedly. And when not issuing insults about them, he was accusing them of trying to control Iraq.
That was April 7th.  Today, thirteen days later?  Today's Zaman reports, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said Turkey is becoming an enemy state in the region in a sign of growing tensions between Turkey and Iraq. Maliki's harshest remarks so far came at a time when Turkey was hosting two senior Iraqi politicians who are at odds with his government." AFP quotes from a statement by Nouri posted to his website:
The latest statements of [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan are another return to the process of interfering in Iraqi internal affairs and it confirms that Mr. Erdogan is still living the illusion of regional hegemon.  It is regrettable that his statements have a sectarian dimension which he used to deny before but which have become clear, and are rejected by all Iraqis.  Insisting on continuing these internal and regional policies will damage Turkey's interests and makes it a hostile state for all.
Yesterday Today's Zaman reported that the government of Turkey had refused the Baghdad request to hand over Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi.  (Turkey's taken the same position Qatar and Saudi Arabia did when Nouri made the request of them earlier this month.) It must be very humiliating for Nouri and his lackeys.  When al-Hashemi traveled from the KRG to Qatar at the start of this month, they made pompous statements to the press which only revealed how truly ignorant they were.  The government of ___ [fill in the blank] would hand al-Hashemi over and, on the off chance that the government didn't, they were going to have INTERPOL travel to ___ [fill in the blank] and INTERPOL would arrest al-Hashemi and bring him to Baghdad.  It didn't matter to the stupid and ignorant that INTERPOL's charter specifically states it is not to be invovled in political actions so that it may remain impartial.  al-Hashemi is targeted for political reasons.  That always meant INTERPOL should not be involved and that, if they reviewed the request, they would turn it down.  But there was Nouri and his various flunkies flaunting just what kind of stupid gets to run and ruin things in Iraq.
Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani's two-day talks in İstanbul and Ankara appear to have focused on tensions brewing between Iraq's Shiite-led government and minority Sunnis and Kurds, which Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has described as "ominous."
Barzani had closed-door talks with Erdoğan in İstanbul on Thursday and met with President Abdullah Gül and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in Ankara on Friday. Speaking to reporters about his meeting with Barzani, Erdoğan said both Barzani and the cross-sectarian Iraqiya group are "seriously bothered" by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's policies.

Maybe if Nouri had stopped his verbal attacks on the Turkish government, M. Alihan Hasanoglu (Today's Zaman) would be reporting Baghdad had many projects in development with Turkey including a $36 million one.  Instead, that reports on the projects Turkey's developing with the KRG.  Equally true, Nouri was making catty comments about Barzani earlier this week.  It would appear Barzani's getting along with everyone on his trips to other countries.  The same can't be said of Nouri. 
Staying with the political crisis, if the Western media has made one mistake repeatedly in the last few months, it has been the failure to understand the political crisis.  Or maybe they understand it and just don't care to convey it properly?    The political crisis in Iraq did not start December 19th or 21st as Nouri went after political rivals from Iraqiya (Iraqiya came in first in the 2010 elections).  From Marina Ottaway and Danial Kaysi's [PDF format warning] "The State Of Iraq"  (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace):
Within days of the official ceremonies marking the end of the U.S. mission in Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki moved to indict Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on terrorism charges and sought to remove Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq from his position, triggering a major political crisis that fully revealed Iraq as an unstable, undemocractic country governed by raw competition for power and barely affected by institutional arrangements.  Large-scale violence immediately flared up again, with a series of terrorist attacks against mostly Shi'i targets reminiscent of the worst days of 2006.
But there is more to the crisis than an escalation of violence.  The tenuous political agreement among parties and factions reached at the end of 2010 has collapsed.  The government of national unity has stopped functioning, and provinces that want to become regions with autonomous power comparable to Kurdistan's are putting increasing pressure on the central government.  Unless a new political agreement is reached soon, Iraq may plunge into civil war or split apart.
This month has seen Nouri even the score on the results of the 2010 elections by going after the Independent High Electoral Commission which, in 2010, refused to falsify the results in Nouri's favor. So last week, Nouri had the commission chair Farah al-Haidari and commission member Karim al-Tamimi arrested. But, don't worry, Jalal assures us Nouri's not becoming a dictator. In fairness, maybe what Jalal meant was that Nouri was already a dicatator, not headed towards becoming one?

