Saturday, May 28, 2011

Barry O has a mechanical pen? A penis as well?







Today Michele Martin hops a high horse at NPR -- Memorial Day must be approaching. Although she writes of "two wars our nation is fighting right now," she herself has trouble mentioning the Iraq War and it doesn't pop up until a quote from Capt Vernice Armour and then again from journalist Brian Palmer. It takes nine paragraphs before Martin can mention the Iraq War herself -- typical NPR nonsense of late. (Writes? Audio won't be available until Memorial Day -- her written column is up now.) NPR can't find Iraq and hasn't been able to in some time. The Diane Rehm Show used to carve out seven or so minutes each Friday, during the second hour of the program, for the topic. Not anymore. Not since January, in fact. The Iraq War ended -- at least Diane Rehm's interest in it did. What is Kelly McEvers? Why she's NPR's Baghdad bureau chief. And NPR's moved her to where? Syria. Syria. Where US troops aren't on the ground. Syria. And you wonder why you get no reports on Iraq these days from your NPR station -- your NPR station that just got done using Iraq in its fundraiser, insisting during its pledge drive that it provided coverage of Iraq, coverage you couldn't get elsehwere. Apparently they meant on their blog The Two-Way? (Click here.)
Memorial Day is Monday, a day when the sacrifices of those in uniform are supposed to be acknowledged but NPR can't even make time to acknowledge an ongoing war. 'Oh, but it's so hard, after 8 years, to find a new way to talk about it.' That whine -- and I'm burning a bridge here -- came from a friend with Diane Rehm's show. I note that today that they had time to discuss Israel and Palestine. That conversation predates The Diane Rehm Show -- and since no one's really serious about solving the issue, it will likely still be discussed constantly on NPR (constantly, if unfairly) long after Diane Rehm and I am both dead and gone. It's not that they can't find new ways to discuss it, it's that the war doesn't get enough press attention for Diane and her gaggle of gas bags to breeze through a quick brush up to get informed on the topic in less than ten minutes. (That is what they do. Select the topics and all go online before they go to live to find their talking points. Woops, am I spilling trade secrets?) NPR's Michele Martin might not be standing on quick sand if her peers did their job. Instead, Michele's hopped a high horse with a lame leg and it's not going anywhere.
Memorial Day will come again this year, the US will still have troops stationed on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq, troops still in combat -- despite the lies of the White House as evidenced by the continued attacks on US troops in Iraq and the continued deaths. May 30, 2010 -- the day before Memorial Day -- the US military death toll in Iraq stood at 4400. Last night the count stood at 4457. That's 57 deaths that really haven't registered. That's [PDF format warning] 36 deaths, according to the Defense Dept, since the 'end' of combat operations announced by Barack Obama on August 31, 2010. Michele Martin's not aware of those facts. She's not aware of a lot. She should be aware that her own NPR program -- Tell Me More -- can't find Iraq. That war that takes her nine paragraphs to mention herself doesn't show up on her show. That would be the same show that 'informs' us of such important and life shattering stories as "O Magazine Staff Excited About Oprah Winfrey's Future," "O Magazine To Evolve, Collaborate With Oprah Winfrey Network" and "The Ups, Downs Between Iyania Vanzant And Oprah Winfrey" -- all of those 'reports' aired on Tell Me More's Wednesday broadcast. We'll be kind and call those "advertorials" -- they certainly weren't reporting. Prior to that 'reporting,' this week saw Suze Orman singing Oprah's praises for six of Tell me More's minutes while Dr. Phil was given over 12 minutes by the program to sing Oprah's praises.
I'm sorry, what war did Oprah die in? Battle of the Bulge? Charge of the TVQs? Memorial Day is one day in the year. And Michele Martin thought she could get on high horse for that. After a week of wasting her time and listners time over a faded TV personality (check the ratings, check O's circulation) packing it in before the ratings dropped further. Oprah's departure to cable was treated as more important than the country's ongoing wars and something requiring daily coverage and updates. Michele Martin and NPR owe the listeners a huge apology.
Lance Cpl Tim Horton: I have worked hard to ensure my injuries and other people's perceptions of them do not define my way of life or limit what I am able to accomplish. Receiving timely and quality prosthetics care is instrumental to maintaining my activity level. The quality of care I have received through the Oklahoma City VA Medical Center is outstanding. VA contracts with a number of prosthetic specialists who are familiar with cutting edge prosthetic technology and are able to outfit me with the devices I need to maintain a high level of physical activity. Most importantly, my prosthetics provider has really taken the time to understand who I am as a whole person -- not just a wounded warrior -- and how that shapes my medical needs. So while the quality of care I am receiving is very good, the process of going through the VA to receive those benefits takes far too long. When I need adjustments or replacement equipment, I must schedule an appointment with the medical center to be seen by a member of tehir prosthetics team who will then write the prescription to the provider, further delaying my ability to get an appointment and ultimately receive the adjustments or equipment I need. Why is this the case? I know other veterans who live in close proximity to Walter Reed who are able to walk in and out with the services and equipment they need within the same day, all without ever needing to go through their local VA. It would make sense to me if I were able to see my prosethetics specialist first, who could then communicate with VA about what I need and get the authorization, eliminating the wait time for an appointment. While waiting weeks for an appointment might seem like a minor inconvenicence, for a warrior like myself, spending weeks without the necessary prostehtics equipment, or sometimes even worse equipment that causes extreme discomfort and other medical issues, can be sholly disruptive to our daily lives. The timeliness and consistency of care should not be a function of where warriors happen to live. The most important thing I have learned in navigating my own transition and helping my peers through their own journey is that you must act as your own advocate. There are so many programs and benefits available to assist us, yet often we are never informed of these programs or the information is delivered in a time and place that is not conducive for wounded warriors to absorb it. We receive so much information at the time when we are newly injured. When I was brought to Behtesda, I was completely reliant on my mother as my caregiver. It took me two and a half months to regain the ability to feed myself. My sole focus was on my physical recovery. It was impossible for me to take in the vast amount of information coming at me during that time, I understand that since I have been injured the Federal Recovery Coordination Program has been put into place for severely wounded warriors to assist with this challenge. This is not a program I benefited from, nor did I know of its existence before preparing for my testimony here today. What I do know is that warriors need real help in discovering what benefits exist and how to utilize them so that they can thrive in their lives post-injury. Other veterans are out there spreading the word, but no one from VA is reaching out. That needs to change. I have spent the last several years sharing the knowledge I've gained through my own recovery and plan to continue that work as an outreach worker with the Wounded Warrior Project, but there must be a more systematic VA effort. My hope is that -- by coming before you today and testifying to some of my issues in navigating through the system -- things will continue to improve for the warriors coming behind me.
Iraq War veteran Tim Horton was testifying before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday. We noted the hearing yesterday and are doing so today. Horton spoke of the assistance he received not from DoD or VA employees, but from Vietnam veterans who helped him navigate the system. This despite the fact that the US government pays for federal care coordinators, as Ava addressed in "Scott Brown, John Kerry, veterans clearing house" last night at Trina's site. As Ava reported, Senators Bernie Sanders and Johnny Isakson were among those wondering why there wasn't a national hotline, a clearing house, for wounded veterans to call and get help with their care?
May 7, 2008 -- over three years ago -- the VA issued a press release annoucing that their "new Federal Recovery Coordinator Program office is actively at work with dozens of severely injured patients acround the country" -- quoting then VA Secretary James Peake.
The release continued: "In coordination with the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services, the joint Federal Recovery Coordinator Program is designed to cut across bureaucratic lines and reach into the private sector as necessary to identify services needed for seriously wounded and ill service members, veterans and their families. A key recommendation of a presidential commission chaired by former Sen. Bob Dole and former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, the recovery coordinators do not directly provide care, but coordinates federal health care teams and private community resources to achieve the personal and professional goals of an indvidiualized 'life map' or recovery plan developed with the service members or veterans who qualify for the federal recovery coordinator program."
