Thursday, March 27, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, March 27, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, over 300 civilians have been killed in Nouri's assault on Anbar the UN security council is told, the bill that would lower the age of marriage to at least nine (girls only) in Iraq gets attention in the US. the Senate hears from veterans, Barack's nutty remarks on Iraq continue to garner responses and much more.

Ashley Fantz (CNN) reports Iraq War veteran Senator John Walsh "introduced legislation on Thursday aimed at reducing the number of military veterans who commit suicide."  Today was the National Day of Action to Combat Suicide.  Fantz notes:

The Suicide Prevention for America's Veterans Act is collaboration between Walsh and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Founded in 2004, IAVA is the first and largest organization for new veterans and their families, with 270,000 members nationwide.

I'm not sure about the "introduced."  He talked about it, Walsh did, but it's not gotten a "S.XX" number yet. That's because it's not been introduced.   Josh Hicks (Washington Post) more accurately characterizes it as "proposed" -- and notes it was proposed not on the floor of the Senate but while Walsh spoke "at an Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Association event on the mall."  Chris Good (ABC News) also gets the wording right, "The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is pushing a bill, the Suicide Prevention for America’s Veterans Act, which Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., plans to introduce. "

I'm sorry that I don't have the generosity to applaud words.  Show some action, we'll applaud that.  I have no idea why you'd be so stupid to waste press but that's what Walsh has done. He should have proposed it on the Senate floor.  It's going to be hard to get the press to report on that if and when it happens.  Many outlets will take the attitude of, "Well . . . we already reported he introduced it so we really don't have anything to add to the story."  The only reason we're opening with it is because an IAVA friend asked me on Tuesday if we'd do so.  I said yes.  We have many things to cover and if and when Walsh finally gets around to introducing it in Congress, we may or may not have time to note it again but we certainly won't open the snapshot with it.  Walsh wasted his moment.  [UPDATE: It has been introduced and it has "2% chance of being enacted" according to]

Yesterday, the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a joint-hearing.

Senate Chair Bernie Sanders:  The democratic society that you fought for, that you believe in sometimes doesn't work the way we would like it to work and we see the halls of Congress flooded by well paid activists who represent very powerful special interests.  So I am particularly delighted to see [. . .] What I have learned in the last 15 months since I have had the honor  to Chair the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is that the cost of war and the cost of service is much, much greater than most Americans, I think, appreciate. It is not just the tragedy of the loss of lives. We saw 6700 lost in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It is not just the men and women who come back from war without legs, without arms, without eyesight, without hearing but equally important it is the hundreds of thousands who among other wars have come back from Iraq and Afghanistan with the invisible wounds of war.  We're talking about some 200,000 men and women just from Iraq and Afghanistan who've come home with Traumatic Brain Injury or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Think about that -- and what it means to their lives. But it's not just their lives.  Think about the wives and the family situations and the children and the mothers and the fathers and the ability to go out and get a job and earn a living.  There was a study done awhile back and I don't know if it was accurate or not but the suggestion was that despite the very significant loss of lives that we saw in Vietnam, even more people died from the war after they came home from Vietnam as a result of suicide or self-destructive activity caused by war.  And let me tell you that today -- today -- so many years later, we have men sleeping out on the streets of America from Vietnam because of that war.  That is the cost of war.  So when we talk about war, it's not only the aircraft carriers and it's not only the planes and the tanks and the guns, it is what happens to people.  And when people tell me -- and sometimes I hear this -- that we just don't have enough money to take care of the men and women who put their lives on the line in those wars then I say, "Don't go to war in the first place."

The two committees were hearing testimony from The American Legion who were represented by National Commander Daniel Dellinger.

Daniel Dellinger:  The American Legion remains dedicated to working with VA and Congress to help reduce the claims backlog. While VA has made much progress this year in reducing the number of claims in their inventory, The American Legion is concerned that accuracy is being sacrificed in the interest of simply moving cases along, merely prolonging the problem by shifting the burden to the appeals system, which receives less focus.

This is the shell game we warned about before it went into effect.  Once it went into effect and the government began lying and stupid reporters began repeating, we called it out again.

Maybe they're too busy lying for the government or maybe they just lack basic common sense, but reporters refused to recognize what the shift actually would mean or what it meant when it took place.

We're going to go real slow.  A huge mountain of backlogged claims does not disappear just because you shove them into the appeals process.

Imagine your electricity bill comes in and it's $250 and you don't have it so you let it go for 30 days.  That may buy you some time but it does not disappear the bill.