Al Mada reports that Ayad Allawi (leader of Iraqiya) notes that the options of ending the political crisis include a true partnership in government, implementing the Erbil Agreement, moving towards early elections or Nouri can step down as prime minister.

As the crisis continues, criticism mounts. As Sheikh (Dar Addustour) observes that participants appear to have lost site of the priorities, that there is a lack of vision and all it's about now is the political process and not about Iraqis or the country. What usually happens around now is that the Kurds and Iraqiya heed the call to be 'reasonable' and 'mature.' They put aside differences and Nouri continues acting exactly the same. If anything's going ot change, this time Nouri's the one who's going to have to give.
An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers reports that the death toll from yesterday's attacks has risen to 39 with over 190 injured.
Syria is a neighbor of Iraq.  Iraq remains neutral on the issue of war on Syria or no war on Syria.  They remain neutral for a number of reasons including fear of huge influx of refugees and also the fear that taking sides would further harden divisions inside Iraq, existing divisions.  Yesterday the US Congress discussed Syria.  Appearing before the House Armed Services Committee were Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and the Chair of the Joint-Chiefs General Martin Dempsey. 
US House Rep Walter Jones:  Mr. Secretary, if the situation changes and you believe the use of force in Syria becomes necessary, will this administration seek authorization from Congress before taking action?
Secretary Leon Panetta:  We will, uh -- We will clearly work with Congress if it, uh -- if it,  comes to the issue of force.  I think this administration wants to work within the War Powers Provision to make sure that we work together, not separately.
US House Rep Walter Jones: Mr. Secretary, as a former member of Congress -- I have the biggest concern and this is not pointed at this administration, it could be at any administration -- they seem to want to take the authority to decide whether or not they need to go into a country that's not been a threat.  They may have evil dictators, they might have problems in those countries.  But I have been very concerned.  I actually went to the federal courts for [US House Rep] Dennis Kucinich and two other Republicans and two other Democrats.  We went to the courts because of the decision and how it was made -- I realize you were not there at the time [Panetta was heading the CIA, Robert Gates was the Secretary of Defense] -- about Libya.  I continue to believe -- and the American people seem to agree -- that we in Congress have not exercted our Constitutional responsibilities when it comes to war.  And I hate that if there is a decision -- including Iran and Syria -- if a decision is made to commit American forces that the president would feel an obligation to the American people -- not to Congress necessarily, but the American people -- to explain and justify why we would take that kind of action.  And, again, I'm talking about a situation where we're not being attacked, we just see things happening in other countries that we don't approve of.  And I would hope -- and I think you did give me this answer, but if you would reaffirm --  that if we have to use military force and we're going to initiate that force, it's going to be our initation that causes that force, that the president, any president, would come to Congress and the American people and justify the need to attack.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta: Congressman, as-as you understand uh-uh-uh this president -- as other presidents will -- will operate pursuant to the Constitution.  The Constitution makes clear that the Commander in Chief should, uh, act when the vital interests of this country are in jeopardy.  Uh-and-uh I believe this president believes that if that in fact is the case he would do that in partnership with the Congress in terms of taking any action. 
US House Rep Walter Jones: Well I'll make another statement and then I'll work towards a close, Mr. Chairman [Buck McKeon].  I remember my good friend [US House Rep] Randy Forbes from Viriginia asked Secretary Gates when we went in [Libyan War], it seemed like the administration, if they called the leadership of the House and Senate, it must have been one call each house, each Senate.  And Mr. Forbes asked Mr. Gates, if the Libyans fired a missile in New York City would that be an act of war? And I have to say, because my friend from Virginia is very articulate and very intelligent gentleman, that he never got a straight answer.  So I hope that you will prevail upon the administration not to take those kinds of actions as they did in Libya -- whether it was justified or not, I won't get into that debate.  But, in my opinion, that was really a kind of snub of Congress and the responsibility of Congress -- based on the Constitution.
Secretary Leon Panetta: Congressman, what I can assure you of is that, as long as I am Secretary, we won't take any action without proper legal authority. 
One of the most disgusting things about the hearing was realizing how the coin had flipped.  Meaning that if Bully Bush were still in the White House, US House Rep Rob Andrews (Democrat from New Jersey) would have followed up Walter Jones' questions by attempting to hit on the main points.  Instead, with the Oval Office occupied by a Democrat, Andrews felt the need was to take wiggle room, shake it out repeatedly and turn wiggle room into a summer getaway home.  Our 'national interests' Andrews wanted it known, were reasons to go to war and, of course, Panetta agreed.  That's a different standard then 'you are attacked.'  In fact, that's even worse, this must be the Obama Doctrine, than Bully Boy Bush claiming he had the right to declare war on someone he thought might harm the US in the future -- near or distant.  Barack's policy -- as discussed by Andrews and Panetta -- allows war for no threat.  Just the idea that you might do something, as a country, that isn't in the US' national interests.  Andrews defined national interest with "the weaker Hezbollah is, the better the United States is" and Panetta agreed and went on to add that "anything to weaken a terrorist organization is in our best interest."  And these are the grounds for war?  How sickening two little War Hawks all but mounting one another in public.
