Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, May 18, 2011.  Chaos and violence continue, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hears from the VA and DoD on 'progress,' the British military will finally be out of Iraq this Sunday . . . sort of, the US withdrawal remains a speculative point, a Tony Blair crony attempts to enrich himself off Iraqi oil, and more. 
Starting in DC where Senator Patty Murray declared this morning, "I was shocked to hear of a veteran who, after receiving advanced prosthetics, from the military went to the VA to have them adjusted and maintained; however, when the veteran got to the prosethic clinic, the VA employees were fascinated by his device, having never seen that model before. More interested, he said, in examining it than him.  With the rates of injuries requiring amputation rising, we need to have the best possible care.  As of early March 2011,  409 Operation Enduring Freedom service members have needed limbs amputated."  Operation Enduring Freedom is the Afghanistan War.  The situation is serious and has been for years now.  In 2004, Raja Mishra (Boston Globe) was reporting, "US troops injured in Iraq have required limb amputations at twice the rate of past wars".  In it's Fall 2006 issue, Clamor magazine noted "that since the onset of the Iraq invasion and occupation upwards of 400 U.S. soldiers have come back needing amputations and prosthetics (30 percent have multiple amputations)."
Senator Murray was addressing the issue this morning as Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and tying it into other issues arising as service members become veterans and move from DoD to the VA.  "It is imperative," Murray stated in her opening remarks," that those individuals receive a truly seamless handoff to VA medical care so a provider there can manage those medications after the individual has left the service. If that link is not made, those new veterans become far more likely to abuse drugs, become homeless or commit suicide." This morning's hearing was the first of a two-part hearing.  Next week, the scheduled hearing's focus will be on veterans shairng their experiences in the care system.  Today's hearing focused on the care giving and heared from VA's Deputy Secretary W. Scott Gould and DoD's Deputy Secretary William Lynn. 
Chair Murray outlined the conflicts and the Ranking Member noted the time since a scandal lit a fire -- at least temporarily -- and put a strong focus on meeting the needs of veterans and those serving.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: It has now been four years since the issues at Walter Reed [Army Medical Center] came to light and I cannot help but wonder if what we have done is to just create more bureacracy?  One are that was implemented at the suggestion of the Dole - Shalala Commission is the Federal Recovery Coordination Program.  As this program was visualized, the government would hire Federal Recovery Coordinators to help veterans and their families navigate all of the benefits the service members were entitled to throughout the entire federal governement.  Unfortunately, this is a perfect example of an idea that look great on paper but has not yet lived up to expectations.  A recent GAO report on the program shows that there are still problems with the two agencies working together.
"Whether you're talking about employment or medical records or mental health counseling -- the list goes on and on -- we have an obligation," Senator Jon Tester added.
The opening statements (written) by the two witnesses contained some information worth noting.  Before we get to that, at the request of a veteran present, we're noting that the VA's Gould felt the need to note how many veterans were enrolled in the GI Bill program.   The problem was not enrolling, the problem was getting them their checks.  And if VA is doing that currently (they apparently are), they should have noted it.  But that defect is minor compared to William Lynn's problem.
We've already noted her but let's do it one more time: Senator Patty Murray. 
She is the Chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee.  I would have thought the name "Patty" -- as opposed to "Paddy" -- would have clued people in as to the senator's gender.  Not only does Lynn's written statement end, "Mr. Chairman, thank you again for your support . . .," but he also read that statement out loud -- without glasses so he can see what's immediately in front of him but he appears to have long range vision issues since he was addressing Patty Murray and didn't grasp the "she."  If you're going to use the term "chairman" (we don't, we use the gender neutral "chair"), it is either "Mister Chairman" or "Madam Chairman."  It is the latter when the chair is a woman.  I cannot believe no one at the Defense Dept read over a DoD Deputy Secretary's prepared remarks before they were sent to the Committee. 
From Gould's opening (prepared) remarks, we're going to note some date regarding the VA's efforts with preventing suicides.  1-800-273-8255 is the number for the suicide prevention hotline and veterans then press 1.  Gould noted the call center started July 2007 and has:
* Received over 400,000 calls;
* Initiated over 14,000 rescues;
* Referred over 53,000 veterans to local Suicide Prevention Coordinators for the same day or next day services
