Friday, August 17, 2012

Iraq snapshot

Friday, August 17, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Barack's Oakland campaign includes staff that attacked veterans yesterday, Iraqis bury their dead after the second most violent day of the year yesterday, the stalemate continues in Iraq,  the suicide epidemic continues in the US military, Adam Kokesh and Bruce Dixon fact check Barack on Iraq, Jill Stein talks about writing off all student loan debt in the US, and more.
Yesterday in Oakland some veterans were attacked in public.  The attack took place at Barack Obama's Oakland campaign office and it was Barack's staff that attacked the veterans.  One female volunteer had the intelligence to see how badly attacking anyone -- let alone veterans -- looked and she demanded that all campaign workers follow her to the back.  Prior to that, some staff (I'm sure that's paid staff and volunteers) did attack veterans, pushed them, shoved them, attempted to grab their camera and who knows what else.  And they scream and yell, "Get out of here! Get out of here!"    It was an ugly look at what happens when reality walks in the door and the devoted can't take it so they attack.  Everyone but the woman who called everyone to the back should be removed from the campaign.  That behavior was outragous.  The campaign should issue an apology for the assault on veterans.  You can see the tape US News & World Reports has posted.  It's not pretty. When the police use tactics like that, we are appalled.  There is no excuse for campaign staff (paid or volunteer) to behave that way.
Those inside the office included Iraq Veterans Against the War's Joshua Shephard and Scott Olsen -- both of whom were also participants of Occupy Oakland. Scott, is of course, the veteran whose encounter with Oakland police resulted in a fractured skull (among other injuries) and the world was outraged.  If the camera hadn't been there yesterday, how far would it have gone?  Supposedly chairs were also wielded against the veterans?  That's not in the video (the camera operator is knocked to the floor at one point and who knows what happened during that period).  When Olson was attacked in 2011, it prompted a review by the Oakland police into their policies.  Something similar needs to happen to Barack's Oakland office and Barack needs to issue a public apology to veterans.  (Will he? I doubt it.  He's always the first to scream at others for a supposed insult but the last to offer an apology.  That was the pattern as candidate in 2007 and 2008 and it's remained the pattern -- as we saw most recently with regards to Poland.)
Veterans are not props.  Politicians love to use veterans to shore up their own shoddy credentials. Those who have been happy to utilize (use) them for their campaigns should have the maturity to apologize publicly when an incident like what took place in Oakland goes down.
Joshua Shepherd: We're calling for a full pardon of Bradley Manning as well as an apology for Obama's statement that declared Bradley Manning was guilty before he faced any judicial proceedings.  You know the military judicial system is not quite as fair as the civilian but it is, you know there are certain measures and a minimum level of justice and due process that is required.  And the Obama administration has presided over this obliteration of that system and much to Bradley's deteriment.
Monday April 5, 2010, 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 7, 2010, 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 2010 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." In March, 2011, 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. The Article 32 hearing took place in December.  At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3, 2012, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial.  Bradley has yet to enter a plea and has neither affirmed that he is the leaker nor denied it.  His court-martial was to take place next month but has been pushed back to February.
The San Jose Mercury News has a photo essay of the protest (photos by Ray Chavez)Kristin J. Bender (Oakland Tribune) reports there were sixty protesters outside and seven inside and that the protest "ended peacefully late Thursday, with a handful of arrests."  World Can't Wait posts KTVU's reportBay City News covers it hereCedric's "Now if we can just replicate the Oakland spirit" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! OAKLAND'S GOT SPINE!" noted the protest this morning.

Outside the headquarters a woman explained, "American troops are being killed all over Asia and the Middle East.  American troops suicide rate is higher right now than combat deaths.  There's a reason for that."
Yesterday the Pentagon announced, "The Army released suicide data today for the month of July.  During July, among active-duty soldiers, there were 26 potential suicides:  one has been confirmed as suicide and 25 remain under investigation.  For June, the Army reported 11 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers; since the release of that report, one case has been added for a total of 12 cases:  two have been confirmed as suicides and 10 remain under investigation.  For 2012, there have been 116 potential active-duty suicides:  66 have been confirmed as suicides and 50 remain under investigation.  Active-duty suicide number for 2011:  165 confirmed as suicides and no cases under investigation.  During July, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were 12 potential suicides (nine Army National Guard and three Army Reserve):  one has been confirmed as suicide and 11 remain under investigation.  For June, among that same group, the Army reported 12 potential suicides (nine Army National Guard and three Army Reserve):  seven have been confirmed as suicides and five remain under investigation.  The Army previously reported 10 Army National Guard and two Army Reserve cases for June."
Leon Panetta is the Secretary of Defense.  July 25th, he appeared before the House Veterans Affairs Committee. From that day's snapshot:

US House Rep Mike Michaud:  Quick question, and I want to read from a Veterans Service Organization letter that they actually sent to Senator [Jim] Webb just last week.  And just part of it says, "The only branch of the military to show a marked improvement decreasing the number of persons taking their own life is the United States Marines.  They should also be praised for their active leadership from the very top in addressing the problem and implementing the solutions.  The remaining services have yet to be motivated to  take any substanative action. "  Secretary Panetta, I've been to Iraq and Afghanistan several times and I've looked the generals in the eye and I've asked them what are they doing personally to help the stigmatized TBI, PTSD?  And the second question is: Do they need any help?  I get the same answer over there as I do over here in DC: 'Everything's okay.  We've got all the resources we need.  We don't need any help.'  But the interesting thing is someone much lesser ranked came up to me, after I asked the general that question, outside and said, "We need a lot more help."  And he suggested  that I talk to the clergy to find out what they are seeing happening.  And I did that trip and every trip since then.  And I'm finding that our service members are not getting the help that they need.  And my question, particularly after looking at this letter that was sent to Senator Webb, it appears the Marines are doing a good job so why is it so different between the Marines, the Army and other branches?  And can you address that?

Secretary Leon Panetta: You know -- Obviously, there's no silver bullet here.  I wish there were to try to deal with suicide prevention.  We-we have a new suicide prevention office that's trying to look at programs  to try to address this terrible epedemic. I  mean, we are looking.  If you look at just the numbers, recent total are you've got about 104  confirmed and 102 pending investigation in 2012.  The total of this is high, almost 206.  That's nearly one a day.  That is an epedemic.  Something is wrong.  Part of this is people are inhibited because they don't want to get the care that they probably need. So that's part of the problem, trying to get the help that's necessary.  Two, to give them access to the kind of care that they need.  But three -- and, again, I stress this because I see this in a number of other areas, dealing with good discipline and good order and, uh, trying to make sure that our troops are responding to the challenges -- it is the leadership in the field.  It's the platoon commander.  It's the platoon sergeant.  It's the company commander. It's the company sergeant.  The ability to look at their people, to see these problems.  To get ahead of it and to be able to ensure that when you spot the problems, you're moving that individual to the kind of-of assistance that they need in order to prevent it.  The Marines stay in close touch with their people.  That's probably one of the reasons that the Marines are doing a good job.  But what we're stressing in the other services is to try to develop that-that training of the command.  So that they two are able to respond to these kinds of challenges. 

