Bully Boy Bush has done a fairly good job of hiding under his rock since leaving the Oval Office in January 2009. But now he's surfaced in a big way over raking in $100,000 for a speech in 2012. It's a frightening number for a poor speaker as Wally's "ON THIS ONE, WE BLAME THE VETERANS!" and Cedric's "On this one, we blame the veterans" humor posts noted yesterday. It's even worse that this a speech to an organization that's supposed to be a charity for veterans, Helping a Hero. In addition to the $100,000, he also got to travel via a private jet which left the charity with a $20,000 bill for that. Lucy Stiegerwald (Antiwar.com) explained:
Even among folks who think that ex-politicians raking in millions of dollars from speeches is acceptable, W. charging such a hefty fee to speak in front of people he sent to war rankles. This is good. Even a small dose of shame is good for Bush, and for any other ex-politician who happily earns a tidy profit based on their blood-soaked reputation.
Soldiers aren’t overjoyed either. ABC quoted Eddie Wright, a wounded veteran who briefly worked with Helping a Hero, as saying “For [Bush] to be paid to raise money for veterans that were wounded in combat under his orders, I don’t think that’s right.” A former spokesperson for the charity countered that Bush had given them a discount on his usual fee, but Politico’s research suggests that that’s not true. Helping a Hero also excused the high prices by saying that W. and Laura Bush had participated in fundraising efforts for them before. So this is what? A way of paying them back? Breaking even? It still doesn’t seem very charitable.
This is the life of an ex-politician. No matter how much of a cute old cowboy W. appears to be; No matter that he spends more time painting pictures of the Dalai Lama than he does interfering in world affairs these days, he also happens to have earned some $15 million from speaking engagements just between 2009 and 2011. This pales in comparison to heavy hitters like Bill and Hillary Clinton who have earned upwards of $100 million from speeches. Bush’s numbers are still unnervingly high for someone who deserves a prison cell. (Though Clinton has enough Iraqi blood on his hands to stew next door.)
Again, the speech was from 2012. Details of it have only recently emerged.
The outrage is understandable.
Senator Patty Murray -- in office as she currently is or years from now when she retires -- would probably be a popular speaker a veterans group might want to book but you really can't imagine her stiffing them with a private jet bill or demanding some six figure salary.
That's because she's worked hard for veterans.
I've avoided mocking Bully Boy Bush for some of his events with veterans since leaving the White House and taking the attitude of 'if one veteran enjoyed biking with him, maybe his participation in that event was worthwhile.' But there have been plenty of chances to criticize his efforts and we've passed.
Taking $100,000 from a group which is supposed to be raising money to assist and aid veterans is outrageous. In fairness to Bully Boy Bush, it is equally outrageous for an organization insisting it is raising money for veterans to waste $100,000 on a speaker -- any speaker.
Again, you can't see Senator Patty Murray doing something tawdry like that but that's because she has a long history of helping veterans. Yesterday, her office issued the following:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Thursday, July 9, 2015 (202) 224-2834
Sen. Murray Fights to Protect Services for Homeless Veterans
Bill prevents changes to VA policy that would cut off thousands of veterans from accessing housing services
MURRAY: We have a duty to care for veterans, not to create more barriers to care
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, introduced The Homeless Veterans Services Protection Act with cosponsor Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), which would prevent thousands of homeless veterans from losing access to housing services. VA’s proposed changes to the decades-old policy for homeless services would bar access for veterans who served less that than two years continuously, or who had an other than honorable discharge. This bill would ensure that those changes can never take place. Last week, Sen. Murray toured the Randall Apartments in Tacoma, a 35-unit complex that serves homeless veterans. She also met with representatives from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs, local housing authorities, and community groups to discuss her new legislation.
“Our veterans made great sacrifices while serving our country and our commitment to them is especially important,” said Senator Murray. “This bill makes it clear that our country takes care of those who’ve served, and we don’t allow bureaucracy to dictate who gets a roof over their head and who doesn’t.… If we ever hope to end veteran homelessness, we must do everything we can to reach this goal, and I want to make sure that the VA’s policies are moving us in that direction.”