Republican J. Randy Forbes tried to get the conversation back to reality. 
US House Rep J. Randy Forbes:  When we talk about vital national interests, probably there's no greater vital interest that we have than the rule of law.  So sometimes we have to just ferret that out and see what that is.  As I understand what you have indicated to this Committee, Mr. Secretary -- and correct me if I'm wrong, you believe that before we would take military action against Syria that it would be a  requirement to have a consensus of permission with the international community before that would happen?  Is that a fair statement?  And if not, would you tell me what the proper --
Secretary Leon Panetta: I think that's a -- I think that's a fair statement.
US House Rep J. Randy Forbes:  If that's fair, than I'd like to come back to the question Mr. Jones asked, just so we know.  I know you would never do anything that you didn't think was legally proper and you said the administration would have proper, legal authority before they would take military action.  So my question is what is proper, legal authority?  And I come back to -- as Mr. Jones pointed out  -- in the War Powers Act, it's unlikely we would have a declaration of war.  But that would be one of  the things.  Certainly we know if there's a national attack that would be one of them.  And the second thing in the War Powers Act would be specific statutory authorization.  Do you feel that it would be a requirement  to have proper legal authority? That if you did not have a declaration of war or an attack on the United States, that you would have to have specific statutory authority --  in other words, the permission of Congress, before you'd take military action?
Secretary Leon Panetta: We would not take action without proper legal authority.     That's --
US House Rep J. Randy Forbes:  And I understand.  And in all due respect, I don't want to put you in an interrogation.  But we're trying to find out what exactly proper legal authoirty is because that's what we have  to act under.  And we don't have the president here to chat with him or have a cup of coffee with him and ask him.  You're the closest we get.  And so we're asking for your understanding and as Secretary of Defense what is proper legal authority?  Would that require specific statutory authorization from the United States Congress if we had not had a declaration of war or an attack upon the United States?
Secretary Leon Panetta:  Well, again, let me put it on this basis.  Uh, this administration intends to operate pursuant to the War Power Act.  And whatever the War Powers Act would require in order for us to engage, we would abide by.
US House Rep J. Randy Forbes:  And, again, Mr. Secretary, thank you for putting up with me as I just try to stumble through this and understand it.  But as I read the War Powers Act, it has those three requirements.  Are there any other requirements in there that you're familiar with that I'm leaving out or not reading?
Secretary Leon Panetta:   No.
US House Rep J. Randy Forbes:If that's the case, then again I just come back to, if there's no declaration of war, no attack upon the United States  and if we're going to comply with the War Powers Act would that require specific statutory authority by Congress before we took military actions?
Secretary Leon Panetta:   Again, under the Constitution, as I indicated, the commander in chief has the authority to take action that involves the vital interests of this country.  But then pursuant to the War Powers Act, we would have to take steps to get Congressional approval.  And that's -- that's the process that we would follow.
US House Rep J. Randy Forbes:  Uhm, you'd have to take steps to get that approval but would the approval be required before you would take military action against Syria?
Secretary Leon Panetta:   As I understand the Constitution and the power of the president, the president could in fact deploy forces if he to under -- if-if-if our vital interests were at stake.  But then, under the War Powers Act, we would have to come here for  your support and permission.
US House Rep J. Randy Forbes:  So you get the support of Congress after you begin military operations.
Secretary Leon Panetta:  In that -- In that particular situation, yes.
US House Rep J. Randy Forbes:Then just one last thing and make sure I'm stating this correctly,  it's your position that the administration's position would be that we'd have to get a consensus of permission from the international community before we would act but we wouldn't have to get specific statutory authority from Congress before we would act.
Secretary Leon Panetta:  Well I think in that situation, if international action is taken pursuant to a [UN]  security council resolution or under our treaty obligations with regards to NATO that obviously we would participate with the international community.  But then ultimately the Congress of the United States, pursuant to its powers of the purse, would be able to  determine whether or not that action is appropriate or not.
Panetta's song and dance wasn't amusing.  And the War Powers Act did not matter to the White Houe when it came to the Libyan War.  (Panetta's exchange with Andrews suggested it wouldn't matter with regards to Libya.)  For those who've forgotten the illegality of the Libyan War, we're dropping back to an episode of Law and Disorder Radio -- which began airing on WBAI  July 11th and around the country throughout that week.  Attorneys and hosts Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) discussed a number of issues including impeachment.  Excerpt.
Michael Smith:  Michael, the actions that the Obama administration took against Libya is really a perversion of the law.  Explain what they did in order to justify not going to Congress.

