"I really called the hearing so that we could get the best possible information out to the veteran community," Committee Chair Jeff Miller declared at the start of today's House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing. Appearing before the Committee was Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki. Along with the Committee members, US House Rep Jerry McNerney (a former VA Committee member) questioned Shinseki.
Committee Chair Jeff Miller: Veterans want to know whether they're disability checks and [G]I Bill benefits will be paid in November and there after. They want to know if their disability claims will be decided or further delayed. Families want to know if their loved ones will receive a timely burial at VA national cemeteries. And many of VA employees themselves want to know whether they'll be serving veterans on the job or whether they will be furloughed. I understand that answers to some of these questions are entirely dependent upon how long this shutdown lasts. And although I want to be sure that most of us want this shutdown over clearly, it's our responsibility that the public especially veterans understand what the current state of play is. First of all, Mr. Secretary, I want to say that in the last couple of weeks getting good information about your contingency plans and the effect of a lapse in appropriations and its effects on veterans has been very difficult for us to get the information out of your office. For example, the original field guide that VA put out regarding the shut down impact at first spoke of no effect -- no effect -- on payment to veterans or any of their benefits. But in a later version, VA stated that a prolonged shutdown would effect both but didn't provide any details of how it would be impacted. Second, the Veterans Health Administration is not shut down at all because it has received a full year's appropriation for 2014 back in March. So hospitals, clinics and Vet Centers should all be open for business. Yet the President made a statement the day before the shutdown saying that veterans will find their support centers unstaffed and implied that counseling services for veterans with PTS would be effected. Third, this Committee has been consistently told by VBA's Overtime Mandatory Effort towards the backlog would actually end on September 30th. Yet, days into the shutdown, we're now informed that a shutdown prevented VBA's planned continued payment of overtime. Fourth, although a shutdown should have a relatively uniform effect across all regional offices, as suggested by your own field guide, my staff met with several representatives from VSOs last week who relayed that their members are hearing mixed messages out of different regional offices.
There's a lot to unpack in that series of statements. First of all, it doesn't help anyone when the President of the United States lies to the American people in order to scare them. The VBA has the money to run the hospitals and centers and has since March -- the money for Fiscal Year 2014.
September 30th, in the James Brady press room, President Barack Obama declared:
Vital services that seniors and veterans, women and children, businesses and our economy depend on would be hamstrung. Business owners would see delays in raising capital, seeking infrastructure permits, or rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy. Veterans who’ve sacrificed for their country will find their support centers unstaffed.
Barack lied. Outlets carried his lies without a single question to them. Even after the House Veterans Affairs Committee issued a fact sheet, Barack's lies have still not been called out by the press. From the fact sheet:
As President Obama stated in his Sept. 30 government shutdown statement, will veterans find their support centers unstaffed in the event of a shutdown?
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, VA’s Military Sexual Trauma counseling services, Readjustment Counseling Services and Veterans Crisis Line will not be affected by a shutdown. Additionally, the following VA support phone lines will remain open for business: VA National Call Center, Coaching into Care Call Center, Debt Management Center, Homeless Prevention Line, Mammography Helpline, National Caregiver Support Line, Women Veterans Call Center, Vet Center Combat Call Center, Children of Women Vietnam Veterans; Foreign Medical Program; Spina Bifida Health Care Program. Additionally, all VA medical facilities and clinics will remain fully operational in the event of a shutdown.
As President Obama stated in his Sept. 30 government shutdown statement, will a government shutdown keep veterans suffering from PTSD from getting counseling services?
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, VA’s Military Sexual Trauma counseling services, Readjustment Counseling Services and Veterans Crisis Line will not be affected by a shutdown. All of those services are equipped to offer veterans suffering from PTSD with support. Additionally, all VA medical facilities and clinics will remain fully operational in the event of a shutdown and will be available for veterans with PTSD in need of counseling services.