US House Rep Mac Thornberry also raised the issue of suicides, noting Time magazine's recent cover story (July 23rd issue), Mark Thompson &; Nancy Gibbs' "One A Day: Every day, one U.S. soldier commits suicide.  Why the military can't defeat its most insidious enemy."  He raised the issue of "33% of all military suicides have never deployed overseas at all and 43% had deployed once."  Panetta confirmed that statistic from the article was accurate.  Panetta argued that suicide is on the rise "in the larger society" and that this is reflected within the military. 
Today Rebecca Ruiz (NBC News) emphasizes this point on the latest suspected suicides, "Bruce Shahbaz, a medical analyst on the Army's Suicide Prevention Task Force, told Time that experts did notice the deaths of non-commissioned officers outnumbered those of junior enlisted members for the first time since 2001."   Mark Thompson (Time magazine) adds, "The Army has been fighting suicides when they were occurring at the rate of nearly one a day -- in fact, that was the cover line on a Time story last month into the vexing problem of soldiers killing themselves after a decade of war. But July's 38 likely suicides spread over the month's 31 days works out to almost 1.25 suicides a day."   For service members in need, there is Military One Source which does include a crisis hotline 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).   There is also online counseling.
But Military One Source doesn't always work for service members as yesterday's report by David Martin (CBS Evening News) noted utilizing a talk Rebecca Morrsion gave in June at the annual DoD and VA suicide conference in which she spoke of her husband Capt Ian Morrison taking his own life, how he went to two different clinics but received no help and how he then dialed Military One Source, "He was on hold with Military One Source for over an hour before he hung up."  Greg Jaffe (Washington Post) quotes mental health social worker and the wife of a Marine who took his own life seven years ago Kim Ruocco stating, "The military really is trying hard.  But we need more money, more resources, and we need to make mental health care a higher priority.  There are still too many gaps in care and too long of waits for soldiers seeking care."
Justin Moyer (Washington Post) reports on a University of Utah study entitled "Reasons for Suicide Attempts in a Clinical Sample of Active Duty Soldiers."  The paper argues, "Explicit skills training in alternative behaviors that serve an emotion regulation function (e.g. mindfulness, relaxation, cognitive restructuring) could replace the use of suicidal behaviors for this same purpose."  Katie Drummond (Forbes) notes, " Analysts suspect that as troops draw-down from combat zones overseas, more veteran soldiers -- many of whom have been deploying consistently since the dawn of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- are struggling to reintegrate into civilian life."
Jamie Crawford (CNN) quotes the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen Lloyd Austin,  "Suicide is the toughest enemy I have faced in my 37 years in the Army. And it's an enemy that's killing not just Soldiers, but tens of thousands of Americans every year.  That said, I do believe suicide is preventable. To combat it effectively will require sophisticated solutions aimed at helping individuals to build resiliency and strengthen their life coping skills." 
In Iraq, Adam Schreck (AP) notes, families were burying yesterday's victims: "Dozens of people carried the coffins of relatives through the streets of the neighborhood Friday.  Some mourners wept, while others sought solace by chanting 'God is Great'."  Yesterday, Iraq was slammed with a wave of violence.  Today the numbers are still rising.  AP earlier reported 59 died from yesterday's bombings and shootings.  But Iraqi officials later claimed the death toll was 93.  Thursday was the second largest death toll day since Decembr.  Al Mada notes the wave of violence and that the dead included at least one child (Kirkuk home bombing).  Alsumaria reports that a Nineveh Province citizen's council is blaming the Ministry of Health for the death of many wounded.  Why?  They state that the Ministry has inadequately funded the hospitals leading to a lack of doctors and ambulances which resulted in a number of wounded whom they feel should have survived the attacks instead ending up among the dead.  The Minister of Health is Dr. Majeed Jamil.  Alsumaria also notes that others, including a member of the Parliament's Security and Defense Committee, are calling out the security plan.  France's Foreign Ministry issued the following statement today:
France condemns in the strongest possible terms the attacks carried out on Thursday throughout the country, which took the lives of more than 50 people and injured more than 200.
It offers its condolences to the Iraqi people and the families of the victims, and expresses its solidarity with the Iraqi authorities in their fight against terrorism
France stands by Iraq's side and reaffirms its full support for the Iraqi government, which is engaged in an effort to promote recovery, stability and security. It has decided at the highest level to support Iraq in its stabilization and reconstruction process. This commitment, which we are determined to fulfill, has translated notably into programs to provide training in law, security and governance. It represents one of our priorities in our cooperation with Iraq. We are ready to study any additional requests by the Iraqi authorities in this area.
I am appalled at the wave of heinous attacks that shook the country throughout the day yesterday," said Mr. Kobler, who extended his condolences to the families of those killed and wished a speedy recover for the wounded.
Noting that the attacks coincided with the onset of Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan, Mr. Kobler also condemned the violence for disrupting the spirit of peace associated with one of the holiest days in the Muslim calendar.

Possibly in response to yesterday's violence, it's been announced that there will be over 8,000 security forces in Diwaniya for Eid al-Fitr.

The political crisis continues in Iraq and the 'Reform Commission' -- now just a list -- becomes more laughable each day.  The Sadr bloc notes that a piece of paper is not going to solve the ongoing crisisAl Mada reports that State of Law is stating that they did not bother to address the issue of the three presidencies.  That's Speaker of Parliament, President of Iraq and Prime Minister.  It's not a minor issue.  It's one State of Law has hissed at publicly when others raised it -- Moqtada al-Sadr, Ayad Allawi and Massoud Barzani among others have raised.  Nouri has had two terms and, in Februrary 2011, announced he would not seek a third term when rulers in the region were being forced out of office.  He quickly took back that promise and his attorney has told the press repeatedly that Nouri can seek a third term.   If Nouri doesn't try for a third term, State of Law loses the office because they have no other name leader -- they're a motley band of has-beens and strugglers who've made no real impact on the political scene.  And they know Moqtada al-Sadr wants to be prime minister as does the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq's Ammar al-Hakim and Adil Abdul-Mahdi and Ibrahaim al-Jaafari (for al-Jaafari, it would be a second term as prime minister) so if Nouri can't have a third term, short of poaching from a rival political slate, State of Law stands a good chance of petering out.

