Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, July 28, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, AP reports on the use of child soldiers in Iraq, Iraq's prime minister objects to Turkey's bombings of northern Iraq, presidential contender Hillary Clinton has no apparent thoughts on what to do about Iraq today, Senator Tammy Baldwin pushes a VA reform bill, and much more.

Let's open with veterans' news.  Senator Tammy Baldwin's office released the following:

For Immediate Release                                                          
Tuesday, July 28, 2015

  (202) 224-6225

Baldwin Announces Growing Support for Major Bipartisan VA Reform Bill

Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act would provide VA with the tools it needs to address the problem of overprescribing practices
Senators Durbin, Franken and Klobuchar join The American Legion, MOAA, AMVETS and others in endorsing legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin today announced that support continues to grow for her bipartisan legislation aimed at providing safer and more effective pain management services to our nation’s veterans, the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act.
In just a month, Senator Baldwin’s bipartisan legislation has gained support from: Disabled American Veterans Wisconsin, Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), The American Legion, Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), Veterans for Common Sense, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), Association of the United States Navy (AUSN), National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS), Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), American Veterans (AMVETS), American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), and Trust for America's Health (TFAH).
In the U.S. Senate, the legislation is cosponsored by Democrats and Republicans: U.S. Senate Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Al Franken (D-MN), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Jon Tester (D-MT).
“The sad truth is that the number of veterans taking opioid painkillers is disproportionately high, compared to the general population,” said Senator Durbin. “The VA is exploring different ways to help veterans alleviate their pain. This bill assesses the scope of the issue and recommends ways to help veterans obtain the best and safest care. I commend Senator Baldwin for her leadership on this important issue.”
“Unfortunately, our veterans' battles don't always end when they come home,” said Senator Franken. “Too many of our servicemembers return with mental and physical wounds sustained while protecting our freedoms, and I believe we have a special duty to ensure that they get the care and support they need to cope. But we cannot continue overprescribing and over-relying on medications that all too often lead to tragic consequences. This bipartisan bill would help provide our veterans with safer, more effective pain management plans.”
“As a former prosecutor, I know the havoc drugs can wreak on families and also that every struggle with drugs is unique—there is no one-size-fits-all strategy in this fight,” said Senator Klobuchar. This bipartisan legislation gives the VA the ability to offer our nation’s veterans a diverse set of proven tools that can help combat addiction.”
“Too many of our nation’s veterans have returned from overseas only to fight another battle here at home. Tragically, stories like Jason Simcakoski’s exist all around the country, including in my home state of West Virginia. Far too many young West Virginia veterans have faced the horrors of PTSD and failed to receive the quality of care they deserve. These are heartbreaking examples of the grave magnitude of overmedication, and we must do everything in our power to prevent deadly opioid overmedication in our VA facilities. I am proud to join with Senator Baldwin to strengthen opioid prescribing guidelines and improve pain management services at the VA. This legislation will not only provide our veterans a healthier transition to civilian life, it will save lives,” said Senator Capito.
“The American Legion applauds the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act and Senator Baldwin’s efforts to reform prescribing practices for veterans,” said Ian DePlanque, Director of the Legislative Division for The American Legion. “Medications in and of themselves are tools – not necessarily good, not necessarily bad – you want to make sure you’re using the right tools in the right situation. There are other tools that are available. Some complementary and alternative therapy might work better for particular veterans or for veterans that may have circumstances that are particularly exacerbating.”
“The Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act is an extremely important and timely piece of legislation,” said VADM Norb Ryan, USN-ret., President of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA). “MOAA fully supports this bipartisan effort and commends Senator Tammy Baldwin for championing such a critical bill that will keep veterans safe and provide VA with the necessary tools to more effectively manage pain services.”
“AMVETS thanks Senator Baldwin for her ongoing support of all American veterans and especially for her leadership in the development and introduction of the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act,” said Diane M. Zumatto, AMVETS National Legislative Director. “Once enacted, this legislation will go a long way towards reducing veteran addiction to prescription medications, thereby greatly improving their quality of life, their ability to secure and retain appropriate, living-wage jobs and to continue their service to our great nation.”
“AFGE strongly supports the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act and commends Senator Baldwin for her leadership on this critical patient safety issue for our nation’s veterans,” said Beth Moten, American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Legislative and Political Director. “This important legislation establishes lifesaving preventive measures that ensure safe opioid prescribing practices while expanding available treatment options consistent with current best practices and research.” 
On August 30, 2014, U.S. Marine Veteran Jason Simcakoski died at the Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center as a result of mixed drug toxicity. The Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act would provide VA with the tools it needs to help prevent this type of tragedy from occurring to other veterans and their families.
"This is an opportunity to take all of this and learn from it. We have a chance to create a new path; or we can continue how we currently are and keep making the same mistakes we are today,” said Heather Simcakoski, Jason’s widow. “When I look back at the past, I want to know we made a difference. I want to believe we have leaders in our country who care. I want to inspire others to never give up because change is possible."
"This legislation from Senator Baldwin is one of the most important actions we can take to save the lives of our greatest assets, our veterans,” said Marv Simcakoski, Jason’s father.
Senator Baldwin’s bipartisan legislation, crafted in close consultation with medical professionals, veterans service organizations, and the Simcakoski family, focuses on strengthening the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) opioid prescribing guidelines and improving pain management services by putting the following reforms in place:
·         Requiring stronger opioid prescribing guidelines and education for VA providers including stricter standards against prescribing dangerous combinations of opioids with other drugs and for prescribing opioids to patients struggling with mental health issues;
·         Increased coordination and communication throughout the VA with medical facilities, providers, patients and their families surrounding pain management, alternative treatments for chronic pain, and appropriate opioid therapy; and
·         Holding the VA system accountable for appropriate care and quality standards through consistent internal audits as well as GAO reviews and reports to Congress.
In addition to improving opioid therapy and pain management, the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act helps strengthen patient advocacy, expand access to complementary and integrative health and wellness, and enhance VA hiring and internal audits.
View an online version of this release here.


