Friday, May 01, 2009

How about you try doing some work?







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."

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot""2 US Marines, 1 US sailor killed in Iraq""The War Crimes trial continues""I Hate The War""Rice with Salsa and Vegetables in the Kitchen""Diary entry (brief)""Diary entry""hillary for the supreme court!""do-me feminists silent on abeer - no surprise""Iraq""Why there are so few women columnists""Filthy Matthew Rothschild""Senate Armed Services Committee hearing""Moqtada""Not uncommon to rough up Iraqis""Oil""Explaining the meaning of the Iraq War""Broken promises""Big Jokes of the week""Dennis Loo, Hulu, etc.""The kiss off and the pay off""THIS JUST IN! THE KISS OFF AND THE PAY OFF!"

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The kiss off and the pay off







Today 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.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"The bombings and the speculation they cause"
"Green bragged about the War Crimes twice to Yribe"
"barack's 100 days, modo's vacation while c.i. works"
"Sexism then, sexism now"
"Iraq and the administration"
"British 'leave' and Crocker's back in the US"
"The fawning press"
"Boring Barry, boring Bob and more"
"Bordello of Barack"

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bordello of Barack





Baghdad was rocked by bombings today. Two (Los Angeles Times, Reuters and Albawaba) or three (BBC, UPI, McClatchy, Xinhua, Washington Post) car bombings exploded in Baghdad's Sadr City. CNN reports the death toll from the Sadr City bombings (they say three) is "at least 45 people" with sixty-eight more injued. Xinhua explains, "The incident occurred in the afternoon when three booby-trapped cars parked at different popular marketplaces in Sadr City neighborhood in eastern Baghdad, detonated simultaneously, the source said." BBC notes, "The BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad says the attacks are the kind of provocation, blame on militant Sunni Islamists, which triggered and fuelled a deadly spiral of sectarian violence in 2006 and 2007." Liz Sly and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times) report, "Survivors of the carnage turned their wrath on the security forces, hurling bottles and bricks at the police and army troops until the soldiers fired in the air to disperse the crowd." Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) provides this context, "The attack was the deadliest in Sadr City since the Iraqi army wrested control of the impoverished Shiite district from militias last May." He also notes Iraqi police claim "the defused three other car bombs shortly after the blasts." Corinne Reilly (McClatchy Newspapers) observes, "The attacks are the latest sign that security gains here are beginning to reverse. Large-scale bombings targeting civilians have been on the rise since March." Reilly points out that over 200 people have died in Baghdad this month thus far and the last time McClatchy shows that happening was March of last year.

In other violence, Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report a Baghdad car bombing left five people injured and two Baghdad car bombings which claimed 2 lives and left eight injured (this is in addition to the Sadr City bombings which they also note), a New Mosul roadside bombing which wounded two, a grenade attack in Kirkuk on US forces which resulted in two Iraqi civilians being shot and four more wounded. CNN cites US Maj Derrick Cheng stating that the US military had been "working with local police to provide micro-grants" when the attack took place and Cheng states 2 "attackers" were dead with two more injured as well, according to Cheng, one US soldier wounded. Reuters adds that Diyala Province roadside bombings claimed the lives of 3 Iraqi soldiers (two also left injured) and 2 Mosul roadside bombings (this is in addition to the New Mosul one) resulted in the death of 1 police officer and five Iraqi civilians being injured. Going with CNN's 45 dead in Sadr City, that would mean at least 53 reported deaths in Iraq today. Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) notes 41 is the death toll in Sadr City according to the political party website of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Alsumaria quotes US Brig Gen David Quantock stating that the increase in violence is not due to the release of Iraqi prisoners from US prisons in Iraq.

