Friday, May 01, 2009

Diary entry (brief)

"May Day Hooray" (Hillary Is 44):
We’re too full of joy this first day of May to consider the somewhat surprising Justice Souter resignation (we think the replacement, even with opposition, will likely be Latina Judge Sonia Sotomayo of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals). There is some talk, among Obama supporters eager to bury her, of Hillary Clinton going to the Supreme Court. We doubt that will happen or even be considered by anyone.
* * * * *
We’re too full of joy and love this first day of May to provide a full analysis of the skullduggery and nauseating deceptions and near waste of time associated with the phony balony fake “
credit card bill of rights“.
We simply will not consider, today, this disgusting piece of deception posing as credit card reform. We won’t soil our beautiful minds today or get mired in the filth which is this supposed credit card legislation. We won’t, we won’t, we won’t, disgust ourselves, today, with this filthy bit of credit card garbage and flim-flammery - which does nothing for a year (it takes effect a year from now).
We refuse to dirty ourselves with analysis of this bilge credit card legislation which
pretends to do something but in reality does very little.
We shun the opportunity to discuss, today, this fake credit card “legislation “which Hopium addicts say Obama is “eager” to sign.
We will not discuss, today, the related January 22, 2008 debate (the particularly dirty one in which Obama attacked Hillary and Hillary punched back by finally mentioning Antoin “Tony” Rezko -
our debate coverage HERE and HERE in what we termed “the best debate ever”) and Obama’s laughable response to why he voted AGAINST a cap on credit card interest rates of very high 30%.

Barry O is always a joke. He can't help it. By the way, I highlight Hillary Is 44 fairly frequently and one reason I do is because they're women. Or I think that. It just hit me, while I was copying and pasting and thinking, "Those women are tough!," that they may not be women. I've always assumed they are. Unless I find out otherwise, I'll continue to think so.

Mainly because there's more than enough weak women online. We need more strong women.

So the parents leave tomorrow. The kids have loved it all week. And I know it's going to be hard on them tomorrow when it's time to say goodbyes. I think my daughter (my youngest) will actually have it easiest because she will cry. She won't hide it, she'll cry and be done with it within a half hour.

But the boys? I see them trying to act 'bad' and 'tough' and pretend like it "Ain't no thing." Some movie had that phrase in it and my middle son is repeating it like crazy.

So it will be a rough Mommy day for me tomorrow and that's before I get into how sad I'm going to be to see my parents off. Georgia is so far away these days.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, May 1, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces multiple deaths, Steven Green's War Crimes trial continues, Iraqi refugees see little progress, and more.

Monday July 3, 2006, Sandra Lupien broke the news listeners of
KPFA's The Morning Show, "Steven Green who is discharged from the army was arrested in recent days in North Carolina and faces criminal charges in connection with the killings." It's the fourth news break of that day's broadcast and Steven D. Green is currently and finally on trial in Kentucky. From the July 2, 2006 snapshot: "Lupien also noted the arrest of Steven D. Green. Green, is 21 and was with the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army. Friday, in Asheville, North Carolina, he was arrested and charged with both the four deaths as well as the rape. According to the US government press release, if convicted on the charge of murder, 'the maximum statutory penalty . . . is death' while, if convicted on the charge of rape, 'the maxmium statutory penalty for the rape is life in prison'."

November 2, 2006, the US Justice Dept announced Green had been indicted: "A former Ft. Campbell soldier has been charged with various crimes for conduct including premeditated murder based on the alleged rape of an Iraqi girl and the deaths of the girl and members of her family, Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney David L. Huber of the Western District of Kentucky announced today. Steven D. Green, 21, was charged in the indictment returned today by a federal grand jury in Louisville, Ky., with conduct that would constitute conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit aggravated sexual abuse, premeditated murder, murder in perpetration of aggravated sexual abuse, aggravated sexual abuse on a person less than 16 years of age, use of firearms during the commission of violent crimes and obstruction of justice. The potential statutory penalties for conviction of these offenses ranges from a term of years to life in prison to death."

March 12, 2006, Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, was gang-raped by two US soldiers while a third shot her parents and five-year-old sister dead. The third soldier, Steven D. Green, then joined the the other two soldiers and took part in the gang-rape before shooting Abeer dead and then attempting to set her body on fire. Though four US soldiers are already serving time for the War Crimes, and were tried in military court, another is on trial in a fedearl court. The United States District Court Western District of Kentucky is the location of the ongoing trial of Steven D. Green who has been described as the "ringleader" and fingered as the one who killed all four, a participant in the gang-rape of Abeer and the one who thought up the criminal conspiracy. Green's attorneys do not dispute it but ask that the 'context' of his actions be considered. The trial began Monday.

Among those offering testimony yesterday were Jesse Spielman and James Barker. Barker was tried in a military court and entered a guilty plea. Barker's testimony followed a court order after Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky Candace G. Hill filed a motion which Judge Thomas B. Russell signed off on and it included: "No testimony or other information compelled under this Order (or any information directly or indirectly derived from such testimony or other information) may be used against James Paul Barker in any criminal case, except a prosecution for perjury, giving a false statement, or otherwise failing to comply with this Order." Wednesday, Anthony Yribe testified and Hill also filed a motion to compell his testimony (which Judge Russell also signed off on). Paul Cortez also confessed to his part in the War Crimes and was sentenced by a military court. Hill has also had to file a motion to compell his testimony (which Judge Russel has signed off on). Cortez has yet to testify.Jesse Speilman testified yesterday and was not under court-order.
Brett Barrouquere (AP) quotes Speilman stating on the witness stand that he wasn't aware what the plan was when he joined Green and other soldiers: "I knew we were going to do something. We'd gone and roughed people up before. It's not all that uncomon."As Marcia observed last night:But grasp that he says, "We'd gone and roughed people up before. It's not all that uncommon."The gang-rape and the murders was apparently uncommon; however, the roughing up of Iraqis, the sneaking off base to rough up Iraqis at night was "not all that uncommon."It's a real damn shame so little of the country gives a damn about the March 2006 War Crimes or the trial going on right now because a lot is being learned.Steven D. Green received his GED in 2003 and joined the military in February 2005, shortly after his January 31st arrest. He entered the military on a 'moral' waiver and he was discharged May 16, 2006.

Also testifying yesterday was FBI agent Stewart Kelly.
Evan Bright is reporting on the trial at his blog. Bright reports Kelly testified that Green told him he "knew you guys were coming" and "looks like I'll be spending the rest of my life in prison" after his arrest. Of Spielman's testimony yesterday, Evan Bright reports:

After the lunch recess, Spielman described entering the house and keeping watch while Barker and Cortez separated 14-year-old Abeer from her family. He agreed to hearing three gunshots and that, after asking Green if everything was okay, Green replied "everything's fine", before letting him see the bodies of Qasim, Fakrhiya, and Hadeel. He said he knew they were dead because there was "blood scattered on the wall & part of the father's cranium was missing." Accordingly, Spielman walked out of that room and witnessed the rape of Abeer. The prosecution lent the model of the Al-Janabi house to Spielman for better clarification of the events and how they happened. When an M14 shotgun was brought out for demonstrative purposes, the court enjoyed a moment of humor as Marisa Ford, holding the weapon, declared "Judge, these have all been rendered safe but since I clearly have no clue what I'm doing," "and you're pointing it at me," (D)Wendelsdorf added. Spielman was confused, "I didn't really know what to do," he said, "It was an unsafe area and three out of my four squad members were involved so I couldn't leave and run back to TCP2." He testified to seeing Green unbuttoning his pants and getting down between Abeer's legs and raping her, after which he took a pillow and put it over Abeer's head and fired an AK47 into the pillow, killing her. At this, the defendant was spotted looking down. He then watched Barker pour a liquid onto her body. While her body was burning, he added clothes and blankets to fuel the flames, "to destroy evidence," he said.He continued, describing Cortez & Barker washing their chests and genitalia back at TCP2, and how he himself threw the AK47 into the canal. When asked why he didn't turn his squad members in, he "didn't feel right, telling on people [he] served with." He was also fearful of retaliation from his fellow troops.

Evan Bright is in the courtroom and reporting. Considering all the media silence, ALL THE MEDIA SILENCE, that alone is amazing. When you grasp that Evan Bright is an 18-year-old high school student, it's even more amazing. We'll have an interview with Evan Bright Sunday at Third. Of Yribe's testimony Wednesday, Evan Bright reports:

Yribe spoke of Green's "confession" to the crimes, and of Specialist James Barker's hearing the confession but saying nothing, something that the Defense would later play upon. As he spoke of his realization that Spc. Green was telling the truth, Def. Green anxiously bit his nails. When attorneys asked Yribe why he didn't turn Green in, Yribe murmured, "It was kind of….out of sight out of mind? I didn't understand the gravity of the situation."During his cross-examination, Yribe was, for the most part, accepting and cooperative. As previously mentioned, Yribe was questioned on Barker's presence during Green's "confession" to the murder. The defense made light of Green's confessing that he and he alone did the murders, with Barker saying nothing and confessing to nothing, even though he had every opportunity to do so. Scott Wendelsdorf(D) pondered, "Is it true that if Green had said nothing to you, these crimes would have gone unsolved?" to which Yribe confirmed.

Unless Yribe's confessing to being the company blabbermouth, he has a highly inflated sense of himself. It's also cute how Green's defense wants to talk 'context' and the 'losses' but never want to take accountability for the worst attack on the platoon, June 16th when David Babineau, Kristian Menchaca and Thomas Tucker were murdered. But then if their deaths were on your hands maybe you wouldn't be too honest either?

They died apparently as a result of what was done to Abeer and her family. That is the claim of their assailants. So Green and company might want to try taking a little accountability for their actions. As for Yribe's claim that the crimes would have gone unsolved if Green hadn't spoken to him? Lie. Yribe did confess to Justin Watt but so did Bryan Howard. When Babineau was murdered and Menchaca and Tuker were missing, Watt came foward with what Howard and Yribe were telling him and others. Justin Watt is the whistle blower who stepped forward.
Gregg Zoroya (USA Today) reported that as far back as September 2006. From the October 15, 2008 snapshot:

When did it come to light? In June of 2006. Prior to that the crimes were committed by 'insurgents'.
Gregg Zoroya (USA Today) reported on how Justin Watt (who was not part of the conspiracy) came forward with what he had been hearing. This was while US soldiers Kristian Menchaca and Thomas Tucker were missing and, though the two were not involved in the war crimes, they were the ones chosen for 'punishment' as The Sunday Telegraph revealed in December 2006. Mechaca and Tucker get no special requests to the court. Like Abeer, they're dead. Like Abeer, they were guilty of no crime.

Brett Barrouquere (AP) who has been on the story for close to three years now reports that today saw James Barker continue testifying and that Paul Cortez alos testified. As they did in military courts, they repeated their own involvement in the War Crimes and described Steven Green's role. Barrouquere quotes Barker reflecting on his crimes to the court, "I should have had more sense than that. It was against everything, how I felt, how I was raised. In a way, it was barbaric."

This morning the
US military announced: "AL ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq – Two Marines and one sailor were killed while conducting combat operations against enemy forces here April 30. The names of the service members are being withheld pending next-of-kin notification and release by the Department of Defense." The announcement brings to 4281 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war. CNN observes that April is the deadliest month for US service members in Iraq so far this year, "In April, 18 U.S. troops died in Iraq, according to a CNN count of reported troop fatalities. Sixteen of those troops died in combat." 18 is the current total but it is not uncommon for an announcement or two to surface a few days after the start of the month -- meaning 18 may or may not be the final count for April. Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) observes, "Anbar is an overwhelmingly Sunni province that was the center of the insurgency in Iraq until tribal leaders joined forces with the American military and Iraqi government against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and other extremists in 2006 and 2007. Since then the province has been one of the more stable in the country." Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) provides this context: "The spike in American casualties coincides with a rise in civilian deaths. They come as the U.S. military is retrenching from urban areas, leaving Iraqi security forces in the lead, and as insurgents are stepping up attacks designed to discredit the Iraqi government and the U.S. military." Of the increased violence, Dahr Jamail (at CounterCurrents) explains, "The floodgates of hell have once again been opened, largely as the result of US unwillingness to pressure the Maliki government to back off its ongoing attacks against the US-created Sahwa, which have led to the Sahwa walking off their security posts in many areas, which has been a green light for al-Qaeda to resume its operations in Iraq. In addition, many of the Sahwa forces, weary of not being paid promised wages from the government, as well as broken promises by the occupiers of their country, have resumed attacks against US forces. Again, there doesn't appear to be anything in the short term to indicate these trends will stop."

In other reported violence today . . .


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul "suicide bomber" who took his own life and the lives of 6 others.


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a US home invasion in Tikrit early this morning (one a.m.) in which 2 people were killed: Emad Sleman al Sharqi and Arkan Maseer al Sharqi. Tim Cocks (Reuters) reports 1 police officer was shot dead in Mosul and 1 "bodyguard of a Kurdish politician" was as well.

Cocks also notes that Maj Gen David Perkins declared at a Baghdad press briefing today that US forces might miss the June 30th departure date on Iraqi cities when it comes to Mosul. That date was not supposed to float in the air. Allegedly the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement ruled/demanded that US troops leave ALL Iraqi cities by June 30th. But the treaty was never the 'binding' document that the US government (past and present administrations) or the press led the people to believe. As Seumas Milne (Guardian) observes today, "Not only does it seem all US combat troops will not after all be pulling out of Iraqi cities by the end of June, but there are persistent US hints that "agreement" may be reached with the Iraqi government to stay on after the announced full withdrawal by the end of 2011. The aggressors are clearly not going to go quietly."

Zeina Karam (AP) examines life for Iraqi refugees in Syria and quotes Taghrid Hadi stating, "Life here is better. My children can play outside and I know they'll come back. You never know what's going to happen there." Monday Human Rights First issued a press release which included:
Washington, DC -- Only 4,200 Iraqis with U.S. ties have made it to the United States since 2003, though at least 20,000 have applied, and the number of U.S.-affiliated Iraqis may be as high as 146,000, according to a new report issued today by a leading human rights group.
The report,
Promises to the Persecuted: The Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act of 2008, issued by Human Rights First, examines implementation of this critical legislation. It finds that, despite a Congressional mandate intended to expedite Iraqi refugee processing times, only a small portion of eligible Iraqis have been granted a safe haven in the United States. Based on its findings, Human Rights First urged the Obama administration to examine this issue and clear remaining bureaucratic obstacles to fulfilling America's promise to persecuted Iraqis who worked with the United States in Iraq, as well as to their families.
"Progress has been made since the enactment of the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act in January 2008, but it's not enough. Processing times are unacceptably long, and Iraqis seeking safety in the United States can wait a year or more for their applications to move through the system," says Human Rights First's Ruthie Epstein, who authored the report. "We pin the delays on two problems – inadequate staffing and inefficient security clearance procedures. The result is that thousands of U.S.-affiliated Iraqis are stuck in Iraq and other countries in the region, facing danger and destitution. The absence of direct access to the U.S. refugee program in Syria and Turkey, where the need is significant, exacerbates the problem."
According to the report, U.S. officials successfully established processing for U.S.-affiliated Iraqis under an administration that was reluctant to acknowledge the refugee crisis and in the face of significant logistic and security challenges. But the multi-agency programs are still plagued with procedural barriers.
"In February at Camp Lejeune, President Obama made a commitment to Iraqi refugees. He declared, rightly so, that the United States has a strategic interest and a moral responsibility to act," noted Amelia Templeton, a refugee policy analyst at Human Rights First. "His commitment should begin with a comprehensive evaluation and improvement of the programs designed to provide escape to the very Iraqis who helped the United States."

Seumas Milne (Guardian) observes, "The Iraq war has been a monstrous crime. Based on a false pretext, it has left hundreds of thousands dead, created more than four million refugees, unleashed an orgy of ethnic cleansing and laid waste to the broken infrastructure of a country already on its knees from 12 years of sanctions and a generation of war." Human Rights First [PDF format warning] report notes, "Only a small percentage of the 15, 627 U.S.-affiliated Iraqis who applied directly to the U.S. refugee admissions program and whose U.S. ties have been verified have actually arrived in the United States -- less than 9 percent as of April 22, 2009." The new admissions programs is for those who have assisted the US -- US news outlets, US diplomatic corps or the US military. Elisabeth Witchel (Committee to Protect Journalists) explains:

CPJ supported the legislation, which created a category known as P2 (priority 2) for direct resettlement of Iraqi refugees with U.S. affiliations, including employees of U.S.-based media. The act promised a lifeline to Iraqi journalists, among other eligible groups, who have been targeted and killed in record numbers. However, CPJ shares the concerns detailed in the HRF white paper about the lengthy delays applicants are facing throughout this process.
[. . .]
Journalists applying out of Baghdad have expressed anxiety and frustration to us with unexplained delays and lack of information available to them on the status of their cases. One translator for a major U.S. newspaper submitted her application materials 10 months ago and still has not received so much as an invitation for an interview. She did receive a notice last month requesting she resend some of her documents. She complied and received an auto reply that her case would be reviewed within 10 months. This could mean a 20-month wait before even knowing if she has been confirmed as eligible, let alone the time it takes for the multi-agency security clearance process and Department of Homeland security checks which follow. That is a long time for someone in her shoes.
Like many other journalists and Iraqis at risk for their work, she has moved five times now for her safety; she keeps her occupation secret from family and friends and says she fears discovery every day by militias that consider people who work with Americans to be traitors or spies. Then there is the chance that she will find out after the long wait that she has not been approved. A cameraman for a prominent U.S. television news program was interviewed six months after his application was submitted; he waited another four months to learn that his application was rejected and he must now apply for reconsideration.

It needs to be noted that the process may be a little slower now due to the fact that some journalists (we don't use "media worker" here, they are journalists even if they're 'only' stringers) have been accepted and decided not to leave Iraq. We'll be kind and not provide the link but it was one of the top ten US daily newspapers in the country and it reported on how various Iraqi journalists for their paper were either accepted or in the process and not sure they wanted to leave Iraq. Sahar S. Gabriel is one of the Iraqi journalists accepted via the program. She worked for the New York Times and she posts to the paper's blog since arriving in the US. In her most recent post,
she observed, "On March 18, just after my arrival in the United States, four high schoolers were killed in the state of Michigan. DUI, an expression I had heard so much in TV shows and movies. Four lives ended in a reckless accident caused by a moment of irrationality. A bad decision. This was not a terrorist act or a sectarian killing. This was what is referred to as 'stuff happens,' and it happens everywhere around the world."

Other categories of Iraqi refugees have arrived in the US -- a very small number, to be sure.
Susan B. Wilson (KCUR -- link is audio) reported Monday on Iraqi refugees in Missouri:

Young boy: It's so much fun to be here because it's like you feel you are in your country. You see a lot of people, you see a lot of people that understand you and people that from your country and like you talk with them and you know what they feel and they know what you feel and I think that's really special.

Susan B. Wilson: And how old are you?

Young Boy: Uh, 12.

Susan B. Wilson: And when did you come to America?

Young Boy: About one year ago

Susan B. Wilson: Oh. And what was it like to first come here?

Young Boy: It was like a challenge for me because I didn't know how to speak English so I had to like have to learn English to know how to speak English to talk with people so people can understand me and I can understand people.

Susan B. Wilson: Well you speak English so well, how did you learn?
Young Boy: I learned it from school.

Nina Berman (Mother Jones) also reported on Iraqi refugees this week and she focused on those in Dallas, Texas where she observed, "Rather than making new lives, they are facing unemployment, eviction and isolation." Berman explains, "Each refugee receives $900 from the State Department's Reception and Placement program for initial resettlement to cover housing, clothing, food and necessities for 30 to 90 days. The money is administerd by 10 resettlement agencies that typically use half of it to cover administration and logistics. . . . Beyond that, refugees can get food stamps and Medicaid for eight months, which is a decline from 36 months when the Refugee Act was passed in 1980." Yes, that is embarrassing, yes, the US government should be ashamed of itself.

A large number of the external refugees are Christians due to the targeting of them in Iraq. Monday
Vatican Radio reported on the Iraqi Christians murdered in Kirkuk Sunday.

Lydia O'Kane: Two Christian homes in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk became places of violence on Sunday, leaving 2 women and a man dead. These latest attacks on the dwindling Christian community have left it frightened and also worried about fears of reprisals. The motives behind the attacks remain unclear but police in Kirkuk say the slayings appear to be an attempt by al Qaeda to spark sectarian clashes or scare away the more than 10,000 Christians remaining around the city.

Archbishop of Kirkuk Louis Sako: During the funerals, the church was full by Muslims. The governor, the mayor, the head of the police, the head of the army, the Sheiks [. . .] and also the Imans. And all of them, they condemned such attacks against innocent Christians.

Lydia O'Kane: Archbishop of Kirkuk Louis Sako who condemned the killings said he's received support from other religious denominations.

Archbishop of Kirkuk Louis Sako: After the funeral, they gave speeches about the humanity and the harmony of all the groups in the city. And also I asked Muslims, the Shia and Sunni and other ethnic groups, to be united. To be united and to protect each other in the same neighborhood. I hope that will work.

Lydia O'Kane: In light of the murders round the clock security patrols and checkpoints have been increased around Christian areas in the country including the city of Mosul which has faced the brunt of attacks including a string of bombings and execution style slayings in late 2008 blamed on Sunni insurgents. Iraq's Christians who numbered about one million in the early eighties are now estimated at about half that as families flee warfare and extremists attacks that target their churches and homes. I'm Lydia O'Kane..

Monday also saw
Azzaman offered an editorial on the murders which noted, "The killing of [three] Christians in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk has sent shivers of fear in the Christian minority in the volatile northern city of Mosul. A few months ago more than a dozen Christians were killed in Mosul, forcing a big Christian exodus to surrounding villages and towns. Mosul, Iraq's second most populous city is under the control of insurgents fighting U.S. and Iraqi troops. Observers believe the city has emerged as a bastion for al-Qaeda in Iraq. Many of Mosul Christians have returned but some say they now fear for their lives." Eric Young (Christian Post Reporter) reminds, "Since 2003, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled to neighboring countries and some 750 Christians have been killed in Iraq, according to Archbishop Louis Sako, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Kirkuk." World Magazine reports on the three funerals held in Kirkuk Monday which were attended by the province's governor Mustafa Abdulraham and presided over by Archbishop Sako whose church the three had attended: "Besides crowds of mourners, Christian clergy from across the city as well as government officials attended the service in the ethnically mixed city, which has repeatedly been forced to delay a referendum on whether it will join the Kurdish government to the north or remain part of the Baghdad administration to the south. A U.N. commission has just completed a report on the region, which sits atop most of Iraq's oil reserves. It calls for a negotiated settlement that leaves the province intact. The outcome of the dispute will go a long way toward determining whether Iraq will continue with a strong centralized government in Baghdad once U.S. forces begin their departure. Many believe the attacks are aimed at undoing current negotiations."

The US has done little (that includes the current administration) to aid Iraqi refugees. Many of the external refugees flee to neighboring countries with Jordan and Syria having the largest numbers of Iraqi refugees.
Syria Today reports, "The Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) and Danish embassy opened a new counseling centre for Iraqi refugees in Damascus on April 29." James Cogan (WSWS via CounterCurrents) notes, "There are 1.2 million Iraqi refugees in Syria, 500,000 in Jordan, 200,000 in other Gulf states and upwards of 50,000 in both Lebanon and Egypt. Relief agencies and charities report that after years of exile, conditions for many of the refugees are dire. Whatever money or assets they had has been spent, and in most of the host countries the Iraqis are not legally allowed to work."

In other news, Iraq War veteran and Iraq Veterans Against the War co-chair
Adam Kokesh announces he's running for Congress:

Since I was first politically active, people have been encouraging me to run for Congress, including a recent effort to "draft" me to run ( We need rallying points to keep our movement invigorated and growing, and if a run for Congress from my home town of Santa Fe can serve as one, I will gladly step up. In that spirit, I am excited to announce the formation of the Kokesh for Congress Exploratory Committee. While I am asking for your financial support in this effort, I want to make it clear that I am willing to make the personal sacrifices necessary to raise the standard of our national leadership. If elected, I will not accept the Congressional salary of approximately $170,000, but only the national average income. It is unbearable in these difficult times, for Congress to tell the American people what is best for us economically while they vote themselves another pay raise and burden our children with impossible debt. Enough is enough! There is a temporary website up now at Please sign up and donate there as we prepare for the launch of a complete site on June 1st. It is time once again to draw the line between patriots and loyalists. I am a patriot because I am committed to the ideals of liberty and equality this country is destined to achieve, loyal to no false authority. I know that much more than political resistance is required to achieve a paradigm shift, but we can do no wrong standing up for what we know to be morally right. Regardless of my decision, I remain eternally committed to the cause of liberty.

Independent journalist
David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press). At The Nation, he and Bill Ong Hing explore efforts to further punish immigrant workers:

For more than two decades it has been a crime for an undocumented worker to hold a job in the United States. To enforce the prohibition, agents conduct immigration raids, of the kind we saw at meatpacking plants in the past few years. Today, some suggest "softer," or more politically palatable, enforcement--a giant database of Social Security numbers (E-Verify). Employers would be able to hire only those whose numbers "verify" their legal immigration status. Workers without such "work authorization" would have to be fired. Whether hard or soft, these measures all enforce a provision of immigration law on the books since 1986--employer sanctions--which makes it illegal for an employer to hire a worker with no legal immigration status. In reality, the law makes it a crime for an undocumented worker to have a job. The rationale has always been that this will dry up jobs for the undocumented and discourage them from coming. Those of us who served on a United Food and Commercial Workers commission that studied Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids at Swift meatpacking plants across the country learned that the law has had disastrous effects on all workers. Instead of reinforcing or tweaking employer sanctions, we would be much better off if we ended them.

TV notes,
Washington Week begins airing tonight on many PBS stations (check local listings) and finds Gwen sitting around the table with Spencer Hsu (Washington Post), Alexis Simendinger (National Journal), David Wessel (Wall St. Journal) and Jeff Zeleny (New York Times). Expect some easy-breezy Cover Girl makeup 'analysis' of Arlen Specter and a ton of bad jokes. (Seriously, expect a ton of bad jokes.) Also on PBS (and starts airing tonight on many PBS stations, check local listings), Bonnie Erbe sits down with Bay Buchanan, Donna Edwards, Princella Smith and Jessica Valenti to discuss this week's news on To The Contrary. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:Amazon CrudeEcuadorians are suing oil giant Chevron, the owner of Texaco, because they say oil drilling in the Amazon jungle by Texaco polluted their fragile environment. Scott Pelley reports.
Reeducating Osama Bin Laden's DisciplesSaudi Arabia, the native country of most of the 9/11 terrorists, says it is attempting to change the mindsets of jhadists formerly loyal to Osama bin Laden through a re-education program. David Martin reports. Watch Video
All In The FamilyThe Antinoris have been in the wine business for 600 years – maybe the oldest family business on earth -- reports Morley Safer, from its vineyards in Tuscany, Italy. Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, May 3, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

sandra lupien
the morning showbrett barrouquere
justin wattgregg zoroyausa today
the washington posternesto londono
the new york timessteven lee myers
sahar s. gabriel
nina bermansusan wilsonkcureric young
dahr jamail
adam kokesh
60 minutescbs newspbsto the contrarybonnie erbe
david bacontim cocks

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Diary entry

A lot of you know from my guest blogging at other sites (back when this was an online novel about Betinna Friedman) and from roundtables and other things at Third that I don't date. I'm a single mother and early on after I became one I tried to juggle and it didn't work. Fortunately, I hadn't gotten into a relationship (weak or serious) so it was no great loss to end it. But I know what I can handle and what I can't. And I made the decision that I'd wait until my children were a certain age.

They aren't there yet.

But every now and then someone e-mails me to ask if I'm still not dating and, if I recognize you, I usually mail back, "What are you? My parent?" (I e-mail back more than that, but I do open with that.) So my parents are visiting and I thought those of you who'd wondered over the years would get a kick out of this. When I lived so close that they could walk or drive, they knew I wasn't dating. They'd encourage me to consider it. But they knew my decision.

So, now due to my job promotion and transfer, I'm in California now and they are asking me about it?

Like anything changed?

I guess they thought, "Betty's got no parents around, her sisters won't know, she'll just start dating and not say a word!"

It made me (and makes me laugh). My father mentioned it last night. He said that he and my mother could hang out with the kids and I didn't need to stay here, I could go out and see who ever I was dating.

I told him, on Wednesdays I'm dating Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Seriously, that's my big Wednesday activity, watching The New Adventures of Old Christine on CBS.

They are here and they're leaving Saturday. (C.I. called them and told them they should leave during the day because it would be easier on my kids in terms of getting to say goodbye and deal with the goodbye after. C.I. also told them that there's plenty of room and they could stay longer but they're eager to get back home. They did take C.I. up on the offer to come back in July, however.) So this is just a short post from me.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Thursday, April 30, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, bombings continue throughout Iraq, Robert Gates wants money, money, money, there is no real improvement in veterans' health care in the US, Thomas E. Ricks respond to someone's Cliff Notes, England is kind-of out of Iraq (kind-of), two US soldiers testify against Steven D. Green in his War Crimes trial, Ryan Crocker says the US may be in Iraq past 2011, and more.

Tony Capaccio (Bloomberg News) reported that US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee -- as did US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- and he asked for the 'supplemental' funding of the Iraq War and Afghanistan War (an $83.4 billion request) to be pushed through "as quickly as possible" because by the end of next month, he claims, "we will need to consider options to delay running out of funds" if the 'supplemtnal' is not approved. The money is also needed for Pakistan -- a country the US is not officially at war with but one in which the newly sworn in President Barack Obama bombed as one of his first acts of office. Don't confuse the supplemental with the money the DoD is begging for to carry out wars in fiscal year 2010. That's other money, more money. The US tax payer money which will go down the sinkhole as well. This morning US Senator Carl Levin noted that FY 2010 request at the start of the Senate Armed Services Committee which he chairs, "Most of the changes will no doubt be in the detailed budget for 2010 that we now expect next Thursday and we're also planning on Secretary Gates testifying on that detailed budget the following Thursday which is two weeks ago today." [I left shortly after that to attend a hearing on veterans. Kat has some stuff she intends to note tonight on this hearing which she attended all the way through. Tuesday the snapshot covered the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's hearing on the War Powers Resolution of 1973 and Kat shared her thoughts on the hearing here and here she shared her thoughts on last Thursday's House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs.]

Most likely the DoD will get all the money they have asked for and they will get with little to no oversight. Underfunded is every other area in American life including veterans health care. And the funding is only part of the problems, there is also the refusal on the part of the VA to be accountable and the refusal on the part of Congress to hold the VA accountable. This morning, US House Rep Michael Michaud declared, "We are here today to talk about the VA's progress on meeting the mental health needs of our veterans. Specifically, we will discuss issues of funding and implementation of the Mental Health Strategic Plan and the Uniform Mental Health Services Handbook." He was bringing the US Veterans' Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on Health hearing to order (
click here for his opening statement) and, before the hearing was over, everyone would learn just how little was being accomplished by the VA. The issue of the quality of health care for veterans and those serving was the topic of yesterday morning's House Armed Services Committee's Military Personnel Subcommittee hearing chaired by US House Rep Susan Davis (noted in yesterday's snapshot) as well as yesterday afternoon's US Senate Committee on Armed Services' Personnel Subcommittee hearing. We're going to jump back and forth between this morning's House Subcomittee and yesterday's Senate Subcommittee.

An the morning hearing, Adrian Atizado (Disabled American Veterans) thanked the Veterans' Affairs Subcommitee and the Congress for their "continued support" but then noted, "Nevertheless we believe much still needs to be accomplished to fulfill our obligations to those who have serious mental illness and post-deployment mental health challenges." And you have to wonder why that is?

Yesterday's Senate Armed Subcommittee hearing featured opening remarks by Chair Ben Nelson and Ranking Member Lindsey Graham. Senator Nelson noted that, "We all remember February 18, 2007. The day the first in a series of articles appeared describing problems faced by our wounded warriors receiving care in out patient status. Many of these service members who are wounded or injured in service to our nation were living in substandard facilities, were unaccounted for and were fighting there way through a bungled, adversarial administrative process to rate their disabilities. After they left DoD care, they had to start all over with the VA and many fell through the cracks in the transition. And as a result of these articles and various reports on wounded warriors transition policies and programs, Congress passed the Wounded Warriors Act which was incorporated into the Fiscal Year 2008 National Defense Authorization Act. The Wounded Warrior Act, among many other things, required the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to work jointly to implement a comprehensive set of policies to improve the care, management and transition of recovering, wounded, ill and injured service members."

The February 18, 2007 article Nelson was referring to was Dana Priest and Anne Hull's "
The Other Walter Reed" (Washington Post) -- click here for the Post's Walter Reed articles and Priest, Hull and photographer Michel du Cille won the Pulitzer for their coverage. Senator Graham noted in his opening remarks, "People care a lot. There's a lot of bureaucracy out there that cares a lot, we've just go to get it focused on doing the best job it can." That was only underscored this morning in an exchange during the final panel as US House Rep Jerry Moran asked the VA's Dept Chief Consultant from the Office of Mental Health Services about something that should have been implemented some time ago.

US House Rep Jerry Moran: The question is, it's been nearly two-and-a-half years since the Veterans Benefits, Health Care and Information Technology Act of 2006 was signed into law. The legislation added licensed marriage and family therapists, MFTS, and licensed professional mental health counselors, LPC, to the list of eligible VA health care providers. I thought at the time that they would provide -- this would be a great opportunity for the VA to expand its ability to meet the needs of veterans and have championed this cause but, two-and-a-half years later, I've seen little evidence that the VA has actually implemented the law. Is there an explanation? A justifable explanation for the delay or am I misunderstood -- understand the situation?

Dr. Amptmette Zeiss: Well we welcome the question. We welcome the question. At this point, we have met extensively with the professional organizations that represent both licensed professional counselors and marriage and family therapists through our office in mental health and have been very impressed with the potential to add these professionals to the team that would serve veterans. The -- the issues are with Human Resources. The law also stated very clearly that new titled -- hybrid titled 38 job series needed to be created for each of these, that they were not -- the law did not allow them to enter through the mechanism of other existing series. So there are a number of licensed professional counselors and marriage and family therapists who work in VA under other series and that has continued to increase and we look forward, as you do, to HR reaching the point of having the qualification standards developed and having the hybrid title 38 job series in place so that they can be hired directly under the auspices of their professions.

US House Rep Jerry Moran: So there's no impediment from the health care side of VA? This is what I would describe as the bureaucratic process of bringing these people onto the payroll?

Dr. Amptmette Zeiss: We do not -- yeah, we certainly support this and have tried to be very available to these organizations and to feed forward information to support the process of developing these new hybrid title 38 job series.

US House Rep Jerry Moran: Mr. Chairman, we've been through this numerous times. We've tried to add professional categories to the VA's list of appropriate providers. Chiropractors are one [example]. It is an enormous undertaking apparently and I would welcome anyone on the committee who would like to work with me to see if we can't get the VA to move in a more expeditious manner. I think this is important. While we're sitting her talking about the lack of professionals, there's an opportunity for these services to be provided and yet, because of the nature of the VA and it's credentially and accounting process, it's not happening. And I think it's not only disappointing to me, to the professionals who want to provide the services, but more important it means that there are veterans who could be served but are not because of the bureaucratic nature of the VA's process.

"Every American wants us to get this right. This has got nothing to do with party politics," Senator Graham declared yesterday with Senator Nelson agreeing "there's nothing partisan about the need for care for our men and women and their families who serve our country in so many ways." So why is it that nearly three years after something should have been implemented, it's not? Don't give that crap about Human Resources. Congress might buy it but no one else will. Congress doesn't work in the real world. They're removed from the day-to-day. Anyone working in any remotely corporate or government setting, however, damn well knows that it doesn't take a year to -- or even six months -- to write up a new classification for employees. More importantly, when you're instructed to do so by Congress, it shouldn't even take you three months to do so. Moran was polite and nice to Dr. Zeiss and he shouldn't have been. There was no reason to or to ask her to work with him on this. As the Deputy Chief Consultant, it is her job to ensure that the process is moving along and if and when it's not, she either makes it move along or she screams bloody murder to Congress to let them know it's not working. She certainly doesn't wait two-and-a-half years to bring it up -- and then only because she was asked. That's ridiculous.

But ridiculous was who else was on the panel with her this morning. Yesterday, Senator Graham was rightly noting that we should (he said "would") hold people who are supposed to be providing the care responsible for the level of care they provide. Well then explain how Ira Katz not only sat on the fourth panel but remains employed by the VA?

Exactly one year ago US Senators Daniel Akaka and Patty Murray (who both serve on the Senate Vetarans Affiars Committee, with Akaka being the Chair) were calling for Katz to be fired. Why the hell is he still employed by the VA? For those who've forgotten, you can refer to this original CBS New report, this update and
this report by CBS News' Pia Malbran which notes:

For months, CBS News has been trying to obtain veteran suicide and attempted suicide data from the VA. Earlier this year, the agency provided CBS News with data that showed there were a total of 790 suicide attempts in all of 2007 by veterans who were under the VA's care. On February 13, however, Katz sent an e-mail indicating the total number of attempts was much higher.
The e-mail was addressed to his top media advisor Everett Chasen and entitled, "Not for the CBS News Interview Request." Katz wrote: "Shh! Our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about 1000 suicide attempts per month among veterans we see in our medical facilitates." He then asked "is this something we should (carefully) address ourselves in some sort of release before someone stumbles on it?" In another e-mail message, Katz told the VA's Under Secretary for Health, Michael Kussman, that there are "about 18 suicides per day among America's 25 million veterans." This is a figure that the VA has never made public.

And let's drop back for the
April 25, 2008 snapshot:

Thursday on the Senate floor, during a vote on the Veterans' Benefits Enhancement Act, Murray stated the following:

And just this week, we got more evidence that the Administration has been covering up the extent of the toll this war has taken on our troops. Internal e-mails that became public in a court hearing show that the VA has vastly downplayed the number of suicides and suicide attempts by veterans in the last several years. Last November, an analysis by CBS News found that over 6,200 veterans had committed suicide in 2005 -- an average of 17 a day.
When confronted, VA officials said the numbers were much lower. But according to the internal e-mails from the VA's head of Mental Health -- Dr. Ira Katz -- 6,570 veterans committed suicide in 2005 -- an average of 18 a day. The e-mails also revealed that VA officials know that another 1,000 veterans -- who are receiving care at VA medical facilities -- attempt suicide each month.
Mr. President, these numbers offer tragic evidence that our nation is failing thousands of veterans a year. And they reflect an Administration that has failed to own up to its responsibilities, and failed even to own up to the true impact of the war on its veterans.
What is most appalling to me is that this is not the first time the VA has covered up the problems facing veterans who sacrificed for our country. Time and again, the VA has told us one thing in public -- while saying something completely different in private. It is outrageous to me that VA officials would put public appearance ahead of people's lives. Yet, Mr. President, it appears that is what has happened again.
When we -- as members of Congress -- sit down to determine the resources to give the VA, we must have a true picture of the needs. And if there's a problem, we have to act. It's our duty -- and the duty of the Administration -- to care for veterans. By covering up the true extent of that problem, the VA has hindered our ability to get those resources to the veterans who need them. That is irresponsible, and it's wrong.

Senator Daniel K. Akaka has joined Murray in calling for Ira Katz' resignation.
So why is he offering testimony to Congress this morning and why the hell should anyone believe a word he says? April 24, 2008, Senator Murray questioned the VA's deputy chief and explained, "I used to teach preschool, and when you bring up a 3-year-old and tell them they have to stop lying, they understand the consequences. The VA doesn't." And when people like Ira Katz remain in their jobs, they never will understand the consequences. The most embarrassing moment in this morning's hearing -- and there were many -- was when US House Rep Jerry McNerney declared, "Dr. Katz, I certainly want to thank you for your service to our country through our veterans." What world is he living in? In what world has Dr. Katz earned a "thank you" for his "service . . . through our veterans"? He hasn't been and what that indicates is McNerney needs to do a lot more work before showing up at hearings. That is shameful and it is offensive. The man should have been fired. Bad enough that he wasn't. But he certainly hasn't done a damn thing to warrant public praise from the Congress.

US House Rep Vic Snyder: In your statements you make reference to the need to perhaps add other employees to CBOC [Community Based Outpatined Clinic] to handle mental health issues is -- did I read your statement right?

Ira Katz: Well there's been extensive enhancements in VA mental health staffing including staffing in CBOC.

US House Rep Vic Snyder: How do you -- how do you do that when those are private contractors that have got a set amount of overhead? You can't just pick up the phone and say, 'Put on two more people.'

Ira Katz: Some clinical based -- some community based outpatient clinics are contract based. Most are VA owned and operated with federal employees.

US House Rep Vic Snyder: So you don't do that to the ones that are contract based?

Ira Katz: We're committed to enhancing services, ensuring we provide or make available the services that veterans need. Whether we provide them by VA employees, by contract or fee based or other mechanisms.

US House Rep Vic Snyder: May I just add for the record then, why don't you respond to the question: How do you do an enhancement of mental health services at a privately contracted CBOC since they have a contractual arrangement with a set overhead?

Ira Katz: I will have to take that for the record, thank you.

How typical for Ira Katz, unable to answer a question. The Office of Inspector General's Dr. Michael Sheperd (testifying on the third panel) noted, "One of the issues which we cited and which the previous panel cited is, for example, in terms of provisions of evidence based treatments for PTSD. In the absence of knowing who you've provided these treatments to, whether they've done part of these treatments, completed these treatments, whether they've opted not to pursue these treatments -- in the absence of a data system that's able to capture that, you really down the road don't know -- you don't have the structure you need to make outcome judgments in terms of evidence based therapies for PTSD." Considering Ira Katz' history and the VA's history in general on PTSD, it's very difficult to see this problem as anything but an effort to distort the 'help' being given for PTSD and make it appear far more sufficient than it actually is. Dr. Sheperd note, "We think there's a real urgent need for VA to adjust their data [. . .] to allow for what type of services were provided, not just that a service was provided." And it's a real shame that obvious point has to come from outside the VA. Dropping back to yesterday's Senate Subcommittee, many important stories were shared on the first panel which was made up of veterans and the spouses of veterans. We'll note this exchange because it does go to the huge costs that are pushed onto veterans and their families. Kimberly Noss is the wife of Scot Noss. Scot Noss was 29-years-old and serving in Afghanistan when the MH-47Chinook Helicopter he was flying in crashed February 18, 2007. Kimberly Noss was on the first panel.

Senator Kay Hagan: Dr. Noss, I have a question for you. You husband is currently, I think you said, is in Tampa, so he's still in the -- in care?

Kimberly Noss: Yes, he is. He's still in patient in Tampa, the Polytrauma Unit.

Senator Kay Hagan: And what do you -- when he -- will he leave? Will he be sent some place else? What's his long term prognosis of where he might go?

Kimberly Noss: He's going home with me.

Senator Kay Hagan: He'll be able to come home?

Kimberly Noss: Well we're going to make it where he can come home. I don't believe in putting him in a nursing facility for a long term.

Senator Kay Hagan: Well then from the standpoint of any sort of financial help to you at that point and time, what is -- what is the VA established for that?

Kimberly Noss: They do have a benefit package that Scott will receive every month and it is a substantial amount of money; however, the net income will be -- will be small because you have to take into consideration our bills that we will incur in a month. For example, I know of a family who has a quadriplegic -- he's quadriplegic and he's on a vent and because of the 24 hour having power source, the venelator, and his bed -- has a special type of bed that's hooked up to power, they're electric bill is over a thousand dollars a month. And because of that, the special care that Scott's going to have to receive because of his injuries, even though the essential amount of benefit money that will come in per month, what we're going to have to pay for bills is large so the net is going to be small.

Katz will remain in his job, the Noss family and many others will continue to struggle but Robert Gates will get every dime (of American tax payer money) he is requesting. There have been no changes in our national priorities. Bully Boy Bush has been replaced with Bully Boy Barack and any differences between the two are merely cosmetic. Last night Barack held a press conference.
Corinne Reilly and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) note Barack falsely asserted last night that "civilian deaths . . . remain very low compared to what was gong on last year." The reporters explains that "statistics kept by McClatchy show that in Baghdad alone, more than 200 people have been killed in attacks so far this month, compared with 99 last month and 46 in February, according to a McClatchy count. The last time McClatchy recorded more than 200 civilian deaths in one month in the capital was more than a year ago, in March 2008." Sam Dagher and Sudad al-Salhy (New York Times) note that throughout Iraq this month, the number of Iraqis killed thus far comes to "at least 300". Violence has been on the increase in Iraq starting in February after the latest waves of Operation Happy Talk told us January was a turned corner and peace was blooming like daises throughout Iraq. Yesterday's violence, and the pattern of last week's as well, led to a stark discussion on MSNBC Wednesday morning:

Brian Williams: [Speaking over video of the carnage from Wednesday's Baghdad bombings] We are back as part of this day long discussion of the Obama presidency this is an inextricable part of that. 41 people dead. New violence Sadr City this morning. That section of Baghdad that was in the news for so long for good reason. Seventy injuries here. As I said before the break, we are fortunate that our chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel has chosen to spend a little of his home leave with us here in New York before leaving again for Pakistan this coming Saturday. Richard's here with us in the studio. It's interesting watching you back in your home newsroom where we're all forced to communicate with you by telphone and home computer while you're away. People actually get to see you and talk to you. Invariably they say, 'Tell me what do you make of Iraq these days?' And what do you tell them? Richard Engel: I'm actually very concerned about what's going on in Iraq right now. We could be in the situation where there's the eye of the storm. Where things are quiet but it's starting to brew around the edges and it's starting to take -- to take force. The conflict in Iraq right now is at a very important turning point. It is the transition from a combat role, a war fighting role to a training role. Brian Williams: What everybody feared. Richard Engel: And the danger is that it's going to be an unclear mission for US troops. US troops are now confined mostly to their bases. What's going to happen in June is that they will legally be confined to their bases in most Iraqi cities and will only be able to operate with a warrant. Now we're seeing the Iraqi government flexing its muscles and the prime minister of Iraq, Maliki, is threatening to prosecute some American soldiers who were involved in a mission that the Iraqis say resulted in civilian casulities. So we're entering a grey area and I think that is a troubling thing considering that you have more than 100,000 troops on the ground.

On yesterday's violence,
Sam Dagher and Sudad al-Salhy (New York Times) review some of the hypotheses floating around Iraq: Ba'athists, al Qaeda in Mesopotami and/or Americans are responsible for yesterday's Sadr City bombings. Ernesto Londoño and Qais Mizher (Washington Post) offer Iraqi MP Ahmed al-Masudi who believes it is "Sunni extremists aided by Western intelligence agencies". Saif Hameed and Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) quote Adnan Dawood who was wounded in the Sadr City bombings who asks, "How is this possible? There are three entrances to Sadr City and all are overseen by army checkpoints. What is the army dong? Are they there for only oppressing and arresting people?" And they quote eye witness Sabah Mohammed stating, "The army is not playing its role. When the army first came to Sadr City, I was happy, but now all they care about is hitting on girls and women. They don't inspect incoming cars. They only inspect them if there are women inside." Joel Brinkley (McClatchy Newspapers) sees puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki as as bearing the "primary resposibility for the violence" due to the fact that he's done very little for Iraq as a whole but a great deal for his own greedy ass: "His primary golas in office have been to protect the nation's Shiite citizens while also enriching himself and his aides. On his watch, Iraq's government has grown to be one of the two or three most corrupt on Earth." The violence continues today . . .


Laith Hammoudi and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report four Baghdad roadside bombings which left a total of thirteen people injured, a Mosul roadside bombing which left two people wounded and three Mosul roadside bombings last night which left eight people injured.


Laith Hammoudi and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report 1 Iraqi soldiers hot dead in Mosul and a KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) guard was shot dead in Mosul.


Laith Hammoudi and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report 3 corpses discovered in Tal Afar.

The plan was to cover Iraqi refugees today. There is no room for it. The topic will be covered in Friday's snapshot, my apologies.

March 12, 2006, Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, was gang-raped by two US soldiers while a third shot her parents and five-year-old sister dead before joining in the gang-rape and shooting Abeer dead after. This morning, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted, "The trial of a former soldier accused in the 2006 rape and murder of an Iraqi teenager and the killing of her family has begun. Steven Green is accused of being the ringleader in raping and killing fourteen-year-old Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi and killing her parents and five-year-old sister. Green is being tried in a Kentucky civilian court. Three soldiers have already been sentenced to life in prison in the case." It would have been nice if Goodman could have called them War Crimes because that is what they are. But Goodman covered it. If only a headline, she did cover it and that only brings home how pathetic everyone else has been. KPFA Evening News, Free Speech Radio News and The KPFA Swine Flu Morning Show (seriously, listen to the daily garbage that crap-fest has offered this week) can't be bothered. They are far from alone. At (Democratic) Women's Media Center, you can find a bad piece of fluff written by Melissa Silverstein this week about a rape . . . in movies. (We'll leave it for others to debate whether or not it's rape, I haven't seen the film, I don't see any of Seth Rogan's films for obvious reasons.) Melissa Silverstein wants you to know that this is Sexaul Assault Awareness and Prevention month and what better way for her and Women's Media Center to observe that than by getting all worked up over a film that bombed at the box office? What better way? How about covering the trial?

I'm sorry, did Kentucky outlaw women? Maybe their borders were closed? Something to do with Swine Flu? If so, I'm sure The Morning Show is, or soon will be, on it with a half-hour segment. But a border closing must be why we're getting no news on the case from Women's Media Center. Or from Feminist Wire Daily. And what about our
Mud Flap Girls? The ones who put the woah-is-me into 'do-me' feminism? The chicky-baby-boom-booms of Baby Jessica's Feministing have gone all damn week without ever noting the trial. The losers of Feministe? Not a word. And unlike when Sandra Day O'Connor announced her retirement, no one can claim they were too busy posting vaction pictures of themselves in bikinis for two weeks to bother cover it. Feminist Law Professors? Apparently War Crimes don't interest the gals. Melissa McEwan and her posse of useless at Shakesville? Not a damn word. But cat blogging and baby photos they have time for. Being useless they always have time for.

Paul Cortez and James Barker were tried in military courts and entered pleas of guilty. Jesse Spielman was convicted in a military court of mutliple charges (rape, intent to rape, felony murder, etc.). Brian L. Howard entered a guilty plea to being an accessory. Yesterday Anthony Yribe offered testimony. Iran's Press TV reports Yribe stated that Steven Green had bragged of the War Crimes to him not once but twice "hours after the March 12, 2006 attack and again the next day."
Press TV notes: "Also on Wednesday, jurors saw photos taken by Yribe hours after the attack. The photos showed a mother, father and small girl lying in pools of blood with shotgun wounds. Other photos showed badly charred and barely recognizable human remains." AFP notes Yribe stated he didn't believe Green at first, "I wanted to know if he was serious or if it was just him talking. He said he was serious. He said he had done it alone. I said, 'You're dead to me, man.' I said that he needed to get out of the army and that if he didn't do it, that I was going to help him." Yribe didn't reveal the War Crimes. Asked why, he replied, "He's one of my brothers. I'm not going to tell on him. I'm half way protecting him and I half way didn't believe him . . . I don't know if I was just being naïve or what." Brett Barrouquere (AP) continues his years of coverage on this story and notes that the jury was shown photos Yribe took (as part of the military investigation) "hours after the attacks" when everyone (except those involved and Yribe) thought 'insurgents' were responsible for the crimes. Barrouquere notes, "Green sat at the defense table, rubbing his eyes, staring at Yribe and looking around the room." Today Jesse Spielman testified. AP notes that his testimony included their use of "ninja suits" and "ski masks" while executing the War Crimes. These were War Crimes and the silence among the faux feminists online goes a long way to explaining so many of the problems with the so-called third wave -- a subset who is happy to write about rape or domestic violence if they can find a film or a celebrity (Rhianna?) but can't manage to move their fat fingers across the keyboard when the victim's not going to be covered by Perez or TMZ.

England has officially ended 'combat operations' in Iraq today. So all the UK troops have been sent home! No. And it's not over for England. They've just drawn down from 4,000 to a lower number and will most likely keep at least 400 UK soldiers stationed in Iraq for five more years. The
Telegraph of London notes that 179 UK soldiers died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war (and they list all 179). James Hider (Times of London) reports on the ceremony at Basra Airport today which included the lowering of the British flag and which was attended by the UK Secretary of Defence John Hutton. CNN notes, "While Britain began closing down the combat operations in Basra, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was in Britain for a meeting with his counterpart, Gordon Brown. The two discussed opening Iraq up to more investment opportunities." An inquiry into the illegal war has long been promised and postponed in England. The Telegraph of London notes that Conservative MP David Cameron immediately began calling for the inquiry and quotes him stating, "Now after years of foot dragging, I believe it is the time for the Government to announce a proper Franks-style inquiry. Instead of starting in many months' time, it should start right now." The paper's Thomas Harding quotes Liberal Democrat spokesperson Edward Davey dismissing the "threadbare excuses" and declaring, "Minister now owe it to the troops to talk to opposition parties about the remit for the inquiry." The paper's Damien McElroy reveals, "As it was confirmed that the government would hold an inquiry into the circumstances leading up to the war under Tony Blair's leadership, the flag was lowered on the last British combat operation in Basra after commanders handed over to an American brigade with a handshake." McElroy's source is John Hutton. Mark Deen (Bloomberg News) observes Gordon Brown, UK Prime Minister, and Nouri held a joint-press conference today where they praised 'progress' . . . from the safety of London.

And winding down with Iraq in books and speeches. First up, book notes. Thomas E. Ricks is the author of the bestseller
The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq 2006-2008. My opinion (expressed here before) it's not only a great book, it's the most important one on the war by a US author thus far. The book has been repeatedly distorted by people who apparently 'read' a book by studying the cover and asking themselves, "What do I think is inside?" Because opening a book and actually reading it is very scary. Oooooohhhh. In the April 22nd snapshot, Vijay Prashad huge distortion of the book was noted (and called out). Today Thomas E. Ricks (at Foreign Policy) notes his reaction to the gross distortions of his book which included contacting Prashad and explaining, "Your statement is flat wrong. I actually say that there is no prospect of victory in Iraq, and that we are stuck there for years to come even to reach a mediocre outcome. In addition, I also conclude that the surge failed. In fact, I don't think your comment could be written by anyone who actually has read the last 100 pages of my book." Prashad replies that his statements were his opinion. No, his opinion is Ricks wrote a good or bad book, Ricks got this or that wrong, Ricks 'wants to say . . . but won't come out and say . . .' Those are opinions. What Prashad did was completely distort the book Ricks wrote, state it concluded this and that when it never made those conclusions. On to speeches. In February, Ryan Crocker stepped down as the US Ambassador to Iraq. Martin Surridge (Walla Walla Union-Bulletin) covered a speech Crocker gave this week (Stan noted it last night) during the talk, he noted the issue of withdrawal and stated, "We will only be there as long as the Iraqi government wants us there. It's their country, will will not be the ones making their decisions." Surridge notes, "Crocker was careful to avoid long-range predictions, but expects the conflict in Iraq could extend longer than the scheduled withdrawal date, 'Who can say where we will be in 2011?' he asked. 'The landscape could change dramatically'."

the washington postdana priestanne hull
pia malbran
brett barrouquere
mcclatchy newspaperscorinne reillyhussein kadhim
sam dagherthe new york timessuadad al-salhy
msnbcrichard engelbrian williams
thomas e. ricks
damien mcelroy
thomas harding
james hider

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It's a Different World than where you come from

NBC Mondays

That illustration is by Kat and Wally and my three kids. I can tell you exactly which parts my kids worked on. This is the one they're proudest of (they did several illustrations with Kat and Wally this weekend). How come? They honestly weren't that thrilled, or the boys weren't. My daughter (the youngest) loved it because of Patricia Arquette's make up (and wanted more on her, she kept saying "More!"). The drawing is of NBC's Monday lineup. My oldest son helped with Chuck and Hiro is basically him with some talk-through help from Kat. But Chuck was worked on by my middle child as well and the mouth is something they weren't happy with. And then they just picked it apart, my two boys, until they were convinced it was awful. I wasn't able to reason with them.

C.I. fixed it by holding the drawing up and asking, "What's this?" Everyone was able to figure it out on their own. Then C.I. told my middle son that drawings don't always have to look like photographs.

Which I'll continue tomorrow with another one they worked on. But after that, my son (middle) decided he loved it. He took it to school (the hard copy) and everyone in his class knew Hiro and Chuck (some knew Allison but that show comes on late for his age). So he really loves this now.

And the point? Tonight's theme is TV show. Two people will cover two shows above and I thought about grabbing Medium but felt I'd go with the theme most are working on which is show that ended before you were ready.

For me the show is A Different World and it ended when Lisa Bonet left the cast -- was pushed out by Bill Cosby.

I wasn't real thrilled that Marisa Tomei's character had vanished because I really liked her and thought she was a good foil for Denise (Bonet). Jalisa got on my nerves. I don't even care if I mispelled her name. Jalisa was just a big drag and drip. I hated Jalisa.

So suddenly Denise is gone in year two and we've got Little Miss Debbie Allen with year three (behind the scenes) and what the heck was all of that?

I know they thought, "We are so political!" But they were so not.

They looked like air heads and Debbie Allen may have many gifts but the show sucked as soon as Bonet was gone and Allen and company brought on their new characters.

Whitley was a funny minor character. Like Jackee's character on 227. If Mary wasn't around, who wanted to see Sondra? But someone thought we'd want Whitley without Denise. And worse yet, they made Whitley a star of the show. Not only that, they gave her Denise's boyfriend (Dwayne Wayne).

Sinbad was just awful. What was he? 50-years-old playing a college student? No, he wasn't that old but it felt like it.

And, as I got older, I felt so sorry for the actress playing Freddie because I could see little bits of things and realize she was talented but they were trying to turn her into the Black dumb blonde (but with no good lines).

Lisa Bonet was the show. Denise leaves the Huxtables to go to college. When Denise was gone, the show sucked. NBC should have cancelled it as soon as Bill Cosby fired Lisa Bonet.

By the way, do you know why she was fired?


Oh no!

Black women do not forget that. Especially the ones my aunts and mother's age. Cosby does not realize the hit he took when he fired Lisa Bonet.

He thought she was 'scandalous' for his films and a Rolling Stone cover and the way she lived her life. And she got pregnant and he fired her. (She was actually living with Lenny Kravitz before she was pregnant.)

Lisa Bonet was on Life From Mars . . . barely. But I dutifully watched each episode on ABC this year (it's cancelled) for her.

By the way, my parents are in town so I'll be brief like this all week. They leave Friday afternoon although they're thinking of kicking that back to Saturday morning.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, April 28, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the Senate discusses proposed changes to the War Powers Resolution of 1973, James Baker thought it was a Costume Ball and showed up as Titus Semple, talk of overthrowing Nouri al-Maliki who is more focused on demanding an apology, Steven D. Green's 'nutty' defense, and more.

Starting with war resistance, Iraq War resister Cliff Cornell faced a court-martial this afternoon at Fort Stewart in Georgia where he entered a guilty plea to desertion.

Today the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on declaring war and the biggest concern appeared to be whether or not the creation of a joint-committee might usurp their own committee. While the turf war raged, Senator Russ Feingold appeared to be the only one who'd read the proposal in terms of how it might actually impact the issue of going to war.

Appearing before the committee as witnesses were BFFs James Baker and Lee Hamilton, packing enough 'bi-partisan' scandals between themselves to rock a Jackie Collins look at DC. The panel was rounded out by Warren Christopher whose service can be traced back to the LBJ years. Senator John Kerry chairs the committee and he called it to order and skipped any messy realities about the three to instead note that "they are here to discuss one of the most vital questions that comes before our democracy: The question of how America goes to war?"

Kerry noted that the reason for the hearing was the "fundamental tension in how America goes to war. The president is commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces while Congress has the power to declare war." Hamilton, Baker and Christopher sat on the National War Powers Commission. No, no election was held to elevate those three to a commission on such an important issue. No, their tinkering around with the law -- and, yes, with the Constitution, is not how things are supposed to be changed per the Constitution. But if DC didn't have cronyism, no one ever be seated for a meal at Marcel's. So three elderly men -- at 78, Lee Hamilton's the baby in the trio -- that few would trust with a bank deposit slip have been put in charge of recommending changes in war powers. As Phil Ochs once sang, "It's always the old to lead us to the war, always the young to fall" ("I Ain't Marching Anymore") and the LiverSpots Trio demonstrated that and then some.

If there was anything more distressing than the absence of senators -- this was a full committee hearing even though the full committee elected to skip it -- it was most likely the huge absence of the press. If changes are being made in how the United States goes to war shouldn't the press be present? Where were they? And while the Real Press was largely absent, where were the beggars of Panhandle Media? Possibly encamped on the White House lawn hoping to get a shot of Bo doing his business.

Their own business apparently did not include fact checking the chair. John Kerry declared in his opening remarks, "What is clear to all is that the 1973 War Powers Resolution has simply not functioned as intended?" Really? Is that what's going on? No, Congress has refused to do what the War Powers Resolution gives them the power to. Equally true is that some aspects have been skirted by presidents. Kerry's starting from a false premise and begging the panel to snow job him.

What Baker, Christopher and Hamilton are proposing is repealing the War Powers Act of 1973 and replacing it with something different. This would be a major change and, again, where was the press?

Baker noted in his opening remarks [PDF format warning,
click here], "Two years ago, Chris [Warren Christopher] and I were approached by the Miller Center at the University of Virginia to co-chair an independent bi-partisan commission to consider an issue that has bedeviled legal experts and government officials since the Constitution was framed -- the question of how our nation makes a decision to go to war." If Baker is an example of those "experts" and "officials," no wonder they're "bedeviled." The Constitution is very clear that Congress, and only Congress, can declare war.

Warren Christopher followed and he gulped water throughout the hearing which appeared to be taxing him. A sure sign that he shouldn't have co-chaired the panel, let alone served on it. He tried to open with a joke but it flopped. Of Baker he declared, "Without going on about it, let me just say that it is a lot more fun working with Secretary Baker than working against him." Again, the joke flopped. He then almost immediately made a case for Kerry to bring down the gavel and end the hearing. Christopher was speaking of the tension between the executive and legislative branches [PDF format warning,
click here] and the issue over declaring war when he stated, "Only a Constitutional amendment or decisive Supreme Court opinion will resolve the debate; neither is likely forthcoming anytime soon, and courts have turned down war powers cases filed by as many as 100 members of Congress." The response to that should be: "Well if only a Constitutional amendment or a Supreme Court verdict can decide the issue then why the hell are we listening to you?"

And that is the thing. What they're proposing resolves nothing. It does, however, weaken Congress' powers. On the plus side, as John Kerry pointed out, it's better to address this now than in the lead-up to a war, "While the nation's attention is not focused on this issue today and while the kleig lights and the hot breath of the media is not as intense here at this moment, everybody in this room and particularly at the table understand the implications and how important it is to be here now trying to figure out the best path through this rather than the middle of a crisis." We're going to zoom in on the most pertinent discussion which took place shortly after Senator Russ Feingold joined the hearing and as he began speaking.

Senator Russ Feingold: I'd like to use some of my time to make a statement and then ask a couple of questions. As we continue to grapple with the profound costs of rushing into a misguided war, it is essential that we review how Congress' War Powers have been weakened over the last few decades and how they can be restored. The war in Iraq has led to the deaths of thousands of Americans and the wounding of tens of thousands and will likely end up costing us a trillion dollars. What if we had had more open and honest debate before going to war? What if all the questions about the administration's assertions
had been fully and, to the extent appropriate, been publicly aired? So clearly any reforms of the War Powers Resolution must incorporate these lessons and foster more deliberations and more open and honest public dialogue before any decision to go to war.
I appreciate that attention is being drawn to this critically important issue which, of course, goes to the core of our Constitutional structure, its' a conversation that we need to continue to have. But I am concerned that the proposals made by the Baker - Christopher commission cede too much authority to the executive branch in the decision to go to war. Under the Constitution, Congress has the power "to declare war." It is not ambiguous in any way. The 1973 War Powers Resolution is an imperfect solution; however, it does retain Congress' critical role in this decision making process. The commission's proposal on the other hand would require Congress to pass a resolution of disapproval by a veto proof margin if it were unhappy with the president's decision to send our troops into hostilities. That means in effect that the president would need only one-third of the members plus one additional member of either house to continue a war that was started unilaterally by the president. Now that cannot be what the framers intended when they gave the Congress the power to declare war. Since the War Powers Resolution was enacted, several presidents have introduced troops into battle without obtaining the prior approval of the Congress. Campaigns in Grenada and Panama are a few examples. None of these cases involved eminent threats to the United States that justified the use of military force without the prior approval of Congress. A simple solution to this problem would be for the president to honor the Constitution and seek the prior approval of Congress in such scenarios in the future. And while the consultation required by the War Powers Resolution is far from perfect, I think it is preferable to the commission's proposal to establish a consultation committee. If this bill had been in place before the war in Iraq, President Bush could have begun the war after consulting with a gang of 12 members of Congress thereby depriving most of the senators in this room of the ability to participate in
those consultations as we did in the run up to the Iraq War. The decision to go to war is perhaps the most profound ever made by our government. Our Constitutional system rightly places this decision in the branch of government that most closely reflects the will of the people. History teaches that we must have the support of the American people if we are to successfully prosecute our military operations. The requirement of prior Congressional authorization helps to ensure that such public debate occurs and tempers the potential for rash judgment. Congress failed to live up to its responsibility with respect to the decision to go to war in Iraq. And we should be taking steps to ensure it does not make this mistake again. We should be restoring this Constitutional system not further undermining it. Mr Baker, part of the premise of the commission's finding, is that several presidents have refused to acknowledge the Constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution, I know that of course in practice, most do honor the Resolution. In your view, does the president's commander-in-chief authority give him the authority to ignore duly enacted statutes?

James Baker: Duly enacted statues? Not in -- not in my view. On the other hand, there have been -- you said most presidents, Senator Feingold, all presidents have refused to acknowledge the -- all presidents have questioned the Constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution.

Russ Feingold: Right.

James Baker: Both Democrat and Republican.

Russ Feingold: Right. I simply said several presidents.

James Baker: Right.

Russ Feingold: But most have honored the resolution in practice.

James Baker: Well that's really not quite accurate, sir. They send -- they file reports "in keeping with," the language is "in keeping with," but never has one president filed a report "pursuant to" the War Powers Resolution.

Russ Feingold: Well, nonetheless, I appreciate your answer to the basic question. It seems to me that much of the ambiguity you attribute to the War Powers Resolution would be resolved if future presidents simply abided by the Resolution -- that would help solve the ambiguity. Mr. Hamilton, before the Iraq War, every senator had the opportunity to at least review the intelligence assessments on Iraq -- particularly the October 2002 NIE. I concluded that there was insufficient evidence to justify the decision to go to war Under your bill, wouldn't the full Congress have even less access to the intelligence supporting the decision to go to war ? Wouldn't that intelligence be limited to the gang of members on the consultation committee?

Lee Hamilton: With the consultative committee, I think you expand the number of members that would be brought into the discussions involving the highest level of intelligence. In other words, you'd have more members involved under our proposal than you do now. Because you --

Russ Feingold: I was a relatively middle - junior member of the Foreign Relations Committee. I was not at that time a member of the Intelligence Committee. At some point I was afforded the opportunity to go down to a secure room and to hear directly from the CIA people whether they felt the same thing we were hearing publicly. And I got to tell you, their tone when they were trying to express these arguments the president was making was rather tepid and it gave me a feeling that something was wrong here. And I would apparently, under this scenario, not have been a part of that process. I'm not saying my role was critical but I did end up being one of the people who went to the floor immediately and said 'I'm not buying this al Qaeda connection, I'm not buying the notion that Saddam Hussein is likely or ready to attack the United States.' It appears that somehow somebody in my situation would not necessarily be able to be a part of that pre-military operation process. Mr. Hamilton?

Lee Hamilton: Well I think under the law today the president doesn't even have to consult with members of Congress before he takes you into war because the provisions in the War Powers Resolution are very vague with regard to consultation. We expand greatly the number of members who would be involved in that consultative process here.

Russ Feingold: It appeared though in this circumstance of Iraq that this was part of the consultative process. That our access to the people from the president's CIA was pursuant to a discussion that led to a vote of the full Senate --

Lee Hamilton: Well the ---

Russ Fiengold: how the process worked. All members -- well perhaps not all. But at least members of the Foreign Relations Committee were given the opportunity to participate in that kind of a set up --

Lee Hamilton: And the proposal that we're putting before you, members of Congress are required to vote on it.

John Kerry: Senator --

Lee Hamilton:You don't have that requirement under present law.

John Kerry: There is no requirement. under present law. What happened is we did it under the prerogatives of each of the committees because the committee chairs and ranking members understood that this was part of the responsibilities Nothing in here -- and we discussed this before you [Feingold] came here -- about this consultative component in fulfillment of the requirement that the president let us know what he's thinking about doing so that those Committees, that's why they're part of it. The Intelligence Committee, the Armed Services Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, would then go about their normal business involving all of their members. I mean, but there's no statute that required that for you either.

Russ Feingold: I'd like to believe that, Mr Chairman, but it strikes me that this provides an opportunity, that the president doesn't currently have, to say, "Look. I went through this consultative process that's provided by this new statute so I have even less a need to go through a formal vote which, as we just talked about, most presidents have decided -- President [George H.W.] Bush on the first Gulf War, even though he may not have taken the view that he had to do it, he went ahead and did it. I think this creates a process that could end run the feeling on the part of a president that he needs to go through a process that would actually involve participation but I'm not saying that this doesn't literally require it --

James Baker: Senator --

Russ Feingold: Yes, Mr. Baker?

James Baker: We require a vote within 30 days so the president is going to be facing a vote of the Congress. If the vote is a resolution disapproval, that is going to very adverse impacts on the president's ability to

Russ Feingold: But in the case of Iraq of course [shrugs, throws up hands]

James Baker: Well that of course -- I mean

Russ Feingold: 30 days after wouldn't have been not too helpful.

James Baker: That's -- that's true. But the president -- both presidents went to the Congress to get approval and actually obtained approval. Back to . Back to the point you made about the c-- about the observance a statute duly enacted and whether a president can question it's Constitutionality. There's all -- there's always been the ability of presidents to question Constitutionality and in this area it has consistently been questioned by both Democratic and Republican presidents. Presidents have sent troops abroad, Mr. Feingold, 264 times -- during which period the Congress has declared war 5 times. So faced with the situation, we expressly -- I think before you arrived, we made it -- we had a dialogue here about the fact that we have expressly preserved the rights of Congress to make the argument that I think you are making and the right of the president to make the argument presidents have made since the War Powers Resolution was passed that the Constitution gives either (A) the Congress or (B) the president the authority. Expressly reserve those Constitutional arguments, put them to the side, they are not going to be solved in the absence of a Constitutional amendment or a Supreme Court opinion. So we don't prejudice either branch. What we're trying to do is find a workable solution here that will improve the relationship and the consultation that takes place between the president and Congress when the nation's going to war.

Russ Feingold: I respect the effort and I respect the intent and it may well work that way. My concern -- and I know my time's up, Mr. Chairman

John Kerry: No, take [more] time, no problem.

Russ Feingold: Is that I witnessed as a non-senator the excellent debate that was held on the floor of the United States Senate prior to the first Gulf War, I also was involved in the truncated and unfortunately weak debate prior to the Iraq War. But any process that could make a president feel that he somehow did not need to go through that process prior to such a major action would trouble me. So that's how I need to review this. Could this lead to that practical effect as opposed to the literal effort you have made to avoid such a consequence. These are my concerns.

James Baker: I don't think so. Let me just quickly answer. I don't believe so because the president has the power today. So we're not -- this effort -- I don't see this as giving the president something he doesn't have today.

Russ Feingold: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

John Kerry: Thank you Senator Feingold. Those are important inquiries and I think worth examining the sort of Iraq experience in terms of the vote up front versus late.

Kerry entered the commission's entire report into the record at the start of the hearing and noted, at the end of the hearing, that the record would remain open for a week to include any additional responses from the panel.

Before Feingold joined the hearing, there were no strong objections from Democrats. In fact, Kerry and others accepted premises that they probably shouuldn't do without speaking to their constituents if they want to at least pretend to represent anyone other than the beltway. For example, there are many people (put my name on the list) who do not believe that pre-emptive war and pre-emtive attacks are illegal (and it is illegal by the doctrine of just wars) so it was really something to hear John Kerry, who damn well knows better, accept the committee's working premise that the president had the right to do those without Congressional authority. For those confused, international bodies say those actions are wrong. Who the hell were these three crooked thieves bouncing between commerce and politics to accept as legal things that are still open to debate?

That and eliminating Congressional authority for war -- currently written into the Constitution -- seemed the main purpose of the Baker-Christopher commission. Some might say, "Well the Court would rule against it if it's wrong!" The Supreme Court is going to decide that Congress shouldn't have surrendered a contested power? No. They've consistently refused to rule on this terrain and were Congress to adopt this craziness the Court would either ignore it or rule that Congress didn't have the power stripped from them, they voted to give it away. This is a very serious issue and Russ Feingold was the only one who appeared to grasp that.

Baker kept talking about "bi-partisanship" and he looked so oily throughout that only two words captured him: Titus Semple. You found yourself longing for Lane Bellamy to show up and explain what they did to out of control elephants in the circus. At one point, he sprayed himself with snake oil and did his best Eddie Haskell grin while declaring the problem was with two political parties, it was between branches of government.

"The problem" James Baker sees is in reality the checks and balances set up in the Constitution and if he has a problem with those maybe he should take his autum years to another damn country. This is not someone who doesn't know better, this is a mad elephant on a rampage, determined to trample everything in his path. As Lane says in Flamingo Road, "You know sheriff, we had an elephant in our carnival with a memory like that. He went after a keeper that he'd held a grudge against for almost 15 years. Had to be shot. You just wouldn't believe how much trouble it is to dispose of a dead elephant."

Richard Lugar's the ranking member. We'll quote in when he manages to finish a sentence as opposed to pretending to ask a question that's nothing but multiple half-sentences strung together for over six minutes. Somewhere in his tape reel of Libyia, the evening news, Ronald Reagan and more he declared "what all you people in Congress need to understand . . ." Who was he speaking to? Presumably every senator on the panel understood their duties. While Edward Kaufman is new (the only one persent who is), Kaufman's run Joe Biden's Senate office for decades. Somewhere around the six minute mark, Lugar finally came up for air.

Or as Warren Christopher put it in one of the panel's most honest responses, "Senator Lugar talked quite a lot". He then went into Section 4a of the statute (committee recomendation) and rushed to assure that "we certainly don't mean to pre-empt the jurisdiction of this committee or other committees." Kerry wanted to know about 3c and how it speaks of the consultation committee make up. Was it an ongoing committee? Baker said Congress could determine that. The back and forth was pointless.

Senator Edward Kaufman compared the War Powers Act to a game of ruby football, noting how it's "been kicked around" and he stated he would feel derelict in his duty if he didn't raise the issue of Declaration of War. Warren Christopher dismissed it as no longer used so nothing to worry about ("The Congress has decided apparently to go the route of authorization . . ."). Kaufman should have pursued that further but, in fairness to him, there was no support for it among his fellow senators (Feingold was not yet present) and the panel played dumb. Kaufman was right to raise the issue and just because Congress uses one tool today or even in the last few decades does not mean it surrenders another one for all time.

Slimy Jim Baker wanted to grin while telling Feingold he missed things discussed earlier. No, he didn't. It wasn't discussed. But he did miss out on Warren Christopher saying the proposals were to help the president "speak to all the members of Congress" and Lee Hamilton adding that 535 members of Congress is just too much and "presidents today do not know with whom to consult." Hamilton explained this would limit who the president spoke to in Congress to a small number which would then spread out the word and, as a result, no member of either house could "complain, 'I wasn't consulted'." Actually, they could. Their remarks were exactly what they would deny when Feingold pursued his line of questioning. They had already established that the committee would be the one to address it and that the members not on that committee would need to get info from the committee (Hamilton: "This provides a president with a focal point for consultation.")

On the Republican side, Bob Corker was the only Republican senator other than Richard Lugar. Corker actually had a few points to make and pointed out that the proposal really doesn't resolve any of the limitations with the War Powers Resolution. Baker agreed but said you'd need a Constitutional amendment or a Supreme Court decision for that. So can someone explain why the Congress should nullify the War Powers Resolution and put in its place something that resolves nothing (but limits Congress' power and scope)? Corker labeled the proposal nothing but a "sort of . . . code of conduct. . . . It's really not going to have the effect of law." Baker shot back, "Oh, it would have the effect of law." Pause. "I think." Corker also disputed some of the exceptions the proposals recommend such as "the safety of the troops." Corker said that out would be there in any action, allowing the president to overrule Congress, because once troops are deployed "the safety of our troops would always be an issue." Baker agreed. ("That's correct. I think that's correct.") This hearing should have had a ton of reporters present. If anything is changed, if the War Powers Resolution is trashed, it will have longterm effects. For the record, the War Powers Resolution? Covered by NPR, Pacifica and all three broadcast networks back in the day.

It's amazing that anyone wants to listen to James Baker regarding war. But others are rehabilitated all the time.
Betty noted Bob Somerby calling out non-journalist Rachel Maddow's latest on-air clowning:

But on last Friday's program, Maddow's interview with Lawrence Wilkerson was, in our view, much worse.
Who the heck is Larry Wilkerson? As Maddow explained in her introduction, he was "chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002 to 2005." As such, he played a key role in the way the United States went to war in Iraq. In particular, Wilkerson was in charge of the preparation of Powell's UN presentation in February 2003--the presentation which sealed elite opinion in favor of war.
[. . .]
According to Wilkerson, he and Powell were babes in the woods, thumb-sucking innocents who managed to get themselves "snowed" and "used" by others. Powell had even complained to David Frost about the fact that those in the know never came to him with the truth: "What really upset me more than anything else was that there were people in the intelligence community that had doubts about some of this sourcing, but those doubts never surfaced up to us."
No one came to Powell with the facts! Quite correctly, Tim Russert was ridiculed when he made a similar, keister-covering statement to Bill Moyers. And yet, when Wilkerson grandly presented himself on our "progressive" news program last Friday, he received no questions of any kind about this crucial episode. You see, he was willing to call Dick Cheney names! For that reason, he was allowed to gild his own lily and, by extension, Powell's.
Increasingly, this seems to be the peculiar function of Maddow's "progressive" program.