Barack Obama lied to the American people (yet again) and the press ignores it (yet again). It was fear mongering at its worst and, at least when they were out of power, Democrats in Congress objected to fear mongering, saw as the last resort of liars and manipulators. But nine days ago, Barack did it and no elected Democrat has called him out. Apparently, when you're out of power, it's very easy to have ethics -- or at least give lectures on ethics, but when you have power, you lose interest in ethics and ethical concerns. Well that certainly explains the Democratic Party's war votes.
For more on what the shutdown will and won't mean to veterans, check this post by Tom Tarantion (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America) which is updated regularly -- including updated today.
Let's move to another issue raised. Here's Eric Shinseki:
We have about 13,000 regional -- uh, benefits employees who are doing what they always do and that's process claims as quickly and as accurately as they can. With the end of mandatory overtime, we are doing that at 1400 claims each day less than we were doing, uh, before 30 September.
But what Miller said, and Shinseki never contradicted, was that it was always the understanding that overtime would be phased out at the end of September. That was regardless of whether or not there was a shutdown. The overtime program has been one scandal after another of stealing taxpayer money. To quell Congressional outrage, the program had a quick end date. For example, Mary Shinn, Daniel Moore and Steven Rich (Center for Public Integrity) reported in August:
While veterans waited longer than ever in recent years for their wartime disability compensation, the Department of Veterans Affairs gave its workers millions of dollars in bonuses for “excellent” performances that effectively encouraged them to avoid claims that needed extra work to document veterans’ injuries, a News21 investigation has found.
In 2011, a year in which the claims backlog ballooned by 155 percent, more than two-thirds of claims processors shared $5.5 million in bonuses, according to salary data from the Office of Personnel Management.
The more complex claims were often set aside by workers so they could keep their jobs, meet performance standards, or, in some cases, collect extra pay, said VA claims processors and union representatives. Those claims now make up much of VA’s widely scrutinized disability claims backlog, defined by the agency as claims pending more than 125 days.
And let me point out again that there is no great reduction in backlog. It's a con game. In many states across the country there are rental storage facilities run by Public Storage. In New York, there is Manhattan Mini Storage. Pretend you have a huge collection of books. You've been tasked with going through the collection, currently stored at Public Storage, and deciding which books to keep and which to get rid of. Instead of doing that, making that determination, you decided to move them to Manhattan Mini Storage. You can now claim that all the books in Public Storage are gone. And, indeed, they are. But you didn't do the job, you didn't make the determination. You played kick-the-can -- a game Barack used to deride when he was a US senator but now embraces from the White House. The 'reduction' is by giving claims a temporary classification and sending them to another group to be evaluated. In other words, a single-step evaluation is now a two-step process (three if you count the temporary status).
"Since the shutdown began on One October, the backlog has stalled. and in fact, has increased by about 2,000 claims," Shinseki insisted. "The shutdown directly threatens VA's ability to eliminate the backlog. We've lost ground we fought hard to take. Roughly 4,000 veterans a day are not now receiving decisions on their disability compensation claims due to the end of overtime." But overtime was ending September 30th regardless. Shinseki is so dishonest.
Equally true, in the entertainment industry, we often have strikes. A writers strike, for example, means producers not with the Writers Guild end up doing writing (in addition to scabs and picket line crossers). The VA has many employees on salary including Shinseki. If producers can roll up their sleeves and write dialogue, I think in this situation, Eric can roll up his sleeves and do some backlog work to earn that huge salary. In fact, it would be a good idea to ask everyone in administration with backlog cases. They might better understand the hold ups and how to improve the process.
This is something that should have been implemented years ago. There's a backlog. Every worker at the VA in management should know how to rate a claim -- how else can they judge the progress. And knowing how to rate a claim requires that management regularly do so. With just each member of management and administration required to do one claim evaluation a day, they'd be getting more than 4,000 done before you included any work done by those hired to rate claims.
