Saturday, May 31, 2014

Iraq: Post-election scramble continues


Pope Francis received Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani on Friday.
Barzani's office issued the following:

Rome, Italy ( – Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Friday.
At the outset of the meeting, Pope Francis said that he was aware of the situation of Kurds and of their tragedies in the past. He commended President Barzani and the people of Kurdistan for what they have achieved, particularly in offering the Kurdistan Region as a safe haven for Syrian refugees and for Christians fleeing violence in other parts of Iraq.
The Pope also praised President Barzani for KRG’s policy of promoting tolerance and peaceful co-existence among different religious communities. He expressed his hope that the KRG would continue to enjoy peace and prosperity.
For his part, President Barzani talked about tolerance in Kurdistan as a long-standing tradition that has popular support. He said that peoples of different religions have made sacrifices together in the past and now live side by side in peace and freedom.
On the situation of refugees and Christians who have sought refuge in Kurdistan, President Barzani said that the KRG would continue to provide assistance to them as a humanitarian duty.

Rudaw notes Barzani also met with Italy's Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini and that "the Kurdish flag was displayed alongside the Iraqi flag" at both meetings.  Barzani's Chief of Staff Fuad Hussein explains, "Putting the Kurdistan flag is a message for the people of Kurdistan that the outside world understands the status of the Kurdistan Region.  It's the recognition of the identity of Kurdistan's people and the legal identity of the people of Kurdistan."  On the subject of the Kurds, Hiwa Barznjy (Niqash) explores where the Kurds stand on the issue of Iraq's next prime minister:

The two most popular political parties originating in the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan are the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, or PUK, and the Kurdistan Democratic Party, or KDP. The KDP appears to have 25 seats in Baghdad while the PUK has 21 – the next largest Iraqi Kurdish party, the Change movement, has nine seats.

And the PUK and KDP feel differently about working with al-Maliki for another term. The KDP are presently totally committed to getting rid of him while the PUK isn’t quite as sure about that. The PUK’s ailing leader, Jalal Talabani, who has been in hospital in Germany for over a year, is actually the President of Iraq and it is well known that the PUK has a better relationship with al-Maliki than the KDP. The question of whether the PUK would cut a separate deal with al-Maliki to become part of his coalition government has already been mooted.

The other question is whether the KDP would drop out of the united Kurdish group to support Ammar al-Hakim, who they are allegedly closer to. Al-Hakim is the leader of one of the other major Shiite Muslim parties in Baghdad, the Ahrar bloc, which represents the interests of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq in politics.

Parliamentary elections were held April 30th.  May is ending but there's no one named prime minister yet.  In 2010, Iraq set the record for the longest time between elections and the formation of a government.  They've since been bested and Nouri may be hoping they can reclaim their title.

Nouri wants a third term but he's unwanted by so many political blocs and Iraqi citizens.  Mustafa Habib (Niqash) notes:

The Iraqi Kurdish are not the only ones to have made this kind of announcement. The Sadrist movement, led by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and represented in Parliament by the Ahrar bloc, has also said they don’t want to see their former ally, al-Maliki, given a third term as Prime Minister.

Another of al-Maliki’s most important former allies, the Muwatin, or Citizen, coalition which represents the interests of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, led by another cleric Ammar al-Hakim, has expressed similar sentiments.

Both of the latter are mostly composed of Shiite Muslims, the same sect as al-Maliki. Meanwhile al-Maliki’s long time opponents – mostly Sunni Muslim blocs and parties as well as some secular blocs – have also said they won’t contemplate a third term for al-Maliki.  

Al-Maliki’s bloc has won around 94 seats and it’s highly likely this share will increase to over 100 – anything from 102 to 110, analysts suggest - as the big bloc attracts smaller parties to its ranks to try and form a coalition big enough to be allowed to form the next government.

Meanwhile all of those who oppose a third term for al-Maliki number more than enough to form a government – they have around 180 seats out of Iraq’s 328 seat Parliament. And some have suggested, perhaps rather optimistically, that these groups could form a kind of grand coalition because they all have the same focus: keeping al-Maliki out. Such a coalition could be described as grand because it would cross most of Iraq’s ethnic and sectarian boundaries, uniting all those who usually jostle for political power for their own sector of Iraqi society; it would herald a true post-sectarian age for Iraqi politics. 

Still on the issue of the elections, All Iraq News reports MP Nabeel Harbo states that his alliance (Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi heads the Motahidoun Alliance) is considering suing Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission over the refusal to investigate serious allegations of voter fraud:

Speaking to All Iraq News Agency (AIN), he said "Motahidoun Alliance provided evidences to the IHEC over the breaches that accompanied the elections," noting that "We are waiting for the IHEC to deal with these evidences with justice and independence." 

Turning to Nouri's War Crimes, he continues bombing the residential neighborhoods of Falluja.  Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports, "Separately, mortar shelling on several neighborhoods in Fallujah wounded seven people and damaged several houses, a medical source from the city hospital told Xinhua. Three of the wounded were from one family, the source said, adding that some of the victims are in critical condition."

National Iraqi News Agency reports a Yarmouk roadside bombing left three Iraqi soldiers, security forces killed 5 suspects in Hammam al-Alil, a Baghdad sticky bombing injured police brigadier Atheer Mohammed, security forces killed 15 suspects in Falluja, a Jurf al-Sakhar bombing left 4 people dead and ten more killed, 2 civilians were shot dead in Mosul, a Samarra bombing killed 4 people, and 1 corpse was discovered in Mosul.