* Answered calls from over 5,000 Active Duty service members
* The call center is responsible for an average of 300 admissions a month to VA health care facilities and 150 new enrollments a month for VA health care.
The Veterans Service Chat started in July 2009 and it has "responded to over 15,000 chats."  
In his opening remarks, Lynn stated, "Today's average IDES processing time is approximately 400 days from referral to post-separation, down from 540 days.  The goal of IDES is to bring processing time down under 300 days and a tiger team is currently devising means to reduce this further"   Murray refers to that statement at the start of the following hearing excerpt:
Chair Patty Murray:  Secretary Lynn, you said that you want to go beyond the 300 days.  We're not there yet. When do we expect to reach the goal of 300 days?
Deputy Secretary William Lynn:  The hope is to have the system which is now implemented in about half -- or for half the service members, half the 26,000.  We hope to have that system fully implemented by the end of this-this year.  So that's this fiscal year, so this fall.
Chair Patty Murray: And the 13,000 that Secretary Gould talked about that are in the new system?
Deputy Secretary William Lynn: The 13 and then there's another 14,000 or so that are in the old system. We want to transition those over the next six or so months into the new system.  What we found though, as we transitioned them in, what happens is that initially we actually get quite a lowering of the number of days frankly as we work through the more routine cases on-on the faster system.  But then what we tend is that the time tends to come back up as we hit the harder backlog of cases.  We need to work our way through that backlog which is what we're doing now with the existing cases so that data's actually gone up from where it was last fall.  But we're working our way through that backlog.  We're going to get our way through that backlog.  We'll then have a system where we're taking members who enter -- who start in the new system and finish in the new system. At that point, we should hit that 295 days.  I can't give you a date but I would say --
Chair Patty Murray: Are we talking months, years?
Deputy Secretary William Lynn: I would say one-to-two years.
Chair Patty Murray: It will still take that long just to get people --
Deputy Secretary William Lynn: I would hope to do it in less -- do it in a shorter period of time, but I don't want to overpromise.
Chair Patty Murray: Is there anything this Committee can do to help expadite that because these are individuals who are living in limbo?
Deputy Secretary William Lynn: Well I think both departments are committed to putting the resources to working through the backlogs and also, when you go to a new system, you create transition difficulties, you end up -- you need to surge resources to uh-uh-uh bases and facilities that are having problems.  So we've -- we've committed with our VA partners to do that, it's going to take over $700 million over several years, so we're certainly looking -- We'll -- We'll present that in our budget. We'll certainly look for Congressional support to spend those resources.
Chair Patty Murray: Well this Committee needs to know honestly what the budget needs are because this is an obligation.  We throw around 13,300 names, these are individuals who are living through this.  And I'm very conscious of that.  So I want to work with you but we need honest budgets from both of you about what that will take.
Deputy Secretary William Lynn: Absolutely.
Chair Patty Murray: I referenced something in my opening remarks I want to ask about.  The Department of Defense provided this Committee with information on those service members who have died while they were enrolled in the Joint Disability Program.  Of the 34 deaths, 13 were suicides or drug overdoses.  That is very troubling information.  That means that the rate of suicide for those that are going through this program is more than double the rate of the Army or of the Marine Corps.  So I wanted to ask both of you what your respective departments are doing to address this troubling trend of suicides within the Joint Disability Program? 
Deputy Secretary William Lynn: Well should start agreeing with you, Chairman.  The level of suicides is-is too high frankly. It's-it's too high Department wide. It's -- It is, as you note, higher, uh, with the people facing the challenges with disabilities -- It is -- Certainly they have a more challenging life, uh, uh and we need to do everything that we can to ease those challenges.  Part of it is what we've just discussed to make that -- the disability transition -- that transition from DoD to VA as, uh, as expeditious and as congenial as poss -- as possible. It's what we're about.  We also need to support family members of service members with disabilities, uh, strongly in terms of the care coordinators, in terms of wounded warrior transition units. We need to inform families what are the warning signs for suicide --
Chair Patty Murray: You're saying that we need to do that.  Are we doing that?
Deputy Secretary William Lynn: Yes, we are.
Chair Patty Murray: And how is that being done?
Deputy Secretary William Lynn: Well -- uh -- The system -- the system's in place -- right now we work with care coordinators to-to alert them to the signs --
