Friday, April 08, 2011

Oh my Zeituni!!









In Iraq, today is Departure Friday as protests took place around the country, the chant in Baghdad's Liberation Square was "OUT WITH THE OCCUPIERS!". The Great Iraqi Revolution notes, "Thousands , [F]riday Prayers - The Imam Shaikh Taha spoke frankly and critically - he was courageous and brave because he covered all the relevant points - he did not leave anything out and then the speeches, chants, slogans and thousands of people - women, old crippled men in wheelchairs and children - are all there now - Turn on Baghdad Satellite Station and you will see it all LIVE." The Great Iraqi Revolution notes: "All the roads to Tahrir are open at the moment so please all you Young Men and Women - all you Iraqi Brave Revolutionaries - Your God and Your Country demand your presence in Tahrir. Peacefully Peacfully - Dont allow them to force you to react - this is the price we have to pay to get rid of the Occupation and their stooge gang of a government." Trend notes the thousands "gathered in front of Abu Hanifa mosque in the Adhamiya areas carrying banners proclaiming 'Occupiers, get out!' and chanting slogans such as 'America leave leave, We want a free Baghdad'." Al Jazeera live blogged protests in the MidEast today and, on Iraq, they noted:
IRAQ - Protesters in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, have been talking to Al Jazeera's Jane Arraf. Many are angry about the continued oresence of US military troops in the country. One who preferred not to give their name said:
They have no credibility. They said, "By the end of 2011 we will be out of Iraq," and yesterday, Gates came here and said that there are hints about keeping the US forces, although they denied this before.
They are not going to leave Iraq, and if they don't leave Iraq by the end of 2011, then there will be no peaceful demonstrations, there will be something else.
The Great Iraqi Revolution has posted video of the protests and this one is good footage to start with. They note, "The Revolutionary Youth of A'adhamiya came out protesting with its nationalist patriotic identity after it saw the Council of Ulama's, another face of the Islamic Party, attempting to use this great revolution for its own political advantage and for its political agenda. The Great iraqi Revolution is Iraqi and refuses all the political parties brought in with and by the Occupation in its attempt to occupay Iraq and tare it apart under the guise of its false democracy." And they report, "We have just heard that at 13.05 hrs today 2 demosntrators were taken away and arrested by security forces attached to Regiment 11, from Tayaran Squarey were in Baghdad. The y were Alla'a Nabeel and Ahmed Hussain Hussain." Dar Addustour reports that students demonstrating in Baghdad were calling for a withdrawal of occupation forces as well as the press coverage of the demonstrations which have been taking place since February 25th." Mohammed Tafeeq (CNN) covers protests throughout Iraq but we'll note this on Baghdad:
Women carried pictures of their sons and husbands who are missing or were killed during the war.
"During this war, so many women lost sons and many others became widows, not only Iraqi women but also American women. We are the ones who paid the price of this war," said Shima Kareem, who was among the protesters.
In addition, the Great Iraqi Revolution notes that a protest took place in Sammarra with people demanding the occupying forces leave "and asking for the bringing to justice of all the corrupt officials." Dar Addustour reports "two thousand" demonstrated in Samarra
after Friday prayers" and called for an end to corruption (with punishment for the guilty) and for the US to leave. And they note, "Arrest of a number of demosntrators in A'adhamiya where protestors were calling for the IMMEDIATE DEPARTURE OF AMERICAN OCCUPATION TROOPS AND ALL RELATED PERSONNEL." Rana Haddad ( reports they also protested the secret prisons in Iraq and called for them to be closed and for all innocent prisoners to be released. While mosques and religious figures impacted many of the protests they were heavily represented in Adhamiya where Sheikh Sabah al-Obeidi called the protesters peaceful and stated their most important demands were the withdrawal of US forces and the release of innocent detainnes ("who do not have the blood of innocent people on their hands") -- both of which he hoped would be embraced by the Parliament and Cabinet. Sheikh Adnan al-Nuaimi also noted the detainees and stated that too many of them were unnaccounted for and they all needed to be released. Dar Addustour adds that the Aadhamiya protesters numbered in the thousands and were primarily students who called for the immediate departure of all US troops and no extensions to allow them to stay and that protesters demonstrated in downtown Falluja as well calling for the departure of all US troops and for those responsible for the 2004 Falluja attacks (when the US twice attacked Falluja) to be brought to justice before the International Court of Justice. Dar Addustour also notes that 200 buses were used to transport protesters to Basra and that the protesters there included 4 MPs. Protests are scheduled for tomorrow as well and The Great Iraqi Revolution notes, "TOMORROW - SATURDAY 9TH APRIL - The central collection and gathering point in Baghdad is Tahrir Square. Should Haliki's security forces cut off bridges and roads and cut off the Rassafa from Karkh, then people on Karch should gather in Nissour Square. Nissour Square is significant because it is the site of the Blackwater Massacre of Iraqis which has still gone unpunished." Edith M. Lederer (AP) reports that the United Nation Security-General's Special Envoy to Iraq, Ad Melkert, has "warned that unless the government tackles these demands [by protesters], Iraq's political and democratic gains so far 'may seem hollow to ordinary Iraqis'."

