Saturday, March 19, 2011

The never-ending Rainbow Tour







A CBS news reporter was attacked and sexually assaulted while stationed in Egypt to cover the events there. We'll call her "Ms. Logan" for right now -- that's not an insult to Logan and you'll understand after an excerpt why we're doing that. The February 24th snapshot noted that Diane Rehm asked Al Jazeera's Abderrahim Foukara about the fact that "Al Jazeera Arabic did not cover" the assault on Logan. He begged off at the time and stated he'd be happy to address it at a future date, after he was able to pursue the topic and gather some information. On The Diane Rehm Show (NPR) this morning, that day finally arrived during the second hour.
Diane Rehm: Abderrahim, the last time you were on this program, we asked you about why the sexual assault of Laura Logan in Egypt was not reported by Al Jazeera You said you'd give us an answer the next time you came on.
Abderrahim Foukara: So, I mean, I'd be happy to report my findings, so to speak. What I've been told is that there was some debate about how the Laura Logan story should be reported and if it should be reported at all. For Al Jazeera English, there were people who wanted to, in one way or another, report the story. And there were others who thought that the focus should remain the revolution in Egypt rather than what happened to an individual journalist, although many other journalists had come under attack in Cairo. There are actually people who knew -- there's one particular individual who is the managing director of Al Jazeerra English, who knew Sarah Logan personally from his time at CBS. He knew her personally. She's a former collegue of his. And the decision eventaully was made that because Al Jazeera English broadcasts to 120 different countries, not just the United States, that they would go with the revolution at the focus not what happens to individual journalists.
Diane Rehm: Abderrahim Foukara. He's Washington bureau chief for Al Jazeera Arabic. When we come back, we'll open the phones, read our e-mail, look at our Facebook postings and your Tweets.
First, let's note that in the previous conversation -- which was now being 'updated' -- it was agreed by both that Al Jazeera English had reported on Logan's assault but Al Jazeera Arabic had not. Second, Al Jazeera -- either English or Arabic -- was not going to have an exclusive interview with Logan. All they were going to do was a 30-second headline in a series of headlines. That would not have changed the focus. Foukara's a damn liar and Diane's a damn fool. Al Jazeera was posting Nir Rosen's 'reporting' days after his apology tour. Don't pretend the two weren't connected.
And don't pretend that a "f**king fool" (ABC News correspondent) who refers to "Laura" and "Sarah" Logan did a damn bit of research on anything. L-A-R-A. Not "Laura." And that brings us to the idiot that is Diane Rehm (though at CBS News, she's being called worse than "idiot" right now). She made a point to raise the issue. And she didn't know the woman's name. Lara Logan's name was given three times on the third hour of The Diane Rehm Show and neither the host nor the guest knew Lara's name.
How stupid can you be? Diane's been all over the media in the last weeks, talking about how NPR needs tax payer money to continue the high quality journalism. Diane, you can't even get Lara Logan's name correctly. You want to pretend you're offering high quality journalism? Really, Diana Reeves?
What a stupid, stupid woman. Is it any wonder that as the Iraq War's eight anniversary arrives, Diane-Diane-Dana can't find Iraq for week five? Week six? Yet, as Ava and I noted at Third Sunday, last week Diane Rehm wanted to grand stand and present guests who claimed -- in a discussion of the costs of wars -- that the American people had forgotten the Iraq War. No, the American Gas Bags have forgotten Iraq.
March Forward! has not forgotten the Iraq War or avoided addressing the realities. Their latest includes the following:
On March 19, 2003, U.S.-led forces invaded Iraq in an attempt to force the oil-rich country to accept imperialist rule. "National defense" and "building democracy" were simply lies to mask the real aim of the war: the de-nationalization of Iraq's oil. Eight years later, over 1 million Iraqis are dead, millions are refugees and living conditions have deteriorated to the point that last year Baghdad was rated the least livable city in the world.

Although the invasion began in 2003, Iraq has been the target of U.S. aggression since 1991, when tens of thousands of civilians died in the "Gulf War." This was followed by genocidal sanctions that led to 1.5 million deaths, including half a million children under the age of 5.

This brutality, however, did not succeed in forcing the Iraqi people to surrender their sovereignty. Starting in 2002, the Bush administration began a racist, fear-mongering campaign to drum up support for an outright invasion. The claim that Iraq was harboring terrorists or developing weapons of mass destruction were obvious lies, but nevertheless politicians from both the Republican and Democratic parties overwhelmingly voted to authorize the war.

Although Baghdad fell just a few weeks after the invasion, popular Iraqi resistance bogged down occupation forces and challenged the U.S.-backed regime. The fighting escalated and in 2007 the Bush administration announced the "surge," involving increased troop levels and cash payments to buy off the formerly anti-occupation Awakening Movement. Violence declined but the Iraqi people never fully accepted foreign rule.

The war continues today, by virtue of both the physical presence of U.S. forces and the economic and social devastation caused by nearly a decade of occupation. Although combat operations have officially been declared "over," 50,000 U.S. troops remain in the country.

While the withdrawal from Iraq is supposed to be completed by the end of 2011, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has strongly hinted that the deadline will be ignored. Rep. Adam Smith, a high-ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, said that the number of troops still in Iraq after the end of this year "could be 20,000." Permanent U.S. bases and compounds are set to remain.

Occupation brings death and suffering

The Iraq war has led to a staggering number of deaths. According to the results of a 2008 study by the UK-based Opinion Research Business, 1,033,000 people have died as a result of the war. This is consistent with the findings of a study conducted by The Lancet, one of the oldest and most respected scientific journals in the world.

But even this figure does not truly convey the magnitude of the human suffering caused by the invasion and occupation. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 4.7 million Iraqis, about 15 percent of the population, have been forced to flee their homes. 2.7 million are internally displaced and 2 million have left the country entirely; 5 million Iraqi children are orphans.

Corruption is rampant at all levels of the illegitimate Iraqi government. A 2009 document issued by the Iraqi Commission on Public Integrity reported 5,031 complaints of corruption the previous year. However, out of over 3,000 cases sent to courts, only 97 officials, less than 3 percent, were convicted. Iraq was ranked the fourth most corrupt country in the world in 2010.

Excluding Baghdad, about 30 percent of the population does not have access to potable water. In the capital the figure is slightly lower, around 25 percent, but much higher in some rural areas, at roughly 50 percent. Iraq is only capable of producing slightly more than half of the electricity it needs, leaving most Iraqis without power on a regular basis.

Outright unemployment stands at 15 percent, but rises to 43 percent if the underemployed are included. Young people are especially affected by joblessness and 23 percent of the population lives on less than $2.20 a day.

Iraq is now poisoned with the remnants of depleted uranium and chemical weapons. Staggering levels of birth defects, cancer, and infant mortality has labeled parts of Iraq with a fallout "worse than Hiroshima" -- or, worse than the worst fallout in history.

Those who fantasized that somehow U.S. intervention would create a better life for the Iraqi people than under the government of Saddam Hussein are left looking at the biggest humanitarian crisis in the Middle East and civilian casualties at genocidal proportions.

You could have turned the above into five hours of discussion easily if you gave a damn about the Iraq War but, clearly, Diane Rehm doesn't. Tomorrow A.N.S.W.E.R. and March Forward! and others will be taking part in these action:

March 19 is the 8th anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Iraq today remains occupied by 50,000 U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of foreign mercenaries.

The war in Afghanistan is raging. The U.S. is invading and bombing Pakistan. The U.S. is financing endless atrocities against the people of Palestine, relentlessly threatening Iran and bringing Korea to the brink of a new war.

While the United States will spend $1 trillion for war, occupation and weapons in 2011, 30 million people in the United States remain unemployed or severely underemployed, and cuts in education, housing and healthcare are imposing a huge toll on the people.

Actions of civil resistance are spreading.

On Dec. 16, 2010, a veterans-led civil resistance at the White House played an important role in bringing the anti-war movement from protest to resistance. Enduring hours of heavy snow, 131 veterans and other anti-war activists lined the White House fence and were arrested. Some of those arrested will be going to trial, which will be scheduled soon in Washington, D.C.

Saturday, March 19, 2011, the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, will be an international day of action against the war machine.

Protest and resistance actions will take place in cities and towns across the United States. Scores of organizations are coming together. Demonstrations are scheduled for San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and more.

Last night The Lawyer's Guild (KPFK) devoted significant time to the Iraq War. (Click here for the archives, scroll down and you have 58 days from today to listen to it before it goes offline.) Public radio could use a lot more Jim Lafferty and a lot less Diane Rehm. Jim's guests included March Forward's Mike Prysner, an Iraq War veteran. Excerpt:
Jim Lafferty: Mike Prysner, let's get you into this discussion, my friend. Both you and Dick Becker [A.N.S.W.E.R.'s Richard Becker] of, as I mentioned, protests this coming Saturday against the US wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan -- And, by the way, listeners, I'm proud to say that here in LA, KPFK is the media sponsor for the March 19th antiwar protest. The war in Iraq's now eight years old, the war in Afghanistan ten -- the longest war of our country. I can't help but wonder, Mike, if these wars would have gone on for as long as they have or ever been started in the first place if so many of those Middle Eastern countries weren't run by governments beholden to the United States anyway. Do you have a thought on that?
Mike Prysner:Uhm, well, yeah. I mean basically the goal of the United States in the region, we know that the Middle East is home to the vast majority of oil and natural gas reserves. And the United States, whether it's through directly military intervention, whether it's through backing dictatorships or enacting sanctions to try to overthrow independent countries, the main goal in the region is controlling the oil and the natural gas reserves. And there's a variety of different tactics used to do that but that's the primary goal of US domination in the region. That's what its military is used for. That's the purpose of the wars. The purpose of every other client-state that it backs there.
Jim Lafferty: Sure. Well two-thirds, Mike, two-thirds of the American people, as you well know, think the war in Afghanistan is not worth fighting, that we should get out, that's been true for some time now. So a fair question for somebody dropping in from another planet might be, so why is it that in this supposed democracy the government of the people keeps on fighting the war they don't want?
Mike Prysner: Absolutely. We never really got to vote on whether or not we [should] invade Iraq. In fact, the actual voting was done in the streets when there was the largest anti-war demonstration in history, when there was the biggest outpouring of people ever to stop the war from happening. That's where the real was happening. But, you know, these decisions of who we bomb, who we go to war with -- you know, if we're going to bomb Libya, if we're going to stay in Afghanistan -- these are decisions that we have no say in at all. These are decisions that are made behind closed doors with virtually all the same people who were there during the Bush administration -- are retained through the Obama administration, all the generals and civilian advisors in the Pentagon. So essentially we don't really have a democracy. What we have is a rule of the rich, a government that serves the interests of those oil giants and those Wall Street CEOs that stand to gain billions of dollars in profits from having access.
Jim Lafferty: Mmm-hmm. And yet as we proved in Vietnam -- and I for one believe we can still prove again -- we can overcome that -- what we might call, that deficit of democracy or that lack of democracy -- overcome that with a long enough and a hard enough fight, a militant fight, a fight that finally builds enough of a massive movement both within the armed services themselves -- and certainly you're going to talk about that in a minute -- within the armed services themselves there's little stomach for these wars, build a massive, big enough movement in the streets over and over again so it finally becomes impossible. I noticed even today that in this new Congress, [Dennis] Kucinich was able to pick up another 22 or 26 votes to the 40 or 50 or whatever it was votes that he got last time for getting out of Afghanistan. So even there there's a certain weakening of will, if you will. Mike, I understand though that this year the protests focus a great deal on the sky rocketing cost of these wars at a time when so many Americans are out of work and social services are being so drastically cut. Will that be true of the demonstration here in LA, Mike Prysner?
Mike Prysner: Absolutely. And, you know, since the economic crisis in 2008 there's been a really accelerated attack on working people. You know, our rights and our benefits and our pay, these are things that were always under attack but, of course, when there's an economic crisis for the richest people in the country, that burden has to be shifted to the people who are the most vulnerable. So in the past two years or in the past three years, you know, unions, public sector workers, workers in general have lost their jobs, have lost their benefits, have lost their pay increases, have lost access to health care. Students, we know, we saw massive demonstrations last year, students are having tuition go up. Upwards of 40% in some places and this is really ridiculous.
Jim Lafferty: Yep.
Mike Prysner: And all the while, while things keep getting harder and harder at home, we're watching upwards of $700 million every single day being spent on the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan alone. You know, this doesn't even count the entire military budget to sustain this network of 800 military bases around the world. And so, absolutely, we have to make these connections. These issues are absolutely linked. They're inextricably linked. That all of the attacks against working people at home and all of the cuts to benefits, health care and education are coming because this government needs all this money to do other things -- to bail out the banks and to fund these criminal wars abroad.
Jim Lafferty: Yeah. Well in fact -- I know for a fact, I mean it's no secret -- that the entire deficit, the total deficit of all 50 states combined is about 127, 129, billion dollars. That's a tidy sum, to be sure, but chump change when compared with the one trillion dollars [$1,000,000,000,000.00] spent on Iraq and Afghanistan.
The LA protest starts at noon at Hollywood & Vine. And as Jim pointed out KPFK is the official media sponsor. They are the only, THE ONLY, Pacifica radio station to promote the protest all week long on the main page of their website. Ron Kovic will be among those participating in the LA action and you can find more details at the LA A.N.S.W.E.R. website. KPFA isn't promoting the Bay Area protest on their website, WBAI is not promoting the NYC event at their website (and someone needs to explain why the Left Forum thought this was the weekend to compete with the NYC event -- we'll again note the NYC event at the end of this snapshot). A KPFA friend has passed on numerous complaints that the station is receiving and Ava and I will probably include those in some way in a piece we write for Third on Sunday. KPFA's silence is not accidental and it has not gone unnoticed by the listeners whose money they are desperate for. Don't worry, there's always time for the Bay Area Entertainment calendar, just not time for peace news despite the fact that peace issues were the sole reason Pacifica Radio was created. KPFA and WBAI are about as far from their roots these days as a bottled blond.
Tomorrow's the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Eight years ago, the illegal war began and it continues. Despite claims that it has ended (that was the press coverage that ended, not the war), despite claims that it ends at the end of the year. While so many are silent, the must-read report today is Lara Jakes (AP) report: "Despite a security agreement requiring a full U.S. military withdrawal by the year's end, hundreds if not thousands of American soldiers will continue to be in Iraq beyond 2012."

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Every day people





Starting with Medea Benjamin. Medea, what's wrong with you? And Charles Davis? Don't you know we're not supposed to remember an illegal war continues in Iraq? Thankfully Medea and Charles ignored the memo and become the most promiment names to remember the Iraq War on this eighth anniversary of the start of it reflecting on ten realities (Huffington Post):
4. Lights Still Out
Thirteen years of bombings and sanctions crippled the infrastructure and basic services of what was once a wealthy country. Then came the 2003 invasion, which destroyed electrical plants, sewage systems, water treatment facilities, hospitals and more. Eight years later, the living conditions of Iraqis are worse than under Saddam Hussein, with the country plagued by a continued lack of electricity, clean water, medical care and security. Iraqis wonder how it is, after the most powerful country in the world occupied it and ostensibly spent billions on reconstruction, they are still living in the dark.
5. Millions Flee Their Homes
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, since 2003 "more than 4.7 million Iraqis have fled their homes, many in dire need of humanitarian care" -- hardly an endorsement of life in the "liberated" nation. Many Iraqis fled their homes to seek asylum in Iran, Jordan and Syria, while roughly 1.5 million fled to other parts of Iraq, the majority of which "have found no solutions to their plight," according to the UN. In the aftermath of ethnic cleansing, millions will never be able to return.
6. Women and Girls Forced into Prostitution
Women in Iraq have been particularly hit by the invasion and occupation. The Iraqi government estimates there are up to 3 million widows in Iraq today. Meanwhile, violence against women -- including honor killings, rape and kidnapping -- has soared , forcing many women to remain at home and limiting employment and educational opportunities, according to a new Freedom House report. "A deep feeling of injustice and powerlessness sometimes leads women to believe that the only escape is suicide," the report notes.
Many Iraqi women who fled to neighboring countries have found themselves unable to feed their children. Just to make ends meet, tens of thousands of them -- including girls 13 and under -- have been forced into lives of prostitution, particularly in Syria.
"From what I've seen, 70 percent to 80 percent of the girls working this business in Damascus today are Iraqis," one refugee told the New York Times. "If they go back to Iraq they'll be slaughtered, and this is the only work available."
Good for Medea and Charles. And we'll stay on the topic of the Iraqi women a bit more.
William Cox (American Chronicle) observes, "At a cost of more than one trillion dollars, 'Operation Iraqi Freedom' has slaughtered more than 100,000 Iraqis, including thousands of children, and taken away the existing rights of women." This week, Francine Kiefer (Christian Science Monitor) examined the realities of 'free Iraq' for Iraqi women. She noted Freedom House's survey of the years 2005 to 2010 and the five categories they measured. In four of the five, the ratings dropped. Only in voting ("Political Rights and Civic Voice") did things improve -- from 2.2 to 2.6. On their grading scale, a 5 is the highest. Iraq never scored even a three. On "Autonomy, Security, and Freedom of the Peson," it dropped in the five years from 2.6 to 1.9. From the "Nondiscrimination and Access to Justice" section, we'll note the following:
The justice system does not always treat women and men equally, notably in the issues related to honor killings, rape, and personal status law. Article 409 of the penal code offers leniency in honor killing cases, setting a maximum penalty of three years in prison for a man who kills his wife or close female relative and her partner after catching them in an act of adultery. It also deprives the victims of the legal right to self-defense in such situations. Article 130 of the penal code allows penalties of as little as six months in prison for the killing of a wife or female relative for honor-related reasons. Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) Order No. 6 of 2001 extended the application of such mitigated sentences to those who kill third parties for "making reference" to the dishonorable act by the slain woman, and prohibited acts of revenge against the killer.[7]
After 2003, the instances of gender-based violence, including honor killings, soared throughout Iraq. In the southern city of Basra, authorities had recorded a 70 percent increase in such murders in 2008, with 81 reported by late November, resulting in only five convictions.[8] Lawyers who represent the victims of rape and other violence against women receive death threats. Most honor crimes go unreported by the family members, who bury the victims themselves and attribute the deaths to militia violence or other causes. Such families often receive sympathy and tolerance from the police, if not encouragement for doing what they see as the right thing. Perpetrators are released without investigation or charges, and the government remains silent, treating the cases as private matters. This response leaves women paralyzed with fear and vulnerable to daily domestic violence, sexual harassment, and killings. A deep feeling of injustice and powerlessness sometimes leads women to believe that the only escape is suicide.
In 2000, the Kurdish regional government revoked the laws on mitigated sentences for honor crimes and, a year later, made them punishable by up to 15 years in prison. These measures, however, did not apply in the rest of Iraq. In 2008, Narmin Othman, the current Minister of Environment and one-time acting minister of state for women's affairs, led a campaign to make honor killings throughout the country punishable by life imprisonment or death. Although many parliamentarians supported the proposal, they faced opposition from the Shiite-led United Iraqi Alliance and the Sunni-led Iraqi Accord Front. Party members claimed that such killings of women are permitted under Shari'a.[9]
Articles 19 and 37 of the constitution prohibit arbitrary arrest and unlawful detention, as well as all forms of torture or inhumane acts. But many Iraqi women, as well as men, have been unlawfully arrested and detained in crowded prisons for months or years without trial or access to a lawyer. Prisons allow women to keep their children with them if there is no extended family, especially if the child is an infant, and childcare supplies are provided. There are separate prisons for males, juveniles, and females. Still, some female inmates allege that they are sexually assaulted, tortured, beaten, and raped by Ministry of Interior guards and police investigators seeking confessions. According to one report, the women's prison of Kadhamiya in Baghdad was infiltrated by Jaish al-Mahdi (JAM), the Shiite militia, and operated as a brothel at night. Its 174 female inmates and 17 children were later relocated to a new women's prison.[10]
March 2nd, Riz Khan addressed the issue of women in Iraq on his self-titled Al Jazeera show:
Riz Khan: I know that you, like Rabab El Mahdi, have also faced a lot of questions that you consider a bit naive or misdirected and I know you wrote a lot about women in Iraq after the US-led invasion.
Dr. Nadje Al-Ali: That's right.
Riz Khan: You get asked questions like what do Iraqi women want How do you tend to respond to those kind of questions?
Dr. Nadje Al-Ali: What do American women want? What do British women want? Uhm, you know, people rarely ask those questions? And I think the moment I ask it back, they realize well we are not a homogenious body, you know, we are different women with different ideas. And, you know, over the last few years, I've always been asked and I told them, "Well there are different Iraqi women with different experiences, different political views and it's not just because of sectarian differences but it's because of class differences, it's because people live in different places around Iraq."
If Iraqi women are seen as a monolithic group, and sometimes they are, it is equally true that other times they're completely ignored. They were ignored by many outlets -- including the New York Times -- when the war started. John F. Burns and Dexter Filkins couldn't be bothered writing about them or even quoting them. Time and again, to read the GoGo Boys of the Green Zone's 'reporting' was to feel Iraq's entire population must consist of men only. Which is not just a shame, it's a distortion. Many Iraqi women were working very hard in attempts to ensure that their voices were heard while rules were being made (by the US government). At the end of last month, Maria Fantappie (Women's Worldwide Web) noted:
OWFI is a grassroots organization aimed at helping women in need, no matter their background or history. OWFI's radio and newspaper -- Al Mousawat, or "Equality" -- gives voice to ordinary women, women whose stories would not otherwise be heard. "People say they do not want to speak about prostitution and consider it a 'shameful' issue to speak about," Houzan observes. "But we should openly discuss all the issues and oppressions women are facing, however 'shameful' these issues may be for some. Otherwise, these women would feel abandoned." She adds: "OWFI's aim is to be there for those women who don't have a life, those who did not receive an education, those who have been forced to become prostitutes, those who are widows, and those who have been beaten, tortured and raped." OWFI strives to empower women, to help them to achieve equality and protect their rights. As Houzan points out, the organization is also concerned to establish a secular constitution "without discriminatory laws against women, such as Islamic Sharia Law."
"In Iraq, some elite women entered politics and were elected to Parliament," Houzan tells us. "But," she laments, "Many of them don't fight for womens rights. For the political parties, these women are just a way of respecting the gender quotas. The women are utterly beholden to their party leadership."
No women took part in the protracted negotiations to reach a compromise government. And despite holding a quarter of the seats in Parliament, only one woman runs a minsitry; women's affairs, a largely ceremonial department with a tiny budget and few employees.
In the previous government from 2006 to 2010, four women led ministries, and in the government from 2005 to 2006, six did, including the influential ones governming public works, refugees and communications.
Today AK News reports that Ministry of State for Women's Affairs announced that the Council of Ministers decided "to allocate a proportion of small loans for women." Which takes us back to the March 2nd, broadcast of Riz Khan:
Riz Khan: Do you see in this new changing landscape of the Middle East that perhaps women can play a greater role as entrepreneurs and perhaps and perhaps improve their situation that way?
Dr. Nadje Al-Ali: Yes, but I think it's a double-edged sword. I mean when we see developments, economic developments in the country like Iraq, there's lots of push for -- new liberal, capitalist push for women and men to become entrepreneurs. This is at the expense of women being involved in the public sector and historically, in the region, women have been much more involved in the public sector. This is at the expense of welfare provisions of the state. So I think it is a very sort of narrow angle to look at it. Yes, women entrepreneurs? Yes, of course it is nice and we have it in the Gulf but I don't think it really addresses the wider issues of socio-economic rights and I'm very concerned about this neoliberal agenda of "let's train some women to become entrepreneurs." And actually, we saw that in Iraq. There was lots of training programs funded by the American government to try to train Iraqi women to become entrepreneurs and I think this is very problematic.
Manal Omar is the author of Barefoot in Baghdad: A Story of Identity -- My Own and What it Means to be a Woman in Chaos. It charts her journey to Iraq, as an American (and an Arab) to help the women of Iraq and what she learned from and of Iraqi women. Manal shares many stories and, Iraq being the site of an ongoing war, they don't all have happy endings. One example:
During one of the visits, a young Iraqi woman accompanied the [US] soldiers as their translator. I had seen many translator before, but something struck me about this woman. She had an aura of strength, and I was impressed by her confidence. She also had a slight limp, and instinct told me this was something new. I found myself staring at her with curiosity.
She caught my eye and smiles. "You are either worndering about my limp, or you are thinking I am some sort of traitor for working with the Americans."
I was embarrassed at having been caught staring and openly confessed, "I am just thinking about how hard it is to be a female translator. I am an American, so I cannot say much to the traitor part."
She laughed and introduced herself as Raghad. She began by telling me how her team had been caught in a roadside bomb on the airport road. I was stunned. She described in detail the events of that horrible day: the sound of the explosion, the eruption of fire, and her realization that she might not make it out alive. She explained to me how, in the last few seconds before she passed out from the pain, her only thoughts were for her twelve-year-old son. Similarly, in the first few minutes after she woke up after a four-month coma, her only desire was to see her son.
"Why are you back at work?" I asked, shocked that after a near-death experience she would temp fate so soon.
"The same reason I took the job in the first place," she answered. Raghad explained that she was a divorced mother, and her parents would not allow her to return to their home with her son. Raghad's husband had been abusive, and she could not bear the idea of leaving her son with him. When she was able to earn a substantial income, her parents had allowed her back in the home. In return, her earnings were given to her father at the end of the month.
Manal Omar notes that Raghad died three months later when she was shot by a sniper.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

No award ceremony






Aswat al-Iraq reports an IED targeted a US military patrol in Basra yesterday and quotes a security source stating, "An IED blew up against a U.S. Army Patrol on the Hamdan Road, 10 kms south of Basra on Tuesday, but caused no human or material damage." The Iraq War continues. US service members remain stationed in Iraq. They remain in danger. Barack didn't end the violence, let alone the war.
And they're looking at seeing their health care cut. Yesterday, the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcomittee met to discuss the Military Health System and the Defense Health Cost Program for the Fiscal Year 2012. Subcommittee Chair Joe Wilson observed, "The proposed TRICARE Prime fee increase for Fiscal Year 2012, while appearing to be modest, is a 13% increase over the current rate. The Dept of Defense proposes increasing the fee in the out years based on an inflation index. You suggest 6.2% but it is unclear exactly which index you are using? You plan to reduce the rate that TRIACARE pays Sole Community hospitals for inpatience care provided to our active duty, family members and retirees. Several of these hospitals are located very close to military bases -- in fact, some are right outside the front gates -- especially important for 24-hour emergency care." We'll note these statements by Maine's Chellie Pingree.
US House Rep Chellie Pingree: I just want to say again, I understand how well you are all doing your job and the importance of all of you looking for cost efficiencies in what you do as we face a difficult time with the budget deficit and, uh, also where there's a lot of examination of the military budget and looking for places where we can cut. And maybe my first comment is more to my fellow Committee members then to all of you but I might see more places to cut the fat in the military budget than others of my colleagues but I am deeply concerned that we're going after medical care for both our active duty personnel and our retirees when I think there are other places to make more effective cuts. So I know you have to do your job and look for those cuts but almost everything that's before us today, either myself or one of my colleagues has mentioned a concern about, whether it's the changes to TRICARE, how we're going to deal with some of our Sole Community Hospitals I have two in my district, there are four in our state of only 1.2 million people, in a state where we have almost a fifth of our citizens are either active duty or retired military. So there's a very big dependance on this system in our state and I'm worried about that particular program. So for me, many of the efficiencies that you're talking about are going to reduce the level of medical care to people who have served us to whom we have made a huge promise. And there is going to be a -- I think -- a reduction in the services that they receive so I just -- I know you have to do your job but I don't like it and I don't think it's all necessarily good.
That was yesterday. This morning the Subcommittee met again. We need to start with remarks by Subcommittee Chair Wilson.
Chair Joe Wilson: Yesterday, we had an extraordinary hearing with Dr. Clifford Stanley and and Dr. Jonathan Woodson and Dr. Stanley is special to me, he's a graduate of South Carolina State University, one of the great universities of South Carolina and so I really am frustrated that with their capabilities that the president has named a health -- a military health care czar, the former governor of Maine, John Baldacci. I-I -- we don't need a health care czar. We've got veterans service organizations that can provide this information. And as stewards of the tax payers -- this is not government's money, this is tax payers' money -- $164,000 plus expenses, I think, are being diverted from the military health care system.
As he notes, he hit on that yesterday. I was thinking Kat might grab that. I know Baldacci and didn't grab it for that reason. Do we need czars? No, not in this economic climate. Is Wilson correct about $164,000?
No. Because Baldacci is not answering his own phones and doing his own filing and doing -- He has a staff. He is not a 'floater,' he has office space. John Baldacci's a hard worker and a nice person. As a czar, he would no doubt do a fine job. But when everything's under attack, the first thing that needs to go are the czars -- all of them. I avoided it because of conflict of interest but I do agree with Wilson that, at a time when needed programs are being cut, the White House needs to get rid of their czars. (All their czars, which may mean my position is more extreme than Wilson's. In yesterday and today's hearings, he only referenced the military health care czar.)
Having taken care of that, we'll now address today's hearing. Ranking Member Susan Davis explained, "Today we'll hear first hand from the folks who really make the most difference here, from those who are the beneficiaries of the system and the experience that they are having with the military health care system and their thoughts on the health care proposals put forth by the Dept of Defense. As you alll know, our country is facing difficult economic times and we are now faced with making some hard decisions that will -- that could -- impact the lives of those who are currently serving and those who have served. I know that our beneficiary representatives here today understand the challenges that we face."
The Subcommittee heard from Military Officers Association of America's Steve Strobridge, Fleet Reserve Association's Joseph Barnes, National Association of Uniformed Services' Rick Jones, Retired Enlisted Association's Deidre Parke Holleman, National Military Family Association's Kthy Moakler, Reserve Officers Association's Marshall Hanson and US Family Health Plan Alliance's Mary Cooke who attempted to convery the health care needs and how what was being proposed would hurt many, many people.
As Rick Jones explained, the Department of Defense plans "to collect $450 million over the next five years from the pockets of 'working age' retirees by raising TRICARE Prime enrollment fees in the first year by 13 percent and in following years by the rate of medical inflation, which is projected by economists to run several points higher than general inflation at a minimum annual pace of 6.2 percent and as high as 10 to 14 percent over the next five years." This is on top of the Defense Dept's plan to increase the costs of co-pay for prescription drugs (for example, an additional $2 for generic drugs, an additional $3 for brand names and an additional $3 for non-formulary medications). Jones pointed out, "While it is true costs for military health care have increased over the past decade, the cause is not, repeat, not military retirees using their earned benefits. The true accelerant for risings costs is the war." Jones noted that for nearly a decade, the US has been waging two costly wars. He pointed out, rightly, that this is a betrayal of a promise, that health care is really not a 'benefit' for the military, it is part of the promise the government makes to those who serve in the military. Attempting to balance the budget on the backs of service members, veterans, retirees and their families is changing the rules once the process has already started and it's not fair.
It's also, this is me -- not Jones, disgraceful. How dare you deploy people to war zones and talk your nonsense bumper sticker b.s. about 'support' when you turn around -- and, let's be clear, "you" is the Obama administration -- and then attempt to break the government's word. It's disgraceful and it's shameful and it certainly doesn't make for a good 'recruiting tool.'

NAUS' Rick Jones called the proposal "a breach of moral contract." MOAA's Steve Strobridge called for "some statement in law, where there is none presently, that states explicitly that military health care is one of the cruical offsets to the adverse conditions of service -- that it is, in fact, an upfront and very substantial premium payment. And that would help defefeat some of these arguments that people want to devalue the service and only compare cash to cash which, to us, is an apple to orange comparison."
We'll note this exchange from the hearing.
US House Rep Niki Tsongas: Yesterday in the first of this series of hearings I said that before Congress could increase TRICARE fees for working age retirees, any proposal on the table would have to be proven to minimize impact. It would be inexcusable in my mind to deprive our retired heroes of the health benefits they have earned. I also question the disparate impact of any increases on service members who accrue less annual retirement benefits than others. As you all know, retirement benefits vary greatly depending on a number of factors such as how long a person served and whether they were decorated for extraordinary heroism. The key metric, however, is the rank they hold or held. Retired generals can earn robust, six figure sums in annual retirement benefits whereas enlisted personnel may only earn benefits in the teens. Yesterday, in the first part of this series, I asked Under Secretary Stanley and Assistant Secretary Woodson if the Department had seriously reviewed any proposals for a stepped-increase of TRICARE fees for working age retirees determined on the basis of rank at the time of retirement and retirement benefits earned? Assistant Secretary Woodson answered that the Dept did not consider this proposal because it would be difficult to administer since the Dept would want to take into consideration retirees' other streams of revenue -- a statement I do not agree with. More importantly, though, he stated it was unnecessary in this case because the fee increases that are proposed are modest. But he stated that "if we were proposing large fee increases, I would agree with you strongly." My question then, to all of you, is do you agree or disagree with Dr. Woodson's assessment? And if we could begin with you, Mr. Strobidge.
Col Steve Strobridge: Yes, in fact, the Dept did propose tier-increases previously. The military coalition has been unanimus in opposing means-testing. of military benefits. We don't have that for federal civilian health care, the presidents pays the same as the lowest SGS employee One of the concerns, I think, is creating a situation where the longer you serve and the more successful you compete for promotion, the less your benefit is. And we don't think that's a good incentive. But more and more, as I said in my earlier statement, the military benefit package is considered the off-set for the adverse conditions of service. You earn the package mainly by your service. And I-I would have to agree with the answer that was given yesterday: Once you start trying to split, basically what you're saying is, "Who can afford to do what?" And I think they were accurate. Once you start to say, "Who can afford to do what?," you have to -- you have to look at all of your income and then it ultimately drives you to looking at last year's tax return. And to us, we don't think that ought to be based on what kind of job you get as a civilian, we don't think it ought to be based what your spouse's income, or how much you inherited from a parent. Your benefit derives from your service, not from your grade.
Regarding the discussion above, it would probably be wise to ask Robert Gates -- who is spear heading the White House's attempt to gut the military benefits -- exactly what his own are. If he's proposing -- and he and the White House are -- that some veterans going into civilian life should be on civilian health care instead of on military health care, the American tax payers have a right to know which benefits Gates is receiving? Is it from his time in the 'Air Force' (Gates didn't serve in the Air Force, he was CIA already when he got his wings -- in fact, Gates is another Chicken Hawk but no one is ever supposed to point that out), it is from his time at the CIA, from his current position, from his college administration positions? If he wants to go after military benefits, he needs to open his hand before the American people and explain exactly what tax payer money he is consuming and how.
When we first started noting the Obama administration's plan to gut veterans health care, a number of angry e-mails came in insisting it would never happen. Those e-mails continued even after the May 19, 2010 Senate Veterans Affairs Committee which should have put a rest to the denials from the Cult of St. Barack. Today's hearing was attended by a number of reporters and possibly it will finally get the coverage so that everyone can see just how the administration 'rewards' those who served. And maybe all those working their pet causes with online e-activism might try paying attention to some things actually do matter. NPR and PBS -- both of whom I support -- will get along. I'm a huge abortion rights supporter. Planned Parenthood will survive with cuts. You need to stop wasting your time and your fire on these little minor things. And if you're thinking, "I didn't serve so I don't have to worry," how this fight goes down is the test-run for how the attempt to gut Social Security will go down.
Meanwhile Lara Jakes (AP) reports that the State Dept's William Brownfield, visiting Iraq, is whining that the Department budget is being gutted. The $1 billion they want for Iraq's "police and legal system" next year may not be approved, that this was "one of the oddest budget years" he'd seen (boo-hoo!) and that making cuts will jeopardize security in Iraq -- what security? First off, what gains? There are no gains, there's just the US propping up an illegitmate puppet who attacks his own people. There are no gains. And at a time when the people of the United States are being asked to give up this and give up that, it's past damn time that the Obama administration grasped they better get a little damn skin in the game as well. They can start by ending the silly functions at the White House. In this economy, it is in poor taste to entertain in the manner they have. A lack of taste doesn't excuse their inability to grasp that they need to show a little more restraint. Restraint would mean giving up your czars, your fly-in-from-Chicago trainer and much, much more. Nancy Reagan was crucified for doing much less than Michelle Obama has done (and I remember because I was one of the loudest critics of Nancy Reagan).

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

He thinks he knows everything






Kutaiba Hamid (Al Mada) reports that a press conference was held yesterday by the February Youth Movement (young Iraqi activists) at the Women's Association Hall in Baghdad to detail the way Iraqi forces are torturing protesters and journalists. Journalist Ali Abdul-Zahra was taken by Iraqi forces after covering the protests earlier this month. He and three youth protesters were taken to the Eight Brigade's Baghdad headquarters where they were all four tortured with wooden sticks and electrical wires. Hanaa Edwar noted that if they do not stand up to it now, it will be the normal and it will effect every Iraqi. Youth protester Shawkat al-Bayati stated that the press conference was not about demands but about putting into the light these abuses. He likened the current conduct to that of the previous regime (Saddam Hussein's). New Sabbah covers the press conference and notes that the activists called for an end to silence. Youth activist and bodybuilder Mohammed Kazem David spoke of how he was pounced upon by two security forces who stated they were with the intelligence division of the Ministry of the Interior and they forced him to sign a statement after they tortured him, doing damage to his leg, to his ear and tearing ligaments in both of his hands. In another report, Kutaiba Hamid (Al Mada) details Ali Abdul-Zahra's statements which note, "Without any charge against me and without any court order, I was held just for covering the demonstration, being present as a reporter. At half past noon, I was detained on Saadoun Street and after I had identified myself and explained I was a journalist, I was informed this would not help me." Along with others, he was taken to the Eight Brigade-Third Regiment and then to another regiment. "They beat us and they took photos of us and a colonel told the soldiers to get the [electric] cables while the soldiers beat us on the sensitive parts of our bodies and insulted us in vulgar terms, calling us homosexuals. The Colonel told us, 'You want democracy and freedom, I'll show you democracy and freedom.'" And the beating continued.

In other Iraq protest news, New Sabah reports that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani declared yesterday he will not meet with any government official until the demands of the protesters are met. He did meet with a member of the National Alliance on Friday; however, that visit was supposed to be based on passing on medical news. Al Mada adds that al-Sistani reportedly refused Ibrahim al-Jaafari (also of the National Alliance and a former prime minister of the country). Meanwhile Ali Hussein (Al Mada) pens an opinion piece warning that Saleh al-Mutlaq (Iraqiya) cannot be trusted and that, basically, al-Mutlaq offers meaningless crocodile tears for the protesters because he is part of the problem that created Iraq's current climate.

As you read about the torture of protesters and journalists by Iraqi forces, you may wonder why the hell the US is still in Iraq? You may wonder it more if you read this article from Al Mada which explains that Mark Meevid with the US Embassy in Baghdad has explained on Al Sumaria TV that the US will do nothing to protect Iraqis from arrests or torture.

Why is the US staying in Iraq?

Why are Robert Gates, James Jeffrey, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama insisting billions are needed for this year (and for the next ten -- though the press has trouble reporting that, doesn't it?)? What's the point of it?

Is the US supposed to be propping up a government they know is guilty of widespread abuse?

Are US tax payers supposed to pay for that?
Last week, Kelley B. Vlahos offered "Iraqi Protests Make Washington Squirm" ( and discussed Iraq on Antiwar Radio with Scott Horton. Excerpt:
Kelley B. Vlahos: And like I mentioned earlier, we helped Maliki basically destroy his political enemies through systematic, sort of ethnic cleansing and superior fire power. I mean, I remember going and seeing David Petraeus talk about how we won the surge and basically it was basically unleashing the mighty forces of superior US firepower on Baghdad, unlike anything that those people have ever seen and so basically we just pummeled the crap out of Iraq, out of the Sunnis, out of Sadr City and basically brought all of Maliki's enemies to heel so that he could basically create a central government with all the powers that came with and he's become an authoritarian strongman there. And now we're seeing his real, true colors come to be through these protests. And one way this is actually a good thing is it basically tears the veneer off of everything that we've been saying about what we've done over there and trying to do. It basically shows Maliki for who he really is and what's been going on there while the media has been ignoring it these past two years.

[. . .]

"Today the Subcomittee meets to hear testimony on the Military Health System and the Defense Health Cost Program for the Fiscal Year 2012," declared US House Rep Joe Wilson as he brought to order the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcomittee hearing this morning. Subcommittee Chair Wilson noted his recent trips to Afghanistan and Iraq, his Iraq War veteran son and his Iraq War veteran nephew. He then stressed, "Even in this tight fiscal environment, the Military Health System must continue to provide world class health care to our beneficiaries. Even in this tight fiscal environment, the Military Health System must continue to provide world class health care to our beneficiaries and remain strong and viable in order to maintain that commitment to future beneficiaries."
Must continue to? When has that ever been a doubt?
Travel back with us to May 19, 2010 when the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee heard testimony from the VA's Associate Deputy Under Secretary Thomas J. Pamperin:
Senator Scott Brown: I'm wondering if you could just tell me what benefits might be at risk at this point and time? Any specific issues that we need to focus on that we're missing or falling through the cracks?

Thomas Pamperin: Benefits that are currently being delivered that might be taken away?

Senator Scott Brown: Right. Things that we -- that you're saying, "You know what? We got to keep our eye on this."

Thomas Pamperin: Uh - uh, we'd be glad to - to give you a more extensive response in - in the future. Uh . . . My - my concern is that the nation clearly --

Senator Scott Brown: Can I interrupt just for a second?
As noted in that day's snapshot (in addition Wally covered the hearing at Rebecca's site), people needed to hear an answer to the question but before the answer was provided, Brown was cutting off Pamperin -- intentionally or not, you'd have to ask Brown -- and America, for a brief moment, may have realized that even veterans care wasn't safe under the current government. If they did, they might have wished (as we did at Third) that Brown had kept his mouth closed and allowed Pamperin to finish his statement. Instead, nearly a year later we learn that, in Subcommitte Chair Wilson's words:
The proposed TRICARE Prime fee increase for Fiscal Year 2012, while appearing to be modest, is a 13% increase over the current rate. The Dept of Defense proposes increasing the fee in the out years based on an inflation index. You suggest 6.2% but it is unclear exactly which index you are using? You plan to reduce the rate that TRICARE pays Sole Community Hospitals for inpatient care provided to our active duty, family members and retirees. Several of these hospitals are located very close to military bases -- in fact, some are right outside the front gates -- especially important for 24-hour emergency care. What analysis have you done to determine whether reducing these rates will affect access to care for our beneficiaries and in particular the readiness of our armed forces? I would also like our witnesses to discuss the range of efficiency options that were considered but not included in the President's budget.
There were four witnesses appearing before the Subcommittee: DoD's Cliff Stanley, Jonathan Woodson, Army Surgeon General Lt Gen Eric Schoomaker, Navy Surgeon General Vice Adm Adam Robinson and Air Force Surgeon General Lt Gen Charles Green. In 2003 and 2004, attempts by the Bush adminstration to slash veterans benefits was big news. This administration is going after active duty. This is the Armed Services Committee, not the Veterans Committee. These are the active duty personnel who can be -- and often are -- deployed to the current wars. We'll note this exchange near the end of the hearing.
US House Rep Chellie Pingree: I just want to say again, I understand how well you are all doing your job and the importance of all of you looking for cost efficiencies in what you do as we face a difficult time with the budget deficit and, uh, also where there's a lot of examination of the military budget and looking for places where we can cut. And maybe my first comment is more to my fellow Committee members then to all of you but I might see more places to cut the fat in the military budget than others of my colleagues but I am deeply concerned that we're going after medical care for both our active duty personnel and our retirees when I think there are other places to make more effective cuts. So I know you have to do your job and look for those cuts but almost everything that's before us today, either myself or one of my colleagues has mentioned a concern about, whether it's the changes to TRICARE, how we're going to deal with some of our Sole Community Hospitals I have two in my district, there are four in our state of only 1.2 million people, in a state where we have almost a fifth of our citizens are either active duty or retired military. So there's a very big dependance on this system in our state and I'm worried about that particular program. So for me, many of the efficiencies that you're talking about are going to reduce the level of medical care to people who have served us to whom we have made a huge promise. And there is going to be a -- I think -- a reduction in the services that they receive so I just -- I know you have to do your job but I don't like it and I don't think it's all necessarily good. And the only other program that hasn't been brought up today that I might ask you to comment on is the pharmacy co-pay. I've seen a little bit about that and know that some of the co-pays will be reduced through using mail order pharmacies. I have concerns about that as well because I do believe people get better care when they go directly to a pharmacist in their community, that's where we catch a lot of redundancies or problems with the medications that people are taking particularly with retirees. So, in my opinion, having to go with mail order to get your pharmaceutical products is not always good treatment or good service. And one of the things I might ask is how much the Department is doing to negotiate for better prices with the pharmaceutical companies in bringing costs down in that way as opposed to this other option. That was my question. If you've got any comments about that.
Asst Sec of Defense Jonathan Woodson: Uh -- we continue to have efforts to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies. I think that in fact the mail order advances care because, uh, there's a large percentage of retail prescriptions that are never picked up and there's breaks in terms of, uh-uh, the supply of medications. Our proposal not only reduces the cost but it ensures timely supply of medicines and, of course, linked with our concept of the patient-centered home, they have a team of health care providers that can counsel, coach, monitor their medicines. We have new electronic -- electronic data bases that highlight, uh, medication, medication interactions and notify, uh, pracitioners of, uh, medications that may be unsafe. So I think there are a number of things that we're doing that are, uh, are going to enchance the quality of care while reduce the costs and provide a better service for the beneficiaries.
US House Rep Chellie Pingree: I appreciate your perspective on that. That's - that's useful information in thinking about the program. Uh, back to the question of negotiating, is that an active activity that goes on today to negotiate for cost-cutting. We-we still continue to pay some of the highest prices in the world in this country for prescription drugs and I know the military has done a better job of bringing down the costs but I just I wonder how engaged we are in the process and I wonder how much resistance there is to it?
Lt Gen Eric Shoomaker: Ma'am, I'm told that's a commodity that's managed through the Defense Logistic Agency and the center in Philadelphia and I'm told that the Dept of Defense has some of the most favorable cost profiles of any organization in the United States because of our -- because of levarging and volume.
An issue raised was the Pentagon's hiring of a consultant to conduct a year long study and US House Rep Walter Jones seemed to speak for many when he noted the endless studies while people wait and wait and for help.
Walter Jones: My question, in just a moment, will be for you Adm Robinson. I appreciated the question by Congressman West. I remember 10 years ago, I think I was briefed by Dr.
[Paul] Harch from LSU about hyperbaric oxygen as a treatment for our head wounds. And I know I had a conversation a couple years ago, I cannot remember the Air Force officer, about where the research is going. And I appreciate your statement, Gen Schoomaker, uh, that, uh -- My concern or interest is this Adm Robinson, I know that -- I want to thank Adm Mullen. Quite frankly, I brought this up at a full hearing about a year ago about a hyperbaric chamber down at Camp Lejeune, we do have one at Camp Lejeune. And I believe that they're in the process now of preparing to be part of a pilot program to treat Marines down at Camp Lejeune, which I am very grateful for. Help me understand when -- and I understand the need for studies, please understand, I do realize they are very, very important -- but when would the military get to a point after the study by the Air Force, maybe the Army, I don't know that, maybe the Navy as well? When do you get to the point that the study says -- and I'll tell you why and then I'm going to let you answer -- I've called numerous Moms and Dads whose sons and a couple of daughters had been in the hyperbaric chamber or treatment. One that really sticks with me -- and I want to use this and then you answer, please sir -- I called Col [George E.] "Bud" Day -- he's a Marine, won the Medal of Honor in Vietnam -- called and he told me his grandson had a severe brain injury from Iraq, I believe, at the time and he was just not satisfied with the treatment and as his own expense he sent his grandson to LSU to Dr. Harch and, I never will forget, Col Day said to me, "I'll go anywhere I need to go to testify that this treatment has given my grandson a quality of life that he would never have had if he had not had the hyperbaric treatment." So now -- this was the question I had just a moment ago -- when do we get to the point that we say -- meaning the Dept of Defense -- that this protocol does help, it does work?
Vice Adm Adam Robinson: Congressman Jones, thanks for the question. This has been for me, as Surgeon General of the Navy, a four year question. We have looked at hyperbaric oxygen and Dr. Harsh who has been at several meetings -- and I've met him many times and looked at his results -- we've invited him to come through and participate in our double-blinded studies so that we can get away from the anecdotal results of individual patients, families and other anecdotal lessons and we can get down to what we have to have from an objective and definitive way so that we can base clinical practice guidelines both for the military health system and also for the private section. We need to base those therapies on objective clinical data that cannot be influenced by opinions of people who have benefited but we can't prove that benefit in a scientific way. So we need to employ a scientific method. What we have done -- and I can say that after --in my fourth year as Surgeon General -- we now have studies, we're now beginning to produce data from-from compentent studies that look at, number one, hyperbaric oxygen seems to be safe. So I think that that is a -- that is a clear improvement in terms of our knowledge. And now we need to go and look more deeply at the Air Force study and that study has been completed but the analysis has not been done. So I think we're very, very close to getting more data. I think when we can get some studies on the record that actually look at the efficacy of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, I think at that point we can say that is an effective treatment, it is not an effective treatment but it is a treatment that can be utilized in complimentary medical ways so that the people who may benefit from it can use it it's certainly not going to harm them. We will have an array of answers I think we are literally months away from getting there but it normally takes -- and this is one of the issues with medicine -- it normally takes time to get to where we need to be and we have to base it on a scientific method in order to keep from having everything become a clinical practice guideline -- things that are not proven. So the scientific method is being utilized in this way.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Call the hair dresser, his roots are showing








We noted Kelley B. Vlahos' "Iraqi Protests Make Washington Squirm" last week. Saturday at, an Antiwar Radio interview Scott Horton did with her was posted. We'll note the section where they discussed her article:
Scott Horton: But I want to talk about Iraq. Mostly, I especially want to talk about Iraq because apparently and maybe this is just my hyperbole, you know, I'm kind of an extremist but the way, the best I can the rest of America has decided that the Iraq invasion happened some time a hundred years ago back before World War I and nobody cares at all about Iraq anymore, just forget it, that was George Bush's thing and it might as well have been Korea or something, you know, back when TV was still in black & white. And so it seems to me that since the consequences -- even just the short terms consequences -- of America's invasion back in 2003 and the occupation that's lasted this whole time are still playing out there that we ought to pay extra attention to what's going on. So, uhm, you have this great article, it's at right now, "Iraq protests make Washington squirm." And you have a very detailed write up of the very recent history of the state of Iraq and the protest movement -- Tunisia and Egyptian-inspired protest movement there --- as it has existed over the past few weeks. Why don't you give us a brief roundup there and maybe we'll save the politics 'till the second half.
Kelley B. Vlahos: Yes, sure. Before I even get started on that, I was Google-ing around on Iraq a little while ago and the story popped up about members of a Buffalo based National Guard unit headed to Iraq. And it just -- It sort of like took me back into some sort of tailspin newswise. You know, here, like you said, this is like ancient history to most Americans. We still have units, soldiers, going over to Iraq. Meanwhile the mixed messages that this war is over, that our guys and gals are home, that somehow we're not even stationed there anymore, we don't here about the troops over there anymore, where are they, what are they doing? And here I just Google "Iraq" and here's a unit going over there. Most of the guys in this particular unit, this is their first deployment. Some of them, they've been on deployment before. But it just, it kind of gives me kind of a funky feeling, you know, deja vu, but also of sadness because I realize that these deployments are still occuring and nobody cares anymore. And, like you said, with my article I try to explore what's been going on with Iraq because I haven't -- It's been really difficult to go to the mainstream media and kind of discern what's been going on there in the context of these revolutions in the Middle East right now. Iraq is having its own revolution but in a very ironic way that they're revolting against us. I mean we have been the chief puppet masters over there for the last eight years. The-the prime minister that they are railing against all throughout the country across ethnic lines -- this isn't a a Sunni/Shia thing, this is Sunni-Shia-Kurd-All revolting over there and Prime Minister Maliki is the key reason. His government has failed to bring basic services, things that we take for granted -- electricity, food, water, sewage -- in the last several years. He's been in power since 2006, he's failed to-to make good on all his pledges to reconstruct that country. We have failed on our promises to reconstruct that country. But he is basically Our Man In Baghdad. And so they are, in effect, fighting us. And when I say it's making Washington squirm, it is. It's very awkward. It's embarrassing. And official Washington has basically reacted to that by silence, is what I say. So I tried to fill in the void by providing some of the, you know, easily accessible information that's out there on the web right now about what's going on on the ground because our mainstream news is just ignoring it.
Scott Horton: Well you know it's especially ironic, I mean here America backs every dictator in the region and so the irony there where we're supposed to have the legacy of the Declaration of Independence on our side and all of that is really harsh. But in the case of Iraq, here they did this whole aggressive invasion in the name of liberating the people of Iraq and providing them a democracy so they wouldn't have to suffer under an American-backed military dictatorship anymore like the rest of Middle East and this is the government that these people are rebelling against.
Kelley B. Vlahos: Right. And when you think about it, it really isn't too much of a surprise. The military took over -- the military was responsible obviously for the invasion, but it also took over the reconstruction. It marginalized the State Dept, it marginalized the civilians in our government from going in and having a hand in there. It politicized the reconstruction so that what you have left is a military led post-invasion Iraq. And, at some point, the charade over the whole democracy and liberation was ripped off and basically we did -- our military did -- everything it could just to get out of there with some semblence of a face left. And what it did is they installed Maliki, you know, they committed to the surge, they pummeled Iraq and Maliki's enemies so they could get out of there. It became less about establishing a democracy and reconstructing that country and more about us saving face and saving Petraeus' face and putting a veener of success on it all. And this is what you're seeing, you're seeing that veneer ripped off the Potemkin village exploded and you're seeing what - what basically, the-the-the chickens come home to roost, as though they say.
Scott Horton: Yeah, well. And, you know, you're certainly right. One of the first headlines I saw about the protests was "From Mosul to Basra" -- virtually every population center in Iraq had a giant protest on the Day of Rage there.
Kelley B. Vlahos: Mm-hmm.
Scott Horton: And that was what? Last Friday?
Kelley B. Vlahos: Right, last Friday. And upwards of 29 protesters were killed. I've seen varying numbers but that's the highest number I've seen and not only protesters killed but demonstrators beaten, journalists detained and tortured in the jails there too.
Scott Horton: Well that's where we're going to pick this up when we get back, is the persectuion of the journalists and the intellectuals as a result of this, al-Maliki's post-protest crackdown. It's Kelley B. Vlahos from and The American Conservative Magazine. We'll be right back [. . .] and we're talking about Iraq's Day of Rage, massive protests across that country against the American-installed government of Nouri al-Maliki and when we went out to the break we were just about to get to the crackdown that came as the result last weekend. Kelley, tell us about that.
Kelley B. Vlahos: Well people might be surprised that a democracy that we supposedly helped flourish in Iraq has responded to largely peaceful protests by sending out storm troopers. in essance, to round up journalists, round up protesters, hunt them down -- as one person had described, bringing them to detention centers, torturing them, beating them, releasing them after signing affidavits that they haven't been tortured. All in an attempt to stifle this people protest in Iraq. Something that we had bragged and boasted that we helped create, remember, with the purple finger elections, you know, starting in 2005. And now we're seeing sort-of the outgrowth of that, we're seeing that we have helped bring in an authoritarian government that is responding to people trying to exercise their rights [being met] with lethal force really. --
Scott Horton: Well it's just like -- Brent Scowcroft tried to tell George Bush that "Look, man, this is what's going to happen." You're going to topple the minority dictatorship there and the majority is going to take power." And that's what happened. The Ayatollah Sistani said, "Hey, if you believe in God go out there and demand one-man, one-vote. And demand it, say you want it, really soon." And they had no choice after that. Once you overthrow Saddam Hussein, now you're job is installing whoever Sistani and Sadr can agree on.
Kelley B. Vlahos: Yeah.
Scott Horton: And so that was that whole war, just fighting for those guys.
Kelley B. Vlahos: Right. Exactly. And like I mentioned earlier, we helped Maliki basically destroy his political enemies through systematic, sort of ethnic cleansing and superior fire power. I mean, I remember going and seeing David Petraeus talk about how we won the surge and basically it was basically unleashing the mighty forces of superior US firepower on Baghdad, unlike anything that those people have ever seen and so basically we just pummeled the crap out of Iraq, out of the Sunnis, out of Sadr City and basically brought all of Maliki's enemies to heel so that he could basically create a central government with all the powers that came with and he's become an authoritarian strongman there. And now we're seeing his real, true colors come to be through these protests. And one way this is actually a good thing is it basically tears the veneer off of everything that we've been saying about what we've done over there and trying to do. It basically shows Maliki for who he really is and what's been going on there while the media has been ignoring it these past two years.
Today's New York Times finds the editorial board offering "Mr. Maliki's Power Grab" which includes, "Instead of taking responsibility, Mr. Maliki charged that the protests were organized by 'terrorists.' He ordered the closing of the offices of two political parties that helped lead the demonstrations. His only concessions were vows not to seek a third term in 2014 and to cut his pay in half. That was not persuasive, especially given his many recent power grabs." And not persuasive given news that emerged over the weekend about Friday's protest in Baghdad. Adam Youssef, news photographer for Al Mada, is among the people David Ali (Al Mada) reported on. At the Friday protests, Adam was brutally beaten by Iraqi security forces despite repeatedly telling them he was a photographer and only present to take photos. They beat him and beat him, over and over with batons. But brave little thugs rarely only beat one person. Activst Hana Adoor and journalist Npras Mamouri were also beaten with batons by security forces who apparently were threatened by the thought of two women out in public. The Arab American News reports surrounded the protesters in large numbers:

"People will continue demonstrating until there is reform because the government has been built on a sectarian basis," said Faisal Hamid, a pensioner who walked to Tahrir Square from the nearby neighborhood of Karrada.
The Iraqi government, worried the demonstrations may spiral out of control, have taken strict measures that appear designed to limit the number of demonstrators who come out.
Late Thursday, they imposed a vehicle ban in the capital so many of the protesters were forced to walk for miles. Similar vehicle bans were in place in the northern cities of Mosul and Kirkuk, and the southern city of Basra.
Side streets leading up to the square were blocked with security vehicles and helicopters buzzed overhead in Baghdad.
Before those protests, Iraqi officials tried to discredit the demonstrations by saying they were being backed by supporters of Saddam and al-Qaeda. The warnings seemed designed to keep people away and paint those who did take part in a bad light.

Over the weekend, Nouri continued his attacks on the protesters. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Lara Jakes (AP) reported he took to state television Saturday where he verbally attacked the protesters, "Those who call for regime change are limited in number; they are weak and voices of discord. [. . .] Do they want the return of a dictatorship? Or the Revolutionary Command Council? Or a regime that marginalizes groups? We say clearly that who ask for the change of this regime are out of line with the will of the nation." True only if Nouri's desires are the will of the nation. Iraqi voters made clear Nouri was not their choice in the March 7, 2010 elections when despite his harassment, scare tactics, abuse of office and a largely compliant media he was not able to lead his political slate to victory. Abdul-zhra and Jakes note how "liar" and other words are increasingly applied to Nouri at the ongoing public demonstrations.

In other news of outrage, Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports that the practice of ministers and officials (since the start of the war) stealing Iraqi land and homes may be coming to an end. Many Iraqis have been left homeless as a result of the illegal practice and MP Safia al-Suhail is calling for the land to be returned. In other news of corruption, Inas Tariq (Al Mada) reports that while Iraqis are plagued with unemployment, the few jobs available are being doled out by ministers to their own unqualified family members and friends. Unqualified being one of the key words. Last week, New Sabah reported that the Integrity Commission has supposedly developed a plan to examine the graduate certifications and other credentials of various officials and they will be checking them out and also looking into the rumors that certain positions were purchased with large amounts of money. The Ministries of Defense and Interior are named in New Sabah's report as two ministries that will be examined. Yesterday Saad Abdul-Kadir and Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reported that there are "some 20,000 goovernment employees" under investigation of possibly forging diplomas and graduate certifications and MP Layla Hassan states, "Some of those who have fake education certificates are senior officials in the current and former government. These people should not be pardoned. Otherwise, others will do the same in the future." New Sabah reports that the chair of the Integrity Committee in the Iraqi Parliament announced that former ministers and officials have broken laws and is calling on heads of Ministries to utilize appointments correctly. The Committee was "shocked" by the corruption that has taken place and vows former officials and ministers will be brought to justice. Dar Addustour adds that today Parliament is supposed to, according the Integrity Committee vice chair Ahmed al-Jubouri, hold a workshop explaining how the commission did relatively little work in the last years due to the fact that a law was not passed giving them the needed powers.

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