Chair Patty Murray: Actively?  So everybody's invovled in this?
Deputy Secretary William Lynn: Actively.  Everybody's involved in this.  The warrior transition units are-are particularly trained to look for signs and they're trained in how to deal with those. We have a broader suicide prevention system.  We pay particular attention to the families of service members because they are the most likely to, uh, be in a position to, uh, observe the early warning signs.
Chair Patty Murray: Something isn't working when we have this high number. So, you know, is it -- Can you give me ideas or even a commitment to go back and take a look at these numbers and really look at our outreach?  What are we doing to help support our families?  Is it over use of drugs?  And come back to us because this is just unacceptable. 
Deputy Secretary William Lynn: The numbers are too high and I'm happy to come back to you.
Chair Patty Murray:  Secretary Gould, how about in the VA?
Deputy Secretary W. Scott Gould: . . . [inaudible, microphone wasn't on] that list of individuals from DoD who had committed suicide, it's heart rending.  As Secretary Lynne just said, we are very focused on making sure this transition goes well.  The individuals who -- thank you [to the man who adjusted his microphone -- the individuals who obviously are in that data are all on active duty and under the care of the DoD during that time. What we're trying to do is back stop in that process.  VA is moving in parallel while those individuals are getting direct care and Bill has mentioned all of the various attritubes in that.  When transition time does come, VA is very focused on making sure that we are working to prevent suicides, are conducting outreach and public education, we're amping up the resources that we bring to the fight on these issues, we're working to destigmatize it, we have a national crisis line that has served over 400,000 people, 14,000 saves since 2007.  We're working very, very hard in a --
Chair Patty Murray: Now that's a result of the Joshua Omvib bill that we all worked to pass and support, I know that. But I just want to say, Secretary Gould, I'm -- I'm very concerned about the high number of suicides as I just said.  But knowing that,  we need to double our efforts with soldiers who are coming out of that program and are leaving. 
Again, next Wednesday the Committee is scheduled to hear veterans share the reality of what is taking place from their experiences.  Trina's senator on the Committee is Senator Scott Brown and Ava will cover Brown's contributions from today's hearing at Trina's site tonight.
In related news, Senator Murray's office notes:
(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, applauded the announcement by the Department of Veterans of Affairs (VA) that they have started accepting and processing applications for the critical caregiver benefits program. After only a week and a half, the VA has assisted over 625 veterans, servicemembers, and caregivers apply to receive the new benefits provided under the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010. This program will provide much-needed and long-awaited financial and health care support to family members caring for severely wounded Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
"I'm very pleased that in the first week and a half of accepting applications
for this critical program, the VA has helped more than 625 veterans, servicemembers, and family caregivers start the process to receive new
benefits," said Chairman Murray.  "Family members who have left behind
careers, lives, and responsibilites to care for their loved ones while they
recover from wounds they suffered defending our country can finally start
receiving the financial support and care they need and deserve."
Applications can be processed by telephone through Caregiver Support Line
at (855) 260-3274, in person at a VA medical Center with a Caregiver Support Coordinator by mail or online at with the new Caregiver Application (VA Form 1010-CG).  The website application also features a chat option that provides the Family Caregiver with a live representative to assist in completeing the application form.
As Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, Murray has led congressional efforts to push the VA to stop delaying the implementation of the caregivers' benefits programs and restore the eligibility criteria to the intend of Congress when the Caregivers program was passed last year.  In fact, since the criteria limiting elegibility criteria to the intent of Congress when the Caregivers program was passed last year. In fact, since the criteria limiting eligibility for certain caregivers was announced by the VA in early February of this year Senator Murray has taken numerous steps to fight the decision including:
* Personally discussing the issue with President Obama in the Oval Office.
* Questioning VA Secretary Eric Shinseki on the program changes and delays in front of her Committee.
* Sending a bi-partisan letter, cosigned by 17 other Senators, calling on the Administration to end delays in moving forward with the law, and
* Joining with leaders of the Senate and House Veterans' Affairs Committees to call on President Obama to stop the VA from severely limiting the benefit.

