Saturday, July 24, 2010

Continued violence, continued stalemate

In Iraq's third-largest city, buildings are bombed out and scarred by thousands of bullet holes. But unlike in many parts of Iraq that have calmed significantly in recent years, much of the damage is recent.
Mosul and the surrounding province of Nineveh are a microcosm of Iraq's most explosive and unresolved conflicts as the United States prepares to draw down to 50,000 troops by Sept. 1. Kurdish and Sunni Arab leaders battle over disputed lands, provincial and central government officials wrestle for control, and Sunni insurgents continue to slip back and forth across the porous borders with Turkey and Syria.
"We will remain a thorn in the chest of the Americans," reads a graffiti tag on one Mosul building.

The above is from Leila Fadel's "Mosul struggles with ethnic divides, insurgency" (Washington Post). And that as Reuters notes 2 police officers shot dead today in Mosul and a Mosul grenade attack which injured 18 people, plus a Basra roadside bombing which claimed 1 life and wounded four people (and may or may not have injured "foreign contractors") and 2 people kidnapped in Daquq -- including the son of the city's mayor. Meanwhile CNN notes that the US military is stating that Iraqi forces have killed "a suspected al Qaeda in Iraq leader".

And the political stalemate continues in Iraq. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. It's four months and five days and, in 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. Today makes it four months and seventeen days without any government being established.

Today Andrew Lee Butters (Time magazine) weighs in:

Instead, Maliki and Allawi are playing factional politics, negotiating with avowedly sectarian or ethnically oriented groups in search of a majority coalition. Maliki has united with the conservative Islamist Shi'ite parties that favor more autonomy for Shi'ite majority southern Iraq, though he still doesn't have enough votes to form a government because radical cleric Muqtada al Sadr, who controls the largest faction within the Shi'ite coalition, refuses to accept Maliki staying on as prime minister. For his part, Allawi is flirting not only with Sadr (on Monday, the two men met in Damascus and called for Maliki to step aside) but also the Kurds. This is surprising because Allawi and the Kurds were major rivals during the election and remain ideological opposites. (Allawi favors centralization in Baghdad, while the Kurds want more autonomy for Kurdish northern Iraq.)

The stalemate continues and what Time and Butters forget/don't know, is that private concerns over Nouri became public concerns in an open Congressional hearing this week. But, hey, let's all pretend that didn't happen, right? Let's all pretend the Congress isn't concerned that Nouri's attempting to stall the process until US forces are down to 50,000 at which point he announces he's a strong-man.

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The fallen

Friday the DoD issued the following: "The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. 1st Lt. Michael L. Runyan, 24, of Newark, Ohio, died July 21 in Balad, Iraq, of injuries sustained when insurgents attacked his convoy vehicle with an improvised explosive device in Muqdadiyah, Iraq. He was assigned to the 52nd Infantry, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. For more information the media may contact the 25th Infantry Division public affairs office at 808-655-6341." Holly Zachariah (Columbus Dispatch)reports, "His family, including parents Jeff and Renee Runyan of Newark, left last night for Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to await the arrival of his body. Mr. and Mrs. Runyan were en route from Newark to the San Diego area to visit their other son and his wife, Alex and Brittany Runyan, when they received word." Anna Sudar (Newark Advocate) adds, "In high school, Michael swam on the swim team, played tennis and was captain of the golf team his senior year. He qualified for the state golf tournament during his senior year, said his former coach, Pam Leonard." Leonard is quoting, "He was the sweetest kid and the toughest kid at the same time. He was so special."

Meanwhile, in England, the editorial board of the Guardian notes cries for testimony from Jack Straw on the Lockerbie bomber and ponders: "But surely this principle works both ways: are not George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld in a similarly unique position to help the Chilcot inquiry explain a few of those lingering questions about the decision to invade Iraq? The inquiry has already met people like Paul Bremer, the US administrator of Iraq in the aftermath of invasion, and David Kay, the head of the Iraq Survey Group, on a visit to both Washington and Boston in May. "

The following community sites update last night:

We'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "THE CIA: BEYOND REDEMPTION AND SHOULD BE TERMINATED" (Veterans Today):

The Central Intelligence Agency(CIA) has confirmed the worst fears of its creator President Harry Truman that it might degenerate into “an American Gestapo.” It has been just that for so long it is beyond redemption. It represents 60 years of failure and fascism utterly at odds with the spirit of a democracy and needs to be closed, permanently.
Over the years “the Agency” as it is known, has given U.S. presidents so much wrong information on so many critical issues, broken so many laws, subverted so many elections, overthrown so many governments, funded so many dictators, and killed and tortured so many innocent human beings that the pages of its official history could be written in blood, not ink. People the world over regard it as infamous, and that evaluation, sadly for the reputation of America, is largely accurate. Besides, since President Obama has half a dozen other major intelligence agencies to rely on for guidance, why does he need the CIA? In one swoop he could lop an estimated 27,000 employees off the Federal payroll, save taxpayers umpteen billions, and wipe the CIA stain from the American flag.
If you think this is a “radical” idea, think again. What is “radical” is to empower a mob of covert operatives to roam the planet, wreaking havoc as they go with not a care for morality or, for that matter, the tenets of mercy implicit in any of the great faiths. The idea of not prosecuting CIA interrogators (i.e., torturers), as President Obama has said, is chilling. These crimes have to be stopped somewhere, sometime, or they will occur again.
“The CIA had run secret interrogation centers before---beginning in 1950, in Germany, Japan, and Panama,” writes New York Times reporter Tim Weiner in his book “Legacy of Ashes, The History of The CIA”(Random House). Weiner has won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the intelligence community. “It had participated in the torture of captured enemy combatants before---beginning in 1967, under the Phoenix program in Vietnam. It had kidnapped suspected terrorists and assassins before…”

