Saturday, June 06, 2009







Barry O! gave his big speech in Cario. Iraqi Alaa Sahib Abudllah of Karbala states, "The most important thing is to accomplish things, not just say them. I am astonished of how much the media is caring about it. I heard such speeches by Bush more than once. There is nothing new in Obama's speech." Patrick Murphy (WSWS) observes:

The speech delivered by US President Barack Obama in Cairo yesterday was riddled with contradictions. He declared his opposition to the "killing of innocent men, women, and children," but defended the ongoing US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the US proxy war in Pakistan, while remaining silent on the most recent Israeli slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza. These wars have killed at least one million Iraqis and tens of thousands in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Palestinian territories.
Obama declared his support for democracy, human rights and women's rights, after two days of meetings with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, two of the most notorious tyrants in the Middle East. He said nothing in his speech about the complete absence of democratic rights in Saudi Arabia, or about the ongoing repression under Mubarak's military dictatorship. In the days before the US president's arrival at Al-Azhar University, the campus was raided by Egyptian secret police who detained more than 200 foreign students. Before leaving on his Mideast trip, Obama praised Mubarak as a "steadfast ally."
While posturing as the advocate of universal peace and understanding, Obama diplomatically omitted any reference to his order to escalate the war in Afghanistan with the dispatch of an additional 17,000 US troops. And he tacitly embraced the policy of his predecessor in Iraq, declaring, "I believe the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein." He even seemed to hedge on the withdrawal deadline of December 2011 negotiated by the Bush administration, which he described as a pledge "to remove all our troops from Iraq by 2012."

Hillary Is 44 points out, "Murdered Iraqis who are gay were never mentioned. Gays and their oppression was not mentioned at all. Instead Obama quoted the 'Holy Koran' with the verse 'Be Conscious of God and speak always the truth.' Then Obama proceeded to avoid telling the truth." Stanley Heller (CounterPunch) also breaks down the Iraq section of the speech:

His speech in Cairo was the usual glittering generalities, the dropping of an Arabic word here and there, a sophisticated tone, and the pledge to tell "the truth." But look what he said about Iraq: "Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible." Though the war was controversial the Iraqis are "better off". Over a million dead from sanctions, invasions, and civil war, and Obama had the utter gal to declare the Iraqis "better off". Our only problem was not recruiting enough flunkies to join the effort. Some on the Left immediately declared that Obama remarks were a "denunciation" of the Iraq war. Keep on dreaming.

Stan offered his take on the speech last night. Marcia noted that the Wall St. Journal offered "Barack Hussein Bush" because they heard in Barry's words a continuation of Bush policy. The speech came up repeatedly today on both hours of NPR's Diane Rehm Show and we'll focus on Iraqis and note this section between Diane Rehm and McClatchy Newspapers' Nancy A. Youssef.

Diane Rehm: Alright let's talk about the latest violence in Iraq in light of the president's promise that all troops will be out of Iraq by --

Nancy A. Youssef: The end of 2011.

Diane Rehm: 2011. And isn't there a June 30 deadline this year as well?

Nancy A. Youssef: Yeah.

Diane Rehm: How was that received by Iraqis? This morning we heard that many don't believe that is going to happen, that all US troops are going to be out. And in the meantime you've got bombings still going on in Baghdad.

Nancy A. Youssef: Yeah. And let's -- the June 30th requires -- and this -- I want to make a distinction. Obama mentioned it in the speech but the truth is this was outlined under the Bush administration, under the Status Of Forces Agreement that they signed with the Iraqi government, I think in part, with the anticipation of Obama coming to the White House and wanting to, I think the Bush administration wanted to set the withdrawal on its terms and not on the Obama administration's terms and so the June 30th deadline is part of that. The Iraqi government demanded that all US troops be out of major cities. Now we're already starting to hear a little bit of a dance: Maybe on the outskirts of Sadr City they'll stay? Maybe in parts of Samarra they'll stay? Maybe in parts of Mosul where we're seeing violence this week -- a US soldier was killed in Mosul. We're seeing a little dance about how strict that's going to be. Remember that for the Iraqis this is also their domestic politics. They have an election coming up -- if not at the end of the year, in January. Maliki, the prime minister, cannot afford to have US troops in the face of his people anymore. They are tired. That all said, you are absolutely right. You ask Iraqis, they don't believe that the United States is ever leaving -- that they'll be a presence there for the rest of their lives. And in some capacity you have to think there would be in the sense that, you know when the US -- with each soldier that leaves is less US influence over the course of events in Iraq. You know to me the most dangerous thing going forward is not a quick collapse of the security situation in Iraq but a small one, a gradual one that happens as the United States is increasing its force presence in Afghanistan. That United States finds itself with say 100,000 troops in Iraq and 70,000 troops in Afghanistan and truly stuck in both conflicts. But you're right, you ask Iraqis, the United States is going to be there in some capacity. And this year is this game of security and domestic and even US politics.

With regards to the points Youssef was making on the dance that's going on, yesterday AP reported that the US military is hoping to keep "about 14 joint facilities [open] . . . after the deadline." Back to Iraqi reaction, Michael Slackman (New York Times) explains Barry O's speech was greeted in iraq by "a heavy dose of skepticism" and quotes diners in Mosul yelling "What a stupid speech!" Campbell Robertson and the Times Iraqi correspondents (New York Times' Baghdad Bureau) offer more reactions. In Najaf, Fadhil Mohammed states, "Obama's speech is nothing more than a way to paint a phony improved image about America for Islamic countries." In Falluja, Abu Adil states, "We've heard such nonsense from your former White House guys. We're overstuffed with such words." Yes, the speech the press can't stop creaming their panties and briefs over has been given many, many times before. Now when George W. Bush did that and the MSM treated it as new, CounterSpin would ridicule them for that. Today? CounterSpin's working for the man. But Aluf Been (Haaratz) points out some of the realities regarding Barry's 'words' on Palestinians and Israelies:

The United States has objected to the settlements since 1967, but its position has changed. The Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Carter administrations stated that the settlements were illegal. Since the Reagan administration (1981), the U.S. has called the settlements "an obstacle to peace" without referring to their lawfulness. Former president George W. Bush agreed to Israeli construction in the large settlement blocs in exchange for Israel evacuating the settlers from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank, and accepting the "two-state solution."

Rob Reynolds (Al Jazeera) noted The Changeling's shape shifting abilities, "Another thing struck me as distinctly political: Obama's constant references to his Muslim background, boyhood days in Indoensia, and frequent citations from the Quran sounded a bit odd coming from a man who made strenuous efforts to ignore those aspects of his autobiography in the 2008 campaign for the White House. In fact, Obama's campaign attacked critics who insisted on using his middle name; now, here was Barack Hussein Obama on stage in Cairo dropping a "shukran" (Arabic for "thank you" here) and an "assalaamu alaikum" (peace be unto you) there." Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller (ABC News) caught that shift on Tuesday: "Back then, the campaign's "Fight the Smears" website addressed the candidate's faith without mentioning his father's religion:
'Barack Obama is a committed Christian. He was sworn into the Senate on his family Bible. He has regularly attended church with his wife and daughters for years. But shameful, shadowy attackers have been lying about Barack's religion, claiming he is a Muslim instead of a committed Christian. When people fabricate stories about someone's faith to denigrate them politically, that's an attack on people of all faiths. Make sure everyone you know is aware of this deception'."

Though that's just appearing on the radar it's long been known that Iraq's LGBT community was being targeted. Jessica Green (UK's Pink News) reports that Iraqi LGBT is stating the Ministry of the Interior is part of the assault and quotes Ali Hili stating, "A police office from the Ministry of Interior Intelligence told us secretly that there is a campaign of murder and violence against gays. We had to pay him $5,000 US to help release one of our members from jail. With all the evidence we have been presenting, including some from one of our members who was recently released from pison, we have evidence of mass arrests [of LGBT Iraqis]. Still, the US is denying Iraqi government involvement, doing nothing to stop it and not assisting with our efforts to help gays in Iraq." Green also notes that US House Reps Jared Polis, Tammy Baldwin and Barney Frank have requested in writing that US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill investigate the charges. Polis has posted [PDF formart warning] the letter on his website and we'll jump in after the congratulations to Chris Hill on being confirmed as Ambassador:

As you know, since the fall of Saddam Hussein, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Iraqi citizens have become more susceptible to discrimination and violence. However, over the last month, we became aware of alarming human rights violations that fundamentally threaten the safety of LGBT citizens of Iraq. Both in the United States and Abroad, reports of the harrassment, detention and execution of LGBT Iraqi by Iraqi law enforcement have reached a fever pitch.
The information we received was derived from two separate testimonials of gay and transgender Iraqi men that were detained, tortured and sentenced to death for being members of an allegedly forbidden organization in Iraq called Iraqi LGBT. One of these individuals was able to escape, while the other was reportedly executed by Iraqi Ministry of Interior Security Forces. Through conversations with Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Heartland Alliance, it has become clear to us that these are not isolated reports, but instead, reports that accurately portray an aggressive campaign to locate, arrest and execute LGBT Iraqis in and around Baghdad.
As LGBT Americans and co-chairs of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, we are disturbed and shocked at allegations that Ministry of the Interior Security Forces may be involved in the mass persecution and execution of LGBT Iraqis. As has been stated by the State Department, we are aware that LGBT Iraqis are not being officially executed or being held on death row in Iraq for being LGBT. However, the persecution of Iraqis based on sexual orientation or gender identity is escalating and is unacceptable regardless of whether these policies are extrajudicial or state-sanctioned.
We hope that by reaching out to you and members of your staff, that the U.S. Embassy in Iraq will prioritize the investigation of these allegations, work with the Iraqi government to end the executions of LGBT Iraqis, and make protecting this vulnerable community a priority. It is crucial that the United States government take action to address this urgent humanitarian crisis and examine the evidence provided by international human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Heartland Alliance in Iraq. Given cultural sensitivity around these issues, it is also important that the U.S. Embassy work with human rights organizations to carefully ensure the safety of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Iraqis that may be afraid of reporting incidences to state authorities, particularly when those instances involve state authorities.
Please know that we will continue to monitor this situation and hope to be of assistance in your investigation. We wish you well in all of your endeavors as the newly confirmed U.S. Ambassador to Iraq.