Moving from the Congress to those who want to be president, the 2016 Democratic Party presidential nominee will be decided by voters in early to mid 2016.  The declared candidates so far are (in alphabetical order): Lincoln Chafee, Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley, Bernie Sanders, Jim Webb, Robby Wells and Willie Wilson.

CNN notes of one, "Chafee has struggled to make much traction in the Democratic presidential race. A recent CNN/ORC Poll showed less than 1 percent of democrats surveyed backed Chafee, compared to 57 percent for Clinton."

Chafee was the only Republican in the Senate to vote against the authorization for the Iraq War in 2002.  He then became an independent and is now a Democrat.  Chafee is stressing his vote with regards to press favorite Hillary Clinton who voted for the Iraq War.  David Cook (Christian Science Monitor) covers a Christian Science Monitor breakfast and neglects to record the menu but does note that Chafee stressed the 2002 Iraq War vote:

"I did my homework, I looked carefully to see if there were weapons of mass destruction. I didn't see it," he said. Clinton has said since that her Iraq War vote was a mistake. 
When asked about polls showing voter concerns about Clinton’s honesty and credibility, Chafee said she had suffered “a lot of self-inflicted wounds, unfortunately.” But, he added, after the primary season is over, he and the other Democratic candidates would “certainly unite as Democrats to win in 2016.”

Jonathan Easley (The Hill) also covers Chafee's breakfast remarks and includes this:

“I have a lot of work to do,” Chafee said. “The reality is that secretary Clinton has a huge head start with endorsements and money and the rest of us are scrambling. But I think I have the vision, ethical standards and ideas. There’s still more to be don on fundraising and organization, but it doesn’t discount what I bring to the table.”

Hillary, of course, refuses to discuss Iraq.

She pretends a brief aside in her ghost written book from 2014 'addressed' and 'ended' the issue.  David Lightman (McClatchy Newspapers) reminds:

Clinton said last year she regretted her vote. “I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information I had. And I wasn’t alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong. Plain and simple,” she said in her book, “Hard Choices.”

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/election/article29110669.html#storylink=cpy

And she does that to the idiotic raves of Maggie Haberman, the New York Times reporter or 'reporter' who is making a career this year of minimizing and justifying Hillary's actions.