The following community sites -- plus, Ms. magazine's blog, Cindy Sheehan, and Z on TV  -- updated:



    The e-mail address for this site is

    iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq


    I Hate The War

    Melinda Henneberger (Washington Post) has written one of the most insightful pieces on the VA scandal, the Shinseki resignation and the VA culture.  The piece went up this evening and here's an excerpt:

    When he put new guidelines in place requiring that veterans be seen quickly, the response was to fake the paperwork to make it look as though wait times had disappeared.
    But with nothing less than the lives of our veterans at stake, how could employees do that, and why would they lie?
    Nickolaus’s answer to that question is that after years of being “told to shut up or retire,” most people eventually do one or the other. “You see the dead wood and get exasperated.”Overwhelmed, she said, you despair of actually changing anything, in other words, and give up.

    The next Secretary of the VA is going to have to put in the time to check and re-check what he or she has been told in response to questions.  Serious oversight will be needed.

    Right now, the wait list scandal has the nation's attention.

    The scandals started in 2009.  Whether it's the veterans tuition checks scandal (not being sent out), the intentional misdiagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress or any of the other scandals, the key detail is the secrecy.  The lack of transparency is ingrained and Henneberger's story gets at that with VA employees urged "to shut up or retire."

    There has been no accountability in the VA.  Shinseki's resignation may be the first accountability since 2009.  The VA has been allowed to lie to Congress, they've been allowed to withhold information, they've been allowed to deny requests for named officials to testify, they've been allowed to ignore subpoenas from Congress.

    This is the problem.

    The current scandal results from this problem.

    When there is neither accountability or transparency, you're going to have these scandals and the non-stop failures.

    The next Secretary needs to address that.  US President Barack Obama needs to make clear that the VA must operate within the law -- that means recognizing that Congress exists to be a check on them as much as it exists to pass laws -- and that they must be transparent.  It should also be made clear that the VA will not be able to use two sets of lists (a real one and a fake one) or to alter results by chopping 41 days off (which the Inspector General revealed this week though the press ignored it) or disguise reality by redefining terms like "error."

    The VA has been out of control for some time.  That didn't start with Shinseki, but the culture of secrecy worsened under Shinseki. If veterans are going to be served, the next Secretary must make a commitment to transparency and accountability and he or she must have the full backing of Barack on this.

    It's over, I'm done writing songs about love
    There's a war going on
    So I'm holding my gun with a strap and a glove
    And I'm writing a song about war
    And it goes
    Na na na na na na na
    I hate the war
    Na na na na na na na
    I hate the war
    Na na na na na na na
    I hate the war
    Oh oh oh oh
    -- "I Hate The War" (written by Greg Goldberg, on The Ballet's Mattachine!)

    The number of US service members the Dept of Defense states died in the Iraq War is [PDF format warning] 4489.

    The e-mail address for this site is

    “Force Protection Alpha in Effect” –coming to a town near you (Brian Terrell)

    This is from David Swanson's War Is A Crime:

    “Force Protection Alpha in Effect” –coming to a town near you

    By Brian Terrell,

    On April 15, 2014, when the story broke on the world that the Central Intelligence Agency’s covert program of assassination by remotely controlled drones is not distinct from the drone program of the U.S. Air Force as we had been told, I was on the “Sacred Peace Walk,” an event sponsored each spring by the Nevada Desert Experience, a 70 mile trek from Las Vegas to the Nevada Nuclear Test Site. Creech Air Force Base is along the way and we had already made plans for a protest there the next morning. 

    While the CIA’s drone program is shrouded in secrecy, the Air Force supposedly has been using drones strictly as a weapon for waging war against combatants in recognized areas of conflict such as Afghanistan and formerly in Iraq, under a chain of command that is accountable to elected officials. Some who condemn the CIA’s assassinations by drones as illegal give a pass to or even laud the Air Force use of drones as a more restrained way to fight war.

    This distinction has now been exposed as a lie. In a new documentary film released in Europe, “Drone,” former Air Force drone operators, veterans of a super-secret Squadron 17 at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, reveal that “it’s always been the Air Force that flies” the CIA’s missions, “the CIA might be the customer, but the Air Force has always flown it.”

    The fact that airmen at Creech are carrying out assassination missions and extrajudicial executions far from declared zones of conflict on orders from unknown and unnamable bureaucrats did not come as a surprise. Neither was the news a “game changer” in regard to the actions we had planned, although we quickly revised the indictment listing the war crimes committed at Creech that some of us would attempt to deliver to the base commander.

    My arrest at Creech along with eight others on April 16 was a “return to the scene of the crime” (the Air Force’s crime, not mine) for me, as I was among the “Creech 14” in April 2009, the first nonviolent direct action against drones in the U.S. Creech was then one of only a few sites from which drones were controlled by the U.S. and by the United Kingdom, which has a wing of the Royal Air Force stationed there to fly their own drones. Since then the use of armed drones has been proliferating around the world and so has the number of drone operation bases in communities around the U.S. My work with Voices for Creative Nonviolence has brought me to the scenes of the crime in Afghanistan, the CIA headquarters at Langley, Virginia and at the gates of drone bases in New York, Iowa, Missouri and in England as well.

    The latest revelation is but the exposure of one more lie, one more layer of criminality and venality of this corrupt and dangerous program. Over the years since April 2009, the promises of a new era of better war through drone technology have been steadily unravelling, each of them proving false. It is increasingly clear that rather than limiting the scope of war, drones are expanding and proliferating it, killing more civilians both on battlefields and far from them, endangering our soldiers and the safety of our communities. Instead of keeping the horrors of war at a safe distance, drones bring the war home in unprecedented ways.

    President Obama, in an address before the National Defense University May 23, 2013, described this new technology as more precise and by implication more humane than other weaponry: “By narrowly targeting our action against those who want to kill us and not the people they hide among, we are choosing the course of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life.” There is an understandable appeal to the idea of a weapon that can discriminate between the good and the bad people and limit regrettable “collateral damage.” It is understandable too, that a nation weary of sending its sons and daughters to fight on battlefields far away, risking injury, death or the debilitating effects of posttraumatic stress, might look to embrace a new method of war whereby the warriors fights battles from  safe distances. Thousands of miles beyond the reach of the enemy, drone combatants often do not even have to leave their hometowns and are able to return to homes and families at the end of a shift.

