Friday, March 28, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Friday, March 28, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the assault on Anbar continues, reaction continues to multiply to Barack Obama's attempt at revisionary Iraq War history, the American Legion has a problem with women veterans, and much more.

We'll start with Congress.  In yesterday's snapshot, we covered some of the Wednesday joint-hearing of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Kat covered the hearing in "When stupid talks to stupid (Congressional hearing)" and Wally covered it in "Rural veterans (Wally)."  The House Committee Chair is Jeff Miller, the Ranking Member is Mike Michaud (Wally covered Michaud in his post).  The Senate Chair is Bernie Sanders.  The Ranking Member is Richard Burr who was not present.  Senator Johnny Isackson acted as Ranking Member.

The testimony came from the Veterans Service Organization The American Legion -- and the testimony was mainly presented by National Commander Daniel Dellinger.  We'll note two more who accompanied him as we note the three questions Chair Bernie Sanders had.

Senate Committee Chair Bernie Sanders:  Right now there are tens of thousands, mostly women, who are taking care of disabled vets -- in some cases 24-7 under great stress and this is just not easy to do.  Some of us would like to see the Caregivers Act that we passed for the 9-11 veterans be extended.  I would like your feelings on that.  Should it be extended to all generations of veterans?

Daniel Dellinger:  We do agree with your assessment on that, Mr. Chairman.  It needs to happen.  Our -- actually our Veterans Rehabilitation Committee Chairman [Ralph] Bozella has been looking into that and I'd like to ask him to give some comments on that.  

Senate Chair Bernie Sanders:  Thank you. Mr. Bozella?

Ralph Bozella:  Thank you, Commander, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman and members.  The Caregivers Act is the three pieces: the primary, the general and the family.  And, as you stated, Mr. Chairman, the current way that it works is that with this new generation The Caregiver Act of the OIF and OEF is where the lion share of the funding is going.  And what we would really like to see is that funding extended to the general and the family portion with the understanding that all veterans who need that care should be given the same financial resources to have that done in their homes.

Senate Committee Chair Bernie Sanders:  Thank you.  Second issue I'd like you to comment on, historically VA has covered dental care for service related problems.  You have an oral problem?  They're there. But for veterans who have dental problems that are not service related, there really is no care.  Do you think we should begin the process through a pilot project or whatever expanding VA health care into the area of dental care. 

Daniel Dellinger:  We definitely agree with the assessment also because as we all know if you -- if you -- dental hygiene directly relates to-to the body which in turn would-would alleviate some infections and also improve the overall health of your body and would also -- should actually decrease the amount of treatments necessary for veterans.  

Senate Committee Chair Bernie Sanders: Finally, one of the last things I want to touch on has been that some 2300 men and women have come home with wounds that make it difficult or impossible for them to have babies and have families. And some of us believe that the VA should help with in vitro fertilization, with the adoption process, to give them the opportunity -- if they want -- to have families. Is that a sensible proposal to you, Mr. Commander?

Daniel Dellinger:  We've been looking at that.  That was part of your bill.  And we actually do not, at this time have a resolution on that.  I'd like to turn this over to our legislative because they've been looking into this since your bill was introduced. 

Brett Reistad:  Senator, Mr. Chairman, indeed this is something that we are taking a look at.  There are a lot of different issues associated with costs and types of procedures that would take place if this were something that the government funded.  Uh, we anticipate that this is something that we will have a stance on at some point in time upon further study by our organization.

Okay, let's get real.  For those late to the party, "your bill," the comment by Daniel Delligner, refers to the last week of February when there was a vote.  Thursday, February 27th, Senator Patty Murray (who is the Senate Budget Committee Chair and was the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chair prior to Sanders) went to the floor of the Senate to make an incredibly strong argument for why this was needed.  Late Thursday, as noted in the February 28th snapshot, the vote was shot down in the Senate.

And if you're as stupid as The American Legion hopes you are, that's not just where the story ends, it's also where it begins.

Poor American Legion.  Last week of February and they can't just pull an opinion out of their ass.

That's what they hope you believe.

But thing is, it didn't start there.