Haberman's coverage -- including her Tweets -- border on soft core porn -- you picture her as Brian De Palma's camera for the locker room scene in Carrie before Sissy Spacek gets her period -- was of course ignored by David Brock and other partisan hacks and whores last week as they rushed to insist the New York Times was always unfair to their  crush.

Possibly due to the way the Iraq War vote continues to haunt her, Hillary appears unable to take firm positions today.  Akilah Johnson (Boston Globe) reports on the town hall Hillary held today:

Bruce Blodgett, a software developer and conservative from Amherst, asked for a "yes or no" answer to whether Clinton "as president" would support the proposed pipeline -- an $8 billion project abhorred by environmentalists -- that would transport oil from Canada to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.
Clinton sidestepped the question, saying: "This is President Obama's decision. If it’s undecided when I become president, I will answer your question."

Dan Merica and Jeff Zeleny (CNN) report Blodgett's reaction to Hillary's response, "I thought she avoided the question completely. Her excuse was she didn't want to step on President Obama while he was still in office.  I just thought that was a very weak answer. I just wanted to know where she stands on it one way or another."

Nancy Pelosi infamously argued that the Congress had to first pass ObamaCare to then figure out what ObamaCare would do ("We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what's in it").  Hillary's taking that even further.  You have to first vote her president and then, after she's in office, she'll decide where she stands on an issue.

This refusal to press a candidate who goes around repeatedly saying "when I become president" is appalling.

She needs to be asked about Iraq repeatedly.

The Iraq War continues to this day.

She helped kick it off with her 2002 vote and her championing of the illegal war once it started.

She only (semi) turned on it after the public had.

US troops are being sent back into Iraq in a steady drip today.  US pilots fly combat missions over Iraq today.  The Iraqi government, instead of coming up with a political solution to the country's problems, remains in gridlock.

Exactly how does Hillary plan to address any of this if elected president?

Hillary and her cult -- which includes the Times' Maggie Haberman -- are perfectly happy to take the position that Hillary doesn't have to answer to any of that unless "it's undecided when I become president."

Meanwhile, last week Ben Jacobs (Guardian) reported:

In Iowa on Thursday, in response to a question from the Guardian about whether the White House should take further steps towards arming Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq, the former Maryland governor and 2016 Democratic candidate said: “Probably, yes.”
The Obama administration has long hesitated over directly arming Kurdish militias in the north of Iraq, for fear of further aggravating sectarian tensions.
[. . .]

Doug Wilson, a top foreign policy adviser to O’Malley, made clear that the candidate “was not unilaterally proposing that we step up additional arms to the Kurds”. Instead, Wilson said, O’Malley would only do so “if it was determined by the US military that it was appropriate to up the arms to the Kurds”.

Where does Hillary stand on that question?

Oh, that's right, Maggie Haberman thinks Hillary said all she needs to via that ghost-written 2014 book.

Let's note quickly another political party.  Last week, the Green Party held a Presidential Forum:

Friday, July 24, 7:30-9:30 p.m. Presidential Forum with declared candidates for the Green nomination: Darryl Cherney, Bill Kreml, Kent Mesplay, SKCM Curry, and Jill Stein. Co-moderators: David Cobb, 2004 Green presidential nominee, and George Martin of the Green Party's International Committee and Black Caucus. Sponsored by the Green Party's Presidential Campaign Support Committee National Women's Caucus. Location: Provincial House Multi-Purpose Room.

Back to Hillary and Iraq.  What plan -- if any -- does she have for Iraq?

The Daily Sabah notes that Turkish F-16 war planes continue bombing northern Iraq.

In related news, the US State Dept noted today, "There is NO Daily Press Briefing."

Of course not.

No way could they send John Kirby back out to face the press after yesterday's embarrassing performance.

For those who missed it, we noted this in Monday's snapshot, Kirby prattled on and on about the rights of the Turkish government.

Yes, it was embarrassing but, as we noted, what about the rights of the Iraqi government?

Kirby created a 'right' where Turkey can bomb any country in the world.

He just didn't recognize Iraq's sovereignty.

Not everyone plays it so stupid.