The targeting of journalists in Iraq also continues. Earlier this week, another journalist lost his life, Alla' Abdul Al Wahab and others were wounded (one in the same attack, two in another attack). Reporters Without Borders declared, "It is time the slaughter of journalists in Iraq was stopped. The Iraqi authorities created a special police unit last year to investigate murders of journalists. We urge them to investigate these two bombings very thoroughly. Only conclusive results are likely to discourage these killers and improve the safety of journalists." Independent journalist Jeremy Scahill (writing at the US Socialist Worker) provides the walk through:

The U.S. bombed Al Jazeera in the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, attacked it multiple times in the 2003 Iraq invasion, and killed Al Jazeera correspondent Tarek Ayoub. On April 8, 2003, a U.S. Abrams tank fired at the Palestine Hotel, home and office to more than 100 unembedded international journalists operating in Baghdad at the time. The shell smashed into the fifteenth-floor Reuters office, killing two cameramen, Reuters's Taras Protsyuk and José Couso of Spain's Telecinco. In a chilling statement at the end of that day in Iraq, then-Pentagon spokesperson Victoria Clarke spelled out the Pentagon's policy on journalists not embedded with U.S. troops. She warned them that Baghdad "is not a safe place. You should not be there."
Last week, a Spanish judge reinstated charges against three U.S. soldiers in Couso's killing, citing new evidence, including eyewitness testimony contradicting official U.S. claims that soldiers were responding to enemy fire from the hotel. One year ago, former Army Sergeant Adrienne Kinne told Democracy Now! she saw the Palestine Hotel on a military target list and said she frequently intercepted calls from journalists staying there.
As I have reported previously, Reuters cameraman Mazen Dana was shot by U.S. forces near Abu Ghraib prison when his camera was allegedly mistaken for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. The U.S. listed as "justified" the killing of Al Arabiya TV's Mazen al-Tumeizi, blown apart by a U.S. missile as he reported on a burning U.S. armored vehicle on Baghdad's Haifa Street.
There have also been several questionable killings of journalists at U.S. military checkpoints in Iraq, such as the March 2004 shooting deaths of Ali Abdel-Aziz and Ali al-Khatib of Al Arabiya. The Pentagon said the soldiers who shot the journalists acted within the "rules of engagement." And Reuters freelancer Dhia Najim was killed by U.S. fire while filming resistance fighters in November 2004. "We did kill him," an unnamed military official told the New York Times. "He was out with the bad guys. He was there with them, they attacked, and we fired back and hit him."

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"The US military announces 2 deaths"
"The VA's Madhulika Agarwal: Lying or grossly uninformed?"
"I Hate The War"

"Lonely GOP Wallflower"
"Tuna Casserole in the Kitchen"
"Debra Sweet"
"Chris Matthews, Go To Hell"
"Debra Sweet, World Can't Wait"
"gordon brown's troubles, debra sweet"
"stinky gordon brown part ii"
"John V. Whitbeck"
"Black and Black churches"
"Barack Hussein Bush"
"The nothing speech and the groupie Danny"
"Noam Chomskey on Barry O's speech"
"Dennis Loo, Tom Burghardt"
"Barack and the world's blue . . ."

Friday, June 05, 2009






"Let me begin by asking you to think about what it took for each of you to get prepared for the day today," Anna Frese of Wounded Warrior Project declared. "I'm not talking about the first cup of coffee or your morning paper. I'm asking you to think about more basic activities. Raising your arm to reach for a bedside light switch. Moving a finger to wipe the sleep from your eyes. Getting out of bed, walking to the bathroom. While most of us take this for granted, severely injured service members, like my brother Eric [Edmundson], can no longer carry out these basic activities of daily living without assistance. Eric and other severely wounded warriors get the most intimate, devoted care from family members in the privacy of their homes, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year."

Anna Frese was addressing the US House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health this morning in a hearing entitled "Meeting the Needs of Family Caregivers of Veterans." She explained how her father and her brother are a team in his care and wellness and how "Eric relies on Dad to assist him in everything, and Dad does it with pride and great respect. But there is an unseen price. Our father, now 54 years old, is no longer employed and has used up his retirement funds and savings, no longer has health insurance and has not contributed to Social Security in almost four years. Even though his future has been drastically altered, he tells me often, 'Eric would do it for me'."

Frese was on the first panel as was Ret. Commander Rene A. Campos of Military Officers Association of America who read a letter from the father of a veteran injured in 2007 during part of her testimony, "All the army ever wanted was a soldier. The army got it. All we want is a little help. We got excellent care at the military treatment facility but we had to fight to get our son in private care and take him home. There are so many problems with the VA bureaucracy. We were lucky to know the system but so many other families are struggling."

US House Rep Michael Michaud chaired the subcommittee and noted that the hearing was a way of "exploring ways to better help the family caregivers of our veterans." Dr. Barbara Cohoon of the National Military Family Association noted that family caregivers are an integral part of the recovery.

Cohoon, Campos and Frese made up the first panel. Prepared opening statements for this hearing can be found here. (Individual links did not work in yesterday's snapshot. My apologies. So we'll just note the main page for the statements.)

Chair Mike Michaud: My first question is, we've talked about financial compensation for family caregivers so my question is, to all three, what do you think that compensation should be financially? Commander?

Rene Campos: I couldn't speak to a dollar value but, as I mentioned and as Barbara talked about, this needs to be addressed at the very beginning, at the time of injury and we have to recognize that, I don't believe, one system will fit all, that these situations are going to change over time, that the needs of families are going to change and the service member and the veteran. I -- I look at trying to get DoD and VA to work closer together, than recognizing that these families are -- are getting quite a bit of support and immediate care at the time of injury and they're pretty much in a cocoon. So when they transition into the VA system it needs to be easier for them and not try to guess all over again where to start and that's why in terms of compensation, we want to see DoD and VA work together to build a package that is -- because these folks will be going back into the DoD system and they'll be trans-trans, uhm, transitioning between the systems at several times throughout their longer term care. So I can't give you a dollar value or specifically but we should make sure that it is a package that will meet the needs of veterans, of the family, of the wounded, as they transition over their life.

Chair Mike Michaud: Doctor?

Dr. Barbara Cahoon: Our association has really proposed as far as two different types of payment -- one as far as the non-medical care and the other as far as the medical care which would be more of your hands-on. And the reason for that is that we do find caregivers are really providing two different roles and depending upon the type of injury and also the cycle of the recovery or where they are in the recovery phase kind of determines how much involvement that they're doing. If someone has a severe or a moderate TBI but, other than that, is functional as far as being able to get around then the caregiver is more involved in what you would call non-medical care -- they're making the doctors' appointments, they're making sure they are getting to where they need to go, they're actually maybe looking on their Blackberry and following a GPS to make sure they made it to Walter Reed or to Bethesda or to where ever and they're making sure that they do go home. So there's a lot of non-medical care that go on. So we're looking more at that to be kind of a range but basically a kind of an amount that's given each month. And as far as the medical care? We're looking more at what that would be as far as hands-on, similar to nursing care that would be given -- especially if someone was -- had a spinal injury and basically was from the waist down needed certain types of care, you're turning them in the bed. You're actually physically giving them medication. Those types of things. And there are systems in place now where that's actually then, you know, compensated hourly. So that's -- we're kind of looking at those two different pieces. But also too, as far as the care that they're giving, as far as providing them, they also have lost significant amount of money as far as walking away from the current job that they are. So there's two different financial impacts going on at the same time.

Chair Mike Michaud: Thank you. Ms. Frese?

Anna Frese: That's a good question. Uh -- let me work with the number that we do know. The cost per day for in-house VA nursing home care for next year is projected to rise to $887.33. Per day. We can then get an annual cost of $324,000. And while I don't want to guesstimate the cost of what enacting the caregiver legislation would be I can comfortably express with confidence that the failure to provide such support increase the risk that veterans would have to be institutionalized and those costs are clearly far in excess of the relatively modest cost of caregiver assistance would be.

Chair Mike Michaud: Thank you my next question, I know some of you have answered this in your opening statements, but if all three of you could just address if we were to pass legislation what are the -- would we put in the legislation? The three most important components of offering a caregiver program, what would the three most top priority parts be? Anna? And I know you've talked about some during your opening testimony but not knowing what we'll be able to get through the House and through the Senate, if we had to pick three, what would the three top priorities be? Ms. Frese?

Anna Frese: As we spoke about earlier, each family, each circumstance, family dynamics of each family is so drastically different. From what I hear from families and from our own experience, the health care especially for the parents who are caring and those who are not a spouse and not covered under that health care, they need some form of health care to take care of their own health so they can actually be around and continue to care for the veteran. And also it comes back to the economic support as well. The time spent worrying about how they're going to continue living and paying for their needs. You spend more time focusing on the worrying than actually -- you want to be able to focus your time, your strength and your full ability on your veteran rather than worrying. The health care piece, the income and the mental health to help sustain the long term ability of the care giver.

Rene Campos: As I mentioned, we're concerned about adding more programs or adding more layers onto already complicated bureaucracies. We go back to the need for and establishing some sort of permanent office or seamless transition agency of some kind and, again, I -- I -- if it's extending the current SOC [Joint DoD-VA Senior Oversight Committee] out or whatever, we need some good solid oversight that doesn't change when the administration changes -- So we need the continuity of the leadership and oversight of programs. So I think that's critical to whatever we do. The other thing we need to do is that we have, again, a reciprocal program for caregivers that includes both the medical and the non-medical aspects. Because, again, these families that have been on active duty, have child care, they have a lot of other family support, non-medical support services that are there. So they should have a package that they can expect that would also help transition over into the VA system. And then finally we go back to at the time of injury, they really need an advocate. They need someone that can walk them through all these different things that are going to be happening to them over, in some cases, the course of their life. So we think there needs to be an advocacy program of some kind that's set up. I think the quality of life foundation report I mentioned is a good starting point.