While protesters demonstrated peacefully, Iraqi security forces again made news for assaults again. Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times) wouldn't be reporting, "Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates urged the Iraqi government to show restraint on Friday in the wake of an apparent attack by Iraqi security forces on a group of Iranian dissidents protected by the United States." Gates was referring to an apparent attack on Camp Ashraf. Marc Champion (Wall St. Journal) adds, "Iraq's armed forces moved against a camp holding thousands of members of an Iranian resistance movement that's based in Iraq Friday, killing dozens and wounding hundreds, according to a spokesman for the movement. It wasn't immediately possible to verify the claims of the People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran, or MEK, of 31 dead and 300 wounded. Video clips sent out by the MEK's political wing showed armored personnel carriers and military Humvees breaching the perimeter of Camp Ashraf, apparently in the early hours of Friday morning. Five Iraqi soldiers also were reported injured." Aiden Mahler Levine and Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) note, "The U.S. embassy in Baghdad said it was 'monitoring the situation at Camp Ashraf and are in contact with the government of Iraq,' and urged 'all sides to exercise restraint'." UPI explains, "In e-mails received by UPI, the People's Mujahedeen said 20 people had been killed and 300 injured." Iraq4All News reports the names of three Camp Ashraf residents who were killed: Haneef Kafaee, Zuhair Thakiri and Hassan Awani. The assault may have legal implications for the US. Mark Tran, James Ball and Melanie Newman (Guardian) report:
The raid was the latest in a series of interventions at the camp since jurisdiction was passed from the US to the Iraqi government in 2009. A WikiLeaks cable identified by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism at City University in London shows the US was aware the Iraqi government planned to crack down on the MEK, with potentially grave humanitarian consequences.
"If the government of Iraq acts harshly against the MEK and provokes a reaction," warned the US deputy chief of mission in Iraq, Patricia Butenis, in a cable in March 2009, "the USG faces a challenging dilemma: we either protect members of a foreign terrorist organisation against actions of the Iraqi security forces and risk violating the US-Iraq security agreement, or we decline to protect the MEK in the face of a humanitarian crisis, thus leading to international condemnation of both the US government and the government of Iraq."
Phil Shiner of the UK law firm Public Interest Lawyers, which represents some Ashraf residents, said: "I have not seen these cables. However, from what I can gather their content is quite astonishing and shows that the US – and by implication the UK – knew Iraqis were treating residents inhumanely, foresaw the possibility of serious injuries in clashes at the camp, and knew what was happening at the time of the deaths but did absolutely nothing."
International law requires other states to take positive action to protect innocent civilians in these circumstances, he added.
Iraq4All News also notes that the 2500 security forces present at the assault are commanded by Nouri al-Maliki. Stephanie McCrummen (Washington Post) reports that Iraqi forces are saying one thing and Camp Ashraf spokespeople another while "Journalists were prevented from entering the sprawling settlement, known as Camp Ashraf, which is home to about 3,000 people and has polished representatives in Paris and lawyers and congressional allies in Washington."

Camp Ashraf? Since long before the start of the Iraq War, Iranian dissidents have lived in Iraq. Following the US invasion, the US made these MEK residents of Camp Ashraf -- Iranian refuees who had been in Iraq for decades -- surrender weapons and also put them under US protection. They also extracted a 'promise' from Nouri that he would not move against them. July 28, 2009 the world saw what Nouri's word was actually worth. Since that Nouri-ordered assault in which at least 11 residents died, he's continued to bully the residents. Iran's Fars News Agency reported Monday that the Iraqi military is denying allegations that it entered the camp. Specifically, Camp Ashraf residents state, "The forces of Iraq's Fifth Division invaded Camp Ashraf with columns of armored vehicles, occupying areas inside the camp, since midnight on Saturday." Of today's alleged attack, UPI notes, "Gates said no U.S. troops stationed near Camp Ashraf were involved in the clash, but may have offered medical assistance."
The Iraqi authorities must immediately launch an independent investigation into reports that Iraqi troops killed and injured residents of a camp for Iranian exiles north of Baghdad in an unprovoked attack, Amnesty International said today.
"Iraqi troops moved into the camp this morning and used excessive force against residents who tried to resist them, according to the information we have received," said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme.
"This is the latest of a series of violent actions that the Iraqi government has taken against the Camp Ashraf residents, whose continuing presence in Iraq they oppose."
Clashes broke out this morning after Iraqi security forces took up positions in the camp using armoured personnel carriers and, apparently, live fire against residents who tried to resist them, resulting in multiple deaths and injuries. As yet, the number of casualties cannot be independently verified.
The camp in Diyala province around 60 km north of Baghdad is home to some 3,400 Iranian exiles and refugees, including members and supporters of the banned Iranian opposition group the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI).
PMOI officials told Amnesty International that due to restrictions imposed by the Iraqi government, Camp Ashraf's medical facility does not have adequate medicines or equipment with which to deal with those reported by the PMOI to have been injured in today's clashes.
"If true, this is very worrying," said Malcolm Smart. "Whether they like it or not, the Iraqi authorities are responsible for the security and well-being of Camp Ashraf's residents and this includes providing access to adequate and immediate medical treatment when needed."
Video clips of the clashes that the PMOI has uploaded to YouTube appear to show Iraqi soldiers firing indiscriminately into the crowds and using vehicles to try and run others down.
An Iraqi government spokesman said Camp Ashraf residents threw rocks at security forces in what he termed a "riot." Troops did not open fire, he said, but force was used to push residents back inside the camp.
Since the US ceded control of Camp Ashraf to Iraqi security forces in mid-2009, the PMOI has told Amnesty International that the constant military presence has made it difficult to access medical treatment inside and outside the camp.
An Iraqi security committee controls the influx of medical supplies into the camp and decides who can travel outside the camp for specialist treatment.
In July 2009 the Iraqi government stated that it had set up an investigation into the killing of six Iranian exiles during an Iraqi security force raid on the Camp Ashraf. The findings of this investigation have yet to be made public and no members of the security forces are known to have been held to account fir the killings.

Read More

Iraq: Iranian opposition group supporters must not be forcibly evicted, (Press release, 11 December 2009)

Iraq: Detainees held incommunicado risk torture, (Urgent action, 6 October 2009)

