Thursday, February 17, 2011

He's going to put children to work






BNO News reports that 1 US service member died in Iraq yesterday. DoD doesn't make an announcement until the family has been contacted and the name can be released. So they have nothing. US-F? They use the tax payer dollars somehow. But it's not doing in their job. They didn't issue the announcement and haven't issued any annoucements at all since January 15th. The deaths continue because the war continues. From Monday's snapshot: "Saturday, Al Mada reported on the secret talks taking place to extend the Status Of Forces Agreement and cites Qassim Mohammed Jalal as the source for the extension meetings currently taking place between Nouri's reps and the US inside the Green Zone. Qassam Mohammed Jalal is part of the National Coalition. He is a member of Parliament's Commission on Security and Defense."
This morning the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing on the Defense Dept's budget. Chair Howard McKeon called the hearing to order. Appearing before the Committee were Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Adm Mike Mullen (Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff). We're jumping to the last half first.
US House Rep Dunan Hunter: Let's talk about Iraq for a minute. If the Status Of Forces Agreement is not changed or the Iraqis do not ask for our help and ask us to stay, what is our plan for 2012? At the end of this year, what's going to happen?
Secretary Robert Gates: We will have all of our forces out of Iraq. We will have an Office of Security Cooperation for Iraq that will have probably on the order of 150 to 160 Dept of Defense employees and several hundred contractors who are working FMS cases.
US House Rep Duncan Hunter: Do you think that represents the correct approach for this country after the blood and treasure that we spent in Iraq? My own personal time of two tours in Iraq. There's going to be fewer people there -- and that 150 -- than there are in Egypt right now. Somewhere around 600, 700 of those types of folks in Egypt. How can we maintain all of these gains that we've maintained through so much effort if we only have 150 people there and we don't have any military there whatsoever. We have more military in western European countries than we'd have in Iraq -- one of the most centralized states, as everybody knows, in the Middle East.
Secretary Robert Gates: Well I think that there is -- there is certainly on our part an interest in having an additional presence and the truth of the matter is the Iraqis are going to have some problems that they're going to have to deal with if we are not there in some numbers. They will not be able to do the kind of job and intelligence fusion. They won't be able to protect their own air space. They will not -- They will have problems with logistics and maintenance. But it's their country, it's a sovereign country. This is the agreement that was signed by President Bush and the Iraqi government and we will abide by the agreement unless the Iraqis ask us to have additional people there.
But Duncan Hunter and Robert Gates ignore the fact that the US military switches over to the State Dept if no new treaty replaces the SOFA and if the SOFA is not extended.
Gates was also playing games with regards to a lawsuit. Yesterday, Susan Burke and supporters of survivors of military sexual assaults and some of the survivors filing suit against the Pentagon held a press conference in DC. Congress noticed. We'll note two who raised the issue. First up was Silvestre Reyes.
US House Rep Silvestre Reyes: The other concern that I have is yesterday it became a national story about a lawsuit filed by former veteran women that are alleging what I think is a hostile work environment and sexual harassment and other things. I know you're probably not in a position to comment on that, Mr. Secretary, but I would like to work with your office to better understand exactly the circumstances that led to this lawsuit.
Secretary Robert Gates: If I may, let me just say, and obviously what I can say, is limited -- uhm, uhm, uhm by the fact of the lawsuit -- but let me just say a couple of things because this is a matter of-of great concern, I suspect, to everybody in the room. First of all, I have zero tolerance for sexual assault. And I've worked with Chairman Mullen and the Joint Chiefs and the service secretaries to see if we're doing all we can to prevent and respond to sexual assaults. I've had multiple meetings with, uh, the senior leadership of the Dept over the past four years, established four critical areas of Dept focus: Reducing stigma associated with reporting, ensuring sufficient commander training, ensuring investigator training and resources and ensuring trial council training and resources. We've hired dozens more investigators, field instructors, prosecutors and lab examiners. We've spent close to two million dollars over the last two years to train our prosecutors so that they're better able to be successful. We have expanded the sexual assault response coordinator and victim advocates ten-fold, from 300 to 3,000, and we now have those advocates at every base and installation in the world including in Iraq and Afghanistan. The court-martial percentages have increased from about 30% to 52%. So we are making headway. The fact is we aren't where we should be. It is a matter of grave concern and we will keep working at it.
Adm Mike Mullen: Sir, I uh would uh more than echo what the Secretary said. Zero tolerance. It's been -- actually over the course of the last six or seven years -- it has been an issue of great focus. And it is unacceptable that, uh, we haven't, uh, we haven't gotten to where we need to be on this. We know this is an extraordinarily difficult issue and, uh, I know both as a former service chief as well as knowing the current service chief, it's an area of focus. It wasn't that long ago it was a significant area both in the combat zone in Iraq, there still is enough anecodtal evidence coming out of Iraq and particularly in Afghanistan to certainly be of concern. What the Secretary said in terms of the, uh, investments in terms of improvements and education, the focus on leadership is exactly right. Uh, but we also have, I think, we have -- still have -- significant work to do and the leadership is focused on that.
You know what might help reduce sexual assaults? Gates and Mullen no longer saying "I have a zero tolerance" policy. Sexual assault is a crime. Of course there should be a zero tolerance policy just as they should have zero tolerance for some service member murdering another. Crimes are crimes. With their word choice -- forget what they think they're saying -- they repeatedly infer that there are crimes and then there is sexual assault which is this thing they just don't tolerate. That thing is a crime and it is against the law and anyone 'tolerating' it is subject to criminal charges.
Niki Tsongas asked last and we'll note her because she often addresses this issue. However, one thing to remember with Gates' responses above and below? He's out. He was bragging about it in his opening statements, when he ad-libbed from his prepared remarks (which he otherwise read word for word) to state this was "my fifth and final budget request." So this oversight that he's never provided but he wants to pretend he has? Someone should have asked him, "How much are you delegating to those immediately below you so that there can be a smooth transition when the new Secretary of Defense comes in?"
US House Rep Niki Tsongas: I'd like to come back to the issue of sexual assault in the military. It's obviously one that's much in the news today but really has been a longstanding issue and I think as Representative [Michael] Turner mentioned, something that this Committee has worked hard to deal with and find a way forward. But despite that -- and we've heard testimony from the various services as to all their efforts. But despite that, in 2010, there were 3,230 reported sexual assaults in the military. But by the Pentagon's own estimate, as few as 10% of sexual assaults were reported. And the VA estimates that 1-in-3 women veterans report experiencing some form of military sexual trauma. I can remember several years ago meeting with some people active in the VA in the state of Massachusetts and having a gentleman comment and say that was one of their dominant issues that they had to deal with. The Fiscal Year 2011 Defense Authorization Act required that the Department look into the feasibility of providing a military lawyer to all victims of sexual assault. While this is a good first step, I was disappointed that provisions which guarantee all victims the right to legal counsel and protect the confidentiality of conversations between victims and victim advocates were not included in the final version of the 2011 NDAA [National Defense Authorization Act] though they were in the House version. We would be shocked if conversations between their client or advocate were not privileged in the civilian world. And similar rights must be afforded to service members who may be the victim of a crime. Why would the Dept resist such a common sense measure? And I ask this of Secretary Gates.
Secretary Robert Gates: I hadn't realized the Dept had resisted it and, uh, I must say, uh, along with Mr. Turner's comments, these things sound to me like, uh, reasonable, uh, actions. And so I will take out of this hearing the charge to look into whether -- if we opposed it, why we opposed it and-and why we should not go forward on our own even without legislation.
US House Rep Niki Tsongas: And I would appreciate once you do that, getting back to me in some form so that I and others who felt this was very important. One of the things we have found is that despite all the good efforts on the parts of the services that the follow up procedures legally do not support -- undermine all the efforts you have made in preventing this in the first place, providing access to medical care. But if the follow up legal processes do not sufficiently protect the victim, make them feel comfortable in coming forward that it undermines all the good work you've done. They become suspect of the entire prospect, feel very much at risk. And this was one very common sense way, going forward, in the legal process alone that we felt we could better protect victims as they try to assert their rights.
Let's stay on sexual assault. CBS News' Lara Logan was sexually assaulted while reporting from Egypt. Mary Elizabeth Williams (Salon) gets right to the point: "Here's what you do say when something like this happens. Like countless women around the world, Lara Logan was attacked in the line of duty. She was assaulted doing her job. It was a crime of unspeakable violence. And your opinion of how she does that job, the religion her assailants share with a few million other people, or the color of her hair has nothing to do with it."
But, as Nicole Stockdale (Dallas Morning News) points out, some couldn't grasp that. One was Nir Rosen. Nir Rosen is toxic and that's why we've called him out repeatedly. He made disgusting comments about Lara Logan and Anderson Cooper. (National Review's Jim Geraghty has them here.) Rebecca's going to go into this topic tonight. I'm going to address it here in terms of Iraq.
Nir Rosen is toxic. That was obvious forever and a day. His disrespect for women is nothing new. We noted how he couldn't shut up in a Senate hearing when Senator Barbara Boxer -- on the same side as he was -- was speaking. When male senators were speaking, Nir was more than happy to wait to speak. With Barbara Boxer, he repeatedly cut her off over and over. And that was with a woman he agreed with it. He found the sexual assault on Lara Logan 'funny' because he doesn't like Lara Logan. He then goes on to suggest that more humor could have been found if men could have also sexually assaulted Anderson Cooper.