Michael Ratner: Well the use of military force by the president has to be authorized by Congress under the United States Constitution.  That's very clear.  And it's not just war, it's use of -- it's hostilities, it's really any military action anywhere in the world other than in self-defense.  So we start from the premise that military actions, whether in Libya, killing people in Somolia or Yemen, etc., has to be authorized by Congress. In some cases the president claimed that the authorization to use military force passed in 2001 -- after 9/11 -- gave him authority.  But in other cases, he's just asserting raw, naked power.  He's claiming that because these don't amount to large wars that the Constitution doesn't apply and he doesn't have to go to Congress.  Now then what happened because this is a common claim of presidents whether it's in Libya or Somolia, Congress after Vietnam built in a safety trigger.  They said, "Lookit, you still need our consent to go to war, or to go into hostilities or bomb people, etc. But we're going to put in a safety trigger.  If you do that, if you engage in hostilities and you don't come to us first like you're required to do under the Constitution, then you have sixty days to come back to us and get authority or within sixty days all troops have to be automatically withdrawn." So it's a safety figure because they knew the president would do exactly what Obama is doing, violate the Constitution. They put in a safety trigger that said you have sixty days to get authority, if you don't have authority then you then have 30 more days to get all the troops out, a total of 90 days. So in the case of Libya, of course, the 90 days have passed and the War Powers Resolution had required that all those troops be brought out.  So we had a sort of double system.  Is that clear, Michael?
Michael Smith: Well as a practical matter, the political will in this country is lacking to do anything.  Technically what he did is a crime and he can be impeached for it and tried and gotten out of office but I don't think that's going to happen.
Michael Ratner: It's a high crime or misdemeanor.  It's true violation of the Constitution, it's a violation of Congressional statute, you could impeach him. But good luck.  We've never -- we've never successfully impeached anybody.  I mean, we had, you know, Andrew Johnson after the Civil War was at least tried and acquitted eventually but I think that was the case.  Nixon, rather than be impeached, resigned. Clinton made it through.  Bush made it through. So what do you say, Michael?  It looks like it's not a really good lever.

Jalal covers for Nouri

Peter Cave (Australia's ABC) notes the death toll on yesterday's violence in Iraq has risen to 38 with over one-hundred-and-seventy people left injured. Khalid Waleed (Asia Times) points out that the targeted included an envoy for a religious authority and that this is a pattern of continued attacks on Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's envoys and followers:

In the most recent incident, a car belonging to Sheikh Ahmed al-Ansari, Sistani's envoy in the southern Maysan province, was targeted by a bomb last week. On April 3, an explosive device was planted outside the house of Sistani representative Sheikh Hasan al-Khamasi in Hilla, 100 kilometers south of Baghdad. 
Other figures close to Sistani have been attacked in Baghdad, Karbala, Muthanna, Babil, Qadisiyya, Najaf, Dhi Qar and Basra. Meanwhile, Sarkhi's offices in Karbala, Najaf, Qadisiyya, and Basra have been bombed, and other centers in Maysan, Dhi Qar, Babil and Muthanna set on fire.