Which side is telling the truth? When Nouri's side began insisting today that there was no attack, they were just installing a new unit, they reveal themselves to be lying. That was the same excuse they gave for what took place Sunday. Saad Abdul-Kadir (Scotsman) explains, "The army stormed the camp [. . .] hurling smoke bombs at a crowd of about 100 masked people." For Al Jazeera, Jane Arraf reported on Camp Ashraf today (link is video):
Adrian Finighan: Now to Iraq and a crackdown by Iraqi security forces on an Iranian dissident camp has left 25 people dead and 320 wounded -- that's according to a representative of the camp. The Iraqi government said that five members of its security forces were injured in the incident at Camp Ashraf in Diyala Province which is about 90 kilometers north of Baghdad. Let's go live now to Baghdad. Our correspondent Jane Arraf joins us there. Tell us more about this dissident camp and why the Iraqi government wants to crack down on whatever's happening there.
Jane Arraf: Well, Adrian, this camp was really the last holdout of the major Iranian opposition group that was fostered here under Saddam. And it's a huge problem for the Iraqis. They simply refuse to leave. Many of them have European passports, many of them have ties to the United States. And in this latest clash, which took place overnight, Iraiq security forces moved in to bring in a new unit and were met with protesters throwing stones, according to officials. Now the casualty toll is in dispute but this is a base that the Iranian government has put heavy pressure on the Iraqi government to close. It's a continuing problem and the latest casualties Here in Baghdad, more protests --
Adrian Finighan: I'm sorry Jane, I was just going to ask you about the protests in Baghdad. Just as in the rest of the region, we've seen further protests there today. But slightly different from what we've seen elsewhere in the rest of the region
Jane Arraf: Well they're a little bit different because here they've gotten rid of their dictator. Saddam Husein The interesting thing about thess protest -- which take place against the backdrop of a visit by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates here is that they seem to be increasingly militant. And it's not just the burning of the US flags that we mean by that. It's that a lot of these people say it's not just the US military they want to leave, it's the US civilian presence. Now the United States has announced plans to double its embassy here to 18,000 people next year -- the biggest of its missions in the world. Protesters here say that's just not going to happen. And it will make it very difficult for the US to keep any sort of military presence here certainly after the end of this year.
Adrian Finighan: Jane, many thanks. Jane Arraf there live in Baghdad.
US staying? First, it's not as if they've left. As Nathan Hodge (Wall St. Journal) points out, "After all, the war here is not over. Over 47,000 U.S. troops remain on the ground, and the U.S. mission in Iraq, to quote a marvelously phrased memorandum sent yesterday by Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn, is not '"excepted" from cessation'." UPI reports State of Law's MP Saad Muttalibi (State of Law is Nouri al-Maliki's political slate) is giving interviews stating the US wants up to 20,000 troops in Iraq beyond 2011. Alsumaria TV notes, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki informed US Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the government refuses any US or foreign military presence in Iraq, Cabinet spokesman Ali Al Dabbagh said in a statement to Alsumaria." The US knows Nouri's hold on power is weak and possibly fading and have already agreed not to pressure him publicly. They did the same in the summer of 2006 and 2007 when they came to an agreement each year to extend the UN mandate -- and up until the UN announced the extensions, Nouri was denying them publicly. In other words, take it with a grain of salt. Gladkov Vladimir (Voice of Russia) reports that Sheikh Burhan Mizher (of Kirkuk's provincial goverment; heads the province's agricultural department) stating, "Of course, we want them to stay." Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times) observes that "keeping troops in Iraq beyond the 2011 deadline would have political ramifcations in both Washington and Baghdad. President Obama promised to pull all American forces out of Iraq when he ran for the White House in 2008; Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq is facing pressure from politicians loyal to the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr to get all American troops out by the deadline." Gareth Porter (Dissident Voice) reports:
President Barack Obama has given his approval to a Pentagon plan to station U.S. combat troops in Iraq beyond 2011, provided that Iraqi Premier Nouri al-Maliki officially requests it, according to U.S. and Iraqi sources.
But both U.S. and Iraqi officials acknowledge that Maliki may now be reluctant to make the official request. Maliki faces severe political constraints at home, and his government is being forced by recent moves by Saudi Arabia to move even closer to Iran.
And it is no longer taken for granted by U.S. or Iraqi officials that Maliki can survive the rising tide of opposition through the summer.
As early as September 2010, the White House informed the Iraqi government that it was willing to consider keeping between 15,000 and 20,000 troops in Iraq, in addition to thousands of unacknowledged Special Operations Forces. But Obama insisted that it could only happen if Maliki requested it, according to a senior Iraqi intelligence official.
And the White House, which was worried about losing support from the Democratic Party's anti-war base as Congressional mid-term elections approached, insisted that the acknowledged troops would have to be put at least ostensibly under a State Department-run security force.
Nathan Hodge (Wall St. Journal) reports that Gates addressed US soldiers Friday and told them his three-day trip to Iraq was "all about" extending the US military presence in Iraq beyond the end of this year.

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Sunday the US military announced 2 service members in Iraq had died and Monday they announced a third had died. The Defense Department identified two of the three on Tuesday. "Sgt. Jorge A. Scatliffe, 32, of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, died April 3 in a non-combat related incident at Mosul, Iraq. He was assigned to the 27th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas." "Capt. Wesley J. Hinkley, 36, of Carlisle, Pa., died April 4 in Baghdad, Iraq, as a result of a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 3rd Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, Fort Stewart, Ga." Yesterday they identifed the third fallen: "Spc. Gary L. Nelson III, 20, of Woodstock, Ga., died April 5 in Mosul, Iraq, of injuries sustained from a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Third Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga." Three deaths got attention. But there were actually at least 5 deaths this month according to DoD. Yesterday, they issued the following:

The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of two soldiers who were supporting Operation New Dawn. They died April 2 of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their position with indirect fire in Babil, Iraq.

Killed were:

Staff Sgt. Quadi S. Hudgins, 26, of New Orleans, La.

Sgt. Christian A. S. Garcia, 30, of Goodyear, Ariz.

They were assigned to the Maintenance Troop, Regimental Support Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Hood, Texas.

For more information media should contact the III Corps public affairs office, Fort Hood, Texas, at 254-287-0106 or 254-287-9993.

At least five US soldiers have died in Iraq since the start of the month. Staying with violence, Reuters notes a Basra bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier (eight more injured) and, yesterday, a Mosul roadside bombing wounded a police driver. It's 2011. And the puppet government in Baghdad still can't get its act together. Earlier this week, United Nations General-Secretary Ban Ki-moon delivered his latest report on Iraq. He explained the political scene as follows:
The new Government was formed on the basis of a power-sharing agreement, reached on 11 November 2010, between the main political blocs. Following the agreement, the Council of Representatives lifted de-Baathifciation charges against three key Iraqiya bloc leaders. One of the leaders, Saleh al-Mutlaq, was appointed as one of the three Deputy Prime Ministers. The other two Deputy Prime Ministers, Hussein Shahristani and Rowsch Shaways, were appointed from the National Alliance and the Kurdistan Alliance, respectively. Most ministerial posts were divided on the basis of the power-sharing agreement.
[. . .]
The formation of the proposed National Council for Strategic Policies, also agreed upon in the power-sharing agreement, has not taken place. Although a draft law for its establishment was presented in the Council of Representatives in late over its proposed competencies, composition and the mechanism for the election of its head. The leader of the Iraqiya bloc, Ayad Allawi, who was initially expected to assume a leadership role in the Council, stated in March 2011 that he would no longer seek a position on it.
If the link gives you trouble, click here -- UN Security Council, Secretary-General's remarks -- and grab S/2011/213 from the list.
Let's talk legal. If the Constitution had been followed -- as it should have been, Nouri wouldn't be prime minister currently. Setting aside the way he abused the office in 2010 during the long drawn out process in 2010, let's just note when he 'officially' became prime minister-designate November 25th. Ban Ki-Moon uses November 11th, we use November 10th. Whatever day you use, from the stalemate 'ending' to Nouri being named prime minister-designate is well over twelve days. Was that really the case? No. Nouri was named as prime minister that day. But Jalal Talabani felt his wants were more important than the Constitution, the supreme law in Iraq. Jalal felt that he could disgrace the Constitution as well as the office of Iraqi President and wait all those days to 'officially' name Nouri. Why? To give Nouri more time.
Per the Constitution, a prime minister-designate is named. The minute he or she is named, the clock starts ticking and the designate has to form a Cabinet and get it approved by the Parliament (each Cabinet minister has to be voted on by Parliament) within 30 days. If you cannot do it within 30 days, you are no longer prime minister designate and, per the Constitution, a new prime minister-designate is to be named. December 21st, rules were tossed aside as many agreed to pretend Nouri had a full Cabinet. Out of his own self-interest, there was US President Barack gushing "a significant moment in Iraq's history and a major step forward in advancing national unity." The gushing echoed an earlier pose by Barack. In August of last year, the Guardian's editorial board noted of the March 7, 2010 elections, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." Ban Ki-moon's office issued a statement which opened with, "The Secretary-General welcomes today's announcement of a new government in Baghdad, which has been approved by Iraq's Council of Representatives, and congratulates Mr. Nuri al-Maliki on his confirmation as Prime Minister." But not everyone was pretending Nouri had assembled a full Cabinet..
Shashank Bengali and Mohammed al-Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) pointed out the Cabinet is missing "the key ministries responsible for security and military affairs for now, because lawmakers haven't agreed on who should fill them. There's still no deal, either, on creating a yet-to-be named strategic council -- a U.S.-backed initiative aimed at curbing al-Maliki's powers -- which lawmarkers said could be weeks away." Liz Sly and Aaron Davis (Washington Post) explained, "Maliki appointed himself acting minister of interior, defense and national security and said the three powerful positions would be filled with permanent appointees once suitable candidates have been agreed on." Michael Jansen (Irish Times) noted, "Maliki's cabinet has 42 ministries but he could make firm appointments to only 29 posts because of factional bickering. Ten portifolios are temporary while Maliki retains the sensitive ministries of defence, interior and national security until agreement can be made on permanent candidates for these ministries. This means the jockeying for position and power continues while Iraqis suffer from insecurity, unemployment, lack of electricity, and inadequate services."
Pretending he had a full Cabinet allowed Nouri to move from prime minister-designate to prime minister. That was December. This is April. Nouri still doesn't have a full Cabinet, the security positions remain vacant. In his report, Ban Ki-moon noted, "The security situation in Iraq continues to affect the civilian population, who face ongoing acts of violence perpetrated by armed opposition groups and criminal gangs. In particular, armed groups continue to employ tactics that deliberately target crowded public areas and kill and maim civilians indiscriminately. While some attacks appear to be sectarian in nature, frequently targeting religious gatherings or residential areas, others seem random, aimed at creating fear and terror in the population at large and casting doubt over the ability of the Government and Iraqi security forces to stem the violence. Assassinations also persist across the country, targeting, inter alia, Government employees, tribal and community leaders, members of the judiciary and associated persons." With violence on the rise, it's amazing Nouri's felt no pressure to fill his Cabinet. Aswat al-Iraq reports that National Alliance MP Khalid al-Assady is stating, "Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is urged to cut down the current number in his cabinet, after a 100-day period he had defined to review their achieverments." al-Assady considers the Cabinet to be too large. The Cabinet is much larger than the one Nouri came up with in 2006. That's due to the fact that Nouri made a number of promises following the March 7, 2010 elections, in order to build support (his political slate came in second to Iraqiya), Nouri promised everyone everything. To keep even a portion of those promises, he had to create new jobs he could appoint people to.
Aswat al-Iraqi notes Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq's Ammar al-Hakim is stating the security cabinet posts need to be filled, "The political situation in Iraq is still suffering from slow developments and despite fact that over one year had passed on the parliamentary elections, the cabinet had not been completed especially the security ministers posts. [. . .] The candidates for the security cabinet posts must be selected from independent and efficient personalities, that don't have any links with any political party, thing that would facilitate the election of efficient technocrats, able to carry out that sensitive and serious mission."
Nouri's inability to fill a Cabinet should have prevented him from becoming prime minister for a second term; his continued inability should alarm. But Nouri promised that US forces could stay past 2011. As James Cogan (WSWS) observed last year of the White House, "The key objective of the Obama administration has been to ensure that the next Iraqi government will 'request' a long-term military parternship with the US when the current Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) expires at the end of 2011."
The SOFA was passed by the Iraqi Parliament Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 2008. From that day's snapshot:
---------------------- [start of excerpt]
Yeah, it's a one-year agreement. Only 2009 cannot be changed or cancelled. Everything else that the White House says is set-in-stone is actually a conditional option that can be wiped away by either side. Today the White House finally released the agreement in English. We'll jump in at Article 30 The Period for which the Agreement is Effective:
1) This Agreement shall be effective for a period of three years, unless terminated sooner by either Party pursuant to paragraph 3 of this Article.
Get it? Paragraph three: "This Agreement shall terminate one year after a Party provides written notification to the other Party to that effect." Meaning only 2009 is set in stone. It is too late for either party (US or Iraq) to give one year's notice and cancel it in 2009. They can give notice to cancel in 2010 or 2011. The second clause is also worth noting because it weakens the strength of any agreement as well: "This Agreement shall be amended only with the official agrement of the Parties in writing and in accordance with the constitutional proceudures in effect in both countries." That's the aspect that allows for a change and all the 'flowery' respect for Constitutional procedures is hog wash. The Iraqi Parliament needed to have two-thirds of all members (not just members present) to pass the treaty today. They did not have that. According to their Constitution and their laws, that's what was needed. In the US, Congressional approval is needed over all treaties and we know that has not take place. We further know that Barack Obama -- alleged Constitutional scholar -- doesn't give a damn about the Constitution. He show boated and did his little pretty words number while campaigning but despite all his insisting that the treaty would have to come before the Congress -- including becoming one of thirteen co-sponsors on Hillary Clinton's Senate bill insisting upon that -- he shut his corporate mouth and put his tiny tail between his legs to slink off like the disgusting, cowering trash he is. He's not going to stand up for the Constitution 'later.' He couldn't stand up for it right now.
-------- [end of excerpt]
Prior to the three-year SOFA, the US military presence on the ground in Iraq (post-invasion) was covered by a yearly UN mandate. Each year, Iraq would ask for a one-year extension. Each time the prime minister did, the mandate was extended. When Nouri became prime minister (spring 2006), he had to ask for an extension and did. The Parliament was outraged because they had not been consulted. Nouri promised he would never do that again -- leave them out of the procees -- but as 2007 was winding down, he did it again. Having twice asked for extensions, Nouri was facing considerable ire. The White House (Bush White House) agreement factored that in. Instead of a yearly request, it would last for three years. Otherwise, it was the UN mandate for all intents and purposes.
So many people wrongly stated the SOFA meant the end of the war. Many of those people were 'antiwar activists' who disappeared the second calling out the continued Iraq War meant calling out American's new president Barack Obama. Some were journalists. And the most annoying thing about the journalists is that reporting is very basic. "April 21st, I will have Chinese for lunch." That's not reporting. Especially not on April 7th. "April 21st, C.I. plans to have Chinese for lunch" is reporting. It was never -- not in 2008, not in 2009, not in 2010 . . . -- reporting to state, "US forces will all leave Iraq at the end of 2011."
That's not reporting. That's predicting. You can say the SOFA calls for it, but you cannot say "It will happen." Predictions are not reporting. Reading US newspapers over the last years has left the impression that editors don't give a damn about their jobs or the reporting anymore -- the few left -- and they are just praying to hit retirement before they're laid off. How else do you explain all the outlets that presented predictions as fact?
(There are other explanations -- including far less charitable ones where certain journalism outlets actively participated with the administration to tamp down on outrage over the Iraq War.)
When 'antiwar' 'leaders' tell the peace movement to 'go home' -- as Leslie Cagan infamously did in that awful Novembe 2008, right after the election, message posted on United for Peace and Justice's website, when the press tells you that all US troops leave Iraq at the end of 2011, you begin to focus on other things. That's really too bad because were Bush in office right now, you can be damn sure that the peace movement would be complaining that the Iraq War had passed the 8 year mark. A 2009 announcement by Bush that the war would end in 2011 would have been met with "OUT OF IRAQ NOW!" and much worse.
Electronic media passing "predictions" off as "reporting" were able to justify their own rush from Iraq (to Afghanistan because, as many outlets insisted, that's where Barack's focus is) at the end of 2008 and start of 2009. Have we ever before, in the TV age, had a network (ABC) announce (with pride -- believe it or not) that they'd carry BBC reports from Iraq to justify the fact that they were out even though over 100,000 US service members (at that point) were still in Iraq? No, that has never been seen before. Thanksgiving night, 2008, I wrote the following regarding this site continuing:
What I would really like -- if I didn't have to write the entries between now and then -- would be to here December 31, 2011 so we could review every LIAR in the press who has made a point to schill for the administration. It would be wonderful to be here then and to say, "Are troops out? B-b-b-but, the press said . . ."

With that background out of the way, Jennifer Epstein (POLITICO) reports today, "Some U.S. troops may stay in Iraq past their planned pullout at the end of the year if the Iraqi government wants them, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday in Baghdad, as he also detailed what a government shutdown might mean for members of the armed forces." Robert Burns (AP) quotes Gates stating, "So if folks here are going to want us to have a presence, we're going to need to get on with it pretty quickly in terms of our planning. I think there is interest in having a continuing presence. The politics are such that we'll just have to wait and see because the initiative ultimately has to come from the Iraqis." Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times) observes, "Mr. Gates and the American military commanders have made no secret of their view that some of the 47,000 American troops in Iraq should remain after 2011 as a stability force, particularly as tensions have flared between Arabs and Kurds in the north. But Mr. Gates said that the Iraqi government must first request that the American troops stay. That has not happened yet, much to the growing impatience of American commanders who say they need to know now in order to plan into 2012." Kevin Baron (Stars and Stripes) notes that "military commanders" and "officials" are making their voice clear to Gates that they believe the US military should continue in Iraq past 2011: "Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of U.S. Forces-Iraq, said Iraq cannot defend its skies and will lose radar and intelligence capabilities when Americans leave. And the Iraqi's continue to purchase tanks, howitzers and other equipment that they'll have to learn to use without U.S. assistance. In an earlier meeting with Gates and Austin, U.S. Ambassador Jim Jeffrey said the U.S. military is the glue holding Iraq together through a rocky period." For audio, click here to hear Rachel Martin's All Things Considered (NPR) report and Missy Ryan has a strong text report for Reuters.
From day one, we covered what the SOFA said and what it didn't say. A few reporters at US outlets did that as well. And one of them, a friend, couldn't stand the hatred that was hurled for telling the truth (hurled in e-mails and nasty phone messages). Most who told the truth at the start walked away. I understand that and, having experienced hatred in e-mails and in public speaking for tellilng the truth about the SOFA, I don't blame them. But we never lied here and we never whored over it. It was hilarious to watch people with no legal background at all insist on what the SOFA meant (or to watch a foreign born, recent citizen, insist it would be good for Congress to drop their objections and embrace it -- Congress should have opposed it because it is a treaty and it was made in violation of the US Constitution). The SOFA covered three years. That's all it did. After the three years, it could be the end of it. Could be. "Could be" got presented as "fact" and the SOFA suddenly became a treaty to end the war -- which is different in terms of writing and different in terms of the law. It could be extended (a point none of our peace 'leaders' wanted to admit). Or it could be replaced with something new. Those remain the options. What's going to happen? I have no idea. I can't predict the future. But the US is pushing for an extension. And if my analysis of the SOFA were wrong, they wouldn't be able to do that, now would they? (Barack also has the backup plan of keeping 20,000 or so US soldiers in Iraq but switching them from DoD to the State Dept.) Now would be a good time for those who care about Iraq to reflect on who lied to them about the SOFA and to start demanding accountability. It's a long, long list. And as noted before, should the US miltiary remain on the ground in Iraq after December 31, 2011 and if The Common Ills is still around, we'll probably list a large number of those people who need to take accountability. We'll have to help them with that since they have refused to step forward and take accountability on their own.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

His impeccable judgment





Dar Addustour reports that United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted yesterday that the last two months have seen Iraqis killed as they protested for basic services, unemployment and against corruption. He stated 116 people have been injured in Baghdad, Erbil and Basra and that security forces had prevented Iraqis in Baghdad from access to the protests. Joe Sterling (CNN) quotes Ban Ki-moon stating, "Unless there is quick and concerted action by the Government of Iraq to address these concerns, the political and security gains that Iraq has made in recent years could be undermined." Alsumaria TV adds, "Presenting a report at the U.N. Security Council Ban Ki-moon said that his organization is concerned about the situation in Kirkuk and the deployment of five thousand Peshmargas in the past two months." From the [PDF format warning] UN report:
A number of demonstrations have taken place throughout the country during the reporting period, most notably in Basra, Kut, Baghdad, Mosul, Karbala, Diwaniyah, Anbar and Sulaymaniyah. While many protests have been peaceful there have been instances of violence in which some protesters or security forces have allegedly been killed. At least 20 people were reportedly killed since the beginning of the protests and 116 injured in shootings. UNAMI has received reports of arrests, unlawful detention and torture of demonstrators. Several journalists and media workers who were covering the protests were arrested, threatened and ill-treated by the police.
[. . .]
While mindful of the need to maintain security and order, and prevent forces opposed to Iraq's democratic transition from exploiting the situation, I am concerned at the use of force by Iraq's security forces in handling some of these protests and the consequent loss of life. Of grave concern also are reports of arbitrary arrests, detention and torture, and the ill-treatment of journalists and media personnel covering these events. I call on the Government of Iraq to conduct an independent investigation into these alleged violations and to ensure a measured approach in dealing with future protests by exercising maximum restraint and avoiding violence.
The UN Secretary-General has a report which includes the protests, the way protesters have been targeted and the way media has been targeted but the same topics have gotten little to no attention from the US media. The editorial board of the New York Times did offer "Mr. Maliki's Power Grab" followed the Washington Post's "The Arab uprising spreads to Iraq." The Post editorial would note, "Some worry that is where Mr. Maliki is headed. As The Post's Stephanie McCrummen reported , some of the repression has been carried out by black-suited special forces under his command. Thanks to a favorable court decision, the prime minister has been moving to take control of electoral authorities and other previously independent bodies. Mr. Allawi announced that he was withdrawing from a national policy council because Mr. Maliki had not followed through on promises to give it real authority." And Stephanie McCrummen was the one of the few print reporters for a US outlet covering the protests (Jane Arraf covered the issues for the Christian Science Monitor and AP had several reporters covering it). Even now, all this time later, most Americans have never heard from their news outlet of choice (exception being NBC, we'll get to it) about the events Ban Ki-moon is describing.
It's real to Iraqis. They face tremendous odds to protest. The Great Iraqi Revolution notes, "2 demonstrators were kidnapped by security forces in Tahrir Square last Friday. They are Sallah Muhsin and Haidar Shehab Ahmed." They also note:
No silence after today
4/9 is the day of every honorable Iraqi . . .
It is the day for everyone who lost a brother or a friend or a dear one . . .
It is a day for every mother who has lost a son, her very being . . .
It is the day of The Great Victory, Inshallah.
In London there will be solidarity demonstrations. April 8th, from one in the afternoon until 5:00 pm outside "The Embassy of Occupied Iraq" on 3 Elvaston Place. April 9th, from noon until three p.m. at the US Embassy, 24 Grosvenor Square. April 9th, there will be a protest in Washington state at Bellevue Square "the fountain area outside Macy's along Bellevue Way, NE" starting at 1:30 p.m. A solidarity demonstration will take place in Italy on the 9th as well.
Aswat al-Iraq notes that 71 detainees were released from jails in Sulaimaniya following last Friday's protests in which security forces turned on protesters resulting in 35 people being injured. Aswat al-Iraq also reports a demonstration today in Tikrit in which protesters demanded that Ammar Yousif Ali, the Province Council Chair, resign as a result of last week's attack. As many as 65 people were killed in Tikrit in an assault on the provincial government headquarters. Tim Arango (New York Times) notes the still reeling community:

"We were expecting something to happen, but not this big," said Noor al-Samari, a member of Parliament from Salahuddin Province, which includes Tikrit. "The security forces are very weak."
An interview with Mr. Samari on Sunday was cut short after he received a call summoning him and local security officials to Baghdad to appear before a parliamentary committee investigating the attack.
Echoing several local leaders, he was highly critical of American forces for not being directly involved in the fight. "They were close by but didn't do anything," he said.

US coverage of Iraq, yesterday on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams (click here for video), Tom Brokaw reported from Baghdad having spent the day prior in Jordan examing the protests taking place there and King Abdullah II's response.
Brian Williams: Meanwhile Defense Secretary Robert Gates is on his way to the Middle East for a tour of US military operations there. Tom Brokaw is in the region tonight, doing some reporting for a prime time special to air at a later date. Tonight Tom's in Baghdad where the US has expended so much blood and treasure and where there's been a real spike in violence in recent weeks. And, Tom, it's true, it has fallen from the news because of everything else going on elsewhere in the region.
Tom Brokaw: Brian, it has been a violent week here in Iraq. In Baghdad alone on Monday, there were three IED explosions north of Baghdad, gunmen stormed a home and killed 6 people, a police officer was shot at a security checkpoint, and, over the weekend, two more American soldiers were killed presumably by enemy fire. American forces are scheduled to leave this country by the end of the year but this week the American Ambassador [James Jeffrey] said that the Embassy staff will more than double from about 8,000 personnel to about 20,000. So Iraq is a reminder of just how difficult it is to establish a democracy in this part of the world. After all, we've been at war here for eight years now. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent and thousands and thousands of lives have been lost on both sides. So Secretary [Robert] Gates will face some tough questions in this region about the American intentions going on now with all this new turmoil -- especially in an area where the United States has such big stakes politically and economically. And a lot of those questions, presumably, will come from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. I was told on the way in here that the Saudis are so unhappy with the Obama administration for the way it pushed out President [Hosni] Mubarak of Egypt that it sent high level emissaries to China and Russia to tell those two countries that Saudi Arabia now is prepared to do more business with them. Back here in Iraq, the political and the economic situation remains fragile, so fragile that the UN Secretary-General [Ban Ki-moon] is worried that this country could now see massive protests in the streets once again. One side of good news, however, Brian, on the way in from the airport today, we went through several checkpoints, they were all manned entirely by Iraqis, no Americans in sight. Brian?
Brian Williams: That is a big change. Tom Brokaw, back in a familiar spot for a lot of us tonight in Baghdad, Iraq. Tom, thanks.
As Williams and Brokaw noted, Gates is in Iraq. Kevin Baron (Stars and Stripes) reports, "With Iraq's security and the legacy of an eight-year war that has claimed more than 4,400 American lives hanging in the balance, Gates already has told Congress that the U.S. would consider Iraqi requests to extend the U.S. troop presence. But first, the Iraqis have to ask. In Baghdad, however, Iraqi leadership remains disjointed following last year's protracted post-election negotiations to form a government." From the Feb. 16th snapshot. exchange which took place during the House Armed Services Committee hearing on Defense Dept.'s budget:
US House Rep Dunan Hunter: Let's talk about Iraq for a minute. If the Status Of Forces Agreement is not changed or the Iraqis do not ask for our help and ask us to stay, what is our plan for 2012? At the end of this year, what's going to happen?
Secretary Robert Gates: We will have all of our forces out of Iraq. We will have an Office of Security Cooperation for Iraq that will have probably on the order of 150 to 160 Dept of Defense employees and several hundred contractors who are working FMS cases.
US House Rep Duncan Hunter: Do you think that represents the correct approach for this country after the blood and treasure that we spent in Iraq? My own personal time of two tours in Iraq. There's going to be fewer people there -- and that 150 -- than there are in Egypt right now. Somewhere around 600, 700 of those types of folks in Egypt. How can we maintain all of these gains that we've maintained through so much effort if we only have 150 people there and we don't have any military there whatsoever. We have more military in western European countries than we'd have in Iraq -- one of the most centralized states, as everybody knows, in the Middle East.
Secretary Robert Gates: Well I think that there is -- there is certainly on our part an interest in having an additional presence and the truth of the matter is the Iraqis are going to have some problems that they're going to have to deal with if we are not there in some numbers. They will not be able to do the kind of job and intelligence fusion. They won't be able to protect their own air space. They will not -- They will have problems with logistics and maintenance. But it's their country, it's a sovereign country. This is the agreement that was signed by President Bush and the Iraqi government and we will abide by the agreement unless the Iraqis ask us to have additional people there.
Missy Ryan, Caroline Drees and Sophie Hares (Reuters) quote an unnamed Dept of Defense official stating, "If they [Iraq] are going to ask for modifciation or anything else [regarding US troops remaining in Iraq past 2011], it would probably be in their interest to ask for it sooner rather than later because we're starting to run out of months. . . . The ball is in their court." CNN quotes "a senior defense official" (unnamed) stating "it is important for them [Iraq] to complete the government formation-process, particularly to get the security ministries dealt with." Dar Addustour explains that there are now four candidates for Minister of the Defense. That would be good news if this were April 2010 and not April 2011. But a year after the elections, this is yet another sign of how indecisive and ineffective Nouri al-Maliki truly is. Nouri had nominated Kahlid al-Obedi for the post of Minister of Defense; however, he could not muster the required votes in Parliament. Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times) observes, "After arriving in Iraq on Wednesday, Mr. Gates took off his tie and sat outside on the lakeside terrace of one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces, now used by the American military, and talked to his aides in the relatively cool Baghdad air."

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Not in front of the commoners!