  1. Council of Ministers considers Turkish airstrikes on Iraqi territory a dangerous escalation and a violation of Iraq's sovereignty (1/3)

  • The Council stressed commitment not to allow any attack on Turkey from Iraqi territory and called on Turkey to respect good relations (2/3)

  • Council of Ministers also called on Turkey to increase water discharge to Tigris and Euphrates in accordance with bilateral agreements (3/3)

  • Haider al-Abadi is the Prime Minister of Iraq.

    In the US government's rush to embrace the bombings Turkey is carrying out, they forgot (a) that Iraq's supposed to be an ally and (b) that these bombings had previously outraged Iraqis.

    It's a reality we were noting in Saturday's snapshot:

    The Turkish government -- probably like many others -- is using the pretext of the Islamic State to attack Iraq.
    In doing so, it is violating Iraq's sovereignty yet again.
    This didn't work out well before, for any who paid attention.
    The Turkish warplanes, announcements swore, killed 'terrorists.'  Reality, they bombed farming communities and killed civilians.
    This didn't endear them to the Iraqi people.
    There was outrage, naturally.

    The US government is now scrambling to craft a 'position' on the strikes -- hoping to approve of Turkey's bombings while still pretending to respect Iraq's sovereignty.

    And that's why there was no press briefing today.

    But there's a good chance that, had the State Dept held a press briefing today, the press would have ignored the issue of Iraq's sovereignty.

    The press ignored it in Monday's briefing.

    And while we've raised the issue every day (here for Sunday and you can also read Third's "Editorial: Turkey attacks Iraq"), the western press has avoided it.

    Now that the prime minister of Iraq has weighed in publicly, the western press may have to cover this aspect of the story.

    Or maybe not.

    Even Antiwar.com -- apparently too busy sobbing over Rand Paul after months of playing Sheila E singing "Next Time Wipe That Lipstick Off Your Collar" (Justin Raimondo writes a bitter, ex-lover's goodbye to Paul here) -- has failed to note these bombing violate Iraq's sovereignty or that, today, the Prime Minister of Iraq publicly objected to them.

    And, of course, the always worthless Joel Wing has offered 14 posts since Turkey began its re-bombing of northern Iraq and not one even noted the bombings.

    That's because Joel's an idiot who can never take a stand (except to root for despots) and instead waits days and days until a water cooler consensus emerges.

    Laws and treaties never matter to Joel, just the tepid consensus of gasbags and blowhards.

    Until that emerges, he'll remain silent -- except to post about his being 'covered' in media -- because he wants to lead "The Glamorous Life" -- but never will.

    Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 72 violent deaths across Iraq today.

    Turning to the topic of child soldiers, Human Rights Watch has noted:

    Thousands of children are serving as soldiers in armed conflicts around the world. These boys and girls, some as as young as 8-years-old, serve in government forces and armed opposition groups. They may fight on the front lines, participate in suicide missions, and act as spies, messengers, or lookouts. Girls may be forced into sexual slavery. Many are abducted or recruited by force, while others join out of desperation, believing that armed groups offer their best chance for survival. We are working to prevent the use of child soldiers and to hold accountable the people who send children to fight.

    Andrew Shue's Do Something has a list of facts on the issue of child soldiers which includes:

    1. Children who are poor, displaced from their families, have limited access to education, or live in a combat zone are more likely to be forcibly recruited.

    1. Children who are not forced to be soldiers volunteer themselves because they feel societal pressure and are under the impression that volunteering will provide a form of income, food, or security, and willingly join the group.
    2. In the last 2 years, 20 states have been reported to have child soldiers in government, government-affiliated, and non-state armed groups. Additionally, 40 states still have minimum age recruitment requirements under 18 years.
    3. Girls make up an estimated 10 to 30 percent of child soldiers used for fighting and other purposes. They are especially vulnerable when it comes to sexual violence.
    4. A few of the countries who have reported use of child soldiers since 2011 are Afghanistan, Colombia, India, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Mali, Pakistan, Thailand, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. 