    In his National Defense University speech, the president contended that “conventional airpower and missiles are far less precise than drones, and likely to cause more civilian casualties and local outrage.” A few weeks later a study published by the same National Defense University refuted his claim. Drone strikes in Afghanistan, the study found, were “an order of magnitude more likely to result in civilian casualties per engagement.” Despite the president’s assurances to the contrary, drone strikes cause immense “local outrage” in the countries where they happen, turning America’s allies into enemies. "What scares me about drone strikes is how they are perceived around the world," said former commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal. "The resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes ... is much greater than the average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who've never seen one or seen the effects of one."

    Former defense secretary Robert M. Gates also warns of the seductive power and precision of armed drones that leads many to perceive war as a “bloodless, painless and odorless” affair. “Remarkable advances in precision munitions, sensors, information and satellite technology and more can make us overly enamored with the ability of technology to transform the traditional laws and limits of war. A button is pushed in Nevada and seconds later a pickup truck explodes in Kandahar.” Defense experts and policy makers, Gates warns, have come to view drone warfare as a “kind of video game or action movie. . . . In reality, war is inevitably tragic, inefficient and uncertain.” General Mike Hostage, chief of the US Air Combat Command, claims that while weaponized drones are useful in assassinations of terror suspects, they are impractical in combat. "Predators and Reapers are useless in a contested environment," Hostage said.

    Some enlisted personnel are also questioning the use of drones. Heather Linebaugh, a drone operator for the US Air Force for three years says: “Whenever I read comments by politicians defending the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program – aka drones – I wish I could ask them a few questions. I'd start with: ‘How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?’ And: ‘How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?’ Or even more pointedly: ‘How many soldiers have you seen die on the side of a road in Afghanistan because our ever-so-accurate UAVs were unable to detect an IED [improvised explosive device] that awaited their convoy?’”

    Distance from the battlefield does not isolate soldiers from posttraumatic stress or the moral injury of war. Heather Linebaugh speaks of two friends and colleagues who committed suicide and another former drone operator, Brandon Bryant, said that his work had made him into a “heartless sociopath.” While drone pilots are at a greater distance from their victims than other soldiers, he says, the video feed they watch brings them closer: “Artillery doesn’t see the results of their actions. It’s really more intimate for us, because we see everything.”

    The Air Force is relegating much of its drone operations to Air National Guard units in various states, creating virtual war zones in local communities. “In an F-16, your whole mission was to train to go to war,” said a pilot of an Ohio Air Guard wing that made a conversion from fighters to drones. “In this mission, we go to war every day.” Foreign postings of state National Guard units are usually made public, but where in the world these citizen soldiers will be fighting from now on will be shrouded in secrecy, hidden even from their families. Reason and the rules of war both suggest that assassinations and acts of war on sovereign nations carried on by local National Guard units will make their communities into legitimate targets of war.
    Drone warfare is based on the lie that war can be made more exact, limited and humane through technology. Our civilian and military authorities, proliferating drone attacks around the globe from more and more American bases, are acting recklessly and in defiance of domestic and international law. They are acting without regard for the safety and wellbeing of our troops, of American civilians or of people in faraway places who otherwise would mean us no harm. Rather than limiting war, being an answer, drones perpetuate and multiply the horrors of war and bring them home into our communities.

    As our band of walkers approached Creech Air Force Base on the morning of April 16, we were greeted by a large sign at the gate that read “Force Protection Alpha in Effect,” announcing that the base was in its highest security alert. We were also met by an impressive contingent of military police and sheriff’s officers, heavily armed and some on horseback, which easily exceeded in number our little band that left Las Vegas on foot four days earlier. These public servants were clearly responding to a perceived threat to public safety and so were we. Our purposes were disjointed, though, in that we were at Creech in response to a clear and present danger presented by the murderous crimes of Squadron 17 somewhere in the depth of this desert outpost. The official and ostensible law enforcement squad, on the other hand, was there in response to the threat that a few unarmed citizens might step across an arbitrary and ever shifting line on the pavement.
    I write this on my way to Kansas City, where, this weekend, good and faithful friends will go to nearby Whiteman Air Force Base to confront the predator drones based there. A few days later, Voices for Creative Nonviolence and friends will start walking from Boeing corporate headquarters in Chicago (a major drone contractor) 160 miles to Battle Creek, Michigan, where a National Guard unit is poised to begin operating predator drones over far away skies. “Force Protection Alpha” is truly “in Effect” and people in Yemen, Pakistan, and Afghanistan as well as communities in the U.S. and Europe are responding to the emergency.   

    Brian Terrell is a Co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence and lives on a Catholic Worker farm in Maloy, Iowa

    Photo credit:  John Amidon

    David Swansons wants you to declare peace at  His new book is War No More: The Case for Abolition. He blogs at and and works for He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.  

    Sign up for occasional important activist alerts here

    Sign up for articles or press releases here

    This email may be unlawfully collected, held, and read by the NSA which violates our freedoms using the justification of immoral, illegal wars absurdly described as being somehow for freedom.

    ANALYSIS: Poroshenko's Millions Interfere With Ukraine's Fight for Democracy

    From RIA Novosti's "ANALYSIS: Poroshenko's Millions Interfere With Ukraine's Fight for Democracy:"

    The US leader Barack Obama, whose administration met with Kiev authorities throughout the months of protests in Kiev and then in the eastern regions, was among the first to congratulate Poroshenko on his victory.
    Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, secured 12.81 percent of votes at the vote, which took place weeks after she was released from jail, where she had served three years on charges of exceeding powers in Russian gas deals. Founder of Ukraine's once largest gas importer United Energy Systems of Ukraine, which existed between 1991 and 2009, she was one of Ukraine's richest women at the time.
    "It looks like the chocolate king beat the gas queen. You don’t have legitimate authentic leaders over here, what can I say - oligarchs in the pocket of United States and the NATO states," Francis Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois, College of Law, told RIA Novosti.
    He said the country's wealthiest people were put in charge for a reason - that is to serve the interests of the US, willing to place NATO's troops as close to Russia as possible. Ukraine may give them this opportunity, he said.