“As we work towards ending veterans homelessness, it is imperative that we use federal resources to help our servicemembers and their families in need,” said Senator Mazie K. Hirono, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. "Many of our vulnerable veterans saw combat and are fighting PTSD and traumatic brain injury. Instead of leaving these veterans out in the cold, we must ensure access to stable housing and other necessary services. This bill would codify VA practices that have proven to be effective in getting veterans off the street and into housing. I commend Senator Murray on her leadership and am proud to work with her on this important issue.”
The problem arose last year when a legal review concluded that veterans who served fewer than two years or had an other than honorable discharge may not be eligible for benefits such as housing services. As a result, when the VA instituted the policy last year, homeless shelters and providers who receive funding through the VA’s Grant and Per Diem (GPD) program were told to turn away new homeless veterans who didn’t meet the length of service or discharge requirements. Had this policy been fully carried out, this could have resulted in 15 percent of the homeless veterans population being turned away, and in certain urban areas could have been up to 30 percent. Sen. Murray introduced emergency legislation to reverse it, causing the VA to temporarily rescind the policy change.
The Homeless Veterans Services Protection Act being introduced today will ensure that in the future, veterans cannot be turned away from organizations because they don’t meet certain length of service or discharge requirements and that our country is fulfilling our promise to care for servicemembers and veterans.
Excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks for the record are below:
“The Administration set the difficult but commendable goal of eliminating veteran homelessness. Through tremendous efforts at every level of government, and with the help of community groups, non-profits and the private sector, we have made major progress toward achieving that goal.”
“But last year, after a legal review of its policies, VA was forced to prepare for a change that would have cut off services to veterans who did not meet certain length of service or discharge requirements, changing policies that homeless service providers had followed for decades. That would be a heartless, bureaucratic move that could have put thousands of veterans on the streets—practically overnight.”
“As a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the daughter of a World War II veteran, I’m proud that the bill I have introduced today would permanently protect homeless veterans’ access to housing and services. This bill makes it clear that our country takes care of those who’ve served, and we don’t allow bureaucracy to dictate who gets a roof over their head and who doesn’t.”
“If we ever hope to end veteran homelessness we must do everything we can to reach this goal, and I want to make sure that VA’s policies are moving us in that direction. I don’t just believe that the United States can do better; I believe we must do better for those who’ve sacrificed so much for our country.”
Senator Murray’s remarks for the record are below:
“Mr. President, today I am introducing the Homeless Veterans Services Protection Act of 2015. This legislation would ensure continued access to homeless services for some of our country’s most vulnerable veterans who are currently at risk of losing these critical services.
“The Administration set the difficult but commendable goal of eliminating veteran homelessness. Through tremendous efforts at every level of government, and with the help of community groups, non-profits and the private sector, we have made major progress toward achieving that goal. But we know we have a lot of work to do. Veterans are at greater risk of becoming homeless than non-veterans and on any given night as many as 50,000 veterans are homeless across the United States.
“This is unacceptable. Our veterans made great sacrifices while serving our country and our commitment to them is especially important. This commitment includes providing benefits, medical care, support, and assistance to prevent homelessness.
“Two of our greatest tools are the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Grant and Per Diem program and the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program through partnerships with homeless service providers around the country. These important and successful programs assist very low-income veterans and their families who either live in permanent housing or are transitioning from homelessness. The programs help our veterans with rent, utilities, moving costs, outreach, case management, and obtaining benefits.
“But last year, after a legal review of its policies, VA was forced to prepare for a change that would have cut off services to veterans who did not meet certain length of service or discharge requirements, changing policies that homeless service providers had followed for decades.
“That would be a heartless, bureaucratic move that could have put thousands of veterans on the streets—practically overnight. According to some of our leading veterans and homeless groups – including The American Legion, the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, and the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans – had the policy been enacted, VA would have had to stop serving about 15 percent of the homeless veteran population, and in certain urban areas up to 30 percent of homeless veterans would have been turned away.
“The veterans community alerted me to this possible change-- and while I’m proud that we prevented these changes in the short-term—it’s very concerning that a legal opinion could be issued at any time to undo all of that. There is good reason to reverse this policy for good. A report from VA’s Inspector General, issued just last week, shows how VA’s unclear or outdated guidance hurts veterans, and how VA’s proposed policy changes work against efforts to help homeless veterans.
