Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Michelle goes to NY, Barack to Africa






MEANWHILE A BARACK GROUPIE DISCOVERS SHE'S UNDER THE BUS AFTER SHE'S RUN OVER, "Right now it seems the only thing we're getting is the shaft. I'm very disappointed with what's happening. I put my faith and vote into a man who I believed would bring change to our community, and so far, no good."


Starting with Steven D. Green who was convicted two Thursdays ago in the gang-rape of 14-year-old Iraqi Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, her murder, the murder of her five-year-old sister and the murders of both of her parents. Since then, the jury has been hearing testimony they will weigh when determining his sentencing. Green could receive the death penalty; however, all 12 jurors would have to vote to sentence him to death. If that does not happen, he is facing life in prison. The hearing resumed yesterday and continued today. Evan Bright reports, "Just heard testimony from Dr. Helen Mayberg in contrast to the testimony of Dr. Ruben Gur. Basically said that Gur screwed up his MRI." Gur screwed up his MRI? He certainly screwed up his testimony on the MRI last week: "Gur was an 'expert.' Another reason not to waste the jury's time with 'experts'." Brett Barrouquere (AP) reports Dr. Mayberg was the prosecution's witness and that she stated Gur screwed up the MRI because the scan was not consistent with the scans he compared them to (a control group to establish a baseline for normal versus brain injury): "He [Green] was done differently. It's not big surprise that there are some areas that look different."

Bright also reports the "Court is adjourned for the day. Both sides rest with opening statements to be heard tomorrow, Wednesday May 20th. Blog later tonight." On yesterday's proceedings, Evan Bright had a post at The Huffington Post. Yesterday the hearing resumed (picking up from last Thursday) and Dave Alsup (CNN) noted, "Patty Ruth, a Texas elementary school principal, told a civilian jury about Green's childhood as a reader who loved to be hugged by relatives. 'I do not know how we got to this spot,' Ruth said in emotional testimony. 'I do not know how this happened'." The defense better hope the jury has a better grasp than Patty Ruth or Green will receive the death penalty. AP's Brett Barrouquere adds, "Ruth's testimony in the penalty phase of Green's trial came as the ex-soldier's father, John Green, and an uncle looked on in court." At his website, Evan Bright noted yesterday, "Tuesday(tomorrow): Remaining defense witnesses, if there are any, followed by the Prosecution's one rebuttal witness(an expert/specialist of some kind). There is a "50/50" chance that we will hear closing statements tomorrow, Pat Bouldin allegedly said. If not tomorrow, expect to hear them on Wednesday."

"Our army is stretched by this long war," declared the Secretary of the Army Pete Geren today to the Senate Armed Services Committee this morning when reading from his prepared, opening statement. The hearing was one where . . . Begs? The army begs for money? That implies that the Congress puts them through a song and dance. The Congress just hands out of rounds of applause. As, in fact, they did at the start of the hearing, shortly after Ranking Committee Member Senator John McCain took time to note his "policy differences" with General George Casey Jr. . . . right before praising him. The army doesn't beg. It's more like the Congress is overly generous parents and Geren and Casey show up with report cards explaining why Bs and Cs are amazing grades worthy of the really big bucks.

There's never an indication, in any of the hearings, that any member of Congress has perused the budget request coming before it. Today Senators Levin and McCain both raised the issue of the Army's Future Combat Systems eight manned ground vehicles. McCain noted, for example, the cost overruns that immediately had a $90 billion dollar project increase to $120 billion. And if you half-listened you might think, "That's the Congress at work!" But, reality, Sec of Defense Robert Gates already removed that from the budget. So what you had were some 'tough' moves and questions about . . . something not in the budget. About something Robert Gates had pointed out was wasteful.