Yet neither Tim Horton nor Afghanistan War veteran Steven Bohn were provided with federal care coordinator. Ranking Member Richard Burr asked, "Steve, were you ever offered a federal care coordinator?" Bohn replied, "Negative. Me and my family -- I've never even heard of that unitl a couple of days ago." In last night's "Senate Veterans Affairs Committee," Kat reported on Burr's statements regarding DoD's refusal to submit their prepared (written) remarks in a timely manner. In his opening remarks, Burr wondered, "How much is enough time to prepare testimony before this committee?" He noted DoD was informed of this hearing on May 11th, yet 24 hours prior to the hearing, DoD still hadn't submitted -- as required -- their prepared remarks. There seems to be a great deal of problems with providing information. Maybe one answer is to, let's just take the federal care coordinators, for the federal government to post how many there are and how many veterans are utilizing them? In last night's "Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (Wally)," Wally gathers several strands from the hearing to make a strong case that the VA, DoD, etc are very happy to announce programs and get patted on the back but to actually provide these services to the veterans who need them seems to be another story. If, for example, the federal care coordinator program was required to be publicly posted -- how many are there, how many veterans are utilizing them, etc. -- maybe there would be more of a push by department heads to ensure that these programs are utilized? But this information, like so much other information, is difficult even for the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee to get. (VA estimates that they have assisted 1,300 veterans since the program started in 2008 and that there are around 660 veterans currently being assisted by their 22 federal care coordiantors.)
As Kat noted, Burr asked the DoD witness George Taylor (Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense) why his prepared remarks were not submitted to the Committee on time (prepared remarks are supposed to be submitted to the Committee or Subcomittee 48 hours in advance) and Taylor said he'd have to follow up on that. As Senator Bernie Sanders observed, "I think the pity is we spend a fortune and sometimes at the end of the road the care is excellent if people can get to it. And yet I suspect that there are thousands of young men and women who've returned to who don't even know what they're entitled to, what is available to them, how to access it." Again, Sanders went on to recommend that a 24-hour hotline be created for wounded veterans to call and speak to someone who could tell them of the services that are available. From the hearing:
Senator Johnny Isakson: It's my understanding, I know we've got well over 100,000 people deployed in the Middle East right now and we have 22 federal coordinators -- federal care coordinators, is that right? [Lorraine nods] That's 22 coordinators and we've got people coming home every day with the same needs that Tim and Steve have talked about.
Moving to the second panel, VA and DoD staff, the Committee was told that DoD has "approximately 150" federal care coordinators. Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Committee and she asked if there were enough federal care coordinators and the reply was that they've just hired more and "there are 28 in class today". When the Chair asked specifically, "Do we have more soldiers coming home than the infrastructure is prepared for?," DoD replied that they believed the infrastructure was in place. The VA's Deborah Amdur would state she was "extremely disturbed" to hear Horton and Bohn's testimony; however, she offered no apology to either. (Senator Burr made a point to apologize to Bohn for the treatment he experienced, noting that someone should have apologized on behalf to Bohn a long time ago.)
Committee Chair Patty Murray: I want to turn to an issue that I am deeply concerned about and that is the issue of suicide. The number of service members and new veterans we have lost to suicide is now on par with the number of those who've been killed in combat. That should be disturbing to everyone in this room. Last week, at this hearing, we talked about the very high rate of suicides among those participating in the Joint Disability Evaluation process. Those service members are actually under constant supervision of the Department and that occurred. We do know that there is progress being made in suicide prevention and mental health treatement. Dr. Kemp, your program has been outstanding, I've heard a lot of good reviews about that. But there is a lot of work that remains to be done. And I want to ask this Committee what do we need to do to address this problem?
Dr. Janet Kemp: Yeah. Uh, first Chairman Murray, I want to say the numbers are appalling. And we know that and recognize that and no one who serves their country and comes back alive should die by suicide ever. Uhm, and I think that we, uhm, have worked very hard in the past two years to put programs into place One of the things you mentioned earlier was the crisis line which we have opened up now to service members and families and friends of service members and continue to get calls from that population. But we need to continue to communicate its availability, we need to make sure that people know that there is someone there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We need to work more closely with our DoD partners and we are in the process of doing this, to be able to communicate to our suicide prevention coordinators in the VA, sooner and earlier that someone may be released and someone needs services and we need to start that care ahead of time. We also need to do more work, and this is also in progress, in the area of training all providers and the people who do these disability examines to do screenings, to ask the right questions -- that just because someone's being evaluated for physical injury, we have to ask the emotional --
Committee Chair Patty Murray: How long will that take to train all the providers?
Dr. Janet Kemp: We've started the process with the providers who do the examines in the VA and we will start the process --
Committee Chair Patty Murray: At every facility across the country?
Dr. Janet Kemp: Yes. Yes. And we've also started training all of our primary care providers across the country to really work with emotional issues as well as regular mental issues. I anticipate that this is something we can do rather quickly and I will make a promise to you to, uhm, move that process along.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: Okay, we'll be following that and I want to know when those people have been trained.
Dr. Janet Kemp: Exactly.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: I -- You know, the data released at the end of April showed that the number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are now utilizing VA care for mental health needs is more than half of all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are using the VA care. In a way that's a more positive sign that more veterans are willing to come forward and ask for care. But I want to know if the system's adequately equipped now to handle those rising numbers and meet the criteria that we set out?
Antonette Zeiss: We are resourced to provide that care in mental health. Certainly, I can defer to other staff members here for some of the other physical health concerns that are also very much a part of what they bring to us. But, in terms of mental health, in 2004, VA recognized that there were gaps in staffing and services, developed a comprehensive mental health strategic plan, began to implement that in 2005 and, really, with a stronger pace in 2006. Since then, we have increased our staffing for mental health services to over 21,000 -- it's an increase of over 40% percent in our core mental health staff. As we track the number of veterans who are receiving mental health services, those also have increased during that time period but have not increased to the same proportion as the percent of staff that we have added and we think that's the right balance because, as I said, we had gaps when we started. So we've been able to fill gaps for those patients who were seeking VA care and intensive VA care earlier in this decade and to enhance our status in such that we can continue in a proactive way to meet the needs of returning service members who come to us as veterans while sustaining care for those veterans who are with us throughout their lifetimes. We will continue to track that very closely, of course, because we don't know when there may be significant numbers of additional service members returning. We look forward to working with you and keeping pace in terms of the data on are we adequeately resourced to provide care.
This was the second of a two-part hearing. The first-part of this series of hearings was held May 18th and for more on that you can refer to that day's snapshot as well as Ava's "Scott Brown questions DoD's concept of streamlining," Kat's "DoD embarrasses at Senate hearing" and Wally's "VA can't answer a basic service question." In addition, you can stream the hearing at the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee's hearing page or, if you're having problems with that page, you can stream audio of the hearing from this CSpan page. [For the second panel of Wednesday's hearing, I relied on the stream because I left to attend the House Foreign Affairs Committee -- see Wednesday's snapshot and Ava's report "Ron Paul (Ava)" (at Trina's site).] To stay on veterans issues for two more topics. At the airport today, we were talking about this hearing and a veteran approached. He's a Gulf War veteran and he wanted to note a problem with VA care that isn't covered in hearings. It's when a veteran needs care and is not taken to a VA facility. He had collapsed from the heat earlier in the week, an ambulance was called and instead of being taken to the nearest VA, he was taken to a for-profit hospital. He later learned that the VA hospital was just a mile away. He stated he was talking and able to sit up in the ambulance but they insisted that the VA hospital was too late. The care he received at the for-profit hospital was grossly inadequate. He arrived at noon. They gave him liquids three hours later. (Three hours later.) Prior to that he was sitting and waiting. He repeatedly had to provide an inventory of his medical history and any allergies (at the VA his records would have been on file). After he was given fluids, he was ignored for many hours. Finally at ten p.m. he was told he was being discharged. He complained about thirst and hunger (he'd been there since noon) and was told there were snack machines in the lobby. He won't be footing the bill, the VA will pick it up. But he argues (I think rightly) that the service was inadequate and that, at best, the for-profit hospital should be paid for an hour's care. (He suspects the VA will be charged for the entire duration and considers it an example of fraud and waste.) Second, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Patty Murray will be touring the Portland VA Medical Center this coming Tuesday to hear from veterans and review the process at that VA:

(Washington, D.C.) – On Tuesday, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, will tour the Portland VA Medical Center and discuss her priorities as Chair of that critical committee charged with protecting the health care and benefits of our nation's veterans. The tour comes at a critical time for local veterans as more Iraq and Afghanistan veterans enter the VA in the Portland region. During the tour, press will get the opportunity to see the Portland VA's prosthetic and limb loss facility, including a demonstration of that facility's technology. There will also be a demonstration of adaptive vehicles used for disabled veterans and a tour of the women's veterans facility.

Following the tour, Senator Murray will discuss her priorities as Chair of the Veterans Committee including improving employment opportunities, health care coordination, and secure housing opportunities for homeless veterans.

WHO: U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee

WHAT: Tour of Portland VA Medical Center and Press Availability

WHEN: Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

2:00 PM PST

WHERE: Portland VA Medical Center

3710 SW U.S. Veterans Hospital Rd.
Portland, OR

Map It


Matt McAlvanah

Communications Director

U.S. Senator Patty Murray

202-224-2834 - press office

202--224-0228 - direct

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Barry O needs new panties!






Monday is Memorial Day in the United States. Today Senator Patty Murray took to the Senate floor to speak on the topic and about veterans. Her office notes that the video of her remarks can be found here.

"M. President, I come to the floor today to honor and commemorate the men and women who died fighting for our great country.

"Memorial Day is a day to honor those American heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.

"It's because of their sacrifice that we can safely enjoy the freedoms our great country offers. And it is because of their unmatched commitment that America can remain a beacon for democracy and freedom throughout the world.

"M. President, Memorial Day is a day of remembrance, but also a day for reflection. When our brave men and women volunteered to protect our nation, we promised them that we would take care of them and their families when they return home.

"On this Memorial Day, we need to ask ourselves, are we doing enough for our nation's veterans?

"Making sure our veterans can find jobs when they come home is an area where we could do more.

"For too long, we have been investing billions of dollars training our young men and women to protect our nation, only to ignore them when they come home.

"For too long, we have patted them on the back and pushed them into the job market with no support. This is simply unacceptable, and it doesn't meet the promise we made to our servicemembers.

"M. President, our hands-off approach has left us with an unemployment rate of over 27% among young veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

"That is over one in five of our nation's heroes who can't find a job to support their family, and who don't have an income to provide the stability that is so critical to their transition home.

"That's why earlier this month I introduced the Hiring Heroes Act of 2011, which was cosponsored by 17 senators and garnered bipartisan support.

"This legislation will rethink the way we support our men and women in uniform when they come home looking for jobs.

"I introduced this critical legislation because I've heard first-hand from so many veterans that we haven't done enough to provide them with the support they need to find work.

"I've heard from medics who return home from treating battlefield wounds who can't get certifications to be an EMT or to drive an ambulance. And I've even had veterans tell me that they no longer write that they're a veteran on their resume because they fear the stigma they believe employers attach to the invisible wounds of war.

"These stories are as heartbreaking as they are frustrating. But more than anything they're a reminder that we have to act now.

"M. President, my bill would allow our servicemembers to capitalize on their service.