“As a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the daughter of a World War II veteran, I’m proud that the bill I have introduced today would permanently protect homeless veterans’ access to housing and services. This bill makes it clear that our country takes care of those who’ve served, and we don’t allow bureaucracy to dictate who gets a roof over their head and who doesn’t.
“Many veterans struggle with mental illness, substance abuse, or simply finding a steady job-all factors that can lead to homelessness. And veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are increasingly becoming homeless – numbers that will continue to increase in the coming years unless help is available for them.
“The idea that any of these veterans returning from service could become homeless because of these policies is unacceptable. If we ever hope to end veteran homelessness we must do everything we can to reach this goal, and I want to make sure that VA’s policies are moving us in that direction. I don’t just believe that the United States can do better; I believe we must do better for those who’ve sacrificed so much for our country.
“Finally, I’d like to thank Senator Hirono for cosponsoring this bill and being a champion of the men and women who have served our country. Thank you.”
Deputy Press Secretary
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
We've noted Senators Joe Donnelly, Kelly Ayotte and Joe Manchin in Wednesday's snapshot. We're going to note the line of questioning from two other senators today. Senator Martin Heinrich had some important and basic questions.
Senator Martin Heinrich: Let me start by saying that, 'surge' or no 'surge,' I think it's pretty clear, at least to my constituents, that the Iraq War remains one of the greatest US foreign policy mistakes of the last century and one that I've hoped we've learned a few lessons from. I want to follow up, Mr. Secretary, on what Senator Hirono raised. One lesson I feel that we should have learned by now is that eliminating one terrible Middle Eastern dictator can too often lead to even more brutal influences filling the leadership vacuum. We've seen that play out too many times. We've seen that to some extent in both Iraq and Libya. Should we be concerned that in Syria, a post-Assad reality could create a vacuum that ISIL is far better positioned to fill than any of the other regional forces? I'm not sure we should be -- I think we should be almost as concerned with forces like al Nusra Front [a splinter of al Qaeda which is operating in Syria]. And if Assad does fall, shouldn't we have more than discussions on the table? Shouldn't we have a plan to make sure that some amount of governance remains, particularly in Damascus?
Secretary Ash Carter: Uh, well, yes, we should and we do. That is our strategy with respect to the political transition. Now, uh, I've -- for reasons that are easy to understand, our influence with Bashar al Assad, our -- that is US -- influence is not great and so we are trying to influence those who influence him to remove himself, uh, from the government of, uh, Damascus while keeping intact the structures of governance for the very reasons that you adduce which is we know what happens in these Middle Eastern countries when the structures of government disintegrate and we would like to not see that happen in Syria even though we know that the persistence of Assad at the helm in Damascus is in fact a fuel for ISIS and others who are fighting him so he needs to go to remove that fuel but we don't want to see the structures of governance go at the same time. And that is the challenge but that is what we're trying to achieve.
Senator Martin Heinrich: Well I think that's certainly the right goal, I just want to make sure we're prepared for that because we've sort of missed that goal in the past and Syria is an enormous country and if we saw it lose its governance capability, the implications for the region and the entire world would be enormous. Secretary Carter, as you mentioned as well, to be successful on the ground against ISIL, the fight needs to be led by local, capable ground forces. I don't think we should give in to impatience. These should not be western forces. These should not be American forces. We've certainly heard that from our partners in places like Jordan. This means we need to place a great deal of importance on training motivated and reliable partners. And you've gone a little bit over the small number of Iraqi security forces recruited, what those challenges are, the bottle neck related to the vetting process but are there other factors you would attribute for the lack of trainees? And I guess one of the questions I have related to that is what steps, in addition to the steps that you're taking, what steps is the Iraqi government taking to address this shortfall in order to meet those training targets.we'd like to see?