Dr. Barbara Cohoon: First of all this needs to start upstream, as I mentioned before, while they're still active duty if you're going to do anything as far as the caregiver. One of the conversations we recently had with Secretary [of Veterans Affairs Eric] Shinseki is that -- If the care-giver's not taken care upstream, by the time he gets them, in their veteran status, they're either burnt out or they're so frustrated with the system that they may stop being a caregiver and then everyone loses -- especially the family. So this really needs to make sure -- we want to make sure that this actually starts upstream while the service member is still active duty. The other piece is that we have to remember that the caregiver well being is directly linked to the veterans' care, well being. So if the care-giver's taken care of, we know that the veterans' taken care of and vice versa. And so ways in which we can help the caregiver is we can recognize that the role that they're playing is important and then the pieces that they are providing also need to be recognized and how we go about recognizing that can be done in lots of different ways. We talked about the compensation as far as financial, we also realize that they have walked away from a lot of different things. They lose their health care, they lose their ability as far as to maintain a retirement or even lose their retirement. We also need to make sure that they have respite care, those types of pieces. So we need to make -- we're looking at the well being of the caregiver as one of those packages you talked about. The other is the caregiver also needs to maintain a purpose in life -- not only as far as taking care of the veteran but also as far as them personally. And also remember that what surrounds them is their family. It may not be Mom or Dad, it may be their sister or brother. Or if it's Mom or Dad that's doing that, they have other children that they're taking care of or maybe a father that they're also taking care of so that the family unit itself is in a delicate balance so whatever you provide the caregiver effects everyone else.

US House Rep Henry Brown (Ranking Member) raised issues of payment and should it go to the primary care-giver. Dr. Cohoon explained why that was necessary and also addressed how more than one person in the family could be trained in the care-giving but one person would be doing it. She also noted that at some point in the process, someone steps forward and that person becomes the primary care-giver. An important point and one that does conflict with the aim to appoint a care-giver before someone is wounded -- a point she seemed not to grasp or to ignore. A service member, not injured, picking someone as their primary care-giver may fill a blank on a piece of paper but it's a lot more complicated than listing someone as a primary contact should you be injured or killed. There are people who think they can be it and then, exposed to the realities, can't. There are people who think they can do it and in injury comes when they're pregnant or some other health issue has arisen. A service member designating a primary care-giver before deploying would only fill a blank on a piece of paper, it would not really answer anything.

US House Rep Henry Brown would return to the issue of payment during the third panel where you saw government workers from the VA (administrators) pretend they worked for their tax dollars and pretend that progress was being made. How little they are doing (how slowly they are dragging their feet) would emerge slowly. But first Brown hoped he found a roll dog the Dept Under Secretary of Defense Office of Transition Policy and Care Coordination Noel Koch. But first Koch needed to know if he was being asked a question. Then Koch needed Brown to repeat the question because, Brown apparently, hadn't been paying attention. Brown actually had to repeat the question and then he had to explain it. And having to ask the question twice -- the second time at Brown's request -- it does not build confidnece in the VA that their Deputy cannot grasp the basic formulation of words into a question. After Brown explained it (after asking it twice), Koch took a stab at it.

Noel Koch: This is -- this is -- this is a somewhat complicated issue here the question of who is the receipiant of the support is -- is -- is the issue. And there's a point beyond which we can't control how families function so, in some cases, the concern is the money goes to the -- to the family and the family spends it and it's not spent on care and it's not spent on the purpose that it's been provided for. Suggestions that we provide it straight to the service member raise some of the same concerns so this is just -- it's not something -- there's a point beyond which we can't manage the way human beings conduct their lives. I mean, everybody has a sugestion and usually that suggestion is a function of some personal experience or something they're familiar with . . .

And on and on he went. Did he understand the question? If so, his simple answer was, "Different people would feel differently about payment methods." Equally true is he could have pointed to Brown that anyone wrongly using monies that resulted in a veteran not getting care would be subject to prosecution for abuse and neglect. In fairness to Koch, Brown's question may have been so confusing because the monies being discussed in the hearing were not the veterans' benefits. The hearing was about payments to care-givers for the work that care-givers do.

Brown then raised that the services were said to be hard to follow, "We've heard testimony that access to resources and information for family care-givers is highly variable and there's not any standardized and ongoing training of any formal support network. How would you respond to those concerns?" That question was directed at Dr. Madhulika Agarwal who is with the VA and is the Chief Officer of Patient Care Services. Grasp the title and prepare to be frightened. Agarwal strung a lot of words together which said nothing. She ate up time and thought she'd done a great deal of it.

Dr. Madhulika Agarwal: Um. Thank you for the question, sir. Um. [Plays with mike. The same one she was using for her opening statement just minutes prior. But it ate up a second or two of time.] We certainly are making efforts in doing better outreach about our programs. We've had an initiative known as the Combat Call Center Initiative which was instituted by Secretary [James] Peake last year which reached out to about 1600 veterans who were identified in the seriously ill category during the transition process and were given information on our current program -- particularly about the care management -- case management programs and other services and also offered services at that time. The Federal Recovery Program, again, for the seriously injured veterans . . . this resource . . . has been . . . really . . . I think amplifying in helping us with . . . navigating between the VA, the DoD as well as the private sector. They have a resource directory. Which I think is a useful resource for the care-givers and the families. We have a set of liasons in the military treatment facilities and a case management system which is very knowledgable about the programs that we offer uhm. And we are working to improve and align our outreach through the internet, intranet and MyHealth.web.

Once she mentions Peake's name, she is reading from a piece of paper in front of her, it should be noted. That's shameful. In her position, she should damn well know what the VA offers. Someone should have asked that, someone should have said, "Doctor, are you unable to answer this basic question about what the VA provides without stealing long glances at your crib sheet?" Her little cheat sheet didn't even help her. It's the "Combat Veteran Call Center" -- not the "Combat Call Center." In addition, that wasn't a test program. In May of last year, that was a program. It's supposed to be up and fully running. The VA contracted to EDS who predicted in May of 2008 that the first six months (starting May 1, 2008) would see the Combat Veteran Call Center assisting "nearly 570,000 recent war time veterans." 16,000? 17,000 was the initial focus but by month six, 570,00 veterans were supposed to be served and if they weren't, the EDS didn't do the job they promised and the VA didn't provide the oversight they were supposed to. Now she should have been asked that but Little Debbie got to close up the questions so American veterans and their families suffered. The doctor was an idiot and anyone who needs a cheat sheet and still can't get the facts right doesn't just need to be left behind a grade they need to be expelled. There is no oversight at the VA when it comes to the administrators and, until there is, there will be very little improvement for veterans and their families.

Brown seemed confused by the doctor's wordy non-answer (it was confusing) and attempted to give her the benefit of the doubt.

US House Rep Henry Brown: So you basically have a website that has these services which are available --

Dr. Madhulika Agarwal (overlapping): We're currently working on that

US House Rep Henry Brown: -- and how to get those resources?

Dr. Madhulika Agarwal: We are working on it, sir. It's in -- it's in development phase.

Well Agarwal, the Iraq War is not in the "development phase" so when does the VA plan to get off its ass and gets its act together? Hmm. A website of resources. They're developing it. They're in that phase. The obvious follow up was: "What is the timeline for this project? When is this website scheduled to be up and running?" Again, the committee passed to Little Debbie Halvorson. All the thought Little Debbie put into the day took place in the morning when selecting that very bad outfit (was the necklace a faucet?) with the plunging neckline.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"Iraq's LGBT Community, Oil Minister in the spotlight, Cindy Sheehan heads to Dallas"
"Barry O's big speech"
"Dean Baker calls it"
"ralph nader, carl levin"
"Iraqi refugees"
"The House Committee on Veterans Affairs"
"LGBT rights here and . . ."
"Jimmy Carter stands strong, Cult shows their ass"
"Jimmy Carter, Richard Seymour"
"Barry O! not that popular"

Wednesday, June 03, 2009







"How do we help those who don't want to be helped?" pondered Little Debbie today as she launched into a diatribe against those veterans who, according to her, just want to be homeless. Remember those who mistakenly defend US House Rep Deborah L. Halvorson, you don't know Little Debbie. Every Congressional hearing is a Mary Kay convention for Little Debbie who appears to serve on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs for comic relief purposes only. Little Debbies are snack cakes and we don't start meal with dessert so we'll come back to it.

"I want to thank everyone today, both on the committee and our witnesses, those who are here in our audience, to be here which a lot of people in our country apparently don't want to face and that is the issue of homelessness," declared Committee Chair Bob Finer in his opening remarks (click here for his prepared remarks -- they were not read in the hearing). "And I have decided I guess and many of us here have decided, if people won't look at the homeless in general, maybe they'll look at homeless vets. And depending upon what statistics you use, it's anywhere from between 40 to 50 percent more of the homeless. So if we here and our committee can deal with the issue we'll have dealt with almost half the issue that the local communities won't have to deal with. I know that our Secretary of the VA, Mr. [Eric] Shinseki has, uh -- has, uh, taken on this battle himself also so working together we want to eliminate homeless veterans." That outlined the goals of the hearing. US House Rep Steve Buyer is the Ranking Member on the Republican side. He was not present at the start of the meeting. US House Rep Doug Lamborn filled in and gave his opening remarks -- after requesting that Buyer's prepared remarks be put into the record (here for Buyer's). Lamborn's remarks (which he read, click here) included noting, "Each night approximately 131,000 veterans, the men and women who have served our country are among the nation's homeless. While this number is alarming, we have seen a steady decrease in this number over the past few years, including a decrease of 15 percent from the 2007 estimate and 33 percent lower than 2006."

