Saturday, February 07, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Saturday, February 7, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the White House hides everything from the American people, the State Dept flashesback to 2003 for some of the worst spinning in years, another whore comes along to tell the American people how to sit back and do nothing, and much, much more.

Thursday in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Guantanamo, as Senator Lindsey Graham was speaking, a man yelled, "Let's restore the rule of law! You have betrayed the American people! What's wrong with you, America! What's wrong with you!"

He was quickly escorted out.

What led to that?

Had it been the collective nonsense building up?

Because there was a more outrageous part that Graham's recounting of his efforts with US President Barack Obama to fine tune laws to keep people imprisoned forever even if they were released from the US gulag that is the prison on Guantanamo Bay.

Guantanamo has been a gulag since 2002.  A costly one in terms of image, in terms of the law, in terms of dollars.  In the hearing, Senator Martin Heinrich noted that approximately $5 billion had been spent on the facility since 2002.  "And in 2014, the American taxpayer spent more than 3 million per Guantanamo detainee -- and compare that with about $78,000 it costs to house a prisoner at Colorado Super Max Prison."

The Center for Constitutional Rights explains Guantanamo this way, "The story of Guantánamo remains that of nearly 800 men and boys thrown into an island prison designed to exist beyond the rule of law. Most were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, refugees fleeing the chaos of war in Afghanistan. The U.S. military captured only one in twenty; many were sold for significant sums of money to the U.S. by local authorities in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Of the 149 men who remain at Guantánamo as of January 2014, approximately half were cleared for release years ago."

Thursday's hearing found the Committee hearing testimony from DoD's Deputy Under Secretary of Defense For Policy Brian P. McKeon, Nicholas J. Rasmussen with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and Rear Admiral Ross Myers.

Senator Dan Sullivan: So from a broad perspective, of the remaining Gitmo detainees, how many are assessed to be high or medium risk?

Under Secretary Brian McKeon: Senator, I don't have those numbers at my finger tips and if you're referring to the assessments that were done by JTS GITMO back in the last decade, uh, my impression is knowing the population of that which we've already transferred using those categories, I think we have transferred most of those who were low risk.  But I don't know the precise data.  We'll have to -- We'll have to get that to you, sir.

Senator Dan Sullivan:  But I mean of the current remaining detainees, we don't have a handle on who's high or medium risk right now?

Under Secretary Brian McKeon:  I don't have that at my finger tips as we both -- I and Rasmussen -- explained, sir, when we bring forward a case for possible transfer, we look at the totality of the evidence, what the detainee had done on the battlefield, how they behaved at Guantanamo, what their current -- what our assessment is of their current intentions?  So it's not just to look at the assessments 

Chair John McCain: Mr. Secretary, you're not answering the question.  If you don't have the information, then submit it.  It's important for this Committee to know who's low risk, medium risk and high risk.  I would have expected you to come to this hearing with that information.

Under Secretary Brian McKeon:  Yes, Mr. Chairman.  I should add that these risk levels -- in terms of who's in what category -- is-is classified.  So we'd be happy to have that conversation with you in a classified session as well.  I just don't have those numbers at my finger tips. I think it's safe to say many of them are in the medium or high risk category. 

Senator Dan Sullivan: It would be very important for us to know that --

Under Secretary Brian McKeon:  Yes, sir.

The American people are too stupid to handle knowing X% is high-risk and Y% is low-risk?

If you're not getting how ridiculous the government's behaviors are, let's go further into this exchange.

Senator Dan Sullivan:  And one more thing, I understand there was an MOU regarding the Taliban Five -- that they have a, my understanding was a one year restriction with regard to their activity and movements.  Uhm, after a year are they free to go and do whatever they want?  Return back to Afghanistan?  I think again that's a concern not only for this Committee but, uh, for the American people.

Under Secretary Brian McKeon:  You're correct about the one year matter, Senator.  We -- The agreement between our two governments is classified and we've briefed to your staff and, I think, some of the members in closed session.  And I'd want to get into that in a closed session -- about what happens after one year.

Senator Dan Sullivan:  Okay.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Okay?  Thank you?

Deals are made with conditions.

That's not surprising.  We'd call it parole in the criminal justice system.

But no one treats the conditions of parole as a national security secret.

Nor should the Memorandums of Understandings between the US and other governments on this issue be kept secret.

I believe in closing down Guantanamo and releasing anyone you can't convict.  Others feel differently.  That includes some who feel that the release of any prisoner at Guantanamo is dangerous and could lead to terrorists acts against the United States.

Wherever you fall on the spectrum, how dare the US government, how dare the White House, think they can make deals without informing the American people.

The terms of 'parole' should not be a state secret.

This is one more example of how Barack Obama heads not only the most deceptive administration but the most secretive.

Strange times in Portland, Maine
Lobsters dancing on the docks
Switzerland's been weird since they unplugged the clocks
Man and a woman in Brooklyn Heights
Each convinced the other's in the wrong
While last year the divorce rate tripled in Hong Kong

If through all the madness
We can stick together
We're safe and sound
The world's just inside out and upside down

-- "Safe and Sound," written by Carly Simon and Jacob Brackman, first appears on Carly's Hotcakes.