According to US Major Cheng, one US soldier was wounded today. We'll use that to jump over to a US Congressional hearing this morning. "Today, the Military Personnel Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the organization of the office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs," stated Subcommittee Chair Susan Davis calling the hearing to order. Of Health Affairs/TRICARE Management Activity, she noted "we are clearly dealing witha different model than the rest of the Department. We do not know if that is good-different, bad-different, or just different. It is therefore important for us to examine this structure so that we may understand exactly how the organization operates and how that impacts care for our men and women in uniform and isn't really that the bottom line here that we're seeking?" (Click here for US House Rep Susan Davis' opening statement, non-PDF format -- but not that I'm quoting her remarks and they're not word for word the prepared statement.) Joe Wilson is the Ranking Member on the Committee and his opening remarks included noting, "General George Washington and the Continental Congress understood the necessity of good medical care during the fight for our independence. After suffering a sizeable number of casulities from disease, the Continental Congress established the medical department of the Army in July 1775. Washington then appointed the first Director General and Chief Physician of the Hospital of the Army." That was Dr. Benjamin Church -- a poor choice who was replaced by Dr. John Morgan. Church was a poor choice? He was a spy for the British. Wilson didn't go into that or name Church, I'm just tossing it in as historical trivia and wouldn't have known it if the office of a Dem House Rep hadn't told me after the hearing (when I asked about the trivia). Other triva included that it is "Surgeons General" and not "Surgeon Generals" when you are dealing with the plural. US House Rep Vic Snyder asked and established that.

Appearing before the subcommittee were the following: Acting Under Secretary of Defense, Personnel and Readiness Gail H. McGinn (DoD, -- PDF formart warning -- here for her opening statement), Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense Health Affairs (DOD -- PDF format warning, here), Lt Gen Eric Schoomaker (Army Surgeon General, PDF format warning, here), Vice Admiral Adam Robinson (Navy Surgeon General, PDF format warning, here), Lt Gen James G. Roudebush (Air Force Surgeon General, PDF format warning, here) and Maj Gen Elder Granger (DoD's Deputy Director TRICARE Management Activity, PDF format warning, here). It was Granger's last appearance before the committee who is retiring. From the opening statements, we'll note one section that is of interest and is not in the prepared remarks.

Lt Gen Eric Schoomaker: In a nutshell, the MHS [Military Health System] exist to support war fighters on the battlefield, the Direct Care System exist to deliver military readiness, Private Sector Care supports and fills the gaps in the Direct Care System. If form is to follow function then the MHS should be optimally organized to suport the Direct Care System. I don't believe this is always the case. For example in the budgeting process, Private Sector Care forecasts are considered must pay while Direct Care System estimates are considered "unfunded requirements." The Department's priority has been to fund the Private Sector Care at 100% of projected requirements while many of our Direct Care System needs are not addressed until year end when overforecasted PSC funding becomes available for distribution to the Direct Care System. Since Private Sector Care is often over-programmed , they return money to the MHS and they're seen as "cost containing." Our Direct Care System health care bills are always after the fact and are seen as "cost overruns." This resourcing construct appears to prioritize Private Sector Care over the Direct Care System.

Most veered from their prepared remarks (Robinson brought up San Antonio, for example) but Schoomaker's veer went to the issues raised in the hearing.

To cut down on the "gobbledeegook," US House Rep Vic Snyder gave the witnesses examples so they could speak in specifics.

US House Rep Vic Snyder: The first example is a special-needs kid which I think some of us have talked about before. General Schoomaker, you talked about supporting our war fighters overseas and I think nothing creates more heart ache for our folks overseas than if they have a special-needs kid and the kid is not getting the kind of care that they think they need while they're at a military facility some place. So let's take a kid with either insulin-dependant diabetes or autism or something that requires a fairly intensive amount of help. The second example might be that I think a lot of us have run into over the last several years would be a somebody in the reserve component who is mobolized for active duty for a period of 18 months or so, so there family then goes into the military health care system but may be geographically living in a place, not near a base, not near providers who are used to dealing with TRICARE. So what I would like each of you to do -- and just tell me if I'm off base. It may be the tensions that we were talking about, which you all were discussing, have nothing to do with those examples but how does what you're talking about relate specifically to our men and women and the care that they give and if these are a couple of examples where it may -- it may give you an opportunity to describe how the tension may relate to the actual care that men and women and their families get?

Lt Gen Eric Schoomaker: Well candidly, sir, from my perspective, both of the cases -- and I'll be interested in hearing what my colleagues have to say -- both of those cases I think are not necessarily confounded by the tensions that we're creating here. In fact, I think that both of them in many cases are a tribute to the far-sightedness and the vision of setting up a TRICARE system as we did 15 years or so ago. In the case of special-needs kids, we have an extraordinary generous benefit which is fairly uniformly applied and, in fact, I think it's resulted in -- in the military health care system being one of the elements of a family's decision with a special-needs child to stay in uniform. So I would have to say that doesn't necessarily -- I don't see my role in executing these programs as being interfered with in any way, shape or form in taking care of special-needs kids. I would have to say the same about the mobilized reserve component -- National Guard and Reserves -- many of whom come from places in this country where we don't have a robust Direct Care System: central Idaho, parts of Montanna, Wyoming. We don't have large, robust medical centers and health services systems. And so having an effective Purchase Care System and a Managed Care Support Contractor that is reaching out and providing care to those families is, I think, that again reflects the far sightedness of a well executed TRICARE program. I'm not taking away from any of that part of it.

