Saturday, June 08, 2013

Big words from the little man





Let's start with those offering  confusing commentary about Iraq.  Crazy Reider Vissar's buddy Joel Wing feels the need to post a video today.  It's entitled "A Decade in Iraq: Lessons and the Landscapes Ahead."  It's a bit of propaganda, to be sure.  I have no idea why you'd post an April event -- a bad April event -- in June?  But I have no idea why you'd pimp the War Hawk Mentality of Harvard and the John F. Kennedy School of Government to begin with?

If there was any value to including it, it would be to comment on how awful it is.  Or how ashamed Harvard should be for letting some of the criminals responsible for the destruction of Iraq -- Stephen J. Hadley (National Security Advisor from 2004 to 2008) and Meghan O'Sullivan -- pontificate on stage.

Meghan O'Sullivan has, from time to time, grasped one of the large themes in Iraq.  She's never been able to do specifics.  Which is how she comes to rave about Abdul Latif al-Rashid, in this event from last April, being the assistant to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

There are some who will shrug at that.  But there are some who follow Iraq that will grasp the problem immediately.  Last December,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17th (see the December 18th snapshot) and resulted in Jalal being admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20th, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.

There are rumors that he's unable to move, there are rumors that he's near death, there are rumors that he'll be back in Iraq this month and is fine, but there aren't a lot of rumors -- in fact, there aren't any -- that he's meeting with his assistants.

Meghan O'Sullivan has often seemed to miss the finer details.

We could go through and explain bit by bit how wrong the American speakers are and how awful it is that those who pushed the illegal war -- those psychopaths -- are being given a stage to pontificate from. But I didn't post the video.  I wouldn't.  If you do, I think it's incumbent upon you to provide some sort of a commentary -- if only a brief paragraph noting how far from facts the presentation is.

"The police always come late, if they come at all," as Tracy Chapman so aptly noted in "Behind The Wall" (first appears on her self-titled debut album). True of the police, true of the media 'watchdog' FAIR.  Rebecca Hellmich has discovered "a new poll" about public perception in England on how many Iraqis have died in the Iraq War.  Rebecca seems unaware that the Iraq War continues but we'll set that to the side.  

Last Friday's snapshot noted Alex Thomson (Channel 4) summarizing a new poll on the British asking them about deaths in Iraq:

  • Two-thirds (66 per cent) of the public estimate that 20,000 or fewer civilians and combatants have died as a consequence of the war in Iraq since 2003.
  • One in 10 (10 per cent) think that between 100,000 and 500,000 have died and one in 20 (6 per cent) think that more than 500,000 have died.
  • According to public estimates, the mean number of deaths in Iraq since the invasion is 189,530.
  • Women in Britain are more likely to underestimate the number of deaths in Iraq since the invasion than men. Half (53 per cent) of women think 5,000 or fewer deaths have occurred since the invasion compared to one-third (35 per cent) of men.
Perhaps that last figure is the most startling – a majority of women and more than a third of men polled say fewer than 5,000 deaths have occurred.

Guess what?  That's the same poll Rebecca and FAIR have discovered today.  AFP's Prashant Rao discovered it on Saturday, you may remember.   And, pay attention Rebecca and FAIR, we made that the topic of Third's "Editorial: Piss Ant Rao's Propaganda" last Sunday.  Former Bully Boy Bush official Fran Townsend was noting The Lancet study on the number of Iraqis killed in the war.  And 'independent' and 'objective' journalist Prashant showed up on Twitter to insist that The Lancet was bogus.  Right there, FAIR, that's where you show up as a media watchdog.  But of course, FAIR always forgets to bark.  Here's France's little War Monger Prashant bickering with a Bush official who trusts The Lancet study:

  1. Incredible that despite how violent Iraq has been for a decade, Syria has nearly caught up, in terms of death toll, in less than 2.5 years.
  2. Are you sure? 2.5 yrs into the Iraq war the British Lancet was claiming over 600K Iraqis dead
Yes, but Lancet figures have been called into question repeatedly. Widely accepted figures are closer to 110-120k.
Hide conversation

Prashant doesn't let it go.  He'll come back shortly with 'proof' that The Lancet study was wrong.  What's his proof?  Links to two pieces by, yes, nutty Joel Wing dismissing The Lancet Study.  See, it's a Circle Jerk of Death for these freaks.

We're not done yet.  Ground Report maintains today,  "Even though the American involvement in the war is over, news on Iraq continues to engage American audiences and the recent Memorial Day holiday prompted many Americans to reflect on the impact of recent wars. "

American involvement in the war is over?  Yesterday,  Mark Thompson (Time magazine) reported today on the $2 billion contract that the State Dept has with PAE Government Services, Inc., "That’s a million dollars a day over a five-year period, if the contract hits its ceiling. The down payment is $347,883,498 (don’t you just love such precision? It’s almost a prime number, for Pete’s sake)."   A million dollars doesn't sound 'over' to me.  There's also the Congressional Research Service's report issued June 3rd [PDF format warning] "Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights:"

Heightened AQ-I and other insurgent activity has shaken the Iraqi leadership’s confidence in the ISF somewhat and apparently prompted the Iraqi government to reemphasize security cooperation with the United States. On August 19, 2012, en route to a visit to Iraq, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey said that “I think [Iraqi leaders] recognize their capabilities may require yet more additional development and I think they’re reaching out to us to see if we can help them with that.”39 Iraq reportedly has expressed interest in expanded U.S. training of the ISF, joint exercises, and accelerated delivery of U.S. arms to be sold, including radar, air defense systems, and border security equipment.40 Some refurbished air defense guns are being provided gratis as excess defense articles (EDA), but Iraq was said to lament that the guns would not arrive until June 2013. Iraq reportedly argued that the equipment was needed to help it enforce insistence that Iranian overflights to Syria land in Iraq for inspection.
After the Dempsey visit, reflecting the Iraqi decision to reengage intensively with the United States on security, it was reported that, at the request of Iraq, a unit of Army Special Operations forces had deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence, presumably against AQ-I.41 (These forces presumably are operating under a limited SOFA or related understanding crafted for this purpose.) Other reports suggest that Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) paramilitary forces have, as of late 2012, largely taken over some of the DOD mission of helping Iraqi counter-terrorism forces (Counter-Terrorism Service, CTS) against AQ-I in western Iraq.42 Part of the reported CIA mission is to also work against the AQ-I affiliate in Syria, the Al Nusrah Front, discussed above.
Reflecting an acceleration of the Iraqi move to reengage militarily with the United States, during December 5-6, 2012, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy James Miller and acting Under Secretary of State for International Security Rose Gottemoeller visited Iraq and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed with acting Defense Minister Sadoun Dulaymi. The five year MOU provides for:

• high level U.S.-Iraq military exchanges 
• professional military education cooperation 
• counter-terrorism cooperation 
• the development of defense intelligence capabilities 
• joint exercises 

The MOU appears to address many of the issues that have hampered OSC-I from performing the its mission to its full potential. The MOU also reflects some of the more recent ideas put forward, such as joint exercises.

American involvement in the war is over?  Have you read the MoU?

December 6, 2012, the Memorandum of Understanding For Defense Cooperation Between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Iraq and the Department Defense of the United States of America was signed.  We covered it in the December 10th and December 11th snapshots -- lots of luck finding coverage elsewhere including in media outlets -- apparently there was some unstated agreement that everyone would look the other way.  It was similar to the silence that greeted Tim Arango's September 25th New York Times report which noted, "Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions.  At the request of the Iraqi government, according to [US] General [Robert L.] Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence."

Read the MoU and then try to insist, with a straight face, that "American involvement in the war is over."

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Thursday, June 06, 2013

Can't pin it on Bush



The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of U.S. customers of Verizon, one of America's largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April. The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an "ongoing, daily basis" to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the United States and between the U.S. and other countries. The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of U.S. citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.







Nancy Parrish:  Protect Our Defenders is a human rights organization that works with victims of military sexual assault, providing support services and advocating for military ju stice reform. Our experience working directly with sexual assault survivors , active duty and veteran, as well as our work educating the public and policy makers on this issue have left us critically aware of the shortfalls within the current system and the need to implement fundamental reforms. The argument currently circulating that sexual assault reform is an old problem, predominantly solved through recent changes in the law, is simply not correct. It is well understood that the numbers are going up not down. We regularly receive desperate pleas from current victims of sexual assault, who are having their attempts to report thwarted, mishandled, or swept under the rug. Increasingly we intervene, hiring lawyers, to block retaliation and reverse errant medical diagnoses. We frequently hear from highly rated service members, who soon after they report, suffer persecution, are isolated in psych wards with wrongful diagnoses, or become targets of investigations. Soon after, they are frequently being forced out of the service. One soldier explained, quote: "I got raped by this bastard.  When I tried to talk to my squad leader I got shut down and reminded that he [the rapist] was a Senior NCO.  I waited and spoke with my platoon SFC, Sgt. First Class, and Lt., [ And, they told my perpetrator.]  Then, I got told if I say another word to anyone, I was going to be charged with adultery. I was sent back to the states. I told my squad leader and the next thing I get told they are chaptering me on an adjustment disorder. I am one of the 'Unreported statistics' but not without trying.  He is free and able to do it again as long as he wears the Uniform.  The Uniform represents a Protective Shield if you're a rapist with rank." A mother reported to us, quote: "Our daughter's career and life nearly ended on base 4/7/12, days before her tech training was to begin. That day other service member(s) her cigarettes laced with embalming fluid and raped her.  She was locked up, prescribed medications, denied repeated requests for expedited transfer.   Only weeks later, Command initiated an Article 15 letter of reprimand and proceeded to discharge her with an errant medical diagnosis. This was later overturned with outside legal assistance. She endured months of anguish, hospitalizations, humiliation, punishment --  having to clean and work in the area where she was assaulted a second time raped, sodomized, threatened reporting further , and forced to live in close proximity to her perpetrators.  A letter is attached the to Committee from the mother.  Last year, an officer of 18 years , still on active duty , said: I was deployed overseas. The first advice you get when you get there: Always carry a knife. Even in the daylight, almost every woman carried a knife. Not for battle against the Taliban, but to cut the person who tries to rape her. I was drugged and raped.  If you report people are going to ostracize you.   If you report rape you are done. Check their crime records here, and [see] how many IG complaints were pushed under the rug.  Why? Because, the IG office is also a deployment position. They don't want to deal with big issues, because it takes too long to investigate." USAF Lt  Adam Cohen is on active duty. He deployed three times for Operation Enduring Freedom, flying over 40 combat missions in Afghanistan. Lt Cohen is an example of a failed system, a system that permits the weakest within it to suffer manipulation and castigation for having the temerity to come forth with an allegation of sexual assault. According to Lt Cohen, for years he suffered blackmail, at the hands of his assailant and his assailant's friends , designed to keep him from coming forward with his allegation. When he finally came forward, he was initially ignored by Air Force law enforcement. Pressing his claim further, he was punished by investigators and manipulated into providing evidence that was meant not to hold his assailant accountable, but rather to prosecute him. Through the actions of the Air Force, Lt Cohen's alleged assailant still on active duty is statutorily barred from prosecution, while Lt Cohen remains the subject of a constitutionally suspect prosecution. He has been retaliated against, attacked , and denied an expedited transfer. Upon learning the expedited transfer was denied, SVC Major Bellflower asked the commander to provide a safety plan. If we are to make any headway in curbing sexual assault in the military, we must act to protect those that come forward , by ensuring that the system does not punish them for doing so. 

Nancy Parrish was speaking at yesterday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on assault and rape in the ranks of the military.  We covered the first panel -- made up of the top military brass -- in yesterday's snapshot, Kat covered it in "Senator Kirsten Gillibrand didn't come to play," Wally covered it in "Senator Bill Nelson sets the tone " and Ava covered it in "Saxby Chambliss' gross stupidity."  Kat's Gillibrand was especially important because (as Kat notes) I missed her.  It was hot in the room, it was crowded and I had to step away to hurl.  Senator Gillibrand is leading the charge to remove an ability from the command that they don't want removed.  Her bill is opposed not just by Republicans on the Committee like Ranking Member James Inahofe but also by Democrat and Committee Chair Car Levin.  Wally writes about the way the first panel -- chiefly Gen Martin Dempsy (Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), Gen Ray Odierno (Chief of Staff of the Army), Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert (Chief of Naval Operations), Gen James Amos (Commandant of the Marine Corps), Gen Mark Welsh (Chief of Staff of the Air Force) and Admiral Robert Papp Jr. (Commandant of the Coast Guard) -- showed deference to the male senators but were openly combative towards female senators (until Senator Bill Nelson came down hard -- he spoke slowly, firmly and loudly and seemed to get attention in doing so).  Ava points out that Senator Chambliss just doesn't get it.  The 69-year-old idiot thinks rape is the result of just being horny.  (He also thinks women hit their sexual peak in young adult hood -- as males do -- which just demonstrates how out of touch with science he is.)  At The New Yorker today, Andy Borowitz mocks Chambliss' remarks.

The hearing had three panels.  Today, we're going to note some exchanges from the third panel which was composed of Parish, retired Capt Anu Bhagwati who is executive director of Service Women's Action Network, retired Maj Gen John D. Altenburg Jr. (Chair of the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Armed Forces Law) and retired Col Lawrence J. Morris (General Counsel, Catholic University).

SWAN's is endorsing proposed bills before the Congress.  Anu Bhagwati noted that in her opening remarks and noted that all the bills they were supportive of were in her written statement submitted for the record.  We'll note that section of Bhagwati's written statement:

Mr. Chairman, several bills related to military sexual violence have been introduced in recent weeks by members of this Committee and other congressional champions for reform. Some bills address the need to improve victim services, some address the critical need for UCMJ reform, and others are focused on the impact that sexual assault and sexual harassment have on veterans. The majority of these are bipartisan and bicameral, which speaks to the collective approach required to see real change happen. I would like to highlight these bills and urge the committee to give them serious consideration as it moves forward with this year’s Defense Authorization Act: 
S. 538 which modifies the authority of commanders under Article 60.  
S. 548 the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Act which requires retention of all sexual assault reports, restricted and unrestricted for 50 years, and requires substantiated complaints of sexual-related offenses be placed in the perpetrator's personnel record. S. 871 the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act which would require the Air Force's special victims counsel program be implemented DOD-wide, prohibit sexual acts and contact between instructors and trainees, provide enhanced oversight responsibilities to the SAPRO offices and make SARCs available to all National Guard troops. 
S. 967 the Military Justice Improvement Act, a critical bill that professionalizes the military justice system by ensuring that trained, professional, impartial prosecutors control the keys to the courthouse for felony- level crimes while still allowing commanders to maintain judicial authority over crimes that are unique to the military and requiring more expeditious and localized justice to ensure good order and discipline. 
S. 992 which would require SAPR personnel billets to be nominative positions. 
S. 1032 the BE SAFE Act that would mandate dismissal or dishonorable discharge of those convicted for specific sex crimes, remove the 5 year statute of limitations on sexual assault cases and allow for consideration for accused transfer from the unit. 
S. 1041 the Military Crimes Victim Act that extends crime victims’ rights to offenses under the UCMJ. S. 1050 the Coast Guard STRONG Act that requires the Coast Guard to implement sexual assault prevention and response reforms. 
S. 1081, the Military Whistle Blowers Enhancement Act which would help protect victims from retaliation and reprisal by expanding protections under the existing Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act for federal workers, require timely IG investigations, ensure discipline for those who retaliate and improve corrective relief for victims. 
Unless and until we professionalize the military justice system, and afford service members at least the same access to legal redress that civilian victims have, including critical access to civil suits, we will not change this culture. Military perpetrators will continue to be serial predators, taking advantage of a broken system to prey on victims, and tens of thousands of victims of rape, assault, and harassment will continue to suck up their pain, trauma, shame and humiliation, year after year, and decade after decade, with no hope for justice. 

 The bill Senator Gillibrand is sponsoring is S. 967.  Again:

S. 967 the Military Justice Improvement Act, a critical bill that professionalizes the military justice system by ensuring that trained, professional, impartial prosecutors control the keys to the courthouse for felony- level crimes while still allowing commanders to maintain judicial authority over crimes that are unique to the military and requiring more expeditious and localized justice to ensure good order and discipline.

We note it specifically above because in the excerpt below, Committee Chair Carl Levin will spend a great deal of time on Gillibrand's bill. 

Chair Carl Levin: First is the question of retaliation.  What we know, long before today's hearing -- but emphasized at today's hearing -- is that most of the women who do not report -- or most of the troops who do not report -- men or women -- do not do so because, uhm, they are afraid of retaliation.  A huge percentage are much afraid of a -- of a humiliation or embarrassment.  But it's the retaliation issue we want to put some focus on or at least I want -- I think all of us want -- to put some focus on.  The question is, uhm, whether or not -- and I think Ms. Bhagwati, you made reference to one of the bills here, Senator Gillibrand's bill which would require that serious offenses be sent to a new disposition authority, outside the chain of command for determination of whether or not the allegations should be prosecuted at a general or a special court-martial.  And my question is, would do that, how-how would doing that stop retaliation?  That's the question I guess I'll ask of you, Ms. Bhagwati.

Anu Bhagwati: The first thing it will do is restore faith and trust in the system.  Right now, victims don't have any of that.  They've lost all hope in the military justice system unfortunately. Retaliation happens in many respects.  We see on a day-to-day basis, our callers -- both service members and veterans who have recently been discharged -- have been punished with anything from personal retaliation from roommates and family members to professional retaliation by their chain of command from the lowest levels to the highest levels -- platoon sergeants all the way up the chain.  They are also retaliated in more insidious ways.  They're given false diagnoses -- mental health diagnoses like personality disorders which bar them from service, which force them to be discharged, which ban them from getting VA services, VA benefits.  So it's comprehensive retaliation.

Chair Carl Levin:  Mr. Altenburg, let me ask you a question about the investigative process. Uh, uhm, Col King said that the investigation in the Marines -- and I think this is generally true -- is handled by professional investigators.  Is that your understanding?

John D. Altenburg:  That's my understanding.  And that's a recent change -- I mean in the last three years, I think.

Chair Carl Levin: Now have you read -- have you read the bill Senator Gillibrand's bill?

John D. Altenburg:   I have.

Chair Carl Levin:  If there were a new disposition authority created, independent of the chain of command, that would make a determination of whether allegations should be prosecuted at a court-martial or not?  Would that effect the investigation processes?

John D. Altenburg:  I don't think it would necessarily. They left the investigation with the CID in the Army, the CIS in the other service and the OSI and they'd do their investigation and then it would get passed, I guess, to this court-martial command -- is what it was called fifty years ago, when people tried to do that.

Chair Carl Levin:  Now in terms of -- Who would -- Who would make the decision as you read the bill?  Who would make the determination as to whether an offense meets the threshold of a serious offense that would have to be referred to the new disposition authority?  Who would make that determination?

John D. Altenburg:  Excuse me, sir, I assume a lawyer would.  Uhm, just as now, lawyers make -- not command d --

Chair Carl Levin:  Lawyer?  Which lawyer where?

John D. Altenburg:  A prosecutor.

Chair Carl Levin: In that same independent office?  Or -- I mean that's the threshold question of whether or not there's evidence of a serious offense or not so that new independent approach would be triggered.  Who would make that, as you read the bill?

John D. Altenburg:  As I read the bill, a lawyer in the staff Judge Advocate would make that call -- as I read the bill. 

Chair Carl Levin: Alright.

John D. Altenburg:  Senator Levin, if you please, 

Chair Carl Levin:  Does anyone else have a -- Yeah, go on.  Go on.

John D. Altenburg:  I beg your indulgence in making a couple of comments -- one related to retaliation, the other regarding investigations.  Investigations have now become mandatorily done by the professional investigation services.  That's a change that was a response to this problem.   And second, with regards to retaliation, I think it's even more complex and subtle than Ms. Bhagwati talks about.  I agree with everything that she said, that she's experienced, but it's so subtle that it can just be soldiers attending an investigative hearing and glowering at the victim to make her feel uncomfortable.

Chair Carl Levin: Do you have any suggestions as to how we can get to the peer pressure type of retaliation?

John D. Altenburg: I think the only way to get to that is through the command, is through the leadership.  They have to seize this issue.  They have to understand the cultural dimensions of it, realize how unique the military is in terms of the vulnerabilities of the victim and-and the opportunity for this predator mentality that is like a wolf around a pack of sheep that seeks out different types of people and tests them and probes them and then finally decides to strike when they're one-on-one -- I mean whether they do it subliminally or whether they do it with malice of forethought, they are predators to the nth degree.  And many of them, we're finding from studies are repeat offenders and they're serial offenders.  And some of the things that have been suggested to keep people from coming in the military that have that kind of background will help solve this.  But that mentality and that culture is what the leaders will have to attack.  The same way they attacked racism in the seventies and the eighties.  And there were racist Lt. Colonels and Colonels and they got discovered, they got out.  You couldn't cope, you couldn't deal without modifying your behavior or getting out.  And we've done that with several other social issues.  It takes leadership.  And it doesn't mean that all the leaders are going to be the good people and the ones that get it but that's how will effect change in this culture.

[. . .]

Anu Bhagwati:  Senator Reed, I think, if you're suggesting somehow that the military can create a culture of rape or that there's something  --

Senator Jack Reed: No, I'm not.

Anu Bhagwati:  Good because I would disagree with that, that the military creates rapists.  I think, however, we still condone sexual violence in the day-to-day which is different -- and that we still mistreat women.  And I have not met a woman in the military yet who has not experienced some form of discrimination or harassment.  When that is sort of the average of a woman in the military, a culture of harassment is created and sexual predators will thrive in that culture.  These serial predators that are entering the ranks, they're hitting a target rich environment.  They really are.  I think, uh, until we -- until we create systems and policies, until we tighten the military justice system, until we potentially open up new forms of redress like civil suits to service members -- I think we really have to think outside the box here -- we're not going to change that culture.  And the presence of women at the highest echelons of leadership is really important.  I mean, we talked today about the presence of women in the Senate making a difference.  Well, the presence of women in the military also will make a difference but only if there's a critical mass of women and right now there aren't enough women at the top.

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Wednesday, June 05, 2013

You can take the rat out of the hood but . . .









Senator Claire McCaskill:  I have spent -- as many of you know, hours and hours with your prosecutors over the last several months, I've had long conversations with several of you at the table including those who are heading up our various branches.  I want to start with the fact that I think part of the problem here is you all mushed together two separate issues in ways that are not helpful to successful prosecution.   There are two problems.  One is you have sexual predators who are committing crimes.  Two, you have work to do on the issue of a respectful and healthy work environment.  These are not the same issues.  And with all due respect, General Odierno, we can prosecute our way out of the first issue.   We can prosecute our way out of the problem of sexual predators -- who are not committing crimes of lust.  My years of experience in this area tell me they are committing crimes of  domination and violence.  This isn't about sex, this is about assault, domination and violence.  And as long as those two get mushed together, you all are not going to be as successful as you need to be at getting after the most insidious part of this which is the predators in your ranks that are sullying the great name of our American military.  I-I want to start with, I think the way you all are reporting has this backwards because you're mushing them together in the reporting.  Unwanted sexual contact is everything from somebody looking at you sideways to someone pushing you up against the wall and brutally raping you. You've got to, in your surveys, delineate the two problems because, until you do, we will have no idea whether you're getting your hands around this.  We need to know how many women and men are being raped and sexually assaulted on an annual basis and we have no idea right now.   Because all we know is we've had unwanted sexual contact: 36,000.  Well that doesn't tell us whether it's an unhealthy work environment or whether or not you've got criminals.  And you've got to change that reporting.  Success is going to look like this: More reports of rape, sodomy and assault and less incidents of rape, sodomy and assault. So everybody needs to be prepared here.  If we do a good job, that number of 3,000 the Chairman referenced, three-thousand-and-something, that's going to go up if we're doing well but overall the incidents are going to be going down.  But we have no way of being able to demonstrate that with the way you're reporting now.  

McCaskill, as Ed O'Keefe and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) noted this morning is, "a former sex crimes prosecutor."  She was speaking this morning to the first panel appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee:  Gen Martin Dempsy (Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), Gen Ray Odierno (Chief of Staff of the Army), Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert (Chief of Naval Operations), Gen James Amos (Commandant of the Marine Corps), Gen Mark Welsh (Chief of Staff of the Air Force) and Admiral Robert Papp Jr. (Commandant of the Coast Guard), Lt Gen Dana K. Chipman, JAGC, USA Judge Advocate General of the United States Army,  Vice Admiral Nanette M. DeRenzi, JAGC, USN Judge Advocate General of the United States Navy, Lt Gen Richard C. Harding, JAGC, USAF Judge Advocate General of the United States Air Force, Maj Gen Vaughn A. Ary, USMC Staff Judge Advocate to the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Rear Admiral  Frederick J. Kenney, Jr., USCG Judge Advocate General of the United States Coast Guard and Brig Gen Richard C. Gross, USA Legal Counsel to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In his opening remarks this morning, Senator Carl Levin, Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, noted, "Seven bills related to sexual assault have been introduced in the Senate beginning in March and are now pending before the Committee."  Levin also wanted to note the passing of Senator Frank Lautenberger.  That's actually key to today's hearing.  As Betty noted last night, it's really time for either term limits (which I wouldn't support were it not for senators not having the brains to leave Congress) or a retirement age for Congress.   Ranking Member James Inhofe and Chair Carl Levin both oppose turning assault and rape over to criminal prosecutors.  They whined but they just looked like silly old men who didn't get it.  78-year-old Levin has been in the Senate since 1978.  78-year-old Inhofe has been in the US Congress since 1986.

 "Our commanders haven't had time," whined Inhofe.  Yes, they have.  They have had years.  They have had decades.  And so have Inhofe and Levin.  What you really see is They Just Don't Get It.  Today's hearing was, in many ways, like watching the Hill-Thomas hearing all over again.  The unqualified Clarence Thomas was nominated for the Supreme Court.  He harassed many females he supervised.  Anita Hill came forward.  As she told her story, a fearful bunch of elderly men couldn't support her -- in part due to the press backlash created by cretins like David Brock who now admits to falsely smearing Anita Hill and now admits that, yes, all the details about Clarence were probably true, but Thomas already has a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court so, David Brock, your late-life conversion is really too damn late.

Inhofe, explaining his objection to criminal procedures for rape and assault in the military, insisted, "We must remember that the military is, by necessity, uniquely separate from the civilian society.  Military service requires those who serve to give up certain rights and privileges that civilians enjoy." Rape and assault are crimes.  No one gives up their 'right' not to be raped.  What a stupid, stupid man.

He and Levin both wanted to invoke when the military was segregationist on race and when gays and lesbians couldn't serve openly.  Those are not the same things.  Discrimination is wrong.  It is not the same thing as rape.  If they were attempting to compare it to a hate crime attack on an African-American or a gay or a lesbian, they failed to make that comparison and left it at discrimination.  Sexism is discrimination.  They didn't note that but it is.  And it's wrong.  But it's not assault and rape either.

As one female veteran said to me after the hearing, referring to so many of the entrenched males on the Committee, "When do you think was the last time any of them felt unsafe or vulnerable?"  A very good question.

One exception was Senator John McCain who's 76-years-old and has been in the Senate since 1987.  If McCain was a pleasant and needed exception, in his questioning it was underscored, again, that the lack of comprehension is not gender specific.

Senator John McCain:  Admiral DeRenzi, you've had a long experience with these issues.  Is the problem better, worse or the same?

Vice Admiral Nanette M. DeRenzi:  Sir, do you mean sexual assault issues in general?

Senator John McCain:  Yes.

Vice Admiral Nanette M. DeRenzi:  I think the problem is improving.  I was a junior officer during Tailhook and I can tell you that I do not recall the training efforts, the response, the prevention, the attention on our ability to prosecute, uhm, offenders -- reaching down from leadership to the deck plate level at that time.  I would tell you that in the time since, and now, I see a difference.  I see a difference in the leadership, I see a difference in how the Judge Advocates are trained to respond and support and I see a tremendous difference in the prevention and response efforts.

Tailhook was the biggest military assault scandal of its time (1991).  Jone Johnson Lewis (Women's History) notes what happened to Lt Paula Coughlin:

At that convention, after she exited from an elevator, she found herself in a crowd of men who grabbed at her breasts, crotch, and buttocks, and attempted to remove her clothes, despite her protests. Later, others were also found to have been subjected to similar treatment. She sued after her boss, Admiral John W. Snyder, told her "That's what you get" when encountering "drunken aviators."

Frontline (PBS) explains, "At the 35th Annual Tailhook Symposium (September 5 to 7, 1991) at the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel, 83 women and 7 men were assaulted during the three-day aviators' convention, according to a report by the Inspector General of the Department of Defense (DOD)."

It outraged the American public (also because of the spending of taxpayer dollars which included the transportation of an artificial rhino out of whose penis would pour booze).  That's the base line for Vice Admiral Nanette M. DeRenzi?  If that's her baseline or anyone else's they are seriously screwed up.  'Since the big assault scandal where nearly 100 people were assaulted at a function the US taxpayers paid for, things have gotten better.'  I'm sorry, could they have gotten worse?

In July of 1992, Newsweek reported, "Last week the Senate Armed Services Committee froze 4,500 promotions, retirements and changes of command, Chairman Sam Nunn said the ban would come off only after the navy identified and punished the assailants." Tailhook is not your reference point.

Tailhook was unacceptable.  Tailhook shocked the nation.  Over 20 years later, we would all expect Tailhook to be a thing of the past.

DeRenzi is the problem according to two female veterans who spoke with me after the hearing.  Like so many of her generation, she's so damn grateful that Tailhook can't happen that she's more than willing to see the continued assaults and rapes as "an improvement."  After that all time low, any crumbs have been seen by her as "improvements."  These are crimes that are taking place and they are unacceptable.  The lack of progress is also unacceptable.

Senator Joe Manchin noted Tailhook and then went through a lengthy list of many of the other rape and assault scandals since.  He declared, "After each of these instances, Dept of Defense leaders all said, 'Never again' or used phrases like 'zero tolerance.'  So I guess I would ask: What's different this time?  What's different this time if we have a history of this repeating itself and nothing ever being done?  What is different now?"

Gen Martin Dempsy insisted, "I think what happened in the 90s is we focused on victim protection.  We immediately focused our attention on victim protection" versus prosecution.  No, they didn't focus on victim protection.  If that was focusing on victim protection, what a lousy job they did.

Dempsy only sounded more stupid as he proceeded.  The problem? He thinks maybe it's the effect of the wars on service members.  "When they come out of this conflict, they engage in some high risk behavior,"  he stated.  High risk behavior can be many things -- self-medicating, for example.  Rapists are not engaging in "high risk behavior," they're engaging in crimes.

I think Senator Claire McCaskill made great points but I think she missed one.  It wasn't by accident that two separate things were being mushed together.  They really don't see a difference between some guy starting at a woman's breasts while she's trying to work and some guy raping a woman.  They don't see a difference.  And they don't grasp that it's not about attraction or desire or sex.  They can't get that through their heads.

The editorial board of the Cleveland Plain Dealer argued today:

It's not enough. The Uniform Code of Military Justice needs updating.
Right now under the UCMJ, commanders can unilaterally toss out charges and even overturn guilty verdicts in sexual assault cases. Earlier this year, an Air Force lieutenant general did just that in overruling a court-martial jury's finding of guilt against an Air Force lieutenant colonel.
A move in Congress to take sexual assault cases out of the chain of command and assign them instead to military judges makes a great deal of sense. 

 That's what had the generals in a panic, that power might be lost.  It should be.  But when Manchin raised it, Gen James Amos was the first to object, insisting that taking this "from the chain of command is absolutely the wrong direction to go."  (Manchin also pointed out that all the people in charge facing the Committee, the generals, were all men and that even the Senate was more gender diverse.) (There are 99 US senators.  20 are women.  Prior to Senator Frank Lautenberg's death yesterday, there were 100.  His spot has not yet been filled.)

Nothing's improved.  Not only that, when the issue of not allowing convicted rapists in the ranks, to discharging them immediately if their presence was detected, the generals wanted to offer that they supported that except for some 'technical positions.'  No.  They don't get how serious this is.

They don't want to lose their power, but they don't get how serious rape is.  Adm Jonathan Greenheart, for example, spoke of how "the victim" returns to serve after a conviction and he apparently can't protect "the victim" if he doesn't have this power.

Adm Jonathan Greenheart: Senator [Manchin], I don't know how to take it out of the chain of command and then, in the continuum of responsibility and authority that we tell our people that they're responsible for the welfare -- and this goes to training, all the way through combat, all of that, how you take that part out of it and then-then you put the-the-the victim back in -- if they come back -- or the report is reviewed, the investigation is reviewed, and they say, 'Well here you go, it's back again.'  I just don't understand how to do that yet.  

"It can confuse the crew," he insisted at the end of his ramble.  Really?  Members of the military can't grasp criminal convictions?  I thought they were all adults?  Well, if that's really the case, I guess they'll need to add a day into training where they offer a seminar or two on what a criminal conviction is.

Senator Joe Donnelly:  Why would a soldier think less of their commander just because a commander didn't handle this area?

Gen Ray Odierno:  Well having been a commander in combat on three occasions --

Senator Joe Donnelly:  Right.