Despite the economic crisis that's facing the country, no member of Congress ever says, "Let's take a look at this item . . ." It just doesn't happen. And didn't today. They were happy to show boat on an example that wasn't in the budget and McCain, in fact, used the bulk of his six minutes in the first round -- what a Maverick! -- to explore this project . . . no longer in the budget. This project . . . removed by Gates. But did anyone on the committee find a waste in the actual budget? That would require them using their staff to examine the budget and none do. "I'm sorry to belabor the point," insisted McCain . . . after doing just that and then going on to prattle about "but I really believe that -- if you look at the submitted budgets there are going to be decreases in procurement over time and it makes these cost overruns which are bad even worse." Well when does the Congress review the submitted budgets . . . as opposed to items not actually in the budget?

They applaud. They offer praise. And all the time they're spending the people's money. Without offering any oversight. The White House will likely soon introduce their "Social Security needs fixing" propaganda. Congress will not stop to applaud the American people. Congress will not sing the American people's praises (though US House Rep Adam Smith might again call the American people "paranoid" in an open session). Congress will rush to cut this and that and insists that cuts must be made. But when the generals do their money shine, Congress just grins and applauds . . . and freely tosses out the tax payers' dollars as if they were their own to keep the war machine rolling. As Chris Hedges' "The Disease of Permanent War" (Information Clearing House) observes:

In "Pentagon Capitalism" Seymour Mellman described the defense industry as viral. Defense and military industries in permanent war, he wrote, trash economies. They are able to upend priorities. They redirect government expenditures towards their huge military projects and starve domestic investment in the name of national security. We produce sophisticated fighter jets, while Boeing is unable to finish its new commercial plane on schedule and our automotive industry goes bankrupt. We sink money into research and development of weapons systems and neglect renewable energy technologies to fight global warming. Universities are flooded with defense-related cash and grants, and struggle to find money for environmental studies. This is the disease of permanent war.

"I am going to put the balance of my statement in the record," said Senator Carl Levin, chair of the Armed Services Committee, "because we have votes at 10:00 this morning so that means that we have even less time than usual." Levin's statement can be found here and he stopped reading from it after "I also note the presence of several non-commissioned officers behind our witnesses; we look forward to their introduction." If you thought his stopping so soon would indicate a sense of urgency, you were wrong. There was time for many more rounds of applause and many more jokes. (Including ones about the "rakish" Senator Daniel Akaka.)

For a change, General Casey had rehearsed his opening statement (as evidenced by his not referring to it during his opening and his relying on it only occasionally throughout). "Chairman," Casey began, "last year, I think you'll recall, in my testimony I said that the army was out of balance. That we were so weighed down by our current commitments that we couldn't do the things we know we need to do to sustain this all volunteer force and the strategic flexibility to do other things. I can tell you that we have made progress over the last year in putting ourselves back in balance but we're not out of the woods yet." Of course not. Were the army out of the woods then the monies requested wouldn't be 'necessities' and 'urgently needed,' right?

As they ask for ever more money and insist is so needed because the military is so stretched, any reasonable person would, at some point, start to ask, "Well instead of throwing even more money at it each year, why don't we start pulling these overseas troops and bringing them back home?" If you spend more money than you have on clothes one week, you probably should consider not buying any in the following weeks. But for the military, every day is buy a fun frock day. And the Congress is more than happy to keep shelling out Americans' money instead of pointing out that the United States could save a great deal of money by ending the military 'adventures' in Iraq and Afghanistan (and elsewhere).

In strength targets for 2012 so that gives us a big lift

Casey: One of the reasons it gives us a lift is because it allows us to begin coming off of stop-loss this year. And several months ago the Secretary of the Defense announced the plan where the reserve component would begin deploying units without stop-loss in August, the National Guard in September, and the active force in January of 2010. This puts us on track to achieve our goal of being able to deploy our modular formations without stop-loss by 2011. The second key objective was to increase the time our soldiers spend at home. And I will tell you, after two years in this job, I am more and more convinced that this is the single most important element of putting ourselves back in balance. It's important from several perspectives. One is so that the soldiers have time to recover from these repeated combat deployments. What we're seeing across the force are the cumulative effect of repeated deployments. Secondly, it gives them a more stable preparation time for the next mission. When you're only home for a year, you're barely had time to take your leave before you're preparing to go back again. And third, it gives soldiers time to begin training for other things to do things beyond the regular warfare training that they're doing for Iraq and Afghanistan. Now I will tell you back in 2007, that I didn't think we would quite get to one year back, two years out by 2011. With the president's draw down plan, if it's executed as has been laid out, we will actually do a little better than that. So I am quite hopeful that if we execute that plan, we will make a big difference here in putting us back in balance.