Yes, the world remains inside out and upside down.

But we need to be careful who we "stick together" with.

I'd been avoiding an article because it's by a whore and I do get so tired of having to call them out.

They're a pissy little bunch on the left.

If you call out a right-wing whore -- or they think you do (hello, Robert Kagan) -- they write you an e-mail and that's about it.

By contrast, take I-Need-Attention Medea Benjamin and how my words have apparently left more psychological scars for Medea than did her 'tragic' pie-ing.

(In June 2007, at the US Social Forum, Bakers Without Borders and Co-optation Watch pied Medea noting that they were demanding "accountability from a self-appointed 'spokesperson' whose actions further the commodification of resistance and sabotage our movement's sustainability and credibility."  To this day, Medea is said to tremble and go into shock while wheeling her cart down the frozen foods section of a grocery store if she encounters pies, pie shells or even just a container of Cool Whip.)

The article's the usual cut-and-paste with a huge layer of stupidity smeared on top so I thought I could ignore it.

Then an Iraqi community member e-mailed and wanted to who Sarah Lazare was thinking she could speak for Iraq "and speak so poorly at that"?


Who is Sarah?  She's a whore.

She's not a Democratic Party whore, she's a Socialist whore -- of the US Socialist Worker type.  (The WSWS doesn't whore.  The US Socialist Worker can't stop-won't stop whoring.)

And so she writes about Iraq in that idiotic manner she's so famous for.

Like her infamous piece that should have been called "Iraq War Veteran Cock Has Made Me An Expert On The War."  In that piece, an apparent bareback affair allowed Sarah to learn more than anyone about suffering in Iraq.  Semen may have given her something, but it wasn't wisdom as that overly long article on 'suffering' neglected to acknowledge the suffering of the Iraqis.

Presumably and her Iraq Veterans Against the War lover have parted or maybe his sperm has just lost its magical powers because she doesn't mention "S" once in her latest long-form bamboozlement.

This one's entitled "Where's the Anti-War Movement When You Really Need It?" and don't let the title fool you, she's not providing answers and, hell, she's really not even asking questions.  (There are many places you can read the crap -- and I'm told the FDA is in the process of certifying it as a legal sleeping aid -- but we'll give a link to CounterPunch.)

Where's the peace movement?

It was dismantled by the so-called leaders.

United for Peace and Justice immediately closed shop less than a week after the November 2008 US presidential elections.  CodeStink set up shop in DC with the intent of 'getting' Barack's back and taking on Republicans.  Leslie Cagan disappeared took a self-imposed sabbatical to contemplate the role of Communism in the 21st century and whether or not facial electrolysis could provide her with new vistas?  Tom Hayden went on a drunken bender that's lasted nearly six years although he does come up for air from time to time to pen laugh getting, Onion worthy pieces -- like December 2011's  "In Iraq, peace at last."

The leaders put the Christ Child Barack Obama above the movement, above the truth and above the people of Iraq.  The Cult of St. Barack did real harm and before Sister Sarah tries to minister to the flock, maybe she should step into the confessional and atone for her own sins?

She could start with an article about Iraq that is faux historical and never notes Nouri al-Maliki or Barack Obama.

She could start by admitting Socialists like her stick together which is why she's citing Patrick Cockburn over and over.

The Arab world slams Cockburn repeatedly and rightly and has done so to such a degree that he's had to adjust his writing and suddenly recognize the Sunnis.

That's why Sarah can't get her facts right.

And, let's be really clear, if at this late date, you're writing about the April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija  and you can't note it resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in or that the over 50 dead included children --  UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured) -- who the hell do you think you're helping?

You're certainly not helping the truth.

In her article, Sarah's suddenly interested in the "2013" protests -- not interested enough, of course, to know that they kicked off in December of 2012 or that they continued through January of 2014.

But she cares . . . about pretending to care.

The Iraqi people had a chance at freedom in 2010.  Against all odds, they voted -- and they were prevented from voting in so many ways -- and they didn't choose Nouri and State of Law.  Nouri stomped his feet and got the United Nations to whittle away some votes but he was still the loser.

The people had gone for Iraqiya which was a non-sectarian party led by Shi'ite Ayad Allawi.

And Allawi had a future for Iraq that looked promising.

Iraqiya included all variations of Iraqis -- there was a place for everyone.  That's why the new political slate proved so popular.

But instead of seizing this effort on the part of Iraqis to build a cohesive country, US President Barack Obama backed Nouri al-Maliki who pouted like a spoiled brat for eight months, refusing to step down as prime minister and creating a political stalemate.

Barack had US officials in Iraq negotiate The Erbil Agreement to give Nouri a second term.  The White House got that legal contract signed via bribes, bullying and lying.  And after Nouri used it to get his second term, he shredded it and Barack played dumb and pretended he hadn't lied to every political group in Iraq when he said the contract was legally binding and had his full support and backing.

These are among the truths that Sarah Lazare will never tell.