"For the first time, it would require broad job skills training for everyone leaving the military as part of the military's Transition Assistance Program. Today, nearly one-third of those leaving the Army don't get this training.

"My bill would also require the Department of Labor to take a hard look at what military skills and training should be translatable into the civilian sector, and will work to make it simpler to get the licenses and certification our veterans need.

"All of these are real, substantial steps to put our veterans to work. All of them come at a pivotal time for our economic recovery and our veterans.

"M. President, I grew up with the Vietnam War, and I have dedicated much of my Senate career helping to care for the veterans we left behind at that time.

"The mistakes we made then have cost our nation and our veterans dearly. Today we risk repeating those mistakes.

"We can't let that happen again. Our nation's veterans are disciplined, team players who have proven they can deliver under pressure like no one else.

"M. President, let's not let another year, and another Memorial Day, go by without us delivering for them.

"Thank you. I yield the floor."

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day and begun near the end of the US Civil War in an attempt at healing the nation. It continues today to honor the sacrifices of those who serve.
Our focus is Iraq and the most recent US military deaths in Iraq were on Sunday when 2 US soldiers were killed. Tuesday, DoD released the following statement: "The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of two soldiers who were supporting Operation New Dawn. They died May 22 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device. They were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infrantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan. Killed werre: Sgt. 1st Class Clifford E. Beattie, 37, of Medical Lake, Wash., and Pfc. Ramon Mora Jr., 19, of Ontario, Calif. For more information, the media may contact the 1st Infantry Division public affairs office at 785-240-6359." The Salina Journal News reports today that Clifford Beattie was on his "third deployment to Iraq" and that his survivors include his wife and their two children. He has been "psothumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal (second award) and the Purple Heart." Ramon Mora, who had been on his first tour of Iraq, "was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart and Combat Infantryman Badge." A photo of Ramon Mora Jr.'s return to Dover Air Force Base this week can be found here [photo by Jose Luis Magana (AP)]. And a photo, also by Jose Luis Magana, of Chaplain Capt Richard Dunbarreads leading a prayer for Ramon Mora Jr at Dover can be found here.
Spc 4 Steven A. Bohn: I was born and raised in Salem, Massachusetts. I grew up poor and worked for everything I have. I dropped out of high school with 3 1/2 credits left to graduate so I could get a full time job and help support my family. I joined the Army in 2007 after learning that a friend of mine had been killed in Iraq by an IED blast. After infantry training, I was assigned to the historic 101st Airborne Division, 1/506th Infantry Regiment. My unit deployed to Afghanistan in March 2008 to a remote base in Wardak province near the Pakistan border. The base was the size of a soccer field and held 28 of us. Conditions were pretty basic; having no running water, for example, we cleaned ourselves with baby wipes, and got to shower once a month at a forward operating base. I enjoyed the challenge of our rugged conditions. We went on hundreds of missions while holding down our outpost. But I was devasted when my best friend, Specialist Paul Conlon, from Somerville, Mass., and our first lieutenant were killed in August 2008. Still I knew I had to stay strong to survive. I was badly injured on November 6, 2008, when a suicide bomber driving a dump truck packed with 2000 lbs of explosives drove up to our outpost and detonated it. The building I was in collapsed on me and I suffered severe internal injuries and spinal injuries. I was hospitalized for a total of 6 months, and underwent two major surgeries that included resection of the small intestine, bladder reconstructive surgery and a spinal surgery. I was also diagnosed at Landsthul, Germany with mild Traumatic Brain Injury. While I know your focus today is on the transition from DoD to VA, I experienced some rough tranistions long before my medical retirement from service. After being initially hospitalized at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and then at Landstuhl Germany, I was flown to Fort Campbell, Kentucky rather than to Walter Reed where I was supposed to be sent for surgery. At Fort Campbell, I was initially assigned to a Warrior Transition Unit (WTU). When I was finally evaluated there by physicians, they realized the mistake and I was transferred to Walter Reed. After undergoing spinal surgery at Walter Reed, I was transferred to the VA Boston Healthcare Systme's West Rosbury Campus' spinal cord injury unit so that I could be closer to my family during that convalescence. Whatever coordination should have taken place between Walter Reed, West Rosbury, and the Forst Campbell WTU to which I've been assigned apparently didn't occur, because Fort Campbell threatened to put me on AWOL if I didn't return. As a result, I was flown back to Fort Campbell. Later I was returned to Walter Reed to undergo bladder surgery.
And that was before he transitioned to from DoD to VA care. Bohn shared his experiences with the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee yesterday. This was the second part of a two-part hearing on the process of transition from DoD health care to VA health care. The first-part of this series of hearings was held May 18th and for more on that you can refer to that day's snapshot as well as Ava's "Scott Brown questions DoD's concept of streamlining," Kat's "DoD embarrasses at Senate hearing" and Wally's "VA can't answer a basic service question." You can also refer to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee's hearing page where a video is posted. If you're reading this in 2011, you'll be able to view it. After that, I have no idea. It currently goes back to 2005. Presumably they would keep these posted. Last week, the Committee heard from VA Deputy Secretary W. Scott Gould and DoD Deputy Secretary William Lynn.
Yesterday the Committee heard from two panels of witnessess. The first panel was composed of Afghanistan War veteran Steven A. Bohn (quoted from earlier), Iraq War veteran Tim Horton and the Wounded War Care Project's James R. Lorraine. The second panel was VA's Acting Deputy Chief Officer, Mental Health Services [. . .] Antonette Zeiss and DoD's Deputy Assistant Secretary Dr. George Taylor. Senator Patty Murray is Committee Chair. From her opening remarks, we'll note the following.