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Iraq snapshot

Friday, July 23, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, 3 US service members are wounded in an Iraq attack, depleted uranium is back in the news, the Congress examines VA health care, and more.
Yesterday, Lt Dan Choi learned he was the latest casualty of the US government's  continued homophobia.  Today he appeared on PRI's The Takeaway.
Lt Dan Choi: A big surprise. It's painful as much as much as I'm prepared for that.  Anytime somebody knowingly breaks Don't Ask, Don't Tell for the sake of integrity and telling the truth about who we are, we still have to be prepared for the consequences --
John Hockenberry: Which were what?  What did your commander say to you?
Lt Dan Choi: He said that I'd been discharged under Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
John Hockenberry: You're out.
Lt Dan Choi: I'm fired.
John Hockenberry: He said fired or he just said -- 'You're being honorably discharged'?
Lt Dan Choi: I'm being honorably discharged. That is an end to an entire era that I've started since I was age 18 --
John Hockenberry: How long have you been in the service?
Lt Dan Choi: -- I'm sorry.  I have not been a civilian since then.  And as much as you might be interested in how it was said and what was in the letter, to me, it's all a summation of the entire journey and it says it's all over.  As much as you can prepare yourself and build up the armor to get ready for that, it's hard, it's very painful to deal with that.  I think about every moment of being in the military since starting from West Point eleven years ago and preparing for deployments and infantry training and then going to Iraq and coming back and then starting a relationship and then all of the emotions of this entire journey just came right back at that moment when he said that your - your - your service is now terminated.  I got the letter. He e-mailed me the letter, I got the letter yesterday morning, and in very cold words, it just said that I'm finished.  
Turning to the issue of depleted uranium, Tom Eley (WSWS) reports:
According to the authors of a new study, "Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005–2009," the people of Fallujah are experiencing higher rates of cancer, leukemia, infant mortality, and sexual mutations than those recorded among survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the years after those Japanese cities were incinerated by US atomic bomb strikes in 1945.
The epidemiological study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Studies and Public Health (IJERPH), also finds the prevalence of these conditions in Fallujah to be many times greater than in nearby nations.                           
The assault on Fallujah, a city located 43 miles west of Baghdad, was one of the most horrific war crimes of our time. After the population resisted the US-led occupation of Iraq -- a war of neo-colonial plunder launched on the basis of lies -- Washington determined to make an example of the largely Sunni city. This is called "exemplary" or "collective" punishment and is, according to the laws of war, illegal.
Press TV also covers it by interviewing former US Congress member and Green Party presidential nominee Cynthia McKinney.
Press TV: Mrs. McKinny is now with us from Atlanta, Georgia. Thanks so much for joining our broadcast. Why is it that the use of depleted uranium in Iraq and Afghanistan is largely being ignored by the media at large; in addition, this is much more dangerous than the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, isn't it?       

McKinny: Well, you're absolutely right that is dangerous. And not only is the use of depleted uranium contaminating the areas that are considered the war theater but because of air current the contamination by depleted uranium is spreading over major world cities like for example London where the air has tested positive for depleted uranium. We also have to be concerned about the side effects of depleted uranium. We have seen an incredible increase in the severity and in the proliferation of birth defects in these areas that are considered the war theater by the US and the British troops. They have used depleted uranium and it has affected the population.    

Press TV:The Pentagon has denied risk from the use of depleted uranium and has refused to help Iraq decontaminate affected areas, yet is also seeking alternatives citing environmental factors. Is that last part as close as we are going to get to admitting to the truth?   

