Saturday, July 17, 2010

Remember The Maine, Barry








David Vine: Counterinsurgency, just quickly, because it features in the title, it features in the title of the book that we're going to disccus today The Counter-Counterinsurgency Manual: Notes on Demilitarizing American Society. Counterinsurgency, just quickly, is a term that dates to about 1960, the Vietnam era, came to mean the elimination of an uprising against the govenrment. Although the tactics of course are much older. Dating centuries, most likely the United States so-called "Indian Wars," the occupation of the Philipines and certainly the tactics employed by the people inside the British and French empire.
David Vines is with the American Anthropological Association and he was speaking as moderator of the December 5, 2009 discusion by Network of Concern Anthropologists in Philadelphia for the AAA's annual meeting.
You won't hear these voices on NPR very often (David Price was on The Diane Rehm Show addressing this topic -- see the October 11, 2007 snapshot for an excerpt of the October 10th broadcast of Diane's show). You will, however, hear the 'insight' of David Kilcullen on Morning Edition and you won't hear it or him questioned. Is Morning Edition unaware of what took place in Philadelphia last year?
The American Anthropological Association's annual meeting started yesterday in Philadelphia and continues through Sunday. Today the association's Commission on the Engagement of Anthropology with the US Security and Intelligence Communities issued their [PDF format] "Final Report on The Army's Human Terrain System Proof of Concept Program." The 74-page report is a blow to War Criminals and their cheerleaders who have long thought that the social science could be abused or that the social sciences were psuedo sciences. It was in December 2006 when Dumb Ass George Packer raved over Dumb Ass Montgomery McFate and her highly imaginative and fictional retelling of both her childhood and her current work which Packer identified as "Pentagon consultant" working on Cultural Operations Research Human Terrain. Packer was jizzing in his shorts and not even warnings from other anthropologists ("I do not want to get anybody killed") could sway him.
In May the US House of Representatives made an unusual move. Noah Shachtman (Wired) reported in May that the House Armed Service Committtee announced it would be limiting funding for the program.
If you click here, you will be taken to the AAA website and to a podcast (where I grabbed David Vine's statement from) of the Network of Concern Anthropologists' symposium featuring Roberto Gonzalez, David Price, Andrew Bickford, Gregory Feldman, Dylan Kerrigan, Cahterine Besteman, Catherine Lutz and Nancy Scheper-Hughes.
Counterinsurgency is war on a native people. In its current usage by the US government, anthropologists are embedded with the military in Afghanistan and Iraq and they give the guise of "social science," the appearance of it. The cover to allow what really are War Crimes to take place. It turns social scientists into spies, spying on a native people so they can run back and fine tune the US policies and goals of war and occupation. It is not social science by any means. At its most basic, social science, when studying a people, requires informed consent. Counterinsurgency dismisses it. Those interviewed do not know who is interviewing them. They often think it's the military (because the 'social scientists' are dressed in military garb) and that they have no choice but to answer the questions. That is not informed consent.
Information is not gathered to illuminate the human condition, it's gathered to advance military goals. That is not social science, it's so far beyond a bastardization of social science that it is, in fact, a War Crime.
When he thinks no one is watching, David Kilcullen can be very illuminating and drop all pretense that he's attempting to help anyone other than a military. Speaking this month to Byron Sibree (New Zealand Herald), Kilcullen described counterinsurgency as "a form of what the French call counter-warfare which kind of morphs in response to whatever we're dealing with." Michael Hastings' article on Gen Stanley McCrystal was about McCrystal's objections to counter-insurgency (portrayed in the article as McCrystal thinking they were a waste of resources). McCrystal is now out as the US' top commander in Afghanistan. Gen David Petraeus is now the top US commander in Afghanistan. Petraeus is a close friend of Kilcullen's (he even attend Kilcullen's wedding -- no word on whether he was the ring-bearer or flower girl). And all the War Criminals hang out together. The civilian side (which Kilcullen is on now, having left the Australian military) is represented by War Whores such as Samantha Power and Sarah Sewall -- America's very own Josef Mengele and Kurt Lischka. If you're late to the party, Ava and I covered the group in 2007 when two little War Criminals -- Sarah Sewer and Monty McFate -- went on Charlie Rose -- that's the episode where Sarah Sewer brags she can get Barack to say whatever she wants. Where were you brave journalists of the left? Oh, that's right. You were all up Barack's crack or else playing the quiet game. And if you're trying to lose weight, click here and see the War Criminals Monty McFate, Sarah Sewer and Michele Flournoy (I'm sure Susan Brownmiller could analyze that photo at great length). It may be days before you regain your appetite. These women are liars and include Samantha Power who is a blood thirsty War Hawk who blurbed the counterinsurgency manual Sarah and Monty 'wrote.' (Monty's academic 'writing' appears doomed to the same fate as her juvenile 'writing' -- massive charges of plagiarism. For those late to the party, I knew Monty McFate when she was an ugly, little girl and, if nothing else, her life has demonstrated that the old wives tale of "Ugly in the cradle, pretty at the table" was wrong. Sometimes it really is ugly in the cradle and ugly at the table.) You can also click here for Noam Chomsky's thoughts on the War Criminals (Monthly Review, 2008). Though women often lead on this (at least publicly -- and Ms. magazine and Feminist Majority Foundation were stupid enough to promote these War Hawks in a so-called 'feminist' confrence), Michael Ignatieff and many other men are also part of it. (One-time journalist Thomas E. Ricks, John Nagl and many others.) One of the few journalists to tackle counterinsurgency is Kelley B. Vlahos ( Most recently (June 15th), she took on the counterinsurgency 'brains' big Center for a New American Security conference:
But a year later, "victory" in Afghanistan is more elusive than ever and the "COINdinistas" are either disappearing to other realms of pop doctrine or standing around defensively, trying to backtrack and redefine tactics to accommodate the negative reality on the ground. So, as last year's event mimicked the preening confidence of a new sheriff in town, this year it amounted to a lot of whistling past the graveyard.
Whistling past the graveyard seems to be the only way to describe the sense that no one really wanted to talk about the 800-pound gorilla in the room: how their venerated COIN formula -- you know, the one that would have worked in Vietnam if spineless bureaucrats and long-haired hippies hadn't gotten in the way -- is actually playing out in Afghanistan today.
This was the largest congregation of the uniformed and civilian defense policy establishment all year. CNAS (pronounced see-nass) had been writing non-stop about Afghanistan in some capacity since its inception in 2007 -- including a recent study by fellow Andrew Exum, "Leverage: Designing a Political Campaign for Afghanistan." The fact that on June 10, the morning of the conference, one of the major front-page headlines in the Washington Post blared "Commanders Fear Time Is Running Out in Marja" should have been the perfect launching point for a stimulating discussion.
Instead, you had panel after panel nibbling around the edges and a keynote speech that managed, gratingly, to avoid talking about current operations altogether. Indirectly, the day provided a few tiny glimpses into how the COIN community and all of its defense industry hangers-on are feeling about the state of things. And it is not good. Unfortunately for them, the lack of public candor just added to the growing sense of doom.
But a year later, "victory" in Afghanistan is more elusive than ever and the "COINdinistas" are either disappearing to other realms of pop doctrine or standing around defensively, trying to backtrack and redefine tactics to accommodate the negative reality on the ground. So, as last year's event mimicked the preening confidence of a new sheriff in town, this year it amounted to a lot of whistling past the graveyard.
Whistling past the graveyard seems to be the only way to describe the sense that no one really wanted to talk about the 800-pound gorilla in the room: how their venerated COIN formula -- you know, the one that would have worked in Vietnam if spineless bureaucrats and long-haired hippies hadn't gotten in the way -- is actually playing out in Afghanistan today.
This was the largest congregation of the uniformed and civilian defense policy establishment all year. CNAS (pronounced see-nass) had been writing non-stop about Afghanistan in some capacity since its inception in 2007 -- including a recent study by fellow Andrew Exum, "Leverage: Designing a Political Campaign for Afghanistan." The fact that on June 10, the morning of the conference, one of the major front-page headlines in the Washington Post blared "Commanders Fear Time Is Running Out in Marja" should have been the perfect launching point for a stimulating discussion.
Instead, you had panel after panel nibbling around the edges and a keynote speech that managed, gratingly, to avoid talking about current operations altogether. Indirectly, the day provided a few tiny glimpses into how the COIN community and all of its defense industry hangers-on are feeling about the state of things. And it is not good. Unfortunately for them, the lack of public candor just added to the growing sense of doom.
Good. And good for Kelley for continuing to call out the counterinsurgency 'gurus' at a time when most others take a pass and in spite of the fact that Thomas E. Ricks launches personal and sexist attacks on her for doing so.
In Iraq, the Sahwa movement was part of the counterinsurgency effort. The main part, according to Petraeus (who is now trying to replicate it in Afghanistan even though for two years now it's been noted that it probably can't be done in Afghanistan). Sunni fighters (and, according to Petraeus' April 2008 Congressional testimony, some Shi'ites) were put on the American tax payer's dime. A little over 90,000 of them were paid not to attack US miltary equipment or military personnel. It was like paying a school bully off not to beat you up in the playground. And how did it work out? Shor-term it may have helped somewhat. (The large refugee crisis did more to end the bloody ethnic cleansing than paying off Sahwa -- by Petraues' own testimony and that of then-US Ambassador Ryan Crocker -- Sahwa was only paid to stop targeting the US.) But there was never a diplomatic push (which the Sahwa and the escalation -- "surge" -- were sold on) and what we really see today is that the Sahwa is not, has not and will not be integrated into Iraqi society as long as Nouri al-Maliki is prime minister.
And how long might that be? Trend News Agency reports Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi's adviser Khalil Azraa is stating the US has not done enough to resolve the political stalemate in Iraq and quotes him stating, "The U.S. can exert political pressure on the formation of the government, because it is responsible for building democracy in Iraq." Tariq al-Hashimi is a member of Iraqiya, in fact, he is, after Ayad Allawi, probably the most prominent member of Iraqiya (especially post-purge by Ahmed Chalabi and Ali al-Lami).