Committee Chair Patty Murray: I know that VA and DoD have big challenges facing them: servicemembers and veterans continue to take their own lives at an alarming rate, wait times for benefits continue to drag on for an average of a year or far more, and the quality of prosthetic care continues to be inconsistent between the Departments. Now, in some instances, DoD and VA have come to the table to make headway on these issues, and they should be commended for that. But we still have work to do. In fact, sometimes it is the simplest fixes that for some reason the two Departments cannot come together on. A good example of this is the Traumatic Extremity Injuries and Amputation Center of Excellence that was mandated to move forward on October 14th, 2008. This new center was supposed to be a place where best practices could be shared and a resitry of these injuries could begin. But here we are two and a half years later -- and we have not seen any substantial movement toward the creation of this center. When I asked Secretary Lynn last week what progress had been made he could not provide an answer. This is unacceptable. But as our witnesses' testimony today will show, this is unfortunately not the only area where we need better medical collaboration. We have a lot of work to do to ensure that each Department knows what the other is providing to our service members and veterans. [. . .] Today, we will also further discuss the efforts to exand and improve mental health care. We do not need the courts to tell us that much more can and should be done to relieve the invisble wouds of war. Although some steps have been taken, the stigma against mental health issues continue within the military and VA care is still often too difficult to access. This had had a tragic impact. Last month, VA's Veternas Crisis Line had the most calls ever recorded in a single month -- more than 14,000. That means that every day last month, more than 400 calls were received. While it is heartening to know that these calls for help are being answered, it is a sad sign of the desperation and difficulties our veterans face that there are so many in need of a lifeline. I look forward to speaking with all of our witnesses about this most pressing issue.
Richard Burr is the Committee's Ranking Member. He had many strong points -- not surprising, he usually does. As usual, Kat will cover Richard Burr at her site, so for his opening statement, his problem with DoD and other things see Kat's report tonight at her site.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: Let me just start by saying it has been four years since the news about Walter Reed broke. In that time, some of it has changed -- some of you have talked about. But I'd like to ask each of you what you think the most important thing the two departments should focus on improving over the next four years. Maybe, Mr. Lorraine, if you would like to start.
James Lorraine: Thank you, Madam Chairman. I think the most important thing is you have to know what you know. If you don't know it, you don't. So finding who the wounded warriors are, who the veterans are, identifying -- If you want to change something you have to know who the person is you need to engage with. Right now, I'm not confident we know where the veterans are, nor do we know where there needs are. I think it's represented by my two colleagues here. That would be the number one action I would take, is finding the --
Committee Chair Patty Murray: Do you think the issue is right now nobody reaches to them or waiting for the veterans to reach out too often?
James Lorraine: Yes, Madam Chairman. What I've found is that when you talk to different government programs and non-government programs, my first question is, "How do you find the veterans in need?" And, 100% of the answers are, 'They come to us.' And I think in today's world, that's not the way we should be reaching to them. We know where they are while they're on active duty. It's that move from active duty to veterans status where we lose them. And that should be tied in a little bit closer because, once you know where the folks are and you can maintain contact with them, then you can start providing services and offer assistance.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: Mr. Horton, Mr. Bohn. What do you think we should focus on? The two departments should focus on?
Lance Cpl Tim Horton: I would say that, Chairman Murray, that we should focus on, just like he was saying, finding the veterans. A lot of veterans get lost in the system when they move back. A lot of men and women are from small country towns and there's no one there that can reach them and that's the huge problem.
Committe Chair Patty Murray: Mr. Bohn?
Spc 4 Steven Bohn: Chairman Murray: My only problem was that they didn't pay for my family to come visit me while I was getting my surgeries. My family had to come down out of their own pocket. The first surgery, my spinal surgery. The second surgery, my family couldn't afford to come down so I went through my second surgery alone.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: How far away was your family?
Spc 4 Steven Bohn: Salem Massachusetts.
His first surgery (once he was back in the US) was his spinal surgery. I believe Bohn's second surgery was his bladder surgery. Both were performed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center -- at dates very far apart and Bohn was moved around repeatedly, including to Boston, between the two surgeries. The distance from Salem, MA to Walter Reed is a (physical) distance of at least 464 to 480 miles (at least) which would take eight to nine hours to drive (at least -- and that's assuming traffic is fastly moving the entire way). It would have been very easy to get the family to Boston Logan International Airport (it's about 20 minutes from Salem to Boston by car). Most Thursdays or Fridays, I fly the opposite way, from the DC area to Boston and it's a 90 minute to almost two hour flight depending upon which airport I depart from. (Generally speaking, Reagan National Airport is the quicker one to depart from.) It would have been so easy for this to have been arranged and it would have meant so much to Bohn or anyone else going through surgery to be able to see someone before surgery and know that they would be there after the surgery. It would be reassuring and it would certainly help with the care because the patient would be in a better mind set. But no one thought to take care of this. Major surgeries for a recently returned veteran and the government plays dumb. And pretends it's normal for an already disabled or physically challenged person to go through a major surgery all by themselves. As Senator Bernie Sanders would later note on this topic, "When people come back, they're in trauma already, we have to be aggressive about reaching out." Back to the exchange.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: I think many of us forget that it's not just the service member but it's their family who's involved when somebody's deployed and specifically when they're injured. And, Mr. Bohn, let me ask you to expand on that a little bit because families and loved ones go through stress at this time as well being family members. You mentioned the travel. Tell me a little bit else about difficulties your family had during treatment and share that with us.
Spc 4 Steven Bohn: Communication was a big thing also. They didn't know. They weren't contacted until about three hours after I woke up in intensive care to see how I was doing. I know they're sitting there back, when I was getting my surgery, just panicking. You know, it's a big communication error which -- that needs to be changed.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: Okay. Anything else that we should be focused on for families that -- Communication, travel, being with the wounded warrior?
Spc 4 Steven Bohn: (nodding) Exactly.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: Mr. Horton, I was particularly concerned to hear about your difficulties with your prosethic care. It sounds like you got high quality care but it wasn't timely or responsive and you shared a little bit about how it impacts your daily life. You said that, Tell me what you mean by that, if you have to wait months or weeks?
Lance Cpl Tim Horton: There's -- The process is you go into the VA -- You actually have to call the VA and set up, there's a certain day they have a prosethic clinic and you have to be seen by them first. And you tell them exactly what you need, whether it's a new socket or a new ankle on your leg or anything like that. And then they write this down. And then they make a script and they send it to your outside provider. And from there it could take a couple of months.
Commitee Chair Patty Murray: What are you experiencing in that time period? Is that pain? Is is difficult?
Lance Cpl Tim Horton: A socket that's not fitting right which, for an amputee, that's horrible. It's like -- A little rubbing spot on the amputee is like someone having their ankle broken like terribly. So it's a big deal to me. So the time in there, that's something that really needs to be addressed.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: And how long were you in this period where you had a problem and it took you to get care?
Lance Cpl Tim Horton: It's usually -- I mean, it's usually a couple of months between every time I go to the VA. Once I get the care, it's great but the time it takes to get a prosethic leg or new prosethic is too long. And I've talked to several veterans about this and they -- they would agree on that. If you have to go through the VA, it takes . . .
Committee Chair Patty Murray: So it's waiting for an appointment, is it waiting for a speciality? Is it waiting for the right person?
Lance Cpl Tim Horton: Waiting for a phone call basically. And a lot of times, I call my prosethics in the VA a couple of times and say, "Where's this script? I need to get in here and get a leg." So I have to advocate for myself a lot That's --
Committee Chair Patty Murray: That's not the way it should be.
Lance Cpl Tim Horton: No.
Commitee Chair Patty Murray: Okay. Mr Bohn, you're experience trying to make ends meet was really troubling to hear. I learned of another veteran recently, he's a Marine officer who's recuperating at Bethesda and is receiving a housing allowance at a Camp Leijune rate so Senator Burr knows what I'm talking about when I say it's $700 less and that's a huge impact for a family. In the case of that Marine, there was a military coordinator who went out and looked for non-profit resources to help make up the differences for that. But we should be very concerned that this system was unresponsive to a military coordinator. At the very least in this case, the military coordinator did take advantage of community resources but I found that story very troubling. I wanted to ask you, Mr. Bohn, if anybody helped assist you in trying to access similar community or non-profit resources?
Spc 4 Steven Bohn: The Wounded Warrior Project directed me to a company Impact Players out of Cincinnati, Ohio which mailed me a check to help pay the differences in my bills I couldn't pay. And the Wounded Warriors, they gave me food cards, gas cards, so I could make my appointments to the VA which is an hour away from where I live in Boston. So having no gas in your car, trying to get to a VA appointment, that's kind of a struggle on its own.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: And your family? What kind of family do you have that you're responsible for?
Spc 4 Steven Bohn: I'm single. But I live myself. But I try to help out my family. Like I said, I grew up poor so I try to help out my niece, my sister, my mom, my dad.
October 6, 2009, Secretary of the Army John McHugh took part in a ceremony to resign the Army Family Covenant that his predecssor, Peter Geren, had already signed. The ceremony got considerable press attention. McHugh served on the House Veterans Affairs Committee prior to becoming Secretary of the Army. On that Committee, he was vocal about his concerns and an advocate for veterans issues. It is doubtful he's suddenly lost interest. But somewhere, something's falling through the cracks. And there was a world of difference between the experiences the Committee heard yesterday and the 'facts' they were told last week. It would appear that both DoD and the VA have a serious problem grasping what is actually happening to veterans. It all the more underscores that Robert Gates, Secretry of Defense, did not have the time he made to advocate on behalf of the State Dept's budget wants. Instead, Gates should have focused on steering his department. Gates is now doing speeches and interviews and various reflections as he does a mini-farewell tour. It would be much smarter for him to just resign and allow the incoming Secretary to take over already. Translation, Cut the farewell tour, you've been celebrated and spit-shined enough and you've done far too little. We'll come back to the hearing tomorrow and not just to note the coverage of the hearing from Kat, Wally and Ava but also to include more from Tim Horton who got less attention in this snapshot. Still on veterans issues, a number of community members from military families have e-mailed to note that some Albertsons grocery stores may be having a 10% discount for military personnel -- ID required and must be active duty, reserve or retired. In Arizona that is the case and Billie states that's the case in Texas as well. So if you have a local Albertson's check with them to see if their store is participating -- not all may be participating -- in the special discount that's going on from today through May 31st. Yesterday's snapshot covered the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing and Ava reported on it last night in "Ron Paul (Ava)" (at Trina's site) focusing on As Ava noted, "US House Rep Ron Paul has declared he's running for the Republican nomination for president. Click here to visit his website. [. . .] We're not supporting Ron Paul or against him, but we will note him because he is currently the only candidate who is against the wars."

