Friday, June 19, 2009






Today Phil Sands and Nizar Latif (The National) report, "American troops may have to remain in violent cities such as Mosul and Baquba after the end of this month, despite plans for a complete US pull-out from urban areas, according to an official in one of Iraq's most powerful political parties. Mohammed al Gharawi, of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), the largest single party in Iraq's parliament and the group in control of the ministery of the interior, said he would support an extension for the US military presence to prevent a worsening security situtation." Meanwhile AFP reports on "U.S. army commanders" who stress that there is confusion ("mired in confusion") over the so-called departure from Mosul by June 30th ("when U.S. soldiers must leave cities and major towns nationwide") and that "[t]hey also believe the political message emanating from Baghdad about the U.S. withdrawal has created a false impression among Iraqi citizens that U.S. troops will no longer be seen on Mosul's streets when, in fact, they will."

The Iraq War hasn't ended. Ann is filling in for Ruth and Tuesday she noted a Jackson Sun article her aunt passed on of "how 140 Tennessee National Guard members were being deployed to Iraq." The Mercury reports Maj Gen Vincent Brooks is headed to Iraq (and "900 members of the headquarters of the Big Red One are deploying"). Vinnie Brooks became famous at the start of the Iraq War as The Daily Liar though his official title was "Deputy Directo fo Operations". Karen Middleton (The News Courier) reports "80 members of the Athens-based 203rd Military Police Battallion" will be leaving for Iraq (departure certemony tomorrow at Beasley Field, 4:00 p.m.). And Chris Roberts (El Paso Times) notes approximately "125 soldiers with the post's 47th Transportation Company will head for western Iraq for a 12-month tour of duty." ("The post" is Fort Bliss.) Monday on KPFA Flashpoints, Iraq Veterans Against the War's Camilo Mejia appeared (noted and quoted in Tuesday's snapshot) and we'll again note one section:

Camilo Mejia: For an organization like Iraq Veterans Against the War for instance, who depend greatly upon contributions from the public and support from ally organizations, we're having a very difficult time right now getting through to people and fund raising and doing things like that because the sense right now within the larger public is that the Iraq War is ending, that the Iraq occupation is coming to an end -- which is not true, and that the Afghanistan War is now the good war and that the -- Basically the Iraq War became indefensible. People turned against it. And they needed a new centerpiece for the global war on terror which is just another excuse for invading and occupying another country to go after their natural resources and Afghanistan is that war now. So a lot of people are on the fence or skeptical or giving President Obama the benefit of the doubt. If you add to that the financial crisis and a lot of people out there who are holding on to their savings and taking pay cuts and unemployed and not contributing the same and don't really feel like anti-war issues are any more that relevant, not as relevant as before. So that's the civilian side of things. I think right now we are on a stand-by when it comes to the civilian side. When it comes to the GI side? Regardless of what the official rhetoric is soldiers are still being deployed -- soldiers, marines, air service men and women -- we're still being deployed. And people are still coming back form Iraq and Afghanistan with untreated Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, returning to poverty in a broken economy being recycled from Iraq to Afghanistan. The VA crisis is really bad. We're short staffed. We have people who are suicidal who are waiting months to see a psychiatrist or psychologist or even a case worker. So regardless of the state of the civilian side of things we're going to continue to resist because our experience hasn't changed.