Rachel Maddow was a War Hawk throughout 2004 and 2005. Only when public opinion hugely shifted did she ever stop saying the US had to stay in Iraq. Listeners of Unfiltered damn well remember her constant praise of Colin Powell and her repeatedly getting it wrong about the Pottery Barn analogy -- the Pottery Barn does not have a policy of you-broke-it-you-bought-it. Rachel would drool on air over Colin back in those days. People have this idea that because she's a lesbian she's somehow hugely progressive. She's not. She's a centrist and, most importantly, she will and has sold out everyone to get where she is today -- on basic cable with,
as Rebecca pointed out, very few viewers. She's a media created 'star.' Like a plethora of Vanity Fair cover boys and girls in the 90s who were movie 'stars' because Van Fair told you they were. The box office loudly disagreed. (When's the last time you spotted 'star' Julia Ormond?) Rachel Maddow gets soft and easy press for a number of reasons -- one she uses her friends who are in the closet (hey, she protected her closet case friend who wrote the Ann Coulter Time magazine cover story -- Liar Rachel refused to discuss that story -- a big left story -- or call out Time or the writer and she refused to tell listeners of her show that she was friends with the author); MSNBC needs a female face and 'jock' like Rachel isn't too 'girly' so she doesn't threaten anyone; and, most importantly, she doesn't threaten the power structure. She is a little suck-up who sucks up like crazy. But if those MSNBC ratings keep dropping, this isn't Air America. Her father leading a 'save-Rachel's job!' campaign won't work and will get her laughed off the chat & chew circuit. Rachel worships Colin Powell and will never ask him a tough question and she'll never ask his little buddy one either.

In Iraq, a
Sunday attack in Kut continues to make the news. The pre-dawn raid resulted in two deaths and condemnation from Nouri al-Maliki. Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) reports that the Iraqi Council of Ministers is stating that the assault was "an unnaceptable breach of the withdrawal of forces agreement between the parties" which would be the thing more popularly known as the Status of Forces Agreement and that it was breached by a military operation being carried out without a warrant or without Iraqi consent (allegedly without Iraqi consent). No alleged on the warrant because if there was a warrant, the US would have waived it around by now. Instead you have US Col Richard Francey running to the BBC to express US forces are "deeply saddened" by the "terrible tragedy." That did not appease the Iraqi government. Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) reports they are demanding "an official apology". The SOFA was never carved in stone despite all the bad reports insisting it was. Amy Goodman (Democratcy Now!) noted that the US is now planning to stay in some Iraqi cities beyond June 30th. Of the treaty masquerading as a SOFA, Jeremey Scahill (at CounterPunch) notes:

Of course, the celebrations were and remain unwarranted. Obama's Iraq plan is virtually identical to the one on Bush's table on January 19, 2009. Obama has just rebranded the occupation, sold it to liberals and dropped the term "Global War on Terror" while, for all practical purposes, continuing the Bush era policy (that's why leading Republicans praised Obama's plan). In the real world, US military commanders have said they are preparing for an Iraq presence for another 15-20 years, the US embassy is the size of Vatican City, there is no official plan for the withdrawal of contractors and new corporate mercenary contracts are being awarded. The SoFA Agreement between the US and Iraq gives the US the right to extend the occupation indefinitely and to continue intervening militarily in Iraq ad infinitum. All it takes is for the puppets in Baghdad to ask nicely…

Independent journalist
Dahr Jamail (at Pacific Free Press) observes:

Make no mistake about it - there is a war on. The floodgates of hell have once again been opened, largely as the result of US unwillingness to pressure the Maliki government to back off its ongoing attacks against the US-created Sahwa, which have led to the Sahwa walking off their security posts in many areas, which has been a green light for al-Qaeda to resume its operations in Iraq. In addition, many of the Sahwa forces, weary of not being paid promised wages from the government, as well as broken promises by the occupiers of their country, have resumed attacks against US forces. Again, there doesn't appear to be anything in the short term to indicate these trends will stop.

Sahwa, "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq" are all the same group.
Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) notes the targeting of Sahwa and asks the following of the government's intentions:

Is it reaching out to former Sunni insurgents such as Abu Azzam in the true spirit of "national reconciliation," or in hopes of splintering the movement? And will the government's campaign against men such as Abu Maarouf succeed in snuffing out potential rivals? Or is it planting seeds for a long-term Sunni revolt? The crackdown also points to a significant change in the U.S. forces' onetime policy of nurturing and protecting the Sons of Iraq. As the Iraqi government has arrested some of the movement's leaders, forced others into exile and failed to deliver jobs for rank-and-file fighters, the Americans have regularly deferred to Baghdad's wishes as they hand over responsibility for the country's security.

Don't expect answer to any questions from al-Maliki's government, however they are insisting upon one thing: They captured Abu Omar al Baghdadi.
Corinne Reilly (McClatchy Newspapers) notes, "Iraqi officials have touted the arrest of Baghdadi several time before, and each time the claims have turned out to be false. But they said this time was different." When originally trumpeting this arrest last Thursday, the officials were saying they'd have DNA proof. They still fail to mention DNA. Reilly observes, "Officials may be using the arrest to try to bolster confidence in Iraq's security forces ahead of an upcoming drawdown in U.S. troops here. There's widespread fear among Iraqis that violence will increase when Americans leave Iraqi cities at the end of June, a timeline mandated by an agreement signed last year between Washington and Baghdad." While Baghdad insists it's the 'terrorist,' the US has refused to say so since Thursday. AFP reports the US Defense Dept sticks to asseting they can't confirm it. Sam Dagher and Atheer Kakan (New York Times) note, "The government has not provided proof of his capture since announcing the arrest on Thursday, beyond showing a photograph of a man with a trimmed beard wearing a black T-shirt." al-Maliki might try paying attention to other things. Liz Sly (LAT's Bablyon & Beyond) reports Sheik Ali Hatem Sulaiman "has been trying to rally the support of tribes across Iraq for a tribal conference whose goal, he says, will be to replace the government of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki unless certain, as yet unspecified demands are met."

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports "the father of two policemen" was brutally murdered in Mosul today.

Turning to legal news,
Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi is the 14-year-old Iraqi girl who was gang-raped and murdered March 12, 2006. James Barker is among those who confessed. The Guardian of London summarized Barker's written testimony, ". . . Green dragged the father, mother and younger sister into a bedroom, while Abeer was left in the living room. . . . Barker said [Paul] Cortez appeared to rape the girl [Abeer], and he followed. He said he heard gunshots and Mr. Green came out of the bedroom, saying he had killed the family, before raping the girl and shooting her with an AK-47."That's what Barker confessed to, Cortez' confession matched it. No need to say "alleged" with regards to them. No need to say it with regards to Steven D. Green. His attorneys are not disputing the statements that he was the ringleader, that he murdered four people, that he took part in the gang-rape or any of it. They're arguing 'yes, but not guilty'. He's being tried in a Kentucky federal court and his trial began yesterday. The ambulance chasing public defenders representing Green are the Keystone Cops of the legal field as they make one offensive argument after another. The case they presented yesterday was, "Yes, he did it, but think about what he went through and think about the fact that some US service members died in Iraq and think about . . ."Think about this, that's as offensive as the argument the judge disallowed. The judge's refused to allow Green's attorneys to argue to the federal court jury, the civilian jury, that they can't judge Green because they weren't in Iraq. The defense offered yesterday is as offensive because it continues one of the threads which is: "This is normal behavior." It is not normal behavior. Were it normal behavior, every US soldier in Iraq would be doing what Green did. The defense is arguing that this is normal behavior and a normal response and it's not and that insults everyone who's served in Iraq or any other war zone.The defense argues it was a normal response (murder and gang-rape) and that Steven D. Green is the victim here because he had problems. No question he had problems. He joined the military because he'd been arrested AGAIN. He joined the military to get out of being tossed into prison. He joined the military from jail. He couldn't get it together, no question.But when you don't dispute the charges and when the charges are multiple murders and gang-rape, when your client could get the death penalty, you don't argue "normal" reaction. You argue that your client is mentally ill and was exhibiting those signs early on.Green was unfit for entry in the military. There's no question of that. To get him, he required a 'moral' waiver. That's your case.When the defense starts asking the jury to feel sorry for Green because it's "normal," they're running off the jury. The argument for this line of defense should be, "Yes, he did this. He did it because he's got huge problems and that's why you need to sentence him to a medical institution."But when the defense wants to claim this is 'normal,' it's offensive. It's offensive to the society we live in. It's offensive to the military. And it also says, "Put him to death." That's what the defense is accidently arguing. If they're arguing this is 'normal' -- and it's not -- the jury's looking at Green and thinking, "Normal for him." Meaning it's incumbent upon them to ensure that he never has the option of doing anything like that again.Does Green qualify for an insanity plea? I don't personally know. But that's all the defense has to argue because everyone else involved confessed to his actions and their own, because he was observed leering at Abeer and stroking her face and doing other things that made her uncomfortable (he was at a checkpoint in her neighborhood and harassed her repeatedly when she would have to pass through). If you're going for the insanity plea, you're asking the jury to consider your client out of control.If you're client's 'out of control' is also, you argue, 'normal' then don't be surprised if a jury decides they're dealing with a rabid dog that needs to be put down.It is very doubtful Green looks sympathetic or will come off as such. The strongest defense is that Green is f**ked up and that this was ignored by every institution and outlet he came before, repeatedly ignored so the jury is the last chance for him to receive help. That might get him institutionalized as opposed to put to death. But the arguments the defense is making currently or more likely to piss of the jury because, again, they're not disputing the charges.Andrew Wolfson (Louisville Courier-Journal) reports Abeer's cousin Abu Farras testified that seeing the corpses, "I thought it had to be terrorists. This was a massacre, not a crime. I thought no American would do such a thing." Abeer's brother Mohammed al-Janabi also testified stating he was coming home when he saw the smoke and had no idea it was his home. (From when Abeer's body was set on fire.) Alsumaria reports, "A relative of the victim's family in Baghdad, Rashid Hamza, said that two family members attended the trial in the United States. He wished the US solider accused of this atrocity be executed." AFP provides this context: 3 soldiers are serving life sentences for their actions and a fourth "was sentenced to 27 months in jail." Steven Robrahn (Reuters) quotes one of Green's attorneys, Patrick Bouldin, telling the jury, "You have to understand the background that leads up to this perfect storm of insanity." AP's Brett Barrouquere has covered this story for almost three years now. He reports on yesterday's proceedings and notes Brian Skaret, one of the prosecutors, explaining that Green and the others had a card game and whiskey, talked about sex and Abeer's name came up, they invaded her home, Green shot her sister and and parents, took part in the gang-rape and then "Steven Green went over to the wall and picked up a gun and he shot her in the face again and again."

Lastly on Iraq, Deborah Haynes (Times of London) did some outstanding reporting the last years in Baghdad. We called her out here once (a blog post about riding in a jeep) and we're not here to award gold stars. Translation, criticized once (or twenty times in one year) is nothing. Haynes did an outstanding job and uncovered many stories (hospitals, pregnancies, exclusive interview with Gen Ray Odierno) that no one else managed to.
She's posted her last blog post at her paper's Inside Iraq and notes what she'll miss about Baghdad and what she won't. She also files a brief report on Camp Cropper (US prison in Iraq) and notes that over 12,350 prisoners remain there currently.

brett barrouquere
caroline alexanderbloomberg newsbbc news
waleed ibrahim
dahr jamail
the los angeles timesned parker
liz sly
andrew wolfsonsteve robrahndemocracy now
the new york timessam dagher
deborah haynes
jeremy scahill