Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, October 1, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue,  Barack's 'plan' continues to falter, Barack steps away from fears of civilian casualties from US bombings, monthly totals for Septembers dead and wounded are released, does a better job of counting the dead than does the United Nations, England joins in bombing Iraq, Senator Patty Murray works to address the issue of homeless veterans, TRICARE is failing some military families in the US, and much more.

We're going to start with veterans by noting this press release from Senator Patty Murray's office:

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Housing Appropriations Subcommittee and senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, announced new resources to help homeless veterans secure stable housing. Washington state will receive 335 housing vouchers that will be allocated to eleven different housing authorities across the state- this includes both tenant-based vouchers, which are used to cover rent in private housing, as well as project-based vouchers, which are attached to specific units of housing. 
The vouchers are part of the joint Department of Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program (HUD-VASH program), a program Murray helped restart in 2008 and which she has continued to fund every year since.  Through the program, homeless veterans receive vouchers through HUD and case management and services through the VA. 
“These vouchers are a huge boost in the effort to end homelessness among veterans in our state,” said Senator Murray. “Each one of these vouchers represents a step toward finding a permanent home for someone who sacrificed for our nation, but is struggling to find stable housing. The HUD-VASH program provides critical support to these veterans and is a key reason why we are making real progress toward the goal of finally ending veteran homelessness.”
With the assistance of HUD-VASH, veteran homelessness in the United States has declined 33 percent since 2010.

See a breakdown of voucher allocation below (totals include both tenant-based and project-based vouchers):

Public Housing Authority
VA Medical Center
Seattle Housing Authority
VA Puget Sound Health Care System (HCS)/Seattle Campus
King County Housing Authority
VA Puget Sound Health Care System (HCS)/Seattle Campus
Housing Authority of the City of Tacoma
VA Puget Sound  Health Care System (HCS)/American Lake Campus
Housing Authority of the City of Longview
Portland VA Medical Center (VAMC)Vancouver Campus
Housing Authority City of Bellingham
VA Puget Sound Health Care System (HCS)/Seattle Campus
Housing Authority of Snohomish County
VA Puget Sound Health Care System (HCS)/Everett Community-Based Outreach Clinic (CBOC)
Housing Authority of Thurston County
VA Puget Sound  Health Care System (HCS)/American Lake Campus
Housing Authority of the City of Spokane
Mann-Grandstaff (Spokane) Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC)
Housing Authority of the City of Walla Walla (WA)
Walla Walla VA Medical Center (VAMC)/Richland Community-Based Outreach Clinic (CBOC)
Housing Authority of Chelan County and City of Wenatchee
Mann-Grandstaff (Spokane) Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC)/Wenatchee Community-Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC)
Vancouver Housing Authority
Portland VAMC


Eli Zupnick
Communications Director
U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)
(202) 224-2834


Senator Murray works tirelessly for veterans and deserves much praise for that.

However, if there were 19 clones of her and the original serving in the Senate, it still wouldn't be enough.


I am hearing the same story over and over from veterans and their spouses with children.

TRICARE is supposed to be coverage for service members and for veterans -- there's TRICARE for retired, etc.  Think of it as Blue Cross Blue Shield if you need to simplify it.

John and Joan are married and have a daughter named Jill.

John is not oversees, he's a service member but he gets stationed here and there.  They do a seven month stint in Colorado.  Five months in, Jill is vomiting and can't stop.  She's taken to the emergency room of the local hospital where they stabilize her.  Jill is taken to a doctor's office or clinic the next day and Dr. Michelle Wong says Jill needs to see a specialist, Dr. Andre Kumar.

I hope everyone's following example, it's pretty straight forward.

En route to Dr. Kumar's office, or after being seen, John and Joan are informed that the visit isn't 'authorized' so TRICARE won't be covering it.

I've heard this basic story over and over in the last four weeks when speaking to veterans groups.

TRICARE wants a PCP -- a primary care physician.  That would be your family doctor, the doctor you or your children see when you're sick.

John and Joan are not living in X and never moving.  The military wants them at this base for a limited time and then at that base.  And if there's no reason to change the PCP -- if the child isn't sick or can be treated in a clinic, for example -- the parents don't change the PCP.  Sometimes TRICARE does.

So when their child does get sick and they seek care, they're suddenly faced with costs and expenses they shouldn't have to deal with.  But TRICARE says their sick child can't see that specialist -- even if a doctor has made the referral -- because they didn't see their PCP.

I've tried to keep the above simple (there's also an issue of TRICARE assigning PCP's to relocated families).

TRICARE could keep things real simple by allowing service members and their families to see a specialist if they are referred by another doctor -- it should not have to be a PCP.

It is ridiculous.

Joan and John and Jill are not moving because they made the decision, they're moving because the US government is changing where they are stationed.  TRICARE needs to recognize that.

No service member should have to worry about the costs of caring for their children -- that's especially true when your child is in dire need of a specialist.

I've tried to keep the above simple.  I've used PCP because that's what most people are familiar with -- most with insurance -- but, for example, in TRICARE, the PCP is called the PCM.

