Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, February 19, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Rachel Maddow hosts a xenophobic special 'about' Iraq, we explain how Maddow and others help Lawrence Wilkerson lie for Colin Powell, a fan of Maddow's special expresses what appears to be intent to kill Bush (that would qualify as a threat), Iraqis continue to protest, Nouri tries to intimidate tribal leaders supporting the protests, the VA still hasn't fixed the payment issues with regards to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and more.

Last night, MSNBC aired Rachel Maddow's awful special entitled Hubris and based on the over six-year-old book of the same title written by David Corn and Michael IsikoffAs noted here yesterday, the 'documentary' wasn't at all interested in anything other than Bully Boy Bush Lied.  What effect did this have?  That's what makes the lie matter.  A person making a real documentary would grasp that.  Hubris wasn't a documentary.  It failed to show the consequences and the consequences are what the illegal war did to the Iraqi people.  Yesterday, we contrasted the garbage Maddow offered with an actual documentary about Vietnam after US forces had left:

You can hear some of it in An Introduction To The Enemy, the documentary film Jane Fonda made with director Haskell Wexler and with Tom Hayden.  (Click here for a video of Haskell Wexler discussing his films and the politics around them.)

The Pacifica Radio Archives has an interview, conducted by Paul McIsaac,  with Jane about the documentary.

Jane Fonda:  Well Tom and I felt -- and Haskell Wexler -- and the other people in the organization, the Indochina Peace Campaign, we all share the feeling that it's becoming possible now, even though the war continues in South Vietnam, but it is becoming possible to start to deal with the Vietnamese as people.  It wasn't so easy when there were American troops there, POWs there, but now these people who have been viewed as victims or the enemy for so long must begin to be addressed as human beings.  They are very eager to open up human relations with American people.

In contrast, Hubris celebrates xenophobia.  What has happened to the Iraqis?  Who cares? MSNBC doesn't.  The Iraq War was a tragedy -- for all from the countries who participated but most of all for the Iraqi people.

Hubris is xenophobia, it's reducing the people whose lives were most effected to bit players in order to navel gaze and celebrity watch.  It's as offensive as the initial war coverage was.

Remember the criticism?  We see the missiles launch but we don't see the targets hit.

That is Hubris.  And it's also hubris.

To watch MSNBC's awful special was to be left with the impression that the worst thing in the world was that Daddy lied to small children because small children need to believe Daddy never lies.  It was not an anti-war special, it wasn't even an anti-Iraq War special in reality.  There was no interest in the people who had been most effected and the term for that is xenophobia. That's not a minor point, that's key to understanding the crap that MSNBC threw on the air last night.  David Swanson (War Is A Crime) hints at it in his review:

Hubris is the wrong word for what took the United States into war with Iraq.  The forces at work were greed, lust for power, and sadistic vengeance.  The word "hubris" suggests the tragic downfall of the guilty party.  But the war on Iraq did not destroy the United States; it destroyed Iraq.  It damaged the United States, to be sure, but in a manner hardly worthy of mention in comparison to the sociocide committed against Iraq. 
Hubris, the film, provides a reprehensibly ludicrous underestimation of Iraqi deaths, and only after listing U.S. casualties.

And where were the Iraqi people on camera?  Well they weren't on camera. They were rendered faceless.  They weren't talking heads because, apparently, the fact that a US leader would lie was not something shocking to the Iraqi people.

If xenophobia is your fetish, you can click here to stream the awful special.  You'll see Colin The Blot Powell's work-wife Lawrence Wilkerson gab a lot.  And that's the most damning thing about the special and about the people writing about it and those whoring for Larry Wilkerson.

What MSNBC (and others -- Democracy Now!, Consortium News) have done is allow a liar to lie repeatedly.  Author, activist and media analyst Norman Solomon writes about when he confronted Wilkerson on some of his lies and Wilkerson immediately shifted from we-did-not-lie-we-did-not-know to why-didn't-you-call-me-why-didn't-you-try-to-meet-with-me.

That's ridiculous.  Rachel Maddow's had Larry Wilkerson on how many times now?  The two of been together so often, you'd think they were planning a family.  But where's Greg Thielmann? Where's Houston Wood?