Nir Rosen is toxic. Rape and sexual assault are not funny. It's not 'great' when they happen -- even if the victim is your sworn enemy. We most recently called out Iraq 'expert' Nir for insisting -- in a guest post at his buddy Thomas E. Ricks' blog -- that, "Frankly this is a rare case where I hope Maliki violates the constitution, acts in some kind of authoritarian way to make sure he wins the elections, because the alternatives if . . ." Blah, blah, blah. When a person is bragging that they hope a country's constitution is broken, they have a problem. They are not about democracy, they are not about the process. The ends justify the means in their ethic-free universe. Now we just mentioned Thomas E. Ricks. In what world, Thomas E. Ricks, is acceptable for you to post nude photos of women to Foreign Policy? Little pin up photos? It's not acceptable. At that point, Nir Rosen's friend Thomas E. Ricks was still pretending to be interested and focused on Iraq. And then, suddenly, there's a T&A nude photo. How is that welcoming to women?
It's not. Nir Rosen, Thomas E. Ricks and other toxic players are not welcoming to women. And they haven't been held accountable. If Thomas E. Ricks wants to start his own version of Playboy, he can do so. But who gave him the right to smutty up Foreign Policy? Who gave him the right to run off readers who no longer felt welcomed knowing that Ricks was now posting nudies and encouraging a strip-club mentality in the comments? What the hell did any of that have to do with foreign policy? Not a damn thing.
But because women were the ones being exploited, the left was silent. Just as they were silent when it came to Scott Ritter. How many times does Scott Ritter have to be busted for seeking sexual encounters with underage females (girls, not women) before he's pulled from the left? In the final days of her Air America Radio program, Laura Flanders could call out some sports team for using a Gary Glitter song due to the statutory rape Glitter committed (14-year-old girl). And that might seem brave -- especially considering the rest of the left. However, Laura booked Scott Ritter for her program repeatedly. In January 2003, it was learned Ritter had been twice arrested for seeking sex with girls. And yet Amy Goodman continued to bring him on her show and treat him like a trusted guest. As we pointed out, was it going to take an underage girl getting assaulted for the left to walk away from Ritter? The whole time they (and he) insisted this was just the Bush administration going after him because he was speaking out against the illegal war. But in November 2009 -- when Barack's president -- he's busted again. For the same thing.
Why weren't the charges taken seriously by the left? Long after they were known, Laura Flanders had him on her show, Amy Goodman was interviewing him repeatedly, Seymour Hersh was touring the country with him, The Nation was publishing pieces by him, on and on it went. Known to be twice arrested for attempting to have sex with underage girls. And it was a-okay. It's toxic and it's past time the left started taking this sort of thing seriously.
You saw it in the St. Julian Assange nonsense as well. Two women may have been raped by Julian Assange. Immediately, it was time to tar and feather those women. They're liars, they're honey pots, they're this, they're that. And Ray McGovern, Dennis Bernstein, Naomi Wolf, John Pilger, Keith Olbermann, Naomi Klein and so many others got away with it because women are nearly the first thing that can be tossed out of the raft. Media Lens disgraced itself by attacking those who defended the women. We defended the women community wide. Defending them never required saying, "Julian Assange is a rapist!" I have no idea what happened, I wasn't present. But I know that if charges are brought, we don't attack victims. We wait for facts. (And, as we've seen this month, Julian Assange's male attorney is one of the biggest liars in the world.) For some time, Julian hid behind his attorney and allowed them to make attacks on women and feminists. Then Little Julie wanted to join in. And no one wanted to call that out either.
The comments of Naomi Wolf, Naomi Klein and all the rest (including the revisionary Nicole Colson) are exactly of the same toxic strain as Nir Rosen's. The two women didn't matter -- just like Lara Logan didn't matter -- because 'other things' were more important. And -- ends justifying the means -- the two women could be attacked, savaged and all victims and survivors of sexual assault could be as well in the process and it didn't matter because nothing mattered more than 1 man (Julian, in this case).
Women are nearly the first thing that can be tossed over the raft. Nearly? Gay males get tossed out by the left even quicker. (The right wing is far worse than the left on these issues, I don't pretend otherwise. But I'm not a right winger and my focus here is on the left and the way the left has damaged itself repeatedly in the last years.) Nir Rosen thought it would be funny if men sexually assaulted Anderson Cooper. He thought that was 'funny.' And he's allegedly an educated person -- apparently one educated at Jim Belushi University on an Andrew Dice Clay scholarship.