    "As we know, Kiev put all the oligarchs allegedly in control of the Russian speaking portions of Ukraine. Well, is that really democracy, putting these rotten corrupt oligarchs in charge? That had nothing to do with democracy," he said.

    Friday, May 30, 2014

    Iraq snapshot

    Friday, May 30, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri bombs Falluja General Hospital again, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigns, a culture of secrecy exists at VA that goes beyond secret waiting lists, and much more.

    Starting in the United States with the news that Eric Shinseki has resigned from his post as Secretary of the VA.  Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and is the former Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Her office issued the following statement today:

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                 CONTACT: Murray Press Office (202) 224-2834
    Friday, May 30th, 2014                                                          

    Murray Statement on the Resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki

    (Washington, D.C.)  Today, Friday, May 30th, 2014, Senator Patty Murray made the following statement on the resignation of Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki.
    “There are serious problems at the VA that won’t be solved simply by replacing the Secretary, but I am hopeful that this leadership change will spark structural, cultural, and personnel changes, from the top of the organization to the bottom, to make sure our veterans are getting the care and support they expect and deserve.

    “I will be working closely with President Obama and his Administration as they look for a new Secretary who will provide strong leadership for the Department and who will work with me and others to make much-needed changes and improvements at the VA. This transition is also a time for every employee at the VA to step up and do everything they can to help veterans and work toward a culture of transparency as changes are being implemented. And as these changes are being made, I will work with my colleagues in Congress to make sure these improvements are being supported.

    “I stand with veterans and families in Washington state and across the country in thanking Secretary Shinseki for his years of work for veterans and for his lifetime of service to the United States of America.

    Kathryn Robertson
    Deputy Press Secretary 
    Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
    154 Russell Senate Office Building
    Washington D.C. 20510


    Anna Mulrine (Christian Science Monitor) notes the periodical's own poll (which is still taking place) had shown the American people wanted Shinseki removed from his post and that the call from elected officials had been increasing as well:

    Calls throughout the week had increased for the VA chief to step down. Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona – who once lauded Shinseki’s willingness to speak truth to power – joined that chorus “with some reluctance,” adding that if Shinseki did not step down voluntarily, the president should “fire him.”
    Along with the Republican chairmen of the House Armed Services and Intelligence committees, Democrats had also begun to call for Shinseki to step down. Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, up for reelection this year, pointed to a “systemic problem that this leadership has not been addressing.” Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D) of Illinois, who lost both legs in the Iraq war and who served as a VA official, said Friday it was time for her former boss to resign.

    Mulrine, like others, then goes on to miss the point when quoting various 'experts.'  She's not the only one missing the point.  Congress is far from perfect.  But Congress isn't responsible for this.

    They're supposed to provide oversight, yes.  Maybe the press could have helped there.  I'm not referring to breaking scandals and certainly CNN and Drew Griffin and Anderson Cooper and others did their part and then some on that.  But I'm talking about the silence that allows nonsense about Congress to be said.

    Right now, Bernie Sanders is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and Jeff Miller is the Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.  But I can remember Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Patty Murray having to demand the truth repeatedly in hearings, I can remember House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Bob Filner calling VA's Allison Hickey out for her efforts to lie to the Committee.  I can, for example, remember all the times Chair Patty Murray had to demand the VA supply her with the facts regarding what was happening at Madigan Army Medical Center.  (What was happening?  Among other things vets with PTS were not being classified as such in what was clearly a 'cost-saving' measure by the government.)

    I realize that outside of the Associated Press, few major outlets bother to show up for the Congressional Veterans Affairs Committees hearings.  I grasp that.  And the cost cutting excuses for that.  But are you so stupid you don't notice a rare night hearing?  One took place Wednesday night, the House Veterans Affairs Committee called VA officials before it.

    Why?  What was that hearing about?

    It was about Congressional requests that are not being honored.  Congress is supposed to provide oversight.  But since 2009, the VA has stonewalled Congress and outright ignored requests for information.

    You can blame the White House for that since it's over the VA.  I don't know that I would or wouldn't.  But it is a problem and everyone should be aware of it now and the White House should order the VA to start complying with all Congressional requests as, in fact, they're legally supposed to.

    I'm not seeing where you blame Congress and say they weren't doing their job when they're requests for information are not honored even when they're made via subpoena.

    Eric Shinseki took over the VA in January 2009.  When he did, he was immediately informed that one of the signature pieces of legislation, the Post-9/11 GI Bill, was in trouble.  While it was due to be implemented in the fall of 2009, Shinseki was told in January of 2009, the VA couldn't handle it, checks were not going to be going out.  That's when you inform Congress there's a problem.  He didn't.  He hired an outside contractor to examine the system and the results were the same: When the program was rolled out in the fall, many veterans would suffer because the system was inadequate.

    Did Shinseki inform Congress then?


    He stayed silent.  And nothing was said as fall rolled around.  Then a few problems emerged, a few veterans weren't getting their checks.  These semester checks would cover tuition, rents, etc.  And a few were having problems.  The VA immediately blamed the veterans and the educational institutions.  Their mouthpiece on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Corinne Brown, announced she'd been watching MSNBC at three in the morning and it was time for these institutions to get their act together.

    It wasn't the colleges.

