Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, April 2, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, Senator Joe Biden gets pro-active, Jacob Bruce Kovco's death remains a mystery, and more.
Starting with war resisters.  "Watada is the only officer in the U.S. armed forces who has taken seriously his oath to uphold the Constitution."  Justin Hughes (Golden Gate [X]Press) quotes whistle blower Daniel Ellsberg explaining that to a large turnout Sunday at San Francisco's Unitarian Universalist Church: "He praised Lt. Ehren Watada, who refused to deploy to Iraq in 2006 because of moral opposition to the war.  Watada was the first commissioned officer in the U.S. armed forces to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq." Watada, whose service should have ended in December 2006, remains in limbo as the US military attempts to mount an argument which would explain why the Constitution has no meaning and the double-jeopardy clause should be set aside.  Without overriding the Constitution, the US military cannot retry Watada.  In February 2007, Judge Toilet (aka John Head) overruled defense objections and declared a mistrial (due to the fact that the prosecution was losing) with the hopes of handing the military a do-over.  The Constitution forbids that and forbids it just for that reason.  November 8, 2007, Judge Benjamin Settle issued an injunction and Watada's case remains on hold. 
Since refusing to deploy in June of 2006, Watada has continued to report for duty.  Despite the fact that his service should have ended in December 2006, he continues reporting.  This issue should have been settled some time ago and should not be forgotten in election year hype.  Watada took a brave and public stand.  It was so brave and so public that no officer has yet to follow him, all this time later.  Which is why Ellsberg notes that of all the officers in the military, only Watada grasped what the Constitution meant and required.
Joshua Key is a US war resister.  He, Brandi Key and their children moved to Canada when Key returned from Iraq and realized he could not continue to take part in the illegal war.  He was among the earliest to publicly draw the comparison between foreign forces in Iraq and what would happen if foreign forces occupied the US?  Would US citizens resist?  He tells his story in The Deserter's Tale (written by Key and Lawrence Hill). He is also telling his story, the Canadian Press reports, to Canada's Federal Court today as he attempts to win on appeal after his claim for refugee status was denied last November by Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board ("board" in name only -- one person rules) following their denial of his claim because he wasn't a War Criminal (truly, the board's decision states he would have been admitted if he'd committed war crimes) leading his attorney Jeffry House to declare that decision "patently preposterous."
In April of last year, Tracy Bowden (Australia's ABC) reported on Keys and other US war resisters in Canada.  "I'm not a baby killer," Key told Bowden.  "I am not a civilian killer.  You know of course I'm a solider and I'm here to kill enemy combatants but I was never seeing that.  All I was seeing was civilians getting hurt, getting killed, traumatised and still no justification for it."  In August of last year, Tony Jones (Lateline) interviewed Key.  Click here for the YouTube video.
TONY JONES: Now you were in some of the worst fighting in Fallujah and you claim to have seen at least 14 civilians killed. Can you tell us about the circumstances?

JOSHUA KEY: From one of the incidents, we were at a mayor cell, which is sort of where you would -- like where the mayor of the city stayed. I was in the back part; I saw the after-effect of it. Of course the ground was -- outrageous amount of gunfire. Of course we were getting ready ourselves. It came over the radio that, you know, that something in the front was happening. I guess the overall circumstances of it were, the end result was 12 Iraqi civilians were killed. The reason why is because somebody had gotten trigger-happy and that was one of my first instances with death there, of course, was that. I mean, it was apparent very very - the first day we got into Iraq that if you felt threatened you shoot, you ask questions later. Our actions were completely unsupervised and we did, as we will. Just -- as well with the 12 Iraqis there was no reason for them to be dead. Somebody got trigger-happy, there's death.

TONY JONES: When civilians were killed, what happened? Did your officers make reports? Did they try and investigate what had happened?

JOSHUA KEY: I myself never got questioned in the course of my ranking I had no idea what my commanding officers were doing, if anything was wrote or not. I know in many of the circumstances I witnessed myself in Iraq I asked later on if any mission statements had been written. Has anything been written about what happened last night and I was told on many occasions that it was none of my concern and none of my business.

TONY JONES: One of the most horrific incidents you record was in the night during a raid in Ramadi and you describe the circumstances with one of your sergeants actually saying, "Tonight is retaliation time in Ramadi." Tell us about that incident?