The Iraq War is not over and it will not be over this year (or next or . . .). Jeremy Scahill (RebelReports) examines Tuesday's House vote for the War Supplemental and reports, "New York Democrat Anthony Weiner, who voted against the war funding in May -- when it didn't matter -- only to vote Tuesday with the pro-war Dems, sounded like an imbecile when he made this statement after the vote: 'We are in the process of wrapping up the wars. The president needed our support.' What planet is Weiner living on? 'Wrapping up the wars?' Last time I checked, there are 21,000 more US troops heading to Afghanistan alongside a surge in contractors there, including a 29% increase in armed contractors. Does Weiner think the $106 billion in war funding he voted for is going to pay for one way tickets home for the troops? What he voted for was certainly not the 'Demolition of the 80 Football-field-size US Embassy in Baghdad Act of 2009.' To cap off this idiocy, Weiner basically admitted he is a fraud when he said the bill he voted in favor of 'still sucks'." Joshua Frank (Dissident Voice) observes, "No longer can the blame for the turmoil in Iraq and Afghanistan rest at the feet of George W. Bush alone. This is now Obama's War on Terror, fully funded and operated by the Democratic Party. [. . .] Had Bush pushed for more military funds at this stage, the antiwar movement (if you can call it that) would have been organizing opposition weeks in advance, calling out the neocons for wasting our scarce tax dollars during a recession on a never-ending, directionless war. But since Obama's a Democrat, a beloved one at that, mums the word." As Trina observed earlier this week, "never forget that Iraq was always seen by other countries as a chance for Big Business to take control. A tag sale enforced at gun point. There are no uncharted countries on the earth so the 'missions' these days aren't to discover new markets in a new world. The missions are to take a country under and create a new market on top of the corpses."

At a press conference today, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared of her party and the House she leads, "As you know, the veterans issue has been a high priority for us. We planted that flag when we took the majority in the Congress. We did more in that first two years than had been done in the 77-year history of the Veterans Administration. It's now 78, 79 years old. We have a Democratic President in the White House. Secretary Shinseki, working with him, we are able to do even more." Some argue that those who care about veterans go out of their way to ensure that more wounded ones aren't created by continuing illegal wars. Today the Senate followed the House lead. Perry Bacon Jr. (Washington Post) reports Barack got his War Supplemental with 91 votes supporting more death, destruction and financial waste and only five voted no. They are Russ Feingold, Bernie Sanders, Jim DeMint, Mike Enzi and Tom Coburn.

This morning the House Veterans Affairs' Health Subcommittee held a legislative hearing and US House Rep Deborah Halvorson stepped in to chair the subcommittee. She did a strong job as chair. Not "as a first-term member of the House, she did a strong job," she did a strong job period. US House Rep Jerry McNerney was among those speaking on legislation. He introduced HR 1546 and we'll note some of his remarks explaining the need for it. HR 1546: "To amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish the Committee on Care of Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury.