Gen Ray Odierno:  I would tell you that's essential because they -- they depend upon you for everything that goes on in that unit.  And one of the things that we've talked about by the way is this threat about retaliation.  That's not going to change if you take it outside the chain of command. You still have the threat of retaliation.

 The brass likes to pay lip service to civilian control but they don't really respect that aspect of the US Constitution and that was on full display.  I like Odierno but he's speaking from fear and panic and embarrassing himself.   Let's stage his little one-act play.

Sunday Comes With Tension opens with Lt Barbara Garfield explaining she was raped to Odierno.  She is filing charges against her assailant.  The next scene is Odierno learning that her rapist has been convicted.  The scene after that is Garfield back with her unit.  Because there was a criminal conviction, playwright Odierno insists, there is now a chance that his drama ends with a "retaliation" rape on Garfield or some other form of retaliation.

He can't control a unit, he insists, if he doesn't have that power.  How ridiculous is that?

When the US military was all male, rape did take place.  It didn't get reported.  And this 'power' Odierno insists must be his didn't even exist -- not to deal with rape, not to deal with sexual assault.

This is power the US military created for itself in the second half of the 20th century.  They've done a lousy job with that power and it's time for the brass to surrender it.

 Among the seven bills Chair Carl Levin was noting at the top of the hearing is Senators Kelly Ayotte and Patty Murray's "Combating Military Sexual Assault (MSA) Act of 2013."  Their offices issued a joint-statement today:

June 4, 2013
Contact: Meghan Roh, 202-224-2834 (Murray)
Contact: Liz Johnson, 202-224-3324 (Ayotte)


Bipartisan Murray-Ayotte legislation would expand Air Force program and provide trained military lawyers to victims of sexual assault in all service branches

WASHINGTON, D.C. – At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today focused on efforts to stop sexual assaults in the military, Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh praised the success of an Air Force pilot program that provides victims with a military lawyer to assist sexual assault victims through the legal process.  A key provision in the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act, introduced by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) on May 7, would expand the successful Air Force program to all service branches by providing victims of sexual assault with a Special Victims’ Counsel – a trained and certified military lawyer to assist the victim throughout the process.
In response to a question from Senator Ayotte, General Welsh testified that responses from victims regarding the Air Force’s Special Victims’ Counsel pilot program have been “overwhelmingly positive.”  He testified earlier in the hearing that he intends to recommend the continuation of the program.
Air Force Chief of Staff, General Mark Welsh:
“Feedback from the victims has been very, very positive.  We believe the program is working very well for us, we’re excited about where it’s going….I’m going to recommend to my Secretary that we continue the program…”
“The positive return rate is about 95 percent on these surveys, overwhelmingly positive about the benefits of having someone who understood the legal process, who was by their side supporting them primarily the entire time, who shielded them from unnecessary questioning, who helped them understand the intricacies and the confusion and the tax law of the legal system that they're now in.”
“The special victims counsel, in my mind, is one of the set of game-changing things that can help us in this area across the spectrum of issues related to sexual assault. Right now it's the only one we have found that is really gaining traction.”
Colonel Jeannie Leavitt, Commander, 4th Fighter Wing, U.S. Air Force:
The special victims’ counsel…gives the victim a voice.”

 This was an all day hearing.  The above only touches on three hours. (The thing was a little short of eight hours long.)   I may cover the second panel, I may not.  But I will cover the third panel in tomorrow's snapshot.  This hearing went on way too long.  I do understand why it was structured the way it was. (And was honestly thrilled when Chair Carl Levin announced, right before the three hour mark as questioning of the first panel continued, that the panel would not have a second round of questioning.)  Having all the chiefs there on one panel was important.  The second panel was composed of people most likely to work through any legal process within the military with those who've been assaulted or raped and the the third panel were experts on the topic.

But five hours is too much for the nightly news.  There's no real exploration.  I think it would have been smarter, if the point was to make an impact on this issue, to have scheduled three brief hearings, one each day over a three day period, so that what was taking place could be absorbed.

 Yesterday, we attended the House  Oversight Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government hearing on the IRS scandal.  We covered it in yesterday's snapshot, Ava covered it in "Kaptor should resign and give Kucinich the seat," Wally covered it in "The IRS hands out money to employees like its candy (Wally)" and Kat covered it in "The menace named Marcy."  Tonight?  No one wants to cover this hearing.  It's too much.  No one wants to leaf through all the pages of notes.  It's too much.  The hearing defeated itself.  Congress needs to think about that when scheduling hearings.  There were too many witnesses on the first panel.  It should have just been the chiefs.  No need for the rest on the first panel.  There was way too much information to be conveyed.  I've frankly done a lousy job above because there are a number of senators that did a good job and we've only noted a few.  I need to note that Gen James Amos did refer to assault and rape as "crimes."  He did that repeatedly, including in his opening statement.  We will note that Iraq War veteran Kayla Williams has a column entitled "Seven Misconceptions About Military Sexual Assault" (The Daily Beast).

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