 As calls for accountability for the failing security situation find people following Moqtada al-Sadr's advice and pairing Nouri al-Maliki's name with it, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani decides to minimize and rescue. Someone get him in an Al-Anon meeting. Al Sabaah reports Talabani has declared that Nouri is not moving towards becoming a dictator. Being such an enabler is what has hurt his party's standing as Kurds have begun to wonder if there's anything Jalal will stand up for?

Even with regards to providing asylum for Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, Talabani shifted that over to KRG President Massoud Barzani when things got too heated. (Nouri targeted the Talabani clan with rumors and appeals.) Now Jalal's selling out the KRG again to try to broker an understanding that will result in no changes but will table all objections to Nouri's power-grabs for a few months. As awful as Nouri is and he's really awful a real leader in the (ceremonial) position of president might have been able to push back against Nouri's power-grab.

 Nouri's been prime minister since 2006, Jalal Talabani's been president for that same period of time. Nouri is not moving towards becoming a dictator, Jalal coos. But in December, he began demanding that Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his post and that Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi be arrested for 'terrorism.' Both al-Mutlaq and al-Hashemi are Sunni (Nouri is a Shi'ite) and members of Iraqiya (Nouri is State of Law; in the 2010 elections, State of Law came in second to Iraqiya).    Rebwar Karim Wali (Rudaw) offered this reflection on the political crisis:
Iraq is in deep crisis and it is nothing new. It is not that Iraq has started moving toward dictatorship and totalitarianism just now. No! And in fact the Americans and Kurds have contributed to the creation of the dictator. The constitution of the "New Iraq" does not stipulate a just power sharing among the country's various components. That is the main reason as to why the situation has ended up where it is now.
The Kurds thought they were able to devolve the powers through the Erbil agreement of 2010, but that agreement only gave legitimacy to the current system. Iraq's constitution was violated the day Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya bloc won the elections and was not allowed to form the government. Instead, it was Maliki's bloc that formed the government. Both then and now, the Kurds were part of creating a new dictator in Iraq.

This month has seen Nouri even the score on the results of the 2010 elections by going after the Independent High Electoral Commission which, in 2010, refused to falsify the results in Nouri's favor.  So last week, Nouri had the commission chair Farah al-Haidari and commission member Karim al-Tamimi arrested.  But, don't worry, Jalal assures us Nouri's not becoming a dictator.  In fairness, maybe what Jalal meant was that Nouri was already a dicatator, not headed towards becoming one?

Al Mada reports that Ayad Allawi (leader of Iraqiya) notes that the options of ending the political crisis include a true partnership in government, implementing the Erbil Agreement, moving towards early elections or Nouri can step down as prime minister.Alsumaria notes KRG President Massoud Barzani met with Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi today in Turkey.

As the crisis continues, criticism mounts.   As Sheikh (Dar Addustour) observes that participants appear to have lost site of the priorities, that there is a lack of vision and all it's about now is the political process and not about Iraqis or the country.  What usually happens around now is that the Kurds and Iraqiya heed the call to be 'reasonable' and 'mature.'  They put aside differences and Nouri continues acting exactly the same.  If anything's going ot change, this time Nouri's the one who's going to have to give.

In the US, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Her office notes:

CONTACT: Murray Press Office 
 Thursday, April 19, 2012 
 (202) 224-2834 

Thursday, April 19, 2012 (202) 224-2834
Senator Murray Includes Critical Investments for Washington State in Fiscal Year 2013 Appropriations Bill
Murray includes critical funding to promote economic development and get people back to work in WA in THUD Appropriations bill
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) announced she has included critical funding for Washington state priorities in the Fiscal Year 2013 Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Bill. The bill passed the Senate Committee on Appropriations today by a vote of 28-1 and will now head to the floor for a vote by the full Senate. As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Chairman of the THUD Subcommittee, Senator Murray fought to ensure support for Washington state projects and programs that bolster the local economy and create jobs were included in the bill.
“This legislation will create jobs and make critical investments in our nation’s roads, bridges, rail and transit systems, and airports,” said Senator Murray. “The bill also preserves an essential part of the country’s safety net by protecting housing assistance for low-income families and veterans. I am proud of the bipartisan work that went into this legislation and the critical assistance it will deliver to my home state of Washington. Working together, we assembled a balanced bill that makes responsible investments in our economy and our nation while living within today’s budget constraints.”
A list of Washington state priorities included in the bill appears below:
· $110 million for the University Link light rail extension which will fund the continued construction of Sound Transit Link Light Rail from downtown Seattle to the University of Washington, improving the mobility of the region for thousands of transit riders and helping keep cars off I-5 reducing congestion.
· $39 million for the Columbia River Crossing.
  • Funding for a new FAA Center of Excellence Jet-Fuel Research in Civil Aircraft, whose location will be determined after a national competitive process. This Center will help Washington state continue to expand its role in leading the nation in biofuels research.
  • Funding for Washington State Ferries to ensure that the region continues to get federal funding to support this critical transportation link. This bill will provide $5 million in funding directly for Washington State Ferries, as well as providing at least $40 million for which Washington State Ferries can compete. This funding is critical to Washington state as it helps ensure our ferry riders continue to have access to ferry service.
  • Support for fans using King County Metro Transit to access Mariner and Husky games. This is a continued effort by Senator Murray to prevent a Bush Administration provision from limiting Metro Transit’s ability to provide access to major sporting and cultural events in King County.
  • $75 million for 10,000 new HUD-VASH vouchers, these vouchers help homeless veterans have access to housing and services throughout Washington state and the nation. Since reviving the program in 2008, Senator Murray has already fought to secure funding to support 48,000 vouchers to help homeless veterans.
· $500 million for the TIGER program. Senator Murray created TIGER in 2009 to help fund significant infrastructure projects that are critical for the economic growth of communities in Washington and across the country. To date, this program has received over $3.5 billion and helped fund projects such as the Mercer Street Project, the South Park Bridge, the North Spokane Freeway, the West Vancouver Freight Access Project, the East Foster Wells Road Extension in the TriCities, the Extension of Sound Transit to the South 200th Street station, and improvements to address I-5 congestion around Joint Base Lewis McChord.

Meghan Roh
Deputy Press Secretary | Social Media Director
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray

The e-mail address for this site is

Casualties in the ongoing war on truth tellers

chris hill

Again, above is trashy Chris Hill, while still US Ambassador to Iraq, parting in Iraq with other employees of the State Dept, excuse me, other employees of American citizens, for whom they work, and they decided nothing was funnier then a little Embassy get-together where they mock the national tragedy that was the assassination of JFK.


The White House profile on JFK (pictured above) opens with:

On November 22, 1963, when he was hardly past his first thousand days in office, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was killed by an assassin's bullets as his motorcade wound through Dallas, Texas. Kennedy was the youngest man elected President; he was the youngest to die.

Yet Chris Hill thought it was appropriate to mock the assassination.  As not just a government employee, but as the supervisor of multiple government employees, he thought turning the assassination of JFK into a joke was the way to go.

Peter Van Buren, author of  the book We Meant Well: How I helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People,  has posted the photo of Hill at his blog here and here.  (The caption on the Hill photo is Van Buren.)  He's rightly noting that he's being attacked -- by the administration -- for telling the truth.  But let Chris Hill make a mockery of the murder of JFK and that's okay?  It's not okay.

And it's yet another example of how the administration is not accountable, is either not providing oversight due to not caring or not understanding the concept.

And, no, we're not dropping this issue.  We covered it in yesterday's snapshot, we covered it last night.  It will be a piece at Third this weekend and it'll probably be up here in the snapshot today as well.  An e-mail notes that the topic was also covered last night at the right-wing Free Republic.

That, according to the e-mail, was supposed to scare me off the topic.  Oh, no! The right-wing is offended too!  I'm not Bob Somerby.  I don't pretend that every time the right-wing is offended it's due to faux outrage.  I'm offended by what Hill did (and by the administration's failure to hold Hill accountable).  I think it's appalling.  I'll assume whomever posted at Free Republic was genuinely offended as well unless the person declares otherwise. 

Yesterday, peace activist Cindy Sheehan and her attorney Dennis Cunningham appeared inJudge John F. Moulds' Sacramento court. Denny Walsh (Sacremento Bee) explains this was in regards to her refusal to pay taxes in objection to the wars of empire such as the Iraq War in which her son Casey died in 2004. Suzanne Hurt (Reuters) quotes Cindy stating, "No matter if the government says I owe a penny or $100,000, I'm not paying one penny to them." Hunt notes the prosecutor, US Attorney Adair Boroughs, argued that even if someone is sympathetic to Cindy's argument, the tax code cannot be violated (unless you're Big Business, of course). The law is the law, Hurt seemed to argue but that is not the case with regards to Cindy's stance.