You'd also determine quickly whether or not the claims workers have been working slowly for 'job protection' as many have alleged (including some claims workers) over the last years.
Shinseki made a statement many outlets ran with -- after dressing it up to improve it. Here's what he said, "If the shutdown does not end in the coming weeks, VA will not be able to ensure delivery of 1 November checks to more than 5.18 million beneficiaries."
Leo Shane III of Stars and Stripes, your job is to report not to 'improve.' Before you whore again, here's a little tip, when the Secretary of a Department says 5.18 million beneficiaries won't receive checks, they got that number by lying or basic math. If they got it via basic math, they know when the shutdown would have to end -- a date. "The coming weeks"? Oh, no. That's not an answer. But wasn't it cute of you, Leo, to cover for Shinseki.
Buried in his piece, Shane notes, "Shinseki could not give a precise date when VA appropriations accounts would run out. " No, Shinseki would not give a precise date. When you can give a figure of 5.18 million, if it's accurate (and it may be), it's accurate because you've done a mathematic model. Equally true, the checks can all be printed on October 30th and November 1st and sent out as they normally would (according to two friends in VA administration). So that's 21 days. Saying the shutdown can go on for 21 days doesn't present fear or urgency that the White House wants and that's most likely why Shineski dummied up on a date. (I'm also told there's the equivalent of a short term loan process that the VA could use to cover those November 1st checks even if the shutdown is still in effect.)
Shane also 'missed' the importance of this.
Chair Jeff Miller: So my question is in statements in years past House and Senate regardless of parties and the White House have always come together and tried to find a way to prioritize how much money would be spent, who would be at the top of the list, just as we started to shut the government down and run out of money. And today we don't have that. Even back in the shutdown of 1995, there was a prioritization and DoD and veterans were taken off the table which they're not right now. So my question, Mr. Secretary, is don't you think VA benefits should get the same priority or prioritization today as it has in other shutdown situations?
Secretary Eric Shinseki: I missed the last piece of your question, Mr. Chairman. In some --
Chair Jeff Miller: Just basically, in years passed, we have in fact prioritized spending needs -- DoD and VA has always been basically taken off the table. And my question is: What's different this time? And don't you think veterans benefits, in fact, should be prioritized at a higher level than others in our government.
Eric Uh, Mr. Chairman, I would just, uh, tell you this Department has benefitted from, uh, leadership of the president and leadership and support in the Congress. So if you look at what has transpired over the last four years to our budgets, I think we can all be proud of what we have done to take care of veterans and I will always tell you that that's a top priority with me. Uh, but I do understand that there is a budget request presented to the Congress, there is a process that you referred to that requires a passage of the budget within that the departments are then provided a guidance on what their budgets will be. I'm not sure where the Congress is in that process but I would ask the Congress, uh, to provide us a budget so that not only this Department but our partners in government on whom we rely to do our mission, uh, well, uh, can get on with business.
See, Leo Shane III, that was your story: "VA Secretary not willing to fight for veterans benefits." Homeless veterans is a topic the House and Senate Committee regularly address. When Kat shares her thoughts on a hearing with that topic, she often notes that there are millions of homeless people in this country who are not veterans and it's a shame that Congress shows little to no concern for them. Kat's correct, I don't disagree with her. But I don't bring it up here because I expect, for example, Senator Patty Murray chairing a Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs to make homeless veterans her first priority among the homeless. Again, I understand Kat's reaction, I support it, I agree with it. This country needs to address the homeless crisis among the general population. But, again, I expect a Senate Agricultural Committee to put farmers first and I expect that from the Ag Secretary as well. Today, Shinseki was given the opportunity to put veterans first and refused to. I think that's a story, I think it's probably the most story out of the hearing (and one that will only lead to louder cries that Shinseki needs to go).
There's much more that I would like to cover and maybe we can tomorrow. (Though we'll be at two hearings tomorrow that I'll want to include as well.) For the record, Leo Shane III wasn't the worst reporter on the hearing. But he was bad and we call that out here.
