Friday, March 19, 2010

The border to his heart









As bad as starting an illegal war is continuing one. At the tent meetings of the Cult of St. Barack throughout America in early 2008, Barack was fond of screaming into his mike, "We want to end the war now!" Of course Samantha Power, while still his chief foreign policy advisor, told the BBC News that Barack didn't know what he was going to do about Iraq and wouldn't make a decision until after he was in the White House. That didn't stop Barry O from letting the people think he was Mr. Peace and Mr. End The War Now!

War Criminal Barack Obama speaking in Santa Barbara in early 2008: And most of all the American people are tired of this disastorous war in Iraq that should have never been authorized and should have never been waged. A war that has cost us half-a-trillion dollars and thousands of lives and has not made us more safe but has diminished our standing in the world. They want an end to that! And they want an end now!
The White House changed parties and that's about all the change America or Iraq saw. Blood brothers Bush and Barack are so alike that, after winning the election, Barry O suddenly loved the SOFA -- the same Status Of Forces Agreement he termed "unConstitutional" when he was running for office. The same SOFA he protested. Li Laifang (Xinhua) reports that Iraq today still has no security, still lags (too mild a term for it) in reconstruction. That's on Barack. He's the one who wanted to be president. There have been so surprises since he was sworn in. The economic problems were known starting in the fall of 2008. The Iraq War and the Afghanistan War were known. He came in under the rhubric of 'change' and he's done nothing except repeatedly sing, "Oh come let us adore me."

Protests will take place tomorrow against the Iraq War and Afghanistan War. Actions are scheduled across the country and the best known are the ones to be held in DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Michael E. Ruane (Washington Post) reports, "The protest, against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, will begin with a noon rally in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House. The march will follow." Ruane's article also has a video of people speaking out.Cindy Sheehan: You know some people have abandoned -- in the anti-war movement -- have abandoned peace since Obama's been president. But we need to recreate a movement. And that's what we're trying to do here at this march. We're trying to not just build a camp, but build a movement. Military Families Speak Out's Maggie Pondolfino: I feel like I have a heightened responsibility as a military family to lend my voice to the antiwar movement because these wars have gone on too long and they continue to kill our loved ones. My son is currently deployed in Kandahar Province in Afghanistan and he also did a tour in Iraq.Cindy Sheehan is briefly on Democracy Now! today (blink and you'll miss her.) Fight Back! interviews Jess Sundin (Freedom Road Socialist Organization) about tomorrow's actions.Fight Back!: What's going on with the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan?Sundin: After all these years, Iraq and Afghanistan are each occupied by more than 100,000 U.S. troops, plus the soldiers of U.S. allies. The U.S. runs prisons in both countries, operates checkpoints along roadways and controls government affairs. In Iraq, over a million people have been killed by occupying forces - every family has lost someone. Nearly 6 million Iraqis are refugees, having fled their homes and, in some cases, the country. The infrastructure is in a shambles, where most Iraqis have limited access to electricity, adequate housing, drinking water and sanitation services. Unemployment and underemployment are over 40% and there is no sign that any of this will improve. The people of Afghanistan are being hammered hard by Obama's policy of bringing in more troops - there are more than twice as many American soldiers there now than there was under Bush. And more are on their way. Top commanders promise this will be a brutal year - we have regular reports of civilian casualties. The troops plan to lay siege to more cities, as they did to Marjah last month, promising to make a whole country of ghost towns. There is no chance of victory for the U.S. - the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan will continue to resist the occupations and fight to control their own countries and futures.World Can't Wait and A.N.S.W.E.R. are among the organizations sponsoring the DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles actions tomorrow and you can refer to those websites for more information. Local actions are taking place around the country and we'll provide links on two. Karen Kucher (San Diego Union-Tribune) reports the details of Saturday's actions in San Diego. In New York, there will be an action in Nanuet. Jane Lerner (Lower Hudson Valley Journal News) reports on the details of that action.

There is plenty of outrage on the left for Americans on the left to demand that the Congress and the White House be responsive. It's ignored mainly because so many people have decided Barry O is King and they're loyal subjects. Not buying into that is Ian Wilder. From his "Is Kucinich just herding sheep to slaughter?" (On The Wilder Side):IW: While faux progressive sites like Daily Kos and MoveOn have threatened Kucinich for not voting for the toothless health insurance bill, independent media site like Black Agenda Report and Democracy Now! have lobbed softballs his way. Even Nader refused to directly criticize Kucinich in his roll in mollifying a potential break away of progressives from the Democratic party over the Afghanistan/Iraq Wars and Health Care Reform. We need leaders who not afraid to speak truth to power, even when it's their friends. We need a political party that is willing to stand up for the best interests of the voter, not defense contractors and insurance companies. And where is a real voice that is not afraid to speak truth to power like Cynthia McKinney? Is leaving her out part of Democracy Now's continual policy of marginalizing the Green Party?

Protests against the wars took place today but the true example of protest could be found yesterday in DC. "You have been told that the President has a plan! But Congressman Barney Frank confirmed to us this week that the President still is not fully committed to repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell this year. And if we don't seize this moment it may not happen for a very long time." Brian Montopoli (CBS News) reports that Iraq War veteran Lt Dan Choi made those remarks outside the White House where he and Capt Jim Piertrangelo were arrested for their activism. Theola Labbe-DeBose (Washington Post) explains, "Shortly before 2 p.m., Park Police came upon two men who had chained themselves to a section of the iron fence on the north side, said David Schlosser, a police spokeman. Officers told the men they did not have a permit for their demonstration and gave them three warnings about the violation." Queerty offers their analysis and we'll excerpt this section:They hijacked HRC's rally. Normally we wouldn't commend a group for taking over another organization's event. That's just rude, and it's like, plan your own shindig, jerks. But HRC wastes millions of its donors' dollars every year, so if anyone is going to make a HRC rally effective, it'll be a third party. [. . .] Like Get Equal. From this HRC statement, it appears Choi wasn't even supposed to speak at all, and instead, through a relationship with Solmonese, secured a chance to take the mic at the last minute: "There's been some confusion about Lt. Dan Choi's role in the rally. As Joe Solmonese was walking to the stage, Lt. Choi asked Joe if he could have a speaking role. Joe explained that it wasn't his sole decision to make on the spot given that there was already an established program that included Kathy Griffin, other organization and veterans. After Choi then spoke with Kathy Griffin, she agreed to bring him up on stage and speak to the crowd during her remarks. Lt. Choi in his speech called on the crowd to march on the White House. Joe Solmonese along with Eric Alva and others felt it was important to stay and engage those at the rally in ways they can continue building the pressure needed for repeal. This does nothing to diminish the actions taken by Lt. Choi and others. This is the nature of social change and everyone has a role to play." (Robin McGehee reportedly asked Joe Solmonese if she could take part in the rally, but was rebuffed; it was Kathy and Bravo's rally, she was supposedly told.) But what was supposed to be a camera op for HRC and Bravo became the mere launching pad for Choi's stunt. Nobody will remember the HRC rally for anything other than Choi taking it over. They got Kanye'd.
Yusef Najafi (Metro Weekly) reports that Choi and Pietrangelo entered not guilty pleas this morning in court and are taking their cases to trial. In addition, they've posted video of Dan Choi speaking outside the courthouse.