The left should have policed their own. They didn't. And that refusal to do so has consequences. If you're failing to grasp that, Amy Goodman pretends she's interested in abortion issues today because it allows her to interview Ann Richards' daughter. That's the only reason for that segment. If there was any segment required today by the news cycle, it was on the women and men who are suing the Pentagon over sexual assaults. (See yesterday's snapshot.) But that's reduced to a headline so that Ann Richards' daughter can speak. Maybe had she spoken in out in 2009, the current anti-choice culture would not be so determined? But speaking out, Cecile, would have required you calling out the White House and ObamaCare's assault on women's health. You weren't prepared to do that. Now that the attacks are coming from the right, Cecile's all ready to speak out. How very brave you are not.
Iraq. The story of Iraq's not been told by our brave leaders of the left. Not just because they all walked away but because look at all they ignored when they were covering Iraq. Naomi Klein is so offended that she got called out for attacking the two women who might have been raped and so offended that she can't hide behind feminist (she's not a feminist, she never was one). But what's really offensive is she supposedly covered Iraq and yet never found time for Iraqi women.
Never. Nir Rosen couldn't make time either. (In fact, of the most highlighted left voices covering Iraq, it's really been only Dahr Jamail and Patrick Cockburn who've covered women.) Manal Omar is the author Barefoot in Baghdad: A Story of Identity -- My Own and What it Means to be a Woman in Chaos. Starting in the 1990s, she has done humanitarian work in Iraq. NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq interviewed her about the status of women's rights in the new 'democratic' Iraq. Excerpt:

NCCI: As the former Regional Coordinator for Women for Women International in Iraq, what do you feel are some of the greatest obstacles facing NGOs which operate in the sector of women's rights?

Manal Omar: The biggest challenge is when women become the negotiating chip. One of the titles of my chapters in my book is "Negotiating Chip," because I witnessed too often how women's rights were used during political or social bargaining. For example, you may have high-level Kurdish representatives that believe 100% in women's rights. However, during political debates, or when it's time to vote on a resolution, they will not vote pro-women. When I would challenge them, they often would say that their primary issue is federalization, and as a result, they would strike a deal on a resolution for women if more conservative parties would vote on the resolution of federalization. The second challenge is what I call the "not now" argument. This argument usually states that because of overall violence and instability, it is not an appropriate time to discuss women's issues. I have witnessed how the "not now" easily becomes the "not ever." Women must maximize the window of opportunity to push their rights forward.

It's amazing that left publications haven't been interested in Manal Omar's book. Until you realize how the destruction of women's rights in Iraq remains the story the left ignored. What else got ignored? How about the assault on Iraq's LGBT community. At a time when you had three members of Congress addressing it, at a time when the Denver Post and New York Times were addressing it, The Progressive and The Nation and Democracy Now! couldn't be bothered. When it did pop up on Pacifica (KPFK), the guest brought it up and the host (Lila Garrett) expressed shock at the news she'd never heard of before. That did not, however, lead her to book someone to address the topic.
The left looks the other way at what Nir Rosen said and the reason is because his comments reflect their own attitude. A gay man being sexually assaulted is funny to them. A woman being sexually assaulted, to them, does have it coming if she's not their 'kind of woman.' And that's been reflected over and over in the coverage. Nir Rosen is toxic and his remarks were toxic but he existed and was encouraged in a toxic culture. Hopefully, he walks away from all of this with -- or develops -- a more inclusive scope than he had yesterday. It'd be really helpful if those who created and fostered the environment for such remarks could learn something.
I suppose both God and the March of Freedom work in mysterious ways. Prior to the past 20 years of U.S. assault on Iraq, there were gay bars and open homosexuality in Baghdad. Now the shiny new Iraqi Constitution sanctions the murder of unfaithful women and of homosexual men whether faithful or not. "Abu Qussay, an Iraqi father who killed his son after the son's homosexuality was revealed, is proud of the murder. 'I hanged him in my house in front of his brother to give an example to all of them and prevent them from doing the same.'" Between 2003 and 2009 at least 455 gay men were brutally murdered , many through a technique that glues the anus shut and then forces the victim to consume a drink that causes diarrhea. Videos of this have been proudly circulated.
Your tax dollars at work, my fellow Americans. You cannot destroy a nation and hire religious fanatics to attack other types of religious fanatics without creating hell on earth. And that is what we have done in Iraq. Meanwhile our own gay activist groups take some interest in advancing the rights to marry or work or obtain healthcare without discrimination, but primarily they have been obsessed with the goal of participating openly in the next sociocide.
Maybe others can follow David Swanson's lead? If not, we (on the left) will quickly become the very thing we once protested against.

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