Let's move over to Iraq because we also need to call out Prashant Rao of AFP.
Renee Montagne (NPR's Morning Edition -- link is text and audio) spoke with AFP's Prashant Rao today. It was, in part, to note that AFP keeps a tally of the dead and wounded in Iraq. The tally's not perfect. We've explained the problems with it. But we've applauded it and did it months and months ago (the day Prashant announced it online). AFP, repeating, deserves credit for keeping a count. It should be noted that in past wars, it was a given that the press kept a total of the dead. Good for AFP.
But that wasn't the problem with the interview. Here's the disgraceful section.
MONTAGNE: You mentioned the politics behind this violence.
MONTAGNE: Has there been any progress in getting Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to stop the heavy-handed treatment that his Shiite government has doled out to the minority Sunnis?
RAO: There are some elements where treatment of Sunnis has been improving. The government seems to be more positive towards the use of the Sahwa, these were Sunni tribal militias that allied with the U.S. military against al-Qaida. And the government has always been fairly ambivalent towards them because - as you said - it's a Shia government and they're mistrustful of these Sunni groups. But, in recent months, there's been greater talk and there's been actual action in terms of reestablishing some of these Sahwa militias to man check points that carry out patrols in Sunni areas. But there's still a great deal of criticism as to how Sunnis are treated in Iraq - a lot of criticism of the sort of barring of Sunnis from political life. So it's not just the sort of army cracking down, which is another allegation that's made, that the army and the police unfairly come into Sunni houses and target them.
Note, I'm sort of using NPR's transcript above. But I've also corrected it. For example, Prashant Rao says "Shia government" not that Iraq has a "Syrian government" as the transcript currently reads. We have community members who can't stream (due to operating systems or internet providers) and we have community members who have hearing difficulties. So for anyone who uses the link and finds a difference between the above and NPR's transcript, I have fixed it above to match the actual audio.
Renee asked an important question. It's too bad Prashant was either uninformed or prepared to lie.
Sahwa? Sahwa has not been embraced nor is does Nouri al-Maliki's "government seems to be more positive towards the use of Sahwa." With one Iraqi outlet after another (and some Arab outlets) explaining that the Sahwa checkpoints going up are going up because of Sunnis and that Nouri's government -- which refused to pay them but did target them -- still won't pay them.
How is Prashant Rao unaware of that?
And what the hell is this talk of "greater talk" in "recent months"? With the Sunni protesters? No. Whose the talk with, Rao?
And if you're not lying, if you're that ignorant, you should be heading AFP's bureau.
Sunnis are targeted and this isn't my call. This is the most important report on Iraq that's been done in 2013. How is Rao unaware of it?
We've covered it repeatedly here. In 2012, the most important Iraq news came from a Tim Arango report. In 2013, the same is true.
September 28th in print (27th online), Tim Arango (New York Times) broke the story that Nouri al-Maliki (prime minister and chief thug of Iraq) is supporting Shi'ite militias that are killing Sunnis. Arango noted:
The group, which is backed by Iran and split off from the Sadrist movement several years ago and was responsible for many deadly attacks on the American military when it was here, has seen its political wing welcomed into the government by Mr. Maliki. And as the security forces have proved ineffective in stemming attacks by Sunni insurgent groups, the group’s armed unit, according to militiamen, is increasingly working in secret with the government.
“We don’t do anything until the government asks us,” said one of the group’s leaders, who gave his name as Abu Abdellah. “We have a direct connection with the leaders of the security forces.”
In supporting Asaib al-Haq, Mr. Maliki has apparently made the risky calculation that by backing some Shiite militias, even in secret, he can maintain control over the country’s restive Shiite population and, ultimately, retain power after the next national elections, which are scheduled for next year. Militiamen and residents of Shiite areas say members of Asaib al-Haq are given government badges and weapons and allowed freedom of movement by the security forces.