JOSHUA KEY: Well, we had many -- for that incidence, for the retaliation, prior to that there had been a commander in the third Army Recovery Regiment which was the regiment I was with that had gotten injured. I don't know exactly, I don't even know if he was a fatality. That was said after that fact. In Ramadi the second time there was so many incidents, of course. You're on a QRF mission, which is like you're the quick reaction force for the military. It's like you're a swat team. For that 24-hour period you're in control. If anything happens within that city then you're sent out to, as they say, calm down the uprising. The night we got the call we were on it, we were going to our designated spot. We took a sharp right turn by the banks of the Euphrates River. On the left side I saw bodies that were decapitated. My truck stopped. I was asked to see if there were - of course I was the lowest ranking and I was told to get out to see if I could find evidence of a fire fight, which means, you know, shell casings. When I got out of the back of my truck I heard one American soldier screaming that we had lost it. I mean, I looked to the other side and I seen American soldiers kicking the head around like a soccer ball. I got back inside of my APC, which is an armoured personnel carrier, said I wouldn't have no involvement. Of course the next day I asked if anything had been filed for that, because to me that was completely unacceptable. That's when my - I said that's when my will started to change, of course.

TONY JONES: I have to get you to go back over that because of the way you just described it. Are you saying you saw American soldiers kicking around the decapitated head of a dead Iraqi?

JOSHUA KEY: Yes, that was -- of course I live with that nightmare every day. That's something I have a lot of problems with, of course. But to me that was completely -- there's no justification and no reason why that should have happened like that. There's nothing - there's no reason; it only takes one shot to kill a person, even if it was for that standpoint. But there's no reason whatsoever to decapitate a human person by means of gunfire.
You can make your voice heard. Three e-mails addresses to focus on are: Prime Minister Stephen Harper ( -- that's pm at who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion ( -- that's Dion.S at who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua ( -- that's Bevilacqua.M at who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration. A few more can be found here at War Resisters Support Campaign. For those in the US, Courage to Resist has an online form that's very easy to use.

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Matt Mishler, Josh Randall, Robby Keller, Justiniano Rodrigues, Chuck Wiley, James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Clara Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Logan Laituri, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum. 

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).  
Puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki had his strings pulled by the White House leading to the disaster that was the assault on Basra.  Fallout is not limited to the wounded and the dead.  Warren P. Strobel and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) report that the "paltry results have silenced talk at the Pentagon of further U.S. troop withdrawal any time soon" and quote an unnamed "senior U.S. military official in Washington" declaring, "There is no empirical evidence that the Iraqi forces can stand up."  Kevin Sullivan (Washington Post) reports a similar effect in England where Minister of Defence Des Browne has nixed the announced withdrawals and stated, "It is prudent that we pause any further reductions while the current situation is unfolding." The assault was a failure on every level.  It failed in terms of military strategy.  It demonstrated (yet again) how weak the Iraqi military was and how weak Iraqi soldiers ties were to the military (since so many of them defected sides during the fighting).  It revealed the intense and widespread loathing for al-Maliki among Iraqis.  It revealed that Iran is a power broker in the area and, indeed, a peace broker in the conflict.  It inflated Moqtada al-Sadr's standing throughout Iraq.  Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) observes, "It also left the United States once more painted as the villain by the Sadrists although the offensive is widely thought to have been the brainchild of Maliki and his inner circle of advisors.  The Sadrists made clear that this latest chapter would be used against U.S. forces in Iraq" going on to quote an Iraqi who explaines, "America is looking for a man who would take over from the occupation forces to target the Iraqi people, and now Maliki has achieved this ambition.  Maliki has somehow started to execute the American project and the Iraqi people considers Maliki a tool in the hands of the Americans."  Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) probes the survivors of the continued US violence in Baghdad interviewing the survivors of US snipers -- snipers the US repeatedly denies the existance of -- such as Karrar Ali Hussein (sixteen-years-old and 'guilty' of playing soccer) and Ammar Ensayer ("guilty" of going to the marketplace).  Fadel also speaks with the victims of the US air strikes such as Jabar Abdul Ridha who lost wife Kareema Hafout and daughter Nisrene Jabar when the US military elected to bomb their home as Kareema was hanging laundry.  In complete denial, Maj Gen Kevin J. Bergner (US military flack) declared in Baghdad today praised the assault and maintained it demonstrated al-Maliki's "legitimate authority" and claimed "there are already indications that many citizens are working in support of their government."