Vice Admiral Adam Robinson: I would come at this a little differently. I don't completely disagree with General Schoomaker but I think that the autism and the insulin-dependent diabetic do come into play in this regard. Often -- first of all, the private sector care, the network care and the direct care can both play here. Let's take 29 Palms, I'll just take a Marine Corps base in southern California, very remote location. I'm not going to be able to get network care there. It's going to have to be direct care. It's going to have to be uniform care. Now when I say "I can't get it," there are people that will go there but that's very difficult so I have places in this country that are very difficult to, in fact, get network care. That means I need it in uniform [care]. However, very often there's also been -- and I don't want to get caught in the mire of the gobbledeegook -- but there's also thoughts that very often we on the direct care side and uniform should be be there for very specialized war fighting activities that make us incredibly essential for the battle and for the things that the military system in fact, was built to do. But, in fact, in 2009 we have taken on added responsibilities which include garrison and family care. So my question then is I need pediatric endocrinologists as much as I need trauma surgeons but it may be difficult sometimes to, in fact, get there because of how we have, in fact, looked at what we think we should get from the war fighting versus the non-war fighting situations. Now I'm not suggestiong to you that anyone's denying the Navy or the other services pediatric endocrinologists. I'm just simply saying that there is a tension that does exist because of some thoughts and some assumptions made as to how we really should in fact divy up our uniform versus our network. I'd like to add just one other thing. I'm not going to comment on the reserve component. I think that General Schoomaker's answer is -- would be mine also. I'd only like to say, overseas with our EDIS -- exception developmental instructional programs and also our exceptional family member programs this is also the case because overseas we're not able to, in fact, engage in that war care so if I don't have it -- if I can't either contract it to bring it or if I don't have it in uniform, it's much more difficult to get. And those are just challenges that I must look at. I'm not suggesting that anyone's keeping me from getting there but these are the challenges from an SG's perspective that I must look at.

Lt Gen James G. Roudebush: Congressman, I think you raise a point that really brings out the essence of what we're talking about this morning. There is a role and relationship and it's not "either/or" it's "and." For us in uniform there are in fact places where we are going to need to have in uniform speciality capabilities for family members because family care is mission impact. When our men and women are in harm's way, if they're not confident their families are fully cared for, they will not be focused on what's in front of them and that has mission impact. So family care plays directly into the mission. For us, TRICARE gives us that wrap-around in those circumstances where we may not have the capability readily available for our reserves in areas where we don't have a facility availabe for example. Or for special-needs youngsters, we may not have that readily available within the uniform service. TRICARE gives us that wrap-around capability. And, quite frankly, when you get to speciality care for our youngsters that is rather expensive to make and sustain in uniform. And the more cost-effective solution and clinically effective solution in many circumstances is in fact a contract for that capability and that care through the private sector TRICARE. So it's not "either/or," it's "and" and finding the right balance, each of us within our roles, to get that mission accomplished. So I think you do raise an intersection that's critically important for us to get right.

Subcommittee Chair Susan Davis: Thank you, I'm going to move on. Ms. Tsongas?

US House Rep Niki Tsongas: Thank you. I'm enjoying this testimony and I have to say much of this as a new member as a relatively new member, much of it is new to me. I have to say, many years ago as a child of the Air Force, I needed a very delicate eye surgery and I was in an Air Force hospital in Langley Air Base and then subsequently at Tachikawa Air Base. I received remarkable care and, again, I was with Congressman Wilson in Balad where we did see the remarkable work that you're doing. But obviously we're in a time and an era when health care is far more complicated and far more expensive and it's clear that you're wrestling with both on multiple layers. My question, slightly different though, is we have representatives of the different services and you obviously have different cultures, some times very different needs as a result of the roles you play, and I'm just curious as how this plays itself out given the different tensions that you all have described? Is it another layer to it or is it really not particularly significant?

Lt Gen Eric Schoomaker: Well I'll speak for the Army. I think, ma'am, it's very significant and I think it's why we -- not for parochialism or not because we're looking to build duplication or triplication within -- within the defense health system -- why we insist on executing our programs in each one of our services. Each one of the services -- for very good reasons -- has important differences in how it fights war, in how its military health care uniform members support the deployed force. And that's not to say that there aren't commonalities in some large metropolitan areas, like in the national capitol region or San Antonio, we can't find shared platforms where we can retain common skills, where we can share the opportunities in the greater Washington area where we have 36 or 37 different health care facilities across the three services from Pennsylvania down to Quantico and as far west as Fort Belvoir. We have plenty of opportunities to share those platforms for caring for about a half-million beneficiaries. But when it comes down to ships at sea and brigades in battle, some of the remote sites that General Roudebush and I in the Army have to service, the service cultures are very much a part of this and it's why we, Surgeons General and commanders of our medical forces, want to have a very firm grasp on the execution of these programs.

Vice Admiral Adam Robinson: Each service has a concept of care. I think that as the long war has continued in both Iraq and Afghanistan our concepts of care have actually become much closer together. They've merged. From the Navy's perspective, I'm not speaking now for the Army or Air Force but I don't think they're much different, patient and family-centric care is our concept. It's what we think is important in order to make sure that we can meet the mission. Both the operational -- that is the war mission -- as well as the family and the garrison care mission because we can't separate them out any longer. Since people on the battlefield, men and women can now e-mail and text message family members during an intense encounter, it is no longer the case that I can, in fact not take care of families as I'm also taking care of men and women on the battlefield. We've moved into another era of communication, of technology and of the insistence by the people that -- our beneficiaries that we in fact care for them in a very organized and meaningful way and that's what I think all three services do but we all do it differently -- leverging those things that our service chiefs and the equities of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps must have in order to meet their missions and at the same time making sure that we leave no patient, no family and no member behind.

US House Rep Niki Tsongas: And not to interrupt but do health affairs and TRICARE management acknowledge this in your relationship or is yet one more -- one of those things that is a source of tension?

Vice Admiral Adam Robinson: I think that Health Affairs does acknowledge that. I think that they do in fact understand the differences in the services and how to meet them. I also think that very often the concept of what is important from a patient perspective can sometimes get clouded or get shaded in relationship to the business perspective of efficiencies and effectiveness. Now that's the world that we live in so I'm not complaining to you about that because everyone has to look at costs and has to look at the bottom line that we're trying to get done. The key here in medicine is that patients usally when they're coming to you and they need something to save their lives, they need something that they think is going to be absolutely essential to their well being are not interested in hearing the business rules involved in doing that. My job is to, in fact, take that into account and to balance that out with the needs of the patient.

Subcommittee Chair Susan Davis: General, do you want to comment?

Lt Gen: James G. Roudebush: Just very quickly. At times folks will talk about culture and say, 'Well culture is interesting." I would suggest to you that culture is a signficant part of what we do. We have an all volunteer force. Every soldier joins the Army because he or she is attracted to the mission and the culture. Likewise every sailor and Marine and Air man joins that service because they are attracted to the culture and the mission. Their families are wrapped in that culture. We care for our servicemen within that culture and within that mission ethos. So culture is a big part and, particularly when these men and women are injured or ill, that culture wraps around them and supports them, helps them through that recovery, rehabilitation. And so while some of the -- many of the clinical activities are certainly the same in the Army, Navy and Air Force that wrap around, that family, that team that's caring for them is an important part of the construct and I think that can't be lost in the discussion.

FYI, April is Autism Awareness Month. Ruth has covered that here, here and here this month. For more information, the Autism Society of America is one resource.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"Cliff Cornell sentenced to one year imprisonment"
"The silence on Abeer"
"The Feather and Father Game"
"It's a Different World than where you come from"
"heroes jumps the shark!"
"Paper Dolls"
"The Mod Squad"
"Is it a library in a police state?"
"Debra Sweet, Chuck"
"Arlen reveals himself!"

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Arlen reveals himself!






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.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot""Cliff Cornell's court-martial is today""Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi""Bob"
"the media love""Autism""Abeer""It's not a game""Iraq and the dreaded Ellison""ACLU, Isaiah, Smothers Brothers""Isaiah, Third, Jill McLaughlin""Barack finds someone to play with""THIS JUST IN! HE RELATES!"