How do you miss that? Prashant Rao is the Baghdad Bureau chief for AFP. That job title kind of requires he be aware of every major report on Iraq. The New York Times is not an obscure publication. Tim Arango is not an unknown name. This was a major report from an internationally influential outlet. And Prashant just happened to miss it?
Yeah, he was in Scotland the day the report went online -- but I do believe Scotland called the internet. He certainly used some device to Tweet repeatedly while he was in Scotland. Once he was done attending a wedding, he should have been going over any major western reports from Iraq while he was in Scotland. It wouldn't have taken that long. It's CNN, AP, Reuters, AFP, EFE and that's pretty much it. Once a week or so, there's an article in the New York Times.
If he was ignorant, Prashant wasn't the only one in that boat. One of the few to Tweet about Arango's article was the New York Times Sebnem Arsu who isn't very smart:
No, that really wasn't the takeaway. Arsu can read headlines and can read opening paragraphs but to understand what's important? Oh, hell no.
What Nouri's doing? The Leahy Amendment demands that US funding cease immediately to Nouri's government. You cannot hire people to kill the citizens of the country and get US aid. Now Congress knows little of Arango's report and there's little chance that they'll take a stand -- everyone knows Nouri is Sammy Power's boy -- but the news, the actual news of the story, is that Nouri's arming and funding Shi'ite militias to attack Sunnis.
Besides, the ever weak-ass State Dept just wants taxpayer monies for Iraq while it works on things like war on Syria. The State Dept has grown tired of diplomacy and its job so it's looking for new adventures and to transition into an adjunct of the DoD.
Al Quds' Said Arikat brought Iraq up in today's State Dept press briefing by spokesperson Marie Harf.
Said Arikat: Iraq?
Marie Harf: Uh-huh.
Said Arikat: The UN reports that 6,000 Iraqis have died since the beginning of the year, there has been a tremendous spike in sectarian violence, incursions by al-Qaida, almost collapse of the central government. Yet Iraq really seems to be not on your radar screen. Can you explain to us why this lack of attention to what’s going on in Iraq on your part?
Marie Harf: Well, Said, there are, like, three or four things that you just said that I would take issue with factually, so let me walk through some of them. The first is that Iraq very much remains on our radar screen. It’s something we’re very engaged in, concerned about, we’ve talked about repeatedly in this briefing room. The second is that I would take issue with your notion of how you characterize the violence. We’ve said repeatedly that this uptick in violence we’ve seen is terrorist violence. It’s not the kind of sectarian violence we saw during the most violent years of the Iraq war. So it really is violence perpetrated by extremists, and much of it is a outflow of the situation in Syria. And the third, I think, point I would make about what you just said is that we have actually commended, when Iraqi leaders have come together, to work together to deprive violent extremists of this issue – of their – of any opportunities to use words or actions to incite tension. So we’ve noted, actually, some positive steps of the different leaders coming together to work on this issue, so I – that’s my third point of contention I would take with what you just said. But we remain deeply concerned about it, incredibly concerned about it, and we continue to call on Iraq’s leaders to work together to thwart it, and also we will continue working with them to do so.
Said Arikat: Is the United States Government taking any special measures to sort of help Iraq in this really difficult time, especially in the fight against terrorism – terrorists?
Marie Harf: Mm-hmm. Well, we have an ongoing dialogue with them on the fight against terrorism. We’ve said we will continue to support them in the best way that we think is possible. And certainly that will continue, that cooperation will continue.
Said Arikat: Why won’t the United States support Iraq with – let’s say, with drone strikes like it was doing in Yemen and other places, to strike against places of – locations of terrorists and terrorist camps?
Marie Harf: Well, as we’ve said, we consider the Government of Iraq an essential partner in this fight. We’ll continue talking with them on this issue. As you know, under the Strategic Framework Agreement, we have an ongoing dialogue on counterterrorism cooperation, but beyond that, I’m just not going to go any further about what that cooperation looks like.