Why would anyone say something so absurd?  For the same reason the assault was launched, to prepare the rollout for US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and Gen David Petraeus' testimonies to Congress this month.  The assault was a disaster in that regard as well. It was supposed to give a p.r. boost, another wave of Operation Happy Talk that the two men could ride to justify the lack of progress and their cries for more illegal war. 
In September, Congress acted like idiots.  They allowed the White House roll out to take place with nothing to counter it.  This week, US Senator Joe Biden uses his position as chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations to do the sort of work Congress should have been doing last September.  "Iraq After The Surge" was the title of two of today's hearings with the first being military prospects and the second being political prospects.  It was a time for Senators on the committee (and anyone following the hearing) to get a grasp on some realities before the p.r. blitz begins. 
"Last year I rejcted the claim that it [the 'surge'] was a new strategy.  Rather, I said, it is a new tactic used to achieve the same old strategic aim, political stability.  And I foresaw no serious prospects for success.  I see no reason to change my judgment now," declared Lt. General William E. Odom (Retired).  He was one of four witnesses testifying on the first panel.  Joining him were retired Generals Barry McCaffrey (General) and Robert H. Scales, Jr. (Major General) as well as War Hawk Michele Flournoy who doesn't serve in the military, just wants to send it everywhere. Odom was the one to listen to of the four as he felt no need to sweeten up his findings.  One example was when he addressed the "Awakening" Councils -- turncoat thugs now supporting the US because the US is paying them:
Let me emphasize that our new Sunni friends insist on being paid for their loyalty.  I have heard, for example, a rough estimate that the cost in one area of about 100 square kilometers is $250,000 per day.  And periodically they threaten to defect unless their fees are increased.  You might want to find out the total costs for these deals forecasted for the next several years, because they are not small and they do not promise to end.  Remember, we do not own these people.  We merely rent them.  And they can break their lease at any moment.
If Congress is going to take advantage of the opportunites the hearings Biden held provided, they will be requesting that information right now.  They will not, instead, merely wait to ask Petraeus and Crocker when they appear.  If they do that, the two men will beg off with, "I don't have that information before me."  So put in the requests now.  Let the White House know you want the dollar amounts. 
Odom was thinking of the coming testimonies and urged the committee, "When the administration's witnesses appear before you, you should make them clarify how long the army and marines can sustain this band-aid strategy."
Odom rejected the nonsense of "bottom up" building of a nation-state and noted that, historically, it has no known antaecedents. It's a shame he wasn't also on the second panel because this administration talking point was favored by two panelist. 
"This idea of fight terrorism" bothers Joe Biden because if the US left, any al Qaeda that is present would leave as well and "I find it not plausible that if we left al Qaeda will gain a foothold." Odom agreed with the point (and had noted it himself in his opening remarks.) 
More importantly, Biden felt, "We don't talk much about the downsides of staying.  The downsides of staying are overwhelming . . . but we have fallen into the jargon that if we leave . . . that these terrible things would happen.  Is the opposite true that if we leave . . . we're likely to damage the ability of al Qaeda" to remain in Iraq?  General McCaffrey agreed with that assessment noting that "it's hard to imagine that we went to Iraq to fight al Qaeda" in the first place of that the US needs to remain in Iraq for that reason.
Biden reminded everyone of "the state purpose" by the White House for the so-called "surge" which "was to get to the point where there was a change in the space on the ground . . . in order to give the administration an opportunity to come up with a political solution" and for the "warring factions" to come together.  Odom rejected the notion floated by some which was the need for "trainers" to be left behind.  He rightly noted that not only is that not a withdrawal, it's an invitation for further violence.  Biden agreed noting that you cannot "transition into a training emphasis" while withdrawing troops "without leaving trainers exposed."