The hearing was entitled "A National Commitment to End Veterans' Homelessness" and there were four panels. The first panel was composed of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans' John Driscoll, United States Veterans Initiative's Dwight A. Radcliff Sr., Vietnam Veterans of America's Marsha Four, R.N. (she chairs the Women Veterans Committee of VVA), Manna House's James S. Fann and Veterans Village of San Diego's Phil Landis. The second panel was composed of Illinois Dept of Human Services' Dr. Carol L. Adams, New York City Dept of Homeless Services' Robert V. Hess with Roland Marte who is a veteran from the Bronx. Panel three was Columbia Center for Homelessness Prevention's Carol L. Caton and Brendan O'Flaherty. Panel four was US Dept of Veterans Affairs' George P. Basher and Peter H. Dougherty with Paul E. Smits from the same department and John M. McWilliams from the US Dept of Labor. We'll be focusing on the first panel.

"GPD is the foundation of the VA and community partnership and currently funds approximately 14,000 service beds in non-VA facilities in every state," Driscoll explained. "Under this program veterans receive a multitude of services that include housing, access to health care and dental services, substance abuse and mental health supports, personal and family counseling, education and employment assistance and access to legal aid." Driscoll wants to see the budget increased to $200 million annually. (He would also like to the see GDP system changed.) Radcliff noted that, "US VETS programs have served more than 18,000 homeless veterans with more than sixty-five perecent making successful transitions into permanent housing in the community while achieving self-sufficiency [. . .] and currently operates 727 Grant and Per Diem Transitional Housing beds in five States, making it the largest single recipient of Grant and Per Diem funding."

The number of women veterans who are homeless is rising. Four observed, "There certainly is a question of course on the actual number of homeless veterans -- it's been flucuating dramatically in the last few years. When it was reported at 250,000 level, two percent were considered females. This was rougly about 5,000. Today, even if we use the very low number VA is supplying us with -- 131,000 -- the number, the percentage, of women in that population has risen up to four to five percent, and in some areas, it's larger. So that even a conservative method of determinng this has left the number as high as [6,550]. And the VA actually is reporting that they are seeing that this is as high as eleven percent for the new homeless women veterans. This is a very vulnerable population, high incidents of past sexual trauma, rape and domestic violence. They have been used, abused and raped. They trust no one. Some of these women have sold themselves for money, been sold for sex as children, they have given away their own children. And they are encased in this total humiliation and guilt the rest of their lives." About half of her testimony was reading and about half just speaking to the committee directly. Click here for her prepared remarks. We'll come back to the issue of homeless women veterans in a moment.

US House Rep David Poe introduced Fann, noting they were both from Johnson City, Tennessee and listing some of Fann's accomplishments. He ended by noting the Traveling Wall was in Johnson City. This is the replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in DC with the names of 58,000 dead or missing US service members. There is no fee to view The Traveling Wall and it is open to all -- and there's an opening ceremony at ten tomorrow morning. I'm plugging it because it came up in the hearing and I have a very good friend who works with Rolling Thunder. The Traveling Wall will be exhibited through Sunday night in Johnson City. More information on The Traveling Wall being exhibited in Johnson City can be found in Ted Overbay's report (WJHL, TriCities -- text and video). Fann explained, "Homelessness is not just a problem among middle-age and elderly veterans. Younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are now showing up in our homeless shelters. At this time we have more than twenty men on our waiting list in Manna house. Ten of those men are veterans, four fought in Iraq. Mental illness, especially post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuses, have long been seen as the major causes of homelessness among our veterans. While those are certainly factors, they are not the only reasons veterans are left homeless. Affordable housing, medical care, mental health counseling, case management and education/employment assistance to transfer their military jobs into marketable civilian positions need to be expanded in an aggressive outreach program for our veterans." Phil Landis explained, "[Veterans Village of San Diego] has operated the Veteran Only Winter Shelter for the city each year of operation. This year's shelter program ended on April 2, 2009 and over 400, non-duplicated Social Security numbers of veterans were recorded. What does this mean? The issue of homeless veterans is not going away and may in fact be growing."

US House Rep Jerry McNerney: I don't know where to begin. The testimony was fairly stark and I appreciate your honesty. I appreciate your hard work. One of the themes that was recurring was that the per diem needs to be increased and I think every single person on the panel said that much so we'll be looking at how to do that. A couple of things that also stuck out. Mr. Radcliff, you -- I'd like to ask how you advertise your programs and -- and maybe everyone on the panel can answer this -- and how widely known are the programs available to homeless vets? If you go out to a place where you see homeless vets, do they know what's available to them? How widely known is that, how easily can we get to them?

Dwight Radcliff: As you know, they do not typically. In fact one of the dilemmas is that the returning veteran has no idea of this network of service. Marketing is a huge issue. And -- and there's really not a lot of money to pay for marketing. We -- we try to connect with the veteran based upon when there's an active crisis that is happening. Typically, it's a jail or it's a court hearing or it's a substance abuse dilemma or -- we're seeing the veteran during active crisis. Our marketing is very limited. We don't -- we don't -- we're typically -- as I mentioned before -- we're -- we're barely thriving. We're barely surviving. Let alone, not thriving as community based organizations. And we're -- we're used to living there. We're on the edge.

US House Rep Jerry McNerney: So how -- how do you get in touch with a veteran that's having a crisis? The police contact you?

Dwight Radcliff: We -- we -- we usually work with government entities to -- to be referred veterans, yes. In this case, we would have veterans who are in crisis, who are in jail -- we're actually doing out reach now where we're seeing those veterans. We're referred -- local VA have homeless centers where veterans are referred to different programs depending on the veterans' needs. We do have a 1-800 number and we try to advertise that through street outreach.

We'll stop there to note Dwight Radcliff never gave the 1-800 number and, point of fact, neither does the website, not even on "Contact Us." If you've got a 1-800 number it should be at the top of your website.

Marsha Four: I think one of the real integral parts of this is there is a connection between the VA and the cities and muncipalities, the government entity under which these programs fall. And that we also as non-profits have a direct connection with those at the city level who are dealing with social services and their address of the homeless. Most social service areas/arenas do not know the benefits and entitlements for veterans. They don't what to do with the veterans and they certainly don't know how the VA works. That's one major thrust that's very important. I also see the VA enhancing the outreach of its programs and grant per diem by communicating with other VAs and other VISNs on what programs are available for homeless. In the case of special needs grants, I'll mention the women's program that the VA actually has an intranet communication with other and all mental health directors and -- uh, all the directors of the mental health and domiciliary programs within the VA so that their homeless outreach team members know of specific specialized programs for veterans who are homeless.

John Driscoll: I'd like to add if I could.

US House Rep Jerry McNerney: Sure.

John Driscoll: When I talk about the VA community organization partnership -- and I've seen this develop over ten years, it's pretty incredible. Ten years ago, there were vet centers who would refer walks ins to community resources that existed at that time. But that number has increased dramatically over the last ten years. The VA vet centers, every VA medical center, has a homeless liason who knows who in their communities provide transitional housing or lesser services. What is missing in my estimation -- because once you've reached out and asked for help there are referral systems that will get them to the organizations that can help them. What's missing in my mind is the person who realizes he's got stressors at work, he doesn't know what to do. And so the idea of public service announcements, we see all these advertisements about join the army and join the marines and so obviously there can be federal dollars spent to put out public announcements and I believe that's what's missing. If I'm marginal and I know I've got stressors but I'm not sure who to turn to it would be nice to see a message saying "No matter what the need, you've earned this right, call this number" and then the VA call center resource takes over and they're putting that together now and I meant to mention it in my testimony. That's a tremendous resource.

Phil Landis: If the chairman will allow?

Committee Chair Bob Finer: Mr. Landis.

Phil Landis: Veterans Village truly has become a community resource -- of course we've been working at this for a very long time. One of our partners and we think in terms of the VA in San Diego as a partner truly with us works with us on a daily basis. The VA represenative from the hospital actually has an office in our facility and is there on a weekly basis. Outreach, outreach, outreach. It really falls to us as the providers of the services to create the avenues within the community. San Diego has created something called the United Veterans Council. United Veterans Council is a group of all of the service providers, all of the veterans organizations within San Diego that meet on a monthly basis. And, of course, our organization outreach is through them as well to the homeless community. If you're a veteran and you live in San Diego and you're homeless or you're about to become homeless, I guarantee you, you know about our organization. And then we are referred -- we have referrals from every concievable avenue in the community to our organization as well.

Leaping ahead to an awkward moment when an obvious question was asked. ("Obvious question" is not meant as an insult to the Republican Congress member who asked it. It should have been asked.)

Doug Lamborn: Now can I assume that all of you have seperate facilities for homeless women veterans?

Dwight Radcliff: We don't necessarily have seperate facitilities but they are encompassed in our -- in our -- in some of our programs. And some -- depending on the stage, you know, transitional or long term housing, often times you'll see women veterans in a co-ed facility. Uh -- uh, early on, when they're going through the treatment process, you probably want to seperate the women veterans. Their -- their needs are unique and the resources are unique. So we do have female veterans programs that are -- that are both at permanent housing and programatically.

Marsha Four: I believe, sir, that there are very few programs in the country that are set up and designed specifically for homeless women veterans that are seperate. One of the problems that we're run into in a mixed gender setting is sort of two-fold. One the women veterans do not have the opportunity to actually be in a seperate group therapy environment because there are many issues that they simply will not divulge in mixed gender populations so those issues are never attended to. The other is that we believe, in a program, you need to focus on yourself and this is the time and place to do your issue, your deal. In a mixed gender setting, let's say, interfering factors. Relationships are one of them. Many of the veterans too come from the streets so there's a lot of street behavior going on. Some of the women -- and men -- but some of the women have participated in prostitution and so there's a difficult setting for any of them to actually focus on themselves without having all these other stressors come into play. So we feel that's an important issue.