Evan Miller

Specialty Media Director

U.S. Senator Patty Murray



Last Wednesday, Nouri al-Maliki raised the issue and said if 70% of the political players agreed to extend the US presence, then that's what would happen. Mohammed A. Salih (Rudaw) offers four perspectives on US forces leaving Iraq from four political participants. Just as the Kurdish view (stay) was long known, so was the opinion of the relatively small Sadr bloc. So we'll ignore those two. Any observer paying attention should have long ago learned not to trust State Of Law. In addition, per Nouri's edict -- have we all forgotten -- only he or his spokesperson can speak for the government so we'll ignore the State Of Law statement. Iraqiya has remained a wildcard for many observers (including in the US government). One MP from the Iraqiya political slate, Haidar Mullah, shares an opinion which may or may not represent the consensus within Iraqiya:

The law and the constitution are run by political groups; therefore we believe that the imminent withdrawal of American troops will not have a positive impact on general security in Iraq.
We support the withdrawal, but it should be done in an orderly manner and not before several conditions are met, including the consolidation of the concept of national partnership, the disarmament of political parties and other groups -- only the state should carry weapons -- , and the development of the army and security forces into national forces that are protected from political meddling.
Also, agreements that Iraq has signed to procure weapons for its army must be carried out quickly, because the Iraqi army is not ready to maintain the security of the country and its borders. A hasty withdrawal of American troops would allow some neighboring countries, especially Iran, to further strengthen their existing influence on Iraq's internal issues.
We do not believe that the presence of invading forces in Iraq will lead to the development of the country -- on the contrary; the presence of such forces will further weaken Iraq. However, it is not only the US that has invaded Iraq; Iran has invaded as well, but in a more secretive manner.
Iran's secretive role in Iraq has allowed Iran to strongly rival the US in Iraq. Iran has weapons, forces, and militias inside Iraq and fights the US in Iraqi territory. Therefore, you can say that we support the withdrawal of US troops, but at the same time have fears about another occupation in which Iran would replace the US. This would be much worse than the US invasion.

Again, that view may or may not be representative of the Iraqiya bloc as a whole. Moqtada al-Sadr's viewpoint is most likely represented in this report from the Fars News Agency:

Chairman of Iran's Expediency Council Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said withdrawal of the US troops from Iraq would pave the ground for the establishment of security in the occupied country.
Speaking in a meeting with the visiting Head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, Ammar al-Hakim, here in Tehran on Tuesday, Rafsanjani said full transfer of sovereignty and responsibility of affairs to the Iraqi people would pave the ground for the country's independence and security.

To call the issue of withdrawal 'confusing' is an understatement, especially for US troops on the ground in Iraq. Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports, "'How many of you know when you're going to be going home?' Gen. Martin Dempsey, the US Army's top general, asked a group of soldiers during a recent visit to Baghdad. Only a handful raised their hands." Michael S. Schmidt (New York Times' At War blog) notes, "Wherever American military leaders turn in Iraq, they are peppered with a question they don't seem to be able to answer: Will the United States keep its troops in Iraq after 2011?  The answers, sought by Iraqis, reporters and American soldiers, are as redundant as they are critical to Iraq's future. American military leaders say it's not up to them."  Gerald Greene (Gather) adds, "Should the US and Iraq agree on some level of American troops to stay in Iraq beyond December 31 there would likely still be an increased risk of violence directed towards those troops. The number of troops that Iraq is likely to let stay in Iraq would be fairly small as they would be serving in a limited training capacity for the Iraq army. It is likely that the reduced level of troops would be in extreme danger as the Shiite militias would still want to take credit for driving them out. It is increasingly clear that the militias will fight to drive all American troops out of Iraq."
Further confusing the issue, the White House issued the following yesterday:

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 17, 2011 Message from the President regarding the continuation of the national emergency with respect to the stabilization of Iraq