Secretary Ash Carter: Uh, uh, thank you, Senator. I think in Iraq, the principle limiting factor on Sunni trainees -- which is one of our focus -- our focuses -- has been their belief that the government in Baghdad was not fully supportive of them. That is the challenge before Prime Minister Abadi. He says he wants to do that and, uh, that's critical because only Sunnis can take back Anbar [Province], only Sunnis can govern Anbar when it's all over. So if we are going to wrest Anbar from the likes of ISIL which we must do, we must have Sunnis on our side. And so Abadi is saying all the right things, as the Chairman noted. We're trying to support him in doing all the right things. And --
Senator Martin Henirich: Mr. Secretary, I agree with you wholeheartedly in your analysis. I guess my concern is is Abadi doing enough to begin to generate confidence in the Sunni population in that region?
Secretary Ash Carter: Uh, I think he is doing everything he personally can. Uh, I think he is challenged in Baghdad by others who would have it the old way, the sectarian way. And so he's not able to make everything happen when and as he says. And we've had some delays and some frustrations as a result of that. I think things are getting better. We are getting more trainees. It was noted earlier that there is some confidence among Sunni tribes that we will help them train, equip them, support them and get them back in the fight -- that there's a future for them -- not even withstanding the difficulties of multi-sectarianism governance in Iraq. That's the path we're on and, in the meantime, just to get back to something that Senator [Mike] Rounds said, I-I-I think and I-I said this before, I just want to restate it. We need to take action to defend ourselves against ISIL, not just in Iraq and Syria, but elsewhere particularly foreign fighters even as we defeat them from the place from which they arose. They have metastasized now, they aspire to be a global network and we have to fight them where they are. We can't wait for that. We need to do that -- and by the way, we do it every day.
Senator Martin Heinrich: Secretary --
Secretary Ash Carter: We did that just this past weekend.
Senator Martin Heinrich (Con't): -- I want to leave you with one last question. It's a very general one. You may have seen the POLITICO article from a couple of days ago that examined what it called the "Da-aesh effect" -- and it's sort of a modern example of the ancient proverb that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." Whether it's Hammas or al Nusra or Iran, there are a number of entities that may be enemies to the US, certainly are enemies of our allies but currently share the same opposition to ISIL or Da'aesh. What are your thoughts on that observation generally and wouldn't you agree that it's that reality that is part of the reason why this is such a complicated nut to crack.
Secretary Ash Carter: That is the reason why it's so complicated and, again, sectarianism is what brought us to this point so we are willing to -- and we are -- and have supported elements of the Iraqi security forces that have a very large Shis composition to them but if and only if they're under the direction and control of the government of Iraq. And there are Shia forces in Iraq that are not under the direction and control and we will not support them because that's sectarianism, that sectarian civil war. We know what leads down that road and we're trying to stop Iraq from going down that road.
The hearing was Tuesday. Wednesday this exchange took place at the State Dept press briefing moderated by Mark Toner:
MR TONER: Sure thing, Said. Go ahead.
QUESTION: The fight against ISIS?
MR TONER: The fight against ISIS.
MR TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: I mean, now that we’ve had time --
MR TONER: Wouldn’t be a briefing without some discussion on --
MR TONER: No, go ahead. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: No, I just wanted to follow up on some of the things that John said yesterday --
MR TONER: Yep.
QUESTION: -- but I (inaudible). He cited that when there is a – basically, implicitly, when there is a will to fight, such as the Peshmerga and the north fighting ISIS and the Kurdish fighters also in the north of Syria fighting ISIS, then we can see the outcome on the ground, that ISIS can be pushed back. Is the implicit suggestion there that the Iraqi army is not fighting or will not fight?
MR TONER: Not at all. We’ve long said that some of these local fighters have been absolutely integral to combating ISIL. But everything we do is through the Iraqi military and the Iraqi Government, and all the equipping and supplying that we do is conducted through them and with their concurrence. So there’s a recognition, I think, that this needs to be locally owned, if you will; that we need to really build the capacity of local forces, and that includes the Iraqi military itself, to be able to push back and combat ISIL.
QUESTION: Would that implicitly suggest that you – maybe you ought to give direct aid to the Peshmerga directly – heavy equipment, I mean. Not --
MR TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- just rifles and guns and so on, but things like tanks and other battlefield equipment, heavy duty that they can use.