When Senator Patty Murray was the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, she introduced  S. 3313, The Women Veterans and Other Health Care Improvement Act of 2012 to address this issue.  She explained it at a June 27, 2012 Committee hearing (we covered that hearing in the June 27th and June 28th snapshots). 

And am I mistaken or did Dellinger not tell the same two Committees September 10, 2013 that they'd place a special priority on health care for female veterans (I'm not mistaken, my notes show that he said they had a task force which did research from November 2012 to April 2013 which "focused on women veterans' health care").

So the point here is this has been proposed since 2012.  The American Legion has refused to take a position on the issue.

And let's note something else about Commander Dellinger.

Did MST stop?

Did Military Sexual Trauma vanish?

Last time he gave the American Legion testimony, he could give lip service to the problem.  If it's too much for you, maybe you should step down.  I'm looking at my notes and when Fang Wong was National Commander of the Legion, he could address MST.  It's really strange that Delligner came in so recently with so many promises and none of them are being met.  If the Legion finally has the Women Veterans Outreach Coordinator, Wong noted (September 21, 2011 to the joint-hearing of the Veterans Affairs Committees) that they would be hiring one, the Legion doesn't value the position very much.  I can see endless men and two two or three token women (like the "historian") as I flip through the Legion's webpages of various 'officers' or 'officials' or whatever b.s. titles they give themselves.  I don't see the Women Veterans Outreach Coordinator.  In in those miles and miles of elderly White men occupying one position after another, I don't see anything that young veterans can relate to.

Now I know at one point in 2011, the Legion had Amanda Leigh in that role -- while also making her hold down the post of Assistant Director of Veterans Affairs &  Rehabilitation Division.  And if you search the Legion's website for her, you'll see they haven't noted her since 2012.  So is she gone?  Is the position gone?  Seems like if you have a Women Veterans Outreach Coordinator, you note it at the website.  Like maybe on your "Women Veterans" page.  If the position still exists, how is any outreach taking place when a female veteran visiting the website would never find out about it?

Dellinger's doing a lousy job.  Wednesday, he read a long statement -- which didn't note MST once in the 18 pages -- and then had no little to no knowledge of what he had just read.  It was embarrassing.

I don't have any respect for the current leadership because they show no respect for Congress (or the people's dime) by showing up and thinking they can b.s. their way through a Congressional hearing and (b) they show no respect for women.

To be clear, there are a huge number of issues facing veterans.  Stating publicly that you have no position?  Many do say that -- some because their membership has no position, some because they don't want to get in the middle of a Congressional squabble.  And I can respect that.  I can even respect someone coming out against a needed measure.  But the American Legion didn't just play the 'oh, we don't know' card this week, they've played it since 2012 and you're being played if you buy for a minute that this was a new issue for them.  And it wasn't a 'new' issue in 2010 when the American Legion representative (attorney) for a veteran didn't show up in court to represent them -- do we want to go there, because I can go there.

So let flow the hydrants
And we'll dance in the spray
And we'll wash our dirty laundry
In the alleyway
-- "Put Your Love Out In The Street," written by Carly Simon, first appears on her Playing Possum

The American Legion has a really sad record on the in vitro issue.  And maybe women veterans need to be aware of that when they're looking for a VSO that will serve them.  15 typed pages.  Single-space.  That's how long Dellinger's opening remarks were (he didn't get to read it all but was told it would go into the record).  Yet he never mentioned MST.  Not one damn time.

Women veterans need to know that.

Women veterans need to know that the American Legion is not a friend to them.

And if that truth hurts, Dellinger, maybe it's time the AL started delivering on all the public promises they've made to women veterans in the last three years.

In Iraq, another journalist has been killed.  All Iraq News reports that Wathiq al-Ghadhanfari was shot dead in Mosul.  He had hosted "a TV program over the history of Nineveh at Mosul local TV stations" and he was "also the candidate of Motahidon Alliance chaired by Speaker" of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.

At today's US State Dept press briefing, Marie Harf declared:

 We are deeply concerned about the circumstances surrounding his death and we call on the Government of Iraq to conduct a full investigation into the incident and to hold the perpetrator of this criminal act to account. The killing of any innocent is to be deplored. The murder of a journalist is a particular affront because it strikes at a fundamental pillar of democracy.

Oh, wait, she didn't.  That was her on Monday when a Voice of America/Radio Free Iraq employee was killed.

How did she open today's briefing?  "Hello. Happy Friday, everyone. Welcome to the daily briefing. I have a few items at the top, and then we will open it up for questions."

Happy Friday, Marie!

Good for you for making it clear to Iraqis that the US government doesn't give a damn about Iraqi reporters or Iraqis at all.

That's really not the message the diplomacy arm of the US government is supposed to send but, hey, Marie was honest.

Why try to pretend that deaths matter in Iraq when the White House so clearly doesn't give a damn.

Hadi al-Mahdi?  Unlike the propagandist shot by the Peshmerga on Saturday, Hadi al-Mahdi was assassinated, he was murdered.  He was a reporter, he was an activist.  He called out Nouri al-Maliki -- something western journalists generally refuse to do.  Hadi had the guts, Hadi had the courage and he was shot dead in his own home.  His killer -- most likely following Nouri's orders -- was never found.  You know outside his apartment?  There are surveillance cameras.  Guess what?

No footage.  For the time of his murder, there is no footage.

But let's pretend this wasn't a government hit.  Let's pretend like something other than Nouri could have both (a) ordered Hadi assassinated and (b) ensured that the cameras were off during the murder so no one could see the assassin arriving or leaving.

The day of Hadi's death?

The US State Dept didn't say one damn word.

Didn't have anything to say the day after either.

And today they didn't care about Wathiq al-Ghadhanfari.

But, "Hello. Happy Friday!" right back at you, Marie Harf.

Doubt Wathiq's family feels it was a happy Friday but that doesn't really matter to the State Dept, now does it?  Doubt the victims of Nouri's shelling of Falluja residential neighborhoods with have a "Happy Friday!" either.  NINA notes 2 civilians are dead and thirty-nine injured from today's shelling.

These are War Crimes but "Happy Friday!," Marie.

In other violence, RT notes fighting in "Anbar province has left at least 30 people dead and injuring 50 others."  National Iraqi News Agency reports Baghdad Operations Command says they killed 2 suspects in Latifya, rebels "blew up a strategic bridge in Hadeetha district western Anbar province" and rebels "blew up a second bridge in Ramadi city center of Anbar province."  Alsumaria reports 1 suicide bomber was shot dead in Mosul, the corpse of 1 truck driver was found near a farm in Dohuk, 3 Baghdad bombings killing 2 people and wounding eight, a Baghdad car bombing left one person injured, a Mousl fight left 3 dead and two injured, and, dropping back to last night, an Iraqi soldier was injured in a roadside bombing near Baiji.

Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 905 violent deaths so far this month.

April 30th, Iraq is supposed to hold parliamentary elections.  Tuesday brought the news that the entire board of the Independent High Electoral Commission was submitting their resignations.  Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reports the commissioners say there are three possibilities:

1) Parliament passes some form of immunity that would bar the commissioners from being prosecuted for their decisions regarding who can run for office.

2) The election law itself can be modified.

3) The elections can be cancelled. 

All Iraq News reports Iraqiya's Hamed al-Mutleq states the elections must not be postponed.  The leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq Ammar al-Hakim has stated Parliament should refuse to accept the resignations.    Harith Hasan (Al-Monitor) reports:

Many were convinced that the government had succeeded in using the judiciary to target its political opponents after the 2011 indictment of former Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on terrorism charges and after similar charges were made against a former finance minister, Rafi al-Issawi, in December 2010.
This perception has grown in the weeks leading up to the legislative elections scheduled for next month. The Electoral Judicial Committee has barred participation by a number of would-be candidates known for their harsh opposition toward Maliki. For example, the committee ruled that Issawi is ineligible because he faces arrest warrants stemming from corruption and terrorism charges and because he has refused to appear in court to defend himself. 
Based on a complaint by Hanan al-Fatlawi, a parliamentarian in Maliki’s coalition, the committee also voted to ban a parliamentarian from the Sadrist movement, Jawad al-Shahaili, because he has been accused of embezzlement. Although the same committee overturned decisions prohibiting Sabah al-Saadi and Mithal al-Alusi, both anti-Maliki deputies, from running, it did not change the prevailing belief that most of the time, the judiciary sides with the government. Maliki’s opponents provide another example as evidence — the acquittal of Mishan al-Jubouri on charges of corruption and financial support for terrorism. Jubouri is a former Maliki opponent who recently became his ally.
The problem surrounding qualifying for elections is primarily due to the interpretation of a clause in the electoral law that provides that a candidate must have a record of “good conduct.” This clause has allowed Maliki’s coalition to challenge some potential candidates because they had been accused of crimes.

On Iraq,  Bitch magazine notes:

Award-winning filmmakers Sabine Krayenbühl and Zeva Oelbaum have a passion for telling the stories of trail-blazing women who are often overlooked by historians. Their latest project is Letters from Baghdad, the story of Gertrude Bell who drew the borders of Iraq after World War I and founded the Baghdad Museum of Antiquities which was ransacked in the 2003 American invasion. You can support Letters from Baghdad on the project’s Kickstarter page. [] 

Gertrude Bell and her Iraq work are considered by some to be part of the problem -- a colonialist imposing borders on a foreign land.

Speaking of colonialists, Wednesday, US President Barack Obama made a fool out of himself as he attempted to justify and re-sell the illegal Iraq War.

It is true that the Iraq War was a subject of vigorous debate – not just around the world, but in the United States as well. I happened to oppose our military intervention there. But even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system. We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory, nor did we grab its resources for our own gain. Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people and a fully sovereign Iraqi state could make decisions about its own future.

His lies are still causing a stir.  Let's note some of today's Tweets on the topic.

  • Everything Obama has said on Iraq makes me want to dig my own eyeballs out do you understand

  • Emperor Obama claims a referendum in Crimea worse than illegal war which has killed c1m people. Does he think we're all total cretins?

  • Dear fans, Please explain why Obama would DEFEND our invasion of Iraq. Thanks.

  • Obama Suddenly Defends U.S. Invasion [Annihilation] of Iraq - Mainstream Media Shrug

  • James Schlarmann (Political Garbage Chute) wonders, "Uh, guys?  What kind of high-powered, supermegahardcoreholy***damneds**t halluciongen would I have had to take wherein I would find myself hearing President Barack 'I Am Not George W. Bush' Obama defending the U.S. invasion of Iraq?"  Nebojsa Malic ( asks, "Whatever possessed Mr. Obama to say that 'even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system' when this was clearly not the case, and Bush II’s war was prosecuted without UN approval, without even NATO approval, but by an ad-hoc 'Coalition of the Willing'?"  Sheldon Richman (CounterPunch) calls out the lies:

    [Barack;]We ended our war and left Iraq to its people and a fully sovereign Iraqi state that could make decisions about its own future.

    The war indeed ended in 2011. But let’s not forget that before (most of) the troops left, Obama begged al-Maliki to let U.S. forces stay beyond the deadline set in the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). Al-Maliki — who didn’t need the United States when he had Iran in his corner — demanded conditions so unacceptable to Obama that most forces were withdrawn as scheduled. (SOFA was signed by Bush, but that doesn’t stop Obama from claiming credit for “ending the war.”) The U.S. government continues to finance, arm, and train al-Maliki’s military, which represses the minority Sunni population.

    Jonathan Cohn (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, and Trees) points out,  "Obama also conveniently forgets how he wanted to extend the troop presence, but such negotiations broke down because of Pentagon demands for immunity for such troops--a demand clearly in violation of Iraq's sovereignty." Paul Craig Roberts (Dissident Voice) offers, "Obama recently declared that Washington’s destruction of Iraq–up to one million killed, four million displaced, infrastructure in ruins, sectarian violence exploding, a country in total ruins–is nowhere near as bad as Russia’s acceptance of Crimean self-determination. [. . .]  Who can possibly believe that Obama, whose government is responsible for the deaths of people every day in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, and Syria, cares a whit about democracy in Ukraine."