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. It's four months and five days and, in 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. Today makes it four months and nine days without any government being established. Salah Hemeid (Al-Ahram Weekly) notes the lengthy delay:
With many Iraqis describing this new postponement as unconstitutional, there are widespread fears that the ongoing political crisis over who will lead the country will now escalate further.
The parliament had previously convened on 13 June, the country's constitution stating that the president should be selected within 30 days of its convocation. The possibility of further delay raises the question of whether inaction is flouting a constitution that many Iraqis believe has already been violated by politicians.
Iraqi voters went to the polls on 7 March to elect a new 325-member parliament, but an indecisive result, and bickering over who should be the country's next prime minister, has delayed the formation of a new government and plunged the country into political stalemate.
Under the country's constitution the Iraqi parliament should have convened 15 days after the results were announced in order to elect a speaker, and a new president should have been elected within 30 days of the parliament's first session. The president should then have nominated the new prime minister, who should have submitted his cabinet within 30 days for ratification.
According to an understanding that emerged after Iraq's first post-Saddam elections in 2005, a Shia Arab would be prime minister, a Kurd president, and a Sunni Arab speaker of the parliament. This quota system also covers top jobs, such as ambassadors and senior government and army posts, and the country's Shias and Kurds have been insisting on the quota system despite strong Sunni opposition.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

All About Barry







Turning to England, BBC News reports that Paul Boateng is stating that the Blair cabinet (he was a member of it) "should have seen all the arguments on the legality of the Iraq war." As the Iraq Inquiry has already established then-British Attorney General Peter Goldsmith was of the opinion that -- without a second UN resolution -- a war with Iraq would be illegal. Goldsmith repeatedly advised Blair of that (leading Blair to scribble on one memo, "I just don't understand this"; while his underling scribbled that Blair had "specifically said we did not need further advis [on] this matter"). Days before the illegal war started, Goldsmith was finally pressured into changing his legal opinion. Goldsmith denied being pressured. He said it was more a case of choosing whether or not you wanted to be on the winning side. I believe that's peer pressure when we're speaking of youths. I think it falls under (politely) group-think when you're an adult or (truthfully) cowardice. The cabinet was not informed of any doubts and were only informed that Goldsmith was stating that the Iraq War would be legal. BBC News also notes:Separately, the inquiry published a newly declassified document showing that Treasury officials urged ministers to "step back" from taking a leading military role in post-invasion Iraq.An internal paper - written by senior Treasury official John Dodds - warned that Britain could be "sucked into" costly wider responsibilities if it took on security duties after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.But the briefing note, sent to then Chancellor Gordon Brown, observed it was unlikely Prime Minister Tony Blair and other ministers would want to "walk away" from a leadership role in Iraq.Peter Mandelson was in Blair's cabinet -- in and out of the cabinet. He resigned twice. His memoirs are due out shortly and sections are being serialized in the Times of London. One section is especially gathering attention. Nicholas Watt (Guardian) reports on Mandelson's assertion that he challenged Blair on going to war with Iraq and Blair replied, "For God's sake, have you been spending all your time with George Galloway?" Mehdi Hasan (New Statesman) adds of that quote:Amazing. Is any more insight needed into what Mandelson refers to as Blair's "tunnel vision" on Iraq? Is any more proof needed that our former prime minister had no intention of debating the rights or wrongs of invading Iraq, not even with close colleagues and friends like Mandelson, but had instead made up his mind long before the March 2003 invasion and refused to seek out alternatives? "As military preparations intensified. those who had reservations of the sort I had raised were lumped together in his mind with anyone who felt he wasn't 100% on board," writes Mandelson. "The distinction between the two became blurred in Tony's mind."On the Iraq Inquiry, Carne Ross testified Monday (see that day's snapshot) and Colum Lynch (Foreign Policy) reports on the testimony including zooming in on Ross' testimony about leaking to Lynch.

In the US, the Army today released the latest month of suicide data:

The Army released suicide data today for the month of June. Among active duty soldiers, there were 21 potential suicides: one was confirmed as a suicide, and 20 remain under investigation. For May, the Army reported 10 potential suicides among active duty soldiers. Since the release of that report, four have been confirmed as suicides, and six remain under investigation.
During June 2010, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were 11 potential suicides: one was confirmed as suicide, and 10 remain under investigation. For May, among that same group, there were 13 total suicides. Of those, two were confirmed as suicides and 11 are pending determination of the manner of death.
For reference, the Army's total for the first half of calendar year 2009 was 88 for active duty and 42 for reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty. For the first half of 2010, the totals were 80 for active duty and 65 for reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty.
"Our suicide prevention efforts must continue to be directed at all members of the Army family -- our soldiers, Department of the Army civilians and families -- during the busy summertime transition period," said Col. Chris Philbrick, director, Army Suicide Prevention Task Force. "The crucial elements are still caring, concern and decisive leadership. There will never be a substitute for a noncommissioned officer, first-line supervisor or friend who knows when a person is suffering and has the moral courage to act and get that individual the help they need. That ability to make a positive difference is the best method to render effective suicide prevention in the Army," Philbrick said.
Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance can contact Military OneSource or the Defense Center of Excellence (DCoE) for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Outreach Center. Trained consultants are available from both organizations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year.
The Military OneSource toll-free number for those residing in the continental United States. is 1-800-342-9647; their Web site address is . Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource Web site for dialing instructions for their specific location.
The Army's comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located at .
Army leaders can access current health promotion guidance in newly revised Army Regulation 600-63 (Health Promotion) at: and Army Pamphlet 600-24 (Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention) at .
Suicide prevention training resources for Army families can be accessed at (requires Army Knowledge Online access to download materials).
The DCoE Outreach Center can be contacted at 1-866-966-1020, via electronic mail at and at .
Information about the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program is located at .
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:
Suicide Prevention Resource Council:

Yesterday, the US House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing on preventing suicides. In addition to yesterday's snapshot, Marcia reported on it in "House Veterans Affairs suicide hearing," Ann in "Dr. Robert Jesse," and Trina in "It's about respect and self-respect" (Trina's covering the Republican committee member in the hearing who came off looking like a real ass) and yesterday also noted the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee's hearing on claims processing which Mike also reported on in "Senate Veterans Affairs Committee."