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

But used to bes don't matter anymore . . .



EVEN SO, BARRY O BEING BARRY O, TROUBLE STUCK TO HIM LIKE A TICK ON MANGY OLD MUTT. IN THE US, THE CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER RECOUNTED SOME OF HIS MORE EMBARRASSING MOMENTS, "He flubbed his toast to Queen Elizabeth. His attempts at an Irish brogue proved even less convincing than his unaccented pronouncements. His limo stranded itself on a bump in the driveway of the U.S. Embassy in Dublin."





US House Rep Lynn Woolsey writes a column for The Hill noting that the 60 day requirement of the 1973 War Powers Act requiring the president to receive a mandate from Congress to continue any unauthorized conflict which continues past 60 days has been ignored by the White House and that the House is debating altering the Constitutional -- as well as spitting on the founding fathers' intent -- in order to shirk their responsibility under the law to be the only body in the federal government who can delcare law. Woolsey notes:
I've had enough over the last decade of this state of permanent warfare. I have five grandchildren and not one of them knows what it's like to live in a country that's not at war with someone and killing someone else's grandchildren.
It's time to put the brakes on. It's time for Congress to draw some clear lines, and Libya is the perfect place to do so. That's why I am supporting Rep. John Conyers' (D-Mich.) amendment to the defense authorization bill specifically prohibiting the deployment of ground troops in Libya.
We cannot afford any further expansion of this engagement. We owe it to the American people who are footing the bill – and of course to our servicemen and women who are already fighting on two fronts – to keep this mission from mushrooming into a full-blown ground war and military occupation.
There were two major hearings today -- one in the Senate, one in the House. I'd planned on noting the Senate one today but we'll try to fit it in tomorrow's snapshot and, hopefully, touch on a number of veterans issues then. Instead we'll focus on the House hearing addressing issues Rep Woolsey noted in her column (to be clear, Woolsey is addressing HR 1540 and that legislation was not addressed in the hearing, the hearing was about war powers). The Constitution is explicit on who has the power to declare war: the Congress. Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution: "Congress shall have the power . . . To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Caputres on Land and Water; To raise and support Armies, bot no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years; To provide and maintain a Navy; To Make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces; To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions . . ."
This morning the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing where the witnesses were all US House Representatives who had proposed legislation regarding war. The witnesses were US House Rep Justin Amash, US House Rep Christopher Gibson and US House Rep Thomas Rooney -- all three are Republicans. As is the Chair of the Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Democrat Howard Berman is the Ranking Member on the Committee. I missed opening statements -- and am told Ros-Lehtinen had an ab-lib joke about Rooney (both are from Florida) -- so this is from the Chair and the Ranking Member's prepared opening remarks (which may differ from how they were delivered).
Chair Illean Ros-Lehtinen: We meet today as part of our continuing oversight of the United States involvement in Libya, to hear from our non-Committee colleagues who have introduced legislation on War Powers and on authorities relating to the use of force to address the situation in Libya. The Committee will continue our efforts tomorrow morning at the House-wide Members briefing with legal experts. That briefing had to be rescheduled from May 12th, due to House floor votes. [. . .] The Administration has claimed that Congressional approval was not constitutionally required, and that the use of force in Libya was Constitutional because the President "could reasonably determine that such use of force was in the national interest" -- an extremely broad claim of war-making power. Even some who regard the President's actions as legal are concerned that the endorsement by the Arab League, the United Nations, and NATO seem to figure more prominently in his stated justifications than do clearly identified U.S. national security interests. [. . .] Mr. Rooney's resolution (H.Con.Res. 32) expresses the Sense of Congress that the President should obtain statutory authorization for the use of force pursuant to the War Powers Resolution. The bill introduced by Mr. Amash (H.R. 1212) would cut off funding for the use of force in Libya until it is authorized by Congress. And Mr. Gibson's bill (H.R. 1609) would revise the text of the War Powers Resolution replacing its current Congressional procedures with a shorter provision tied more directly to Congress's power of the purse."
US House Rep Howard Berman was apparently elected in order to serve Barack Obama because nothing in his minimizing and justifying statements acknowledged Berman had sworn an oath to the Constitution or that he is elected from a very small district that does not include Barack Obama as an inhabitant.
Ranking Member Howard Berman: I believe the efforts to either terminate funding for this effort or force an immediate withdrawal of forces would reverse, to disastrous effect, the very meaningful progress already made in Libya. It's time to end this stalemate, decisively. And that cannot be done by stopping now. I'd like to give the President limited time to pursue this mission. [. . .] Underlying this debate is a central legal question: the War Powers Resolution acknowledges the President may introduce forces into hostilities -- unilaterally -- for a period of up to 60 days. This may not be what the Constitution originally envisioned or consistent with a strict reading of congressional authority, but it quite clearly what Congress in 1973 presumed.
Berman went on to insist that "we can't argue theory here" -- as if the Constitution is mere theory? As if laws are mere theory? Let's see someone accused of murder explain, in a court of law, that the laws broken are "mere theory." US House Rep Donald Manzullo noted that "boots on the ground" weren't the test and that drones are assistance -- that a day after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted that the US would not supply Libya's so-called 'rebels' with weapons, Barack announced that the US would be using drones to attack Libya. Manzullo was very clear that drones are assistance and are participation. Via a friend's note (reporter), I'll note Democrat Brad Sherman's remarks in full (again, these are not my notes and I have no hard copy of Sherman's prepared remarks) because he refused to play partisan politics and stuck to the issues. (My comment is in reference to Howard Berman.)
US House Rep Brad Sherman: The State Dept is working hard to bring the blessings of democracy and the rule of law to every country . . . except ours. Rome was built with legislative decision making. Rome declined and fell under an imperial executive. We probably should authorize some action with regard to Libya -- although I've got a lot of questions the administration doesn't need to answer because they view us as irrelevant. But any authorization should be limited as to time and scope so that we can then pass additional resolutions with further review. Any authorization should be conditioned on the Libyan rebels expelling from their midst those with American blood on their hands, those who fought us in Afghanistan and Iraq and particularly the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. And, finally, I would want to see any resolution require that this mission be funded by the assets that Ghadaffi was stupid enough to leave in the United States which have been seized by the US Treasury. The Administration takes the extremist view that the Executive can deploy any amount of American force anywhere, anytime for any purpose, for any duration, with any effect, with only the most cursory discussions with only a few members of Congress. Worse than that, they won't even articulate that view. They won't even acknowledge the 60th day and the day on which they began violating that law. But as the Ranking Member points out, the fault is also here with Congress. So many of us would like to evade the tough decisions. Democrats and Republicans know how to vote on contentious issues because we come from Democrat and Republican districts. But this is one that crosses party lines, this is one that divides every one of our districts and a lot of people would just as soon duck the issue. That's not our job. We should put in every appropriations bill that the expenditure of funds in violation of the War Powers Act constitutes a theft of tax payer money. I tried with a few to get Congressional approval of both parties to put in the CR that no money could be spent in violation of the War Powers Act. We got no response. It's time for Congress to step forward. It's time to stop shredding the US Constitution in a presumed effort to bring democracy and constitutional law to Libya.
If the above doesn't flow, this section was actually what the snapshot originally ended with. But the friend who passed on Sherman's remarks didn't think their outlet would run with them. That is the case. So since some of those remarks were included in a version of a report but an outlet refused to include it (supposedly they weren't 'pertinent' to the hearing itself), we've moved it up to the opening and we'll also close the snapshot with US House Rep Brad Sherman's remarks.
I arrived at the hearing as Howard Berman was finishing his line of questioning to represent the 26th district of Israel and Howard's constitutents should know he had their interests -- Oops. Israel has no district in the US Congress. Berman's from the 26th district of California and it's amazing that he continues to make Israel his foremost issue -- whether it's related to the main points or not -- and the 26th district -- which has a small Jewish population -- continues to elect him (since redistricting). It's past time Howard Berman learned to serve his constitutents but if they're not going to hold him accountable, no one can. We'll note this exchange between US House Rep Renee Ellmers and the witnesses.
US House Rep Renee Ellmers: This is a very important exchange of information on an issue that I would consider gray. I do want to ask you directly though -- I know we've talked about the Libyan situation and we've talked about other situations where the War Powers Act has been put forth, do you believe that the President had the authority to do what he did in Libya? And I'll ask both of you that question. Do you believe that the Libyan situation basically adhered to the War Act?
US House Rep Christopher Gibson: No, I do not. Not only on the front end but even now. Let's look at the specific language from Public Law 93148 which is the War Powers Act. It says this, because this is a matter of fine point precision, we're talking sixty days here. This is what Section B -- Section 5 B says, "Within sixty calendar days after report is submitted or is required to be submitted pursuant to section 1543 (a) (1) of this title, whichever is earlier, the President shall terminate any use of United States Armed Forces with respect to which such report was submitted (or required to be submitted), unless the Congress (1) had declared war or has enacted a specifiic authorization for such use of the United States Armed Forces, (2) has extended by law such sixty-day periord, or (3) is physically unable to meet as a result of an armed attack upon the United States." Okay. So it's not so much that the president came here on the sixtieth day, according to the letter of the law, if we don't act within 60 days, the president is to cease operations and we're not in compliance.
US House Rep Renee Ellmers: And we've already -- We've met that 60 day marker right now and yet we have nothing going forward. Is that right?
US House Rep Christopher Gibson: We have surpassed the sixty days and Congress has taken no action to authorize the force. To be in compliance with the War Powers Act, we would have to cease operations. Now if the president requests, we can then provide stipulations on that withdrawal, we can actually give 30, 60 -- We can authorize how many days we think are prudent to make an orderly withdrawal. Let me also just conclude by saying that this is the current law. I think we should move -- I think we should delete these portions. I think we should either have authorization -- the president either has authority to move or he doesn't. And if he doesn't have authority to move, he comes here if he thinks it's that important. He comes here and the American people give their blessing with stipulations that the Congress may see fit and then we go forward. But to not do so really leaves open this ambiguity. This is what Mr. Connelly is referring to -- that the current War Powers Act -- as written -- really provides so much ambiguity as to expand the powers of the president and that's why we need the reform act is to bring balance back to this situation in line with the way the founders intended for the legislative and the executive branch to interact on these solemn manners.
US House Rep Renee Ellmers: Thank you, Mr. Gibson. Mr. Rooney?
US House Rep Thomas Rooney: I too and am apprehensive of thinking that Libya was justifiable. But according to my resolution, I can be convinced that it was the greatest resolution in the world. But the problem is that we've never had the debate.
US House Rep Renee Ellmers: Right.
US House Rep Thomas Rooney: And the president and the administration needs to come here and say more than just we welcome your support. So my predisiposition is no. But I'm open to suggestion. But, you're right, the 60 days has come and gone and just to add on [gestures to Gibson] in the past, there have been members of Congress who have sued, gone to federal court to say 'you're in violation of the War Powers Resolution and the Constitution.' And it's made its way to the Supreme Court without being heard directly on point -- that we, or those members that did sue, lack standing. So that adds to your idea that we're operating in a world of gray and, you know, possibly legislation like Mr. Gibson's would clarify that. But all I'm saying is that if he really thought that Libya was important and he would have come here within the War Powers framework of sixty days, he may very well have gotten the support of the Congress, but he didn't do that.
US House Rep Renee Ellmers: Thank you very much. Yes, please, Mr. Gibson?

US House Rep Christopher Gibson: Thank you for the opportunity to just to follow up. I just want to agree with my colleague here that it's certainly an arguable point, the one that I made. I mean, that's my read of the current law. It has been debated in other places and there have been opinions and some court cases related to this. That is one of the reasons why I'm not asking today that we take sanctions against the president. I think it's our responsibility to fix this. The ambiguity that exists has been exploited by presidents on both sides of the political aisle. And in a time when we need to create jobs, balance the budget and protect freedoms, now is not the time to be diverting into other matters. Other matters in terms of any other proceedings on whether the president is in concert with the law -- that is not my purpose here today. What I want to do is fix this going forward so we don't end up back here at this very same place spot.
Actually, if a president -- any president -- is in violation, that is the issue. That is always the issue. He or she is the people's servant, not a king, not a queen. As the servant to the public, he is bound by the laws. The Courts and the law have made quite clear that no one is above the law. Ava's covering some of Ron Paul's remarks at Trina's site tonight.
Will the US ever leave Iraq? Al Rafidayn reports US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates gave a speech to the American Enterprise Institute in DC declaring that US forces should remain in Iraq beyond December 31, 2011. Julian E. Barnes and Ben Lando (Wall St. Journal) add that Gates notes the US would agree to any request from Iraq for US forces to remain. Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times) observes that Gates is set to retire next month, that Gates noted Iran would be uncomfortable with the US staying (Gates: "And that's a good thing") and that his remarks came as AEI released a report by Frederck Kagan. The paper Bumiller refers to is [PDF format warning] "IRAQ THREAT ASSESSMENT: THE DANGERS TO THE UNITED STATES, IRAQ, AND MIDEAST STABILITY OF ABANDONING IRAQ AT THE END OF 2011" and it's released by Kagan and "The Critical Threats Project of the American Enterprise Institute" -- yet another group lacking both the harmony and the grace of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. Sadly for Frederick and AEI, we do know them by now, they are the War Cheerleaders, they are the ones who rushed the country into war with lies. And now they want to be seen as trusted voices?
They can't even be trusted with "Key findings." Declaring, "The Iraqi Security Forces will not be able to defend Iraq's sovereignty, maintain its independence from Iran, or ensure Iraq's internal stability without American assistance, including some ground forces in Iraq, for a number of years," is not a "key finding." It is a regurgitation of the remarks Nouri al-Maliki and others have been making to the press for over a year now. That's a bit like AEI 'scholars' camping out in fron of The Weather Channel for three hours and then releasing a "key finding" that the eastern seaboard may see rain this weekend.
Later on in the 'findings,' it argues the US has to extend the SOFA and Iraq has to agree in order for Iraq to survive. Those actually are "findings" but they're not really supported by any work in the paper. In fact, backing things up is apparently one of those 'extras' the bad economy has forced AEI to cut back on. The unsupported conclusion insists:
If Maliki allows the United States to leave Iraq, he is effectively declaring his intent to fall in line with Tehran's wishes, to subordinate Iraq's foreign policy to the Persians, and, possibly, to consolidate his own power as a sort of modern Persian satrap in Baghdad. If Iraq's leaders allow themselves to be daunted by fear of Maliki or Iran, they will be betraying their people, who have shed so much blood to establish a safe, independent, multiethnic, multisectarian, unitary Iraqi state with representative institutions of government.
When has post-invasion Iraq ever been "safe, independent, multiethnic, multisectarian" or unitary? Never. If Frederick Kagan and the others who pimped this war had any brains, they never would have pimped illegal war to begin. But if they had even the smallest ability to learn or think on their feet, they'd keep their mouths shut right now. Their plan was a disaster. It was always going to be a disaster (you cannot make or enforce democracy on another group of people). The last eight years have demonstrated the plan to be a disaster. Continuing it under Barack will only further underscore what a disaster is. The smart thing for the War Pimps is to just keep their mouths shut, let the US military leave Iraq (no, that's really not happening, I know) and lay low for a year or two, then emerge beating their chests and insisting 'victory' had almost been reached but Barack Obama stole it from them by refusing to stand up. It's not all that differnt from the revisionary history on Vietnam, for example.
But War Pimps are not known for their brains and they tend cry and rage at the thought of the plug being pulled on illegal wars. Far more interesting than the report is the "About The Author" on the last page which notes Frederick Kagan prefers to be called Freddie, has owned seven cats -- all of which ran away from home, states, if he had his life to do all over again, he would do so in angora and dreams of one day being asked to do the Vanity Fair Proust Questionnaire.
Okay, truth, "About The Author" doesn't actually say that (or even imply it), but wouldn't it have made the report more interesting if it had?

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