Saturday, May 28, 2011

Withdrawal? Legislation?

In one of the most laughable claims of the week, officials with the Ministry of the Interior claim to Al Sabaah that the Ministry is ready to take over security for Iraq. If you don't get the hilarity in that claim, you may not be aware that there is no head of the Ministry. The Ministries of Interior, Defense and National Security remain leaderless. They should have had Minsters appointed to them before the end of December. That's because the Constitution states that once a prime minister-designate is named, he or she has 30 days to name a Cabinet -- this means nominating ministers and getting the Parliament's approval on each nominee. That is how a prime minister-designate becomes prime minister, by coming up with a Cabinet. Nouri never did. And the Constitution was ignored and he was moved from prime minister-designate to prime minister. (Per the Constitution, after 30 days, if he hadn't come up with a Cabinet, a new prime minister-designate should have been named and given 30 days to come up with a Cabinet.)

Iraq continues to debate whether or not to extend the SOFA and keep US troops on Iraqi soil past 2011. Aswat al-Iraq quotes Iraqiya MP Zuhair al-A'raji stating, "The extension of the U.S. forces' mandate cannot be made without a decision to be submitted by the government to parliament, where it would be debated and voted by its members." Aswat al-Iraq observes, "North Iraq’s Kurdish leaders, including Kurdistan Premier, Barham Saleh, have officially announced their wish that the U.S. troops would be extended till the settlement of the suspended political problems about the areas-in-conflict between the Kurdistan government and the Baghdad Federal government, along with necessity to boost the Iraqi troops potentials to protect the security of the country." Meanwhile Dar Addustour quotes US military spokesperson Gen Jeffrey Buchanan noting that US bases in Iraq are coming under increased attacks -- explosive devices and mortar fire.

Dar Addustour also reports that the Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi has stated Nouri's claim that Parliament can't write laws, that they have to take his suggestions or those of Jalal Talabani (President of Iraq). al-Nujaifi notes that Nouri's interpretation is not what the Constitution says and recommends that they follow the Constitution. Alsumaria TV adds, "Article 61 of the Iraqi constitution stipulates the following: The Council of Representatives shall be competent in the following: First: Enacting federal laws. Second: Monitoring the performance of the executive authority. Third: Electing the President of the Republic. Fourth: Regulating the ratification process of international treaties and agreements by a law, to be enacted by a two-thirds majority of the members of the Council of Representatives. Fifth: Approving the appointment of the following: A. The President and members of the Federal Court of Cassation, the Chief Public Prosecutor, and the President of Judicial Oversight Commission by an absolute majority, based on a proposal from the Higher Juridical Council.
B. Ambassadors and those with special grades, based on a proposal from the Council of Ministers. C. The Iraqi Army Chief of Staff, his assistants, those of the rank of division commander and above, and the director of the intelligence service, based on a proposal from the Council of Ministers. Sixth: A. Questioning the President of the Republic, based on a petition with cause, by an absolute majority of the members of the Council of Representatives. B. Relieving the President of the Republic by an absolute majority of the Council of Representatives after being convicted by the Federal Supreme Court in one of the following cases of: Perjury of the constitutional oath, violating the Constitution or high treason."

Turning to violence, Reuters notes 1 suspect was shot dead in Ramadi and 1 corpse was discovered in Kirkuk. Aswat al-Iraq notes 2 corpses were discovered in Mosul and 1 police officer was shot dead by the Iraqi military in Ramadi.

In Karbala, the US carried out a military operation involving a helicopter as they attempted to raid a home for a man . . . who died four days ago. And the response in Karbala? Aswat al-Iraq reports:

The deputy chairman of Karbala's Provincial Council disclosed that a letter of denunciation shall be handed to the U.S. Embassy due to the U.S. Army's airborne landing north of Karbala, calling on the central government to exert pressures on the U.S. army to cease its violations.
Nisayif Al-Khatabi told Aswat al-Iraq that "the U.S. forces carried out an airborne landing on house to arrest a citizen without any coordination with the local government or security forces."

Liz Sly (Washington Post) examines the Kurdistan region here.

The e-mail address for this site is

Iraq: Protests and retaliation

False Promises Friday

Al Mada notes that as the end of the 100 days approaches (June 7th, "100 days" refers to the promise Nouri made that he would clean up government corruption and provide services within 100 days) Iraqi security forces seem to be taking a harder line with protesters. They cite as an example what took place yesterday in Baghdad when youth activists protested in Tahrir Square and four were arrested. The paper notes that the forces used "special security measures" that were new to this arrest. Iraqi forces also used some actions that were the same as previous ones: closing the bridges and cutting off roads, etc. The Iraqi Democratic Youth Federation and the Union of Students in the Republic of Iraq issued a statement condemning the arrests, calling for the immediate release of the four protesters and denouncing the "return to repressive authoritarian" measures. Friday was "False Promises Friday." Screen snap above is from Revolution of Iraq's video footage of the protest shot by Rami Hayali.