And when you can't tell the truth there's no reason for a peace movement.

Sarah can call out . . . Bully Boy Bush for the Iraq War.

And, we all know, he left the White House in January 2009.

If he's the fault for everything today then there's nothing to protest because he's out of office and has been for seven years.

That Hawija massacre that she claims to give a damn about? She never names or even quotes one of the survivors or one of the dead.  But Thamer Hussein Mousa refused to be silent.  He was there when Nouri's forces attacked.  His son was killed by those forces.  The BRussells Tribunal carried his eye witness account which ended with:

I hold Obama responsible for this act because he is the one who gave them these weapons. The weapons and aircrafts they used and fired upon us were American weapons. I also hold the United States of America responsible for this criminal act, above all, Obama.

Don't look for that kind of honesty in Sarah Lazare's nonsense.

And since she can't hold the person in charge responsible, don't be surprised that her grand plan for saving Iraq from further destruction is . . . donate to a charity.

Is Sarah with the peace movement or some 'ladies auxiliary unit' of the Chamber of Commerce.

The dishonesty never ends.

Which brings us to the US State Dept and their Friday press briefing.  In the exchange below, spokesperson Marie Harf  refuses to answer questions from Al Quds' Said Arikat.

QUESTION: Yesterday it was reported that the United States has intensified its search-and-rescue operation. But until recently, they were located in Kuwait, which is quite a ways back, now moving it to – maybe to the north of Iraq maybe.

MS. HARF: Well, I think that the Pentagon can probably speak more specifically. They have immense search-and-rescue capabilities, which we’ve discussed with our partners, including some of our partners that are flying alongside of us here. But I don’t have any more specifics for you than that.

QUESTION: And finally, would you say that the international coalition today is basically a duet; it is Jordan and the United States of America and nobody else is --

MS. HARF: Not at all. It’s over 60 countries, Said. I think the other countries would probably not like you discounting their contributions.

QUESTION: Can you name some of the countries that are actually participating in the air raids?

MS. HARF: Said, we’ve been over this many, many times. I mean, let’s start with the Iraqi Security Forces. Let’s start there ---

QUESTION: Right. No, I’m talking about --

MS. HARF: -- which is where --

QUESTION: -- I’m talking about the aerial bombardment that’s ongoing --

MS. HARF: Well --

QUESTION: -- of the ISIS locations.

MS. HARF: There’s – you know the countries that have flown missions alongside of us. You know that. You also know that there are five lines of effort here, only one of which is military, and only part of the military effort is flying bombing runs. So we have over 60 countries, many countries standing up and helping us train, helping us provide weapons, helping us provide assistance. So this is a very broad coalition, Said.

QUESTION: I’m fully aware of the participation of the coalition.

MS. HARF: Well, your question didn’t make that clear.

And the strangeness never ends.

At, Margret Griffis writes:

At least 276 people, mostly militants, were killed and 25 others were wounded.

While Griffis has the capability to count, she's not examining the bodies and it would be wonderful if she would stop acting as an unquestioning megaphone for the masters of empire.

See, that's another reason there's no peace movement -- even the so-called can't stop repeating -- as fact -- the claims of governments.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Penske Automotive Group’s “Service Matters” Campaign to Benefit Paralyzed Veterans of America

Paralyzed Veterans of America issued the following this week:

Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) announced today that Penske Automotive Group will be supporting the veterans organization through a year-long fundraising campaign called “Service Matters”. Proceeds from the campaign will benefit Paralyzed Veterans’ Mission: ABLE, which ensures that severely injured veterans receive the jobs, care and benefits they’ve earned and deserve.

“Paralyzed Veterans of America’s work for veterans is admirable and important,” said Robert H. Kurnick Jr., Penske Automotive Group President. “It’s an honor for Penske to be a part of this fundraising effort. Through this great partnership, we can continue to change lives of our American heroes and remind citizens, communities and ourselves, that service really does matter.”
Beginning today, through December 31, 2015, Penske Automotive Group will encourage customers to donate one dollar to Paralyzed Veterans of America when servicing a vehicle at a U.S. Penske Automotive Group dealership.  Penske Automotive Group will then match each donation up to $500,000. 

“As a nonprofit organization, every dollar raised on our behalf counts, and makes a difference in the life of a veteran,” said Al Kovach Jr., national president of Paralyzed Veterans of America. “We thank Penske Automotive Group for joining our cause to support our most severely disabled veterans, and we look forward to seeing this partnership grow.”

Combined with Paralyzed Veterans’ engagement with Penske Truck Rental, this new campaign makes Penske Corporation the largest contributing corporate donor in this current fiscal year.
Currently, more than 44,000 American veterans live with paralysis; spinal cord injuries can cost up to $3 million per person in health care expenses and veterans benefits aren’t always guaranteed; and more than 85 percent of severely disabled veterans are currently unemployed. Paralyzed Veterans of America provides free programs and services to these veterans to help them live full and productive lives.