McKinny:Well, we should have people in the United States Congress who care about this particular issue. I did introduce legislation to ban all use of depleted uranium munitions while the jury was out with respect to what the health effects would have been as a result of the use of these kinds of weapons. Now we know what the health effects are. We have seen what the health effects are, and the impact on the people of Iraq. But, now the United States is using depleted uranium munitions not only in Iraq but has been using them in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well. So, it's not about the environmental problems only that we are concerned, but we are concerned about the health effects on human beings. We are concerned about the health effects of war on human beings and that's why we are engaged in our activities to fight the 'US war machine' in general.
Turning to some of today's reported violence, Reuters notes 3 US soldiers were wounded in an attacak on a US Nassiriya base, a Kirkuk car bombing injured a police chief, claimed the life of his son and injured nine other people, a Baghdad sticky bombing injured two people, a Baghdad home invasion killed the parents of one police officer, and, dropping back to Thursday for the rest, one army officer injured in a Baghdad shooting, an Iskandariya bombing which injured nine people, a Baghdad mortar attack which injured three people, and a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured three people.
Yesterday the US House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on physical war wounds.   Chair Michael Michaud explained in his opening statement,  "The purpose of today's hearing is to explore how we can best serve our veterans who have sustained severe physical wounds from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, we will closely examine VA's specialized services for the severely injured, which include blind rehabilitation, spinal cord injury centers, polytrauma centers and prosthetics and sensory aids services.  With advances in protective body armor and combat medicine, our service members are surving war wounds which
otherwise would have resulted in casualties."
The first panel was made of veterans advocates: Blinded Veterans Association's Thomas Zampieri, Paralyzed Veterans of America's Carl Blake, Disabled American Veterans' Joy J. Illem, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America's Tom Tarantino and the American Legion's Denise Williams.
Thomas Zampieri: The VA, I want to start off on some good news, the blind rehab services have expanded services throughout the system. Ironically, back in 2004, they developed the plans for a continum of care based on the idea that the aging population of veterans would need a lot of low vision and blind rehabilitative services.  Little, I think, did they realize back then that the plans that they were making to expand services would suddenly be immediately useful for the returning service members with eye trauma and Traumatic Brain Injuries with vision impairments associated with the TBIs. And so what we have is now the VA has expanded.  They've had ten in-patient blind centers which offer comprehensive, rehabilitative services for those with blindness but they also have all the specialized staff in those centers such as consultants with orthapedics, general surgeons, neuroligists, psychologists, pharmacologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech pathologists, the list goes on and on. So those individuals refered to the ten blind centers get, I think, excellent care.  But the VA has also expanded and they now have 55 sites where they have either low-vision specialists or advanced blind rehabiltative centers. And those centers have specialized staff -- they've actually hired about 250 staff including about 60 low-vision optometrists and they're screening these patients with visual problems and visual impairments. And so that's the good news.
In addition, Zampieri noted problems such as the fact that BROS (Blind Rehabilitative Outpatient Specialists) can visit the VA and do various things but they can't do what they're trained to and so he asks that the VA grant BROS the same Medical Treatment Factilities (MTF) clinical privileges as VA clinical staff.  We're going to stay with opening statements and, please note, this is what was stated.  It may or may not track with the prepared written opening statement which are submitted ahead of time and submitted for the record. So here's a sampling of the first panel, via their opening statements.  And these are excerpts, not their entire opening statements.
Carl Blake: It is important to emphasize that specialized services are part of the core mission and responsibility of the VA. For a long time, this has included spinal cord injury care, blind rehabilitation, treatment for mental health conditions -- including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder -- and similiar conditions. Today, Traumatic Brain Injury and polytrauma injuries are new areas that the VA has had to focus its attention on as part of their specialized care programs.  The VA's specialized services are incomparable resources that often cannot be duplicated in the private sector.  For PVA, there is an ongoing issue that has not received a great deal of focus: Some active duty soldiers with a new spinal cord injury or dysfunction are being transferred directly to civilian hospitals in the community and bypassing the VA health care system.  This is particularly true of newly injured service members who incur their spinal cord injuries in places other than the combat theaters of Iraq and Afghanistan. This violates a memorandum of agreement  between VA and DoD that was effective January 1, 2007, requiring that "care management services will be provided by the military medical support office, the appropriate military treatment facility  and the admitting VA center as a joint-collaboration" and that "whenever possible the VA health care center closest to the active duty member's home of record should be contacted first." In addition, it requires that to ensure optimal care, active duty patients are to go directly to a VA medical facility without passing through a transit military hospital -- clearly indicating the critical nature of rapidly integrating these veterans into an SCI health care system.  This is not happening. For example, service members who have experienced a spinal cord injury while serving in Afghanistan and Iraq are being transferred to Sheppard Spinal Center, a private facility, in Atlanta when VA facilities are available in Augusta. When we raised our concerns with the VA regarding Augusta in a site visit report, the VA responded by conducting an information meeting at Sheppard to present information and increase referrals.  However, reactionary measures such as this should not be the standard for addressing these types of concerns. Of additional concern to PVA, it was repoted that some of these newly injured soldiers receiving treatment in private facilities are being discharged to community nursing homes after a period of time in these private rehabilitation facilities.  In fact, some of these men and women have received sub-optimal rehabilitation and some are being discharged without proper equipment.  PVA is greatly concerned with this type of process and treatment.
Joy Ilem: Today's injured military service members are experiencing higher survival rates than in previous wars, with the overall survival rate among wounded troops being about 90 percent.  This increase is attributed to the widespread use of body armor, improved battlefield triage procedures and expedited medical evacuation. For a majority of our wounded service members, the first level of complex intervention on their journey to a VA PRC nomrally occurs at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, operated by the US Army. Up until 2009, VA received little or no information about wounded service member transport, the full extent of the acute care process that service members had undergone or the stress that these patients had experienced before arriving at a VA PRC. However, in October of 2009, a team of two VA physicians and two nurses from VA's Polytrauma System of Care spent four days at Landstuhl to gather information and put a system in place to establish a regular exchange of information between medical teams in the military and VA's PRCs.  The PRCs are now able to track patients from the beginning of their jouneys and can identify medical complications much earlier. This system of coordination has established a continuum of care that is not proprietary to the DoD or VA and has aieded them to develop one system that benefits our wounded personnel and veterans.