April 23rd, the House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs which US House Rep John Hall chaired. On the first panel, Disabled American Veterans' John Wilson explained that some veterans were not getting the treatment they needed because their injuries were not being properly rated as combat injuries and they were being forced to dance through hoops in order to prove that the injuries received while serving in a war zone were combat injuries. He testified to the following in that hearing:

The female soldiers who accompany male troops on patrols to conduct house-to-house searches are known as Team Lioness, and have proved to be invaluable. Their presence not only helps calm women and children, but Team Lioness troops are also able to conduct searches of the women, without violating cultural strictures. Against official policy, and at that time without the training given to their male counterparts, and with a firm commitment to serve as needed, these dedicated young women have been drawn onto the frontlines in some of the most violent counterinsurgency battles in Iraq.
Independent Lens, an Emmy award-winning independent film series on PBS, documented their work in a film titled Lioness which profiled five women who saw action in Iraq's Sunni Triangle during 2003 and 2004. As members of the US Army's 1st Engineer Battalion, Shannon Morgan, Rebecca Nava, Kate Pendry Guttormsen, Anastasia Breslow and Ranie Ruthig were sent to Iraq to provide supplies and logistical support to their male colleagues. Not trained for combat duty, the women unexpectedly became involved with fighting in the streets of Ramadi. These women were part of a unit, made up of approsimately 20 women, who went out on combat missions in Iraq. Female soldiers in the Army and Marines continue to perform Lioness work in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I would like to highlight the issues faced by Rebecca Nava as she seeks recognition of her combat experience and subsequent benefits for resulting disabilities. Then US Army Specialist Nava was the Supply Clerk for the 1st Engineering Battalion in Iraq. In conversations with her and as seen in the film Lioness, she recounts several incidents. Two of those incidents are noted in my testimony today.
The first is the roll-over accident of a 5-ton truck that was part of a convoy to Baghdad. In this accident, the driver was attempting to catcuh up with the rest of the convoy but in doing so lost control of the vehicle. The five ton truck swerved off the road and rolled over, killing a Sergeant who was sitting next to her, and severely injuring several others. Specialist Nava was caught in the wreckage. She had to pulled through the fractured windshield of the vehicle. While not severly injured in the accident, she did suffer a permanent spinal injury.
Another incident occurred wherein she was temporarily attached to a Marine unit and her job for this mission was to provide Lioness support for any Iraqi women and children the unit contacted. It was a routine mission patrolling the streets of Ramadi. Before she knew it, the situation erupted into chaos as they came under enemy fire. She had no choice but to fight alongside her male counterparts to suppress the enemy. No one cared that she was a female -- nor did they care that she had a Supply MOS -- their lives were all on the line -- she opened fire. The enemy was taken out. During this fire fight she also made use of her combat lifesaver skills and provided medical aid to several injured personnel.
This and other missions resonate with her to this day. When she filed a claim with the VA, she was confronted with disbelief about her combat role in Iraq as part of Team Lioness. Specialist Nava filed a claim for service connection for hearing loss and tinnitus but was told that she did not qualify because of her logistics career field. Since she does not have a Combat Action Badge, she cannot easily prove that the combat missions occurred which impacted her hearing.

In today's hearing US House Rep Hall declared, "I just want to mention that because approximately 45% of homeless veterans -- in some instances higher from your experiences -- have mental illnesses that I have introduced legislation to try to alleviate the burdens currently placed on veterans trying to gain disability benefits particularly for PTSD and the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs will be marking up this legislation, The Combat PTSD Act HR 952, later on this afternoon, to try to make it automatic that a man or woman who serves in uniform and subsquently at any time after returning home has a diagnosis by a psychiatrist or a doctor that they do in fact have the symptoms that compose a PTSD diagnosis will automatically be eligible not just for treatment, but for compensation and not have to connect it to a particular incident, or a particular attack, or a particular battle or a particular medal. We know that the conflits we are facing today are different than the ones in the past and I think that the VA and the country should be of the attitude that our veterans have done enough and shouldn't have to prove that they're suffering and that they're traumatized."

Now for snack time.

Debbie: During our break, I held several roundtables and one of them I held was not only with veterans' assistance uh not for profits or people that helped but also my area agencies that are for aging and people that helped with homelessness in general and they all want to help. They want -- and some of the problems they see are the veterans that don't want to be helped. They can't get them to come into their places, their shelters, they want to be homeless, they don't trust anybody. How do we help those who don't want to be helped.

"How do we help those who don't want to be helped?" Ah. A question Little Debbie's teachers struggled with -- and never found the answer to. Now Little Debbie is in Congress and wasting everyone's time with myths about homeless veterans wanting to be homeless. "They want to be homeless," she declared. Sounding like a Republican in blame-the-victim mode.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"Margaret Hassan, landmines, US troops still headed to Iraq"
"Sloppy and insulting, the Times 'covers' Iraq"
"stinky gordon brown stands alone"
"Brian Montopoli and Drew Barrymore"
"Richard Wolffe, non-writer, butt kisser supreme"
"Barack spits on the left and feeds right-wing myths"
"Sunsara Taylor, ACLU"
"Isaac Chotiner on Arianna, me on Katty-van-van"
"Attacks on Carter, Sunsara Taylor, Iraq"
"Time running out"

Tuesday, June 02, 2009












Today in Baghdad, Al Jazeera reports Judge Assaad al-Moussawi declared, "Ali Lutfi Jassar is sentenced to life for participating in the killing and kidnapping of Margaret Hassan, and of attempting to blackmail her family." Margaret Hassan was with the NGO CARE International and worked in Iraq (where she held citizenship) for years before the start of the illegal war. She was kidnapped October 19, 2004 in Baghdad. She was brutally murdered. We last noted her death in the December 24, 2008 snapshot. That was when alleged kidnappers Ali Lutfi Jassar al-Rawi and Manif Slih were supposed to stand trial and the family waited to see what happened while issuing a statement:Since Margaret's death we have spent the last four years trying to find her remains. We have sought justice and truth, and have never given up. We want to bring her home and give her a Christian burial with the respect she deserves. This was a promise made to her by her husband (Tahseen Ali Hassan), and together with our family, he has never given up hope of fulfiling that promise. [. . .] One of these men was trying to blackmail the British Government and our family in exchange for the return of Margaret's remains. He demanded money from us, and a safe haven from the British Government in the UK for his family. [. . .] We have begged them to send an Embassy official to the trial to represent our sister Margaret. They feel unable to do so because of the security situation. We do not understand this. [. . .] Mr Brown said just this week that the British Government has achieved all its goals and the security situation in Iraq is much improved.The December trial quickly adjourned. Sunday Sam Marsden (PA via Independent of London) quoted Margaret's sister Deidre Fitzsimons stating, "If he's put in prison, if he knows he's got a life sentence, maybe he will decide to tell us where her remains are. I don't belive we are ever going to get justice for my sister. But we would like her to be buried here because my family has suffered over the past four-and-a-half years. We have spent all our time trying to find her remains. We want some peace in our lives." David Brown (Times of London) noted this morning, "The mystery surrounding the location of her grave has compounded the anguish of Mrs Hassan's three sisters, her brother and their extended families." Their questions were not answered in the hearing. Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) explains Ali Lutfi Jassar received a life sentence for "kidnapping, extortion and murder". For those who think that sentence means something, the Belfast Telegraph reminds, "Another man was also jailed for life in 2006 for aiding and abetting the kidnappers, but his sentence was reduced on appeal." That man was Mustafa Mohammed Salman al-Jabouri. The reaction of Iraqis to the sentencing of Steven D. Green for his War Crimes which included taking part in the gang-raping and murdering 14-year-old Iraqi Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, murdering her parents and five-year-old sister is also worth remembering. Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) quoted Mahdi Obaid Janabi ("an elder of the Janabi tribe") stating that pressure should be put on the US to force a change from life sentence to the death penalty for Green. Sheik Fahil al-Janabi told Marc Santora and Suadad al-Salhy (New York Times) that the life sentence "is not enough". Sami al-Jumaili and Habaib al-Zubaidy (Reuters) quoted Abeer's uncle Raad Yusuf stating, "It's a real shock. That court decision is a crime -- almost worse than the soldier's crime." Habib al-Zubaidy (Reuters) noted a mechanic from Abeer's home time, Ahmed Samir stating, "What the American soldier did is a terrorist act and he deserves execution. The court has not delivered justice. If I killed an American girl, the American court would have executed me." CNN quoted Sahwa leader Mustafa Kamel Shabib al-Jaoburi stating, "He raped a girl and killed an entire family, and he got only life in prison. . . . This is an unjust trial. We demand a new trial." There is no outcry in Iraq that Ali Lutfi Jassar received too light a sentence.

The Irish Times quotes an e-mail Jassar was convicted of sending to the British embassy, "I am one of the people who participated in the operation of kidnapping and executing Margeret Hassan. I have with me all the evidence proving this. Therefore I request securing of a channel of contact with the husband of Margaret, Tashin Hassan, or with the British government in order that I can give you the true story of her killing. So I can pass on to you her corpse which I still have in my possession. Therefore I request your speedy reply as soon as possible." BBC New's Nicholas Witchell states, "The leaders of this plot have never been found. Some of their names are known but they have never been traced. [Ali Lutfi Jassar] told the judges he had nothing at all to do with the murder. He said confessions had been wrought from him through torture." Iraqi 'justice' does have a reputation of beating 'confessions' out of prisoners. In response to the sentence, the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office issued the following:

John Tucknott, the Charge d'affaires in Baghdad, welcomed news of the sentencing of Ali Lutfi Jassar Al Rawi for his part in the kidnap and murder of Margaret Hassan on Tuesday 2 June. He said:
'I welcome the news that Ali Lutfi Jassar Al Rawi has today been brought to justice by the Iraqi authorities for the role he played in the kidnap and murder of Margaret Hassan. Our thoughts are with Margaret Hassan's family for the suffering they continue to endure.
We hope that this may be a step further to finding the other people responsible for this dreadful crime, and to finding Margaret's body. We will continue to work with the Iraqi authorities as they continue their investigation, and press them to follow up all possible aspects. We urge anyone with information on this crime to please come forward.'

Xinhua notes, "At the age of 27, she married Tahseen Ali Hassan, a 29-year-oldIraqi student of engineering in the United Kingdom. She moved to Iraq with him in 1972 and became Iraqi citizen. She spent the rest of her life in the country." Antony Loyd (Times of London) explains, "The Dublin-born Roman Catholic, who had joint British, Iraqi and Irish nationality, we married to an Iraqi and had lived in Iraq for 30 years." Margaret held triple citizenship: British, Iraqi and Irish. In one of last year's most read pieces at the Independent of London, Robert Fisk remembered:

It was Margaret who took leukaemia medicines donated by readers of The Independent to the child cancer victims of Iraq back in 1998 after we discovered that hundreds of infants were dying in those areas where Western forces used depleted uranium munitions in the 1991 Gulf War. She was a proverbial tower of strength, and it was she -- and she alone -- who managed to persuade Saddam Hussein's bureaucrats to let us bring the medicine into Iraq. The United Nations sanctions authorities had been our first hurdle, Saddam Hussein our second. It is all history. Like Margaret, all the children died.

Meanwhile Alsumaria reports the Parliament ended its session today with the Speaker (Ayad al-Samarri) hurling charges at Kuwait and some MPs calling for Kuwait "to pay financial allocations". Kuwait's MPs must have felt their ears burning because AFP reports that they had Iraq on their mind as well and called on their government to discontinue reparations payments and MP Falah al-Sawwag added, "If this is how Iraqi MPs deal with their neighbor Kuwait, I think we should recall the Kuwaiti ambassador from Baghdad." had Iraq on their mind, Marc Lynch (Foreign Policy) reports:

While it hasn't received much attention, Iraq's relations with two key Arab Gulf states have jumped the tracks over the last week. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has publicly declared that he has given up on trying to reconcile with the Saudis. Meanwhile, Iraq and the Kuwaitis are in an increasingly nasty spat over the question of compensation claims dating back to the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. It's gotten to the point that a majority of the members of the Iraqi Parliament are demanding that Kuwait pay compensation to Iraq for allowing U.S. troops to invade Iraq in 1991! This is a time for American diplomacy to kick into high gear and try to prevent this from getting out of hand, since U.S. plans to withdraw from Iraq depend at least in part on establishing a sustainable regional security architecture.

Al Jazeera explains some MPs in Kuwait staged a walk out and "Some of the MPs who walked out also protested against the failure by two of their four female colleagues to cover their heads as required by Islamic rules." Meanwhile, ISRIA notes Kuwait's "Foreign Undersecretary Khaled al-Jarallah said Kuwait regretted the escalatory language of some media outlets vis-a-vis the State of Kuwait, charging it with seeking to harm Iraq, at a time it has exerted enormous efforts at various levels to support the brotherly Iraq and helping it rejoin the international community."

In other political news, the Kurdistan Regional Government holds their elections July 25th. They, like Kirkuk, did not participate in the January 31st elections. Their elections will be for the country's Parliament as well as to determine the KRG's president. AFP reports that the al-Amal ("Hope") candidates have been banned from the list by "judicial authorities in Baghdad" because they allegedly have ties to the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) which is labeled as a terrorist organization by the European Union, Turkey, the US and Nouri al-Maliki among others. The news comes on the same day the KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani declared of the ongoing PKK ceasefire, "We believe extending the ceasefire serves as an important step towards peace and stability in the area. At the same time, it is in the interest of all that we continue to work towards a solution in a peaceful way, especially after the recent positive steps taken by Turkey." Whether al-Amal is associated with the PKK or not, the decision by Baghdad could enflame tensions. This follows Mohammed Abbas (Reuters) report yesterday where the KRG's Oil Minister, Ashtia Hawrami, stated the KRG must be involved in the resolution of who has control over the oil-rich Kirkuk (the KRG or the central government) and that the KRG would not accept any oil deals for Kirkuk signed by al-Maliki's government: "I will say no company will sign an agreement without coming to the KRG. They have to sit down with us and say 'Is this OK?'. If I am not party to the agreement up front, I don't know what it is."

Meanwhile in other news, AFP reports that the Front of Jihad and Change announced they had chosen Sheikh Hareth al-Dhari for their spokesperson: "We will allow Dahri to speak on our behalf on political issues and to represent us . . . to defend the blood of our martyrs."

Turning to US political offices for a correction to yesterday's snapshot which noted LA City Council member Bill Rosendahl's conversation with Lila Garrett on KPFK's Connect the Dots with Lila Garrett and mentioned his chief of staff whose last name was mispelled: His name is Mike Bonin. My apologies.

Over the weekend, Alsumaria noted that Jalal Talabani, the president of Iraq, met the US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill for the first time Friday. For the first time. Remember Hill's Senate hearing? Refer to 3/26 and 3/29 snapshots. Chris Hill, as soon as he was confirmed, was getting on the next flight to Iraq and getting down to work! Now the next flight ended up being the next one he wanted to catch, and that ended up three days after he was confirmed. April 21st he was confirmed. May 30th, over thirty days later, he finally meets face-to-face with the president of Iraq.

The meeting was allowed to linger, just like al-Maliki's allowed to let the Sahwa situation linger by refusing to bring them into the government forces. Regarding tensions on the ground, Matt Brown files this report for PM (Australia's ABC -- link has text and audio):ABU MOHAMMED: The problem, they are in a state of: I don't know who's coming next to get me. Is it the militia? Is it the insurgents? Is it the American?MATT BROWN: Abu Mohammed is a pseudonym for a young man I met in eastern Sydney. While the latest car bombing won't even make the news here, Abu Mohammed is watching anxiously every day. He's a member of one of Iraq's most famous Sunni tribes. His family still lives in Al-Doura, just south of central Baghdad, on the edge of an area once dubbed the triangle of death. [. . .] As a Sunni Muslim, Abu Mohammad fears the Shiite clerics and their political parties which now run the country. His family suffered at the hands of the Shiite militia which dominates the Government's security services when his brother was detained in 2007. ABU MOHAMMED: They just took him from the street basically, based on his identity. For a week we didn't know what's happened and then we found out it was the militia. He ended up in a Government prison, Iraqi Government prison.He's been subject to a lot of torture. He went there 24 years old; he came out looking, after one year and a half, as if he is 44 years old. MATT BROWN: What's that left you feeling about the Government and who's running it? ABU MOHAMMED: They don't care about the people, 100 per cent, you know what I mean? I think they're driven by revenge. MATT BROWN: In the last two years those forces have been reined in. The surge in American troops which began in 2007 was also crucial to lowering levels of violence. But equally important was the American decision to turn enemies into allies. They joined forces with local Sunni tribal leaders who were threatened by the growing power of more radical Sunnis in groups like Al Qaeda in Iraq. They formed Al-Sahwa - awakening councils. They raised militias called the Sons of Iraq. Some were former insurgents but now they were on the American payroll.

Meanwhile, he's got to cut loose, footlose. Gen Ray Odierno tried not to dance for Washington. Those days are over. Tim Cocks (Reuters) reports that while in Samarra with Odierno today, the general stated that "U.S. combat forces will vacate all Iraqi cities on schedule by the end of this month". Visions of Dancing With The Stars in his head, Tim Cocks joins Odierno in a box step and forgets reality. From the April 27th snapshot: "Rod Nordland (New York Times) broke that story in today's paper and noted that Iraq and the US are going to focus on Mosul in talks about US troops remaining in some Iraqi cities. Nordland reveals they will remain in Baghdad (he says 'parts of Baghdad' -- that means they will be in Baghdad and Baghdad is a city) and that Camp Victory ['Camps Victory, Liberty, Striker and Slayer, plus the prison known as Camp Cropper'] and 'Camp Prosperity' will not be closed or turned over to Iraq according to Iraqi Maj Gen Muhammad al-Askari. The SOFA 'requires' that they be closed or turned over but al-Askari says they're making exceptions even though the SOFA 'requires' otherwise. For the mammoth Camp Victory, it is in Baghdad and out of Baghdad, for example, so al-Askari says they consider it out of Baghdad." They're not leaving Baghdad, they've got a waiver. There's a difference. And May 30th, the paper's Campbell Robertson offers "U.S. Soldier And 11 Iraqis Die in Attacks" which offered this of the June 30th 'deadline': "But Mosul is in many ways an exception to that deadline. An enormous American base on the edge of Mosul -- a city that has remained a redoubt for the insurgency even as attacks have decreased substantially around the rest of Iraq -- will remain open." Yeah, Tim Cocks leaves out all of that. But doesn't he sound passionate serenading Ray Odierno?

It's your heat that makes me warm Makes me climb on you like a tree And I don't need no fancy dancing When you bend over me We'll be like two lazy sunbathers Swaying palm trees against the sky And I beg you when you love me Look me in the eyes

Look Tim in the eyes, Ray, when you love him, look him in the eyes. (Lyrics from Carly Simon's "Look Me In The Eyes" which first appeared on Playing Possum.)

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"The (brief and partial) confessions of Dick Cheney"
"May deadliest month of the year for US service members in Iraq"
"Maya Angelou"
"The silence on Dr. George Tiller"
"thoughts on abortion rights"
"Dr. Tiller"
"Isaiah, art and Third"
"Disgusted Monday"
"Barbara Boxer and Center for Reproductive Rights"
"Ginia Bellafante Needs To Be Fired"
"Law & Disorder, Chris Hedges, Isaiah, Third"
"Barack and Bush, two of a kind"

Monday, June 01, 2009







We're going to start with an exchange broadcast today on KPFK's Connect the Dots with Lila Garrett between Garrett and LA City Council member Bill Rosendahl and the topic was marriage equality:

Bill Rosendahl: . . . we're not equal in America today. We're not equal anywhere on the earth. In fact, I put a motion in last week on the council about the outrage in going on Iraq right now. While we have 130,000 troops there, spending billions of dollars, killing a lot of local people, that gay people are being round up and murdered. Over 600 have been documented and we're there watching it happen. And it's just outrageous and our president should get up and show some real leadership and, frankly, say, "Look, we're in Iraq to create freedom there and democracy and gay people are not going to be any more murdered just because they're gay." And that's what's going on -- tortured and murdered. And so, we suffer as gay people all over the planet. We have a better life here in American and in the west than a lot of gay people have in other parts of the planet. They're literally killed for their realities but here in the States we still don't have our basic civil rights. I mean, when is our president going to get up and talk about Don't Ask, Don't Tell? Our people are in the military. They're thrown out of the military. He promised us that, I'm expecting real leadership out of him. And I must say I am disappointed. He has not taken the leadership seriously enough. I don't like what he's doing in Afghanistan and Pakistan, I don't like what he's continuing to do in Iraq. He better not get to boisterous about North Korea and Iran. You know, he should focus on our infrastructure, our education and bring peace to the planet, not more imperial war.

Lila Garrett: Wait a minute. 600 gay people were murdered? By whom?

Bill Rosendahl: 600 gay people in Iraq were murdered by --

Lila Garrett: By?

Bill Rosendahl: -- family and by folks within the militia who see gay people out in the street being more public. They round us up and then they kill us. And then there's an incredible torture mechanism that they do which I don't really want to say on the air but it's just disgusting how they end up putting us to death and to know about it from international gay and lesbian groups and to know our government knows it's going on and has said nothing about it, to me, is outrageous and I want our president to show some real leadership on this.

Lila Garrett: Yeah, but I really have to know, these 600 murdered people, you say by families and militia, are you talking about the American militia

Bill Rosendahl: No. No, no, no. No, I'm talking about several, what I consider, perversions of the Koran. There are people who believe in Mohammad that also believe to be gay is wrong and that 'honor' murders can take place. So some of it is literally families killing their own. And others are groups that are just part of the community who single out young gay men because they figure they are gay and kill them. They literally kill us.

Lila Garrett: Are you saying, that this is happening in Iraq or is happening in Iran?

Bill Rosendahl: This is happening in Iraq as we're talking right now, Lila.

Lila Garrett: By Iraqis?

Bill Rosendahl: By Iraqis.

Lila Garrett: And the United States is not stopping it?

Bill Rosendahl: It is not stopping it.

Lila Garrett: This is unbelievable.

Bill Rosendahl: It is unbelievable. It's outrageous. It is a living hell for my folks over there.

Lila Garrett: I don't understand why this isn't the story in the United States.

Bill Rosendahl: Well because the American media is so perverted. They spend all this time about Miss America and all that at the same time this is going on over there. They spend more time on trivia here than they do on real stories. They spent some quality time on that young lady that was in Iran that was arrested as a spy who was a reporter. But this particular issue has gotten no press, mainstream press, it has gotten a lot of other press and there's a lot of e-mails that are circulated and the gay and lesbian international groups have documented it, have gone over there and are the ones who first brought it to my attention. And that's why I brought it to the attention of my colleagues on the City Council and we unanimously passed a resolution. In fact, my chief of staff Mike Bonahma was with the vice president of the United States the next day, Joe Biden, because he was one of the early Obama supporters, and mentioned it to him, handed him the resolution and as Biden left the room, he said, "I'll get back to you on it." So hopefully our president will show real leadership and show an outrage to this.

Lila Garrett: Let's not hold our breath before Obama shows real leadership.

Bill Rosendahl: I know.

Lila Garrett: I want to get back to these 600 gay people that have been murdered. By the Iraqis -- by whom among the Iraqis? By the Sunnis?

Bill Rosendahl: No, no, no. I'm talking about family. I'm talking about just the militias and the insurgents in general. They consider this [being gay] wrong and a murderous act and they literally kill us. And when the numbers started to become hundreds -- and now it's over 600 documented -- that's when it was brought to my attention. In fact, one of the international leaders of the gay group read a letter that was sent to him by a 25-year-old gay man who was in that threatened position. So we're trying to raise the awareness out there, the public awareness, and you're helping with that, Lila, by putting it on your show.

As noted May 15th, "Ruben Vives (Los Angeles Times) reports that the Los Angeles City Council unanimously voted Wednesday to approve Council Rep Bill Rosendahl's 'resolution calling for federal legislation urging the Iraqi government to prevent the persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people'." Lila noted that the segment was taped ahead of time so, for perspective, the resolution passed May 15th. This year, the targeting's been noted here first in more on the issue, you can see this snapshot, this entry and the roundtable Friday night ["Roundtable on Iraq," "Roundtabling Iraq," "the roundtable," "Iraq," "Iraq in the Kitchen," "Roundtable on Iraq," "Talking Iraq," "Iraq," "Talking Iraq roundtable" and "Iraq roundtable"] That's going back to the start of April and it is not true that the MSM has ignored it. They could do a lot more but they have covered it and where there has been no amplification is in Panhandle Media which appears to feel it's a 'niche' story to be left to the LGBT media. In April, Wisam Mohammed and Khalid al-Ansary (Reuters) and Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN), the Dallas Morning News, UPI and AFP reported on it. Michael Riley (Denver Post) covered the story and covered US House Rep Jared Polis' work on the issue (which included visiting Iraq), PDF format warning, click here for his letter to Patricia A. Butenis. Polis is quoted at his website stating, "The United States should not tolerate human rights violations of nay kind, especially by a government that Americans spend billions of taxpayer dollars each year supporting. Hopefully my trip and letters to US and Iraqi officials will help bring international attention and investigation to this terrible situation and bring an end to any such offenses." For the New York Times, Timothy Williams and Tareq Maher's "Iraq's Newly Open Gays Face Scorn and Murder" covered the topic. BBC News offered "Fears over Iraq gay killing spate." The Denver Post offered an editorial entitled "Killing of gay Iraqis shouldn't be ignored: We applaud Rep. Jared Polis for his efforts last week to shine the spotlight on the killings of homosexuals in Iraq," Nigel Morris offered "Iraqi leaders attacked over spate of homophobic murders" (Independent of London), the Telegraph of London covers the issue here. Neal Broverman (The Advocate), Jessica Green (UK's Pink News), and Doug Ireland
covered it (here's one report by Ireland at GayCityNews -- he's filed more than one report), AFP reported on it again when signs went up throughout Sadr City with statements such as "We will punish you, perverts" and "We will get you, puppies" (puppies is slang for gay men in Iraq) and Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reported on that as well. Chris Johnson offered "Polis seeks to aid Iraqis: Says gays 'fear for their life and limb' after fact-finding trip to Baghdad" (Washington Blade), Killian Melloy (The Edge -- this is the April 2nd story that contains the State Dept stating it's not happening -- the denial) and [PDF formart warning] the April 15th "Iraq Status Report" by the US State Dept notes the killings. Amnesty International weighed in as did the International Gay and lesiban Human Rights Campaign. Jim Muir (BBC News -- text and video) reported on the targeting and the attacks. UK Gay News covered it, last week ABC News offered Mazin Faiq's "Tortured and Killed in Iraq for Being Gay" Chicago Pride and UPI covered the latest deaths last week. And AFP and Jessica Green (UK's Pink News) covered the public statement from Moqtada al-Sadr about how they needed to be "eradicated" for "depravity" and he thinks they can be 'taught' not to be gay. As for the technique, Bill Rosendahl didn't want to discuss on air Doug Ireland (ZNet) reported on that in May:

As the murder campaign targeting Iraqi gays intensifies, a leading Arabic television network last week revealed the use of a horrifying new form of lethal torture against Iraqi gay men -- anti-gay Shiite death squads are sealing their anuses with a powerful glue, then inducing diarrhea, which leads to a painful and agonizing death. The use of this stomach-turning new torture was first reported by the Al Arabiya network, which is headquartered in the United Arab Emirates and was alerted to the story by a leading Iraqi feminist and human rights activist.Yanar Mohammed, president of the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), told Al Arabiya that the torture substance "is an Iranian-manufactured glue that, if applied to the skin, sticks to it and can only be removed by surgery. After they glue the anuses of homosexuals, they give them a drink that causes diarrhea. Since the anus is closed, the diarrhea causes death. Videos of this form of torture are being distributed on mobile telephones in Iraq." Al Arabiya said its reporter confirmed the use of this anal torture by "visiting the Baghdad morgue in Bab-al-Moazaam in central Baghdad, where Neman Mohsen, the medical examiner, confirmed they have the bodies of seven homosexuals in the morgue. He said, 'We were not able to identify the culprits, who dumped the bodies in front of the morgue and fled without being seen.'" A two-person team from Human Rights Watch (HRW) currently in Iraq to investigate persecution of LGBT people has also confirmed the use of this form of torture. In a widely-circulated email from Iraq, the head of HRW's LGBT desk, Scott Long, said he and his colleague had gathered evidence which confirms the Al Arabiya report and that HRW would make its own detailed report after the organization's two staffers return to the United States next week.

Over the weekend, Alsumaria reminded, "After the US administration agreed to publish photos of Iraqi detainees' torture in US prisons, US President Barack Obama reversed the decision and asked a federal appeals court to block the publication of images showing detainee abuse, citing concern it could incite violence in Iraq and Afghanistan." On the torture photos, Diane Bartz and Philip Barbara (Reuters) report that Antonio Taguba states he did not tell the Telegraph that he had seen the photos that Barack is refusing to release. Jeremy Scahill explains Taguba saw another set. The torture continues under Barack Obama as WBAI's Law and Disorder noted today when co-hosts Michael Ratner and Michael Smith spoke with Jeremey Scahill (Heidi Boghosian and Dahlia Hashad also co-host the program)

Jeremy Scahill: I think that one of the clearest pieces of evidence that we have that a prosecution, a criminal prosecution of those that authorized the torture, ordered the torture and carried it out would be the best preventative measure from this happening again would be is the fact that torture is continuing right now at Guantanamo under Barack Obama of course Michael Ratner has been at the forefront of litigating the illegality of Guantanamo and defending prisoners there -- I write about Michael in this article -- but the point here is that Obama on January 22nd issued an Executive Order saying that Guantanamo would be closed in a year futhermore he said that the United States will respect the Geneva Conventions particularly Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions that would prohibit the abuse of prisoners in US custody. What we know now is that not only are there -- is there systematic torture continuing to happen at Guantanamo but that Obama -- and this is what my article is about -- is continuing to allow the use of a notorious military police unit at Guantanamo known as the Immediate Reaction Force -- the IRF. This force is so notorius that lawyers representing Guantanamo detainees have created a new lexicon or language to describe the operations of this force. They say that they're IRF-ing prisoners or prisoners are being IRF-ed up by them. In short, this is a riot type squad that comes in with what Clive Stafford Smith describes as Darth Vader outfits. They come into a cell five men deep, they douse prisoners in chemicals. Each of the five thugs sent in there is assigned to a different body part of the prisoner -- the head, the right arm, the left arm, the right leg, the left leg -- and there job is to "subdue resitve or combative prisoners." What I found in my investigation is that this thug squad -- Michael, you've called them the Black Shirts of Guantanamo --