Stop-loss is included because we have focused on that. And because so many in the press wanted to get Gates announcement wrong. For example, this was written by a reporter back when Gates made his announcement: "Stop loss now can be dropped in part because the U.S. signed a status of forces agreement with Iraq late last year that calls for a U.S. withdrawal by the end of 2011." What? That never made sense. Stop loss was supposed to be over by the start of 2011 at the lastest. But goodness weren't there a lot of Miss Cleos and Barack Whores in the media. Ann Scott Tyson's "Army to Phase Out 'Stop-Loss' Practice" (Washington Post) was one of the few 'reports' that actually qualified as reporting. Casey made it clear that it was meeting their target goals that was allowing them to meet the stop-loss goals that Gates set last March.

Dwell time is included because it's important and because Casey's statements were apparently too honest and required that the army rush out a scrub version of his comments. This is what Casey said:

Now I will tell you back in 2007, that I didn't think we would quite get to one year back, two years out by 2011. With the president's draw down plan, if it's executed as has been laid out, we will actually do a little better than that. So I am quite hopeful that if we execute that plan, we will make a big difference here in putting us back in balance.

This is what the army's press release claims he stated:

In 2007, based on what I thought the force structure would be over the next four years. I thought we wouldn't get quite to one year out, two years back by 2011. If we execute the president's Iraq drawdown plan, and I have no reason to doubt we will, we will actually do better and actually get to the 1/2 or even better ratio -- we have to do that.

That is not what he stated. Maybe he should have read his prepared statement word for word? The army maintains this quote is from his prepared statement). What you had, before the committee, was a general offering testimony and being much less of lackey than our press corps. Casey's actual comments re: the 'plan' were accurate. Why the army felt the need to rush in with statements that were not made goes to a frantic worry on the part of someone. "I have no reason to doubt we will"? That's hilarious. The closest Casey came to the topic again was during his exchange with Senator Susan Collins and, no, he didn't say it then either. He did say, in response to Collins' concern that the dwell time targets would not be met "if we didn't execute that plan. I would say that Secretary Gates has left the door open to go back and reconsider building those three brigades that were left out -- that will not build now if the situation in the future looks like that was not a good decision so the door is open for us to do that." For them to build three brigades if the draw down does not take place or if it starts and it's decided to stop it.

Staying with dwell time, we'll note the following exchange between Casey and independent (no declared political party) Senator Joe Lieberman on dwell time.

Joe Lieberman: And your goal for the army for dwell time would be what?

George Casey: My short term goal for '11 is 1 year out, 2 years back. I would like to ultimately get the army to the point where it was one year out, three years back for the active force and one year out, five years back for the Guard and Reserves.
Joe Lieberman: Okay, so by the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2010, which would be fiscal year eleven, you'd like to see us get to one year out, two years back? Is that right?

George Casey: That is correct, senator.

Joe Lieberman: Okay. And what are the numbers now, just to have it on the record? What's the dwell time now?

George Casey: Right now we're -- for the active force, we're sitting right between 1 to 1.5 and a little less.

Joe Lieberman: Right. Okay so well below -- well below. And am I correct that we expect for the rest of this year to have to increase deployments? In other words, the path we're on in Afghanistan and Iraq together, the net effect will be an increase in deployments out for the remainder of this year?

George Casey: Correct Senator, by about 10,000 before we start to come down.