Dan Choi: There are other people who are oppressed that have the chains on them in their hearts. There were many times when people would say when you go and get arrested, it's difficult because your hands are restrained and the movement is a little bit stymied or halted on the physical level. But it is my hope that the larger movement, even with the chains on it, will do nothing but grow to the point where it cannot be controlled by anything but that freeing and that dignified expression of getting arrested for what you know is absolutely morally right. There was no freer moment than being in that prison. It was freeing for me and I thought of all the other people that were still trapped, that were still handcuffed and fettered in their hearts and we might have been caged up physically but the message was very clear to all of the people who think that equality can be purchased with a donation or with a cocktail party or with tokens that are serving in a public role. We are worth more than tokens. We have absolute value. And when the person who is oppressed by his own country wants to find out how to get his dignity back, being chained up and being arrested, that's how you get your dignity conferred back on you. So I think that my actions, my call, is to every leader -- not just gay leaders, I'm talking any leader who believes in America, that the promises of America can be manifest. We're going to do it again. And we're going to keep doing it until the promises are manifest and we will not stop. This is a very clear message to President Obama and any other leader who supposes to talk for the American promise and the American people, we will not go away .

From Dan's heroic actions and stance to Congress. Yesterday's snapshot included moments from the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Don't Ask Don't Tell. Carl Levin is the Comittee Chair. Appearing before the senators were Lt Jr Grade Jenny Kopfstein, Maj Michael Almy and Gen John Sheehan -- the first two were drummed out of the military for their sexuality, the third was rewarded with a lengthy career (possibly in part due his homophobia).

Senator Kay Hagan: Mr. Almy and Ms. Kopfstein -- Kopfstein. Although the policy is referred to as Don't Ask, Don't Tell, as the law is currently written members of the armed forces are involuntarily separated regardless how their sexual orientation is disclosed. And under existing law, the quality of your service does not serve as the criteria for retention due to a presumed disruption to unit cohesion and discipline. During your discharge proceedings, what impact did the recommendations from your leadership within your chain of command have on the decision to involuntarily seperate you from your service? And I think, Mr. Almy, you were speaking about that.
Maj Michael D. Almy: Thank you, Senator. To my knowledge it made absolutely no effect on the Air Force's decision not to retain me. I had commanders I had survived with, I had superiors, peers and subordinates all who knew my records, who knew my achievements as an officer and supported me. And even though they knew the full story, still wanted me retained in the Air Force and still wanted me back as their leader. And, to my knowledge, that had zero effect on the Air Force's decision whether or not to retain me.

Senator Kay Hagan: Ma'am?

Lt Jr Grade Jenny L. Kopfstein: Senator, in my case, I was honored and lucky that both of my commanding offers came to my discharge board. They were not required to do so. They took time out of their busy schedules to come and testify on my behalf. The board -- under Don't Ask, Don't Tell -- its hands were basically tied. I had made an admission and despite the vocifierous recommendations of both of my commanding officers, 206s, the board's hands were tied and they had to vote to discharge me.

Senator Kay Hagan: Mr. Almy, in your earlier discussion, I think you were talking about almost a general feeling of acceptance more from the younger generation than the older generation for homosexuals in the military. Do you -- can you elaborate on that? And ma'am too?

Maj Michael D. Almy: Senator I think that -- I think you probably hit the nail on the head there, I think in my mind, in my personal experience this is a generational issue. I have great respect for General Sheehan for his leadership and his sacrifice to our nation. From what I've seen a lot of senior officers, senior military leaders from that generation are the ones who are holding on to maintaining Don't Ask, Don't Tell. With notable exceptions. Adm [Mike] Mullen [Joint Chiefs of Staff], General [Colin the Blot] Powell, General [John] Shalikashvili. In my experience and that of my peers, the young men and women coming into the military today, the 20-somethings and most of the 30-somethings, which is the largest demographic in the military, for that group of people this is largely a non-issue. There are -- obviously, there are some xecptions but, as I stated earlier, that generation of men and women are far more comfortable with gays and lesbians because, chances are, that they know one.

Senator Kay Hagan: General Sheehan, do you have any feelings on the generational attitudes?

Gen John Sheehan: I absolutely admit that I am old.

Senator Kay Hagan: (Laughing with Sheehan) We all are.

And let's end the exchange there so Sheehan is able to tell at least one truth. And we won't have to note him using "totalitary" when he meant "totality."

Senator Kay Hagan: Ma'am?

Lt Jr Grade Jenny L. Kopfstein: Senator, I agree with Major Almy, the younger generation definitly has a diferent view on this issue. I'll give you a personal story. And I certainly don't have the general's experience but on September 11, 2001 my ship was in port in Seal Beach, California when this -- when we were attacked. And I was standing in the wardroom watching the television, watching events unfold. And one of the young Petty Officers that worked for me ran into the wardroom and said, "Ma'am, ma'am, request permission to load the guns." I was the Ordnance Officer so I was responsible for our anti-aircraft and self-defense weapons, so I turned to the Captain and I said, "Sir, request permission to load the guns." And he said, "Permission granted." And we did. And I can tell you for a fact, in that moment, neither my captain nor the Petty Officer that worked for me, cared one whit about my sexuality.

Senator Kay Hagan: Thank you. The phrase Don't Ask, Don't Tell implies a mutual agreement where the services would not inquire about the sexual preferences of our members and the military personnel would not publicly articulate your sexual oreintation. However, under Don't Ask, Don't Tell, we still have instances of very capable service members being involuntarily separated due to investigations initiated on tips provided by third parties. And this, Mr. Almy, in your situation, do you believe that private correspondence via e-mail while deployed constitutes a breech of the existing policy or do you believe that your case serves an illustration of how the policy is flawed?

Maj Michael D. Almy: Senator, I think it's probably a little of both. I didn't tell. The Air Force asked. And I refused to answer the question. So I think, while it's true I never made a personal -- or a public statement to the military, I was still thrown out. I think that illustrates a flawed implementation of the current law and my understanding of what Secretary [of Defense Robert] Gates has called for a review as far as the so-called third party outings would have had a direct bearing on my case and in all likelihood I would still be on active duty. Beyond that, I think it also illustrates that this law is making our nation and our military weaker by discharging qualified men and women who are patriotic and whose only crime is that the may or may not be gay and lesbian. All the while, we're actively recruiting people who aren't qualified to fill some of those vacancies.

And now we'll move over to Roland Burris. The senator has been a leader on this issue publicly since the spring of 2009. He and his office have made public statements on this issue, he has participated in events in his home state (Illinois) to show his support for the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. We're going into it and Burris does an amazing job but Sheehan? I'm starring two things. The first, a term I will not have appear here. That is not the term for Americans in the service, in the government, in any job. We don't use that word as a country and we haven't in many years. The second is another 'either he's an idiot or he's insulting' moment.

Senator Roland Burris: General, I'll challenge you on age. I'm pretty much your age. If you've served 35-years in, I think --

Gen John Sheehan: Sir, I'll conceed to you.

Senator Roland Burris: I'm sorry?

Gen John Sheehan: I will conceed age to you.

Senator Roland Burris: Thank you. And I can remember, General, when I was Attorney General of my state, how difficult it was for me to make a change But on my staff there was a young lesbian lady who would sit down with me each day and explain to me the problems of persons who were lesbian or gay that never ocurred to me because I grew up in a different era. We talked about them, we laughed about them, it was something -- yib-yib-yib, you know, it was all these derogatory terms that we used to use. And, General, it also deals with the racial question. Do you know a fellow named Jackie Robinson? You ever heard of him? [Gen Sheehan nods.] You talk about the bright and the best. We don't know if we've got the bright and the best serving in our military service until we let everyone serve with their best distinction, best ability. The bright and the best may not be Ever hear of a couple of tennis players named the Williams sisters? You ever hear of the young man who had a little personal problem called Tiger Woods? We didn't know how golf really could be until a Black person got into the competition. They were all eliminated from the game of golf. All eliminated from the game of baseball, General. Eliminated from type of sports which were for Whites only. Now we're saying the military is for straights only. General, I think we need to put a moratorium on this situation right now. Don't let anyone be discharged from the military because of their orientation until we can change this law -- which I'm currently supporting a co-sponsoring of Senator [Joe] Lieberman's bill to change this law. General, could you just give me a little insight into your background? Did you ever command Black soldiers under your command?

Gen John Sheehan: Sir, the American military has been in-in-integrated since President . . . Truman was the president.

Senator Roland Burris: 1947.

Gen John Sheehan: Yes.

Senator Roland Burris: By executive order, sir.

Gen John Sheehan: I have never commanded a unit that there were not Hispanics, Blacks, Whites . . . and Ori**tals.* At one time, during the Vietnam War, as both Senator Lieberman and the Chairman will remember, 65% of my rifle companies were Black. They sustained 40% of the casualties in Vietnam soldiers. They understand what it means to be in harm's way. So race in the military is not an issue. This institution

Senator Roland Burris: Pardon me, General --

Gen John Sheehan: -- that I represent has the finest --

Senator Roland Burris: -- I have to interrupt you

Gen John Sheehan: -- of integration of any instutiton in this country of ours.

Senator Roland Burris: Absolutely. How long did it take that to take place? What happened in WWII with my uncles and my uncles-in-law when they were discriminated against? Prisoners were being brought back from Germany and the Black soldiers that were guarding them couldn't even ride in the cars, they were put in the back cars because of the color of their skin. That's how far America has come. For you to now command those men and they're fighting and dying for us and at one time because of this [taps fingers to hand], the color of their skin, they could not serve this country. And they fought and they clawed to have an opportunity to serve. These are the same things with the gay and lesbian people. They want to serve. That's all they're asking. Continue, General, I'm sorry.

Gen John Sheehan: Well, Senator, I think that . . . if you go back to the 1993 discussions and hearings on Don't Ask, Don't Tell, there's a very rich history of a discussion with [Lt Gen] Cal[vin] Waller, Colin Powell and the Committee about this very issue when Congressman* Pat Schroeder was trying to equate this to a racial issue. Both Cal Waller and Colin Powell objected strenously to the analogy. And many of the Black leaders and Black Marines I was with at the time objected to the concept that their Civil Rights Movement was being hijacked by gays and lesbians. I'm not an expert on this issue. But I would only defer to Cal Waller and Colin Powell [C.I. note, Calvin Waller died in 1996. Colin Powell has changed his 90s position on the issue.] and refer the good Senator to their testimony back in 92 and 93.

We're going to stop it there due to space limitations. As usual, Senator Burris did an outstanding job. Pat Schroeder, for those who don't know, was not a Congress MAN. Pat is short for "Patricia." Schroeder was the first woman Colorado ever elected to the US Congress (that was in the November, 1972 elections). You can click here for her profile at Women in Congress. Did he mean to be rude? He may have. Or he may have not known what he was talking about (a repeat problem during his testimony). His "social engineering" remarks should have gotten attention -- and did yesterday. His yelling at Senator Burris -- on two separate occassions above (such as "this institution"). The man's unstable. A witness who appears before Congress of their own volition and can't control their self-presentation has some serious issues. Burris ended his allotted time by calling for a stop-order on Don't Ask, Don't Tell discharges from the military until the law can be repealed. Senator Jim Webb corrected General Crazy Ass on his 'statistics' -- "African-Americans were about 13% of the age group, about 12% of the people in military, about 12% of the casualities and about 10% killed in action." Webb noted that "people" (the press) were "walking out of the room" (to file their stories) and he wanted that to be clear because it's an issue he's studied for years, written of, etc. He was very clear that he was correcting the numbers and not attempting to take anything away from anyone for their service or sacrifice. General Crazy then allowed that he wasn't really talking about all the service during Vietnam, he was talking about one program.

Yesterday's snapshot contained some coverage of the hearing and other community coverage of the hearing are: Kat's "McCain can't shut up long enough to get an answer" covers what stood out to her the most, Wally also emphasized McCain in "McCain wants his recognition -- just his" at Rebecca's site and Ava's wrote about it at Trina's site in "What happened in that fox hole, General Sheehan?" In addition, Marcia and I discussed the hearing in her "Carl Levin's historic Senate moment."

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"Dan Choi stands up kicking off days of protests"
"Fallen, illness"
"I Hate The War"
"Bully Boy and Koizumi Play Dress Up."
"Tuna casserole in the Kitchen"
"What happened in that fox hole, General Sheehan?"
"Ian Wilder has the spine Denny Kucinich doesn't"
"Dan Choi"
"I come to bury Terry"
"peter biskind's bad, bad book"
"McCain wants his recognition -- just his"
"The SOFA"
"McCain can't shut up long enough to get an answer"
"Peter Biskind's Star"
"Carl Levin's historic Senate moment"
"All Night Long"
"Carl Levin gets a truest"
"hey are the problem"
"Coward of the week: Dennis Kucinich"
"Idiot of the Week: Spency Ackerman"
"Not a happy camper"

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Not a happy camper





Starting in the US where Congress saw some honorable moments and a whole lot of crazy. On the former (honorable), Lt Jr Grade Jenny L. Kopfstein shared her experience serving in the military while gay:
It was difficult being on the ship and having to lie, or tell half-truths, to my shipmates. Under Don't Ask, Don't Tell, answering the simplest questions can get you kicked out. If a shipmate asks what you did last weekend, you can't react like a normal human being and say, "Hey, I went to a great new restaurant with my partner. You should try it out." An answer like that would have gotten me kicked out of the Navy. But if you don't interact like that with your shipmates, they think you're weird, and it undermines working together as a team. So after being on the ship for a while, I wrote a letter to my commanding officer and told him I was a lesbian because I felt like I was being forced to lie. I did not want to get out of the Navy. I wanted to stay and serve honorably and to maintain my integrity by not lying about who I was. After I wrote the letter, I continued to do my job on the ship to the best of my ability. We went on a six-month deployment to the Middle East. I qualified as Officer of the Deck and was chosen to be the Officer of the Deck during General Quarters which is a great honor. During all this time, I am proud to say, I did not lie. I had come out in my letter officially and I came out slowly over time to my shipmates. I expected negative responses. I got none. Everyone I talked to was positive and the universal attitude was that Don't Ask, Don't Tell was dumb. I served openly for two years and four months. One thing that happened during that time was the Captain's choosing me to represent the ship in a shiphandling competition. I was the only officer chosen from the ship to compete. My orientation was known to my shipmates by this time. Nobody griped about the captain choosing someone being processed for discharge under Don't Ask, Don't Tell to represent my ship. Instead a couple of my fellow junior officers congratuled me and wished me luck in the competition. I competed by showing the Admiral my shipdriving skills and won the competition.
She was speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee which is chaired by Senator Carl Levin. The Ranking Member is Senator John McCain. Appearing before the Committee today as they explored Don't Ask, Don't Tell which veered from the moving (such as above) to the outright puzzling. Along with Kopfstein, Maj Michael D. Almy and Gen John Sheehan spoke. Kopfstein and Almy are 'former' because they were drummed out of the service for being gay. They aren't former at this site. They didn't chose to leave, their rank stands in the snapshot. Sheehan is retired. He is not gay but if someone wants to spread a rumor, go for it. You'll understand why I say that shortly.
The hearing moved along nicely during opening statements. It seemed respectful of all and fairly typical for a hearing. There were moving statements made of the losses suffered as a result of being forced out of your chosen profession due to your sexuality. Again, Carl Levin is the Chair and he opened his questions after the prepared remarks.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: Mr. Almy, should somebody be forced to be silent about their sexual orientation in the military?
Maj Michael Almy: In my opinion, no, Senator. I think the Don't Ask, Don't Tell law is inherently in conflict with the service's core value as Adm Mullen reflected in his testimony before this hearing a month ago. The prinicpal core value of the Air Force is integrity first. And Don't Ask, Don't Tell says that gays and lesbians can serve in the military as long as they're not who they are, as long as they lie about who they are. And to me, personally, that was in direct violation of the core values of the Air Force.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: So while you were willing to keep your orientation private, you don't feel it is the right policy or the fair policy. Is that correct?
Maj Michael Almy: Correct, Senator.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: Mike, would you like to return to the military if you could?
Maj Michael Almy: Absolutely. It's my greatest desire. It's my calling in life and I miss the military considerably.
And with that Levin had finished with Almy for the first round. He moved immediately to the retired general and this is where it all went crazy. I have a name "*" starred in the following. I'm guessing at the spelling and will explain why at the end of the exchange.
Commitee Chair Carl Levin: General, you've been the NATO Supreme Allied Commander and I assume that as NATO Commander that you discussed the issue with other military leaders of our allies. Is that correct?
Gen John J. Sheehan: Yes, sir, I have.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: Did you -- did they tell you, those allies who allow open service of gay and lesbian men and women, did they tell you that they had cohesion and morale problems?
Gen John Sheehan: Yes sir they did. If you don't -- l beg the indulgence --
Committee Chair Carl Levin: Sure.
Gen John J. Sheehan: Most of this Committee knows that current militaries are a product of years of development. They reflect societies that they are theoretically paid to protect. The Europen militaries today are a product of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nations like Belgium, Luxenberg, the Dutch, etc. firmly believed that there was no longer a need for combat capability in the militaries. As a result, they declared a peace dividend and made a concentrated effort to socialize their military. That included the unionization of the militaries. It included open homo - homosexuality demonstrated in a series of other activities. But with a focus on peace keeping missions because they did not believe the Germans were going to attack again or that the Soviets were coming back. That led to a force that was ill-equipped to go to war. The case in point I'm referring to is when the Dutch were required to defend Srebrenica against the Serbs. The battalion was under strength, poorly led and the Serbs came into town, handcuffed the soldiers to telephone poles, marched the Muslims off and executed them. That was the largest massacre in Europe since WWII.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: And did the Dutch leaders tell you it was because there were gay soldiers there?
Gen John J. Sheehan: It was a combination --
Committee Chair Carl Levin: But did they tell you that? That was my question.
Gen John J. Sheehan: Yes. They included that as part of the problem.
That there were gay soldiers among the Dutch --
Gen John J. Sheehan: The combination was the liberalization of the military. A net effect, basically social engineering.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: The -- You said that no special accomdiations should be made for any member of the military.
Gen John J. Sheehan: Sure.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: Are members who are straight, who are heterosexual allowed in our military to say that they are straight and heterosexual? Are they allowed to say that? [Long pause as Levin waits for an answer before adding] Without being discharged?
Gen John J. Sheehan: Are they allowed to say --
Committee Chair Carl Levin: Yeah.
Gen John J. Sheehan: -- sexuality.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: Are they allowed to say "Hey, I'm straight. I'm heterosexual." Can you say that? Without being discharged.

Gen John J. Sheehan: There's no prohibition to my knowledge.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: Is that a special accomidation to them?
Gen John J. Sheehan: [Long pause] I wouldn't consider it a special accomodiation.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: Why would it be a special accomidation then to someone who's gay to say 'Hey, I'm gay.'? Why -- why do you call that special? You don't call it special for someone who's heterosexual or straight. Why do you believe that's a special accomodation to someone who's gay?
Gen John J. Sheehan: I think the issue, Senator, that . . . we're talking about . . . really has a lot to do with the individuals. It has to do with the very nature of combat. Combat is not about individuals, it's about units. We're talking about a group of people who declared openly sexual attraction to a particular segment of the population and insist and continue to live in intimate proximity with them. That allows them to --
Comittee Chair Carl Levin: You allow that for heterosexuals?
Gen John J. Sheehan: Yes.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: You don't have any problem with that?
Gen John J. Sheehan: Don't have any problem. But that --
Committee Chair Carl Levin: You don't have any problem with men and women serving together even though they say they're attracted to each other?
Gen John J. Sheehan: That's correct.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: That's not a special accomidation?
Gen John J. Sheehan: No.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: Okay. But it is special to allow --
Gen John J. Sheehan: It' is because it identifies the group as a special group of people who by law make them ineligiable for further service.

Committee Chair Carl Levin: But the whole issue is whether it ought to be, whether they ought to be ineligable? Whether we ought to keep out of our service.
Gen John J. Sheehan: That's correct. the current debate, the current law clearly says --
Committee Chair Carl Levin: No I know what the law says, the question is should we change the law?
Gen John J. Sheehan: My recommendation is no.
Senator Carl Levin: No, I understand. And can you tell us which Dutch officers you talked to who told you that Srebenica was in part caused because there were gay soldiers in the Dutch army?
Gen John J. Sheehan: Uh, Chief of Staff of the Army who was fired by the Parliament because they couldn't find anybody else to blame.
Committe Chair Carl Levin: And who was that?
Gen John J. Sheehan: Hank van Brummen*.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: Pardon?

Gen John J. Sheehan: Hank van Brummen.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: Why is the burden to end the discriminatory policy based on people who would end the discriminatory policy? Why do the people who want to end the policy have to show that it would improve combat effectiveness? If we're satisified it would not harm combat effectiveness and for many who would be allowed to serve they would then be permitted to serve without discrimination and without harm. Why is that not good enough for you?
Gen John J. Sheehan: Because the force that we have today is probably the finest fighting force we have in the world.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: And maybe we could have an equally fine or even better force but if it's equally fine -- if you could be satisified that it's no harm to combat cohesion or effectiveness, would that be satisifactory to you?
Gen John J. Sheehan: No. I think it has to be demonstrated, Senator.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: That there be an actual improvement.
Gen John J. Sheehan: An actual improvement.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: No harm wouldn't be good enough for you?
Gen John J. Sheehan: No. The reason I say --
Committee Chair Carl Levin: Pardon?
Gen John J. Sheehan: The reason I say that, Senator, is we've gone through this once before in our lifetime. You were in the Senate at the time. It was called the Great Society. When it was deemed that we could bring into the military categories fours and fives and help the military out and make it part of a social experiment. Those categories fours and fives almost destroyed the military.
Commitee Chair Carl Levin: I don't know what that has to do with this issue.
Gen John J. Sheehan: Well it has to do with the issue of . . . being able to demonstrate that the . . . change in policy is going to improve things. We were told . . . that this was going to help out combat strength. Combat deployable strength. It didn't. It did just the opposite. It drove people out. So I think the burden has to be on demonstrating that something's going to become better, not hoping that it will become something better.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: Well I think the burden of people -- the burden to maintain a discriminatory policy is on the people who want to maintain the policy. Not on the people who want to end it.
"Hank van Brummen*"? I'm not Dutch. I had to call around until someone said they knew who the general meant: Ad van Baal. Full name: Paulus Adrianus Petrus Maria van Baal. He was the Chief of Staff when he resigned. He resigned in April of 2002. He resigned because of a United Nations' report which found leadership at the top to be responsible for (or contributing to -- I haven't read the report, I'm going by a Dutch diplomat here) the massacre. If that's correct (I have no reason to doubt it), then does General John Sheehan even know who he was speaking to? I asked whether or not there was anyway the names could be pronounced similarly and was told "no."

The above excerpt shows that Levin conducted himself honorably. Almy did as well but he's not really the focus in the snapshot. Kat will write about this at her site tonight, Wally will write about the hearing at Rebecca's site and Ava's writing about it at Trina's. In addition, Marcia's going to quiz me on a few things at her site tonight.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The always pathetic Dennis Kucinich







Should the trend continue in the remaining 20% of the ballots and should it hold in the official count, each party end up with 87 votes, to reach the magic number of 163, one of them would need to grab 76 seats out of the 151 seats remaining. 151, point, is 76 plus 75. If the current vote holds and the official vote is similar, there could be some intense negotiations as each of the two parties rushed to form a power-sharing agreement with other parties. Potentially even the minority candidates could wheel and deal -- such as the 5 seats that will go to Iraqi Christians. That's not gas bagging, by law, the Iraqi Christians are guaranteed 5 seats in this Parliament. 3 other seats are guaranteed to religious minorities. The Yazidis in Nineveh Province are guaranteed one seat, the Shabakis in Nineveh are guaranteed one seat and, in Baghdad, the Saibis are guaranteed one seat. Kadhim Ajrash, Caroline Alexander and Henry Meyer (Bloomberg News) quote Control Risks Group's Julien Barnes-Dacey stating, "It is up to Maliki and Allawi to make the best offers. No one is showing their cards yet because the full results have not yet emerged and they are going to wait and see what they are offered." Leila Fadel (Washington Post) observed earlier today, "A narrow lead would make it harder for Maliki to garner allies he needs to form a coalition government." And substitute Allawi for al-Maliki in that sentence because it's true of both of them. And, should there be a major upset in the official count, true of a third party as well.
If the results are similar but not exact, say side A ends up with 6 extra seats, it could be the 'winner' but not the group to end up with the power-sharing coalition that puts it in charge. Andrew England (Financial Times of London) explains, "It is not even guaranteed that the victorious coalition, or 'list', will form the government as no side will have an overall majority, meaning there will be weeks or months of political bargaining." Jim Loney and Samia Nakhoul (Reuters) run down election possibilities here.
To claim that the war is a success because we established something that looks like democracy is an interesting one to make. First, it presupposes that an establishment of democratic principles in the region is an actual goal of American foreign policy. This is clearly not true, as seen by our relationship with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, and the Gulf States–we don't pressure those folks too much about their democratic principles. Secondly, it presupposes that the only(or certainly the most effective) way to bring democracy to the Middle East was to invade Iraq. This, I think, is a claim that should be subject to debate, and the winning argument should be pretty obvious. Perhaps we could have used our economic leverage with our above mentioned allies to push them towards democracy first, and maybe then that would have the "democratic domino" effect on Iraq, all while avoiding a war!
Meanwhile Marc Lynch (Foreign Policy) scoops everyone by discovering "A Strategic Plan to Improve the Political Position of the Islamic State of Iraq:"
The 55 page document, published under a pseudonym, is a remarkably frank "lessons learned" analysis which does not shy away from identifying where the ISI's strategy went wrong. It's not an "official" document, whatever that means, but it's fascinating nonetheless and demonstrates some deep thinking about the fortunes of the Islamic State in Iraq. It explains its setbacks, which it argues came at the height of its power and influence, on what it calls two smart and effective U.S. moves in 2006-07: an effective U.S. media and psychological campaign, which convinced many that the "mujahideen" had committed atrocities against Iraqis and killed thousands of Muslims; and the Awakenings, achieved through its manipulation of the tribes and the "nationalist resistance." The document doesn't mention the "Surge" much at all, at least not in terms of the troop escalation which most Americans have in mind.
Building upon a lengthy post-mortem on the Awakenings and the media campaigns, the Strategic Plan sets out a detailed agenda for the coming years during and after the U.S. withdrawal. It calls the coming war "a political and media war to the first degree", with the winner "the side that best prepares for the period following the withdrawal." It recognizes that the Islamic State can not control all of Iraq through military force alone, and that only a wise political strategy can succeed. It then offers a detailed five point plan, including a process to unify the ranks of the jihad, in part by reaching out to the old nationalist resistance and convincing them to return to the fold; detailed military preparations, including recommendations to conserve men and resources until the right time; and an enhanced media operation designed to rebut the most damaging charges against the Islamic State and carefully tied to a coherent political strategy. Perhaps its most striking concept is a detailed plan for creating "Jihadist Awakenings", mimicking the U.S. engagement of the tribes to create broader popular support.
[. . .]
Turning to England and legal news. Robert Thomson died serving in Iraq at the age of 22 on January 31, 2004 in what England's Ministry of Defence termed "a tragic accident." A court of law begs to differ. BBC News reports that a British military inquiry "blamed Mr Thomson" for the "tragic accident" (he was buried alive when the trench he was in collapsed) but the Court of Session overruled that and awarded Margaret Valentine forty-two thousand pounds (US equivalent: approximately $64,398). His mother is quoted stating, "It has taken six years and it was never about the money. Money would never bring him back, supposing they gave me forty-million pounds. My laddie died a horrific death. He struggled to get out [of the trench] but couldn't. It was about getting here, a judge ruling that there was negligence. It was totally unsafe work and there was no regard for his safety. I always knew he never entered the trench of his own volition." Still in England, Gordon Brown testified to the Iraq Inquiry March 5th. Miranda Richardson and Ruth Barnett (Sky News -- link has text and video) report that while taking questions on Wednesday Gordon Brown's claim to the Inquiry that when he was Chancellor (under Tony Blair) defense spending rose each year ("in real terms") and confronted, with it today, Brown admitted he had mispoken. [PDF format warning] Sky News has posted the letter from Brown here. Richardson and Barnett point out, "The four-page document does not acknowledge that the Prime Minister made an error in the way he described defence spending." Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) gets the last word on Brown's letter, "It is typical Brown -- no admission of error, no apology, a lot of spin. It may be Brown's way of limiting the political damage, but to puff such a letter out with so much spin must have seriously alienated the Inquiry." Polly Curtis and Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) explain, "The prime minister was forced to correct his official evidence to the Chilcot inquiry -- which he repeated just last week in the commons -- after Ministry of Defence figures revealed that once inflation was accounted for, the budget declined in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2007. The revelations are particularly damning because some of the real-term cuts spanned years when the armed forces were at war in Afghanistan and Iraq." James Kirkup (Telegraph of London) terms the incident "an embarrassing retreat". Quentin Letts (Daily Mail) observes, "The truth was extracted by Tony Baldry (Con, Banbury), who put his question in an unhysterical but assertive manner. Mr Baldry spoke along the lines of 'come on now, there's a good boy, say you're sorry, then we can all start afresh and nothing more will be said of the matter'. Mr Brown hated admitting it. Shades of a child drinking its spoonful of cod liver oil." Cathy Newman (Channel 4 News) quotes MP David Cameron offering his thanks to Brown, "In three years of asking the prime minister questions I don't think I've ever heard him make a correction or retraction." Nico Hines and Philippe Naughton (Times of London) note that Brown's correction still wasn't accurate since he claimed that it was only one or two years that his statements were incorrect: "In fact, it fell in three separate years, according to figures compiled by the House of Commons library -- four years if 1997/98 is included, although the financial year had already started when Labour came to power." Jon Craig (Sky News) wonders what other things Brown might "own up to between now and election day?"
Monday the US House Armed Services Committee's Military Personnel Subcommittee held a hearing which started a little after 5:30 p.m. There wasn't space for it in yesterday's snapshot so we'll pick it up now. US House Rep Susan Davis is the Chair of the Subcommittee, Joe Wilson is the Ranking Member. Appearing before them were the National Military Family Association's Kathleen Moakler, Dr. Barbara Cohoon, Kelly Hruska, Candace Wheeler and Katie Savant. Chair Davis explained at the opening that the "hearing is a review of the priority legislative initiatives needed to support military families. We have asked the National Miliatary Family Association, the association with the greatest expertise regarding family issues, to help us understand how the Congress can best assist our military families." Various issues were raised, including housing on Guam by US House Rep Madeleine Z. Bordallo. We'll emphasize the following exchange:
Ranking Member Joe Wilson: For any of you, I'd like to ask, it's been mentioned in the testimony that there are redundancies in military programs and some programs don't meet the needs of today's military families. Are there any programs existing today in your opinion, that should be terminated? If so what are they?
Kathleen Moakler: Well I think we need to look at the myriad of services that are provided by each of the services and especially in the area of information and referral. It seems like people are starting up new programs to collect information from community sources and get them out there for military families but there's so many areas to choose from that it gets confusing. So if there could be one list. The National Resource Directory is a good start. That'd be a purple list. We are all about having purple programs for families. Not that they would lose their individual individuality but sometimes too many resources can be confusing.
Ranking Member Joe Wilson: And the internet could be a real resource to help cut through, so you can find it for a particular community.
Kathleen Moakler: Yes, you could put in your zip code and find out where these resources are.
Ranking Member Joe Wilson: And to me, again, it's exciting that they're so available technologically for families. Another recommendation has been to establish a unified joint-medical command structure within DoD. Can you explain how that would be helpful?
Dr. Barbara Cohoon: That would be me. On this particular one. I handle health care for our organizations. What we're talking about right now we're dealing with the funding happens under 3 different srevices rather than it being joined and we're looking at what's happening with the national capital region and how that's rolling out. And as we're looking at programs that are rolling out sometimes the best practices aren't necessarily shared across. And as we've seen up at the national capitol region where you'll have Army and Navy working together and then down in the San Antonio region you have Air Force and Army working together -- the ability to be able to share resources so you're purchasing the same equipment, you're teaching your staff as far as utilizing the same policies would go a long way as far as keeping down cost but also improving the quality of care through efficiencies but also as far as patient safety .
Joe Wilson: And another example would be the Uniform Services University which is a joint-service university. And since one of my sons [Add Wilson] is a graduate, I know it's a great institution. So I hope we can possibly look into what you suggest.
Dr. Barbara Cohoon: We'd look forward to working with you on that.
Joe Wilson: That'd be great. And then for anyone who would like to answer, it's been suggested the system of multi-layered case managers for wounded service members and their families may be aggregivating the delivery of necessary services to the families. How would you streamline the process to make it more effective.
Dr. Barbara Cohoon: What we're seeing again is all the services are rolling out their own programs and their own level of case managers. The VA's doing the same thing, also we have DoD doing the same thing. And our families are getting confused as far as who do you go to for what when? So we've been asking for maybe a report to take a look and I knew the GAO was looking at the Federal Recovery Coordinators to see how effective they're being, but also we need to look at the Recovery Care Coordinators and everyone else. What we're finding is that the families sometimes aren't aware that certain case managers are available that they could utilize -- i.e. the Federal Recovery Coordinators -- or that they're in the VA and now they could be using the VA Case Managers and instead they're still utilizing the services on top of that. So there are a lot of great programs but we want to make sure that we take a look that we haven't added so many on that it's getting confusing for the families.
Joe Wilson: Well your organization serves such a vital function as a safety net and as a means of providing assistance to families and so I hope you'll continue that effort and I'm particularly concerned about persons going from DoD to VA care -- that that be as seamless as possible and without a hiccup so that people receive services with nobody to fall between the cracks so thank you very much for your time.
Yesterday's snapshot covered the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing and Kat covered it at her hearing last night in "Senate Armed Services Committee," while Wally covered it in "Saxby Chambliss wants clarification" at Rebecca's site and Ava covered it in "Guantanamo, Bagram" at Trina's site.
Individuals, organizations and groups are gearing up for the demonstrations Saturday against the wars Barack Obama now owns. DC, Los Angeles and San Francisco have scheduled demonstrations. One organization participating is A.N.S.W.E.R. and they note:

In just days, we will be taking to the streets! We are hearing from people all over the country who are coming to bring their message to D.C., and we want to share with you some of the plans and ways that you can make an important contribution to the impact of the March 20 National March on Washington to demand "U.S. Out of Afghanistan and Iraq Now!"

Visual Impact

As always, there will be thousands of printed and handmade signs. We will also be making hundreds of coffins with flags representing the multinational victims of U.S. wars of aggression, and many people are bringing coffins that they are making themselves. You can help make and carry coffins in the march by arriving at Lafayette Park between 10 a.m. and 12 noon.

In just days, we will be taking to the streets! We are hearing from people all over the country who are coming to bring their message to D.C., and we want to share with you some of the plans and ways that you can make an important contribution to the impact of the March 20 National March on Washington to demand "U.S. Out of Afghanistan and Iraq Now!"

Visual Impact

As always, there will be thousands of printed and handmade signs. We will also be making hundreds of coffins with flags representing the multinational victims of U.S. wars of aggression, and many people are bringing coffins that they are making themselves. You can help make and carry coffins in the march by arriving at Lafayette Park between 10 a.m. and 12 noon.

You can also bring visuals that are specific to the stops on the march. We will be marching from the White House to the offices of Halliburton, Washington Post, Mortgage Bankers Association of America, National Endowment for Democracy and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

For example, Cheney puppets would be great to have when we go to Halliburton. You might want to bring a copy of the Washington Post to return to their doorstep since it's functioning as pro-war propaganda rather than real news. Think about each stop and be creative!

Be Seen AND Be Heard

We'll have speakers on the rally and march, and of course we'll be chanting. We also want to have as many drums as possible, so we are encouraging everyone who can to bring a drum (or a bucket or other implement on which you can drum). The drums should have straps so you can hold them while at the rally and on the march.

If you are not able to bring anything, don't worry. You can pick up a sign when you arrive.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Barry needs a pleasure trip







Also know is that Iraq's minority populations are targeted non-stop. This includes Iraq's LGBT community. At the end of last month, David Taffet (Dallas Voice) reported on Iraqi refugees Yousif Ali and Nawfal Muhamed who were in Dallas speaking about what they'd experienced in Iraq ("being kidnapped, raped, robbed and stabbed in Baghdad") for the 'crime' of being gay. After being designated refugees by the United Nations, the US granted asylum to the two men. Last Thursday, the US State Dept issued "2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices" which noted the persecution of the LGBT community in Iraq:
During the year there were reports of discrimination and violence against gay men and lesbians, mostly by nongovernmental actors. Press reports in April indicated that approximately 60 gay men had been murdered during the first four months of the year, most of them in Baghdad. According to UNHCR, during the year approximately 30 boys and men from Baghdad were murdered because they were gay or perceived to be gay. On April 4, local and international media reported the discovery of the bodies of nine gay men in Sadr City. Three other men were found tortured but alive. Numerous press reports indicate that some victims were assaulted and murdered by having their anuses glued shut or their genitals cut off and stuffed down their throats until they suffocated. The government did not endorse or condone these extra-judicial killings, and the MOI publicly stated that killing men or lesbians was murder.
On May 29, Muqtader al-Sadr, leader of the JAM militia, ordered that the "depravity" of homosexuality be eradicated. Although he publicly rejected outright violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) individuals, reports attributed the killings of gay men to radical Shia militias, as well as to tribal and family members shamed by the actions of their LGBT relatives.
Authorities had not announced any arrests or prosecutions of any persons for killing, torturing, or detaining any LGBT individuals by year's end.
Last May, Paul Canning explained , "The campaign started in 2004, following the religious decree of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani that said gay mena nd lesbians should be 'punished, in fact, killed . . . The people should be killed in the worst, most severe way of killing'. Since then Iraqi LGBT has received reports and information of over 600 LGBT people killed. But Iraqi gays and media reports say that the killings have massively escalated since the end of 2008."
We'll stay with LGBT issues but move over to the US for a moment. Gen David Petreaus appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee (as did Adm Eric T. Olson). The general was asked about Don't Ask, Don't Tell -- the current policy in the military which is supposed to translate as 'If you are gay, you can serve but you cannot discuss your sexuality or personal life or loved one or much of anything. If you do, you're kicked out of the miltiary. Oh, but your surperiors can't ask you if you're gay.' Allegedly, President Barack Obama is going to keep a campaign promise and end Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Not anytime soon. Maybe at the end of the year
Ranking Member John McCain: Finally General Petraeus and Adm Olson do you believe that Don't Ask, Don't Tell needs a thorough review before action is taken?
Gen David Petraeus: Uh, Senator, my position is . . . Can I -- can I give my statement on that?
Ranking Member John McCain: Yeah. We're short of time. But please go ahead.
Chair Carl Levin: Well how long is this statement?
Gen David Petraeus: About eight minutes sir.
Ranking Member John McCain: No. No.
Gen David Petraeus: Well look sir this is not -- this is not a soundbyte issue.