Michael Ratner: I've called them the Black Shirts of Guantanamo, Jeremy, taken from your original book, when I always made a distinction between US fascism and German because I said we don't have people on the street beating people up and you said, 'Oh no, Michael, we got Blackwater Black Shirts.' And these IRF guys, Immediate Reaction Force people, those guys are the Black Shirts of Guantanamo. There's no --

Jeremy Scahill: They're being used to punish people. This is not about stopping a prisoner from stabbing a guard, this is not about stopping a riot in a prison. What we found is that prisoners who take an extra styrofoam cup after a meal and keep it in their cell as some psychological form of comfort -- that they have some other possession in their cell -- they, the IRF teams, are called in and they beat them to a pulp. Among the tactics they use, they put prisoners' heads in toilets and then flush the toilet repeatedly. They did that to a British resident named Omar Deghayes who is one of the key in the Spanish investigation. They have smeared feces from another prisoner on the face of other prisoners. A man who is being represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights -- this was after Obama's inauguration -- was doused in chemicals, beaten and then had one of these IRF team members urinate on his head as part of the "displinary measures" taken. This force, from the lawyers I've talked to, is entirely illegal in terms of the actions it's taking under international law and under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

"This is still continuing under Obama and I think that's the point that's most important," says Scahill who ties the refusal to prosecute in with the continuation. Chris Hedges was also on the program. Mike may note that tonight. We'll link to Mike tomorrow if he does or note it here on our own. Hedges, Scahill, Sister Dianna Ortiz, Michael Ratner, Andy Zee and others (like Laura Flanders because, as Diane Keaton notes in Love & Death, you've got have some uglies in the mix) will take part June 3rd at seven p.m. in a discussion at New York Society for Ethical Culture. Meanwhile, Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "President Barack Obama reversed his decision to release detainee abuse photos from Iraq and Afghanistan after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki warned that Iraq would erupt into violence and that Iraqis would demand that U.S. troops withdraw from Iraq a year earlier than planned, two U.S. military officers, a senior defense official and a State Department official have told McClatchy." It's really been cute and hilarious to watch the ever changing story from the US government. Barack was forced to change his mind . . . by Gen David Petraeus and Gen Ray Odierno! Now Barack was forced to change his mind by Nouri! Reality, Barack controls his own damn mind. He wasn't tricked. He wasn't forced. He made the decision. It's on him. Just like he's made the decision to continue torture. In the Wall St. Journal today, George McGovern offers "My Advice for Obama" which includes "order all U.S. troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan by Thanksgiving". Which he could do. If he wanted to. No one's 'tricking' Barry O, no one's twisting his arm. He's continuing the illegal wars because he wants to and he thinks he can get away with it. (And the Cult of St. Barack's refusals to call him out allows him to think the whole world will remain silent as he flaunts his own War Crimes.)

[. . .]

Reuters released a story yesterday that's garbage and we were going to ignore it but it's being picked up elsewhere (Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, etc. -- and the Wall St. Journal has written their own unsigned 'report'). It asserts -- and remember this came out yesterday -- that civilian deaths in Iraq -- that undefined 'civilian' term -- fell to an all time low. They made that assertion before May was over, of course. They made that assertion while they were, in fact, reporting on Saturday deaths in a story posted after the lowest-deaths-ever! In other words, they published the story before May was over.They also didn't use their own figures. They used the Health Ministry's figures. Figures which have repeatedly turned out to be wrong -- so much so that those choosing to cite their figures today seem intent to take part in a lie. Once upon a time, when Nancy A. Youssef was in Iraq, McClatchy kept track of civilian deaths (the ones they were able to) and published a monthly number a few months after a month ended. Once upon a time. McClatchy hasn't publised an Iraq story in six days. But once upon a time, once upon a time, it used to. Maybe they'll do so again? In the meantime, 134 is the number of "civilians" killed in Iraq in May, alleges the Health Ministry. We're getting 226 deaths.

We'll walk through slowly. A word on who's counted. Suicide bombers are not counted in this total. They died but I seriously doubt they'd be considered "civilians" by the Ministry. Would Sahwa? They're not being brought into the government. What does that make them? We have counted all deaths except bombers and except for US civilians (2 US civilians were killed in the Green Zone in May, 2 US civilians were killed in Falluja in May) and US service members. Now here's the breakdown.

May 1st, 10 people reported dead (6 in Mosul bombing, 2 people shot dead in Tikrit, 2 in Mosul). May 2nd, 3 dead (killed in Kirkuk bombing). May 3rd, only wounded. May 4th, 14 dead (4 in Baghdad bombing, 4 in Baghdad grenade attack, 1 in Diyala bombing, 1 shot dead in Mosul, 1 Iraqi soldier shot dead, 3 corpses in Mosul). May 5th, 4 dead dead, (2 shot dead in Mosul, 1 shot dead in Baghdad, 1 corpse in Kirkuk). May 6th, 2 dead (2 dead in Mosul from roadside bombings). May 7th, 3 dead (1 12-year-old boy shot dead in Mosul as well as 2 fishermen shot dead on the day before but reported on May 7th). May 8th, only wounded. May 9 - 10th, 2 dead (1 shot dead in Basra, 1 shot dead in Mosul). May 11th, 6 dead (1 in Baghdad roadside bombing, 2 in a Kirkuk car bombing, 1 shot dead in Baghdad, 1 shot in Mosul, 1 corpse of a 5-year-old boy discovered in Baghdad). May 12th, 7 dead (6 in Kirkuk bombing, 1 corpse of a 13-year-old girl in Diyala Province). May 13th, 7 dead (1 Baghdad roadside bombing, 2 in a Mosul car bombing, 2 in a Ramadi roadside bombing, 1 shot dead in Mosul, 1 shot dead in Baghdad). May 14th, 6 dead (3 shot dead in Baquba, 3 shot dead in Kirkuk). May 15th, 1 dead (1 shot dead in Baghdad). May 16 - 17th, 20 dead (1 in Baghdad mortar attack, 4 in Baghdad roadside bombings, 1 in Mosul roadside bombing, 1 in Basra grenade attack, 3 in Baghdad roadside bombing, 1 in Mosul car bombing, 2 shot dead in Mosul, 1 shot dead in Jalawla, 1 corpse in Mosul, 1 near Samarra and 4 in Baquba). May 18th, 2 dead (1 in Kirkuk roadside bombing, 1 in Basra bombing). May 19th, 3 dead (2 dead in Taji roadside bombing, 1 killed in Mosul). May 20th, 2 dead (1 shot dead in Mosul, 1 corpse discovered in Mosul) plus 40 dead (one Baghdad bombing -- using Alsumaria's final figures) for total of 42. May 21st, 24 dead (2 dead in Baghdad bombing, 2 shot dead in Mosul, 12 dead in a Baghdad bombing, 8 dead in Kirkuk bombing). May 22nd, 4 dead (1 dead in Mosul roadside bombing and Reuters goes back to the 21st to add 1 dead in Mosul roadside bombing, 2 corpses in Mosul). May 23rd, 10 dead (2 dead in Diyala roadside bombing, 1 US citizen dead in Green Zone and we're not including that in the count, 4 dead in Mosul roadside bombing, 1 6-year-old shot dead in Mosul, 1 adult shot dead in Mosul, 2 corpses found in Salahuddin and -- not counted in our count -- 1 US civilian's corpse found in Green Zone). May 24th, 12 dead (8 dead in Mosul bombing, 3 shot dead in Mosul, 1 in Hilla). May 25th, 11 dead (6 corpses discovered in Baquba, 2 shot dead in Mosul, 2 people killed in Awisat, 1 infant killed in a grenade attack). May 26th, 5 dead (1 dead in Mosul bombing, 4 shot dead in Kirkuk). May 27th, 8 dead (4 dead in Abu Ghraib bombing, 3 shot dead in Mosul, dropping back to the 25th 1 dead in Mosul roadside bombing). May 28th, 3 dead (1 dead in Mosul roadside bombing, 1 shot dead in Diwainyah, 1 corpse discovered in Kirkuk). May 29th, 9 dead (8 dead in Baquba bombings, 1 corpse discovered in Telkeif). May 30th, 3 dead (2 in Baquba roadside bombing and 1 shot dead in Baquba). May 31st, 5 dead (1 corpse discovered in Kirkuk, Reuters drops back to the 30th to note 1 dead in Haswa bombing, 2 dead in Samarra roadside bombing and 1 dead in Iskandariya bombing). That adds up to at least 226 reported deaths.

There are probably more than 226 reported and we've probably missed a death on any of the days linked. The deaths are primarily reported by McClatchy and Reuters but there's also Alsumaria, DPA and the US military in the mix. Should McClatchy do a study, there numbers would be more precise.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"McGovern asks 'Why not order all U.S. troops out by Thanksgiving?'"
"Sahwa, Margaret Hassan"
"And the war drags on . . ."
Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Fair Play For Old Men"
"al-Sudani arrested"
"US to stay in Mosul and 'trend' stories"

Truest statement of the week
A note to our readers
Editorial: In essence, we are terrorists
TV: The Goode Family's Bad Misfortune
Worst Dolls
Reaction to the denial of marriage equality
Winter Soldier Southwest
Worst Web Site (Ava and C.I.)
Worst scene stealer of the 20th century
The digital switch
Adam Kokesh
Racist in the White House
Flipper commits suicide
"As Regina Belle sang, 'Make It Like It Was'"