Odom addressed the elephant in the room: the violence that likely follows a withdrawal.  "We don't have the physical choice to prevent chaos when we leave," he declared.  "It's going to happen . . . no matter what we do. . . . We have the blame because we went in [to Iraq] . . . We do have the choice not to send more US troops.  That's the moral choice we're facing."  He also noted how trainers were "besides the point" when Iraq is plauged with conflict and divided loyalties.
General Scales fancy the country a circus performer, one that can walk a tightrope: "The key is a delicate balance between pulling out American pwoer and withdrawing."  He went on to compare it a "balance beam or a teeter-totter." 
Odom dismissed that idea and noted that this was a critical moment and that there had been a series of them throughout the Iraq War.  "The first engagement was when we went in, we won that," he explained.  That was the last time he judged a 'win' had taken place and "we have been on the defense ever since."
US Senator Richard Lugar cited Gen. Richard A. Cody's "stark assessment" when testifying to the Senate yesterday that he had "never seen our lack of strateig depth be where it is today."  Ann Scott Tyson (Washington Post) reports that Cody is set to be replaced with Lt Gen Raymond Odierno whose confirmation hearing is set for tomorrow.  Odierno is a big Happy Talker and also fond of repeating charges against Iran without any backing.
the forces depleted to the point that they are today.  Luger referenced a "Spike in Attacks" chart in the Washington Post and noted, "It points out that a surge . . . buys time."  He then reviewed various figures to demonstrate that US service members are repeatedly targeted and that the 'low' is still not low (see chart).
Noting those who were serving in the US military in Iraq, Senator John Kerry offered, "What we're here to do is find out whether we have a strategy worthy of" them, he sounded like a very distant cousin to the young man who once asked the United States Senate, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam?"  He felt that the Iraqi governmet was "corrupt to the core and dysfunctional to the corps" but wanted "conditional engagement" which would mean Iraqis do X and the US do Z.  But what's the point of any "engagement" with a government "corrupt to the core"?  Kerry was better in the second panel but in the first panel, he was all over the map.  "This is intolerable, folks, absolutely intolerable," he declared in a functioning moment.  Odom agreed that the dynamic needed to change but stated (rightly) "the only thing that will change the dynamics is withdrawal."
"The president," Odom noted, "and I even hear it on this committee -- you're not going to get out [of Iraq] leaving order. . . Every year we've stayed, the price has gotten higher. . . . You don't have any other choices" except to get out.  This led Biden to offer, "Excuse my cynicism, I expect that's why they're leaving it for the next administration."
Senator Chuck Hagel noted that listening to the testimony of all (on the first panel) telgraphed one point: "we have no good options."  He heard a lot of questions but, "the real question is: 'How do we get out of this mess?' That is the only question."
While Odom was offering truths and realities (including that the people the US is currently training are the ones who will most likely lose a civil war in Iraq after the US withdraws), Flournoy was insisting that the "keep[ing] that surge funding going is absolutely critical."  Flournoy had nothing to offer.  She's a centrist stalling, trying to prevent withdrawal.  Even when the senators were addressing that option (some gingerly).  Senator Robert Menendez pointed out that what seemed very likely is that the US would remain in Iraq to support some "two-star general" -- an Iraqi 'strong man' installed to bring 'order' and "maybe he'll be liked and maybe he won't be" but was that the really the purpose of all the suffering and dying?  Menendez pointed out the problems for Iraqi children, the lack of access to potable water and wondered, "How much more money is it going to take before we do this right?"
Noting the strain put on the US military (never a concern for Flournoy), US Senator Jim Webb again addressed deployments noting that "as long as you've been deployed, you should have that much time at home."
The second panel consisted of Yahia Said (Revenue Watch Institute), Stephen Biddle (Council on Foreign Relations) and Nir Rosen (NYU).  The latter broke from stay-keep-the-war-going talking points and engaged the interest of Biden leading to a dialogue between the two about the realities.  While Rosen was noting the violence was inevitable, Biddle insisted that it could be "low enough so it wouldn't be on the front page of newspapers."  And that tells you just about everything you ever need to know about the Council of/for/from Foreign Relations.  Senator Kerry was much more focused during this panel and quickly noted of Biddle, "So you're in the 100-year-war school."  Biddle denied it but kept insisting on the "bottom up approach" which Odom had noted in the first panel just doesn't happen.  Kerry noted that any "stability is only going to be maintained while we are there" and wondered how long the US could afford spending "ten to twelve million dollars a month" to pursue temporary stability? Yahia Said didn't make his testimony go over any easier by suggesting that the hope was an emerging 'strong man' causing Kerry (in his strongest moment) to ask, "Is that what our troops are dying for?"