Said Arikat: Okay. But the truth of the matter is that Iraq has no air asset with which to defend itself, so it must rely on the U.S. for, let’s say, any kind of aerial assistance in the fight against terror. Are you – or in the near future, are you planning to aid Iraq in this realm?
Marie Harf: We’re going to keep talking to them about the best way we can aid them in the fight against terrorists, and beyond that, I don’t have anything further.
Marie Harf: The first is that Iraq very much remains on our radar screen. It’s something we’re very engaged in, concerned about, we’ve talked about repeatedly in this briefing room.
Was that an attempt at standup?
More importantly, what the hell was this?
Marie Harf: The second is that I would take issue with your notion of how you characterize the violence. We’ve said repeatedly that this uptick in violence we’ve seen is terrorist violence. It’s not the kind of sectarian violence we saw during the most violent years of the Iraq war. So it really is violence perpetrated by extremists, and much of it is a outflow of the situation in Syria.
I'm sorry, I didn't know the history could be rewritten at the podium.
2006? What did the State Dept say about 2006 violence? I'm not referring to the spokesperson, I'm referring the Dept's official report to Congress. From the report, here's the section on Iraq:
Iraq remained at the center of the War on Terror with the Iraqi Government and the Coalition battling al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI) and affiliated terrorist organizations, insurgent groups fighting against Coalition Forces (CF), militias and death squads increasingly engaged in sectarian violence, and criminal organizations taking advantage of Iraq's deteriorating security situation. Terrorist organizations and insurgent groups continued to attack CF primarily using Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIEDs). The Iraqi government universally condemned terrorist groups and supported CF against AQI and its affiliates.
The June 7 death of AQI's leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, damaged the group's leadership but did not diminish attacks against Coalition Forces and Iraqis nor did it halt overall increasing attack trends by the group. AQI's new leader is Abu Ayyub al-Masri, also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir. January press reports indicated that AQI teamed with several smaller Sunni Islamist groups devoted to continuing the insurgency calling themselves the Mujahideen Shura Council. By the end of the year, this group had renamed itself the Islamic State of Iraq.
AQ and affiliated groups continued attacks on Iraq's infrastructure and claimed responsibility for kidnappings and attacks against Coalition Forces.
The Government of Iraq sponsored reconciliation programs to reduce the sources of violence. The government organized conferences involving tribal and religious leaders, politicians, and civil society organizations to counter support for terrorist organizations and to promote dialogue between Iraq's ethnic and religious groups in an effort to decrease violence. Tribal leaders in Ramadi, a volatile city in Anbar province, banded together late in the year and pledged to fight against AQ instead of the coalition. While the tribal leaders' full effectiveness remained uncertain, this represented an important step.
Iraq's sectarian divide increased dramatically following the February 22 bombing of the al-Askariyah Mosque, one of the holiest sites to Shia Muslims, located in Salah ad Din province. While violence against both CF and Iraqis had increased prior to the bombing, this event exacerbated sectarian tensions and led to increased violence in Iraq's ethnically-mixed areas, especially Baghdad. Sectarian attacks, including car bombs, suicide vests, sniper fire, targeted assassinations, and death squad murders, occurred on a close-to-daily basis with Iraqi civilians suffering the majority of causalities. Iraq's sectarian violence furthered the terrorists' goals by creating instability and weakening the government.
Neighboring countries, specifically Iran, continued to interfere in Iraq's internal affairs by allowing, condoning, or in some cases, actively smuggling weapons, people, materials, and money to terrorist, insurgent, and militia groups inside Iraq. Iranian agents and sympathizers utilized an 800-mile long, porous border with limited security to transport goods, which increasingly included Iranian-made weapons such as IEDs or their components, which proved effective in attacks against Coalition Forces.