    And as a few turned to many, finally in October, Eric Shinseki revealed that he'd always known there was a problem.  He revealed that October 14, 2009 when he appeared before the House Veterans Affairs Committee. The press didn't care to report that revelation.  Even those who were present ignored it.  For months after that, veterans continued to suffer.  Some families had to postpone Christmas because all the money was being used to cover bills as a result of their still waiting on checks they should have received in August and September.

    This was outrageous.

    Some of the liars in the press today want you to know about the antiquated computers at VA.


    Thanks for that 2006 flashback.

    Shinseki, at the start of his tenure as VA Secretary, was tasked with determining whether or not his computer system would change -- one had to.  DoD and VA were supposed to offer a seamless transition for those going from service member to veteran.  How?  They'd do it with electronic records.  But the two systems couldn't communicate -- this was all determined before Barack Obama was sworn in for his first term as President of the United States.  So one of the two would have to change.

    Shinseki chose not to.  He also sat on this issue that Congress poured billions of dollars into.  He's been Secretary of the VA since 2009.  This was supposed to have been handled immediately.  Robert Gates told him to do what he wanted and the Pentagon would adapt.  Then Leon Panetta became Secretary of Defense.  He told Shinseki that whatever Gates had already approved was fine.  And still nothing.  Then Chuck Hagel becomes Secretary of Defense.

    Something finally happens.

    Hagel's not shedding any tears today over Shinseki's departure. Not after Shinseki tried to blame him to Congress.

    April 11, 2013, Shinseki appeared before the House Veterans Affairs Committee which was irritated by the budget request coming to them late and not coming to them in full because, as they pointed out, what the administration submitted did not include all the costs -- even if you set aside issues of discretionary spending, the VA 'budget' request was a joke.  Ranking Member Mike Michaud noted the money that was being poured into the VA -- others did as well but he's the one who asked for a status on the electronic health record.  And this is where Shinseki chose to lie.  There was no progress, he admitted, but that was because Chuck Hagel hadn't added any input.

    What the hell was that?  It's so high school cafeteria.  Did he think it wouldn't get back to Hagel that the House Veterans Affairs Committee was vocal about the fact that there was no progress on this issue despite the funds provided for it in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and now 2013?

    It had nothing to do with Chuck Hagel.  Good for Hagel that he wasn't going to stay under the bus.  He complained to Barack who had a sit-down with Hagel and Shinseki to ensure that a decision was made and there was no 'confusion' about the status.

    If you're not getting what a little bitch move Shinseki pulled before Congress, grasp that Hagel was confirmed as Secretary of Defense on February 26, 2013.  Not two months later, Shisenski was blaming a multi-year delay to starting the program on Hagel.

    You think this delay doesn't matter?  Iraq War veteran Travis Fugate testified at the Wednesday morning hearing. From his opening statement:

     In 2006, I went for a follow-up visit with an ENT doctor at the Lexington VA Medical Center. The nurse brought him a big stack of my paper military medical files, and he told her, “There’s absolutely nothing relevant that I need in there.” He told me the anatomy of my sinuses was so disfigured, he didn’t know what in my face tissue was natural and what was artificially implanted. He said he wouldn’t feel comfortable doing any further procedures, I trusted that decision because my experience was that the medics and Army doctors are all professionals, and I was used to putting my faith in them.
              For two years, things were OK. I went back to community college, and I started being active with many different disabled sporting events and programs where I had chance to meet other injured OIF veterans, and attended the Blinded Veterans Association national convention in August 2007 and returned to other BVA OIF peer group meetings since.
              Then in November 2008, three weeks before finals, I had to call my dad at 10 p.m. to tell him I thought I had one of those headaches that the doctors at Walter Reed warned me about. They said the damaged sinus and orbit area around my left eye could lead to a severe infection in area around my sighted eye. He took me to the ER, and I was in the hospital for 10 days with a serious infection. The upper left hemisphere of my face was so swollen that my eyelids swelled together, that was the last time I had any sight.
              In December I had been told that when sinus infections cleared maybe some vision would return like before. I strongly believe today the lack of having my eye surgery records in an electronic joint registry where both VA and DOD medical staff can find out immediately what treatments and surgery was done could have made a difference.

              In January, I returned to Walter Reed, where the doctors would have better access to all my surgery trauma records. I saw a retina specialist, and within five minutes, he’d scheduled a five-hour surgery the following day for detached retina and bleeding in left eye. Then, I have had more surgeries, the last one March 6th 2009 where they again tried to save my damaged retina because of another detachment but it failed and have no eye sight since then.

    He strongly believes "the lack of having my eye surgery records in an electronic joint registry where both VA and DoD medical staff and find out immediately what treatments and surgery was done could have made a difference."  2008?  That's before the transition was supposed to take place.  If everyone had gotten on it (the electronic record) sooner, his vision probably could have been saved.  It's very sad that everyone didn't and that he lost his vision.  But this could be any number of veterans with the same issue or others.  That's why the electronic medical record is needed.  And the system's still not up and running.  How many more have to suffer?  The failure to implement this system falls on Shinseki.

    In "Another VA scandal brought to you by Shinseki," Kat reports on the Thursday morning House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing:

    What was being discussed?
    The Eye Injury and Vision Registry of for DoD and the VA.  DoD has added 23,663 names to the list.  The VA?
    One name.
    Let me repeat that, one name.
    1 name.
    As VA admitted in the hearing, they had taken in $6.9 million in funding for this program.  Excuse me, that money was supposed to be the budget for 2010 all the way through this year.
    And they've had the money and they've done nothing.
    But they are looking to hire an independent contractor.
    That's supposed to be good news.
    Benishek's comments were about the five years VA's had money for this and failed to do anything but add one name to the list.

    Do you really think the only failure at VA currently is the issue of secret lists?