MR TONER: Well, again, we have been providing some assistance to the Peshmerga, again, through the Iraqi Government. We feel like that’s getting into their hands expeditiously. We don’t feel like there’s a delay mechanism or anything. We feel like that the system currently is working pretty well in terms of getting them what they need. In terms of additional support, obviously, we’re always looking at that, but nothing to announce.
In his exchange with Senator Kelly Ayotte on Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter made clear the US was directly arming the Kurds (as were the Germans and others, Carter also made clear).
Why does the State Dept not know this?
How stupid and uniformed is the administration that one group doesn't talk to the other and that a spokesperson does not know what's in public testimony?
This was what Senator Joni Ernst started with in her line of questioning, was the US government arming the Kurds as Ayotte had asked and as Carter had replied. His only clarification was that they were providing these arms with the consent of the Iraqi government out of Baghdad.
But with that clarification, he again insisted that they were doing this.
Ernst had co-sponsored a bill with Senator Barbara Boxer earlier this year to make this direct aid -- with the consent of the Baghdad based government -- possible because Secretary of State John Kerry had insisted in a letter to Congress that they could not legally do this -- this what they are now doing without any new law.
Ernst pointed that out and pointed out that US President Barack Obama noted in his speech earlier this week that not only would this be happening but they would be expediting the process.
Let's move on to another issue of she raised.
Senator Joni Ernst: [. . . ] Sir, considering the fall of the most western part of Iraq to ISIS, that didn't trigger a decision point on the part of the Iraqi government in its commitment to Iraq or -- I'm just not sure what else the Iraqi government needs to fail at before the administration changes its strategy and how we support our willing partners in Iraq -- the Kurdish Peshmerga, they are willing partners, they are. And I think we need to do more for them. We cannot defeat ISIS in Iraq by continuing to beg, hope and pray that the sectarian Iraqi government -- which is still overshadowed, we've heard it a number of times, by previous prime minister [Nouri al-] Maliki and Iran. We don't think that they would vigorously defend the Iraqi people equally. I don't believe they will. But we've talked also about being more inclusive. That word was mentioned again. "More inclusive.' I hear this time and time again. But what -- I would like a definition of what does "more inclusive" look like and how do we measure "more inclusive"? Gentlemen, if you would address that please.
Secretary Ash Carter: I-I, uhm, would-would begin by noting the words of Prime Minister Abadi when he was here. I think he used the word decentralized Iraq. And that is one in which, uh, there is a central government in Baghdad an integral state of Iraq but there is substantial opportunity for self-determination around the country among Sunnis, among Shias, and among Kurds. It seems to me that's a wise way of approaching what multi-sectarianism means. I think a, uh, government in Baghdad that allows the different parties there a degree of self-determination to maintain security within their own territory and to govern themselves, share in things like the oil wealth of the country and so forth, that is what he says he is for. And that's the way he described it when he was here in Washington to all of that. And that is, in my judgment, certainly better than the alternative which is sectarian disintegration -- which could still occur in Iraq. But I think we all -- looking into that abyss -- know what resides there -- further violence for the citizens of Iraq and further opportunities for groups like ISIL that don't -- aren't preoccupied with the long time welfare of the territories they occupy, they want to use them for further violence. So that is Prime Minister Abadi's definition and I think we're trying to support him in his aspiration to make good on that definition.
Senator Joni Ernst: Thank you. General, anything to add there?
Gen Martin Dempsey: Just that in the military, what we'll be watching for in terms of the intentions of the government of Iraq and its control over groups that are not directly responsive to the Ministry of Defense is whether there's retribution, whether they allow -- It was Tikrit I was speaking about, I think, Senator. As these families come back to Tikrit after it was recaputered, we are watching -- and it's worth watching -- on whether they are able to return to their homes or not? I think the same will be true once Ramadi is recaptured. And we'll probably be watching how the campaign in Falluja unfolds to ensure that the popular mobilizations forces [Shi'ite militias] propagate a campaign that's not characterized by retribution.and-and dramatic collateral damage. Those are all things to watch carefully.
Senator Joni Ernst: And I think we have willing partners there and I think we need to assist those willing partners.
Lastly, Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 168 violent deaths across Iraq on Thursday.