Senator Lisa Murkowski asked the panel to "define a stabilizaed Iraq" and Biddle declared that it would be "an end to large scale violence."  "And we do that through the bottom up approaching you are endorsing?" Murkowksi asked.  Yes, Biddle asserted.  Said felt that approach "has almost" -- almost -- "reached its limits."  Nir Rosen noted the opinions of the Iraqi people and stated, "I think they should withdraw as soon as possible."  Senator Russ Feingold wnated to know about the opinions on timetables.  Not much happened until Senator Barbara Boxer was allowed her allotted time.
Barbara Boxer: Did you just say that Maliki uses the Iraqi security forces as his militia?  Did you say that?
Biddle: Yes.
Barbara Boxer: If that's true and Maliki uses his military as a force to bring about peace -- that's scandalous and that we would have paid $20 million to train [it] and someone that we consider an expert says it's a militia, that's shocking.
She then attempted to question Rosen who attempted to add details.  Details weren't needed and ate into the time needed for Boxer to make the case she was making.  "I come out with a picture of Iraq today," she explained, "as a bloody lawless place, run by militias, a place that has undergone ethnic cleansing and the Shias won that . . . and also that the US presence there is only putting off the day when the Iraqis will find the way."
This was a yes or a no.  Nir Rosen didn't need to offer stories.  (But he did.)  He's very lucky Boxer didn't tell him to hold his thoughts (she did tell Biddle that).  She noted, "I'm surprised because that's not what General Petraeus tells us.  He tells us he's proud" of how the training is coming and "that's not what Condi Rice tells us . . . I'm surprised." 
Had Nir Rosen known when to shut his trap, Boxer might have a soundbyte for the evening news. Boxer wanted Biddle to explain his remarks and explain how the US could still be a peacekeeping force in Iraq while they were engaging warlords in Iraq which boils down to taking sides.  ("You cannot count" on them, Boxer pointed out of the warlords on the US dime.)  She rejected as offensive Biddle's suggestion that that sitting down with warlords was an answer.  "There is no good solution to this nightmare," she pointed out, "so why not just figure out a way to tell the Iraqis, 'We've spilled the blood, now it's your turn.'"
Biddle was unusually snarky even for him and made a cutting remark implying that only those willing to keep US troops in Iraq for years actually cared about the outcome in Iraq leading Boxer to call him out loudly and to state, "And for you to suggest that I don't care about the outcome is a total, total slap to those of us who were against the war."  Biddle made a mealy-mouthed statement about how that wasn't what he meant leading Boxer to snap, "I'll take that as an apology."
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that US airplanes "bombed some targets in Sadr city," 3 Baghdad roadside bombings that claimed 3 lives wounded twenty, 2 Baghdad mortar attacks that wounded four people, A Diyala Province bombing killed 1 woman and left a man wounded, a Diyala Province roadside bombing claimed 3 lives and left eight people wounded and a Mosul car bombing claimed the life of 1 woman and left four police officers wounded.  
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports two women were shot dead in Baghdad today and their driver wounded, an Iraqi soldier and an Iraqi police officer were shot dead in Salahuddin, 2 people were shot dead in Kirkuk, an armed clash in Al Anbar among police officers and the US paid "Awakening" council resulted in five people wounded and, in Basra, a shooting targeted "the spokesman of the MOD" who survived but a Hurra TV correspondent was wounded. Reuters notes 2 police officers and 1 civilian were shot dead in al-Baaj
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses were discovered in Baghdad.  Reuters notes 2 corpses were discovered in Mosul. 