New Sabah adds that the four arrested were organizers of the demonstration -- they included Ali Abd al-Khaliq and Jihad Jalil. New Sabah also notes the four were carried away in an ambulance and that the youth has been protesting since February 25th. Dar Addustour notes Ahmed al-Baghdadi is also one of the four arrested and, as usual, count on The Great Iraqi Revolution to have all the facts: "THE 4 YOUNG ACTIVISTS WHO WERE ARRESTED TODAY BY QASSIM ATTA AND TAKEN TO A PLACE UNKNOWN - 27.5.2011 - THEIR NAMES ARE: JIHAD JALEEL, ALI ABDUL KHALIQ, MOUAYED AL TAYEB AND AHMED AL BAGHDADI. We pray God to have them released very soon."

They also note of Friday's Baghdad protest -- or in response to it, a smear campaign is being launched on TV, "In the serial of attempting to bad mouth and blacken the Tahrir Square protestors and demonstrators, Qassim Atta and the Iraqiya air photos of one of the detained activists in the Protests and accuse him of several crimes, they then proceed to air a film of a crime whose perpetrators are known to all and sundry, and in the same film some hooded men are heard to accuse that the activist is the person who committed the crime!" And the assault on protesters continued today. Aswat al-Iraq reports:

An eye witness said that a military force raided an NGO, known as Where is My Right, and arrested 11 persons, including its secretary general, in suspicion for their relationship with the organizers of Tahreer Square demonstrations.
"Four Hummer military vehicles and two 4-wheel drive cars surrounded the organization premises in Maidan Square, in the center of Baghdad, where they searched it and destroyed its computers," the source told Aswat al-Iraq.
On the other hand, an activist said on the Facebook page for the Tahreer Square demonstrations, that the organization is an NGO that participated in organizing the demonstrations.
The arrested persons were meeting to discuss how to release the four activists who were arrested last Friday.

All for calling for an end to corruption, calling for basic services, calling for the detainees to be freed, calling for the occupation of Iraq to end.

Friday in Baghdad, as usual women could be found holding photos of their missing loved ones. The woman below is holding a photo of her husband (screen snap from video at Free Iraq uprising).

missing husband

The following community sites -- plus War News Radio, Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan, Military Families Speak Out, Jane Fonda,, On The Wilder Side and Liberal Oasis -- updated last night and this morning:

The e-mail address for this site is

thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends

Friday, May 27, 2011

Iraq snapshot

Friday, May 27, 2011.  Chaos and violence continue, Memorial Day leads an outlet to hop a high horse (a high horse that maybe needs to be shot), Bradley Manning is back in the news, protests take place in Baghdad, the canonization of Ali al-Lami continues, and more.
Today Michele Martin hops a high horse at NPR -- Memorial Day must be approaching.  Although she writes of  "two wars our nation is fighting right now," she herself has trouble mentioning the Iraq War and it doesn't pop up until a quote from Capt Vernice Armour and then again from journalist Brian Palmer.  It takes nine paragraphs before Martin can mention the Iraq War herself -- typical NPR nonsense of late.  (Writes?  Audio won't be available until Memorial Day -- her written column is up now.)   NPR can't find Iraq and hasn't been able to in some time.  The Diane Rehm Show used to carve out seven or so minutes each Friday, during the second hour of the program, for the topic.  Not anymore.  Not since January, in fact.  The Iraq War ended -- at least Diane Rehm's interest in it did.  What is Kelly McEvers?  Why she's NPR's Baghdad bureau chief.  And NPR's moved her to where?  Syria.  Syria.  Where US troops aren't on the ground.  Syria.  And you wonder why you get no reports on Iraq these days from your NPR station -- your NPR station that just got done using Iraq in its fundraiser, insisting during its pledge drive that it provided coverage of Iraq, coverage you couldn't get elsehwere.  Apparently they meant on their blog The Two-Way?  (Click here.)
Memorial Day is Monday,  a day when the sacrifices of those in uniform are supposed to be acknowledged but NPR can't even make time to acknowledge an ongoing war.  'Oh, but it's so hard, after 8 years, to find a new way to talk about it.'  That whine -- and I'm burning a bridge here -- came from a friend with Diane Rehm's show.  I note that today that they had time to discuss Israel and Palestine. That conversation predates The Diane Rehm Show -- and since no one's really serious about solving the issue, it will likely still be discussed constantly on NPR (constantly, if unfairly) long after Diane Rehm and I am both dead and gone.  It's not that they can't find new ways to discuss it, it's that the war doesn't get enough press attention for Diane and her gaggle of gas bags to breeze through a quick brush up to get informed on the topic in less than ten minutes.  (That is what they do.  Select the topics and all go online before they go to live to find their talking points.  Woops, am I spilling trade secrets?)  NPR's Michele Martin might not be standing on quick sand if her peers did their job.  Instead, Michele's hopped a high horse with a lame leg and it's not going anywhere.
Memorial Day will come again this year, the US will still have troops stationed on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq, troops still in combat -- despite the lies of the White House as evidenced by the continued attacks on US troops in Iraq and the continued deaths.  May 30, 2010 -- the day before Memorial Day -- the US military death toll in Iraq stood at 4400Last night the count stood at 4457.  That's 57 deaths that really haven't registered.  That's [PDF format warning] 36 deaths, according to the Defense Dept, since the 'end' of combat operations announced by Barack Obama on August 31, 2010.  Michele Martin's not aware of those facts.  She's not aware of a lot.  She should be aware that her own NPR program -- Tell Me More -- can't find Iraq.  That war that takes her nine paragraphs to mention herself doesn't show up on her show.  That would be the same show that 'informs' us of such important and life shattering stories as "O Magazine Staff Excited About Oprah Winfrey's Future," "O Magazine To Evolve, Collaborate With Oprah Winfrey Network" and "The Ups, Downs Between Iyania Vanzant And Oprah Winfrey" -- all of those 'reports' aired on Tell Me More's Wednesday broadcast. We'll be kind and call those "advertorials" -- they certainly weren't reporting.  Prior to that 'reporting,' this week saw Suze Orman singing Oprah's praises for six of Tell me More's minutes while Dr. Phil was given over 12 minutes by the program to sing Oprah's praises.
I'm sorry, what war did Oprah die in?  Battle of the Bulge?  Charge of the TVQs?  Memorial Day is one day in the year.  And Michele Martin thought she could get on high horse for that.  After a week of wasting her time and listners time over a faded TV personality (check the ratings, check O's circulation) packing it in before the ratings dropped further.  Oprah's departure to cable was treated as more important than the country's ongoing wars and something requiring daily coverage and updates.  Michele Martin and NPR owe the listeners a huge apology. 
Lance Cpl Tim Horton: I have worked hard to ensure my injuries and other people's perceptions of them do not define my way of life or limit what I am able to accomplish.  Receiving timely and quality prosthetics care is instrumental to maintaining my activity level.  The quality of care I have received through the Oklahoma City VA Medical Center is outstanding.  VA contracts with a number of prosthetic specialists who are familiar with cutting edge prosthetic technology and are able to outfit me with the devices I need to maintain a high level of physical activity. Most importantly, my prosthetics provider has really taken the time to understand who I am as a whole person -- not just a wounded warrior -- and how that shapes my medical needs.  So while the quality of care I am receiving is very good, the process of going through the VA to receive those benefits takes far too long.  When I need adjustments or replacement equipment, I must schedule an appointment with the medical center to be seen by a member of tehir prosthetics team who will then write the prescription to the provider, further delaying my ability to get an appointment and ultimately receive the adjustments or equipment I need.  Why is this the case?  I know other veterans who live in close proximity to Walter Reed who are able to walk in and out with the services and equipment they need within the same day, all without ever needing to go through their local VA.  It would make sense to me if I were able to see my prosethetics specialist first, who could then communicate with VA about what I need and get the authorization, eliminating the wait time for an appointment. While waiting weeks for an appointment might seem like a minor inconvenicence, for a warrior like myself, spending weeks without the necessary prostehtics equipment, or sometimes even worse equipment that causes extreme discomfort and other medical issues, can be sholly disruptive to our daily lives.  The timeliness and consistency of care should not be a function of where warriors happen to live.  The most important thing I have learned in navigating my own transition and helping my peers through their own journey is that you must act as your own advocate.  There are so many programs and benefits available to assist us, yet often we are never informed of these programs or the information is delivered in a time and place that is not conducive for wounded warriors to absorb it.  We receive so much information at the time when we are newly injured.  When I was brought to Behtesda, I was completely reliant on my mother as my caregiver.  It took me two and a half months to regain the ability to feed myself.  My sole focus was on my physical recovery.  It was impossible for me to take in the vast amount of information coming at me during that time, I understand that since I have been injured the Federal Recovery Coordination Program has been put into place for severely wounded warriors to assist with this challenge.  This is not a program I benefited from, nor did I know of its existence before preparing for my testimony here today.  What I do know is that warriors need real help in discovering what benefits exist and how to utilize them so that they can thrive in their lives post-injury.  Other veterans are out there spreading the word, but no one from VA is reaching out.  That needs to change.  I have spent the last several years sharing the knowledge I've gained through my own recovery and plan to continue that work as an outreach worker with the Wounded Warrior Project, but there must be a more systematic VA effort.  My hope is that -- by coming before you today and testifying to some of my issues in navigating through the system -- things will continue to improve for the warriors coming behind me. 
Iraq War veteran Tim Horton was testifying before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday.  We noted the hearing yesterday and are doing so today.  Horton spoke of the assistance he received not from DoD or VA employees, but from Vietnam veterans who helped him navigate the system.  This despite the fact that the US government pays for federal care coordinators, as Ava addressed in "Scott Brown, John Kerry, veterans clearing house" last night at Trina's site.  As Ava reported, Senators Bernie Sanders and Johnny Isakson were among those wondering why there wasn't a national hotline, a clearing house, for wounded veterans to call and get help with their care? 
May 7, 2008 -- over three years ago -- the VA issued a press release annoucing that their "new Federal Recovery Coordinator Program office is actively at work with dozens of severely injured patients acround the country" -- quoting then VA Secretary James Peake.
The release continued: "In coordination with the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services, the joint Federal Recovery Coordinator Program is designed to cut across bureaucratic lines and reach into the private sector as necessary to identify services needed for seriously wounded and ill service members, veterans and their families. A key recommendation of a presidential commission chaired by former Sen. Bob Dole and former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, the recovery coordinators do not directly provide care, but coordinates federal health care teams and private community resources to achieve the personal and professional goals of an indvidiualized 'life map' or recovery plan developed with the service members or veterans who qualify for the federal recovery coordinator program."
Yet neither Tim Horton nor Afghanistan War veteran Steven Bohn were provided with federal care coordinator.  Ranking Member Richard Burr asked, "Steve, were you ever offered a federal care coordinator?"  Bohn replied, "Negative.  Me and my family -- I've never even heard of that unitl a couple of days ago."  In last night's "Senate Veterans Affairs Committee," Kat reported on Burr's statements regarding DoD's refusal to submit their prepared (written) remarks in a timely manner.  In his opening remarks, Burr wondered, "How much is enough time to prepare testimony before this committee?"  He noted DoD was informed of this hearing on May 11th, yet 24 hours prior to the hearing, DoD still hadn't submitted -- as required -- their prepared remarks.  There seems to be a great deal of problems with providing information.  Maybe one answer is to, let's just take the federal care coordinators, for the federal government to post how many there are and how many veterans are utilizing them?  In last night's "Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (Wally)," Wally gathers several strands from the hearing to make a strong case that the VA, DoD, etc are very happy to announce programs and get patted on the back but to actually provide these services to the veterans who need them seems to be another story.  If, for example, the federal care coordinator program was required to be publicly posted -- how many are there, how many veterans are utilizing them, etc. -- maybe there would be more of a push by department heads to ensure that these programs are utilized?  But this information, like so much other information, is difficult even for the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee to get.  (VA estimates that they have assisted 1,300 veterans since the program started in 2008 and that there are around 660 veterans currently being assisted by their 22 federal care coordiantors.)
As Kat noted, Burr asked the DoD witness George Taylor (Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense) why his prepared remarks were not submitted to the Committee on time (prepared remarks are supposed to be submitted to the Committee or Subcomittee 48 hours in advance) and Taylor said he'd have to follow up on that.  As Senator Bernie Sanders observed, "I think the pity is we spend a fortune and sometimes at the end of the road the care is excellent if people can get to it. And yet I suspect that there are thousands of young men and women who've returned to who don't even know what they're entitled to, what is available to them, how to access it."  Again, Sanders went on to recommend that a 24-hour hotline be created for wounded veterans to call and speak to someone who could tell them of the services that are available.  From the hearing:
Senator Johnny Isakson: It's my understanding, I know we've got well over 100,000 people deployed in the Middle East right now and we have 22 federal coordinators -- federal care coordinators, is that right? [Lorraine nods] That's 22 coordinators and we've got people coming home every day with the same needs that Tim and Steve have talked about.
Moving to the second panel, VA and DoD staff, the Committee was told that DoD has "approximately 150" federal care coordinators.  Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Committee and she asked if there were enough federal care coordinators and the reply was that they've just hired more and "there are 28 in class today".  When the Chair asked specifically, "Do we have more soldiers coming home than the infrastructure is prepared for?," DoD replied that they believed the infrastructure was in place.  The VA's Deborah Amdur would state she was "extremely disturbed" to hear Horton and Bohn's testimony; however, she offered no apology to either.  (Senator Burr made a point to apologize to Bohn for the treatment he experienced, noting that someone should have apologized on behalf  to Bohn a long time ago.)
Committee Chair Patty Murray:  I want to turn to an issue that I am deeply concerned about and that is the issue of suicide.  The number of service members and new veterans we have lost to suicide is now on par with the number of those who've been killed in combat.  That should be disturbing to everyone in this room. Last week, at this hearing, we talked about the very high rate of suicides among those participating in the Joint Disability Evaluation process.  Those service members are actually under constant supervision of the Department and that occurred.  We do know that there is progress being made in suicide prevention and mental health treatement.  Dr. Kemp, your program has been outstanding, I've heard a lot of good reviews about that.  But there is a lot of work that remains to be done.  And I want to ask this Committee what do we need to do to address this problem?
Dr. Janet Kemp:  Yeah.  Uh, first Chairman Murray, I want to say the numbers are appalling. And we know that and recognize that and no one who serves their country and comes back alive should die by suicide ever.  Uhm, and I think that we, uhm, have worked very hard in the past two years to put programs into place   One of the things you mentioned earlier was the crisis line which we have opened up now to service members and families and friends of service members and continue to get calls from that population.  But we need to continue to communicate its availability, we need to make sure that people know that there is someone there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  We need to work more closely with our DoD partners and we are in the process of doing this, to be able to communicate to our suicide prevention coordinators in the VA, sooner and earlier that someone may be released and someone needs services and we need to start that care ahead of time. We also need to do more work, and this is also in progress, in the area of training all providers and the people who do these disability examines to do screenings, to ask the right questions -- that just because someone's being evaluated for physical injury, we have to ask the emotional --
Committee Chair Patty Murray: How long will that take to train all the providers?
Dr. Janet Kemp: We've started the process with the providers who do the examines in the VA and we will start the process --
Committee Chair Patty Murray: At every facility across the country?
Dr. Janet Kemp: Yes. Yes. And we've also started training all of our primary care providers across the country to really work with emotional issues as well as regular mental issues. I anticipate that this is something we can do rather quickly and I will make a promise to you to, uhm, move that process along.
Committee Chair Patty Murray:  Okay, we'll be following that and I want to know when those people have been trained.
Dr. Janet Kemp: Exactly.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: I -- You know, the data released at the end of April showed that the number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are now utilizing VA care for mental health needs is more than half of all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are using the VA care. In a way that's a more positive sign that more veterans are willing to come forward and ask for care.  But I want to know if the system's adequately equipped now to handle those rising numbers and meet the criteria that we set out?
Antonette Zeiss:  We are resourced to provide that care in mental health. Certainly, I can defer to other staff members here for some of the other physical health concerns that are also very much a part of what they bring to us. But, in terms of mental health, in 2004, VA recognized that there were gaps in staffing and services, developed a comprehensive mental health strategic plan, began to implement that in 2005 and, really, with a stronger pace in 2006. Since then, we have increased our staffing for mental health services to over 21,000 -- it's an increase of over 40% percent in our core mental health staff.  As we track the number of veterans who are receiving mental health services, those also have increased during that time period but have not increased to the same proportion as the percent of staff that we have added and we think that's the right balance because, as I said, we had gaps when we started. So we've been able to fill gaps for those patients who were seeking VA care and intensive VA care earlier in this decade and to enhance our status in such that we can continue in a proactive way to meet the needs of returning service members who come to us as veterans while sustaining care for those veterans who are with us throughout their lifetimes. We will continue to track that very closely, of course, because we don't know when there may be significant numbers of additional service members returning.  We look forward to working with you and keeping pace in terms of the data on are we adequeately resourced to provide care.
This was the second of a two-part hearing.  The first-part of this series of hearings was held May 18th and for more on that you can refer to that day's snapshot as well as  Ava's "Scott Brown questions DoD's concept of streamlining,"  Kat's  "DoD embarrasses at Senate hearing" and Wally's  "VA can't answer a basic service question."  In addition,  you can stream the hearing at the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee's hearing page or, if you're having problems with that page, you can stream audio of the hearing from this CSpan page.  [For the second panel of Wednesday's hearing, I relied on the stream because I left to attend the House Foreign Affairs Committee -- see Wednesday's  snapshot and Ava's report "Ron Paul (Ava)" (at Trina's site).]  To stay on veterans issues for two more topics.  At the airport today, we were talking about this hearing and a veteran approached.  He's a Gulf War veteran and he wanted to note a problem with VA care that isn't covered in hearings.  It's when a veteran needs care and is not taken to a VA facility.  He had collapsed from the heat earlier in the week, an ambulance was called and instead of being taken to the nearest VA, he was taken to a for-profit hospital.  He later learned that the VA hospital was just a mile away. He stated he was talking and able to sit up in the ambulance but they insisted that the VA hospital was too late.  The care he received at the for-profit hospital was grossly inadequate.  He arrived at noon.  They gave him liquids three hours later.  (Three hours later.)  Prior to that he was sitting and waiting.  He repeatedly had to provide an inventory of his medical history and any allergies (at the VA his records would have been on file).  After he was given fluids, he was ignored for many hours.  Finally at ten p.m. he was told he was being discharged.  He complained about thirst and hunger (he'd been there since noon) and was told there were snack machines in the lobby.  He won't be footing the bill, the VA will pick it up.  But he argues (I think rightly) that the service was inadequate and that, at best, the for-profit hospital should be paid for an hour's care.  (He suspects the VA will be charged for the entire duration and considers it an example of fraud and waste.)  Second, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Patty Murray will be touring the Portland VA Medical Center this coming Tuesday to hear from veterans and review the process at that VA:


(Washington, D.C.) – On Tuesday, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, will tour the Portland VA Medical Center and discuss her priorities as Chair of that critical committee charged with protecting the health care and benefits of our nation's veterans. The tour comes at a critical time for local veterans as more Iraq and Afghanistan veterans enter the VA in the Portland region. During the tour, press will get the opportunity to see the Portland VA's prosthetic and limb loss facility, including a demonstration of that facility's technology. There will also be a demonstration of adaptive vehicles used for disabled veterans and a tour of the women's veterans facility.

Following the tour, Senator Murray will discuss her priorities as Chair of the Veterans Committee including improving employment opportunities, health care coordination, and secure housing opportunities for homeless veterans.


WHO:             U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee


WHAT:          Tour of Portland VA Medical Center and Press Availability


WHEN:          Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

                        2:00 PM PST


WHERE:       Portland VA Medical Center

3710 SW U.S. Veterans Hospital Rd.
Portland, OR

                        Map It





Matt McAlvanah

Communications Director

U.S. Senator Patty Murray

202-224-2834 - press office

202--224-0228 - direct

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Monday is Memorial Day.  There may not be a snapshot that day.  It will depend upon the news coming out of Iraq. 
Turning to Iraq, where so much of the US press has rushed to canonize Ali al-Lami.  Let's drop back to the January 22, 2010 New York Times'  editorial "Sunnis and Iraq's Election"
The accountability commission is the successor to the destructive de-Baathification commission that sought to keep anyone with ties to Mr. Hussein out of government. Its chief, Ali Faisal al-Lami, is hardly an impartial judge. He is a candidate on the slate led by the Shiite leader Ahmed Chalabi, a relentlessly ambitious force in Iraqi politics who lured the Bush administration into the 2003 invasion and wants to be prime minister.
Both the accountability and the election commissions are part of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki's government, and he issued a statement supporting their decisions. But American officials say Mr. Chalabi is the main manipulator. Mr. Chalabi's absurd charge that the United States wants to return the Baath Party to power is typical of his divisive and destructive brand of politics.
Ali al-Lami's destructive decisions cannot be taken away or wiped away.  They helped create and foster an undemocratic enviornment going into the elections.  There is no excuse for what he did, no justification.  He was a petty tyrant abusing an office and hurting Iraq in the process.  Please note, the New York Times and McClatchy Newspapers are two US outlets who have refused to white wash Ali al-Lami.  That's in stark contrast to Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) carefully asserting, "Lami, who lived in Sadr City, was a symbol of the battle against the former Baath Party."  In real time (August 28, 2008), AP noted, "The military says the suspect is believed to be behind a June bombing in Baghdad that killed four Americans and six Iraqis, and that he is believed to be a senior leader of "special groups" — Iranian-backed rogue militiamen in Iraq." He was part of the League of Rightous -- admittedly part of it. When the mini-thug was released from the US prison, Rod Nordland and Sam Dagher (New York Times, August 17, 2009) reported, "Mr. Lami said his release was part of a government deal with the League, though he described himself as a 'supporter' of the group rather than a member." The League used their barganing skills to secure the release of their most important assets only. Lami was among the select few whose release they secured. He was more than a supporter.  From the February 16, 2010 snapshot, here'sthe then-top US commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno:

al-Lami is a Sadrist by trade. He was arrested after an operation in Sadr City where both Iraqi security forces, U.S. civilians, and U.S. soldiers were leaving a meeting that they had with the local government in Sadr City, and their vehicles were attacked with IEDs as they left the meeting. There were some accusations. We had some intelligence that said that al-Lami was the one who directed these attacks on these individuals. He was released in August of '09 as part of the drawdown of our detention facilities because we did not have the actual prosecutorial evidence in order to bring him in front of a court of law in Iraq. All we had was intelligence that linked him to this attack. So, as we had some others, we had to release him. He has been involved in very nefarious activities in Iraq for some time. It is disappointing that somebody like him was in fact put in charge or has been able to run this commission inside of Iraq, in my opinion.
He is -- him and Chalabi clearly are influenced by Iran. We have direct intelligence that tells us that. They've had several meetings in Iran, meeting with a man named Mohandas, which is an ex-council representative member -- still is a council representative member -- who was on the terrorist watch list for a bombing in Kuwait in the 1980s. They are tied to him. He sits at the right-hand side of the Quds Force commandant, Qassem Soleimani. And we believe they're absolutely involved in influencing the outcome of the election. And it's concerning that they've been able to do that over time.