"The law is the law" is something Cindy might have supported had it been enforced. But the same Iraq War that her son died in, the same Iraq war that she would point out so many died in, is an illegal war built on lies. But "the law is the law" did not apply to Bully Boy Bush or any of his many impeachable crimes. "The law is the law" has not applied to Barack who has continued and, yes, amplified Bush's crimes. Barack has done so not only by refusing to prosecute Bush's crimes but by taking the crimes and running with them. The war on Libya was illegal, the national shame that is the imprisonment at Guantanamo continues (despite campaign promises from Barack), the war on whistle blowers continues.  In fact, as awful as what was done to Paul O'Neill and (especially) Valerie Plame was in the Bully Boy Bush years, the current attacks on Peter Van Buren and (especially) Bradley Manning demonstrate an even greater disrespect for the law, for transparecy, for accountability, for the Constitution . . .

"The law is the law."  Except when it isn't.  Except when the highest office holders in the land aren't held accountable for their crimes.

Michael Walzer's Spheres of Justice is not a good book or argument.  (Judith N. Shklar's The Faces of Injustice is written as a refutation of Walzer's work.)  Walzer based a great deal of his argument on the Talmud (not credited or acknowledged in the book) but left out beth din, the rabbinical court.  There's no beth din for Cindy either.  If there was, there would be a body that would be concerned with not just what the law says but also with how it is interpreted and applied.   There is no one to act as an abritrator in the dispute over the supposed law and the premise of Cindy's argument.  There should be.

Of course, if the US government applied the law fairly and universally, there would be no need for arbitration.  But the Iraq War goes unpunished and more illegal wars arrive.

Bradley Manning?  Monday April 5th, 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, 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.  In December, an Article 32 and now a court-martial awaits.

On the topic of Bradley Manning, Russia Today notes that "the pool of presidential candidates have been slow to comment on the prosecution against the US Army private accused of providing government secrets to WikiLeaks. Except for Ron Paul, that is. President Barack Obama called Manning 'guilty' even before he was brought to trial for his alleged role with WikiLeaks, but GOP presidential hopeful Texas Congressman Ron Paul told supporters last week that he thinks it isn't quite as simple as that."

I'd have him protected under the whistleblowers act. I think this issue is a very important issue because I maintain that government becomes more secret and the people's privacy is being destroyed. We should protect the people's privacy and we should make the government much more open. We can start with the Federal Reserve system. [. . .] I imagine people ought to think it through, but from what I can do see from my viewpoint, is that his motivation had nothing to do with helping the enemy. You know that if anybody had ever suffered a consequence because of the release of those thousands and thousands of pages, we would have heard about it by now.

The following community sites -- plus, Susan's On The Edge, The Diane Rehm Show and CSPAN -- updated last night and this morning:

Senator Patty Murray chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Her office notes:

Thursday, April 19, 2012
Contact:  Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834
Senator Murray's Statement on VA Hiring Announcement

(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, made the following statement after the VA announced that it would be moving to hire 1,600 mental health care professionals.  The announcement comes just days before the findings of a major VA Inspector General report that Senator Murray requested on long wait times for VA mental health care are expected to be announced.  VA's action is welcome news to Senator Murray who has held multiple hearings over the past year on overcoming barriers to VA mental health care.  Murray will hold a third hearing on this subject in order to hear the Inspector General's findings on Wednesday, April 25th.
"I am pleased that the VA has taken this desperately needed step toward providing timely access to mental health care.  Too often we have seen staff vacancies, scheduling delays, and red tape leave those veterans who have been brave enough to seek help in the first place left with nowhere to turn. With suicide rates that continue to be high and an influx of new veterans into the system these barriers to mental health care are completely unacceptable.  I look forward to fighting for the resources needed to meet this staffing request as it is clearly a cost of the decade of war that has taken such a toll on our veterans and their families."
Matt McAlvanah
Communications Director
U.S. Senator Patty Murray
202-224-2834 - press office
202--224-0228 - direct


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