To learn more about the campaign, please visit

Ford Vox loves stupidity and Brian Williams -- in that order

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams has lied repeatedly over the years -- not just in the last days -- about being in a helicopter in Iraq that came under fire.  Travis J. Tritten (Stars and Stripes) explains it this way:

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams admitted Wednesday he was not aboard a helicopter hit and forced down by RPG fire during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, a false claim that has been repeated by the network for years.
Williams repeated the claim Friday during NBC’s coverage of a public tribute at a New York Rangers hockey game for a retired soldier that had provided ground security for the grounded helicopters, a game to which Williams accompanied him.

As noted in yesterday's snapshot,  Ava and I plan to cover it Sunday at The Third Estate Sunday Review.   So we're not really interested, for this entry, in Brian Williams and I wouldn't be weighing in at all were it not for fat f**k Ford Vox.

Excuse me, "Dr." Ford Vox.

The pompous ass has a column at CNN.  And he just reminds me that a 72-year-old friend is still fuming over a doctor's visit in December -- in which he didn't see the doctor but was told by a PA weighing over 250 pounds that my friend needed to do something about his "gut."

In the five minutes, the PA spent with the patient (my friend), he never made eye contact, started at the chart and was in and out.  And, no, my friend doesn't have a "gut" problem due to weight (it's this issue -- which the PA would have known if he'd bothered to ask even a single question).

You know who does have a gut issue?

Ford Vox.

Ford Vox is fat.

And it's an issue when he's insisting "Doctors like myself . . ." to justify his opinion -- his stupid and uninformed decision.

Doctors like yourself?  Fat asses who know they need to lose weight so probably shouldn't be treating anyone when they refuse to embrace the health guidelines they preach?

Or do you mean doctors like yourself who rush in and express an opinion based on stupidity and the pompous notion that you're stupid little degree informed you on all things and you don't need to research even basic facts before weighing in?

Ford wants you to "cut" Brian some slack for this lie and insists it's like someone losing their car keys.


When you lose your car keys does NBC News order you to stop doing so?

As Brian Steinberg explained at Variety yesterday morning:

I would not have chosen to make this mistake,” Williams said in the interview with the military newspaper.  “I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another.” He also posted an apology on his Facebook page and offered similar sentiments during Wednesday night’s broadcast of “Nightly News.” The Iraqi incident took place before Williams took over the “Nightly News” anchor desk from Tom Brokaw in 2004.
What makes Williams’ admission worse, according to one person familiar with the situation, is that he had been counseled in the past by senior NBC News executives to stop telling the story in public. The advice, this person said, was not heeded.  One person familiar with current NBC News operations disputed that information.

Williams’ version of the story has never been allowed in NBC News programs, according to three people familiar with the unit. Indeed, in a March 2003 episode of “Dateline,” Williams described the helicopter trip accurately. “On the ground, we learned the Chinook ahead of us was almost blown out of the sky,” he said while narrating a report.

That demolishes stupid idiot Ford Vox's ridiculous claims.

Maybe next time, instead of 'treating' a 'patient' he's never seen via a column, he can just close his mouth and sit there in silence?

That CNN continues to publish crap like this is also part of the problem.

That's not to say CNN couldn't publish a piece by someone -- hopefully a real journalist -- offering a we-all-make-mistakes view.

But that is to say when some pompous ass shows up to weigh in and doesn't know the facts -- clearly gets the facts wrong -- you don't publish their idiotic opinion.

The following community sites -- plus Jody Watley and -- updated:

  •  The e-mail address for this site is




    Thursday, February 05, 2015

    Iraq snapshot

    Thursday, February 5, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue,  Haider sends food -- Brett McGurk wants you to know -- to Falluja but only after a child dies from the lack of it -- which Brett doesn't want you to know, the Yazidis' revenge attacks get some attention, vengeance gets called out by Amnesty, Senator Richard Blumenthal has some questions regarding veterans, and much more.

    Wednesday's snapshot covered some of that day's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the nomination of Ashton Carter to be Secretary of Defense.  Senator John McCain is the Chair of the Committee, Senator Jack Reed is the Ranking Member.

    We're going to return to the hearing to note Senator Richard Blumenthal addressing veterans issues and Senator Ted Cruz on ISIS.  First veterans.

    Senator Richard Blumenthal: Let me move to another area that is very close to my heart and I, again, want to thank our Chairman, Senator [John] McCain, who joined with me in co-sponsoring a measure, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act, Suicide remains a difficult and daunting, horrific problem not only among our veterans -- 22 every day commit suicide -- but also in our active military.  And you and I have talked about this problem.  I believe you're very much attune to it and I'm hopeful that you will continue the military's commitment and the Department of Defense's commitment to providing the mental health care that's necessary to help our warriors deal with these invisible wounds and demons that come back from the battlefield with them.

    Ashton Carter: I-I-I am attune to it and they're our -- they're our people and we need to care about them and care for them.  And those who are having these kind of-of thoughts need help.

    We did note Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America's press release on this legislation in a snapshot earlier this week.  From outside Congress, IAVA led the push for this bill to introduced and to be put to a vote.