Ali al-Lami was released as part of a deal that the White House authorized and, yes, oversaw. Ali al-Lami made it clear in his statements to the New York Times why he was being released. The deal was with the League of Righteous and it was supposed to mean that the five British hostages the League had were released. As part of that "special relationship," with England, Barack entered into negotiations with the League of Righteous to figure out what they wanted in order to release the British citizens they had kidnapped. From the June 9, 2009 snapshot:

This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."

These realities are missing from the bulk of the US coverage.  Missing is any violence today in Iraq.  Reuters couldn't find any.  Really? Aswat al-Iraq reports 2 corpses were discovered outside Mosul and, in Kut, a young boy accidentally shot dead his cousin "while playing with his father's pistol".,
It's Friday, protests are taking place in Baghdad. The Great Iraq Revolution reports, "TAHRIR BAGHDAD - 4 activists were arrested this morning while entering Tahrir - Security forces are using ambulances for arrest wagons!!!" Aswat al-Iraq adds, "They were within a 250 demonstrators criticizing the government for not providing suitable service and the deterioration in living standards, despite the near-end 100-day period given by Premier Nouri Al-Maliki to achieve better services." One protest sign read, "8 Years of Maliki's and the Occupation's Accomplishments -- Should you need to use electricity! Go and buy a Generator!"  Following the arrest, Aswat al-Iraq notes that some of the protesters took the protest from the square to the Baghdad Provinncial Council where they staged a sit-in and one protester is quoted stating that "the demonstration will continue in the square, at a time other demonstrators are pouring despite security blockade around the area, unlike early morning precaution where the security forces are limited."  Great Iraqi Revolution highlights this essay by Layla Anwar which includes the following:
They hang saints in Iraq, they lynch them at an early age, they penetrate their insides with words...and words become swords, daggers, knives...slashing, beheading, tiny anonymous faces with no names...the slaying of Saints...of little Saints...
She was found thrown away in one of the streets of Baghdad...her name is Rita, like Saint Rita, the Saint who answers your prayers...
She was abandoned in the streets of Baghdad, with her name written on a cardboard, attached to her neck like a dog who was once owned. A three years old dog, puppy, girl, blind...Rita is blind. Totally blind. You bastards, call it in your politically correct jargon - visually impaired - because you are so f[***]ing sensitive arent'you ?!
Well Rita is blind, and she is 3. She is not only blind, she has a severely deformed face, a cleft lip that goes up all the way to her nose...split in the middle, a mirror reflection of how you split us in the all ways. A small mirror of your own deformities, your soul deformities...
She was feeling her way around, blind, with a cardboard sign around her neck - my name is Rita.
The local police took her to a hospital, the doctors did not know what to do with Rita...the little Saint Rita...she was left in the corridors of a hospital, a hospital that looks and feels like a public toilet, because your whores stole the money, the money for the little Saints...

We really don't have room for the essay but we have to make room because it's important.  As a result we'll pick up other things on Tuesday (or possibly Monday, if there's a snapshot that day).   New Sabah reports Iraqiya's Ayad Allawi is calling for the issue of US troops staying in Iraq past 2011 to be discussed openly in an emergency and public meeting of Parliament. Allawi announced his call at a news conference and noted that they didn't know if an agreement had already been made with the US by Nouri. Allawi declared the issue needed to be put under the light. Aswat al-Iraq quotes National Alliance MP Fuad Al-Douraki stating that Allawi's call is "unrealistic."  Al Mada reports that there is continued pressure on the political blocs to extend the agreement for US troops to remain in Iraq. They also quote Hussain al-Shahristani, Deputy Prime Minister for Energy, stating that there will be no extension and that Iraqi forces are sufficient to maintain the country's security. Dar Addustour reports that the study on the Iraqi military and its capabilities is due to be released shortly.