Calling.  The other big issue.

As someone who has sat in one hearing after another where members of Congress like Patty Murray, Senator Richard Burr, Senator Bernie Sanders, US House Rep Jeff Miller and US House Rep Mike Michaud have repeatedly asked the VA if they need more money for employees or training or this or that and heard the VA say no?

Will someone ask the VA, someone in Congress, how they feel about their call center because veterans with health issues -- such as the example above -- are getting real tired of the wait.

Moving to another topic . . .

Ned Parker's made his mark and then some reporting from Iraq.  His time at the Los Angeles Times, for example, is noted for his breaking the news on the secret prisons tyrant Nouri al-Maliki ran.  He nows heads Reuters' Iraq bureau.  And he Tweeted the following:

And this followed:

To give credit where it's due, the byline for the Reuters report is Raheem Salman, Yara Bayoumy, Ned Parker and Philippa Fletcher.

And to point out that the 'correction' isn't one, let's note that BBC added Reuters to the story, it did not issue a correction ("In a previous version of this report, we wrongly . . .") or an apology.

Accidents do happen, mistakes as well.  If you can't acknowledge them, that says something about you -- something much worse than an inadvertent failure to give credit.

In other image problems . . .

If you were looking at approximately two more years in office, you might try to use them to improve your image -- especially if you had six bad years so far and your second term was marked only by how increasingly unpopular you were.

You might look to improve your image.

US President Barack Obama apparently doesn't.  Igor Bobic (Huffington Post) reports:

The Obama administration has exempted its current military campaign in Syria and Iraq from strict standards imposed last year aimed at preventing civilian deaths from U.S. drone strikes, Yahoo News reported Tuesday.
The White House intended the standard of "near certainty" that civilians wouldn't be killed to apply "only when we take direct action 'outside areas of active hostilities,' as we noted at the time," Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, told Yahoo. "That description -- outside areas of active hostilities -- simply does not fit what we are seeing on the ground in Iraq and Syria right now." 

Huffington Post reported, AP rushes to excuse.  Associated Press' Ken Dilanian offers:

According to the White House, the reason the near-certainty standard is not applicable turns on a fine point of international law — the theory that the U.S. is not involved in “active hostilities” in Yemen and Somalia, but is in Syria and Iraq. Such distinctions are controversial, given the frequency with which American bombs and bullets have flown in both countries.
A more practical reason is that the self-imposed rules on drone strikes against al-Qaida are simply too restrictive for a conventional military air campaign against the Islamic State group, which the U.S. says is both a terrorist group and an occupying army, and has ordered the Pentagon to destroy.

Nothing says neutral and impartial news organization like excusing civilian deaths, justifying them, right?

Last Friday,  NINA reported a  Mosul bombing by US war planes killed 4 civilians.  In another article, Dilanian offers, "In Iraq, the U.S. is relying for ground reports on the Iraqi military and intelligence services, whose insights into Islamic State-controlled territory are limited."

Then maybe they shouldn't be bombing?

And did Barack miss this reality before he started bombing because so many people were discussing this publicly before the first air strikes started -- Time magazine's Bobby Ghosh, for example, was on MSNBC talking about just this possibility.

Did he miss that reality or does he just not care?

Jason Ditz ( notes the dropping of the previously announced standard and offers:

The more fast-and-loose definition of care may mirror the US occupation of Afghanistan, where airstrikes have routinely killed large numbers of civilians, and incidents of scores and even hundreds of civilians slain in botched strikes are not unheard of.
It also makes the weekend admonition by the Red Cross for the US to take care that it abides by international bans against targeting civilians and medical personnel all the more important, as their checkered track record of doing that in past wars seems to be the template they’re applying to the new conflict.

Doyle McManus (Los Angeles Times) observed earlier this week, "When the president talks about his new offensive against the extremist group that calls itself Islamic State, he sounds as warlike as George W. Bush ever did."

The war never ended in Iraq and UNAMI has issued their monthly death toll for September:

Baghdad, 1 October 2014 – According to casualty figures released today by UNAMI, a total of at least 1,119 Iraqis were killed and another 1,946 were injured in acts of terrorism and violence in September*. 

The number of civilians killed was 854 (including 79 civilian police), while the number of civilians injured was 1,604 (including 84 civilian police).  A further 265 members of the Iraqi Security Forces were killed, and 342 were injured (including Peshmerga, SWAT and militias fighting alongside Iraqi Army/not including casualties from Anbar operation). 
*CAVEATS: Data do not take into account casualties of the current IA operation in Anbar, for which UNAMI was unable to obtain figures for the reporting period. In general, UNAMI has been hindered in effectively verifying casualties in conflict areas. In some cases, UNAMI could only partially verify certain incidents. UNAMI has also received, without being able to verify, reports of large numbers of casualties along with unknown numbers of persons who have died from secondary effects of violence after having fled their homes due to exposure to the elements, lack of water, food, medicines and health care. For these reasons, the figures reported have to be considered as the absolute minimum. 
Civilian Casualties (killed and injured) per governorate 
Anbar excluded, Baghdad was the worst affected Governorate with 1,335 civilian casualties (352 killed, 983 injured), followed by Salahadin (298 killed, 383 injured), Kirkuk (59 killed, 51 injured), Diyala (36 killed, 71 injured), Nineveh (75 killed, 16 injured). 
Operations in Anbar 
Up to now, UNAMI has not been able to obtain the total civilian casualty figures from the Health Directorate in Anbar. Overall casualty figures for Anbar will be added if and when they become available.