    If you're a gasbag or a reporter who never does any work, you may think so.  Those of us who've done the work, who've attended these hearings, know the wait list is only one of many failures at the VA.  We also grasp that the VA has operated under a culture of secrecy.  They tell Congress there's progress, Congress requests proof of that, proof is not supplied and, if the veterans community is lucky, a press expose reveals the VA is lying.  Without that expose, the Congress is repeatedly stonewalled by Congress.

    With the exception of field hearings, I believe I've only missed three Congressional VA hearings since 2006. I'm really not in the mood for lies and I'm especially not in the mood for lies from people who didn't bother to ever attend even one hearing in the last eight years.

    On the Thursday morning hearing, Ruth reported on it in "Blind veteran describes computer issues" and I covered it in yesterday's snapshot and it's noted at the end of "VA did not make providing quality care a primary goal" and "A few comments on Senator Richard Burr."  We were going to cover it today. Hopefully, we'll have room and time.  But Shinseki's resignation and the press spin means we have to go the second hearing yesterday, yesterday afternoon's hearing of the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Disability and Memorial Affairs.

    First, let's note the statement Chair Jeff Miller issued today:

    May 30, 2014

    WASHINGTON, D.C.— Following the announcement of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation, Chairman Jeff Miller released the following statement.

    "Everybody knows Eric Shinseki is an honorable man whose dedication to our country is beyond reproach. I thank him for his legacy of service to our nation. Unfortunately, Shinseki's tenure at the Department of Veterans Affairs will forever be tainted by a pervasive lack of accountability among poorly performing VA employees and managers, apparent widespread corruption among medical center officials and an unparalleled lack of transparency with Congress, the public and the press. Appropriately, Shinseki is taking the brunt of the blame for these problems, but he is not the only one within VA who bears responsibility. Nearly every member of Shinseki's inner circle failed him in a major way. Those who surrounded Shinseki shielded him from crucial facts and hid bad news reports, in the process convincing him that some of the department’s most serious, well documented and systemic issues were merely isolated incidents to be ignored. Eric Shinseki trusted the VA bureaucracy, and the VA bureaucracy let him down.”

    “Right now, VA needs a leader who will take swift and decisive action to discipline employees responsible for mismanagement, negligence and corruption that harms veterans while taking bold steps to replace the department’s culture of complacency with a climate of accountability. VA’s problems are deadly serious, and whomever the next secretary may be, they will receive no grace period from America’s veterans, American taxpayers and Congress.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

    I think that's a fair assessment.  I don't think many -- if any -- believe Shinseki set out to deceive or that he was trying to damage veterans.  He fought some members of Congress (Senator Jim Webb) to get those suffering from Agent Orange the help they need.  That's a major accomplishment and no one can take that away from Shinseki.  We gave him credit for that.  When there were some veterans groups attacking him because a veteran got arrested and would be prosecuted by a relative of Shinseki, we stated here that Eric Shinseki is responsible for his role as Secretary of the VA and he is not responsible for family members carrying out actions in other jobs and positions.

    Shinseki couldn't provide oversight.  He was said to be to easy to please.  He didn't dig for answers.  The next person who heads the VA has to be determined and needs a new staff who will repeatedly probe various programs and various medical centers to ensure that problems within the VA are known at the top.

    Now for yesterday afternoon's hearing.  We're going to the second panel and to Assistant Inspector General for Audits and Evaluations Linda Halliday.

    Disability claims.  How's that going?  Shinseki had said it would be down to 125 days by 2015 -- Fiscal Year 2015 which means October of this year.  Mere months away.  And the number of days currently to process these disability claims?  249.

    But, somehow, by magic?, in five months, that 249 is supposed to drop to 125.

    This is part of the VA problem and where's the press on it?

    With Quick Start claims-processing, Halliday explained, VBA had managed, over the last two years to drop down to 249 days -- from 291.  But in five months, they're going to magically halve the current 249 and have 125?

    That's going to be some feat to pull off.  (No, they're not going to meet the deadline.)

    If you paid attention to her testimony, you saw how it might happen.  VBA wanted to shave off 41 days -- just not count them -- and claim they didn't count.  That's the sort of nonsense that goes to a lack of accountability.  VA gets the numbers they want by lying about the numbers.  That needs to stop immediately.  You can't shave off 41 days, pretend they never took place, just because it will give you better numbers.  Honesty is a core value that needs to be stressed, taught and reinforced at the VA.

    Quick Star has not improved the number of days for these claims -- despite having "quick" in the title -- but maybe it's done something with accuracy?


    In 2011, the accuracy rate was 62%.  Last year, they raised that to 69% which might seem good except the October 1st deadline, when Fiscal Year 2015 kicks off?  Shinseki had pledged Quick Start would have reached 98% accuracy by that point.  So in five months, watch for it, the accuracy rate is supposed to jump from 69% to 98% on Quick Start's disability claims.

    Quick Start aside, the VA's shell game with the backlog.  We called that out when it was presented in a hearing as the big new plan that was going to save every veteran.  Briefly, slap a ruling on a claim and then the claim isn't in the backlog!  No, but it may be in the appeals system.  And that's what's happened.  That is now the fast growing segment on disability claims.  The press is beginning to notice but mainly because VSOs are raising the issue.  But when this came up and we called it out here I noted at one point that if an error was made in the favor of a veteran it should be like a Monopoly card "Bank error in your favor."  And this led to e-mails about how the government couldn't afford it and I noted that the more likely scenario was veterans getting underpayment not overpayments.  In her testimony, Halliday addressed inaccurate claims that had been re-decided.  Here are the amounts through July 2012:  veterans were overpaid $463,000 and veterans were underpaid $2.8 million.

    You can keep that mind as we note this exchange from the hearing. Chair Jon Runyan is the Subcommittee Chair.