Last night on MSNBC, Maddow again presented the revisionary lies that Colin Powell was tricked.  But, too bad for Rachel, CBS News was on this story long before she was. Click here for Rebecca Leung (CBS News) writing up the report of Scott Pelley's October 2003 report for 60 Minutes II on how Colin Powell was advised about the inaccuracies but Powell included them.  So much for Wilkerson's oft repeated lie that his wet dream Colin just didn't know the truth.  (Do not e-mail this site and say, "It's 2009."  We have noted before that about two years ago, CBS revamped their site.  When that happened, dates went wrong.  Ignore the date.  If you don't trust my memory -- fine by me -- click here for Common Dreams' repost -- in October 2003 -- of the CBS notice about that report by Pelley.  You can also click here, at CBS News, for the original date on Rebecca Leung's report.)

The audience reaction was intense to the original airing of the report and K. Jordan Chadwick, in her response, asked, "Please do not let this story die."  But Rachel Maddow and MSNBC have spent years now killing this story.  Rewriting history to make Colin Powell look innocent.

Here's an exchange from the program:

PELLEY: If the secretary took the information that his own intelligence bureau had developed and turned it on its head, which is what you're saying, to what end?

MR. THIELMANN: I can only assume he was doing it to loyally support the president of the United States and build the strongest possible case for arguing that there was no alternative to the use of military force.

Powell lied.  Powell knowing lied and it was established in 2003 by 60 Minutes II.  Rachel Maddow lied Monday night and she, Consortium News, Democracy Now and all the other outlets that have allowed Lawrence Wilkerson to repeatedly lie to their audiences -- those outlets are guilty of abetting a War Criminal.  Think about that before you applaud Rachel's latest garbage.  It wasn't just know, it was widely known.  And CBS may have vanished the program, but we can thank Jon Corzine right now.  The day after it originally aired?  October 16, 2003, then-Senator Jon Corzine entered the full transcript of the report into the Congressional record. 

It's there, it's part of the record and it refutes every damn lie Lawrence Wilkerson's been telling since 2006.  It rebukes the Rachel Maddows, the Amy Goodmans, the Ray McGoverns and all the other sad liars who have shilled for Lawrence Wilkerson in the last seven years.  Shame on them all.

And for those who think maybe Greg Thielmann no longer speaks about this topic?  It would be a very sudden clamp-down.  At the end of last month, Harry Shearer (Le Show -- link is audio and transcript) was interviewing Thielman.  Excerpt.

HARRY SHEARER:  All right. Let me just review something he said. This is on Meet the Press, January 13th of this year.

COLIN POWELL:  We were basing all of our actions on a National Intelligence Estimate that the Congress asked for. It was provided to the Congress by the CIA. And all of us in the Bush administration at that time accepted the judgment of our 16 intelligence communities. I presented it to the UN. We subsequently found out that a lot of that information was not accurate, and that is very unfortunate, but that’s the way it unfolded… The president had more than sufficient basis to believe that there were weapons of mass destruction that were a danger to the world, and the possibility of those weapons going to terrorists, and so he undertook military action. I think that was the correct thing to do and it was well supported by the intelligence.

HARRY SHEARER:  Is that an accurate statement?

GREG THIELMANN:  I’m very sorry to hear him put it that way, because I had a lot of respect for Colin Powell as Secretary of State. I felt honored working for him as Secretary of State.   One of the things that I particularly dislike about what he just said was, in the fall of 2002 there was a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraqi WMD. On the most important assessment in that estimate concerning the Iraqi nuclear weapons program – and there was a nuclear weapons program prior to the first Gulf war, but 15 agencies in that estimate said that Iraq had reconstituted the nuclear program, which had been dormant and had ended after the first Gulf war. One agency, Colin Powell’s own agency, the intelligence bureau of the State Department, said that the evidence did not support that conclusion. That is, that the evidence showed that Iraq had not reconstituted its nuclear weapons program.  And of all the various assessments about chemical weapons, about biological weapons, about missiles, that was the most critical assessment. And the State Department not only dissented, as the State Department would sometimes do, with an asterisk and a one-liner, it was basically a dissent with the entire judgment requiring a lot of words and was on the front page of the executive summary of the estimate. It was on the one-pager that went to the president of the United States. And that should raise alarm bells, not because the State Department intelligence bureau is always right, although I would argue that INR, which is its acronym, INR was more often right than not when we dissented from the majority, but that Colin Powell in particular, who knew or should have known from our memoranda and from his conversations with the head of our bureau the reasons, the detailed reasons why the evidence was not sound behind that conclusion.