Anbar is a province where a lot of violence takes place so you don't have a real count if you're leaving out Anbar.  There's also the nonsens of 'civilian' casualties -- dead is dead.

The UN News Centre notes, "At least 1,119 Iraqis – most of them civilians – were killed in [September], the United Nations in the country today reported, but cautioned that the figure does not include people killed in the ongoing operation in Anbar, or those who died from the heat or hunger after being forced to flee violence in their cities."

So they do keep a tally of security forces killed.

Who's is missing?

How about the dead accused of being 'terrorists'?

Why is the UN going along with that?

I seem to remember when a group of US forces broke into an Iraqi home, murdered the parents and a five-year-old girl while gang-raping an Iraqi teenager in the other room before killing her too.  And who did the press blame?


In terms of the dead last month, there's no need to determine who is or isn't a terrorist, you just count the dead.  Dead is dead.  The press has no idea whether some person the Iraqi forces killed is a terrorist or not but they do know the person is dead.

Margaret Griffis ( reports, " has determined that at least 3,790 people were killed across Iraq during September. These numbers include militants, even foreign ones, killed in Iraq. Another 1,949 were wounded. The violence also left 126 dead and 184 wounded across Iraq on Tuesday."  That's the standard the United Nations should be pursuing.

And let's further note that the UN's refusal to count Anbar's deaths really harms the United Nation's credibility.

In other news, Chelsea J. Carter, Gul Tuysuz and Ben Wedeman (CNN) add "that the United Kingdom said it conducted its first airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, striking targets four days after Parliament voted to approve the country's involvement."  Those bombings were late last night.  For those scratching their heads and thinking, "Wait, didn't . . ."  Yes.  Yes, UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond was telling/scolding the press yesterday that the RAF would not be "panicked" into bombing but would instead gather intel and then move cautiously and safely and blah, blah, blah. 

Judith Orr (Great Britain's Socialist Worker) reports:

British warplanes joined the third attack on Iraq in less than 25 years after a vote in Westminster on Friday of last week.

MPs backed prime minister David Cameron’s proposal to launch air strikes by a majority of 524 votes to 43 after parliament was recalled.

Britain joins the US, France and a number of Arab states in their assault on the country in the name of stopping the sectarian Islamist group Islamic State, also known as Isis.
Within 24 hours RAF tornado jets flew from Cyprus to Iraq searching for targets.
Cameron said, “This is going to be a mission that will take not just months but years.”
To their shame most Labour MPs lined up to back the Tories’ new war.
Labour leader Ed Miliband said bombing Iraq was about “protecting our national interest, security and the values for which we stand.”

After the vote Rushanara Ali, Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow in east London, resigned as shadow education minister over Labour’s support for the air strikes. 
Labour MP and chair of the Stop the War Coalition (StW) Jeremy Corbyn refused to vote for the motion.
He spoke to Socialist Worker on the eve of the vote as StW protesters gathered outside Downing Street in London.
Corbyn said, “This is the third time I’ve been asked to bomb Iraq and the third time I’ll say no.”
He pointed to the West’s hypocrisy. “They are joining with Saudi Arabia which frequently beheads opponents of its regime to stop Isis which beheads the opponents of its regime,” he said.
Like Saudi Arabia the West’s other allies in the bombing—Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar and UAE—are dictatorships that suppressed democracy movements during the Arab Spring.
MPs congratulated themselves on what many declared was a serious debate. They acknowledged the shadow cast by the last war on Iraq. But in speech after speech MPs claimed that somehow this war would be different.
The vote was on a motion to bomb Iraq, but many MPs were already pushing to extend air strikes to Syria. Cameron asserted that he could legally extend action without a new vote.
Even Miliband did not rule out spreading the attack to Syria, only saying it would be “better” if there was a United Nations resolution to justify such action.
Several MPs also refused to rule out putting troops on the ground.
Iraqi socialist Sami Ramadani told Socialist Worker, “They failed to win a vote to bomb Syria last year because of opposition to war.
“Now they want to justify this new war with all the talk of tackling savagery of Isis.”
“But this is a chance for the US and the West to reassert itself in the region,” said Sami.

Activists across Britain need to get out on to the streets and challenge the warmongers’ lies and the threat of increased Islamophobia they whip up.

Demonstrate Saturday 4 October. Assemble 1pm Temple Place London WC2R 3BD. More details at

[Socialist Worker article © Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original.]

jason ditz
 the socialist worker
judith orr