Ramming claims through just to get them out of the backlog does not reduce the claims.

More importantly, it makes life harder for the veterans.  They didn't get a real hearing on their claim and now they've got to fight through the appeals process.

It's a shame the leader of The American Legion was unable to address the topic.  Excerpt.

House Chair Jeff Miller:  Commander, in your testimony you noted some concerns regarding the sacrifice of accuracy of disability claims determination in favor of speediness.  And I think that shifts the burden to the less scrutinized appeals process system and really prolongs the determination process for the veteran.  And I'd like to ask you if you could expand on that just a little bit about what your organization is fighting?

Daniel Dellinger:   Well, we've heard -- we've heard from VA that their rates -- and I was just at a regional office in Salt Lake City and they put figures out that were 98% accurate We've heard other claims from the VA that the accuracy is in the mid-90s percentile.  But when we go in, we have found different areas where it could be as low as 56%.  We have issues with -- and that's the reason our  ROAR [Regional Office Action Review] team goes out to these regional offices to review those claims and get with those processers to see how they come up with their determinations to improve the system.  But we all know that without the electronic medical record that would make it seemless -- because the majority of the time the backlogs is waiting for the paper copy of the records.  So this is something we really need to improve upon.  And if we can get that system up and running which they've already tried and I understand dates are being set now to-to guarantee that, it would -- it would greatly improve the efficiency and time frame of those. 

None of those half-sentences address the issue Miller noted or asked about.  And Miller asked because Dellinger raised it in his opening remarks -- opening remarks he delivered but apparently did not write since he was unable to speak to.  In fact, those accompanying Dellinger were also unprepared to speak -- not just due to their avoiding the topic ("we'd like to get back to you") but in their repeated stopping mid-sentence ("I'm sorry").  They couldn't even structure a full non-answer.  Even worse, though no one seemed to notice, two American Legion testifiers were in conflict with one another in their statements.  That's the sort of thing you iron out before you speak in public.  Not after.  That's especially true when the National Commander takes a position in his opening remarks and written testimony and another AL offers conflicting testimony.

The American Legion members should be very bothered by the inability of their leadership to address questions raised by the two Committees or to reconcile their own messaging.

I'll take the heat off them by moving to something even more embarrassing.  House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi attended the hearing.  She babbled as only she can.  I'm done with carrying the lies that no veteran should be homeless in these snapshots.  Hearing it from my own representative was probably the last straw.

Reality, no American should be homeless.

Shame on Congress for not addressing the issue of the homeless.

No American deserves to be homeless.

It is unacceptable.

And it is unacceptable for members of Congress to grandstand on veterans.  They are in the Congress supposedly to represent America.  It is an offense that anyone is sleeping on the streets in the United States.  Shame on members of Congress  who have the ability to fix this problem but instead avoid it and try to create a tier of American citizenship where one group has a right to shelter but others don't.

That's beyond bulls**t.

I am the first to argue that promises made to those who serve be kept.  But there's no promise to veterans that they'll have jobs or homes.  That promise to them?  It's made not because of their service, it's made because they're Americans.  And every American -- veteran or civilian -- has a right to a job and shelter.

Promises made to veterans include health care and pensions.  There are many other promises.  Every promise made should be honored.

But the right to shelter is like the right to democracy, it is made to all Americans.

Nancy Pelosi is not the first to have climbed on the backs of veterans and toss out sop.  But she is my representative in Congress and, as the San Francisco Chronicle has documented for years now, homelessness in San Francisco is "The Shame of the City."  She's been in Congress since 1987, she's been Minority Leader, Speaker of the House and now, once again, Minority Leader.  And yet things aren't any better in San Francisco so excuse me for not applauding her hollow words or cheering her one for the argument that no veteran should be homeless.  No American should be homeless.  Nancy's failure to make that statement goes a long, long way towards explaining her inability to seriously address the homeless issue.

We'll note more of the hearing in tomorrow's snapshot.  Later tonight, Wally will post at Rebecca's site about House Ranking Member Mike Michaud.

Today, we were in New York for Nickolay Mladenov's presentation to the United Nations Security Council.  (Yes, I said I was done with those unless I had a reason to be in New York.  I did have a reason so I attended it.)  Mladenov is the special envoy to Iraq of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

We're not going to do a lot on his testimony here but we are going to note this and see if you grasp what stands out:

On 28 December, in Ramadi, the Iraqi security forces raided the house of Ahmad al-Alwani, a member of the Council of Representatives with close links to the demonstrators, while executing an arrest warrant on his brother, Ali Suleyman al-Alwani, on terrorism charges. Ahmad al-Alwani was arrested, while his brother and several family members and bodyguards were killed in an exchange of fire. In protest, a large number of local residents took to the streets, which led to armed clashes with security forces in Ramadi and Falluja.

al-Alwani wasn't the target of the raid?

While everyone was sleeping, Nouri launched his thugs on a mission that ended in innocents being killed and wounded and, on top of all that, Ahmad al-Alwani -- who gets arrested -- wasn't even the target?

He shouldn't have been arrested to begin with -- as a Member of Parliament, he has immunity until he leaves office unless Parliament votes to strip him of it.  From the Iraqi Constitution.

Article 63: 

First: A law shall regulate the rights and privileges of the speaker of the Council of Representatives, his two deputies, and the members of the Council of Representatives. 


 A. A member of the Council of Representatives shall enjoy immunity for statements made while the Council is in session, and the member may not be prosecuted before the courts for such. 

 B. A Council of Representatives member may not be placed under arrest during the legislative term of the Council of Representatives, unless the member is accused of a felony and the Council of Representatives members consent by an absolute majority to lift his immunity or if he is caught in flagrante delicto in the commission of a felony. 

 C. A Council of Representatives member may not be arrested after the legislative term of the Council of Representatives, unless the member is accused of a felony and with the consent of the speaker of the Council of Representatives to lift his immunity or if he is caught in flagrante delicto in the commission of a felony.  

But there was no warrant to arrest him and he got arrested?

He didn't just get arrested.  He was terrorized as his home was attacked at dawn.

This is how Nouri 'rules,' he refuses to do the honest thing, which would be to show up -- during daylight hours -- at someone's home with an arrest warrant and then escort the person to a police station to be booked.  Instead, he orders an attack on someone's home in darkness.

He was wanting a battle, he was wanting to scare people, to make them think a terrorist attack was happening.  This was not an accident, the events that followed were not by chance.

And now we find out that even though the MP ended up arrested, there wasn't even an arrest warrant for him?

Nouri should be brought up on charges for that alone.

Instead, he thinks he deserves a third term as prime minister.

His slogan will apparently be, "I failed to accomplish anything in my first term, I failed to accomplish anything in my second term, but third term's the charm."

Tuesday, the entire board of commissioners of the Independent High Electoral Commission submitted their resignations in writing despite the fact that parliamentary elections are supposed to be held April 30th.  To the Security-Council today, Mladenov attempted to sell this as a good thing, a gift, "This gives a window of opportunity for the Iraqi parliament to address the concerns that the commissioners have."

If you can spin that, it's no surprise you'll spin so much more.  Mladenov refused to call the assault on Anbar "War Crimes," though that is what they are. Last night, Nouri's continued shelling of Falluja's residential neighborhood left 2 civilians dead and five injured. Alsumaria reports Falluja General Hospital was again shelled by Nouri's forces today.

Before the UN Security Council today, Mladenov could allow that "336 civilians" had been killed in the assault with 1,562 more left injured.  But he couldn't call out the assault itself or Nouri.  He did manage to note that 66,520 families were displaced as a result of the assault.  We may come back to his report in tomorrow's snapshot.

March 8, 2014, International Women's Day, Iraqi women protested in Baghdad against Nouri al-Maliki's proposed bill which would allow father's to marry off daughters as young as nine-years-old, strip away the need for consent to sex,  and would strip custodial rights from mothers.  The State Dept only commented when pressed during a briefing.  The White House -- despite pretending to support women -- has still had no public statement.

While Women's Media Center and Ms. magazine's blog have still not had time to address the issue a conservative radio talk show has.

Actress Janine Turner first garnered attention on Behind The Screen and then played Laura Templeton on General Hospital, Maggie on Northern Exposure and Dana on Strong Medicine.  Janine's way to the right of me (and I'm way, way to the left of her), which is fine.   I didn't know she had a radio show.

  • Ashe Schow: In Iraq: Girls can marry @ 9 yrs. old- In America: Feminists are trying to "Ban Bossy": LISTEN HERE:

  • We'll do an excerpt of her show but, to be accurate, Ashe Schow is characterizing a bill as a law.  The offensive bill has not yet been passed by the Iraqi parliament.  (It did pass Nouri's Council of Ministers.)

    Asche Schow: Well, in Iraq, they just passed this law that's basically saying a man is basically entitled to have sex with his wife whenever he wants, whether she wants to or not -- it's essentially spousal rape.  The law also allows for girls to be married as young as nine and basically says that a woman can't leave her house without a man's permission -- basically nothing without a man.  And this is a law that they passed to put these old, old world -- decades old things into law, legitimizing it all.  Meanwhile, in America, feminist women aren't talking about that.  They want to ban the word "bossy," saying that this hurts girls and this stops girls from achieving things when what really stops girls from achieving things is being marries at the age of nine and being told that you are property and that kind of stuff.

    Janine Turner:  I agree with you.

    Ashe Schow:  But the word "bossy"?

    Janine Turner:  I know, it's just unbelievable.  I'm glad you brought this to everyone's attention, Ashe, because not only that, it says here that in Iraq some things that stand out to me in your article, in your opinion and editorial here, one is that they automatically can get married at -- no, girls can get married now by law by the age of nine and the husband automatically gets custody of these girls.  Nine!  Nine.  And another thing that appears to me is that they had a protest in Iraq -- and this speaks volumes, I believe -- two dozen women protested, it's only 24 women.  That goes to show how frightening it is and how they really worried about probably their lives and why more couldn't go out and protest. 

    Ashe Schow: Right.  Exactly.  And meanwhile I protested this article like I put up a meme saying basically the same thing is in the article and a whole bunch of American feminists attacked me for it saying like, "How dare you equate the two."  It's not me who's equating the two, it's them that are saying that the word "bossy" is just as terrible in America as spousal rape is in the Middle East. That's equating the issues.  I'm saying they are not the same and you need some perspective and you need to take a look and say, "Maybe this isn't such a big deal after all when they [. . .]"

    "Bossy" is a word.  Were it to be banned, a new word would pop up. The problem isn't the word, it's the way girls are seen.  And that could be addressed and should be.  But that's not what the ban campaign is about.  It's about a faux feminist, Sheryl Sandberg, promoting her tired wares.  This is corporatism, it's not feminism. [If this is news to you, refer to Susan Faludi's "Facebook Feminism, Like It or Not" (The Baffler).]

    As we've seen this month with Iraq 'coverage' in the US, a lot of lazy people don't want to do real work so they run with the stupid and easy.  You have lazy women, some feminist and some not, who can't think or write on their own so they foolishly hop on a bandwagon.  You also have women who know this is a press created topic and you can get links and love by repeating an empty and idiotic message.

    The two women and I are on the opposite ends of the political spectrum.  But in terms of what should have been focused on?  We're in agreement that the news was what was happening to Iraqi women.

    This is an important issue.  The western press ignored it forever and a day.  When finally forced to cover it, many western outlets insisted it was no big deal, just electioneering and would fade away after the elections.  Yet now the bill's being read and the outlets who told you not to worry are not telling you about that, are they?

    Let's turn to today's violence.  Al Jazeera reports, "A series of bombings targeting commercial areas of Baghdad have killed 22 people and left scores wounded as residents were heading out on the town in the latest spasm of violence to strike the Iraqi capital, according to officials."  Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) notes, "In Iraq's northern province of Nineveh, a candidate for Mutahidoun political bloc was shot dead by gunmen while he was driving his car in the city of Mosul, some 400 km north of Baghdad."

    National Iraqi News Agency reports a roadside bombing ("between Balad and Samarra") left 4 "women inspectors killed and eleven other women" injured, an Alzgartah Village home invasion left 1 woman dead and another woman and one child injured, a Mosul battle left 1 rebel dead and another injured, a Mosul roadside bombing left two Iraqi soldiers injured, security sources say they killed 3 suspects in Sinsil Village, and a Tabbana Village battle left 1 police member and 1 rebel dead and a civilian injured.  Alsumaria adds an Ishaqi roadside bombing (south of Tikrit) left two Iraqi soldiers injured, 1 woman was shot dead and another civilian left injured in Kirkuk, a bombing northeast of Falluja left 5 Iraqi soldiers dead, and a Tikrit bombing left a police member and his wife dead.

    Yesterday, US President Barack Obama made a fool out of himself as he attempted to justify and re-sell the Iraq War. William Rivers Pitt (Truthout) explains, "Truthout does not forget. We were at the forefront of the struggle against that disastrous war, and we will not stand idly by as an alleged "good guy" slaps a coat of paint over it to cover up the blood on the walls. President Obama sounds for all the world like a used car salesman trying to peddle a lemon, and that will not happen on our watch."   DS Wright (Firedoglake) notes:

    Yesterday President Barack Obama tried to claim that the United States government’s actions in the 2003 Iraq War were legal and different than Russia’s actions in Crimea because the US had “sought to work within the international system.” Apparently merely seeking to work within the international system is some kind of get out of jail free card. If one follows Obama’s logic then Russia need only to have “sought” a doomed UN resolution justifying the annexation of Crimea before doing so, this would have made their actions legitimate under Obama’s standard.

    Pravda points out the curious nature of the speech itself, "The key event of Obama's European tour was his speech in the Brussels Palace of Fine Arts in front of 2,000 people. His lengthy discourse on the history and common values ​​with Europeans was very quickly replaced with anti-Russian rhetoric.The speech turned out to be a dispute with Russian authorities, entirely devoted to the situation in Ukraine."  Yes, it was a strange speech, both for topic and for tone.  In fact, it was more of a spew than a speech.   Greg Mitchell (The Nation) notes Barack's foolish remarks.  The Voice of Russia notes:

    Matt Howard and Ross Caputi, members of the Iraq Veterans Against the War, spoke with Common Dreams by phone and said that the president's narrative on the events that led up to the Iraq invasion, inside or outside the context of Ukraine, was simply "not grounded in reality." "We went from one lie, which was weapons of mass destruction, to another lie which was liberation and freedom," said Howard. "This idea that Iraq is somehow better off or that the US waged a so-called 'Good War' is ridiculous."

    Let's note some Twitter reactions:

  • Nobel Peace Prize recipient Barack Obama now seeks to kosher the US invasion and occupation of Iraq:

  • hey depleted uranium used in Iraq from US causing birth defects+cancer.F U CRIMEA IS WORSE THEN IRAQ

    1. Obama said "Iraq invasion not as bad as Crimea"..True, Iraq took 1million+ innocent lives & stole resources.. & well Crimea took 0...

  • Meanwhile,  Justyn Dillingham (Salon) writes:

    It is disingenuous to say that we “sought to work within the international system” without noting that we subsequently went to war in flagrant violation of international law. Even one of the war’s chief architects admitted that the invasion was not strictly legal. Richard Perle, one of the Pentagon’s most eager advocates of war on Iraq, said in November 2003 that international law “would have required us to leave Saddam Hussein alone” and that “in this case international law stood in the way of doing the right thing.” Even if the Bush administration would have preferred to go to war with the support of the United Nations, the fact remains that they went to war without it. Saying that the United States “sought to work within the international system” before invading Iraq is like praising a burglar because he checked to see if your door was unlocked before breaking a window.
    The consequences of this reckless act go far beyond the awful human cost of the Iraq War. Our invasion of Iraq undermined the authority of the United Nations and created a dangerous precedent for other preemptive wars. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called Bush’s war a “fundamental challenge” to the core principles of the United Nations and warned that it “could set precedents that [result] in a proliferation of the unilateral and lawless use of force, with or without credible justification.” Putin himself, in defending his actions in Crimea, cited the record of the United States in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

    While most focus on the Iraq aspect, Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) chooses to call out Barack's speech for the WWI remarks.  John Glaser ( focuses on Barack's defense of the illegal Iraq War and observes, "This is perhaps the most asinine thing the president has said in the entirety of his presidency. The invasion of Iraq was an illegal, preventive war based on lies. It got hundreds of thousands of people killed and cost trillions of dollars. The U.S.-backed dictator of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, is ruling the nation with an iron fist, as the country slips back into civil war. Nothing but chaos, ruin, and rivers of blood resulted from the criminal invasion. For Obama to even dare to compare Crimea to Iraq is a sick joke." And Patrick Martin (WSWS) points out:

    The truth is that the war in Iraq was the greatest crime—up to now—committed in the 21st century. More than a million Iraqis lost their lives as a result of the US invasion and occupation, and Iraq was destroyed as a functioning society. The Bush administration openly declared that the Geneva Conventions and international law did not apply either to the war in Iraq or the previous conquest and occupation of Afghanistan, a position that the Obama administration continues to uphold.
    Obama seeks to rally the world against the supposed crimes of Russia in Crimea, in which, as of this writing, two people have been killed (one Ukrainian soldier and one Russian), while opposing any prosecution of the American war criminals responsible for the immense bloodbath visited upon the people of Iraq.
    Instead, the US president excused the monumental crimes of his own government with the statement, “Of course, neither the United States nor Europe are perfect in adherence to our ideals. Nor do we claim to be the sole arbiter of what is right or wrong in the world.”
    Actually, the US government does claim that role. Administration after administration has declared the United States to be “the indispensable nation,” the sole superpower, the country whose military-intelligence apparatus must be the world’s policeman, and whose leaders are immune from any accountability for their actions.