Chair Carl Levin: I understand.
Ranking Member John McCain: It's a pretty straight forward question, though.
Chair Carl Levin: We respect -- we respect -- believe me the thoughtfulness that you are applying to it, we've read your public statement but an eight minute answer unless someone else wants to use all their time for it, I'm afraid would violate the spirit of our rules. I would suggest however that if nobody asks you that question and their time is used for that purpose that you make that part of the record. But someone may well ask you. I just don't -- because of our time limit -- to take eight minutes.
With that settled -- or seemingly settled -- Adm Olson was asked (by McCain) and he spoke a few words (but didn't press the button on his microphone) while nodding his head indicating "yes." Which, based on McCain's question, means he does believe a review is needed. After that, Petraeus jumped in.
Gen David Petraeus: I believe the time has come to consider a change to Don't Ask, Don't Tell but I think it should be done in a thoughtful and deliberative manner -- that should include the conduct of the review that Secretary [of Defense Robert] Gates has directed that would consider the views in the force on a change in the policy and it would include an assessment on the likely effects on recruiting retention morale and cohesion and would include an identification of what policies might be needed in the place of a change and recommend those policies as well.
Chair Carl Levin: And as I believe you said in my office the likely effects could go in either direction. The likely effects could go in either direction, I believe you told me, either negative or positive
Gen David Petraeus: It could. It could.
That is what was said. Some outlets are declaring Petraeus supports the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. That is not what he stated. He stated he supports a thorough review before anything is done. And Levin's remarks at the end really nail that down -- which may be why they're not reported. Petraeus has only endorsed the study. We'll return to the hearing later in the snapshot. Yesterday Marcia wrote about Jene Newsome who was dischared from the Air Force for the 'crime' of being in a loving relationship with another woman. Robert Doody (ACLU's Blog Of Rights) provides background on how the police, while in Jene and Cheryl's home, saw their marriage certificate and dropped a dime on them with the Air Force. As Marcia rightly points out, this is NOT the compromise that was agree to in the early nineties. Don't Ask, Don't Tell needs to be tossed out (and all who want to serve should be able to). But it is the law now and it's not Don't Ask, Don't Tell, But Snitch. Jene's rights were violated under the policy. She did not go public with those she served with. She followed the policy and she's been punished for following the policy. Marcia notes this: has a page where you can contact your members of Congress to let them know where you stand on Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'s Ryan Teague Beckwith provides an update, "After a week, more than 2,500 letters were sent, with 64 percent opposed to changing the policy and 36 percent in favor of ending it."
Between those numbers and the obvious reluctance on the part of many (put Petraeus on that list), the repeal is not a "done deal." And while it's in effect, it's not fair to expect Jene or anyone else to follow it but not demand that the superiors follow it. A snitch calls? So what. It's really not your business and, in order for you to make it your business, you have to be in violation of the policy because a 'tip' that leads to questioning means you violated the Don't Ask aspect of the policy.
Meanwhile 2011 looms around the corner. The Iraqi air force is not ready (as has been noted since 2007). The Congress continues to complain about the administration not sharing a withdrawal plan with them. (Michele Flournoy always offers such lovely excuses.) And people are beginning to grasp that if the US government wanted troops out of Iraq, they'd be out by now. Just last week, the Afghanistan War was debated on the House floor and the bill being voted on would have pulled all US troops out of Afghanistan by . . . the end of this year. And yet our 'antiwar' (or at least 'antidumbwar') Barry O's done damn little. Well that's not fair. He's done an amazing job of embracing and continuing the policies of George W. Bush. Michael Schwartz asks "Will the U.S. Military Leave Iraq in 2011?" (Huffington Post):

Like so many others who have been following the recent developments in Iraq, I do not have a settled opinion on what will happen to the US military presence there between now and the end of 2011, when the Status of Forces Agreement calls for the withdrawal of all troops (not just "combat" troops). For me, the (so far) definitive statement on this question by Obama was his 2006 election campaign statement at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, where he firmly asserted the need to maintain a (approximately 50,000 strong) US "strike force" in or near Iraq to guarantee US interests in the Middle East, to allow Washington to move quickly against jihadists in the region, and to make clear to "our enemies" that the US will not be "driven from the region." (I am attaching that document, which I still think is the most explicit expression of his thinking on this issue.) In that statement he said that this force could be stationed in Iraq, perhaps in Kurdistan, or in a nearby country (despite the absence of nearby candidates).
Since taking office he has neither reiterated nor repudiated this policy, but his actions have made it very clear that he is unwilling to sacrifice the 50k strike force, even while he has also said he would abide by the SOFA and remove all troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. In the meantime, Gates and various generals have released hedging statements or trial balloons (see the recent Tom Dispatch article by Engelhardt) saying that the 2011 deadline might be impractical and that various types of forces might stay longer, either to provide air power, to continue training the Iraq military, or to protect Iraq from invasion. Any or all of these could translate into the maintenance of the 50k strike force as well as the five (previously labeled as) "enduring bases."
Back to Congress on Iraq. The 'deadlines' for draw-downs and withdrawals were addressed in the Senate Armed Services Committee this morning in testimony from Gen David Petraeus. Also offering testimony was Adm Eric T. Olson. "By September 1st the US combat mission will end" in Iraq declared Committee Chair Carl Levin speaking of the planned draw-down. That something more might be coming was probably most noticeable with Petraeus' prepared remarks which, typed, ran 56 pages. Wait, he didn't read the whole thing outloud, did he? Olson noted that he'd submit his prepared remarks for the record and just make a few brief statements to which the Chair replied, "That'll be fine." Did Petraeus read his entire prepared remarks? No. He declared, "I too have submitted a written statement for the record and will summarize it here." He declared that. As opposed to everything else which he read word-for-word from a prepared statement. That is correct. Petraeus showed up with a 56 page statement and also with a written statement that was supposed to be more 'off the cuff' and 'brief.'
Brief? Eighteen minutes and thirty-four seconds after he began his opening remarks he used the phrase "In conclusion." A minute and sixteen seconds later, after referring to "our troopers" when he meant "troops" and "unvavering" when he meant "unwavering," he was finally done. Finally. Nearly 20 minutes for an opening statement?
In his written remarks and read-aloud-but-written (opening statement) remarks, he gave what he always gives. For example, does he ever speak of Iraq without offering "but the gains there remain fragile and reversible"? Senator Joe Lieberman noted that phrase as well. And during his exchange with Lieberman the issue of the draw-down was raised. "[. . .]" indicates I'm not interested in Joe Lieberman's Happy Talk of the illegal war and have edited him out.
Senator Joe Lieberman: [. . .] whether it is still going to be possible or we should desire to draw down to 50,000 American troops in Iraq by September 1st of this year? It's obviously not a goal, a draw down required by the Status Of Forces Agreement with Iraq. It's a good goal but I'm sure -- you'd say -- you'd be the first to say, we don't want to arbitrarily go to it if we think there's risk of a reversal as a result. So give me your sense at this moment of whether we'll be able to get down to the 50,000 by September 1st?
Gen David Petraeus: I think we will be able to do that, Senator. I think that in fact we may reconfigure the force a bit over what we were originally were thinking it would look like say four months or so ago. We're constantly tinkering with it There's a possibility we may want to keep an additional brigade headquarters, as an example, but then slim out some of its organic forces and some of the other organic forces elsewhere. Headquarters really matter in these kinds because they're the the element of engagement. And if indeed we think there's a particularly fragile situation say in a certain area in the north, we might do that. And that's something we are looking at. But we still believe we will be able to stay on track to get down to that 50,000 figure.
Lieberman stated that would mean there would be a 7th Brigade headquarters and Petraeus agreed and that it would be somewhere around Kirkuk. Kat 's going to cover some of the hearing at her site and Wally will cover another exchange on the numbers in Iraq at Rebecca's site tonight.

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