All Iraq News notes that Arshad Salhi, head of the Turkmen Front, has stated that the three presidencies, the Cabinet ministers and the MPs should all hold a meeting to address the situation in Iraq and that the meeting should continue until all can reach a shared solution on what needs to be done. Al Mada notes that ISCI states meetings will be held following Eid al-Fitr.  Still hiding out in Germany, Jalal Talabani issued a statement hailing the 'progress' on the political crisis, Alsumaria notes.

As All Iraq News notes, there continues to be disagreement about the composition of the Electoral Commission.  This was supposed to have been decided long, long ago.  And a law passed.  Elections are supposed to take place in March of next year (provincial elections).  The Parliament recently extended the 'current' commission by 35 days while they continue working on the new law.  ('Current' written that way because before they were extended, their terms really had ended.) The National Alliance's Qassim al-Araji states that the commission should be expanded (increase the number of members) and he criticized those who are opposing this move.
Turning to the White House.  Fauxgressives for Obama surfaced again.  Mike called them out in "2 Dumb Whores: Carl Davidson - Bill Fletcher Jr.."   At Black Agenda Report, Bruce Dixon takes on the 'logic' put forward by Davidson and Fletcher:

Fletcher & Davidson credit Obama with taking the troops out of Iraq.

This is an outright lie, as more than a hundred thousand US – financed mercenaries remain in Iraq indefinitely, and the Obama White House fought till the last minute to get its Iraqi client state to set aside the Status of Forces agreement negotiated under the Bush administration which required all official US forces to leave the country.

Adam Kokesh:  "Number Two.  He ended the war in Iraq and is drawing the war in Afghanistan to a close.  Like he said he would."  Holy f**king s**t, this is pathetic. If you're anti-war, if you understand that war is just a f**king embarrassment -- and I do because I'm a veteran, I was in Falluja in 2004, I get it.  Yeah, war is a racket, just like Major General Smedley Butler said,  always has been, always will be.  So here's the thing.  You're going to support a guy who's 'ending the war in Iraq' was actually attempting to keep it going longer than we would have had it end under the Bush plan?  Now when he [Barack] took office, there was the Bush plan [SOFA] in place and he [Barack] promised to end the war immediately but instead did everything in his power to extend the Bush plan.  And as it was, what we got with Obama, in terms of Iraq policy was exactly what we would have had under Bush except it looked worse and was more two-faced. Yeah.  Afghanistan?  He's bringing Afghanistan to a close?  Yeah, after a surge.  That's like saying to someone who's-who's robbing your house, "Oh, can you only just clear out one more room before you stop robbing me?" I mean are you serious? This is like, this is a feather in Obama's cap that he's bringing the war in Afghanistan to a close after sending in a surge of 30,000 troops on top of the 100,000 that were already there?  And now keeping the 100,000 that were already there as long as he can possibly get away with?  That's your idea of ending a war?  That's like shoving that guy out of your house who's robbing you and saying, "Thank you for leaving."
While it isn't her official title, Dr. Jill Stein sure sounds like the first presidential candidate of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Stein, technically the Green Party nominee, is running a longshot but aggressive campaign against a political system she feels has capitulated to corporate interests.
She sees no difference between the Democratic and Republican parties, and she thinks voters are tired of both of them. So she's calling for a "voter rebellion."
"We must occupy our elections just as we must occupy our banks and our schools and everything else," Stein said in an interview during a visit to Seattle to speak at Hempfest, in addition to other events. "Because they belong to us."
Ross Reynolds:  And you're certainly putting forward some proposals that we're not hearing from the major candidates.  Among them, a plan to forgive current student loan debt.  Now I saw that it was 904 billion dollars in the first quarter of 2012.  Are you talking about forgiving all of that debt?  And who's going to pay for it?
Jill Stein: Yeah.  I mean, we are talking about a trillion dollars worth of student debt.  We found a way to forgive much more than that from the bankers who caused this problem with the waste, fraud and abuse on Wall Street.  We think that the students who are the victims of this waste, fraud and abuse ought to have equal forgiveness.  So there are a variety of ways to do it.  There are some proposals that we do in other quantative easing but it's time to do it for student debt rather than motrgate debt.  There are a variety of solutions.  I can't say that we're dedicated to any one of them at this point but I think in principle it's really important that we bail out the students for all kinds of reasons.  Our economy depends upon it.  They are endentured servants basically.  In order to move forward, we need to get them out of debt.
Ross Reynolds: You've talked about a plan to create 25 million jobs.  That's huge.  Where would the money come from to pay for that?
Jill Stein:  In short, the money would come from downsizing the military. We're spending a trillion dollars a year now in this bloated military-industrial-security complex.  That has been doubled over about the last ten years.  Certainly without doubling our security in many ways.  We are just as insecure as ever -- dropping bombs on funerals and weddings out of our drones which are proliferating madly.  This does not buy us security. Over a thousand military bases scattered in over 100 countries around the world.  Indeed, the trillions that we spent on Afghanistan and Iraq have not made us more secure, they've not made Iraq and Afghanistan more secure, they continue to teeter on the brink of civil war.  So much of the money would come from the military, much of it would come from taxing Wall Street -- a Wall Street transaction tax, also known as a Robin Hood tax which would be a good in of itself for discouraging reckless Wall Street speculation.  We're also looking at health care as a human right which actually saves us money. Trillions of dollars  over the coming decade would be saved not only by reducing the massive health insurance bureaucracy but also by stabilizing medical inflation.
On 2012 Labor Day-Enough Is Enough-Nationalize Chevron Under Worker-Community 
Control and Prosecute The Criminals Running This Out Of Control Empire.