    From inside Congress, there were many leaders including Senator Patty Murray, the former Chair of the Senate Budget Committee who serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (which she also chaired).  Her office issued the following Tuesday:

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                 CONTACT: Murray Press Office
    Tuesday, February 3, 2015                                                            (202) 224-2834
    VETERANS: Murray Votes to Pass Clay Hunt Veterans Suicide Prevention Bill
    Suicide prevention bill now heads to President Obama’s desk for his signature
    Murray: “We simply must do more to ensure the men and women who have served our country get the physical, mental, and emotional support they need when they come home”
    Washington state is home to over 600,000 veterans

    (Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray voted to pass the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act.  Senator Murray is an original co-sponsor of the bill, which would require the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) to establish an annual third-party evaluation of VA’s mental health care and suicide prevention programs, promote greater collaboration with community mental health resources, and create a pilot program to attract and retain Department psychiatrists.  The bill is also designed to combat veteran suicide by improving the quality of care at VA facilities and creating a strong base for future mental health initiatives. This bill passes at a critical time when suicide rates continue to rise among female veterans who use VA care, and the rate of suicide has skyrocketed to 79 per 100,000 among male veterans ages 18-24 who use VA services.

    “Every day, twenty-two American veterans die from suicide, so as a country, we simply must do more to ensure the men and women who have served our country get the physical, mental, and emotional support they need when they come home,” said Senator Murray.  “This legislation will help the VA continue taking steps to make sure it is doing everything it can, from prevention programs to improved recruitment of mental health providers, to giving our nation’s heroes the care they deserve.”

    Throughout her career, Senator Murray has been an advocate for service members, veterans, and their families. In 2012 Senator Murray passed the Mental Health ACCESS Act which improved access to the VA’s mental health support services and care. According to a VA report published in 2013, over 25 percent of all suicides in Washington state were identified as veterans, among the highest group of states reporting suicides by veteran status.

    The Clay Hunt bill passed the House on January 12th, 2015. Now after Senate passage, it heads to the President’s desk for his signature.

    Leah Kennebeck
    Deputy Press Secretary
    Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray

    In the years we've been attending and reporting on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, we've seen strong leadership from many including Senator Murray, Senator Daniel Akaka and Senator Richard Burr.  Today, the new Chair is Johnny Isakson and Richard Blumenthal is the Ranking Member.  Hopefully, they will offer strong leadership and also continue the Committee's near-unbroken efforts at working together as one functioning committee and not as two different wings of a committee at war with one another.

    For that to happen, they'll have to regain the past footing that was lost under the previous Chair Bernie Sanders who frequently mistook grandstanding and finger pointing for leadership.  It was not helpful and goes a long way towards explaining useless hearings and very little work done on behalf of veterans when Sanders Chaired the Committee.

    For example, the Clay Hunt bill didn't get past in the last months of the previous Congress though it easily could have if Sanders had focused on veterans and not on his petty wars with senators on the other side of the aisle.

    Senator Blumenthal is someone I expect to carry on the tradition of Akaka and Murray in putting veterans first -- I expect that based upon the work he's already been doing as a member of the Committee since being elected to the Senate.  I hope the same will be true of Isakson but I'm less familiar with his efforts.

    Back to Wednesday's hearing and Blumenthal.

    Senator Richard Blumenthal: On the issue of our veterans who have suffered from post-traumatic stress as again you and I have discussed, your predecessor Secretary Hagel worked with me, responded to my urging him to establish a new policy guidance on September 3, 2014 that finally directed proper consideration of Post Traumatic Stress by the Boards for Correction of Military Records when considering upgrade requests.  Post-Traumatic Stress was unknown in the Vietnam and Korean eras -- not unknown because it didn't exist but unknown because it wasn't diagnosed and so this new policy gives proper recognition to a medical condition that simply was never diagnosed at the time but may cause less than honorable discharges.  And I hope that, if confirmed, you'll ensure full and forceful implementation of this policy and continue outreach because it's so vitally necessary outreach to anyone who might be able to apply under the new guidelines.

    Ashton Carter: I-I-I will.  We've learned a lot about that, sadly, in recent years and understand now, uh, a lot better that it truly is a-a-a malady that, uh, we can and need to address.  And thank you for taking an interest in it as you've done about the welfare of the troops in so many ways that you've -- in the course of the wars, I was always very grateful 

    Senator Richard Blumenthal:  Thank you.

    Ahston Carter:  -- for your attention to the troops.

    Senator Richard Blumenthal:  Thank you very much.  I should probably stop there but I do have a couple of more questions.  But I do appreciate your kind words. On the inter-operability of the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration -- and I'm the Ranking Member on the Veterans Administration's Veterans Affairs Committee of the Senate and I think there's been an ongoing concern -- you're aware of it -- of the issues relating to the integrated, electronic health records integrated disability system treating military sexual trauma and other shared efforts that really involve a gap between these two great departments each with a vital mission and I'm hoping that you will continue the effort that your predecessor, I believe, found very important to close that gap and make sure that there really is the kind of connection -- the vital, vibrant connection that is important to our troops and then to our veterans.