Tom Tarantino: We asked our members what they though of the treatement they were receiving at the VA and we've received a wide range of opinion, both complementary and critical.  However, several-several common themes appeared: Long waits for appointments, frequent interaction with rude administrative staff, a growing distrust of VA health care and long drives to VA facilities. Fortunately, we received very few complaints about the actual quality of care at VA medical centers. But in addition to the concerns listed above, our members have expressed concern with how the VA deals with Traumatic Brain Injury. To properly treat returning combat veterans with mild to severe TBI the VA must completely rethink and adapt their medical rehabilitation practices.  IAVA is concerned that the VA has limited or denied access to some veterans seeking recovery services for TBI because current statute requires that the VA provides services to restore functions to wounded veterans and while full recovery should always be the desired outcome for rehabilitation, sustaining current function or just preventing future harm should also warrant access to VA services.
Denise Williams: In response to the large number of veterans with prosthetics and rehabilitative needs, VA established Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers (PRC).  The VA Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers provide treatment through multi-disciplinary medical teams including cardiologists, internal medicine, physical therapist, social work and transition patient case managers and much more specialty medical service areas, to help treat the multiple injuries.  Currently, VA maintains four VA Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers in Richmond, VA; Minneapolis, MN; Palo Alto, CA and Tampa, FL.  However, the American Legion is concerned about VA's ability to meet the long term needs of these young veterans. As stated by the Military Medicine Journal, rehabilitation is a crucial step in optimizing long-term function and quality of life after amputation. Although returning veterans with combat-related amputations may be getting the best in rehabilitative care and technology available, their expected long term health outcomes are considerably less clear. It is imperative that both DoD and VA clinicians seriously consider the issues associated with combat-related amputees and try to alleviate any forseeable problems that these OIF-OEF amputees may face in the future.
We'll note this exchange.
Chair Michael Michaud: This question is actually for all the panelists. I've heard some anecdotes from veterans who applaud prosthetic services that they receive at the Dept of Defense but are very leery of the care that they might receive through the VA system.  Do you believe that DoD provides better overall prosthetic services compared to the VA? Or do you believe that these anecdotes that I'm hearing are just a few isolated cases?  And I don't know who wants to address that.
Joy Ilem: I'll go ahead and take a stab at that.  I think early on, you know, we heard reports -- I mean, I remember from hearings even with [Iraq War veteran] Tammy Duckworth [now the Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs at the VA], one of the situations that's very unqiue is DoD and Walter Reed obviously have had -- you know, the focus has been on them for really doing much of the prosthetics and rehab there on site. I know that VA, from attending their prosthetics meeting, have integrated their people to go out and see, you know, what's going on as these people start to transfer back to the VA.  But the complaints were that when they returned to the VA to have either their item serviced or to continue their rehabiliation they ran into sort of a disconnect from anyone at the facility they had been working with.  The prosthetician had very much attention to and all the access to the newest items and options at the DoD site -- it seemed very different within the VA. I think that, you know, VA's prosthetic services tried to really improve that and make good strides in trying to make sure that they are ready to accept these veterans as they transition back into VA to repair their equipment , to have -- I know that they have access to all of the vendors that are working out there and they have done this liason work. I'm hoping that -- that percetion, as Tom has mentioned, you know, it lingers when you hear so much about DoD and then people want to return there because it's a very sensitive issue in terms of the people that they're working with and the items that they're working with and then to have to go to a new system where people that haven't seen the high tech equipment, you know, you don't have a lot of confidence, I'm sure.  They're saying, 'That's the first time I've seen that' but  the truth is they're getting access to some of the most high quality equipment that nobody has seen, so I'm hoping it's changing but it still may be the case in some situations.
Carl Blake: Mr. Chairman, I just want to sort of piggy-back a little on what Joy had to say and also make another comment first.  Representing a membership that is probably one of the highest in the users of prosthetic devices and equipment from the VA,  I would say that our members generally never -- I won't say "never" -- generally do not have problems getting the most state of the art wheel chairs and other types of equipment that they need.  In the occasion where maybe there's some difficulty getting some prosthetic equipment or whatever it may be, it's usually just a matter of working with the prosthetic department through our service officers or what have you to make sure that the right steps are taken.  But-but our members are not experiencing a lot of problems getting what they need and, believe me, when it comes to state of the art wheel chairs, you'd be surprised at what's out there. I want to sort of tag along on what Joy had to say, I think you would find that DoD is not unlike VA in sort of the prosthetic structure and some of VA's prosthetic services is not unlike the rest of its health care, it has to become adaptable to the changing needs of this generation. Prosthetics is no exception. I think a lot of focus is put on the high tech -- we talk about these advanced prosthestics the service members are getting from DoD but it really boils down to them getting through Walter Reed, Bethesda, Brooke or some of the major military checkpoints. But if they went back to a lot of home stations,  I think you'd find that a lot of these military treatment facilities, they don't exactly have the capacity to meet their needs when it comes to prosthetics or the maintenance required for that equipment either. So DoD is not unlike the VA in that respect and I think that VA is probably trying to address it more than DoD would in that respect and we've heard time and again from Mr. [Fred] Downes who overseas the VA's prosthetics that -- I think he recognizes the need for them to become more adapatable and get it to the field so that, as these men and women are ultimately going to come to their local facilities, the VA can meet their needs particularly on the maintance of this high-end equipment. I mean, they are intimately involved in what's going on out at Walter Reed in particular because that's sort of where everything begins when it comes to these advanced prosthetics.  So I -- You can beat up on the VA for it but in fairness to the VA, they're seeing demands on their system that they never could have imagined before now also.
Chair Michael Michaud:  Thank you very much. My next, my last question for all the panelists actually is: When you look at speciality care within the VA system, do you believe that speciality care is provided equally among all of VA facilities talking to your membership?
Carl Blake: I'll speak to the SCI [spinal cord injury] side of it. I think because of the model that's been established, we feel pretty confident that it's sort of a uniform policy in the way that all SCI care is provided across the system. That again is a function of how the entire SCI service has been set up through the hub-and-spoke model. We're encouraged to see that the VA is sort of moving that way in the polytrauma aspect.  And yet there are a lot of challenges as it relates to TBI that Joy raised and going forward that the VA is going to have to figure out how to deal with along the way. But I feel pretty confident that they do the right thing across the board when it comes to SCI service in particular.