Turning to the US, last week Lewis Griswold (Fresno Bee) reported on 26-year-old Petty Officer 2nd Class Derek Morado who was facing a discharge hearing. GetEQUAL has this action alert. Ashley Ritchie (KMPH) reported Friday that Morado was not discharged. While he wasn't discharged, Don't Ask, Don't Tell remains law: "In fact, a navy spokesperson tells KMPH News, the repeal of the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy has to be certified by the Secretary of Defense, Chairman and President. After that, it will take another 60 days before it goes into effect." Joseph Neese (RNN) notes Morado isn't the only one who will face a discharge hearing and Pentagon spokesperson Eileen Lainez states, "The law commonly known as 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' remains in effect until 60 days following certification." And will it be certified?
Nothing is a done deal until it is, in fact, done. Friday we concentrated (in the snapshot) on the protests in Iraq and I had to hold off on a Congressional hearing. A DADT hearing took place and there's another this week so we'll squeeze Friday's into this snapshot.
"It is now essential that the Congress ask some of the questions that were glossed over during the comprehensive review. We must get the process for considering the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell back on track and ensure that our military is truly prepared to allow the open service of gays and lesbians," declared Joe Wilson Chair of the US House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel in his opening remarks. Wilson objected to the fact that Don't Ask, Don't Tell legislation took place in the lame duck session. The Subcommittee heard from the Joint Chiefs of Staff's Vice Adm William Gortney and DoD's Clifford L. Stanley.
In his questioning Wilson touched on many topics that would appear to indicate his opposition. "How will you know the troops in the field believe they're prepared to cope with the complications that will follow?" he wondered at one point. At another, he wanted to know how chaplain's would be protected. (I'm avoiding a cheap shot there -- feel free to insert your own.) . US House Rep Susan Davis is the Ranking Member. In reply to her questions, Stanley said that "to date" there had been no visible impact on recruitment. Stanley then tossed to Gortney for further remarks.
Vice Admiral William Gortney: Once again, all of the subjective assessment from the commanders have been that the training has gone well. None of the issues that have come up were not things that we were not already aware of as a result of the survey that was out there that we were then able to tailor the training to to then answer. So thus far, no surprises. uh, and we're pretty pleased with where we are. And, again, 90% of the force has been trained.
"Bottom line," Stanley would note after Gortney, "is that the training has been very effective, and we've been very pleased with what we're seeing but our antenna our up because this is not a rushed process and we want to be deliberate and purposeful in doing this."
Ranking Member Susan Davis: The Army, as I understand it, is going to be the last to conclude their training and I wonder what timeline you would expect then, if they do do meet their deadline, what is the timeline that you would expect the President, the Secretary [of Defense] and the Joint-Chief [of Staff], that they could actually send that certification to Congress? Have you looked at that and what we might be looking at here in terms of a timeline?
Vice Admiral William Gortney: Yes, ma'am. As-as the Secretary said, we anticipate about mid-summer in order to meet the completion of the preponderance of the force to be trained and the regulations to be in there and to get the recommendations from the service secretaries and the service chiefs to the -- to the Chairman. That deadline is really a function of the Army in order to get, just because of the size of the force and to include the Reserves and the National Guard in that, that's really the long goal there. And it's just a function of numbers that have to be trained.
Davis (and many other Democrats) spoke in terms of "where are we in the process"; however, that was not the case with the Republicans. US House Rep Mike Coffman objected to the fact that he had requested data "and I think that that was not provided until about a month after the vote and I want to say for the record that I think that was intentional." Combat personnel "opposed in greater numbers" a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and if his request on the data had been completed in a timely manner, he believes the discussion would have been different. He registered his objection to a repeal and deemed the findings of the study "a conclusion looking for a study" and objected to repeal because he believes "this is a political decision made by the Executive Branch". In his second round of questioing, he was highly concerned about sleeping arrangements.
Democrat David Loesbsack appeared to be siding with Republicans. (General rule: Watch for those who use "homosexual" and especially when they have a special way of pronouncing the word.) Republican Allen West referred to being gay as "a behavior" -- which, yes, sounds an awful like "a choice" since behavior can be modified. He made one of the strangest remarks in the entire hearing, saying of repeal, "I'm just very worried that this could be the camel getting his nose under the tent." Was that a sexual euphamism? (No, but it might make more sense if it were.) He then brought up the Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan (November 5, 2009) and his "disturbing behaviors." Apparently, the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell will leave gays and lesbians with itchy trigger fingers? He wondered whether those seeing failures "in the implementation of this program" were "free to speak up"? He fears "a witchunt" because of "social engineering" -- apparently unaware that the witchhunt took place in targeting gays and lesbians to begin with. As usual, US House Rep Niki Tsongas attempted to provide a calming and informed voice.
US House Rep Niki Tsongas: But just to reiterate why we moved to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Since 1993, more than 14,000 gay service members have been discharged under the discriminatory Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. And of these discharges, nearly 1,000 were specialists with vital mission critical skills -- Arab linguists, for example. We hear those figures over and over again. I have always believed that this policy actually threatens the readiness of our military by discharging hundreds of military personnel critical to our national security and shutting the door to thousands more. And it's also unconscionable to maintain a policy when at least 24 other countries including allies such as Great Britain, Australia, Canada and Israel already allow open service by lesbian and gay service members. And that's why I've always strongly supported repeal of this policy. And I concur wholeheartedly with Adm Mike Mullen's distinguished leadership about this issue, his assessment when he stated in his testimony before the Armed Services Committee last year that this policy "forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens." Undermining a basic tenet of military service which is to be honest.
US House Rep Vicky Hartzler declared, "I'm new, I wasn't here when it passed." She's a Republican who deemed repeal "radical" and thought it would harm "the ability to win wars." (Real quick, what war does she think the US is currently winning? Other than the spending war, of course.) "I'm new, I wasn't here when it passed." Put that with the other statements including Georgia's Austin Scott who was very clearly opposed to repeal and everyone needs to remember a "done deal" isn't done until it's done. Thursday the Subcomittee meets again on this issue. Many comments made Friday by Republicans (and Dems who appeared not to support repeal) appeared to be trial balloons for future lines of attack.
Reminder: If you served in the US military and you were stop-lossed, you are owed additional money. That money needs to be claimed. DoD announces the date to file for that additional payment has been extended:

The deadline for eligible service members, veterans and their beneficiaries to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP) has been extended to April 8, 2011, allowing personnel more time to apply for the benefits they've earned under the program guidelines.
The deadline extension is included in the continuing resolution signed by President Obama Friday, providing funding for federal government operations through April 8, 2011.
Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay was established to compensate for the hardships military members encountered when their service was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss Authority between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009. Eligible members or their beneficiaries may submit a claim to their respective military service in order to receive the benefit of $500 for each full or partial month served in a Stop Loss status.
When RSLSP began on Oct. 21, 2009, the services estimated 145,000 service members, veterans and beneficiaries were eligible for this benefit. Because the majority of those eligible had separated from the military, the services have engaged in extensive and persistent outreach efforts to reach them and remind them to apply. Outreach efforts including direct mail, engaging military and veteran service organizations, social networks and media outlets, will continue through April 8, 2011.
To apply for more information, or to gather more information on RSLSP, including submission requirements and service-specific links, go to