Lastly the topic of  Bradley ManningMonday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning has been at Quantico in Virginia, under military lock and key, for months. In March, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. David E. Coombs is Bradley's attorney and he provided a walk through on Article 104.
I was asked to note this nonsense from World Can't Wait.  I support WCW.  I don't support nonsense.  They get their link. They also get critiqued.
Bradley Manning is innocent.  He is innocent because he has not been found guilty of anything.  When a trial does take place -- supposedly a court-martial will take place this summer and a trial in the fall -- the defense will enter a plea.  No plea has been entered at present.  The defense will not be able to argue he didn't do it but if he did that's okay.  They will have to argue one way or the other.  He did it or he didn't do it.  (They can argue that he did it but argue that what he did was legal.) 
The idiots who think they help Bradley have been idiots for some time.  In this space, we have screamed and yelled that they needed to stop saying Bradley was guilty.  I noted, several times, that in the 70s we didn't say, "Angela Davis did it! Leave her alone!"  We argued Angela was innocent.  We also didn't jump to a 'she did it' when she had not said she had.
After repeated screaming in this place and elsewhere, the 'supporters' finally grasped that they were hurting Bradley and prejudicing news consumers to believe that he had released materials -- at a time when he has not acknowledged doing that.  So they started adding in their 'if he did this' b.s.  The link goes to audio that's a joke.  There are two speakers who make sense.  Only two.
When a speaker says she turned "to my partner" in bed and told him that "We need our Daniel Ellsberg," not only has she given us too much information (we don't need to know your sex habits or possibly sex role play), she's getting at the problem and why she is the problem.  Your need for a new Daniel Ellsberg does not trump Bradley Manning's right to have a fair trial.  The same woman plans to be a teacher some day and shares that it's her "hope to invoke Bradley Manning" with Daniel Ellsberg some day.
Her hopes don't mean a damn thing.  She needs to  let go of her comfy life and grasp that Bradley Manning -- whether he pleades innocence or guilt -- is looking at very serious charges. 
Kevin Zeese hails Bradley as a hero at one point and then wants to whine that Barack Obama has influenced the case by saying Bradley "broke the law."  While Barack has more power and may have sunk any chances of Bradley receiving a fair trial (see Third's "Barack finds a way to cut costs!!!!" for some of our coverage of that in this community), we can object to what others do but we can control what we do.  It's really a bit hypocrital for Kat's BFF Kevin Zeese to call out Barack for saying Bradley released materials when Kevin makes the case that Bradley did in every other statement.
The defense of Bradley until or unless he enters a plea of guilty is very basic: Bradley is innocent.  He's been held for over a year.  The government has not moved quickly.  Bradley should be released.  He is not a threat to the community.  There is no good reason to imprison him prior to trial.  The inability to move forward with charges speaks poorly of any potential case or evidence the government has against Bradley.  The comments made by Barack Obama prejudice all potential jury pools.  Bradley should not only be released, charges against him should be dropped.
It's that basic.  Instead, the 'supporters' are now working overtime to portray him as a wounded bird who entered the military. Are we trying to get him placed on suicide watch again?  He was a functioning adult.  He entered the military.  Quit victiimizing, quit infantilizing him, quit proclaiming his guilt while you insist you're trying to help.

Protests, withdrawal

It's Friday, protests are taking place in Baghdad. The Great Iraq Revolution reports, "TAHRIR BAGHDAD - 4 activists were arrested this morning while entering Tahrir - Security forces are using ambulances for arrest wagons!!!" Protests also took place yesterday in Iraq. The Great Iraq Revolution notes:

And protests took place in Ramadi (click here for Al Jazeera Arabic video of the two protests). Instead of covering those real protests, the US media tried to inflate a parade into a protest. Leave it to Alsumaria TV to get what the US media couldn't:

A Leader in State of Law Coalition headed by Premier Nouri Al Maliki said on Thursday that Al Mahdi Army parade is a challenge for democracy and for the presence of the state and said that this is a “military parade”.
Ezza Shabandar told Alsumarianews that Al Mahdi Army parade is a military parade and not a civil one very similar to the parades of Hezbollah in Lebanon. “The parade is a direct and an indirect provocation for the system of the state and for the democratic regime in Iraq”, he added.

Ramadi and Nassiriya were protests. Sadr City? Barbra Streisand singing "Don't Rain On My Parade" onstage at the Winter Garden showed more rebellion and revolution.

While Moqtada al-Sadr got plenty of attention for his staged event, withdrawal-or-not-withdrawal was talked about by Iraq's political blocs. New Sabah reports Iraqiya's Ayad Allawi is calling for the issue of US troops staying in Iraq past 2011 to be discussed openly in an emergency and public meeting of Parliament. Allawi announced his call at a news conference and noted that they didn't know if an agreement had already been made with the US by Nouri. Allawi declared the issue needed to be put under the light. Al Mada reports that there is continued pressure on the political blocs to extend the agreement for US troops to remain in Iraq. They also quote Hussain al-Shahristani, Deputy Prime Minister for Energy, stating that there will be no extension and that Iraqi forces are sufficient to maintain the country's security. Dar Addustour reports that the study on the Iraqi military and its capabilities is due to be released shortly.

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