Turning to Australia, in April 2006, Jake Kovco became the first Australian service member to die in Iraq (April 26, 2006).  How he died was not clear even after a laughable "inquiry" that lasted for much of 2006's summer.  A coronial inquest issued a ruling yesterday.  Australia's ABC reports that the Australian Defence Association are stating that the ruling "strengthens the case for reforms to the military justice system."  And the findings themselves?  The inquest found that Jake Kovco died from self-inflected wounds.  The verdict is a joke and we'll get to that in a moment.  During the coronial inquest, Amy Coopes (Herald Sun) reported that William Green, then stationed in Iraq, testified that in the military inquest, he was approached in Iraq by Warrant Officer Tim Cuming with a warning about his scheduled videolink testimony (he didn't end up testifying).  This latest inquest did not address or explain the issue of DNA: "Forensic testing of the grip and slide of the pistol showed DNA in dominant amounts from Pte Kovco's barracks rommate and duty partner Pte Steve Carr."  The Mercury notes, "Judy Kovco was the driving force behind the establishment of the coronial inquiry, accusing the military of a cover-up over her son's death."  Jacob Kovco also left behind two young children as well as widow who wants her privacy, as she so frequently tells the press.  Malcolm Brown (Sydney Morning Herald) asks Judy Kovco if she believes the proceedings were stage-managed and she responds, "That is exactly what they did.  They cut 100 witnesses out."  Judy notes Rod Cross from Sydney University's Department of Physics who "had written a report at the request of the police and concluded that Private Kovco had not been acting irresponsibly." Judy Kovco tells Brown, "What they seem to have forgotten, it is my son.  I know better than anyone he would not do that.  What they have tried to do is to make him out to be a lunatic, and he was not anything like that.  It is a bit hard to swallow.  It is more than a bit hard."  And no wonder.  Judy Kovco was promised a real hearing and that's now what took place.  Dan Box (The Australian) notes that "the inquest did reveal a series of flaws in the military investigation into Kovco's death.   These included the loss of potential evidence and the use of a crude 'cut-and-paste' technique that meant pages of witnesses statements were almost identical."  For what's beein presented as the final word and something so obvious, it's amazing that the jury would have so much trouble deliberating.  Had the needed witnesses been called, there might have been a different finding and exactly what John Agius' whine that the original finding must be backed up to prevent 'pain' to the living (primarily the soldier whose DNA was found on Jake Kovco's gun) had to do with anything is a puzzler.  But in the same way that truth was not the concern in the 2006 inquest, it doesn't appear to have been the focus in this inquest either.
I am pleased to join the United Nations in recognizing the inaugural World Autism Awareness Day. Today offers us the opportunity to reaffirm a commitment to addressing the need for increased treatment, services, and research into autism spectrum disorders.
In the United States and other countries, we have seen a rise in the number of individuals diagnosed with autism. Throughout my time in public service, I have met with families who have shared their experiences in dealing with autism, and trying to seek the best possible care for their loved ones with the disorder. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 150 children in the United States has an autism spectrum disorder. In order to respond to these increases, we need to have a commensurate investment in services and programs for individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities. I also believe that we should increase our efforts to research autism, so that we better understand the causes and the best treatments for this condition.
In November, I announced a comprehensive plan to address autism. My plan provides nearly $1 billion over five years for autism research, surveillance, awareness, and early identification. I will create an Autism Task Force charged with investigating evidence-based treatments, interventions, and services. We need to know what works and start investing in those efforts. I will also expand access to post-diagnosis care so that once children have been identified as autistic, they receive appropriate evidence-based treatment immediately. No child should experience a delay in receiving services that can improve his or her quality of life. But too often today, children are forced to wait for months for care. I'll also provide funding to school districts and universities to train teachers and other health and social services professionals in how to work most effectively with autistic children, since the number of children with autism in our public schools has skyrocketed in recent years. I'll make sure every young person has a transition plan before they leave high school. I will also ensure that both children and adults with autism have access to the services they need -- including housing, transportation, employment - to live rich and full lives. In all, I will commit $500 million annually to provide services to improve the quality of life for all people living with autism.
This plan builds on my work in the Senate to help individuals and families impacted by autism. Last year, I introduced the Expanding the Promise for Individuals with Autism Act, which would increase the availability of effective treatment, services and interventions for both children and adults living with autism. I was also a cosponsor of the Combating Autism Act, and have worked to secure funding for the research programs authorized by that act.
I hope that today's commemoration will once again allow us to highlight the needs of children, adults, and families impacted by autism, and I look forward to working to continue to raise awareness about autism spectrum disorders.

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