Joe Lieberman: Okay. And that's a significant number. So in that sense, there'll be more pressure on dwell time from now until the end of the year just because of the suppy and demand you talked about. As I understand it -- incidentally to say something very briefly, I think you're so right when you say that dwell time is a key because it is so clear that you and we are trying our best and, I think, doing better at the quality of life of the people in our army and their families housing, benefits, etc, etc. But if the supply of the army is less than the demand for the army then this critical factor of how long our soldiers are going to be home simply can't go up. And from the point of view -- a military point of view -- retraining, etc. rest and of course for the human element of being with their families. Now I understand that we're in a very unusual moment here which is that because recruitment is going so well and re-enlistments are so high that the authorized strength of the army is 547,000-plus. We actually have an army now that's about 549,000. Is that correct?

George Casey: It is and actually senator for this year, '09, that we're in for a few more months, it's actually 532,000.

Joe Lieberman: Yeah, it's 532,000 authorized plus the waiver of about 3% so it takes up to 547 we've got more than that now.

That's included for the numbers and for dwell time. Lieberman's proposing funding approximately $400,000 million to allow 2% to remain in the military through the end of the year. Remember, they never worry about shaving the bills the tax payers pay, they just trying to find ways to add more to the bill. Over and over.

Geren and Casey submitted [PDF format warning] "A Statement On The Posture Of The United States Army 2009." This 20 page 'greeting' wasn't put together by Hallmark. "Looking ahead, we see an era of persistent conflict," it cheerfully informs in the opening letter and, on page one of the report, they elaborate that not only will it be persistent, it will be "more ambiguous and unpredicatable than in the past." That's due, they assert, to such factors as globalization (Barack and Thomas Friedman rush to object) which "has increased interdependence and prosperity in man parts of the world. It also has led to greater disparities in wealth which set conditions that can foster conflict"; technology; population growth; increasing demand for resources and more. Increasing demand for resources? Who ever heard of a country going to war for resources? Name one country that ever went to war for resources, just one that -- Oh, yeah. But don't we all pretend like resource wars never happen? Or that they only took place in the distant past?

In the hearing, there were a few moments on Iraq. Senator Jack Reed asked about it in terms of the drawing down of some forces.

Jack Reed: How does this work in Iraq? As you pull out brigade combat teams, you no longer have that brigade structure. You'll have embeded training teams that won't be operating with their brigades -- they'll be with Iraqi brigades. That's a different sort of species?
George Casey: You're right senator. As the draw down comes it will be a mix of units that have external teams and then units that have their own teams and then that will gradually to the six advise and assist brigades that will be remaining 2010 and they'll be organized as I said.

George Casey must have been on Red Bull. The general's never been so animated in hearing. He offered the trademark Diana Ross & the Surpremes "Stop In The Name Of Love" gesture (before you break the bank? think it over, think it over) frequently and also, on the above quote, he did this sort of Bela Lugosi meets "Tiny Bubbles" repetitive move with both hands. Kat's planning on covering an exchange between Senator Saxby Chambliss and Geren when she posts at her site tonight.

Monday, May 11th, Sgt John M. Russell appears to have shot five US service members in Baghdad at a stress clinic. The five killed were Charles K. Springle, Michael Edward Yates, Christian Bueno-Galdos, Matthew Houseal and Jacob Barton. If you're wondering, the hearing had gone on for over sixty minutes before the shooting was brought up. Senator Kay Hagan noted the late Charles K. Springle, how he was a heatlh care provider and asked, "What are you doing to be sure a situation like that doesn't happen again?" Casey replied, "We -- uh -- that is being -- is being studied and the lessons learned from that will be circulated widely throughout the army. There's several ongoing investigations that will inform us about -- about it was a tragic incident." Hagen was told "every brigade has a behavioral health care professional that works with the commander". In other news on the shooting, Richard Tompkins (UPI) reports that Russell is now at camp Arifjan in Kuwait "for futher questioning and legal processing." Tompkins notes Russell has been "charged with five counts of murder and one of aggravated assault."

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