Rally & Press Conference in Front of Richmond Chevron Refinery

Contact: Steve Zeltzer:
 Monday September 3, 2012 10:00 AM
841 Chevron Way, Richmond California 94801

Speakers from union and community.

Cindy Sheehan, Peace and Freedom Party Candidate For Vice President of the United States
Charles Smith, Richmond Resident and AFSCME 444 Delegate To Alameda Labor Council and United Public Workers For Action UPWA
Mark Mason, San Pablo Bay Ecological Preservation Association
Mary Flanagan, Richmond Teacher, Member of United Teachers Of Richmond UTR
Charles Rachlis, Industrial Hygienist/UPWA

The explosion and fire at the Chevron Richmond refinery is a man made disaster for the workers and community
in Richmond and the East Bay. It was caused by the criminal negligence of the Chevron corporation
which did not want to replace a worn gas pipe to save more money for the corporation. They continually
violate the environmental regulation and rules as well as OSHA rules and yet there are no serious actions taken
against them by these agencies and both the California government and US government. 
This is for a company that made $26.9 billion last year.

The continuing contamination with 30% of the children of Richmond having Asthma and many other diseases
is unacceptable and an outrage to me and that is why I and Roseann Barr are calling for the immediate
seizure and nationalization of the Chevron refinery and other oil companies and for them to be run by workers and for the community and
people of California. This is not only a problem at Chevron but the many other refineries in California and the US.

We the people of the United States cannot be terrorized by these outfits like Chevron who pollute the world
and then terrorize people in the United States by their refusal to do proper maintenance on the refineries
here in the bay area and throughout the United States.
We support that the profits from a nationalized refinery be immediately put to use to prevent further
accidents, for the establishment of free healthcare for the people of Richmond and and for the funding
of education for the children of Richmond.
We are also calling for the criminal prosecution of Chevron managers, executives and owners for putting
the residents and workers in deadly danger and causing illness through their drive for profit.
We support a major program of the development of alternative energy sources including solar which should
be required on all new construction in the California and the US and a massive government funded program
for all housing in the state and the country along with mass transportation to limit the use of oil for automobiles.

We also condemn the silence of Governor Brown and the Obama administration about these continuing
man made disasters and the refusal to call for the criminal prosecution of these corporations.
In California Governor Brown has put the OSHA health and safety inspectors on furloughs even though they
are not paid for by the state budget and the 182 inspectors are not enough to properly protect the 18 million workers
of California.
On Labor Day September 3, I will be joining labor and community and environmental activists  at the Chevron Refinery to
in Richmond to call for the refinery to be nationalized and for it to be run by the workers for the benefit of the workers and
We cannot afford another Chevron disaster. Enough is Enough.