Powell lied and Wilkerson been allowed to lie repeatedly over and over.  Greg Thielmann is not anti-Powell.  Read the transcript or listen to the show.  I am anti-Powell because I have a low tolerance for War Criminals. 

MSNBC wanted to sanitize Powell.  They were more interested in piling on the hate at the feet of Bully Boy Bush and because Lawrence Wilkerson will join in on that, they'll gladly let him lie. 

What comes from that?  In one instance, a sicko believes he can break the law.   Raw Story does a write-up that  toes the Maddow line.  The result?

RetiredVet David Emghee an hour ago

That is a stupid question, apparently you have no idea how the Military and Politics work. The General is ORDERED to follow ORDERS, period, not a fairy tale but FACT. Unlike the COWARDLY, PIKES that never serve or understand whats it takes to serve (they are to busy STEALING and Lying), just because you retire you DO NOT hang up all those years of Discip0line, you FOLLOW ORDERS, that is why a lot of retires get in trouble with flash backs you DO NOT QUESTION a ORDER. One small note Mr. Powell can PROVE his Military Service, but the WAR CRIMINAL and TRAITOR to this day has NOT produced papers to show he served HONORABLY, just a small footnote.
As for the descenders of Mr Powell, I will defend this man to the Death, and with GREAT Joy and Jubilation put a BULLET in the head of the COWARD and TRAITOR bush, is that clear enough. The WAR CRIMINAL and TRAITOR ordered this man to LIE, and the PUKE, GUTLESS, SPINELESS, Noise Media did NOTHING because they wanted Access and to have a beer with these WAR CRIMINALS and TRAITORS.

To be clear, the "RetiredVet" is the one commenting.  He's responding to "David Emghee."  The words above are not the words of "David Emghee."

RetiredVet means "dissenters" -- those not feeling Powell was a lovely -- and he explains that he will defend Powell with his dying breath -- get the feeling someone's mainlining MSNBC? -- and then he goes on to say of "TRAITOR bush,"  "The WAR CRIMINAL and TRAITOR ordered this man to LIE" -- no, silly fool.  You're an idiot and someone facing questioning from the feds.  Bully Boy Bush could tell someone to do something but he can't order the Cabinet to do a damn thing.  Elliot Richardson was the Attorney General of the US when then-President Richard Nixon 'ordered' him to fire Archibald Cox as Special Prosecutor on the Watergate investigation.  Did Richardson do it?  No.  He resigned.  As Secretary of State, Powell was a civilian.  More importantly for RetiredVet, writing that you will "with GREAT Joy and Jubilation put a BULLET in the head of the COWARD and Traitor bush"?  That's a threat and will most like be investigated as such.  You aired your ignorance throughout your comment but you also aired a threat. 

I can't stand Bully Boy Bush.  I have no desire to kill him.  He has made his own hell and will live in it. 

There's probably no hope for RetiredVet -- look at his other comments which include wishing that "four or five people walk in to Congress both National and Random States with semi automatic weapons and unlimited magazines and a few drums, then OPEN UP and slaughter every Congressional Leader, WOW, what an exciting NOISE Day that would be."  You have to wonder about Raw Story -- why in the world would they allow these kind of comments to be posted? 

There may be more disturbing (or more threats) from him in the comments, you can click here if you're interested.  I don't choose to wallow in his sickness.

But this is the simplistic rage that Maddow's special encourages.  Maybe if it had focused even just a little on the Iraqi people, RetiredVet would be obsessing over how to help them and not over his desire to kill Bully Boy Bush?  So, to recap, Maddow's special was xenophobic and dishonest.

She couldn't be bothered with the ongoing protests in Iraq. But whether she cares or not, they're on what's said to be day 61 of the non-stop protests making up the Iraqi Spring. 

"When we give up hope that the government can reform itself, we will call for toppling it," Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha tells Adam Schreck (AP) today.  "If this government does not disband itself, we will head to Baghdad and stage protests in the streets and paralyze the government's work until it falls apart."  The Sheikh is located in Anbar Province and, as the Iraqi Spring MC (link is video) reports,  judges and attorneys in Anbar Province were on strike today in support of the protesters.

As noted yesterday,  "Alsumaria reports Nineveh Province Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi is accusing the security forces of terrorizing preachers and religious scholars.  Al Mada adds that the Tigris Operation Command has been interrogating them and tribal leaders, warning them of arrests should they continue to participate in the ongoing rallies that have been going on in Iraq for sixty days now.  The Tigris Operation Command are also now following protesters after protests to their homes in an effort to intimidate them."  The show of support in Anbar Province is especially encouraging in the face of efforts to peel off support for the protesters.  Rend al-Rahim (Guardian) lies about the protests, " the demonstrations have escalated and metastasized. Having begun with demands for reforms, better services, release of prisoners, and repeal of anti-Ba'ath lustration laws, anger has now overflowed and demonstrators across the Sunni region openly demand the resignation of the prime minister, accusing him of sectarian discrimination and repressing Sunnis."

In fairness, maybe she didn't lie -- maybe she's that damn stupid.  I don't understand why someone like Rend al-Rahim Francke is even published by the Guardian.  She's not just a hack, she's not just Ahmed Chalabi's cousin, she's not just an American citizen (since 1987), she's someone who spent the 90s and the early '00s lobbying the US government repeatedly to go to war on Iraq.  How do we see this American citizen as a voice worth listening to?  Well we don't.  But we have standards, the Guardian apparently has none.

The call for Nouri to resign goes back to December.  It's usually represented -- by leaders -- as he needs to make changes demanded or he needs to resign.  Participants in the marches usually are more direct and say that he needs to resign.  Rend al-Rahim Frnacke is either very stupid (I'm not surprised) or she's a liar (ibid). 

Sunday, Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) reported 52 dead and 141 injured from violence.  Alsumaria noted that the protesters in Diyala Province began a Mosul blood donation campaign Monday for the injured from the Baghdad bombings.  Sahwa leader Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha announced the blood drive.

 Through Sunday, Iraq Body Count counts 233 people killed from violence in Iraq so far this month. All Iraq News notes 4 bombs today in Mahmoudiya (no reported injuries or deaths),  1 person shot dead in Baghdad, and a northwest Baghdad bombing has left three people injured.  Alsumaria reports that 1 military officer, his wife and their son were shot dead on the streets of Mosul., and a Kirkuk attack late Monday night using bombs and rockets left two people injured.

In addition to the ongoing protests, there is also a labor strike.  The Iraq Times notes that Southern Oil Company workers in Basra have been carrying banners and chanting slogans as they protest Southern Oil Company's management and journalists are being ordered not to cover the story while protesters are being followed by police.  Alsumaria adds there have been earlier demonstrations but the current one has been going on since last week  and that the workers are calling for monies owed them since 2010 (365 billion dinars), for the training, health care for workers suffering from the uranium contamination in the oil fields due to the war,  and development program to be reactivated and for the company to do as it promised and build houses on land the government gave them several years ago.  They also note that unidentified "civilians" are trying to prevent coverage and asking the police to instruct reporters that they are not allowed to cover the protests.

The first thing about the demands?  That's a lot of money owed.  365 billion dinars comes to $313,574,285.23 in US currency.  So over 300 million in US dollars.

Second thing that should raise eyebrows?  The uranium contamination. Though the article doesn't go into it, other reports have detailed some of what is happening.  Last December, Alexander Smoltcyk (Der Spiegel) reported on the Basra birth defects:

It sounds at first as if the old man were drunk. Or perhaps as though he had been reading Greek myths. But Askar Bin Said doesn't read anything, especially not books, and there is no alcohol in Basra. In fact, he says, he saw the creatures he describes with his own eyes: "Some had only one eye in the forehead. Or two heads. One had a tail like a skinned lamb. Another one looked like a perfectly normal child, but with a monkey's face. Or the girl whose legs had grown together, half fish, half human."The babies Askar Bin Said describes were brought to him. He washed them and wrapped them in shrouds, and then he buried them in the dry soil, littered with bits of plastic and can lids, of his own cemetery, which has been in his family for five generations. It's a cemetery only for children. Though they are small, the graves are crowded so tightly together that they are almost on top of one another. They look as if someone had overturned toy wheelbarrows full of cement and then scratched the names and dates of death into it before it hardened. In many cases, there isn't even room for the birth date. But it doesn't really matter, because in most cases the two dates are the same.
There are several thousand graves in the cemetery, and another five to 10 are added every day. The large number of graves is certainly conspicuous, says Bin Said. But, he adds, there "really isn't an explanation" for why there are so many dead and deformed newborn babies in Basra.
Others, though, do have an idea why. According to a study published in September in the Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, a professional journal based in the southwestern German city of Heidelberg, there was a sevenfold increase in the number of birth defects in Basra between 1994 and 2003. Of 1,000 live births, 23 had birth defects.

US Labor Against the War carries the statement the workers released last Wednesday:

"Let us unite to defend our rights, and cripple the corrupt at the Southern Oil Company

Dear brothers, you all realize that our struggle with company management is significant, and you have seen how it confronts us at any time we raise our voices to demand our rights, it does that with procrastination and punishments.
 You have participated in previous protests and achieved part of your demands, but unfortunately the company management always goes back to its usual trend and denies those rights.
 We at the Oil workers' rights defense committee, in which most Oil workers are represented, have decided to organize a worker's demonstration on Wednesday the 13th February, 2013 at 9 am before the Southern Oil Company HQ office, to resume our re-stress our demands, we call everyone to focus on the essential demands and not bring up partial demands that do not represent the oil workers' rights.
 The committee also announces that this demonstration has nothing to do with other demonstrations that are taking place in other parts of Iraq, and we warn the politicians not to use it for their political agendas.

The demonstration is to protest against corruption, and to demand our following rights:
 1- To pay the accumulated interests since 2010 that are equal to 365 Billion Iraqi Dinar. We are concerned that with this prevailing corruption, those interests will be misused.
2-  Demanding the construction of houses on the pieces land (at Al Toba and Al Nakhaila districts) that were distributed to workers 8 years ago, and to be built by Investment companies,  without charging the workers any down payments. We also demand the distribution of pieces of land at Al Tannuma district to the eligible company employees.
 3- Demanding an immediate cancellation all resolutions that restrict union work and to  issue a fair labor legislation.
 4- To provide medical treatment to workers at the oil field, that were battle fields at some time and that are polluted with radioactive uranium, especially South and North Rumaila fields, in special hospitals. And cover all medical charges by the foreign companies. And to conduct regular inspections on those hospitals.
 5- To ban announcing the special hospital of oil workers to private investment, and to limit its services specifically to oil workers and their families, just as the goal was when this hospital was first opened.
 6- Raising the maximum ceiling level of the financial bonus to oil workers in general, from 1 Million up to 4 Million Iraqi Dinars.
 7- To process the promotions of work category scales (that has been frozen on fourth level/ stage 11) for the last 6 years.
 8- To reveal the details of the new bonus that has been recently approved by the Ministry of Oil, and to announce the equation in which its calculated.
 9- To re-activate the overtime shift allowances, and those for the official holidays and hazard, that were considered, previously.
 10- To activate the training and development unit through including the company's staff in workshops and training program, especially the ones that are relevant to their job title, also to recognize the workshops that are conducted at field sites. "

The Oil workers' rights defense committee
12 February, 2013

All Iraq News adds that MP Susan Saad, in her capacity as a member of Parliaments Oil and Energy Committee, states that she will form a committee to investigate this and called on the oil company to honor their promises with an emphasis in her statement on the money owed to the workers.

Now, as promised in Friday's snapshot, we're finally covering a Thursday hearing. 

US House Rep Mark Takano:  I'm a new member of Congress so I'm having to get my arms around this issue.  Ms. Perez, can you tell me more about the students who've experienced homelessness and just how, related to the late payments, whether they're problems with the claims?  I don't that I'll be able to get a firm picture of that for myself.

Hayleigh Perez:  As was stated by the SVA, some of these claims are-are backlogged so far that these students are not getting their payments on time.  They're not able to pay their rent or their childcare.  And some students have had to withdraw from school because of not having this housing allowance or this book stipend.  And, in my case, my payment was delayed 8 weeks and I know that there's several student veterans out there that are experiencing much further backlog.  And if they're not being as pro-active, they're not even able to find out the status because there's nowhere to verify the status of your claim.  My claim was lost in, I guess, the old system.  And it wasn't until I finally reached a certain person on the phone that she was able to see that I had even turned in the paperwork.  So it was almost like my claim was in limbo.  Had I not reached her and somehow she had the ability to access my file in another system, my claim would still be sitting stagnant as others claims are.

To repeat, that was Thursday.  I know it may seem like Thursday in 2009 or Thursday in early 2010 when the VA swore the problems were fixed and would no longer be happening.  But it was Thursday last week.

It was the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity.  Bill Flores is the Chair, the Ranking Member is Mark Takano.  Appearing before the Subcommittee were two panels.  The first panel was made up of Student Veterans of America's Michael Dakduk,  Humboldt State University's Veterans Program Administrator Kim Hall (who is also with National Association of Veterans Program Administrators) and Students Veterans Advocacy Group's Hayleigh Perez. 

In a perfect world, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin and John Boozman would still be serving as Chair and Ranking Member of this Subcommittee.  I'm not trying to be rude and I'm not going to single anyone out, but the ignorance on this issue from members of the Subcommittee was appalling.  I'm not referring to Mark Takano.  Smartest thing anyone -- including me, I do this all the time -- can do is say you don't know when you don't know.  But there were members of this Subcommittee who had no clue but proceeded as though they did.  They will find their footing, I have no doubt.  But veterans really can't afford for the House or Senate veterans committees to study up on this issue at length.  Everyone needs to be up to speed on this or they need to find another committee to serve on.

This issue became a huge media problem for VA and resulted in VA Secretary Eric Shineski appearing before the House Veterans Affairs Committee October 14, 2009 where he admitted that he knew the problem of veterans not getting payment on time shortly after he assumed the post of VA Secretary.

Eric Shinseki: A plan was written, very quickly put together, uh, very short timelines, I'm looking at the certifcates of elegibility uh being processed on 1 May and  enrollments 6 July, checks having to flow through August.  A very compressed timeframe. And in order to do that, we essentially began as I arrived in January, uh, putting together the  plan -- reviewing the plan that was there and trying to validate it. I'll be frank, when I arrived, uh, there were a number of people telling me this was simply not executable. It wasn't going to happen. Three August was going to be here before we could have everything in place. Uh, to the credit of the folks in uh VA, I, uh, I consulted an outside consultant, brought in an independent view, same kind of assessment.  'Unless you do some big things here, this is not possible.' 

That's where the problem should have been addressed and Congress should have been immediately informed.  Shinseki failed to do so and tried to do a quick fix that obviously did not work or you wouldn't have had the nightmare of fall 2009 for student veterans.

The Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity addressed this nightmare October 16, 2009 and US House Rep Harry Teague may have done the best job questioning the VA.  Here's an excerpt.

US House Rep Harry Teague: You know we've had a problem with some contradictory information coming out.  You know when the checks didn't go out the first of the month, well then we issued the letter that they would be cut on Friday the second. And then there was also some letters sent out that if, like in places like New Mexico, it's 320 miles to the only hospital and the only facility in the state that they would be going to some of the larger universities around and handing the checks out.  That didn't happen.  At the same time, they got a website up where they could go to but we didn't get that information to people.  So I was just wondering if we're streamlining our communications within our office there so that we don't continually jerk the veterans around and have some of them misinformed.
Keith Wilson: I understand your concerns, Congressman. And we-we have, I believe, we have a better process in place to make sure that we are communicating more effectively on that. The issues that we are dealing with was trying to get -- make sure we had something out the gate and-and informed our student population prior to 10-1 [October 1st] -- around the 10-1 time frame. The 10-1 was important because most folks were at that point where they were due their first housing allowance payments. .We thought it was important to get something up as soon as possible. We were dealing -- and continued to deal -- at the time of that press release, with some technical issues concerning how we get to the other locations beyond our 57 regional offices. We very early on wanted a desire to spread this out as much as possible. We felt that the most effective way of doing this was leveraging technology.  Taking into account that we've got technology students at thousands of locations across the country. We felt the most effective way of uh getting those folk that weren't within distance of a regional office was to allow technology and so that was the driver for our decision on the follow up --
US House Rep Harry Teague: Yes and I agree with that and I think that the webpage is working good. It's just that during that week prior to that, when I was at New Mexico State University, they were expecting someone to be there with the checks and then, on Friday when there's not, that's when we find out about the webpage.

Teague is no longer in the US Congress.  From the January 21, 2010 snapshot (three years ago!):

Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Some of those in attendance may recall that our first hearing of 2009 was on the implementation of the post-9/11 GI Bill.  This was followed up by supplemental hearings that sought to ensure VA's progress on the short and long-term information technology solutions. I hope that it is clear to our panelists before us today that by making this our first hearing of 2010, we demonstrate the continued importance of the subject at hand.  I'm sure my colleagues will agree that the current delays in processing education claims are simply unacceptable. A number of my colleagues not on this committee  have spoken to me directly or have written to me documenting experiences of student veterans that they represent who have suffered some of the consequences of  the delays in processing these claims.  While the administration, I know, shares my concerns regarding these shortcomings,more has to be done. However, the blame doesn't rest solely with the VA. The processing of a single claim requires multiple steps involving multiple parties and computer systems, all of which must work in-sync with one another in order for a veteran to receive his or her benefits in a timely manner. These computer difficulties demonstrate the need for a fully-functional long-term solution.

Any of the Reps serving on the Subcommittee in 2009 and 2010 would be able to stress that this is the same problem.  It's the same problem that's supposed to have been fixed.  That the VA swore they would fix.  Not in a few years, immediately.  They were on this, this would be fixed.  It was a question of a semester, not of years.

The problem hasn't been fixed.  If Stephanie Herseth Sandlin or any other member from the Committee back then wanted to run for Congress in 2014, one of their campaign points could be, "The VA told us they'd fixed this, that it was fixed.  Send me back to Congress to hold them accountable for their lie."

And goodness did they lie.  I don't think the VA's Roger Baker should be allowed to appear before the House or Senate Veterans Affairs Committee again without the Reps and Senators being each given a barrel of rotten eggs and tomatoes that they could hurl at Baker each time he tries to spin the ongoing failure of the VA -- and of him in particular, he's the IT expert -- to do the job they swore three years ago was not a problem and already fixed.  

These lies are insulting and they're damaging to the veterans today.  It is appalling that the issue has still not been fixed -- despite all the promises -- and that a Secretary of the VA can remain in their post with no accountability at all.  These are the sort of things that should get you fired.

That all this time later, even the hotline cannot be answered is disgusting and it's also frightening because there are so many service members in the next months and year who will be returning to civilian lives and many will be attempting to further their education.  If the system is overwhelmed now -- and Michael Dakduk's testimony Thursday made very clear that even the hotline is a problem -- then what's it going to be like in 2014?

In her opening remarks, Hayleigh Perez noted journalist Aaron Glantz' book The War Comes Home and we'll mention that because it's a book very much worth reading and also because I don't believe Glantz is aware that his book was mentioned -- and quoted -- in Congress last week.  (Perez:  "On page 212, Glantz states, 'Members of Congress and bureaucrats at the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs may not be attacking our veterans with mortars and IEDs but they are literally killing them with indifference'.")

From the hearing last week:

Chair Bill Flores: Question number one is how does the inability of a school certifying official being able to access and view a veterans remaining entitlements make it difficult for school certifying officials being able to counsel a student as required by the Principles of Excellence required by the President's Executive Order?  Ms. Hall, this is probably for you, but I'll take answers from any of you.

Kim Hall:  Sir, you know to begin with, when you're -- when you're working with a student, especially with the Principles of Excellence, it's in the best interests of both parties to be able to sit down and look at the big picture, look at the longterm objective beginning from when they start school, all the way through their career.  And while you're doing that, there's a lot of financially planning involved. The only way to be able to look at the budget that the student has versus the money that they have coming in is based on their entitlement, their GI bill.  So the calculation from-from the monthly amount all the way down to the day that they're going to get that last payment is reflected in that entitlement figure.  And so it's very important that, at the beginning, not just the remaining entitlement but all of the eligibility for that student, the amount of money they may be getting in a stipend or versus their status of enrollment at the university becomes all important data in calculating those budgets, those finances, and ultimately, you know, the time they start to the end of their degree.

Chair Bill Flores: Okay, thank you.  Since I have time, I'm going to ask another question -- and this can be for any of you or all three of you, if you'd like.  What has been your experience in terms of the complaints you're receiving from your members and your constituents by student veterans about the GI Bill processing?  What sort of changes have you seen over the last semester or prior semesters compared to this semester now that this system has been rolled out?

Michael Dakduk: Well, Mr. Chairman, I want to acknowledge that since the system has been rolled out that there has been an increase in the processing of GI Bill claims so that should be acknowledged.  But I would also say that at the beginning of the semesters, that's when we see an influx of delays. and that's when we receive most of our complaints at Student Veterans of America. So we have a concern when we talk about troops returning home from Afghanistan and the Dept of Defense estimate over the next five years that one million troops will remove the uniform and make the transition into civilian society.  Many of them are going to use this Post-9-11 GI Bill.  So we want to make sure that the Dept of Veterans Affairs is ready to handle that influx of military veterans on college campuses.  At the beginning of semesters is when we see a high number of delays.

Chair Bill Flores: To kind of go back to the original question, if you look at where we are now versus prior semesters, have you seen a change?  Sounds like you've got this cycle where at the beginning of each semester where your complaints are higher.  Do you -- Is the trend downward or what?  What do your constituents tells you?

Michael Dakduk:  I would definitely say that since the implementation of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the trend is downward.  I will acknowledge that.  But it's still an issue.  And it's a real issue at the beginning of terms.

Chair Bill Flores: Okay.

Michael Dakduk:  And I would just like to acknowledge one thing, Mr. Chairman, the issue is that because we can't see the status of our GI Bill claims and our housing allowance comes on the tail end of each month, we don't know if you're waiting six weeks or eight weeks to pay your bills.  Institutions of higher learning have been pretty supportive when it comes to supporting veterans with their tuitions and fees but landlords are not as supportive when it comes to paying your rent.

Chair Bill Flores: Ms. Hall, any comments?

Kim Hall: Absolutely.  The tuition and fee process is, as I stated earlier with the overpayment situation, is in a crisis mode -- it's what I'd say at this point.  Institutions have extended a courtesy out to allow veterans to continue attending school as we wait for the VA payments to arrive for tuition fees.  We have no way of knowing at the beginning of the term -- or even until we actually receive a payment -- of how much we're going to get for that student's tuition fees and oftentimes it results in underpayments and over payments and, by that time, the student is most definitely involved.  And if there's not a complaint, there should be at that point because the schools are trying to accommodate the VA's payments as they're coming and we're ending up
with all kinds of overpayments.

Chair Bill Flores: Okay, just kind of a one word answer: Better, worse or the same?

Kim Hall: You know, in terms of the tuition fees, it's definitely worse.  You know -- The students don't see it at the very begin because we're deferring out the tuition fees.

Chair Bill Flores: Okay.  Ms. Perez?  Better, worse, the same?

Hayleigh Perez:  Mr. Chairman, I would say it's the same.

Chair Bill Flores:  Okay.

Hayleigh Perez: The veterans that are reaching out to our organization, the ones who are suffering extreme delays  -- it's having huge detrimental effects on their personal lives and they're not able to be successful in their studies.

Thursday saw another hearing.  I did attend that.  Why cover it?  Someone we noted lied in his first appearance before Congress now happens to agree that Iraq is a horrible mess.  So?  When he first testifed, again, we noted he wasn't trustworthy and that we weren't going to waste time on him.  Just because he finally tells one truth doesn't mean we rush to cover him.  Equally true, that hearing got a ton of attention, especially when contrasted with the lack of attention to the House Subcommittee hearing we're finally covering now received.

aaron glantz