May 17, 2011

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

Section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)) provides for the automatic termination of a national emergency unless, prior to the anniversary date of its declaration, the President publishes in the Federal Register and transmits to the Congress a notice stating that the emergency is to continue in effect beyond the anniversary date. In accordance with this provision, I have sent the enclosed notice to the Federal Register for publication continuing the national emergency with respect to the stabilization of Iraq. This notice states that the national emergency with respect to the stabilization of Iraq declared in Executive Order 13303 of May 22, 2003, as modified in scope and relied upon for additional steps taken in Executive Order 13315 of August 28, 2003, Executive Order 13350 of July 29, 2004, Executive Order 13364 of November 29, 2004, and Executive Order 13438 of July 17, 2007, is to continue in effect beyond May 22, 2011.

Obstacles to the orderly reconstruction of Iraq, the restoration and maintenance of peace and security in the country, and the development of political, administrative, and economic institutions in Iraq continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. Accordingly, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency with respect to this threat and maintain in force the measures taken to deal with that national emergency.

Recognizing positive developments in Iraq, the United Nations Security Council decided, in Resolution 1956 (2010), to terminate on June 30, 2011, arrangements concerning the Development Fund for Iraq established in Resolutions 1483 (2003) and 1546 (2004). The Security Council also called upon the Iraqi government to finalize the full and effective transition to a post‑Development Fund mechanism by June 30, 2011. My Administration will evaluate Iraq's ongoing efforts in this regard, as well as its progress in resolving outstanding debts and claims arising from actions of the previous regime, so that I may determine whether to continue beyond June 30, 2011, the prohibitions contained in Executive Order 13303 of May 22, 2003, as amended by Executive Order 13364 of November 29, 2004, on any attachment, judgment, decree, lien, execution, garnishment, or other judicial process with respect to the Development Fund for Iraq, the accounts, assets, and property held by the Central Bank of Iraq, and Iraqi petroleum‑related products, which are in addition to the sovereign immunity accorded Iraq under otherwise applicable law.


The US declaring (again) Iraq a national emergency?  That would appear to lay the groundwork for the continued occupation of Iraq.  It would also beg the question of what the hell the fools in the administration who want the US to remain in Iraq think is being accomplished?  Eight years.  A non-functioning puppet government.  And the US still continues Iraq a national emergency?  Is Barack prepared to commit the US to eight more years in Iraq?

On that non-functioning puppet government, New Sabah reports Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh is stating that the Cabinet approved a "law on freedom of expression, assembly and peaceful demonstration." Which means what? First, the Constitution already guarantees those rights. Second, never believe anything Nouri says (or what his flack says). Third, the Cabinet does not pass laws. Nour is trying to circumvent the Constitution and trying to force Parliament to stop writing laws and only take up the Cabinet's proposals. But even in that power-grab, Nouri was not attempting to pass laws.
June 7th, the stalling tactic ends (or is supposed to). That's the deadline Nouri al-Maliki created to divert frustration against his 'leadership.' As protests became the norm in Iraq, Nouri proposed "100 Days" -- 'give me 100 days and corruption in government will be addressed.' 100 days is supposed to come to an end June 7th. New Sabah reports that Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi has declared that when the 100 days is reached, the government will face a critical situation which will include not only the refusal to comply with the Erbil Agreement (an agreement hammered out to end the political stalemate that lasted over nine months) and but the inability for the National Alliance to come together on nominees for the security ministries. He notes Iraq has now been without heads of security ministries for five months (Minister of Interior, Minister of National Security and Minister of Defense).

In a comment on the continued inability to form a functioning government in Iraq, Chuck Larlham (Gather) includes the following:


The coalition Iraqi government began badly and deteriorated. Allawi demanded several ministerial seats, and embroiled parliament in electing as many as three "Deputy Presidents" as a way to partially fill the need for ministerial level slots. Nouri al-Maliki eventually threatened to dissolve Parliament in April. Then, on Monday, May 16, there was a rumor that al-Maliki had issued a warrant for the arrest of Ayad Allawi. All parties denied it, and it may have been based on a case filed against the former leader in Iraq's western Wasit province.