    Amnesty International notes:

    Under international law, the participation of children under 18 in armed conflict is generally prohibited, and the recruitment and use of children under 15 is a war crime. Yet worldwide, hundreds of thousands of children are recruited into government armed forces, paramilitaries, civil militia and a variety of other armed groups. Often they are abducted at school, on the streets or at home. Others enlist "voluntarily", usually because they see few alternatives.
    Such children are robbed of their childhood and exposed to terrible dangers and to psychological and physical suffering. They are placed in combat situations, used as spies, messengers, porters, servants or to lay or clear landmines. Girls in particular are at risk of rape and sexual abuse.

    And the United Nations maintains, "Regardless of how children are recruited and of their roles, child soldiers are victims, whose participation in conflict bears serious implications for their physical and emotional well-being. They are commonly subject to abuse and most of them witness death, killing, and sexual violence. Many are forced to perpetrate these atrocities and some suffer serious long-term psychological consequences. The reintegration of these children into civilian life is a complex process."

    Sometimes the US government expresses dismay or even outrage over the use of child soldiers . . . when they're used by countries the White House is in opposition to.

    Something the US government calls out . . . when used by opponents.

    But something the US government goes along with when it is an ally (permanent or temporary).

    We last noted the use of children soldiers by Iraq's Shi'ite militias on July 23rd when focusing on the United Nations hypocritically condemning the Islamic State for using children soldiers but ignored the use of the children soldiers by the so-called 'Popularization Mobilization Forces;'

     And what would Kubis like to do with regards to the use of children soldiers by the "Popularization Mobilization Foces" (Shi'ite militias)?
    Because they are using children.
    And you can find it all over Arabic media and social media.
    And Haider al-Abadi's remarks about the Islamic State and children soldiers were slammed the minute they were made -- slammed in Arabic media and Arabic social media -- by critics who pointed out the Shi'ite militias use of children soldiers (while on the payroll of the Iraqi government).

    Today, Vivian Salama and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) report:

    This summer, The Associated Press saw over a dozen armed boys on the front line in western Anbar province, including some as young as 10. Of around 200 cadets in a training class visited by the AP this month, about half were under the age of 18, with some as young as 15. Several said they intended to join their fathers and older brothers on the front lines.

    Salama and Abdul-Zahra explain that the certain forms of military aid cannot be provided to countries using child soldiers per The Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 and that US "weapons and funding" given to the Iraqi government does continue onto the so-called 'Popular Mobilization Forces.'  They also note:

    When informed of the AP findings, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad issued a statement saying the U.S. is "very concerned by the allegations on the use of child soldiers in Iraq among some Popular Mobilization forces in the fight against ISIL," using an alternate acronym for the militant group. "We have strongly condemned this practice around the world and will continue to do so."

    Very concerned?

    They're not concerned at all.

    Arabic social media is not hidden away in Superman's Fortress of Solitude or on Wonder Woman's Paradise Island.

    Arabic social media is available to all throughout the world and that does include the US State Dept -- in and out of Iraq.

    It is there that the use of child soldiers has been repeatedly documented.

    It has also been documented in the Iraqi press.

    There's no way the US Embassy in Iraq was hearing of it for the first time when AP contacted them for a statement.

    But because AP has a major report on the subject, the Embassy issued a weak-ass, do-nothing statement.

    And unless other news outlets follow up on the topic, that statement will be it.

    They will lapse back into their silent cooperation or, worse, silent encouragement.

    The Islamic State is a violent group that resorts to terrorism.

    Their use of children soldiers is not shocking.

    But US officials -- including Samantha Power -- have condemned them for this use.

    The Iraqi government is not supposed to be a terrorist organization.

    Yet US officials remain silent over their use of children soldiers.

    Hypocrisy remains the common thread of US foreign policy regardless of which party controls the White House and/or the Congress.

    Lastly, theme post in the community, Mike's "Barack's biggest disappointment," Stan's "Barack's biggest disappointment," Ruth's "Barack's biggest disappointment," Elaine's "Barack's biggest disappointment," Marcia's "Barack's biggest disappointment," Trina's "Barack's biggest disappointment," Ann's "Barack's biggest disappointment," Rebecca's "barack's biggest disappointment," Kat's "Barack's biggest disappointment" and Betty's "Barack's biggest disappointment" attempted to pin point the biggest disappointment of Barack's presidency.