US House Rep Jerry McNerney: More than 1.6 million troops have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and about half of those brave men and women are now veterans. Traumatic Brain Injury or TBI has become the signature wound of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A Rand Corporation Study estimates that up to 320,000 troops who served in these conflicts suffer from brain trauma. Milder forms of TBI can result -- these are milder forms -- can result in cognitive problems such as headaches, difficulty in thinking, memory problems, abnormal speech or language and limited functioning of arms and legs. TBI's effects on veterans and their families can be devastating. I've met personally with several veterans from my district who suffer from severe brain injury in Iraq. One is doing well in my hometown with a four year scholarship from the Sentinels of Freedom. I just had lunch with him a couple of weeks ago and I'm very pleased to see how well he's adjusted. Unfortunately, many wounded veterans face an even more arduous path to recovery. The brain is probably the most adaptable organ of the body but any time there is a traumatic injury or section of the brain is damaged, it takes time to adjust and compensate. When a soldier's wounded, he or she is first transported to a trauma center to treat brain swelling. Brain swelling is the biggest and most immediate risk from a brain injury. After being stabilized, soldiers may face invasive surgical procedures and painful cooling treatments to combat inflammation followed by extensive physical and psychological therapy. I've seen first hand how difficult this treatment is and we owe our veterans the very best.
Blasts from improvised, explosive devices have become one of the most common causes of injury for troops currently serving in combat zones and recent studies show that 59% of blast exposed patinets at Walter Reed have been found to have some form of TBI. In April of 2007, the Veterans Administration began screening veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan since the beginning of October 2001 for symptoms that may be associated with TBI. Of the 61,285 veterans that the VA screened for TBI 11,804 -- or 19% -- of those veterans screened positive for TBI symptoms. Department of Defense and Veterans Administration experts note that TBI can occur even if a victim does not suffer from an obvious physical injury -- which sometimes takes place when the person is in the vicinity of a powerful detonation. In these instances, signs and symptoms of TBI -- such as the ones I mentioned earlier -- are not often readily recognized. According to the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration's mental health experts, mild TBI can also produce behavioral symptoms similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or other mental health conditions. And TBI almost always causes Post Traumatic Stress. The relationship between TBI and Post Traumatic Stress can further complicate diagnosis and treatment. As a result, further research must be conducted to examine the longterm effects of these injuries which are not yet fully understood and the best treatment models to address TBI and improve coordination care for injured veterans.
Traumatic injuries -- Traumatic Brain Injuries have often effected a large number of female service members and as the number of women enlisted in the armed forces continues to grow, we must ensure that our focus on health care continues to encompass all veterans. I hope we can continue to collect data to ensure that the women veterans receive the same quality of care as their male counterparts and I am committed to working on this committee to assist in that endeavor.
When a solider is transitioning to civilian life, it is imperative that we have a system in place that is able to properly evaluate and assess the risks and challenges if any these veterans and their families might face. Given that evidence suggests that combat related TBI is an increasingly frequent occurance and that the effects of TBI are still poorly understood, prioritizing research and oversight will help plan for addressing treatment and long term care. Research in TBI is also particularly important for understanding Post Traumatic Stress because the amnesia that often occurs as a result of TBI increases the challenges of Post Traumatic Stress treatment. Studies have shown that, in the absence of factual recall, individuals may have delusional or reconstruct memories of trauma. These individuals may retain false memories rather than factual results.

Turning to England where the good times keep coming for Gordon Brown. His efforts at a behind-closed-doors 'inquiry' appear to be falling apart. Philip Webster (Times of London) reported this morning, "Parts of the Iraq war inquiry may now be held in public after Gordon Brown was forced into a partial climbdown." James Kirkup and Alastair Jamieson (Telegraph of London) add that Lord Bulter was "critical of the decision to hold hearings behind closed doors". At the Guardian, Toby Helm stated that "Buter will accuse the government of 'putting its political interests ahead of the national interest'" today. Andrew Grice, Kim Sengupta and Nigel Morris (Independent of London) report it's not one noted person who'll be speaking out against Brown, it's two: Lord Hutton and Lord Butler. Great Britain's Socialist Worker notes the crony-infested panel for Gordo's inquiry: "John Chilcot, its chair, was part of the last Iraq whitewash, the Bulter inquiry. Another committee member, Sir Lawrence Freedman, wrote Tony Blair's 1999 Chicago speech setting out the idea of 'humanitarian' war." The Belfast Telegraph reports that Gordon's closde-door policy has been criticized by former Prime Minister John Major who states: "The Government's decision to hold the inquiry into the Iraq war in private is inexplicable -- not least in its own interests. [. . .] The arrangements currently proposed run the risk of being viewed sceptically by some, and denounced as a whitewash by others. I am astonished the Government cannot understand this." ITN quotes Bulter stating, "The form of the inquiry proposed by the Government has been dictated more by the Government's political interest than the national interest and it cannot achieve the purpose of purging mistrust." Rebecca will be blogging about this topic tonight and should remember to include these words "I told you so." (Because she did.)

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"Barack practices a curious pull-out method"
"Gordon Brown forced to back peddle?"
"Watch out for those polls!"
"Hillary is 44"
"gordon brown, not smart enough to stage an inquiry"
"Melissa and Tammy Lynn"
"My BFF Kevin Zeese"
"He didn't do s**t"
"Stop LYING John R. MacArthur"
"C.I., Dennis Loo"
"ACLU, Andy Worthington"
"Barry strikes out"