    Chair Jon Runyan: As you know, while VBA is reporting timeliness an equal, if not greater, concern is the accuracy for each veteran. VBA is looking at hundreds of thousands of claims. And the veteran is looking at one and only one. Ms. Halliday, accuracy, as highlighted in your testimony, is a serious concern.  I'd like to also ask you a question about of VBA's quality components Start.  You noted that VBA's Start program has several classification errors such as benefit entitlement, decision documentation/notification and administrative.  Mr. Murphy [VA's Thomas Murphy, from the hearing's first panel] responded to an inquiry of Star's failure to count error incidents with potential to effect veterans benefits such as when a claims folder lacked required evidence including medical examination or an opinion needed to make an accurate decision.  Can you comment on that?

    Linda Halliday: Yes, I would appreciate that.  The OIG [Office of Inspector General] uses a broader definition of what constitutes an error.  We report errors that effect veterans benefits as well as those that have the potential to effect veterans benefits in the future if left uncorrected. We think this is important.  It's a veteran-centric approach. We do not feel that the Start program counts all of its errors.  There is a disagreement between what OIG considers an error and how VBA calculates its accuracy rate. I have a couple of examples here that we think might help you understand.  VBA does not consider an incorrect disability evaluation to be a benefit entitlement error unless the error impacted the veterans overall combined disability evaluation.  However, OIG would identify this case as an error because it has the potential to effect the future benefits if left undetected.  And that also has a corresponding effect -- it could effect other programs too as the ratings change.  Also, cases where VBA staff simply do not request or significantly delay requesting the mandatory routine future examinations to determine whether the temporary 100% disability rating should continue, we clearly call an error.  We see a significant financial impact associated with not managing those claims appropriately.  

    Okay, right there is where the gas bags need to be paying attention.

    Cooked books?  How did they get to that point?

    With a long-standing practice of weaseling the truth.

    The OIG is the watchdog for the VA.  If they're calling it an error, it's an error.  Stop fighting the terms and definitions.  More plainly: Stop lying to make yourselves look better.

    Tolerating these lies encourages more fudging and more dishonesty.

    No Department should lie.  But with the VA, the lies just never end.  The next Secretary of the VA should make the announcement that what the OIG defines as an error will be the same definition that the VA will use.

    Some of the gas bags are blaming it on a "vacationing Congress."  Gasbag Brent Budowsky (at The Hill) insists,  "Congress, deeply enmeshed in another one of its many ludicrous recesses of vacationing and fundraising, successfully demanded the head of the general." While Memorial Day was Monday, I've sat through three Congressional hearings this week.  The House Veterans Affairs Committee -- in full and in Subcommittees -- has held three hearings this week.

    Wednesday night's hearing was covered by me in "VA did not make providing quality care a primary goal" and the Thursday snapshot, by Ruth in "VA censors who appears before Congress," by Wally in "Time for a criminal investigation (Wally)" and by Ava in "US House Rep Corrine Brown should retire."

    In those hearings and ones prior, the reality of the VA was on full display.

    We're talking about errors and they can have serious and lasting impact.  The IG found fault, as Halliday testified in the Thursday afternoon hearing, with VA's training of employees on Quick Start.  VA insists that is not the case.  Remember that when the problems with Quick Start continue.

    El Paso is poorly served because it doesn't have a fully functioning VA medical center.  This was noted in the Thursday morning hearing.  US House Rep Beto O'Roarke shared the convoy approach it took to get a prescription filled -- a large amount of travel.  That's an issue that needs to be addressed immediately.

    The US needs more jobs.  The White House should be creating more jobs at VA.

    In that Thursday morning hearing, US House Rep Phil Roe explained why VA doctors were so overloaded. It's not just the issue of the number of patients.  They're also having to do things that a clerical employee could do.  Roe talked about how, at his own medical practice, he could spend 50% of his work day on these tasks -- such as data entry.  The VA needs to be hiring more employees.  This is needed to reduce the workload of doctors (and allow them to focus on patients) and it's needed in a country where so many seeking work are confronted with a lack of jobs.

    Obama says "change of culture" needed at VA.

    Gasbags want to talk VA?  They can start with the issues above.  There are many more but the above are reality based issues as opposed to spin and conventional wisdom.

    I've already offered my opinion that Iraq War veteran and former US Rep Patrick Murphy should be named by Barack as the next Secretary of the VA -- he's got the energy to tackle this, he's got the desire to and he has experience as a veteran and as a member of Congress.  Whomever gets nominated, the issue is not just the secret list.  There is a huge problem with accountability, there is a huge problem with honesty.  The VA needs to start complying with Congressional requests and it needs to stop inventing new definitions for terms like "error" to make itself look better.

    Briefly to Iraq.  Since January, Nouri al-Maliki has been committing War Crimes.  He claims that terrorists are among those people in Falluja.  Falluja is a populated city with many civilians.  Nouri has been bombing it which is collective punishment -- when you attack a populated area because of the presence of 'evil doers.'  It is a legally defined War Crime.  The US government recognizes it as such in treaties and laws.

    Yet they've looked the other way while Nouri's carried out War Crimes by bombing civilian areas of Falluja killing and wounding civilians.

    A White House friend insists they are not looking the other way and notes Vice President Joe Biden's call to Nouri earlier this month as proof since Joe stressed the need to ensure the protection of civilians.

    Well the call obviously did nothing because Nouri's continued to target civilians.

    But I'll be fair and note that point -- much fairer than the White House is to Iraqi civilians.

    NINA reports Falluja General Hospital has been hit with 7 mortars.  This is not the first time Nouri has bombed hospitals in Falluja or even the fist time that he's bombed Falluja General.  Also, NINA reports that Nouri's bombing of the residential neighborhoods of Falluja have left ten people injured today -- two of which were children.