    Ashton Carter: I-I-I recognize that gap and uh, uhm, there's only one soldier -- there are two cabinet departments.  One soldier shouldn't have to worry about two cabinet departments.

    This is an important issue that was touched on and not really explored.  Blumenthal's time was up.  I don't know that the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee will lead on this issue. I hope they will. But, historically, the leadership here has come from the House Veterans Affairs Committee -- first from then-US House Rep Bob Filner and since from US House Rep Jeff Miller who is the Chair of Committee and does not let someone putting up a wall stop him.

    Miller is tenacious and determined and that's necessary on this issue.

    We're talking about a record that is created when a person joins the service -- a medical record.  It needs to be electronic and able to follow the service member through their service time but also when they leave the service and become veterans.

    Why one record?

    There are many reasons but let's offer one.  Post-Traumatic Stress.  Getting the rating required for that means documentation.  An electronic record that follows the service member as they transition to veteran status can ensure that P-TS or other issues are fully documented and the veteran isn't left trying to assemble documentation after the fact -- documentation the veteran's medical file should include but, when it's paper, may have been lost in transition.

    This seamless, electronic record has had a ton of money already spent on it.

    It's still not 'arrived' yet.

    It was supposed to be in place, at one point, before Bully Boy Bush left the White House.  That didn't happen.  But US President Barack Obama was going to ensure it was implemented.


    Didn't happen.

    He's got two more years.

    In fairness to Barack, the stumbling block was Eric Shinseki.

    While VA Secretary, Shinseki had no real interest in anything but the pretense of going through the motions.

    With Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Shinseki agreed to and outlined the type of system needed.  Then Leon Panetta replaced Gates.  Despite Panetta telling Shinseki he was fine with whatever had been agreed to (by Gates), Shinseki used the new Secretary of Defense as a means to stall progress.  Then Chuck Hagel replaced Panetta.  And Shinseki thought he'd used Hagel as well.

    He did that once.

    In an opening hearing.

    Once was all Hagel was going to take.

    He requested (demanded) a sit-down with Barack on this.

    Barack met with Hagel and Shinseki and all the basics were supposedly agreed to.

    But the seamless, electronic record is still not a reality.

    At what point is going to become a reality?

    Both the House and the Senate Veterans Affairs Committees need to be actively following this and holding public hearings on this.  Not only has so much money been wasted in the last six years alone, but the record is needed, those who serve would benefit from it tremendously and it would be so important to accurate ratings on disabilities among other issues.

    Let's move over to Iraq.  You might think that with a billion dollars spent 'fighting' the Islamic State just since August -- over a billion US taxpayer dollars -- that Iraq would be a major part of the hearing but you would be wrong.  It was largely ignored.  Chair McCain addressed it and Ranking Member Jack Reed did.  Another raising the issue was Senator Ted Cruz.

    Senator Ted Cruz:  How would you characterize our objective right now with regards to ISIS?

    Ashton Carter:  To inflict a lasting defeat on ISIS.  I only add the word "lasting" to re-enforce the idea that once they're beaten, they need to stay beaten. Which means you need to create the conditions in Iraq and Syria so that they stay defeated.

    Senator Ted Cruz: And final question, in your professional judgment, what would be required militarily for you to destroy or, as you put it, inflict a lasting defeat on ISIS?

    Ashton Carter: Uh-uh, militarily it would be the, uh-uh-uh, dismantlement of their forces and their networks.  And, uh-uh, to get to the point about lastingly to -- there's a political ingredient of this uh-uh which I uh need to add which is to have them replaced in Iraq and Syria with, uhm-uh, a government that the people, uh, want to be part of, uh, and so they don't have to be governed by maniacs and terrorists.

    Violence continues in Iraq.  All Iraq News notes 4 Baghdad bombings left 1 person dead and fourteen more injured and security forces state that the Islamic State burned 3 people to death in Heet.

    The State Dept's Brett McGurk re-Tweeted  this today:

    Under the instructions of PM Al-Abadi, 221.5 tons of food items have arrived in Anbar province this morning.
    25 retweets25 favorites

    Do you wonder why?

    Because he wants that message out, not this one:

    وفاة الطفل عبدالله طه العيساوي نتيجة الحصار على الفلوجة وقلة الغذاء والدواء وعدم تواجد الفريق الطبي المتخصص بالأطفال.
    51 retweets22 favorites

    Iraqi Spring MC is raising attention to the death of Abdullah Taha al-Isawi in Falluja.  Why did the child die?  A lack of food, a lack of medicine.

    Brett McGurk, after the death of Abudllah, wants to reTweet Haider's late food shipment.

    Wants to rob the action of the context in which it took place.

    Wants to pretend Haider did something wonderful.

    The reality is Abudllah suffered because of Haider and so many civilians in Falluja continue to suffer because Haider's failed to be a leader.

    There has been no real effort at political solutions in Iraq.  The US has pushed for retaliation and has set an example by doing that -- not a good example, true, but an example none the less.