     RAZFXPro (News From A Parallel World) offers:

    It’s come to this, an American President taken such leave of his senses that, while a domestic audience is presumably comforted, the rest of the world struggles to find language sufficient to describe his arrogance and flagrant dishonesty.

    America did not seek to ‘work within the international system.’ To the contrary. Denied the support of even most of its traditional allies, the U.S. forged what it clumsily termed a ‘coalition of the willing,’ giving the astonishing destruction we rained on an innocent and essentially defenseless population a rhetorical fig leaf which fooled no one excepting U.S. news commentators and maybe some school children.  

    Jessica Desvarieux files a report for The Real News Network (link is transcript and video).  Excerpt:

    YANAR MOHAMMED, PRESIDENT, ORGANIZATION OF WOMEN'S FREEDOM IN IRAQ: Sovereignty for whom? I think he's talking about the 275 or 300-something parliamentarians who are living inside the International Zone. (And that's the new name for the Green Zone. It's not "Green" anymore.) It's only the sovereignty for those people. And they have the whole wealth of Iraq, while the people are suffering. And there's a number that was produced by the UN reports: almost 38 percent of the Iraqi people are living under the poverty line. Sovereignty for whom?

    DESVARIEUX: Many questions still remain for the people of Iraq after, almost 11 years ago, troops toppled the government of Saddam Hussein and brought to power the Shiite government of al-Maliki.

    Iraqi labor organizer pointed out how the U.S.-backed al-Maliki government is more concerned with amassing wealth and seizing resources, and it aims to crush organized labor movements and remain in power.

    FALAH ALWAN, PRESIDENT, FEDERATION OF WORKERS COUNCILS AND UNIONS: The new government, busy with how to redivide the wealth and how to seize the resources of the society and how to spend mountains of dollars and gold--and this corrupted government, supported directly by the U.S. government.

    The new Iraqi authorities, despite the tragic situation in Iraq, they want to impose a new legislation, which enable them to be in power and [incompr.] in power by controlling the so-called elections and to issue new labor laws to control the workers and prevent them from expressing their demands and their interests, and keeping the old laws of Saddam, which would prevent the workers from organizing themselves, from holding strikes, from negotiating, from calling for their interests. All--we can talk about the tragedies day and night.

    Francis A. Boyle is a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law. His books include Foundations of World Order (Duke University Press: 1999) and, most recently, United Ireland, Human Rights and International Law.  Boyle explains:

    In March 2003 the United States launched an illegal and criminal war of aggression against Iraq based on false pretexts, a Nuremberg Crime against Peace. The United States destroyed Iraq as a functioning state and effectively carved-up Iraq de facto into three mini-statelets that are at war with each other today, killing an estimated 1.4 million Iraqis in the process. Suicide bombings in Iraq continue to be a fact of everyday life. By comparison, the Russian annexation of Crimea was almost bloodless.

    Finally, David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. We'll close with this from Bacon's  "How Change Happens: The Immigration Uprising" (Truthout):

    This is only the most dramatic action of a wave of activity around the country, in which community and labor activists, and now deportees themselves, have refused to quietly endure increased immigration enforcement.  They are mostly young, deriving much of their inspiration from the Dreamers who forced the administration two years ago to begin providing legal status to some of those who'd otherwise be deported.  These activists refuse to wait for Congress to enact its immigration reform proposals, and in fact many reject them as fatally compromised.
    Two weeks ago hundreds of people inside the Tacoma Detention Center launched a hunger strike against its private operator, Geo Corporation, demanding better conditions and a moratorium on deportations.  Activists, who have held vigils outside the center for years, now gather every day to support those inside.  A week later the strike spread to another Geo facility in Texas.  According to Maru Mora Villapando of Latino Advocacy in Tacoma, in both locations the company has isolated the strikers and in Tacoma threatened to force-feed them.

    Monday, we'll cover more of Nickolay Mladenov's UN Security Council testimony.  I'd hoped we'd continue to that today (and I think I said so in yesterday's snapshot) but there's just not room.

    jessica desvarieux
    the real news network