In recent statements, Iraqi government leaders, including the Prime Minister, the President and the Foreign Minister, have called on neighboring countries to stop interfering in Iraq's internal affairs and to stop supporting elements actively fighting against Iraq's elected government. Syria's Foreign Minister traveled to Baghdad and agreed to cooperate more closely on border security in an effort to reduce the number of foreign fighters entering Iraq. Senior Iraqi officials, including Iraqi President Talabani, traveled to Iran throughout the year encouraging the Iranian government to support Iraq's political process and to stop material support of terrorist groups and militias.
To demonstrate that the Iraqi government does not wish to allow Iraq to become a safe haven for terrorist organizations, Prime Minister al-Maliki appointed the Minister of State for National Security, Shirwan al-Waeli, as the Iraq coordinator for issues involving the Kurdistan Workers Party (Kongra-Gel/PKK), a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization. Tension between Turkey and the Iraqi government increased as Turkish leaders expressed increasing frustration at what they viewed as Iraq's inaction against the PKK.
Although Iraq is a proven ally in the War on Terror, Iraq's developing security and armed forces will require further training and resources before they can effectively address the terrorist groups already operating within their borders. Iraq's intelligence services continued to improve in both competency and confidence, but they also will require additional support before they will be able to adequately identify and respond to internal and external terrorist threats. The international community's support for investment and reconstruction are critical components needed to ensure that the Government of Iraq's plans to reduce violence, improve services, and increase economic opportunities are successful.
Now I don't see rebels as "terrorists." But if the State Dept has changed its position and it no longer sees rebels as terrorists, it needs to come forward with a public announcement. And clearly, ethnic cleansing and State Dept defined "terrorism" both took place in 2006 (and in 2007 but we don't have the room to quote the Dept's report on 2007's violence).
Marie Harf needs to be asked if the State Dept is today walking away from its 2006 report -- which was the work of career employees, not political appointees?
She was also asked about Nouri's visit this month? He was supposed to visit last month. A disagreement made the visit iffy. Today, Harf declared of the reported visit this month, "I saw those reports. We don’t have anything to announce at this point about a visit by Prime Minister Maliki. When we do, I’ll let you guys know."
I have no idea why she made such an idiotic comment. This has been widely reported in the Iraqi press. 'Doesn't make it so!' Possibly. But what they're reporting on is the official statement issued by Nouri al-Maliki's office. For example, here's Aswat al-Iraq reporting on the news Sunday:
It was officially announced today that Premier Nouri al-Maliki will visit Washington, on 28 October, to discuss the security situation in Iraq, the Syrian crisis and the issues related to the Strategic Framework agreement.
Media advisor Ali al-Mussawi stated that Maliki will head a high ranking delegation.Iraqi initiative to solve the Syrian question shall among the talks.
The initiative called for peaceful solution and immediate ceasefire.
He denied the news that US President Barack Obama refuse to meet Maliki, stressing that the visit shall be official.
Again, Nouri's office has announced the visit. Did so on Sunday. I have no idea why Marie Harf is denying it and claiming she has no information on it. Clearly, if Nouri's office made a false announcement on Sunday, by Wednesday, the US government would know so and have an answer or response.
The Arab League has issued a statement -- on violence in Iraq and Egypt. Middle East Monitor reports:
Political Undersecretary General of the Arab League Fadel Jawad said on Monday that: "The Arab League denounces the violence, terrorism and killing of innocents, whatever the context is."
Jawad noted that this issue does not affect only those states, but also the safety and interests of their citizens, including their economic situations.
Violence continued in Iraq. National Iraqi News Agency reports 1 coprse (police officer) discovered in Kut (death by shooting), 1 corpse was discovered in Ramadi (also dead from gun shots), and 1 corpse was discovered in Falluja (also gun shot wounds). Again, this isn't a one-time thing. Corpses have returned to the streets of Iraq and they were one of the hallmarks of the 2007 - 2008 "civil war" (ethnic cleansing). The non-Iraqi press is ignoring the corpses and refusing to explore what it means when dead bodies are once again being dumped regularly in the streets of Iraq.