Meanwhile Dar Addustour reports that al-Hashemi is concerned about the increase in political assassinations and that he met with US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey Tuesday with the two discussing the Erbil Agreement and the failure to implement it as well as Jeffrey passing on congratulations to al-Hashemi from US President Barack Obama on al-Hashemi's re-election as vice president. (al-Hashemi is one of three vice presidents. The other two are Shi'ite, he is Sunni.)

While the outcome of the 100 days is seen as a reflection on Nouri al-Maliki, he and his supporters in State Of Law continue to attempt to spin the outcome. They've apparently dropped (at least for now) their assertion that a poor outcome will reflect badly on those who backed certain candidates (and not on Nouri) and now, al Sabaah reports, are insisting that 6 ministries have achieved and, big surprise, State Of Law can claim credit. (The six are the Ministries of Youth; Sports; Justice; Industry and Minerals; Health, Financial and Muncipalities; and Public Works.) As they crow, they also state they are ready to begin whittling down the staff for the ministries. With more on that last issue, Alsumaria TV notes:

"The State of Law Coalition is unsatisfied about the fact that there are three vice presidents, three deputy ministers and 44 ministers in addition to many positions", State of Law Coalition senior official Haidar Al Ibadi told Alsumarianews.
"The Prime Minister wants to reduce the government's ministries, political parties however did not approve yet", Al Ibadi said.
"Following the vote on Vice Presidents, State of Law Coalition called to reduce the government's ministries and cut off the number of ministers. The State of Law is ready to cede the ministries that are deemed unnecessary", he continued.

The Erbil Agreement allowed second place State Of Law to 'win' and Nouri to become prime minister-designate in exchange for certain positions for Iraqiya (and also for clearing the name of several Iraqiya members who were tarred and feathered by the so-called Justice and Accountability Commission to prevent them from running for public office). Nouri got what he wanted and immediately trashed the agreement. Hopes that the agreement by restored in some manner appear to be faint. Al Mada explains that no invitation has gone out from KRG President Massoud Barzani to Ayad Allawi (leader of Iraqiya). There was talk of a meet-up between Barzani, Allawi and al-Maliki. That seems less likely today. (Who knows about tomorrow.)
Violence continues in Iraq with Reuters noting a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed 1 life and left another person injured, a Mosul assassination attempt on "the manager of the police internal affairs department," Baghdad sticky bombings attached to two tanker trucks resulting in 1 death and one person lfet injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured four people.
Turning to the issue of bad (offensive) reporting and dropping back to Saturday:

While all this goes on, the New York Times attempts to channel Lily Tomlin's The Tasteful Lady. At least Lily played that for laughs. Michael S. Schmidt and Yasir Ghazi toss around terms like "tacky" leading one to wonder how far up the food chain reporters think they are? The police tell the American outlet judging Iraqi taste that they don't have the people to police such an issue. Nor would such an issue be a crime, but the paper seems to forget that. The police don't say, but should, that in the powder keg that is Iraq, looking for new ways to piss citizens off would probably enrage the population even more.

Yes, the article was insulting. Yesterday Margaret Hartmann (Jezebel) observed:

After years of having drab colors and building regulations foisted on them by Saddam Hussein's government, the Iraqi people are now free to decorate as they see fit. The New York Times reports that this has given rise to some really unusual color choices for buildings. In other words, it's the ugliest effing country they've ever seen.

It's interesting to learn that Iraq has exploded in a "riot of color," now that the government isn't mandating that most buildings be made of beige brick, with color usually reserved for mosques. However, the Times reports this in the bitchiest way possible.