Joy Ilem: I would add on to that, some of the complaints that we've heard from veterans  contacting us about mild to moderate TBI is that their family sort of recognized that they had an issue, they had been using the VA system for other things, they went to the VA, weren't satisifed in certain areas of  the country -- I mean, I'd received calls from sort of different locations saying, you know, 'I ended up in the private sector with VA fee-basing me into an out-patient program that really offered a range of things that I've learned so much in the last six months in terms of mild TBI, how to deal with it for my family centered care, addressing a range of issues and opportunities for them to have this wide range of out-patient care.'  And in those cases, you know, I've contacted the VA directly and tried to find out is it just this location that they're having this problem or is it a systemic problem.  It's hard to say unless, you know -- someone like PVA really has people on the ground that are doing site visits and the Legion.  But in that specific area, that's a concern of ours. We're hoping that in certain areas, we're hoping that they've got the interdisciplinary teams that are needed to provide that care and that they've developed a wide range of services and a good type of program for that but I'm not convinced of that, that it's everywhere yet.  I think it's in certain locations -- obviously with the major polytrauma centers -- but as you go further out, and then obviously in the rural areas where those services are-are not available and they have to connect them with the nearest prviate sector facilities. You know, we'd like to see some continuity of care and make sure that care is available everywhere.
Denise Williams: I'd like to add that during our site visit that was a main issue: staffing shortages. As Joy just mentioned,  in the areas where they have the polytrauma centers, you'll see where they have a lot of speciality care available but as you go out to the other facilities there is definitely a shortage for speciality care. And we hear that from the veterans and we also hear that from VA staff themselves at the facilities, that there's a shortage.
Thomas Zampieri: Same thing. The major centers, both the military polytrauma centers, Walter Reed, Bethesda, Brooke Army Medical Center, Balboa out in San Diego, or you go to any of the four VA polytrauma centers, it's amazing. I think everybody gets seen by everybody.  I mean it's not unusual to have a team of thirty different specialists seeing a patient  and the hand off has improved dramatically since 2005 when I was sitting in this room, I think, with a couple of things. One is that we're always concerned with everybody focuses on -- the famous beat-up in this town is Walter Reed.  You know, when something goes wrong and the universe focuses there. But the patients who are evacuated back through Landstuhl come back into the United States, I think there's a misperception that everybody goes through Bethesda or Walter Reed and actuality, some people will admit that about thirty percent of all the wounded and walking wounded actually go back to the original home platform base of deployment. So if you go to Fort Drum or Fort Carson, Coloardo or Fort Gordon, Georgia or -- just name a base. Fort Hood, Texas.  You'll find individuals who are evacced back through the system that didn't get seen in one of these highly specialized centers. And some of those are the ones that we find that have a vision problem -- you know, they didn't have a lot of other severe injuries so they were evacced back and then they sort of get lost. Somebody on one side doesn't notify the VA Blind Rehab Services or the local VIST coordinator that they have somebody that's experiencing vision problems and that there's treatment available, that there's specialized devices from prosthetics that are available to help them in their recovery and treatment. And so that's why the visions centers of excellence is important -- because it isn't just the major trauma severe cases that need to be tracked, it's all of the types of injuries -- mild, moderate, severe -- as far as vision goes -- that need to be carefully tracked and followed and the providers need to be able to exchange the information between them -- between the VA providers, the opthamologists and the military, their colleagues, and the military treatment facilities. Because, again, a person at Fort Drum, New York may suddently have somebody come in that was evacced back from Landstuhl with injuries and that's where one of the problems is. Thank you. 
Turning to peace news, Mick Kelly (Fight Back!) reports that Minneapolis groups are gearing up to protest at the 2012 DNC convention. Meredith Aby is quoted stating, "We are prepared to organize a significant protest of thousands of people to demand an end to the wars and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. For the 2008 RNC we organized an impressive coalition of anti-war, economic rights, student, immigrant rights and labor groups to protest the war on Iraq and these forces are ready to come together again to give a loud and clear message of opposition to the Democrats' support for the war in Afghanistan."  Let's take the pulse of the political parties.
CNN reports, "The Senate passed an emergency supplemental spending bill to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, setting aside a House package that includes additional social spending." So the Democratically-controlled Senate is sending the war supplemental -- which Barack swore would take place once and only once in 2009 and never again under his watch -- back to the Democratically House and welcome to Bizarro World. Michael Steele, chair of the GOP, calls the Afghanistan War Barack's war and he's only 'wrong' in that he forgot the Iraq War. They're both Barack's wars. And welcome to Bizarro World. Governors do photo ops in Iraq and praise the conditions there -- and they're Democrats -- like Governor Tim Pawlenty. And Governor Jim Douglas. And welcome to Bizarro World. Michael Bell (Globe and Mail) writes a strong column which opens with, "The American-led interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq are failing." A UN report this week, [PDF format warning] "Regional Response Plan for Iraqi Refugees," explains that Iraq continues to be unstable, that "human rights violations continue, including illegal detention, targeted killing, kidnapping and discrimination. The formation of a new Government following the Parliamentary elections in March continues to be delayed and the political vacuum may continue until August or September 2010."  And, for those wondering, the Green Party continues to refuse to mount a left critique of Barack yet again signaling that they are content to forever be the kid sister of the Democratic Party. 
Still on peace news, Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan notes in "Myth America II: FREE PDF FILE" (Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox), "Last year in January, I found myself in an awkward place--being pro-peace in a nation that had seemed to have turned itself upside down either in questionable euphoria or abject fear because a new member of the elite class had been installed as president of the United States." Cindy's offering Myth America as a PDF for free or for a donation to Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox.
TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Michael Duffy (Time magazine), John Harwood (New York Times and CNBC) and Dana Priest (Washington Post) join Gwen. This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Melinda Henneberger, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Tara Setmayer and Genevieve Wood on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And at the website each week, there's an extra just for the web from the previous week's show and this week's online bonus is a discussion of women priestsNeed To Know is PBS' new program covering current events. This week's hour long broadcast (Fridays on most PBS stations -- but check local listings) features Bob Ivry on the financial-reform bill. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
The Narrative
A former member of a Muslim extremist group tells Lesley Stahl the reason for the increase in home-grown jihadists like the U.S. Army major accused of shooting 13 at Ft. Hood is an ideology called "the Narrative," which states America is at war with Islam. |
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Growing Body Parts
Morley Safer reports on the emerging technology of growing body parts from human cells taken directly from patients, providing new hope for amputees and patients on organ-transplant lists. |
Watch Video

Tyler Perry
When Hollywood refused to produce his films his way, Tyler Perry started his own studio in Atlanta and now his movies - including the popular "Madea" series - are drawing huge audiences. Byron Pitts profiles the new and unlikely movie mogul. |
Watch Video

60 Minutes, Sunday, July 25, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Come Undone

CNN reports, "The Senate passed an emergency supplemental spending bill to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, setting aside a House package that includes additional social spending." So the Democratically-controlled Senate is sending the war supplemental -- which Barack swore would take place once and only once in 2009 and never again under his watch -- back to the Democratically House and welcome to Bizarro World.

So unimpressed but so in awe
Such a saint but such a whore
So self aware so full of s**t
So indecisive so adamant
I'm contemplating thinking about thinking
It's so frustrating just get another drink in
Watch me come undone

Michael Steele, chair of the GOP, calls the Afghanistan War Barack's war and he's only 'wrong' in that he forgot the Iraq War. They're both Barack's wars. And welcome to Bizarro World.

They're selling razor blades and mirrors in the street
Pray that when I'm coming down you'll be asleep
If I ever hurt you your revenge will be so sweet
Because I'm scum
And I'm your son
I come undone
I come undone

Governors do photo ops in Iraq and praise the conditions there -- and they're Democrats -- like Governor Tim Pawlenty. And Governor Jim Douglas. And welcome to Bizarro World.

So rock and roll so corporate suit
So damn ugly, so damn cute
So well trained, so animal
So need your love, so f**k you all
I'm not scared of dying I just don't want to
If I stopped lying I'd just disappoint you
I come undone

Michael Bell (Globe and Mail) writes a strong column which opens with, "The American-led interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq are failing." A UN report this week, [PDF format warning] "Regional Response Plan for Iraqi Refugees," explains that Iraq continues to be unstable, that "human rights violations continue, including illegal detention, targeted killing, kidnapping and discrimination. The formation of a new Government following the Parliamentary elections in March continues to be delayed and the political vacuum may continue until August or September 2010."

But we've got Democratic governors posing for photo-ops and praising 'improved' Iraq?

Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan notes in "Myth America II: FREE PDF FILE" (Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox), "Last year in January, I found myself in an awkward place--being pro-peace in a nation that had seemed to have turned itself upside down either in questionable euphoria or abject fear because a new member of the elite class had been installed as president of the United States." Cindy's offering Myth America as a PDF for free or for a donation to Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox.

They're selling razor blades and mirrors in the street
I pray that when I'm coming down you'll be asleep
If I ever hurt you your revenge will be so sweet
Because I'm scum
And I'm your son
I've come undone
-- "Come Undone" written by Robbie Williams, Ashley Hamilton, Boots Ottestad and Daniel Pierre, first appears on Robbie's Escapaology.

Today Paul Krugman (New York Times) offers a laundry list and then a question:

But they have a problem: how can they embrace President Bush's policies, given his record? After all, Mr. Bush's two signature initiatives were tax cuts and the invasion of Iraq; both, in the eyes of the public, were abject failures. Tax cuts never yielded the promised prosperity, but along with other policies -- especially the unfunded war in Iraq -- they converted a budget surplus into a persistent deficit. Meanwhile, the W.M.D. we invaded Iraq to eliminate turned out not to exist, and by 2008 a majority of the public believed not just that the invasion was a mistake but that the Bush administration deliberately misled the nation into war. What's a Republican to do?

Apparently, Paul, become a Democrat.

Though Krugman beats the tribal drums, there's not a really a great deal of difference. Barack continues the illegal wars, Barack continues the war supplementals . . .

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 trippled in Hong Kong

He continues the illegal spying, he continues torture, he continues Guantanamo . . .

Eliza Manning-Buller offers testimony that captures the world but is largely ignored in the US. Peter Biles (BBC News) explores the testimony today. A few smug jerks (Greg, I mean you) scribble a few lines about how Bush's war in Iraq has threatened safety -- but if it did (and I believe it did) then surely Barack's continuation of the Iraq War CONTINUES to make the US less safe. The Economist notes, "That ensured plenty of interest, and those who watched were amply rewarded by her testimony. Lady Manningham-Buller agreed that the invasion of Iraq in 2003, coming two years after the attack on Afghanistan, was seen by many British Muslims as part of a more general attack on Islam, an argument that the Labour government which launched the war refused to accept publicly for years. 'Arguably,' she said, 'we gave Osama bin Laden his Iraqi jihad.'"

He stands by while attorneys rot in prison despite having broken no law. Michael Steven Smith writes "The Sentencing of Lynne Stewart" at the Center for Constitutional Rights:

Lynne Stewart is a friend. She used to practice law in New York City. I still do. I was in the courtroom with my wife Debby the afternoon of July 19th for her re-sentencing. Judge John Koeltl buried her alive.

We should have seen it coming when he told her to take all the time she needed at the start when she spoke before the sentence was read. It didn’t matter what she said. He had already written his decision, which he read out loud to a courtroom packed with supporters. It was well crafted. Bulletproof on appeal. He is smart and cautious.

After about an hour into his pronouncement, he came to the buried alive part. He prefaced it by citing the unprecedented 400 letters of support people had sent him, all of which he said he read. He noted Lynne’s three decades of service to the poor and the outcast. He stressed that she is a seventy-year-old breast cancer survivor with high blood pressure and other serious health problems. And then he laid it on her: 120 months.

Everyone in the courthouse divided 120 by 12. He had given her a death sentence, we all thought. She’ll never get out. He almost quadrupled the 28 month sentence he had originally pronounced. She had told him that 28 months was a horizon, that she had hope. But no more.

Lynne’s granddaughter gasped. Then started sobbing. She kept crying even as Judge John Koeltl kept reading. And reading. And reading. It was awful. The sentence was pitiless and cruel. How to understand it?

Lynne's lawyer Jill Shellow Levine rose after the judge finished. She asked him why. He was candid. He was told to do it by his supervisors, the judges on the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. This court is an institution of the elite. It is considered the second highest court in America next to the Supreme Court because it presides over the financial center of the empire, not its capital, that is in D.C., but its real capital. This court makes policy and Lynne Stewart was to be made an example of in “the war against terrorism” just as a half a century before, in the same court, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were condemned to death in the war against communism, told that they had caused the deaths of 50,000 U.S. soldiers in the Korean War, and found guilty of the ridiculous charge of “stealing the secret” of the atomic bomb, when there was no secret, it was only a matter of technology. The sentencing Judge Kaufman knew they would leave behind two orphan children, Robert and Michael, ages six and three.

There's more, use the link. Michael Smith is a co-host -- with Michael Ratner and Heidi Boghosian -- of Law & Disorder (began airing on WBAI Mondays and elsewhere around the country throughout the week).

If through all the madness
We can stick together
We're safe and sound
The world's just inside out and upside down
-- "Safe & Sound" written by Carly Simon and Jacob Brackman, first appears on Carly's Hotcakes.

The following sites -- community sites plus some extra links -- have updated last night and tonight:

And we close with ETAN's "ETAN Condemns U.S. Plan to Get Back in Bed with Indonesia's Kopassus Killers:"

July 22, 2010 - The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) today condemned the Obama administration's decision to resume engagement with Indonesia's notorious Kopassus special forces.

"Slipping back into bed with Kopassus is a betrayal of the brutal unit's many victims in Timor-Leste, West Papua and throughout Indonesia. It will lead to more people to suffer abuses," said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN. "Working with Kopassus, which remain unrepentant about its long history of terrorizing civilians, will undermine efforts to achieve justice and accountability for human rights crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste (East Timor)."

"For years, the U.S. military provided training and other assistance to Kopassus, and when the U.S. was most involved Kopassus crimes were at their worst. While this assistance improved the Indonesian military's deadly skills, it did nothing to improve its behavior," Miller added.