In other violence, AFP reports a roadside bombing ("south of Baghdad") left 8 people dead and seven more injured -- they were all on one truck. NINA also reports "former Police Colonel Yaseen al-Shijairi" as he left his Falluja home, an armed attack in Baiji left 4 police members dead (two more injured and four civilians injured), mass arrests in Babil Province by the military resulted in 15 deaths (and 35 more people injured), a vegetable market shooting in Kirkuk left two employees of the North Gas Company wounded, 1 man was shot dead in his Baghdad car repair shop, a Kut car bombing claimed 5 lives and left ten people injured, an armed attack in Tikrit left three federal police members injured, the homes of ten security members were blown up in Kirkuk (no one was reported dead or injured) and a Jahash car bombing targeted Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi's convoy in Nineveh Province and left nine of his bodyguards injured.
Yesterday,, Saad Zaghloul was shot dead outside his Mosul home. He was the spokesperson for the governor of Nineveh Province. Nineveh Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi is also the brother of Osama al-Nujaifi. They are Sunnis and members of Iraqiya. All Iraq News reported yesterday that Iraqiya MP Mohammed Eqbal called for the culprit or culprits to be arrested "and present[ed] . . . to judiciary. The indulging [of] this issue by the security forces allows the criminal to commit more crimes against the Iraqis." MP Eqbal also expressed, "His sorrow for the continuity of the assassination attempts to the journalists and activists in Nineveh."
Through yesterday, the 8th day of the month, Iraq Body Count counts 303 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.
Ending with the topic of Syria. BRussells Tribunal remains one of the most important sites on the web. Today, they share David Edwards' Media Lens report which opens:
A UN report this month found that, 'Torture and brutality are rife in Libyan prisons two years after the overthrow of leader Muammar Gaddafi.' Around 8,000 prisoners are currently being held without trial in government jails on suspicion of having fought for Gaddafi.
But then, in the aftermath of Nato's 'humanitarian intervention', torture, bombings and assassinations are now par for the course in Libya, as described here by the excellent Interventions Watch.
In similar vein, late last month, thirteen bombs were detonated on a single day in Baghdad killing at least 47 people. More than 5,000 people have been killed so far this year, according to the UN.
Despite all of this - after years of unmissable, terrible carnage in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya - the Pew Research Journalism Project finds that 'the No. 1 message' on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News, and Al Jazeera, was 'that the U.S. should get involved in the conflict' in Syria.
It seems that no level of suffering and chaos are sufficient to impede the structural 'mainstream' inclination to support state violence.
No surprise, then, that much of UK journalism had decided that the current Official Enemy was responsible for the August 21 attacks in Damascus long before the UN published the evidence in its report on 'the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Ghouta area' on September 16.
Just one day after the attacks, a Guardian leader claimed there was not 'much doubt' who was to blame, as it simultaneously assailed its readers with commentary on the West's 'responsibility to protect'. An Independent front page headline one week later read like a sigh of relief: 'Syria: air attacks loom as West finally acts' (Independent, August 26, 2013).
This was a close copy of the media response to the May 2012 massacre in Houla, which was also instantly and personally blamed on Syrian president Assad.
The rapid media conclusion on Ghouta was particularly striking because the issues are complex – literally, rocket science - and evidence has again been gathered under live fire in the middle of a notoriously ferocious civil, proxy and propaganda war. Earlier claims relating to use of chemical weapons had been adjudged 'a load of old cobblers' by veteran journalist Robert Fisk. It was also clear that instantly declaring Assad's guilt a 'slam-dunk' fed directly into a rapidly escalating US-UK propaganda blitz intended to justify a massive, illegal attack on Syria without UN approval.
stars and stripes
leo shane iii
the new york times
national iraqi news agency