Margaret Harmann notes Matt Welch (Reason) commenting on the NYT article:  "Maybe I'm having a case of the Mondays, but it seems to me every last thing about this article is contemptible."
Mvoing over to England, where Gordon Brown, while briefly prime minister, liked to claim he pulled British troops out of Iraq.  It was a nice fantasy.  After Iraq decided to end the UN mandate (decision passed on to the United Nations in December of 2007), England had to enter into their own agreement with Iraq -- which they did because, otherwise, they would have had to leave Iraq December 31, 2008.  By instead entering into their own agreements, the allowed the BBC to run many comical headlines such as December 17, 2008 "UK troops to leave Iraq 'by July'" (according to Gordon Brown) and November 24th, 2010 "UK troops 'to leave Iraq in May'."  Like his American counterpart, Gordon loved to split hairs.  He announced the end of the "combat operations" April 30, 2009 (and pronounced the illegal war a "success story").
Like Tony Blair, who started the British involvement in the Iraq War, Gordon Brown is now out of office.  The Iraq War was such a stain on the Labour Party that they lost the prime ministership.  From May 2, 1997 until May 11, 2010, the United Kingdom was presided over by a prime minister from the Labour Party.  The UK Ministry of Defence notes that 179 British soldiers died in the Iraq War.  After all of that, finally today Theo Usherwood (Press Association) can report, "The UK's military operation in Iraq will finally end this weekend when the Royal Navy completes its mission to train the country's sailors, Defence Secretary Liam Fox has said."  Nick Hopkins (Guardian) terms the Iraq War "one of the most controversial military campaigns in recent history" and notes, "Britain's eight years of military commitment in Iraq will finally and formally come to and on Sunday, when the remaining forces in the south of the country will withdraw." But even then . . .  Claire Sadler (British Forces News -- link has text and video) explains, "While this marks the end of Operation Telic, the UK will continue to support the NATO Training Mission in Iraq as the second-largest contributor, leading on officer training and education."
As Great Britain continues to struggle at extracting itself from Iraq, Today's Zaman reports that a Turkish general is lamenting that Turkey didn't take part in the Iraq War.  The ex-Chief of General Staff Gen Ilker Basbug's upcoming book The End of Terrorist Organizations (Teror Orgutlerinin Sonu) contains the following passage, "When the government motion [to allow military cooperation with the US] failed to get enough votes in Parliament on March 1, 2033. Turkey missed once again an opportunity to marginalize the PKK." Today's Zaman goes on to state, "According to excerpts published in Hurriyet, Basbug argues that it would have been possible to contain the PKK militans based in the mountains of northern Iraq if the March 1 vote had produced a different result."
Maybe the general also misses the chance to know people to ask favors of?  Kim Sengupta (Independent) reports Jeremy Greenstock, then-prime minister Tony Blair's special envoy to Iraq, began lobbying the Iraqi government on behalf of British Petroleum three months after he left public service.  Three months.  Sengupta reports:

The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments had specifically asked Sir Jeremy not to visit Iraq on business, nor have commercial dealings with companies there, for six months after taking up the post of special adviser with BP in June 2004. However, three months later Sir Jeremy and the then BP chief executive Lord Browne, met Mr Allawi during his visit to London. An internal email by an official in the Department of Trade and Industry said: "BP Meeting: in the end, BP decided they wanted a "private" meeting (Allawi, Lord Brown [sic], Sir Jeremy Greenstock and Mike Daly, President BP Middle East) so I dropped out."

We started with the US Congress, we'll close with it.  As noted during Sandy Berger's scandal,I know Sandy (and like him).  Once he admitted that he did what he was accused of (smuggled documents out that weren't supposed to leave), he lost the right -- my opinion -- to ever take an appointed office again.  He broke the public's trust.  But if he runs for public office and voters say "YES!" that's between him and the voters.  In Texas, a War Criminal wants to run for the US Senate.  Since no charges were brought against him, this will end up being between him and the voters.  Kelley B. Vlahos ( reports on Ricardo Sanchez' political hopes:

Sanchez is probably best known for his role in the 2004 Abu Ghraib prison scandal. He's in the headlines again—this time for throwing his hat into the ring for U.S Senate in Texas.

In 2006, Sanchez retired from the Army a year after evidence emerged that he had approved the use of dogs for intimidation, sleep deprivation, withholding of food and water and other harsh interrogation methods at the infamous detention center.

Although Sanchez was cleared of wrongdoing in official reports, a leaked memo released by the ACLU in 2005 showed the former commander of U.S. forces may have set into motion the events that led to the graphic abuse and torture of Iraqi prisoners by importing extreme tactics from the Guantanamo Bay prison for use by military interrogators, private contractors and the National Guard soldiers policing the Iraqi prison.