"Engagement with Kopassus would violate the Leahy Law, which prohibits military assistance to units with unresolved human rights violations," said Miller. "Even the previous Bush State Department's legal counsel thought so, ruling that the Leahy prohibition applied to Kopassus as a whole."

U.S. officials, speaking to the New York Times, distinguished between soldiers who were "only implicated, not convicted' in human rights crimes. Administration officials have said that some Kopassus soldiers convicted of crimes no longer served with the unit, however many of them remain on active duty, including Lt. Col. Tri Hartomo, convicted by a military court of the murder of Papuan leader Theys Eluay in 2001.

The official American Forces Press Service wrote that a "senior defense official said Indonesia has pledged that any Kopassus member who is credibly accused of a human rights violation will be suspended pending an investigation, will be tried in a civilian court, and will be removed from the unit if convicted." Legislation transferring members of military to civilian courts for trials has yet to pass.

"The problem remains that the Indonesian military (TNI) as a whole and Kopassus in particular rarely take accusations of human rights violations seriously and few end up in any court," said ETAN's Miller. "Engaging Kopassus with only token concessions will not encourage reform, respect for rights or accountability. It may do the opposite."

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced in Jakarta that the U.S. "will begin a gradual, limited program of security cooperation activities" with Kopassus. U.S. officials told the media that "there would be no immediate military training," However, Gates did not say exactly what criteria will be used to decide if "to expand upon these initial steps [which] will depend upon continued implementation of reforms within Kopassus" and the TNI.


Engagement with Kopassus has been opposed by human rights and victims associations in Indonesia, Timor-Leste and internationally. It has been debated within the Obama administration and in Congress.

In May 2010, 13 senior members of Congress wrote the Secretary Gates and Secretary of State Clinton concerning plans to cooperate with Kopassus. The letter called for "a reliable vetting process critical... for identifying Kopassus officials who have violated human rights" and said "the transfer of jurisdiction over human rights crimes committed by members of the military to civilian courts should be a pre-condition for engagement with Kopassus." Legislation to transfer members of the military to civilian courts has long been stalled. Trials of some soldiers before ad-hoc human rights courts, such as on East Timor, have resulted in acquittals.

Kopassus troops have been implicated in a range of human rights violations and war crimes in Aceh, West Papua, Timor-Leste and elsewhere. Although a few special forces soldiers have been convicted of the kidnapping of activists prior to the fall of the Suharto dictatorship and the 2001 murder of Theys Eluay, the perpetrators of the vast majority of human rights crimes continue to evade prosecution. Kopassus and other troops indicted by UN-backed prosecutors in Timor-Leste for crimes committed in 1999 during Timor's independence referendum remain at large.

Kopassus was involved in Timor-Leste from the killings of five Australian-based journalists at Balibo in 1975 prior to Indonesia's full scale invasion through its destructive withdrawal in 1999. Kopassus soldiers are alleged to have been involved in the 2002 ambush murder of three teachers (including two from the U.S.) near the Freeport mine in West Papua. The crimes of Kopassus are not only in the past. A Human Rights Watch report published last year documents how Kopassus soldiers "arrest Papuans without legal authority, and beat and mistreat those they take back to their barracks." A report by journalist Allan Nairn describes security force - including a U.S.-trained Kopassus general - involvement in the killing of activists in Aceh last year.

The leaders of Kopassus have consistently rejected calls to hold it accountable. In April 2010 at a ceremony marking the anniversary of the unit's founding, Kopassus commander Maj. Gen. Lodewijk Paulus called allegations of past rights violations a "psychological burden." He told The Jakarta Globe "Honestly, it has become a problem and people just keep harping on them. It's not fair."

Lt. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin, who served with Kopassus and is accused of human rights violations in East Timor and elsewhere, remains as deputy defense minister. His position is being challenged in court by victims of human rights violations in the 1998 Jakarta riots and the 1997/1998 kidnapping of student and political activists.

In 2005, the Bush administration exercised a national security waiver that allowed for full engagement with the Indonesian military for the first time since the early 1990s. The conditions for U.S. military engagement, which the Bush administration abandoned, included prosecution of those responsible for human rights violations in East Timor and elsewhere and implementation of reforms to enhance civilian control of the Indonesian military. The Bush administration waited until 2008 to propose restarting U.S. training of Kopassus, which was suspended in 1998. The State Department's legal counsel reportedly ruled that the 1997 ban on training of military units with a history of involvement in human rights violations, known as the 'Leahy law,' applied to Kopassus as a whole and the training did not go forward.

ETAN was founded in 1991 to advocate for self-determination for Indonesian-occupied Timor-Leste. Since the beginning, ETAN has worked to condition U.S. military assistance to Indonesia on respect for human rights and genuine reform. The U.S.-based organization continues to advocate for democracy, justice and human rights for Timor-Leste and Indonesia. For more information, see ETAN's web site:


Support ETAN make a contribution here
Thank you for your support.

John M. Miller, National Coordinator
East Timor & Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)
PO Box 21873, Brooklyn, NY 11202-1873 USA
Phone: +1-718-596-7668 Mobile phone: +1-917-690-4391
Email Skype: john.m.miller


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