    In other violence, National Iraqi News Agency reports an Aljazeerah roadside bombing left 1 "explosives expert" dead, 2 corpses were discovered in Sharqat (Sahwa), an attack on a Ramadi police station left 2 fighters dead and two more injured,  and 3 women were killed in Wlowash Village when assailants stormed homes,.  All Iraq News adds that 2 Sahwa were killed in Muqdadiya with a third left injured,

    Ban Ki-moon is the United Nations Secretary General.  Nickolay Mladenov is his Special Envoy to Iraq.

    We noted Ghaith Abdul-Ahad's honor earlier this week but it's worth noting again.

    Moving over to England where the Iraq Inquiry has still not released their report from their now years ago hearings.  The big delay of recent months has been correspondence between former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and Bully Boy Bush.   Rowena Mason (Guardian) reports today:

    Tony Blair should ask the Chilcot inquiry to publish his correspondence with George Bush about the Iraq war, as releasing only the "gist and quotes" will allow suspicions to fester, Sir John Major has said.
    The former Conservative prime minister, who lost power to Blair in 1997, said it was a pity the full papers were going to be withheld by the Cabinet Office.
    The Chilcot inquiry has been accused of allowing a whitewash after it struck a deal with ministers to publish the gist of letters between Blair and Bush, but not the full correspondence.
    The publication of the Chilcot report has been overdue for several years, with discussions in recent months focusing on 25 notes from Blair to Bush and 130 records of conversations.

    Robert Fox (The Week) argues the report should be released as is:

    According to The Independent, the report is likely to be emasculated because of America's refusal to allow publication of crucial notes and conversations between George W Bush and Tony Blair (and Gordon Brown when he succeeded Blair).
    This is because Washington claims all records concerning the President of the United States are privileged and not for disclosure in any Tom, Dick and Harry inquiry.
    The upshot is that the passages relating to Bush and Blair's decision to go to war in Iraq will be 'redacted' - inked out on the page. The same is likely to happen to mentions of some 200 meetings with the Blair cabinet and its committees.
    There is now a real likelihood, according to sources close to the Chilcot committee itself, that the report will not be published at all. It is already woefully over deadline, and hugely over budget, costing just shy of £9 million.

    The editorial board of the Guardian offers, "Sir John Chilcot has fought tenaciously for the right to publish the evidence he believes he needs to substantiate his report's conclusions. But there is one other person who could change the game. As the former prime minister Sir John Major has pointed out, it is in Tony Blair's gift to overrule the Cabinet Office and give permission for his correspondence to be released. He has said repeatedly that he wants the report published as much as everyone else. He should make it happen."

    We'll close with this from Anita Little's "NEWSFLASH: One More Reason Why Military Women Need More Protection from Sexual Assault" (Ms. magazine blog):

    Though lawmakers such as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) have done much in the past year to bring the issue of military rape to the forefront of the U.S. Congress, a recent case of sexual assault in the Army shows that there is still a lot of work to be done.
    Staff Sgt. Angel M. Sanchez, who did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been accused of sexually assaulting and harassing a dozen women soldiers during his tenure with the military. A litany of charges against him, starting as early as 2011, were read in a pretrial hearing this week on a military base in Missouri. The charges ranged from forcing a woman soldier to perform oral sex in the barracks to spying on woman soldiers as they showered. Sanchez allegedly used his position to silence his victims, threatening them with dismissal from the Army if they didn’t meet his sexual demands.

    Nouri bombs Falluja General Hospital

    Since January, Nouri al-Maliki has been committing War Crimes.  He claims that terrorists are among those people in Falluja.  Falluja is a populated city with many civilians.  Nouri has been bombing it which is collective punishment -- when you attack a populated area because of the presence of 'evil doers.'  It is a legally defined War Crime.  The US government recognizes it as such in treaties and laws.

    Yet they've looked the other way while Nouri's carried out War Crimes by bombing civilian areas of Falluja killing and wounding civilians.

    A White House friend insists they are not looking the other way and notes Vice President Joe Biden's call to Nouri earlier this month as proof since Joe stressed the need to ensure the protection of civilians.

    Well the call obviously did nothing because Nouri's continued to target civilians.

    But I'll be fair and note that point -- much fairer than the White House is to Iraqi civilians.

    NINA reports Falluja General Hospital has been hit with 7 mortars.  This is not the first time Nouri has bombed hospitals in Falluja or even the fist time that he's bombed Falluja General.

    Who in America will speak out?

    Kathy Kelly is noted in a piece we posted earlier today.  I've always seen Kathy as one of the most worthless people on the left with her faux cheery disposition (I sound like my old friend Bette Davis sharpening her teeth on Celeste Holme -- so be it). She takes such pride in never placing blame -- well blame needs to be placed, when people are dying, the root causes need to be called out.  But what Kathy had to offer was that she supposedly brought that cheery Mommy Teresa of the Left nature to shine a light on the suffering around the world.

    So why has Kathy repeatedly ignored Iraq for the last five or six years?

    And why can't she speak out against the bombings of hospitals, water plants and power plants in Falluja?

    (Because she's really CIA, many would insist.  I don't think so because she lacks the complex intelligence to be CIA.)

    NINA reports that Nouri's bombing of the residential neighborhoods of Falluja have left ten people injured today -- two of which were children.

    Again, who's going to be speaking out in the United States?

    Dennis Bernstein is as silent as Kathy and when Dennis Bernstein won't cry on air for you, pretty much no one will.  (Dennis Bernstein is the host of Flashpoints on KPFA).

    In other violence, National Iraqi News Agency reports an Aljazeerah roadside bombing left 1 "explosives expert" dead, and 3 women were killed in Wlowash Village when assailants stormed homes,.  All Iraq News adds that 2 Sahwa were killed in Muqdadiya with a third left injured,

    The following community sites -- plus Jody Watley,, Pacifica Evening News, ACLU, Jake Tapper and Ms. magazine's blog -- updated:


  • The e-mail address for this site is