    Clearly, the Yazidis now believe violence is the answer.  Dropping back to the January 27th snapshot:

    While Barack worried about diplomacy in Saudi Arabia, a natural event took place in Iraq.
    The persecuted decided to persecute.  EFE reports:

    A militant group including Yazidi and Syrian Kurdish fighters has killed at least 25 Arab civilians on the perimeters of the northwestern Iraqi town of Rabia, on the Syrian border, an official source announced on Tuesday.
    Hosam al-Abar, a member of Niniveh's Provincial Council, told Efe that a series of barbaric revenge attacks targeted four Arab villages located 120 kilometers (74 miles) west of Mosul.
    The attacks were carried out by Yazidi fighters supported by militias affiliated to Syrian Kurdish parties.

    'Pity us!  Feel sorry for us!  Now look the other way as we kill and kidnap!'

    This is only a manifestation of the hateful remarks some Yazidis were making publicly in 2013 and 2014.  Their being trapped on the mountain was a crisis and did require humanitarian aid being dropped to them.  That's really all the US should have committed.  (And that's all we advocated for here.)  In Iraq, the Yazidis are basically the short man at the party -- chip on their shoulder and easily outraged.
    Years of being called "Satan worshipers" took their toll long before the Islamic State showed up.
    Now they've mistaken global pity for permission to destroy and kill.

    Last Thursday, Khales Joumah (Niqash) reported on the Yazidis attacking of Arab communities and concluded with this:

    The fallout from the massacre saw Yazidi leaders, who have become responsible for parts of Sinjar newly liberated from the IS group, organized a meeting. They condemned the massacre and promised that such an act would never be repeated. They also said that the fighters who had carried out these acts were not able to be identified as they don’t belong to any of the known fighting factions. 

    The provincial council says that there are now around a thousand families who have left their homes and who are in need of shelter and aid. On the ground in the area are hundreds of armed men from the villages which were attacked, vowing to protect what is theirs should they be attacked again. In the middle are a handful of Iraqi Kurdish military. Right now things are relatively calm but if tribal justice – which calls for reparations and an eye for an eye - continues to be meted out, it is hard to say how long it will stay that way.

    As for Zahra, she found shelter in the home of a nearby relative. But she couldn’t stand not knowing what had happened to her family whom she had left at the mercy of very angry fighters. So, still wearing the same black clothing she had on the night of the attack, she returned to her village to search for her husband and two young sons. She eventually found their burnt corpses in one of the houses in the village that had been set on fire. 

    Vengeance doesn't usually end violence.  It's a mirror to reflects and reproduces violence.  Which is why we've noted the response from the Jordanian kingdom this week has been risky and damaging.  Amnesty International released the following statement on the rush to vengeance:

    The vicious summary killing of a Jordanian pilot who was burned alive by the armed group that calls itself the Islamic State (IS) is an atrocious attack against humanity, said Amnesty International, but responding with executions is not the answer.
    The video showing Muath al-Kasasbeh being burned alive in a cage has sent shockwaves across the world. This morning at dawn the Jordanian authorities executed Sajida al-Rishawi and Ziad al-Karbouli, two Iraqis linked to al-Qa’ida, in apparent revenge for his killing.
    “The abhorrent killing of Muath al-Kasasbeh is a war crime and an all-out attack on the most basic principles of humanity,” said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.
    “The Jordanian authorities are rightly horrified by this utterly reprehensible killing but the response should never be to resort to the death penalty, which itself is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. The death penalty should also not be used as a tool for revenge. The IS’s gruesome tactics must not be allowed to fuel a bloody cycle of reprisal executions.”
    Under international humanitarian law holding hostages is a war crime and all detainees should be treated humanely by their captors.
    “The killing of Muath al-Kasasbeh while he was trapped in a cage in such a brutal and orchestrated manner shows the savagery that a group like the IS is capable of,” said Philip Luther.
    One of those executed by the Jordanian authorities today was Sajida al-Rishawi, who was on death row for her role in the 2005 bombing in Amman that killed 60 people. Her lawyer’s request for her to undergo psychiatric assessment to assess her mental fitness to stand trial was refused by the court.
    According to a report by the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, following his visit to Jordan in 2006, she was tortured during interrogation over a month-long period in the custody of Jordan’s General Intelligence Department (GID).
    Ziad Karbouli, the second person executed this morning, was convicted on charges of belonging to an illegal organization, possessing explosives leading to death of a person and murder. His lawyer told Amnesty International that he had been forced to confess under duress.
    After an eight-year halt in executions, Jordan resumed its use of the death penalty in December 2014 when it carried out the executions of 11 men. Amnesty International is calling on Jordan to immediately establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.
    Muath al-Kasasbeh, a fighter pilot in the Jordanian air force, was captured when his plane came down near al-Raqqa, Syria, during a mission against the IS in December 2014.
    The IS has killed dozens of its captives in the past year including in the past month the Japanese journalist Kenji Goto and a second Japanese hostage, Haruna Yukawa.
    Amnesty International calls on the IS to cease summary killings, abductions and hostage taking. 

    Brian Williams?

    E-mails ask about when Brian Williams, anchor of NBC Nightly News, will be noted here for getting caught lying about Iraq?