Meanwhile US House Rep Loretta Sanchez weighs in at Politico on the issue of women in the military. This is the opening, use the link:

Imagine you have enlisted in the U.S. armed forces. You've gone through basic training, overcoming the same challenges as your peers. You have proved you have the strength and determination to defend our country, at whatever cost.
You're deployed to Afghanistan, where your first assignment is providing technical support for a combat unit. You are exposed regularly to enemy fire, roadside bombs and other threats. You may even be injured while fulfilling your duties. In and out of combat, you perform bravely and capably.
Unfortunately, your combat service means little -- because you are a woman.
More than 29,000 women are now serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. But official policy prevents them from joining ground units engaged in direct combat or support units that travel to the front lines.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010








Linda Bean: I think what -- There are families like mine who have experienced the home coming of a much loved child who is now out of harm's way and you are so grateful that they are back with you that you may overlook the fact that they are drinking too much or that they are irritated or that they insist upon being isolated. And you're not empowered as a mother or a sister or a wife to go to the VA and say, "My veteran is in trouble." I don't even know that I would have known how to do that. I think in the way that Mr. Cintron described we need to make sure that people know there are places to go before you hit the suicide hotline. There are veterans who are not -- who may, in the end, be alone in a room with a gun to their heads but the day before would not describe themselves to you as suicidal. So I -- I guess I would go back to my very strong feeling that as part of that, in addition to the messaging, we need to make sure that there are community based programs that are easily accessible. And we need to make sure that the information the VA has is geared to family and friends in a friendly and accessible way, made easily available so people can find it. And that the VA is willing to say, "Look, if you won't come here, it's okay. We'll help you find help somewhere else."
Linda Bean is the mother of Coleman Bean and the above is from her replies to questions from Committee Members today. Coleman Bean served two deployments in the Iraq War and was an army Sergeant. He returned home and struggled, taking his own life September 6, 2008. His mother was testifying this morning to the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations which is chaired by US House Rep Harry Mitchell. We'll note this from Mitchell's opening remarks.
Chair Harry Mitchell: As Chairman of this Subcommittee, I have repeatedly called upon the VA to increase outreach to veterans who need mental health services and are at risk of suicide -- and members on both side of the aisle have urged the same. In 2008, the VA finally reversed its long-standing self-imposed ban on television and their families about where they can turn for help. As part of the campaign, the VA produced a public service announcement featuring Gary Sinise, and distributed it to 222 stations around the country that aired it more than 17,000 times. The VA also placed print ads on buses and subway trains. According to the VA's own statistics, the effort proved successful. As of April 2010, the VA has reported nearly 7,000 rescues of actively suicidal veterans, which were attributed to seeing the ads, PSAs, or promotional products. Additionally, referrals to VA mental health services increased.
We're going to jump to US House Rep John Hall's questions because PSAs -- and when they air -- come up during that.
US House Rep John Hall: It's been obvious to many of us that when a person joins the military, they should also be automatically enrolled in the VA. And that members of the armed forces and their families should have access to their information and education about assimilating back into civilian life, into their communities before, during and after deployment. One of the problems as I see it here is that the Veterans Affairs Committee has one piece of jurisdiction and the Armed Services Committee has another one, on the executive side, there is one piece and the VA has another piece and there's not that overlap and seamless transition that we've talked about in so many ways -- not just medical records but health follow up. So perhaps, Ms. Bean, you could talk a little bit about what kind of information or resources were available to you and to your son before he took his life? What kind of outreach was there? You've told us a little bit about what you'd like to see available but was there any of substance?
Linda Bean: We have -- we have a strong VA system in New Jersey. When Coleman came home from his second tour of duty, the VA services were certainly available to him. Mental health care is at a premium and it's difficult to get an appointment in a timely fashion. I don't know when or how Coleman called the VA to seek mental health assistance. That's something that we learned only after Coleman had died. I didn't know -- this is a gap in my own understanding as much as anything else -- I didn't know what else was available. I didn't go looking for something else to be available and it wasn't until Coleman had died that I learned that there were many other programs that could have been available. I keep going back to the idea that, you know, our local newspaper run Little League box scores, we run the Butterball turkey hotline at Thanksgiving, we put out notices about bowling leagues. I think our local newspapers and radio stations could run a little box of resources. If you're a vet, if you're a soldier, if you're a family, you can go to these places for help. And that list could include the VA hospital and the vet centers. But it needs to go beyond that to include civilian resources, localized civilian resources. I'm not sure I'm answering the question.
US House Rep John Hall: No, that's helpful. Thank you. Mr. Cintron, would you discuss the kind of prevention that might help a veteran from reaching the point where they take their own life? We've heard about how Coleman and other veterans have -- have no exhibited or used the word suicide and then not exhibit those tendencies until it was too late. So what kind of outreach would you suggest could reach a veteran before they get to that point?
Warrant Officer Melvin Cintron: I think there are a few outreach efforts that can be done. But the first step would have to be to have the people to reach out to and that can reach out to the folks. And they have to have some minimal training. Not a lot. All it takes, often times, like I said, I've encountered many veterans and they start talking to me and share their experience. And it's like, "Wow, you don't the weight that was on me." And it just lingers with them. And al they wanted to do was get it out at least once with someone that can understand -- not to judge, but just listen to them. That? That's what needed. Those outreaches, I think, you know when you get with some of the groups that are available to us, if there's a combined effort with the groups, find the synergy with them and with the government organization so that we all own part of the solution and it's not just a VA solution, not just a DoD solution, not just the solution of any individual program. It is a combined solution we all own part of it. So the outreach would be retraining and identifying personnel who are willing to take the call -- at any [time]. Anybody -- I give my phone to friends and veterans that I need and I say, "Hey, if you ever have an issue, call." And I have actually received calls in the middle of the night. I was just thinking about this. And we talked through and we're done. But having that outreach -- the ability to call somebody -- doesn't have to be somebody that they know but it has to be somebody that knows what it is that they're going through.
US House Rep John Hall: Thank you. I know I'm over my time. But I would just mention that this committee has -- the full Veterans Affairs Committee on the House side has voted to give funding not just for PSA, as Ranking Member Roe mentioned, but for paid advertising. And IAVA who will hear from shortly partnered with the Ad Council in one effort to put together an ad that was more powerful than the average PSA -- Public Service Announcement -- shown in the middle of the night because that's when the time's the cheapest and the TV station will give it up to do there public service whereas what we really need is advertising during the Superbowl, during American Idol, during the highest rated shows, during prime time where the half-hours -- I mean, the thirty-second spot costs the most money. But we're willing to do that to advertise "Be All That You Can Be" [Army recruitment ad], or "The Few, The Proud, The Marines" -- you know, the lightening bolt coming down onto the sword. And if we want to recruit and attract people to go into the armed services and to go fight for our country, we'll spend the money for prime time advertising but when it comes time to help them find the resources that they need to stay healthy after they come home, we want to do it on the cheap. And just do it at 3:00 a.m. in the morning on a PSA. And I think that needs to change, something we in Congress should fund so that the outreach is just as strong afterwards as it is before they were recruited.
Linda Bean and Warrant Officer Melvin Cintron were the witnesses on the first panel. Melvin Cintron served in both the first Gulf War and in the current Iraq War. From Cintron's opening remarks, there's something that has to be noted because VA and military officials repeatedly deny that it happens but it does happen and it's not by accident.
Warrant Officer Melvin Cintron: As an example, when returning from Iraq, as we out processed in Fort Dix, New Jersey, in an auditorium, a sergeant asked, "Is there anybody here who feels they need to talk to someone about anything they saw or did?" Nobody raised their hand. He then stated, "If you want to do it confidentially, please sign the roster that will be in the adjoining room." On the day prior to our leaving the out processing center the sergeant again addressed the crowd of soldier and, with the pad in his hand, he read out the names of those soldiers that had signed up confidentially for the offer made the previous day and asked, "Do you still need to see somebody?" Needles to say, nobody responded with a "yes." I was one of those soldiers.
It happens, it's not an accident. And it would end tomorrow if the brass took it (and the need for mental health) seriously. This is not the first time Cintron has publicly shared that story. He's never had anyone call him up and say, "This sergeant that you're talking about. Not to get him in trouble, but just to talk to him and correct this behavior, could you tell me what his name is?" There's never been a follow-up and there probably never will be. Until there is, the commanders can pretend that they're 'changing' the attitudes but they're not doing a damn thing.
PSAs? When someone's despondent, it's most likely going to be during the middle of the night. That is usually why, in fact, you're not asleep like many people. (You can also be up because you work nights or because you're an insomniac or you had too much caffeine.) So it's good that they're available then. They should, as Rep Hall noted, be available at other times as well. But, to be clear, he wasn't just talking about the standard PSAs. He was talking about the ones that could reach those struggling before suicidal thoughts became the norm. Before he questioned Linda Beam, she'd already been asked what type of PSA she thought was needed.
Linda Bean: I think it would be the Public Service Announcement that said, "You're home, you're drinking too much, you're fighting with your wife, you can't get along with your boss, you need help." That's a message that resonates with people who are in that position. The message that says, "You're home and you're suicidal"? Not so much.
And this was why he was referring to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America's ad they made with the Ad Council which went far beyond the standard PSA of "Here's a number to call." I'm not mentioning Republicans, I'm not mentioning them for a reason. I didn't enjoy the crap that went down at one point. Others at the hearing may report on it at their sites. If so, we'll link to them in tomorrow's snapshot and note the issues. Today, I'll just give all the Republicans a demerit and ignore them and hope they can bring one of their own in to order. (Hint, it's not about you. What a witness went through, their pain, is not about you. Nor is it a competition. You're a member of Congress and should show a little dignity.) I was at the hearing of the House Subcommittee for the start through the first two panels. I then went to Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on veterans' claims processing. I had missed the first portion where Chair Daniel Akaka and other Committee Members had heard from and questioned VA's Acting Under Secretary For Benefits Michael Walcoff. From Senator Akaka's office, we'll note this:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Kawika Riley (Veterans' Affairs)

July 14, 2010 (202) 224-9126


Chairman preparing to move legislation, urges parties to offer suggestions

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Following a hearing today on how the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) processes claims from veterans seeking benefits, U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, urged interested parties to continue offering suggestions on how to improve the timeliness and accuracy of VA's claims adjudication.

"Compensating disabled veterans is among VA's most solemn obligations, and fixing the current system demands our best ideas. I am pleased that the Claims Processing Improvement Act is moving the discussion - from whether to change the status quo - to how to change it. I intend to move a claims processing improvement bill forward, and I ask those with an interest in this issue to continue to share their ideas," said Akaka.

Last month, Senator Akaka introduced S. 3517, the Claims Processing Improvement Act of 2010, to improve VA's disability claims processing. The bill would make various changes to the way VA processes disability compensation claims, including provisions to:

Set up a process to fast-track claims that have been fully developed;

Help veterans with multiple disability claims by allowing VA to provide partial disability ratings; and

Require that the Department give equal deference to the medical opinions of a veteran's non-VA doctor.

At today's hearing, top VA officials, veterans organizations and advocates testified about the current status of VA's claims processing system and made suggestions for changes to S. 3517.

Today's hearing and the current legislation are a continuation of Senator Akaka's ongoing effort to improve the claims processing system. Akaka sponsored many of the provisions of the Veterans' Benefits Improvement Act of 2008, enacted as Public Law 110-389. This and other bills have improved claims processing and enhanced compensation and other benefits for veterans. During Akaka's chairmanship, Congress has funded the hiring of thousands of Veterans Benefits Administration employees to respond to the rising number and increasing complexity of claims for disability compensation and other benefits.

More information about the hearing including statements, testimony and the webcast is available here:


Kawika Riley

Communications Director

U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs

Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman

Because there was a lengthy break between the first and second panel, I was able to catch the second panel. The second panel was composed of the American Federation of Government Employees' Linda Jan Avant, the National Organization of Veterans' Advocates Inc.' Richard Paul Cohen, VA's former Under Secretary for Benefits' Joseph Thompson and Disabled American Veterans' Joseph A. Violante. It was Linda Jan Avant's birthday and Chair Akaka wished her a happy birthday and noted her mother was present for the testimony. Thompson felt that the system was out of date and cautioned on the reading of pilot programs. The system being out of date provided a new "challenge" ("challenge" was his most used term). He saw each challenge as an opportunity. Avant went over the work requirements and duties. And, guess what? Under-staffed and the new staff -- permanent staff brought on by the economic stimulus -- will require at least two years to be fully trained. (These days? They busy themselves with photo copying.) Joseph Violante noted the VA's desire to get rid of the backlog, "Mr. Chairman, the backlog is not the problem, nor even the cause of the problem, rather it is just one symptom, albeit a very severe symptom, of a very large problem: too many veterans waiting too long to get decisions on claims for benefits that are too often wrong."
S 3517 was the heart of the hearing and it is a bill proposed by Senator Akaka entitled "Claims Processing Improvement Act of 2010." Summary of the bill, "To amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the processing of claims for disability compensation filed with the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes."
Chair Daniel Akaka: While my legislation [S 3517] is largely a claims processing bill, I included a pilot program to test an alternative to the current rating schedule. I did this because I'm concerned that progress on claims processing will be limited until the rating schedule is reformed. Do you agree that status quo on the rating schedule is unacceptable? Do you have suggestions for specific changes?
Joseph Violante: Mr. Chairman.
Chair Daniel Akaka: Aloha.
Joseph Violante: Certainly DAV believes IB believe that changes are necessary; however, we have some concerns about the proposal and the legislation. As has been pointed out previously, we believe that there could be a great inequity in veterans similarly situated, the same disability being rated differently. In addition to the act, the VA will have to learn two different systems because not everyone will come under this new pilot program. If these two veterans -- one who is rated under the current system, one who is under the new pilot -- appeal those decisions, then the Board of Veterans Affairs and ultimately the court also have to make a determination based on two different sets of criteria. And we believe there have been other proposals out there again by the Veterans Disability Benefits Commission and the ongoing advisory committee that have made recommendations that should be looked at also and not just focused on this one change.
Chair Daniel Akaka: Mr. Cohen?
Richard Cohen: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, NOVA believes that you're on the right track on this proposal. As you suggested, the status quo is unacceptable. The present schedule is too difficult for rating teams to work with consistently. This is uh a well thought out system. Uh, the problems that were perceived by some -- and Mr. Violante had mentioned about the disparate treatment -- could be resolved by taking files that had already been rated into the pilot to see what the result would be had they been rated under the pilot program and not changing the particular rating that it had but just seeing how it would be rated under the new program. That's a way that the program could be tested on a pilot basis and then compare the results. And actually, the rating team could be requested to provide input on the difficulty or ease of using both systems. But the proposal that you've come up with is something that it time honored. It's been used consistently in the workers' compensation system and doctors know how to deal with frequency of symptoms and severity of symptoms so it should work.
Chair Daniel Akaka: Thank you. Any other comments?
Linda Jan Avant: Yes.
Chair Daniel Akaka: Ms. Avant.
Linda Jan Avant: AFG also agrees that the rating schedule does need to be updated. I understand VBA has been working on that. There are some sections that have not been updated since 1945. And as a rating specialist, viewing actual medical evidence, it's very apparent that there hasn't been a lot of changes in the information requested on the VA template, that what the rater gets and when they try to apply to the schedule, many terminologies and diagnosis have changed over the years. Also many items seem to be under-evaluated, musculoskeletal are very difficult. If you have a knee condition, it is easily -- does not reflect what the symptons are in the VA exam and some of the mental disabilities are also the same way. And we think it would be beneficial if there are changes. The changes to the ICB Code? It will take some adjustment if VA does change from our diagnostic code to the ICB Code but it is something that is used nationally and with all physicians so it is something that would be easily adaptable.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Gramps, sit down already damn!




Walters said Obama could also be helped in public opinion if the media were fair to him. "This has been the most remarkable concentration on a president," he said. "Obama is held up for everything and not given his props. If the media had given him his due, his numbers would be far better. In talk shows and newspaper analyses and even in the blogs, he has almost uniformly negative analysis...When he does something positive, it simply does not sell."



Sahwa, Iraqi Christians, Iraqi women, the list is endless. Everyone's a target in 'democratic' Iraq. That would include the Iraqi LGBT community. UK Gay News reports:

Hard on the heels of an Iraqi police raid on a Kerbala 'safe house' for gays, run by the London-based Iraqi LGBT, comes news that there has been another raid -- on a Baghdad male beauty parlour, with five men arrested.

Iraqi LGBT reported this evening that five gay mean were seized by "Interior Ministry forces" in the raid on June 25.

The latest raid was on a house used as a business for services such as waxing and massage in the Baghdad district of Karada.

Such services have long been used in a country with a body building tradition.

Iraqi media coverage, which included three days of TV reports, however described the house as used for prostitution, according to Iraqi LGBT.

However, witnesses have told Iraqi LGBT that this was not the case. Neither waxing nor massage is illegal in Iraq however it is 'forbidden' by Shia clerics.

Staying with violence, Saturday AFP reported that the Turkish government has informed the governments of the US, Iraq and the KRG that it wants it to hand over rebels in nothern Iraq which they number at 248 and one official (unnamed) is quoted stating, "The net is tightening." Press TV added, "The list included senior PKK chiefs such as Murat Karayilan, Cemil Bayik, and Duran Kalkan. The call was made shortly after military and civilian leaders in Turkey voiced growing frustration with Baghdad and the Iraq-based US military over their inaction in confronting the PKK." Umit Enginsoy (Hurriyet Daily News) reports today that unnamed sources say the US has increased it's "cooperation" with Turkey: "The U.S. and Turkish militaries have been sharing intelligence about the PKK since November 2007, when President George W. Bush agreed to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan's request in the wake of stepped-up attacks by the outlawed group, which is listed as a terrorist organization by both countries as well as the European Union. Stronger U.S. support for Turkey's fight against the PKK has been reflected in a number of recent developments, sources said Monday, citing increased Turkish access to Iraqi airspace, an agreement to transfer attack helicopters and the ramping up of intelligence sharing." Northern Iraq is shelled and bombed by both the Turkish government and the Iranian government. Today Human Rights Watch issued "Iran/Iraq: Iranian Attacks Should Not Target Iraqi Civilians:"

Iran needs to take all feasible precautions to spare civilians at risk of serious harm from artillery bombardment and other military operations in an area that includes dozens of Kurdish villages inside northern Iraq, Human Rights Watch said today.
The Iranian attacks, directed against the Iranian Kurdish armed group Party for Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), intensified in late May and have led to the displacement of more than 500 families, wounded an unknown number of villagers, and killed a teenage girl. Iraqi villagers also told Human Rights Watch, which visited the area in late June, that Iranian border guards have targeted their livestock and sometimes fired at the villagers themselves.
"Iran should take all feasible precautions to spare civilians from artillery and other attacks," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Firing artillery shells into populated areas, especially where there are no military targets, and targeting livestock are serious violations of the laws of war."
Since June 3, 2010, about 500 families have fled their border villages to crowded tent camps elsewhere in Erbil and Sulaimaniya provinces, joining about 250 families who had fled Iranian shelling in previous months. Aid organizations and local municipalities have struggled to meet the displaced families' basic needs. The recent attacks also led an unknown number of other Kurdish civilians to flee elsewhere throughout the countryside and to surrounding towns.
Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Philip Shenon (Daily Beast) reported last month that the US government is attempting to track down WikiLeaks' Julian Assange. Last Tuesday, the military charged Manning. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported he had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Today on Antiwar Radio, Scott Horton discussed the issues with Glenn Greenwald. Strangely, Glenn Greenwald was able to talk about what Bradley was charged with, what he was alleged to have done. Example below.
Glenn Greenwald: Well one of the interesting parts of the charging document is how different it is than the chat logs that were released by Wired magazine in which he allegedly confessed to this hacker Adrian Lamo which is what started this case in the first place. There's a lot of facts that are very different if you look at what the charging documents said he did versus what he allegedly said in those chats.
In the final moments, Scott would point out that Wired refused and refuses to release the alleged transcripts in full (unexpurgated) and Glenn would talk about how, based on his legal experience, when someone refuses to do that, they generally are attempting to conceal something that doesn't jibe so easily with the rest of the narrative. This was a very brief segment
In an update from Monday, AP notes that Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan court appearance yesterday resulted in a verdict of "not guilty of crossing a police line during an anti-war protest in March." You can click here for another AP brief on the trial. Cindy wasn't the only one on trial (the AP names no other defendants) and Jon Gold (Peace of the Action) writes about the trial and how Matthis Chiroux, Elaine Brower and Lafloria Walsh were found guilty of failure to obey" while he, Cindy and Jim Veeder were not. Jon Gold reports:

After the prosecutor and defense were finished, and the time came for the judge to make his decisions, I thought for sure we were all going to be convicted. The first words the judge said had to do with the prosecution proving things "beyond a reasonable doubt," so I thought for sure we were done. I pulled out my prepared statement to read in the event I was convicted, and had it ready to go. Much to my surprise, I never got to read it, which was kind of a disappointment, but I did get to read it during the press conference we had this morning, so all is good.
I was the second to be let go, and Cindy was the third. The case against Cindy seemed strong enough that she was going to be convicted, but the judge seemed to be on her side. She was completely surprised when she was acquitted. I'm glad the judge was at least able to do that for her. A late birthday present.
Lynne Stewart is a political prisoner. She's certainly not a criminal. She's an attorney behind bars in prison. But you only go to prison if you break the law, right? That used to be the US judicial system. Lynne's in prison for breaking . . . some guideline. Did you realize that? Did you grasp that she broke no law? That no law on the books can be pointed to, no government prosecutor can waive it in the air and say, "This is the law Lynne broke." Lynne is no criminal. She's an attorney who has defended a wide variety of clients. Usually ones very few other attorneys would touch. In the US judicial system, every one deserves a fair trial. Lynne's career has been all about that. And that's probably why the Bush administration targeted her.

That guideline that she broke? It happened while Bill Clinton was president. The Justice Dept was fully aware of it. Then-Attorney General Janet Reno looked into the matter. Reno had the wisdom to grasp that if no law was broken, then there's no prosecution. The Clinton Justice Dept did not seek to put Lynne on trial. Later, the Bush administration would put her on trial and make that trial not about the laws but all about 9-11. The trial which took place in NYC.

Lynne was convicted of doing her job. What a proud moment for American justice or 'justice.'

Events tomorrow and Thursday in support of Lynne:

July 14, 2010
March from Tom Paine Park (Worth St. between Centre & Lafayette Streets)
3 blocks to Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC- where Lynne is detained)

7-9pm Vigil in Support of Lynne
At Metropolitan Correctional Center 150 Park Row

JULY 15, 2010
Sentencing is at 2:30pm, we will be there at 11am
Federal Courthouse
500 Pearl Street
Doors will open at 2pm

As she so often does, Ruth noted Taking Aim. (Airs Tuesdays on WBAI.) Mya Shone and Ralph Schoenman are the hosts. They spoke with Ralph Poynter about Lynne Stewart. And this is from last week so it includes an action that has already taken place.

Mya Shone: First we're going to a very brief update with Ralph Poynter about the case of Lynne Stewart.

Ralph Schoenman: And about the rally tomorrow or rather on Thursday.

Mya Shone: Thursday. Ralph?

Ralph Poynter: Yes, Mya.

Ralph Schoenman: How are you Ralph?

Ralph Poynter: Yes, I -- As you know, our hearts are in our throats. We're waiting for the re-sentencing of Lynne Stewart. And we're very upset that she was sentenced at all, that she was found guilty of terrorism by way of a press release and a prison regulation. And we've lived seven months of Lynne's incarceration in the prison system. With her medical situation, being in the hospital handcuffed and shackled while being there and dealing with this. And hoping to get some relief come next July 15th when she is re-sentenced. And many of us --

Mya Shone: Ralph, on Thursday, July 8th, 6:00 p.m., Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square South, speakers include our one and only here Ralph Scho, yourself, Chairman Fred Hampton Jr., Pan-African --

Ralph Poynter: Yes, Pan-Africa. We have many --

Mya Shone: Many others.

Ralph Poynter: -- on the issue of imprisonment and incarceration in general in America. And, as I was saying, we're hoping that we get an improvement because although Lynne has -- Her liver has proved not to be cancerous, it was quite a scare for us. And we're hoping that she would get home -- house arrest where she could go to the hospital and take care of the problems she had when she first went into the hospital. So the event that you mentioned tomorrow is to help us you know like help us keep our spirits up and to help Lynne keep her spirits up. And also the 14th at Tom Paine Park, right down on Center & Worth, we're going to gather at 5:30 and have a little cermony and then march three blocks to MCC and speak on Lynne's behalf for about two hours, from seven to nine-thirty to life up her spirits to be ready for the sentencing.

Mya Shone: Great. Okay, all out Thursday July 8th at six p.m., the Judson Memorial Church

Ralph Schoenman: And remember, brothers & sisters, Lynne Stewart is being victimized because the government is involved in attacks on people of the world and the United States, 9-11, 1993, these are the government's actions for which they seek demons in order to create the architecture of the fascist state. Stand together, fight for Lynne, fight for ourselves, fight for the salvation of this society and for a fundamental change in its rule and its conduct. See you Thursday.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

He used to be so popular







The Iraq Inquiry continued in London today. To set the stage for the testimony, we should note one of the documents the Iraq Inquiry earlier declassified (June 30th). Tony Blair and others have maintained that the Iraq War was legal (when they know it was not). Immediately ahead of meeting with George Bush (in a meeting Blair would declare he was backing the US regardless), Andrew Golsmith sent [PDF format warning] this January 30, 2003 memo noting that the Iraq War would be illegal without a second United Nations resolution (no second resolution was sought rendering the Iraq War illegal). Tony Blair heavily marked up Goldsmith's memo to him including underlining the following re: UN Resolution 1441 (the first and only resolution before the start of the war): "[. . .] it does not authorise the use of military force without a further dtermination by the Security Council" and "I recognise that arguments can be made to support the view that paragraph 12 of the resolution merely requires a Council discussion rather than a further decision. But having considered the arguments on both sides, my view remains that a further decision is required." On the memo, Tony Blair has scribbled statements/complaints such as "I just don't understand this." A Blair underling has scribbled that Blair has "specifically said we did not need further advice this matter." They were warned and their concern was that they were being bothered with legal advice. Don't forget that.
The Inquiry heard testimony from Carne Ross (First Secretary, United Kingdom Mission to New York, 1998 to 2002) and Lt Gen James Dutton (General Officer Commanding Multi National Division South East, 2005, Deputy Chief of Joint Operations, 2007 to 2009) (link goes to transcript and video options). Committee Members Roderic Lyne and Usha Prashar were especially interested in going over the containment issue ahead of the Iraq War. Were sanctions 'working' (working in the context of containment)? In 2001, Syria began a pipeline that might argue of some erosion but containment was working.
Committee Member Usha Prashar: How widely was your view of the effectiveness of containment shared by the officials in the UK?
Carne Ross: I have checked this because I have noticed that some witnesses have characterised that period as being one of the collapse of containment or that sanctions were leaking all over the place, as one witness put it. That view is not corroborated in the policy documents and it was not part of our discussions inside HMG. In UKMIS, New York, at the mission in New York, we were very much involved in the internal policy discussions of HMG because UKMIS was really the front line of the policy and the resolutions were the kind of pillars of the policy, the legal pillars on which the policy rested. So we were consulted on internal policy deliberations to a very large extent.
Committee Member Usha Prashar continued her questioning and established that Ross conveyed this to London and that London was in agreement with the conclusion that containment was working.
Was the pipeline, a possible erosion, really a concern to the other players? Under questioning, Carne Ross said no. This was sometimes difficult for him to establish because he wasn't allowed to answer: "Let me finish, please. Let me finish, please. Please, let me finish, beucase you asked me a general question --" A great deal of what Ross assumed he would be testifying about -- based on the documents he was asked to review -- was not allowed in the hearing and was still declared classified.
But on the Syrian pipeline he was able to get in that the issue wasn't being raised by the top players (instead "by a Third Secretary on a Friday afternoon with a junior official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs").
Carne Ross: If it is raised by the Prime Minister during his official visit to Damascus as his number 1 concern, then it might be taken seriously. The reason I mention that, of course, is because the Prime Minister [Tony Blair] did go to Damascus in October 2001 and, as far as I could see, did not raise it at all. We had the same problem with the Americans. One of the problems that -- one of the things that Damascus would say in their telegrams back to New York, saying "We can't raise the Syrian pipeline", they would say, "Well, why are we the only ones doing this? The Americans are not doing this". There is a record of a visit by a senior American official where he made [no] mention of the illegal pipeline, despite many American professions of concern in New York. This is exactly what I mean by a co-ordinated high-level approach. Countries get the message. If you don't raise messages consistently with them at a high level, they don't respond. But that's all we were asking for. This wasn't impossible, and I personally am convinced -- and it remains an untested proposition, of course, and I understand that it is an untested proposition -- that if a high-level approach had been made to all the neighbours, then we would have had more of an effect.
So they didn't care. Top-level officials on both sides (UK and US) refused to call on Damascus to stop the illegal pipeline. Knowing that Blair didn't want legal advice ahead of meeting with Bully Boy Bush, knowing that it wasn't asked for, it would appear that the pipeline was intentionally ignored at the top in efforts to paint containment as "not working."
In a very hard-hitting written statement, Ross has again made clear that he did not see any case for war, either on the basis of the supposed failure of the policy of containing Iraq or based on the threat from its alleged weapons of mass destruction. On the first point, he is very well-placed to challenge the claims of previous witnesses, having been responsible for negotiating the policy at the UN until the middle of 2002. On the latter, he was less well-placed, although he does say that he saw all the intelligence.
Ross said it was "inaccurate to claim, as some earlier witnesses have done, that containment was failing and that sanctions were collapsing". This claim was made from the first day of the inquiry, by witnesses such as Sir William Patey, who, Ross points out, said that sanctions were "leaking all over the place". In a footnote, Ross says that "this was not the official assessment at the time and is a judgment that is not borne out in the relevant policy documents".
In an example of what he called a process of "deliberate public exaggeration", Ross said the government in March 2002 sent the parliamentary Labour party a paper that included the claim that "if Iraq's weapons programmes remained unchecked, Iraq could develop a crude nuclear device in about five years".
He said the government's real assessment was more or less the opposite: that sanctions were effectively preventing Iraq from developing a nuclear capability.
Lt Gen James Dutton was the other witness today. We'll note this exchange between Dutton and Committee Member Lawrence Freedman about January 2003. And watch for when oil pops up.
Lt Gen James Dutton: It wasn't even 40 Commando specifically at the earliest stage, it was a commando unit and, of course, this was the time of Op Fresco, the fireman's strike, which had some effect as well on force levels and cables. 40 Commando came about actually because it was by far the best worked-up and exercised unit and, in fact, in the autumn they were out in 29 Palms in California exercising with the US Marine Corps on a regular exercise schedule. So it made sense for it to be them, but at the earliest stages, it was just a commano unit that could contribute to assisting the US effort to seize the oil infrastructure intact on the AL Faw peninsula. I'm sorry, I have forgotten the aim of your question now.
Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: You are answering it. It is how did it evolve into a full-scale --
Lt Gen James Dutton: I think it evolved because, you know, that looked fine, if that had been a simple, discrete operation with -- which was possible to be achieved with no outside influences or effects. I think the more we looked at it, the more we realised that, you know, the possibility of the Iraqi forces then trying to do something out of Basra or from further north, would have meant that perhaps the combat power ashore would have been insufficient at that stage. So we then started to look at a greater effect.
[. . .]
Lt Gen James Dutton: So it was a risky operation because it was potentially an opposed helicopter assault to seize the oil infrastructure. But the oil infrastructure was hugely important because of the environmental consequences of them blowing -- the economic consequences -- what is it, 92 per cent of the Iraqi economy or something then, maybe slightly less now, flowing through those pipes to the oil platforms at sea. So it was potentially a risky operation, but that riskw as mitigated by the fact that we were operating with the US Naval Special Warfare Group, which were clearly optimised for that sort of operation.
In the execution, a few things didn't go according to plan (including the crash of a helicopter) but they executed this according to the general. The point is that there was a plan to secure the oil industry. What was valued was decided ahead of the war. All the looting that went on immediately after the invasion -- then-US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld offered his "stuff happens" and "democracy is messy" excuses -- resulted from what the UK and the US decided was important, was of value and was worth protecting. The oil was their sole concern.
Committee Member Martin Gilbert then wanted to inquire "about the Jameat police station incident." The British destroyed the station in Basra on December 26, 2006. Why? That goes back to what happened before and, from the testimony, it appears that's what Gilbert was asking of. So, from Democracy Now! (September 20, 2005 -- when they cared about Iraq), here's a summary of the first Jameat issues that led the British military to attack it that month:
New questions about Iraq's sovereignty are being raised after British forces attacked an Iraqi jail on Monday because they believed two detained British commandos were inside. British troops opened fire on the jail in Basra and used six armored vehicles to smash down the jail's walls as helicopter gunships flew overhead. The provincial governor of Basra described the British assault as "barbaric, savage and irresponsible." The Associated Press reported 150 prisoners escaped during the siege. As the British raided the prison, Iraqis started attacking the British vehicles with firebombs and rockets. One of the British armored fighting vehicles was set ablaze. Photos showed a British soldier on fire climbing out of the hatch and jumping to the ground, as a crowd pelted him. An Iraqi official said that the British soldiers were arrested after they had fired at an Iraqi police officer. At the time the British soldiers were undercover and dressed as Iraqis. After the prison was breached in Basra, the two soldiers were found not to be in the jail but in a nearby house. The British Army attempted to downplay the incident claiming that the men were released after negotiations. The government said it feared for the lives of the British commandos after discovering they had been handed to "militia elements". The British attack on the Iraqi jail came one day after British forces arrested three members of the Shiite Mahdi Army.
And we'll note other contemporary reporting starting with Helen McCormack's "The day that Iraqi anger exploded in the face of the British occupiers" (The Independent):
The dramatic events began to unfold just before dawn yesterday, when two British nationals were detained by Iraqi authorities. It emerged later that they were British soldiers. Dressed in plain clothes - according to some they were wearing traditional Arab dress - the two men had been driving in an unmarked car when they arrived at a checkpoint in the city.
In the confrontation that followed, shots were fired, and two Iraqi policemen were shot, one of whom later died. The Iraqi authorities blamed the men, reported to be undercover commandos, and arrested them.
[. . .]
The British military action was condemned as "barbaric, savage and irresponsible" by Mohammed al-Waili, the governor of the province. "A British force of more than 10 tanks backed by helicopters attacked the central jail and destroyed it. This is an irresponsible act," the governor said.

British troops were struggling to maintain control in Basra last night after the city exploded into bloody violence following the alleged killing of an Iraqi policeman by a British soldier.
Two British servicemen, dressed in civilian clothes, were held at Basra's main police station after the incident. Outside, rioting began as the city threatened to descend into anarchy.

And lastly, Sabrina Tavernise's "British Army Storms Basra Jail to Free 2 Soldiers From Arrest" (New York Times):
Two British soldiers working under cover were arrested Monday in the southern city of Basra and then freed as a British armored vehicle blasted through the wall of their jail after an angry crowd began rioting outside, an Interior Ministry official said.
The official said that the soldiers were undercover officers dressed as Iraqis and that Iraqi police officers had arrested them after the men fired at a traffic police officer.
A British military spokesman in Basra confirmed that "two U.K. military personnel" had been detained early on Monday "in a shooting incident" and that troops had used an armored fighting vehicle "to gain entry" to the police station to release them. He said that more than one vehicle had been in the area and that the police inside the station had refused to obey orders from the Interior Ministry to release the men.
The incident came a day after British forces in Basra arrested three members of the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to the rebellious Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, on suspicion of terrorism.
With that history in mind, we'll go to the testimony today.
Lt Gen James Dutton: Second question first. Were we aware of problems associated with the police station? Yes. It was -- we knew of all the stories emanating from what may or may not happen to Iraqis who went into that police station. It was visited on a regular basis by the Basra brigade. But we were certainly aware of its reputation and we were aware of the reputation of some of the individuals who worked from there, I can't remember the name of the particular police captain now but who was a sort of -- almost a legendary figure who worked from there. Your first question: did it come as a surprise? Yes, because I mean it was an event that was triggered by individuals getting themsleves into a fire fight and then being taken to that police station. So this was not -- it is not as if the Jameat police station incident blew up -- sorry, evolved from a series of other events; it was a particular thing that caused it. So it was certainly a surprise.
Committee Member Martin Gilbert: What was the reaction to the incident from London and what was your response to that?
Lt Gen James Dutton: I was on leave, and so I was actually listening to this on -- I was near Bordequx at the time and you could then, provided the hire car that you had had a decent enough -- and it did. So I was listening to it -- and then, of course, I was talking to PJHG on a telephone and then talking to my Chief of Staff who was out there in -- but essentially it had happened and finished before I could have any effect. What was -- what was the -- I think I didn't realise, until I got back there, what the effect had been. It had certainly -- it certainly caused a huge media shock because you recall the pictures of the [British] soldier on fire, you know, climbing out of this vehicle and so on, and that sort of thing. So it certainly caused a huge shock in that respect.
Where in the testimony do you feel Dutton is dealing with events. With the exception of mentioning the British soldier on fire, there's really no detail. FYI, the soldier's back was on fire and he was leaping from a tank which was ablaze on September 19th. The photo Dutton's most likely referring to was taken by Atef Hassan of Reuters.
Yesterday Christine Delargy (CBS News) reported the big news for Sunday: US Gen George Casey told an audience at the they-wish-they-were-movers-and-shakers Aspen Institute that the US could be in the Iraq and Afghanistan for one more "decade or so." Casey is the US Army's Chief of Staff. At All Voices, northsunm32 adds, "Casey's media advisor Rich Spiegel sought to properly spin the actual words of Casey to make it clear that he did not mean to imply that the U.S. may be in Afghanistan or Iraq for another decade. According to Spiegel he just meant that the battle with extremists would last for another ten years. When generals mean what they say it is often necessary to explain that they did not mean what they said." Meanwhile, Kathy Kattenburg (The Moderate Voice) asks, "Supplemental war spending bill? Say WHAT? Didn't Barack Obama pledge, during his campaign, to never use supplemental war spending bills to pay for ongoing wars? Didn't he promise to make all spending for Iraq and/or Afghanistan part of the regular military budget? And then, when he broke that promise soon after he took office, didn't he tell us that this was an exception -- a total anomaly, a special case -- which would never happen again?" Yes, he did. And, of course, before Congress broke for their current recess, the House passed Barack's latest war supplemental.
AP noted that Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan was set to appear in a DC Superior Court today for her peaceful actions March 20th. In an update this morning, they ntoed she appeared in court wearing "a white T-shirt printed with an image of a dove and the name of her group, Peace of the Action." Due to an article on Cindy and who's ignoring her actions in DC that Ava and I wrote, several e-mails asked "What about BuzzFlash?" I have nothing to do with that sewer and haven't for years. Their sexism was in full flight in 2008. But I did visit seconds ago and they've got nothing on Cindy but Ava and I see they continue to savage women. And, point of fact, Media Matters, tell FAT F**K Karl Frisch that he's too damn old to be making 'political hay' out of Lindsay Lohan's issues. That's disgraceful and it's CATTY AND IT'S BITCHY -- but what else would we expect from Karl Frisch.
Please remember that Cindy Sheehan wasn't universally embraced to begin with. A lot of Democrats lied about her throughout the first camping out in Crawford. They insisted she wasn't against the Iraq War (when she was) and that she wasn't calling for the end of it (when she was). Granted most of those liars left Blogspot but their archives do remain. In addition, remember that a number of men had a problem with Cindy and 'counseled' the 'little lady' on how she should conduct herself. This bled over into the masculine-identified women like Katha Pollitt as well. But Cindy's gender always meant that a large portion of the left was uncomfortable with her -- emphasis on "her" -- as a leader.
Those ignoring her and rushing to prop up a War Hawk will get the world they deserve (the rest of us will suffer in it). But don't think they're fooling anyone. Republican Mary Kate Cary (US News & World Reports) wonders where the peace action is and where Cindy is:
Well, it turns out she's writing a blog these days, and apparently she's still protesting but nobody cares. No press following her, no talk shows, no crowds at her appearances. Her latest post on July 9 includes a "Requiem for the Anti-War Movement," in which she writes: "Remember that old saying, 'What if they gave a war and nobody came?' Well, here in D.C. I am living the opposite: 'What if they gave an anti-war protest and nobody came?'" She's on to something. Despite the fact that President Obama has tripled our troop presence in Afghanistan and the Democratic Congress approved $33 billion more for what is now America's longest-running war, there's been an eerie silence from the left--no "die-ins," no beating drums, no anti-Obama protestors dressed in skeleton costumes. No one protesting the president's every appearance.
Maybe the antiwar left only protests when Republican presidents are in office. Maybe it's not about Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress, it was only about George Bush. Maybe for the antiwar left, it's not about pacifism or soldiers' lives or even what's in our national interest. Maybe it's just about Republicans.
And that's how they're seen -- BuzzFlash and all the other sewer rats who used to call out the Iraq and Afghanistan wars but now are a-okay with them. Though he's not calling out the war (in the following link), I want to note Eric Alterman's essay (The Nation) because it's more honesty than one usually finds in the magazine (Alterman was not a Kool-Aid Drinker -- whether he's your favorite or your least favorite, he maintained consistency throughout 2008 -- a miracle in and of itself). I wasn't aware of the essay until Martha told me about an e-mail highlighting an article that mentioned it. We're not highlighting that article. We don't highlight known liars. When you're citing Lance Selfa and how "the left can take over the Democratic Party" and then listing the left, you kind of have to list Socialists because Lance is an out and proud Socialist. (And there's nothing wrong with Socialism. Or with Communism. Both are part of the left. There's something very disgusting about Socialists and Communists who pose as Democrats or "independents.") So when Lance is writing -- and he often does -- about how the left can take over the Democratic Party, he is including Socialists -- even if an idiot wants to do a scrub job and erase Socialists from the picture. (Lance writes for US Socialist Worker and ISR where he, sadly, has to deal with mouth breather Sharon Smith).
We'll close with Peace Mom. Cindy is in DC for the trial and working with Peace of the Action and here's this week's DC schedule:


For this week, we will be targeting recruiting centers and defense contractors and lobbyists -- and we will do some special "lobbying" of our own on Capitol Hill. (The POTA DC Trial has been inserted into this week because of the recent scheduling by the court.)

July 12th (Monday):
– Peace of the Action DC Trial
– evening to post protest pics, videos and articles to Internet

July 13th (Tuesday):
– Peace of the Action DC Trial
– evening to post protest pics, videos and articles to Internet

or (trial may be one day or two. so we have two options this day.)

– meet in Lafayette Park at 9am
– group to move together to Military Recruiting Station (TBA) and protest until 3pm
– evening to post protest pics, videos and articles to Internet

July 14th (Wednesday):
– meet in Lafayette Park (North Side of White House) at 9am
– group to move together to Military Recruiting Station (TBA) and protest until 3pm
– evening to post protest pics, videos and articles to Internet

July 15th (Thursday):
– meet in Lafayette Park (North Side of White House) at 9am
– group to move together to War Profiteer (TBA) and protest until 3pm
– evening to post protest pics, videos and articles to Internet

July 16th (Friday):
– meet in Lafayette Park (North Side of White House) at 9am
– group to flyer, bullhorn in LaFayette Park and in front of the White House
– evening to post protest pics, videos and articles to Internet

July 17th (Saturday):
– POTA Retreat (location TBA 2pm to 5pm)

This will be an intense think tank session on the future of Peace of the Action and the future of anti-war protests in the U.S. With small numbers, where should our limited resources be focused? We have to dream up an entire movement based on very low numbers and very limited funds -- bring your creative solutions and a positive attitude that a better world is possible!

– POTA Dinner/Rally (possible picnic Lafayette Park)

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  • Truest statement of the week II
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