    It's a TV issue.  Ava and I plan to cover it Sunday.  We toyed with doing it here and risking the wrath of Jim who would (rightly) point out it was a TV issue so it belonged to our beat at The Third Estate Sunday Review.

    If between now and Sunday someone grabbed our point and ran with it?  Well, we'd find something else to cover.

    But we were pretty sure that the the issue we saw would be missed or overlooked by others -- we think its the main point.  And it has been missed or overlooked.  So many silly people commenting but not really grasping.  It's part of a problem Ava and I've documented with NBC News -- documented in the past at Third.  Justin Raimondo has an interesting take at -- read it, it's worth reading.  But that's not the way we're approaching it.

    Does Brian Williams need to go?  His lies may mean he has to but the issue is larger than his lies.  So unless someone grasps the point between now and Sunday, Ava and I will cover it at Third.

    In addition to noting Justin Raimondo's take, we'll also link to Jim Naureckas' piece at FAIR.

    Leading Veterans Groups Release Funding Blueprint to Address VA Health Care Access Issues

    Paralyzed Veterans of America issued the following:

    Administration’s request addresses the health care and benefits needs of veterans 

    IB Cover 2016On February 2, 2015, four of the nation’s leading veterans service organizations—AMVETS (American Veterans), DAV (Disabled American Veterans), Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) and the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars)—released The Independent Budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA): Budget Recommendations for FY 2016 and FY 2017.  The report outlines projected funding requirements for the programs administered by the VA. 

    The Independent Budget veterans service organizations (IBVSOs) are pleased to see that the Administration has committed to investing significant new resources to the VA, particularly for health care.  The Administration recommends $63.2 billion in total medical care for FY 2016 and approximately $66.6 billion for total medical care for the advance appropriations for FY 2017, an amount that actually exceeds the $66.4 billion advance appropriations recommendation contained in The Independent Budget (IB) report.  The IBVSOs appreciate the fact that the VA may finally be directing sufficient resources to address the serious access problems and lack of capacity that have plagued the health care system. 

    The revised budget request for FY 2016 is especially welcome because the IBVSOs had been concerned that the funding levels previously provided through advance appropriations for FY 2016 were not sufficient to meet clearly increasing demand.  The Independent Budget Report recommends $63.3 billion for total medical care for FY 2016, about $1.4 billion more than the $61.9 billion Congress provided through advance appropriations last December.  The newly revised Administration budget request for total medical care for FY 2016 is $63.2 billion virtually identical to the IB estimate.  

    “It is a very positive sign that the VA is recommending real increases in funding for medical care for both FY 2016 and for FY 2017,” stated Al Kovach, National President of Paralyzed Veterans of America. “However, it is imperative that Congress work with the Administration to address the shortfall in medical care funding that was previously provided for FY 2016.” 

    The Independent Budget Report also includes the following recommendations:
    • $2.8 billion for the Veterans Benefits Administration—approximately $263 million more than the FY 2015 appropriated level.  This recommendation includes significant increases in staff in the Compensation Service and the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program.
    • $2.8 billion for all construction programs—approximately $1.6 billion more than the FY 2015 appropriated level. 
    • $619 million for medical and prosthetic research—approximately $30 million more than the FY 2015 appropriated level.

    “In the past couple of years, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) has made significant progress in addressing the claims backlog, but there is still much more that needs to be done,” said Ron Hope, DAV National Commander.  “Congress must provide, and VA must allocate, additional resources to complete the modernization of VBA’s IT systems, increase the number of claims processors and expand the number of Board of Veterans’ Appeals attorneys and judges to address that growing backlog,” he said.

    The IBVSOs believe that a concerted effort must address the monumental problems within the infrastructure and construction management programs. Recent reports about serious failings in construction programs—most notably in Colorado—leaves veterans wondering if any VA facility will be available to meet their growing health care requirements.

    “The problems that arose from the Denver VA medical center project confirm that the VA doesn’t take its funding requests or its oversight responsibilities seriously,” said John W. Stroud, Commander-in-Chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. “Construction funding requests have been totally insufficient for more than a decade, and the noticeable lack of attention hurts veterans who are trying to access care, and it wastes precious taxpayer money. The VA must become better stewards of all that it owns.”

    Ultimately, it is imperative that VA invest new resources appropriately ensuring that veterans gain timely access to the best quality care, and receive ratings decisions that are done correctly the first time.  The VA must continue to take positive steps to regain the trust of veterans who rely on the system after dealing with the scandal that embroiled the VA health care system for most of the past year.

    “We urge the Administration and Congress to thoroughly review The Independent Budget and our policy agenda for the 114th Congress as they move forward to approve a budget for this year,” emphasized AMVETS National Commander Larry Via.  “Our recommendations offer solutions to the access problems facing the health care system and the challenges facing the claims processing system while also justifying funding needed to implement those solutions.” 

    The Independent Budget is an annual comprehensive budget and policy document, written by veterans for veterans, detailing funding requirements for VA. The Independent Budget aims to present a full picture of veterans’ needs—and how government can meet these needs. The full report can be viewed online at

    A Joint Project of: