Saturday, March 31, 2012







Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) wants you to know that, as Sly Stone once sang, everybody is a star, that we're all winners. Probably Charlotte Caffey and Jane Wiedlin were closer to the truth with, "We're all dreamers, we're all whores" ("This Town," first appears on the Go-Gos' Beauty and the Beat). Journalists are supposed to be critical thinkers not advance men for the company. The Arab League Summit was only a success if we're all toddlers and everyone gets a trophy for showing up. Or if you're stupid enough to think something's true just because a two-bit thug like Nouri al-Maliki says it is.
There are 22 countries in the Arab League. Hamza Hendawi and Lara Jakes (AP) put the number of Arab League leaders who attended at 10 and they pointed out that Qatar, Saudi Arabi, Morocco and Jordan were among those who sent lower-level officials to the summit. Patrick Martin (Globe & Mail) explains that Sheik Hamad Bin Jassem Bin Jabr Al Thani (Prime Minister of Qatar) declared on television that Qatar's "low level of representation" was meant to send "a 'message' to Iraq' majority Shiites to stop what he called the marginalization of its minority Sunnis." Yussef Hamza (The National) offers, "Iraq has looked to the summit, the first it has hosted in a generation, to signal its emergence from years of turmoil, American occupation and isolation. It wanted the summit to herald its return to the Arab fold. But the large number of absentees told a different story." That's reality.
Who's the liar pimping success? Why it's not just Nouri al-Maliki, it's Jane Arraf and Prashant Rao's Twitter buddy, the idiot Reider Visser. A fool not qualified to discuss legalities of the Erbil Agreement as evidenced by his dime store 'legal' 'analysis' that makes Elle Woods look, by comparison, like a legal giant along the lines of Thurgood Marshall. And of course Jane and Prashant and the others weren't trained in the law either so they idiotically retweet Reider's ignorance there by multiplying it as well as endorsing it. Reider's a Nouri al-Maliki groupie so he's hardly an impartial voice. He's also buddies with trash Nir Rosen. Though Nir's more famous right now for turning over the names of Western reporters to the Syrian government (that's what led to the recent charges that he was a spy), he of course became infamous for presenting the 'legal' 'analysis' that Lara Logan 'had it coming.' Nir really wasn't qualified for anything other than blowhard status but the Circle Jerk -- the same one that Jane and Prahsant employ on Reider's behalf -- ensured that a man was elevated and it didn't matter that he pisses on women or anything else. It's really past time that so-called professional journalists started examing their own ethics. At best, Reider is nothing but a whore for Nouri. There's no reason to treat him as impartial. There's no reason to treat his 'legal' renderings as worth passing on.
And to make his lack of value clear, he's pronounced the summit "a landmark achievement." (You sort of picture him panting that as he pulls on himself for a minute and ten seconds.) (Though I may be implying more endurance than he actually has.)
Only a whore for Nouri would pronounce the summit "a landmark achievement." It's cute the way he and Jane Arraf and Prashant Rao and the rest ignore the assault on the Communist Party in Baghdad this week. That took place in Baghdad. That took place as supposedly part of 'security sweep' on the neighborhood for the summit. 12 people were arrested and forced to sign papers they hadn't read. And that's not news? But what a little pig and prig named Reider Viseer thinks is supposed to carry weight?
Because like the 'professional journalists,' he ignores what was done to the Communist Party this week. It's really interesting and illuminating to see what gets covered and what gets ignored and, excuse the hell out of me, but let's also point that when we spent a week here covering the assault on Iraqi youth, Prashant, Jane and their beloved Reider couldn't be bothered with the story.
I guess it's easy to judge Iraq a success when you ignore all the people who suffer and die. I guess it's real damn easy -- real damn easy to lie.
And to whine. I seem to remember these 'professional journalists' and their whines about it took two hours or four hours or they didn't have phone service wah, wah, wah. Did any of those self-obsessed fools stop to write one damn article about the Iraqi journalists who were denied the right to cover the summit?
Did they note that printing presses were down?
Did they mention that outlets like Dar Addustour were basically forced into a holiday for the entire summit?
No, they didn't. But they did let you know that, golly, they ate their breakfast and it was digesting but now it was two hours later and their tummies were rumbling and goodness knows the bus they were on should be moving towards food a whole lot faster.
Everyone pimping the damn lie that the summit was a success should be ashamed of themselves. Not Reider Visser -- his kind is immune to shame. But so-called 'professional journalists,' I don't know what the hell you think you did this week but most of you didn't do reporting.
Not only did you ignore the threats to the Iraqi people, you ignored the staples you usually cover. Radical cleric and online tween advisor Moqtada al-Sadr takes questions from his followers and posts answers. These are usually the 'quotes' of Moqtada's that you see in the press. They love to cover this -- often forgetting to note it was written and it's an online exchange -- but they love to cover it. Strangely, they ignored what he said this week.
He said the US citizen that was released was a soldier. We're talking about Randy Michael Hills. He was in the news March 17th and 18th. The most fitting headline of all the coverage went was on Jack Healy's New York Times article: "Militans Free American No One Knew Was Missing." Randy Michael Hills, a 59-year-old American, former US military or current US military (take your pick) was released by forces once attached to Moqtada al-Sadr who explained that they had held the man for nine months (that he was held for nine months was confirmed by Victoria Nuland in a US State Dept press briefing).
Peter Graff (Reuters) reported that the man "was shown on telievision in a U.S. military univorm with no insignia, flanked by two members of parliament from Sadr's movement." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported:

Maha al-Douri, a lawmaker and a member of the al-Sadr movement, said Michael had been in captivity for nine months. A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said officials were working "to verify the information regarding the alleged U.S. captive."
A Pentagon official said the Defense Department is also looking into the reports, but added that to the best of defense officials' knowledge, no active duty military person has been missing in Iraq.
The website of the Defense Prisoner Of War/ Missing Personnel Office on Saturday showed three Defense Department contractors as still missing from Operation Iraqi Freedom. Michael was not among them.

Al Mada's coverage made clear that the Sadr brigade considers him a soldier and states they captured a US soldier (not contractor) and they state he took part in the 2004 attack on Najaf and Sadr City as well as 2008 attacks in southern and Central Iraq -- what is known as the Charge of the Knights -- that begins March 25th and is a joint US-Iraq operation targeting Moqtada's forces. And this week, Moqtada answered a question about this released hostage and again stated he was US military, not former military, not a contractor. He may or may not be telling the truth or he may be telling what he thinks is the truth and be mistaken. But Moqtada al-Sadr does know the difference between a US soldier and a contractor. It's interesting that no one wanted to quote Moqtada this week. They usually break their necks trying to follow Moqtada. (Moqtada was a press created 'political figure.' Had it not been for the international press -- as well as Paul Bremer's demonization of Moqtada throughout 2004 -- he would not be the celebrity and power player he is today.)

Friday, March 30, 2012






The Arab League Summit was held today in Baghdad. It didn't change a thing because Nouri never learned how to charm. So instead of starting with it, let's start with the ongoing political crisis in Iraq. Nouri al-Maliki created Political Stalemate I after the March 2010 elections when, for over eight months, he refused to allow the government to move forward because he refused to honor the votes or the Constitution (and with White House backing, he was able to get away with that). His State of Law political slate came in second to Iraqiya (led by Ayad Allawi) in the elections. In November of 2010, to end the political stalemate, the various political actors agreed to the US-brokered Erbil Agreement. Nouri agreed because it would allow him to continue as prime minister. But the things in the agreement that got Iraqiya, the Kurds and others to sign off on? Nouri trashed all of that. Immediately, what was supposed to take place was that the Parliament would name Jalal Talabani president (for a second term) and Talabani would name Nouri prime minister-designate while Nouri get his people to drop the false charges and smears against Iraqiya members and Nouri would name Ayad Allawi as head of a new national security committee (an independent committee). Nouri got what he wanted and then had excuses for everything else in the agreement, it would take time, now wasn't good, blah, blah, blah. His apologists (in Iraq as well as in the US) would later begin to insist that the Erbil Agreement was unconstitutional. If that were true (it's not -- it may be extra-constitutional -- and if you don't know the difference between the terms, don't gas bag on the topic), that would mean the entire agreement was illegal and that would mean Nouri was an illegitimate prime minister because Nouri remains prime minister for a second term not by the outlined process in the Constitution and not by the voting results of 2010. He gets his second term solely because of the Erbil Agreement.
Nouri is best seen as the pouty child who refuses to get off the floor of the grocery store until he's told he can't get a piece of candy. He is more than willing to wait and wait forever. This is imporant to understanding both him and how Iraq has 'worked' and will continue to. Nouri has got to be challenged. And if you're going to blink, there's no point in taking a stand. He is a willful child who needs clear boundaries and knows that there will be consequences. If you take a stand and back down, you're encouraging him.
Jasim Alsabawi (Rudaw) notes attacks on Barzani from various members of Nouri's circle. The article also includes advice beyond stupid but I'm biting my tongue because Ava and I already told Jim we'd cover the same stupidity (but from American politician) at Third this weekend. Alsumaria TV notes that the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq is calling for a dialogue and blah blah. Now they're concerned. Massoud Barzani wasn't covering new terrain. He was responding to what's been going on for months and it is a false narrative to act as if Barzani's now 'started' something. This is the political crisis. It's cute the way so many are eager to be Nouri's lackeys and play dumb when anyone Nouri's tried to oppress or eliminate bothers to respond publicly.
The piece Ava and I were going to write was "The Great Compromiser Olympia Snowe (Ava and C.I.)" and the similar point? In US politics, the "center" is not the center. The "center" is based not on the people but on the politicians and, since 1970, the right wing in the US has stayed firm in their beliefs. Good for them. The left has repeatedly compromised and the result is that the "center" has moved ever rightward. And Iraq? From the Rudaw article:

Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Ayad Alawi's Iraqiya bloc threatened to walk out of parliament in opposition to PM Maliki's dominance. But Sultan believes these threats only prove the Iraqiya bloc's failure in its politics.

"I think that Iraqiya bloc lacks unity in the political discourse in dealing with crisis," he said. "It withdrew its ministers from the government after the issue of al-Hashimi, and later sent them back. Now it wants to withdraw them again. What will they get from all this?"

Grasp that, over the summer, the Kurds began calling for a return to the Erbil Agreement. Iraqiya joined them in that call. When Iraqiya walked, it was over the Erbil Agreement -- no warrant had been sworn out for Tareq al-Hashemi, that's not the political crisis. The crisis is the failure to follow the Erbil Agreement. But Iraqiya walks out. They were wrong to end their boycott. They were wrong because with a bully child like Nouri, you have to set boundaries and make clear that there are consquences or the spoiled baby will continue to refuse to share his toys and play nice.
But why did Iraqiya end the boycott? Due to pressure. Internally, which was minimal, and externally, which was international. And they were told by the White House, among others, that they would look mature and, come on, do the right thing for the good of Iraq.
That little pep talk is exactly why the US is so screwed up politically. Democrats fell for it over and over (some wanted to fall). Republicans stuck to their beliefs. But Dems were seduced -- and still are -- by the thought that they'd look mature and grown up. That's still used today in the efforts to gut Social Security. Dems are told they'll look so mature and it's not, "Hey, Republican law maker, you're acting crazy and we're not funding your project." (I'm not calling all Republicans crazy. I'm also not trying to insult them. I'm a Democrat and I'm more than happy to call out my own party for its failures.)
By the same token all Allawi and company got was a brief moment of "Oh, they were mature and ended their boycott." They're threatening a new one. They don't need to go on it if they're not going to stick it out. And if they go on it, they better know the US government will be pressuring them, that they will hear appeals of, "Come on, Ayad, you and me, we know you're more mature, you're a real leader, do the right thing and end your boycott." The answer has to be: NO. If it's not "no," don't start a boycott. You either are willng to see it through or you're not. If you go on a boycott and then cave before demands are met, Nouri's not going to take you seriously. He's going to know you'll cave every time.
Baby, you could never look me in the eye
Yeah you buckle with the weight of the words
Stop draggin' my . . .
Stop draggin' my . . .
Stop draggin' my heart around.
-- "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around," written by Tom Petty and Mike Campbell, performed by Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, first appears on Stevie's Bella Donna
Each time you cave, each time you buckle with Nouri, you give him more power and more control. Nouri al-Maliki has refused to follow the Erbil Agreement.
Is he criticized by the international press for it?
Very rarely. That's what starts the political crisis and Nouri's apologists show up and treat a crisis like it just started weeks ago. Like the false "center" in American politics, there's a fale "starting point" for the current political crisis in Iraq. It didn't start in December or January. It goes back to the signed document that allowed him to be prime minister for a second term. He took the concessions that other political parties made. He just refused to follow through on the concessions he agreed to. That is what started the political crisis and it goes back to 2010.
There are various actions that have made the political crisis flare (and the press briefly take notice). When he demanded Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi be charged with terrorism (al-Hashemi is a member of Iraqiya), that caused the world to pay some attention to the political crisis. Al Mada reports today that Ayad Allawi has called for Iraq to fight the "emerging dictatorship" in Iraq today. Iraqiya spokesperson Maysoon al-Damalouji read the statement which called out a return to a culture of suppression and denounced the raid on the Communist Party. The Iraqi Communist Party should have been in the news yesterday and should be in the news today. It's not. From yesterday's snapshot:

We'll close by noting the disturbing news of the day and news that wasn't picked up and front paged but should have been. Nouri al-Maliki is now going after Iraq's Communist Party. Al Mada reports that Nouri's security forces stormed the political party's headquarters and arrested 12 people who were arrested and questioned about protests. Ali Hussein (Al Mada) notes the Communist Party has a long history of fighting for Iraq, not against it. Hussein reports that Nouri's tanks have been sent to surround the homes of Communist Party members in Baghdad. Those who paid attention in December will remember that Nouri ordered tanks to circle the homes of Iraqiya members right before he demanded that Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his posts and ordered the arrest of Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi on charges of terrorism. Both al-Mutlaq and al-Hashemi are members of Iraqiya as well as Sunnis. Ali Hussein notes that Nouri also ordered tanks to circle the homes of Communist Party members last year.

The Iraq Communist Party Tweeted yesterday, "Iraqi Communist Party condemns raid of its newspaper headquarters by security forces." They state that the raid took place late in the evening Monday and that their headquarters were ransacked by federal police who entered claiming that they were doing a sweep of the area for the Arab League Summit. An old weapon ("piece of junk") was on the roof and they used this as a pretext to arrest 12 of the people who were held overnight and only released after they signed documents -- documents they were forced to sign while blindfolded. While they were held, the federal police returned to the now empty headquarters and ransacked the place. The Community Party condemns the attack and notes that the 78th anniversary of the Iraq Communist Party is approaching.
The only English language outlet to report on the attack is People's World which notes of Iraq's Communist Party:
The party, which has a long history of fighting for a secular Iraq, in which the rights of all groups would be respected, has expressed its outrage and has openly condemned the raid.
The party asks that those responsibile for the attack be brought to justice, and said, in a statement, that "the police will not stop Tareeq Al-Shaab from defending the rights of the Iraqi people and workers, nor will it stop those people from fighting for a free, democratic Iraq."
This is not the first time the Iraqi Communist Party has been targeted by the U.S.-backed government that replaced the old dictatorship. In 2007, Najim Abed Jassem, the party workers' trade union leader and member of the executive committee of the Mechanics Union, was abducted and tortured by militias in Baghdad, and subsequently murdered.
That the raid took place ahead of the Arab League Summit is disturbing, that it took place in Baghdad with the international press ignoring it is very telling.

Thursday, March 29, 2012






Framingham District Court Judge Douglas Stoddart sentenced Obama to one year probation and imposed the statutorily mandated probation conditions of attending a driver alcohol education program and incurring a license loss of 45 days. Additionally, Stoddart found Obama not responsible for the failure to yield at an intersection charge



US House Rep Jerry McNerney: I think the goal is to make it seemless for the service member to go from -- obviously, that's the goal. Are there technical issues like communication between computers or any of that a problem at all? Or can we just put that one to bed now or do we need to talk about that for a little while?
John Medve: [. . . Microhphone not on at the start of remarks] the question, we're working on that. You're familiar that we're trying to develop or have on the boards developing an integrated lifetime health record which once that comes into fruition will be, I think, a great asset for us. In terms of the Integrated Disability Evaluation System and moving people through that process, we have one system called the Veterans Tracking Information that we use to manage where people are in the process so that we have the metrics and understand where they're at. We monitor those things every two weeks at the VA. The VA chief of staff holds a bi-weekly performance, uh, meeting with every single executive that manages a part of that process down to the local level. As part of those discussions, if there are issues that we're having in terms of transmissions of data or any of that, he immediately calls our office of information technology to bore in on the problem and to fix it.
Ranking Member Jerry McNerney: Well that sounds good. Is there a -- except for -- I want to get an idea of when these medical records are going to be standardized so that we can get this transition, that part of it, out of the way. So do you have an idea about when that can be expected to be finished?
John Medve: Sir, I know the two Secretaries, as Mr. Neabors alluded to, meet every quarter. At the last meeting, at the end of February 27th, one of the marks on the wall is that we're putting the integrated health record at the James A. Lovell Federal Level Health Care Center, that's the pilot site for it. They have required that there be two additional sites be in place by 2014 in order to build this and so it's going to be a growing development over the next several years.
Ranking Member Jerry McNerney: That's -- that's not good enough. That's not even good enough.
McNerny was question the VA's John Medve (Office of VA-DoD Collaboration) this morning. The House veterans Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs was addressing a number of issues. Subcommittee Chair Jon Runyan noted at the start of the hearing, "This is my hope that this oversight hearing will shed some light on some of the problems that we have encountered in the implementation of IDES so we may work together to find the best solution possible."
Medve and DoD's Jim Neighbors made up the first panel. The second panel was Project HOPE's Dr. Gail Wilensky, Fisher House Foundation's Ken Fisher and the Advisory Committee on Disability Compensation's retired-LTG James Terry Scott. The third panel was Disabled American Veterans' John Wilson, Wounded Warrior Project's Phil Riley and The Mission Continues' Eric Greitens.
There have been too many problems for service members and veterans in the system.This includes the transition of a service member to a veteran. Congress has been asking for this to be fixed, Congress has generously funded all techonology requests on this issue and Congress has repeatedly asked both DoD and VA if additional funding was needed. One of the most basic problems was that DoD used one computer system and VA another and the two couldn't communicate. This was eye rolling -- some might say typical -- six years ago when we first started hearing about it in hearings we attended (and it may have been addressed prior to 2006). It's no longer excusable. Too much money has been spent, too many years have passed. This issue should have been completely dealt with some time ago. Two years from now, VA testified, there will be a pilot site to test these things that were identified over six years ago? Eight years after identification and after all the funds Congress has provided to fix this issue, a pilot program will take place. ("At least eight years" -- again, we've only been attending the veterans committee hearings since 2006.)
In the section we were quoting at the start, Ranking Member Jerry McNerney was informing the first panel that it wasn't good enough. That describes the first panel: Not good enough. They would go on and attempt to mislead as McNerney's questioning continued.
Jim Neighbors: Sir, if I could chime in -- thank you for your question. DoD and VA are actually sharing more information right now than any two organizations in the nation. Now if I could just give you some statistics, please, on what that sharing is. Service members' data, again, that has been shared with VA is over a million times already and what that turns into as far as laboratory results is we've shared 23 million of them to date and this is in IT form, this is machine readable, things we've pushed for. So they're not paper. Radiology 3.6 million reports, pharmacy 24 million records and patients have engaged on their medication and allergy recommendation from what was about 27,000 to now 1.2 million which is significantly improving patient safety. Those are just some areas, it's not an entire IDE chart. So between our organizations, we are actually are doing some of the sharing already. And, if I could, there are actually four locations pilot wise, which we're including private providers such as Kaiser Permanente or something. Where we would bring them into the fold here too. So between government entitites, we have that actually going on right now. So you're right. We're not where we need to be. We're not completely there. Absolutely. But there is stuff going on that is servicing our veterans. And the second thing I'd like to say, sir, if I could please, that's entity to entity. As far as giving of VA -- excuse me, a veteran or service member their records, we can do that right now. We're working very closely with VA to enroll our service members as they come in the door into a platform, an IT platform, called the E-Benefits Platform. That will then allow -- or that allows -- and we've got 1.4 million of them already signed up now. But then at any point in time after that, from anywhere in the world, 24-7, they can actually download their medical records and hand them off to a private provider or anybody that they are involved with through that continuum right now. And that's called the Blue Button Capability. Maybe you've heard that or not.
And if I can jump in, DoD and VA were sharing information -- as he's decribing -- some time ago. This isn't expected progress, this is more of the same. And to be even more clear on this, DoD and VA were always supposed to be 'sharing.' That's transporting the medical records from DoD to VA as the service members switches to the status of veteran. Neighbors repeatedly misleads. We could fill three more snapshots with examples. Instead, we'll just note two here.
Ranking Member Jerry McNerney: I haven't heard that. One of the things that Mr. Medve was saying is that you can track an individual through the process. But is there an advocate for that individual? Or does that get passed on and the individual finds himself or herself calling in and getting the run around? I mean, what we need is an advocate. Whether it's DoD or VA or the joint-effort, Mr. McDonnell, sort of going into that, an ombudsman, an advocate or some coordinator that that person can go to when they are in trouble from start to finish.
John Medve: Sir, yes, thank you for the question again, Congressman, in IDES, when someone is enrolled in it, there's the PEBLO, Physical Evaluation Board Liason Officer, that when that invidual is referred is who greets them at the entrance to that process. That is the single point of contact that will shepherd them through IDES -- as they are in each different stage, they are briefed by that person where they stand, where their medical evaluation schedules are done when they're supposed to appear before any boards and all that. Once we get to a point where they are going to be determined to be separated, we the VA sitting with the DoD PEBLO have what we call Military Service Coordinators that then sit down with the individual as a team and explain to that individual what their VA benefits. So that's what happens inside the IDES. Now also --
Ranking Member Jerry McNerney: Does the service member of former service member get to check off on that and say that they're okay with that transition at that point?
John Medve: I'll defer to Mr. Neighbor since that gets into the military administrative process.
Jim Neighbors: Absolutely, sir. At any point in time when an evaluation takes place, that service member has reclima capabilities at a number of venues. Each one of the services has a number of boards that does the exactly what we're talking about here which is the evaluation of their disability and the rating. They can then take that to a department wide -- Excuse me, let me say that again the service wide board that is more of a formal activity where they make sure that the rulings have been applied equally across from the local board itself. If the service member doesn't believe that is equitable, they actually can go to another level and they can actually go to what's called the Board of Correction for Military Records level also. So there are a number of points where the person can say, "You know what? This wasn't fair. I need another look." And they can be reversed or they can be upheld as any board can do. But, yes, sir, there is.
And now Neighbors misleads again. The question was about an advocate originally -- does the service member have an advocate with him or her throughout the process and then they were asked what about if the service member didn't feel ready for the switch: "Does the service member of former service member get to check off on that and say that they're okay with that transition at that point?"
Neighbors did not answer that question. He deliberately misled about an appeal process that was in place prior to the need for a seemless transition becoming a talking point of DoD. You are a service member. You have a PEBLO assisting you throughout your various processes. Now you're being informed you're about to discharge and transition from service member to veteran and you're not ready -- this was McNerney's question, remember? -- are you able to speak to someone or slow the process or get additional assistance with the change? That's never answered. (So the answer is probably no.) Instead, Neighbors attempts to distract by going into great detail about the appeals process that's been in place for decades and has nothing to do with seemless transition or efforts in the last six years (or even the last decade) to improve and simplify the process for today's service members and veterans.
But before we get to that, we're going to note the strong objection US House Rep Timothy Walz registerd.
US House Rep Tim Walz: But I'm going to highlight this issue of the discharges from DoD on personality disorder. I'm truly troubled about this. If this is truly about honoring the commitment to care, this is the third hearing I've sat here where we've talked about something like this. In 2007 we were going to get this fixed, we were going to get it fixed in 2010, September 15th. And there's a report today, my friends over at the Vietnam Veterans of American, through a Freedom of Information Act, we're at it again. So we've got soldiers, they go to war, they come back and they're being diagnosed with adjustment disorder or personality disorder. It gets stamped on their discharge papers "Discharged for Personality Disorder," they're denied VA benefits and that's on their permanent record to follow them for employment. So, Mr. Neighbors, I know this is not your area of expertise, if I could say, I'm not putting you on the spot for the entire Department of Defense, but I would like you to . . . What do you think when you hear this again? Because all the issues you're talking about -- and I don't want to distract us from this very broader issue, but I do feel like I need to speak up for these 31,000. I do need to try and figure out how we right this wrong. Because the idea that you would be diagnosed with an adjustment disorder after being in Afghanistan? I don't know. If I could just turn it over, I know it's very general but --
Jim Neighbors: I really appreciate the question and it is an important issue. I'm going to go out on a limb here and try to narrow it a little bit. I think what you're referring to is the reports of what's happening at Madigan and out on the West Coast? Am I correct on that or is it?
US House Rep Tim Walz: Well there was a new, I had the thing. We just had a new Freedom of Information request and the study was put together on this from Vietnam Veterans of America, I'll make sure we get a copy to you to make sure you see that.
And I'm stopping Walz there.
No, it's not the same thing. Walz didn't say it was. But there's no excuse for a VA or DoD official going before the Congress this morning not to know what VVA released. Madigan is about PTSD diagnoses being changed for active duty service members (it may be happening to other groups as well but that's what is known about Madigan at present). What Walz was asking about was service members returning to the US and being discharged. And their discharge is a PD (personality disorder) and it is done that way not to deny PTSD benefits but to deny all benefits. A PD discharge leaves a service member with the news that he or she will be paying out of their own pocket for all health care they may need. Just from what Walz described, Neighbors should have known this wasn't the same issue. And if Neighbors honestly doesn't know the difference between a PTSD diagnosis and a PD diagnosis, that's really scary. More likely, this was yet another attempt to distract and mislead.
Some idiot -- and I use that word intentionally and after careful consideration -- from DoD was called up by Jim Neighbors and began talking. Subcommittee Chair Jon Runyun instructed to speak into the microphone at which point he decided he was a race with his tongue and the losers were the listeners. Whatever his name was, he began talking about PTSD as well and continued doing so. As Walz was trying to get across, a PD discharge is based upon the belief that these service members came into the service with a mental issue or problem and it wasn't discovered until late in the service. That's how you do a personality discharge. We've covered War Criminal Steven D. Green repeatedly here. He got a personality disorder discharge and deserved it. It was a mistake to let him into the military (and he was one of those recruits who had a choice between doing time or joining the military -- had he not joined, the judge would have sentenced him to time behind bars).
Steven Green was a good case. What Vietnam Veterans of America is highlighting is using citizens to fight your wars and then, after you've used them (and often as they're ready to leave the military), 'discovering' a personality disorder that makes them unfit to serve and allows you to give them a PD discharge which means that they have no medical benefits which, for the government, means they don't have to pay out money for treatment. VVA's argument is that once again PD discharges are being used to deny those who have the benefits they have earned.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012




Barack Obama’s comments are disturbing on several levels. First, they display a willingness to placate America’s enemies, and cede ground over issues of national interest. Second, Obama is linking foreign policy decision-making to the timetable of the US presidential election, openly telling the Russians that he will deliver when he is no longer constrained by seeking re-election. This demonstrates contempt for the American people, suggesting that what he tells the Russians may be completely different to his message at home. Third, they reveal a dismissive approach towards America's friends in eastern and central Europe, as well as US allies in the Gulf states, who must be wondering now if they will be sold out next.


Neither Obama nor Medvedev knew they were being heard when they conferred quietly at what was billed as their last meeting of Medvedev's presidency. He leaves office in May, to be replaced by the incoming Vladimir Putin.
According to ABC News, Medvedev replied in English: 'I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.'



Starting with the US Congress.
US House Rep Susan Davis: One of the things that we know is that we've been a military at war and not a nation at war. Would you agree with that statement? [Nods from witnesses.] How does that effect what we do? You mentioned, Colonel, that above all we should be a unified and committed nation. Where does that fit in?
Col Robert Killebrew: Well -- well -- Madam, you're running a grave risk, I have a whole sermon I give on this. But I'll try to restrain myself.
US House Rep Susan Davis: Okay.

Col Robert Killebrew: The social changes and the political changes that are happening in the world right now in my view -- and I'm not a PhD-ed social scientist but having studied it, I believe -- are undermining in many cases the concept of nation-hood. One country as I said in my testimony that's going back at that is Columbia. And you have to look at them -- get away from this help that we've given them -- and look at how they're deliberately trying to foster the concept under law of Columbia nation-hood -- to understand the really depth of what they're doing. In this country, we've always taken that for granted. And I still take it for granted. We developed a-a-a-a volunteer armed force in which -- and, by the way, I came in during the draft, so I've seen both. I don't believe a draft would ever be pratical again in this country. I think we have a volunteer armed force. I have to tell you I'm very impatient with the fact that no national leader has ever said -- since the volunteer force came in -- that it would be a good thing for someone's son and daughter to join the armed forces. Never. Not even after 9-11. The concept of nation-hood that we have to engender are the things that matter to us under the Constitution. And I don't believe it's furthered by the kind of red-blue split we see right now in the country. I think that's -- I think -- As you look ten to twenty years in the future with the impact of the technology and the social change in the rest of the world, I think this runs a risk of undermining our common concept of what we are as a nation. And I think that's something we have to take on -- national leadership, persons like yourself, people like me who write -- we have to come to understand that there's some core idea about what being an American means that may include serving in the armed forces or paying your country back through some kind of service. But larger than that, being willing to accept the concept of a lot of people make up this country and everybody is an American. That's a kind of a grand strategic view but it's occupied my thoughts for quite a while now.
US House Rep Susan Davis: Mm-hmm. Thank you. Did you want to comment on that too?
Seth Jones: Uh, I do. Very briefly, I think your question: Are we a nation at war? If you look at the last uh decade, decade and a half, we have been at times. We were a nation at war after September 11th because there was a threat that brought us together as a nation, that there was mutual feeling that we had to defend the borders. I think that there was a -- We were a nation at war in May of last year, during and after the bin Laden raid. I think that the challenge that we find ourselves in along these lines, is that in many of the areas where we face regular warfare challenges, we are talking about a, uhm, countries like, uhm, Syria now, countries like Libya, where we have -- and this is just a sub-set of them -- large Muslim populations. I think we have found that adding and deploying large numbers of conventional forces to these kind of theaters is -- is not only in some cases counter-productive but certainly doesn't provide a lot of domestic support. We see that on the Afghan front today. I do think one of the things that this suggests as we move forward is -- and this goes back to comments that both of the panelists have made, is that does it make sense on the irregular warfare threat to think of this really as focusing predominately on the indirect side? Smaller numbers, competent US Special Operations and intelligence forces dealing more systematically with these kinds of threats rather than deploying hundreds of thousands -- over a hundred thouasand forces because I don't think there are, uh, unless we're attacked like we were on 9-11, we will be a nation at war from a domestic standpoint the way we were on 9-11. I think those kinds of incidents are extremely rare but the threat is real.
David Maxwell: Madam, I think, uh, really to echo both my colleagues comments, we have to look at the nature of the conflict that we're engaged in. And I think that, uh, I think Dr. Jones was right, after 9-11, we were a nation at war. And we have been at times. But we also have to ask ourselve: Should we be a nation at war? And as I look at the categories that I've laid out, the first category: Existential threat to the US or allies? We have to be a nation at war if we're faced with that. I think for the second category, those threats to regional stability and status quo, our friends, partners and allies, subversion, terrorism, insurgency and lawlessness and the like, that may not cause us to be a nation at war. And as Dr. Jones says it might require a smaller footprint, a discreet force, that may not require the nation to be focused. The third? A more hybrid threat, I think, would require us to be a nation at war because the scale of that complex threat, we would need to be a nation at war. So I think it's really a question of the types of threats that we face and the strategies we employ to deal with those threats. But I think, the other -- the other aspect you're getting at is -- Our nation supports our military. You know, there is support for it but the question is, as always, who serves. And there are a lot of people who are serving and who continue to serve and they feel that burden on their shoulders and they are tired.
That was this afternoon, a little over half-way through the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities. It was an 'interesting' hearing. US House Rep Mac Thornberry is the Subcommittee Chair and he explained at the start of the hearing:
Last fall, this Subcommittee held a hearing to begin exploring the possibility that what we call irregular warfare may be a regular -- that is, frequent -- challenge for us in the future as, in fact, it certainly has been in the past. And we began to explore how we ensured that the hard won lessons of the past decade are not simply shelved and forgotten as we "get back to normal." Today, we want to go a little deeper in looking at what type of future irregular warfare challenges we are likely to face, what strategies are best suited to deal with these future challenges and what examples or models may exist to suspport those strategies and effectively deal with the irregular challenges.
The Subcommittee heard from three witnesses, Rand Corporation's Seth Jones, Center for a New American Security's Robert Killebrew and Georgetown University's David Maxwell.
Jones is a rah-rah War Hawk who made many claims but whether the assertions could be established or not is anyone's guess. Afghanistan, he declared, was a series of mistakes from 2002 to 2009 because there were attempts to build a government. No, he's not against nation-building, he feels the tribal strength was not understood. You may agree with that, you may not. You may just, like me, remember that this is a little different than the maint thrust of the argument Jones made in his book In The Graveyard of Empires where he asserted that there was a chance to create a stable democratic government in Afghanistan but that chance had a brief window and, by 2006, political upheaval had changed that. And, of course, one of his big complaints then about Afghanistan's was that there was corruption and how it spread. Let's quote: "Afghan governance became unhinged as corruption worked its way through the government like a cancer, leaving massive discontent throughout the country; and the international presence, hamstrung by the U.S. focus on Iraq, was too small to deal with the escalating violence." Courrption, by his own ranking in that book, needed to be addressed first and long before any tribal issues. And, in that book, Jones was arguing that Afghanistan was spinning out of control not due to some lack of understanding of tribal landlords but due to what was going on within Pakistan.
"You change like sugar cane,"
says my northern lad
I guess you go too far
when pianos try to be guitars
-- "Northern Lad," written by Tori Amos, first appears on her From The Choirgirl Hotel
It was certainly interesting to watch him make assertions that -- whether you agree with them or not -- pull at the loose strings in his previous work, reducing a sweater collection to a ball of yarn. And you don't have to go back to the publication of that book. You can just drop back to August 30th of last year when he was a guest on Patt Morrison (KPCC) and listen closely to determine whether you find matching statements and beliefs.
Jones insisted, "We made mistakes in Iraq, in my view, for several years. We corrected them. In the Iraq case, beginning around 2006." Really. Hmm. Again, interesting assertions I'm just aware of the conflict in his testimony before the Subcommittee and his previous statements. For example, at Georgetown, where he's a professor, he does many public events. I attended one in -- of all years -- 2006. You know what he was advocating at that one? Back in January of 2006, he was advocating that stability in Iraq would come from the US pulling troops. (Not all troops.) Now if you feel that way, if that's, in fact, the entire basis of your presentation -- it was, and it was co-presentation with David Edelstein, if I'm remembering correctly -- how do you then say today that 2006 is the start of a turnaround? That's before the "surge" starts. And you were arguing for it to go the other way in 2006 (arguing for a drawdown).
I'm sorry that I expect consistency in witnesses and expect that -- when they go back on their own previous positions -- they either acknowledge the switch or have the good manners and decency not to present their new positions as ones they've always held and ones that make them so much smarter than everyone else in the room. (And for those late to the party, a US withdrawal was always going to likely mean increased violence. That wasn't a reason to prolong the occupation of Iraq. It was a reason to get out because the longer the US occupies, the stronger the pushback would be after the US left. The US never should have gone to war on Iraq, having failed to realize that, the US government should have withdrawn immediately.)
Equally disturbing was Robert Killebrew. As disclosed many times before, I know Gary Hart. I didn't find it cute -- some did, some laughed -- as Killebrew repeatedly and intentionally distorted the Hart-Rudman Commission -- which he worked on -- and mocked it and stated that they didn't do any real work on terrorism and much more. The Brookings Institution, promoting one of their 2002 events at which former Senator Warren Rudman explained:
On January 31, 2001, former Senators Warren Rudman and Gary Hart and their United States Commission on National Security issued a final report warning that "Americans will likely die on American soil, possibly in large numbers," as a result of terrorist attacks. The commission recommended that the government create a National Homeland Security Agency to deal with the threat. That was more than seven months before terrorists flew jetliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing thousands.
Again, some laughed. I just found it embarrassing and sad to see a grown man make such an idiot of himself in public. "I was on the Hart-Rudman Commission about global threats," he said mincing intentionally with his right hand to gin up the laughter, "and no matter what the retrospective view is, I'll tell you we had it figured out, it was China and a resurgent Russia. Terrorism didn't even hardly come up on the scale." What a sad, sad man.
The TV news media is often criticized for its failure to discuss issues as important as war with anyone other than Hawks and/or retired military personnel. The same criticism could be made of the Armed Services Committee. And anyone who asserts, "It's the Armed Services Committee, they have to cover the Defense Dept in their witnesses." The Rand Corporation works closely with DoD on many projects, yes. But that's Jones. The other two? Retired military officers now at alleged 'think tanks.'
The thrust of the hearing -- witness testimony and statements made by most Subcommittee members as well -- is that irregular warfare is not just upon us, it is here in the US and it has no end date. I don't see how Congress is helped with such nonsense and I'm positive that America isn't.
The witnesses offered a variety of 'threats' and, as you might expect, Iran and China were among them. You might be surprised to learn Venezuela was also floated.
we have important interests there that are worth
Are these threats to the US or just countries with leaders the US doesn't like? I'm having a hard time believing that even the most anti-Chavez person in the US could truly believe that Hugh Chavez would lead Venzuela in an attack on the US.
Killebrew was full of 'expertise.' Citing a friend of his with the LAPD, he declared we'd start seeing car bombs across the US. The LAPD. Or one officer with the LAPD. Why stop there? Was Miss Cleo's 900 number busy?
Who's the model for what we need? Killebrew said it was "the DEA agent in Columbia who lives with this every day." Wow. Colombia's the model? Transparency International's most recent findings, Corruption Perceptions Index 2010 Results awarded Columbia a 3.5 on its index where the perfect score for transparency is a 10. 3.5. Not only is that an awful score, on the South American continent, Colombia's not in the lead. Among those beating it? Chile with 7.2, Uruguay with 6.9 and even Brazil with 3.7. But that's the example? And the police force there that Killebrew couldn't stop praising? Corruption is not a new angle on them. Among the many articles, you can refer to Raymond Billy's "Police Corruption Plagues Colombia, Residents Say" (Resonate News). "That's the success story in Colombia," Killebrew insisted at another point in the hearing. And it can be exported with Special Ops. He wants "a lot of Colombias out there." I can't think of many things sadder.
If Killebrew gets his way look for another war between the US and Mexico because insisted that "what's happening in Mexico is a new kind of insurgency. As you know the Secretary of State and Assistant Secretary of the Army got their hands slapped when they said that."
It was a very disturbing hearing as eternal war was preaced and we were informed it was here on the US soil because insugrency "is blending with cimre," there is "a hybrid crime-insurgency threat" and national borders "don't matter" to our opponents. "Armies around the world everywhere are kind of similar," Killebrew insisted. We got Seth Jones lamenting that, after 1975, the US government wrote off counter-insurgency and all the lessons learned.
Only with a hand picked panel of War Hawks and War Whores could such a laughable assertion be made. Ronald Reagan's administration saw to it that counter-insurgency was used throughout the eighties in Latin American and you can find a large bodycount to demonstrate that. More importantly, by 1975, counter-insurgency was rightly out of favor and it was out of favor because it not only was an excuse to murder, the very process of counter-insurgency (forget the results) went against the notions of what was humane.
There are hearings that inspire me, there are hearings that engage me, there are hearings that bore me. I can't think of another hearing that left me as frightened for our future. And not just because of what was said by the witnesses but because there was never objection to it.
If I've ignored David Maxwell it's because the few bits of intelligence on exhibit in the hearing usuallyf lowed from him. While Seth Jones blathered on about Twitter and Facebook -- and sounded like a middle aged man trying desperately to sound 'hip' while talking to a teenager, it was Maxwell who told the committee, "Sir, I would focus on capabilities and say that rather than military and technology, irregular warfare capabilities rest in people. And I think that's where we really have to invest -- especially in this time of fiscal constraint, it is our people who have to solve complex political-military problems."
Any common sense flashed this afternoon came via Maxwell.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012







"If you have to say something about the trial that's significant, the one thing you would say is that we have a secret trial going on right now in which the press and the public and lawyers for WikiLeaks and Julian Assange are not getting access." That's Michael Ratner. What's he talking about? Bradley Manning's court-martial.
Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December. At the start of February, the government announced there would be a court-martial.
On this week's Law and Disorder Radio -- a weekly hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights), Michael Ratner's quote that kicked this section off comes from the report he gives on the court proceedings. Excerpt.
Michael Smith: I want to ask you about Bradley Manning. I know you've been down in Fort Mead observing the proceedings -- the legal proceedings that the US military is using against him. Give us an update on that.
Michael Ratner: Last week, I again went to some of the hearings regarding Bradley Manning. There's been no trial scheduled yet. They're thinking of a trial in August. I think it will much more likely be in the fall. As our listeners know, Bradley has been indicted on 22 charges or charged in the military on 22 charges including aiding with the enemy. I did my usual trying to get to Fort Mead. But of course it was scheduled for 9:00 a.m. on Thursday. I had to get on a train that night, then get on a car to get to Fort Mead. And when you get to Fort Mead, of course, they practically tear your car apart looking for who knows what? Explosives or something else. You get in, they then make you wait for about an hour before you go through a trailer where you go through one of those metal detectors. You're not allowed to bring into the courtroom any cell phones, any way of communicating other than a pencil and a paper. The court room is small. There's only about 20 of us in the court room. The media is in a separate media room where they can have their computers -- nothing with the internet, but they can at least use a computer. So in any case, I went to Bradley Manning's hearing. It was Thursday and Friday. It was quite extraordinary. Michael and I have always talked about the expression "Military justice is to justice as military music is to music." Well it's even worse than that. I mean, this was ridiculous. I mean, that they are trying probably the most well known case in the country on aiding the enemy or really what amounts to -- according to the government -- a sort of espionage case, in this two-bit little court room with military prosecutors that the defense runs circles around. David Coombs is actually doing a very good job. It's amazing. I'll just relate a couple of stories. The first thing that happens is the defense counsel asks for what's called a bill of particulars. In criminal cases, that's "Please tell the defense counsel more about the charges you have against my client Bradley Manning. Give a few specifications." And the first one they asked about is: What do you mean by aiding the enemy? He says to the prosecutor -- of course, it's all done on paper but he says it in court as well. And the prosecutor then says, "Well, aiding the enemy? The enemy is al Qaeda and al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula." Well that just sounds ridiculous. Bradley Manning -- who supposedly, allegedly, uploaded various documents regarding the killing of Retuers journalists, 15,000 Iraqi civilians who were killed which the US hadn't recorded, many, many War Crimes like that -- is accused somehow of aiding al Qaeda or al Qaeda on the Peninsula. Well you think, what is it? Is it because it embarrassed the United States that we're aiding them? What is going on here? So then the defense counsel continues, "Well aiding al Qaeda and al Qaeda on the Peninsula, how did he aid them?" And then the prosecutor gave one of the shallowest, stupidest answers you want to hear: "Well he aided them by uploading the documents onto the WikiLeaks website." I mean, it's not the trial yet so the defense counsel just says, "Okay," and we move on from there. But you're sitting there in the audiences saying, "This is crazy. This 22-year-old, now 24-year-old, kid has supposedly aided al Qaeda by giving documents about War Crimes to WikiLeaks?" That's nonsensical. It'll never stand up. Most commentators think that charge in particular, which is the most serious charge -- it's life imprisonment, death penalty possibly, prosecutors said they won't ask for a death penalty but llife in prison, and I think the judge could even give the death penalty -- that charge I don't think will hold up. But the interesting part then happens next. Three weeks ago, when I was at the court, the prosecutor complains that he is not getting any of the e-mails sent by defense counsel or by the judge. And those are obviously important e-mails. The defense counsel is responding to motions and arguments, sending briefs. The court is sending scheduling orders, etc. And the prosecutor three weeks ago says, "Well I haven't gotten anything so I can't respond to those." Sounds pretty bad. Fishy. But then the prosecutor says, "We will fix it in three weeks from now." And that's when I was there last week. And the prosecutor gets up and says, "Well up until March 10, we didn't figure it out." Just a few days before the Bradley Manning hearing. "And we found it out, here's the answer: Many of the e-mails from the court and the defense counsel are going to the prosecutor but they're going to the spam section of the computer. They're being filtered out as spam." Let me just say, this is the most important single military courts-martial case they've had probably in the last 50 years, maybe 100 years. And the e-mails from the court and the defense counsel are going into the spam of the prosecutor? I mean, this is just Mickey Mouse or worse. So they said, "What we're doing now," the prosecutor says, "is, because they're going into spam, every morning at 10:00 a.m., I'm checking my spam folder to see what e-mails have come in." So I'm sitting there in the audience saying, "Why are they checking their spam filter? Why aren't they just fixing the problem?" And then, a half an hour later, the defense counsel gets up and, in speaking about many issues, he addresses why the e-mails haven't gone to the prosecutor. And he said they didn't go to the prosecutor because any e-mail with the word "WikiLeaks" in it anywhere -- subject matter, in the substance [body of the e-mail], anywhere in an e-mail from the defense counsel or the court that says "WikiLeaks" is automatically spammed by the prosecutor's filter on his computer so he doesn't see them. And you say to yourself, "Wait a second, this entire case is about Bradley Manning allegedly uploading documents to WikiLeaks. If the prosecutor, government computers, are using that as spam, this is ridiculous. This is not a trial, this is just a charade." And then you realize, taking another step back, that most likely every government computer in the United States and in the world spams anything to do with WikiLeaks because the fact that many of our listeners out there, you and I, Michael, the New York Times, and everybody in the world looks at WikiLeaks documents and the government still considers them to be stolen documents, still classified and no one in the government should ever be allowed to see them. So here they go, they're doing this entire investigation of WikiLeaks and everything is treated as spam. So that's just one of the oddities of what they're calling a trial, etc. Two other points -- and we'll be talking about this as I continue to monitor that trial for WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, the Center for Constitutional Rights represents them, both WikiLeaks and Julian Assange for purposes of monitoring the Bradley Manning case -- two other interesting things came out. One is the access to documents. Now this is supposedly a public trial, by law it's a public trial, the First Amedment requires it to be a public trial. You and I, the press, the spectators, are all allowed to go in the court room to watch the trial unless there's some section that's classified. And normally in a trial -- as you know, Michael, being a lawyer -- that when you file papers, they go into a court docket and you can get access to those papers whether they be motions or briefs or whatever you file. And, of course, that's what happens in this case, at least the first part, you file papers or the prosecution files papers, defense counsel files papers, decisions are made -- but nobody has access to those papers [in the Bradley Manning court-martial] except for the counsel. I can't get those papers as a lawyer. The press can't get those paper, No one can see the motions or anything else. So you're sitting in the court room and they're arguing about various documents which have been filed and you feel like you're going in completely blind. You don't understand half of what's going on because you can't read the papers. It's like being in Plato's cave where you only see the shadows on the wall and not the actual substance so we've been making an effort over the last few weeks, how do we get these papers? And we know that ultimately we'll get them. We'll have to have a system set up with the clerk where they give press and WikiLeaks and Julian Assange and the public access to public motions that were filed but we're probably going to have to wind up going to federal court to get them. I mean, it's horrendous. This is ridiculous.
Michael Smith: It's like state secrets.
Michael Ratner: It's like state secrets except they haven't claimed state secrets.
Nobel Peace Prize nominee Bradley Manning's next appearance in court will take place April 24-26 at Ft. Meade, MD. At the previous hearing on March 15th, Bradley's lawyer filed a motion to dismiss all charges based on the government's failure to present evidence as requested. Additionally, a broad coalition of media groups filed a complaint because documents from the court proceedings have been mostly shielded from the public's view. (Read more about the failures of the military to provide due process in this case here.)
We are calling for conscientious citizens everywhere to organize in support of Bradley Manning during his next hearing. Our demands include the following: drop all charges against Bradley Manning, and punish the war criminals, not the whistle-blowers. Join us in the Washington DC area if you can. Otherwise, host or attend a solidarity event in your community. Ideas for local events include: town square vigils, community forums, concerts, and house party fund-raisers.
Please register your event here. Also check out our online resources.
Planned events:

Tuesday, April 24 – 11am – 2pm -Occupy the Department of Justice (Washington DC)
Join the "Free Bradley Manning" contingent at Occupy the Justice Department The DoJ is a leading collaborating agency involved in the prosecution of accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower US Army PFC Bradley Manning. 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC – at the Department of Justice
* "Free Bradley Manning and all political prisoners"
* "End solitary confinement and stop torture"

RSVP here.

Wednesday, April 25 – 8am – Stand with Bradley inside and outside the courtroom (Fort Meade MD)
Join the all-day vigil for Bradley Manning at the Fort Mead Main Gate, 8am-5pm (Maryland 175& Reece Rd, Fort Meade, MD 21113). We'll be holding signs and banners throughout the day. Supporters are also encouraged to attend the courtroom proceedings for all or part of the day. We are currently investigating chartering a bus that would leave from Washington D.C.

RSVP here.

Supporters are encouraged to attend Bradley Manning's court martial motion hearing at Fort Meade on Tuesday, April 24. This hearing is scheduled for April 24-26, beginning at 9am daily. To attend, go to the Fort Meade Visitor Control Center at the Fort Meade Main Gate (Maryland 175 & Reece Rd, Fort Meade, MD 21113). We suggest arriving when the visitor center opens at 7:30am (if you arrive late, you should still be able to get into the courtroom later in the morning).
Supporters are also encouraged to attend the courtroom proceedings for all or part of the day on Thursday, April 26.
For more information about organizing an event in your community April 24-26, please contact for ideas and resources.
Onto Iraq, where the Baghdad-based government has pinned so many hopes on the upcoming Arab League summit. Josh Levs, Jomana Karadsheh, Arwa Damon and Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) quote Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari stating, "It is a recognition of new Iraq that has emerged since 2003 . . ." A recognition of a new Iraq? Zebari got his wish today as Amnesty International released a new report entitled [PDF format warning] "Death Sentences And Executions 2011."
Yes, Iraq has found a way to stand out. As the report notes, "In 2011, Amnesty International recorded executions in 20 countries compared to 23 in 2010. Last year, 676 executions were recorded, an increase from 2010 and largely attributable to a significant increase in executions in three countries -- Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia." Hoshyar Zebari must be so proud. And fitting in with the region, "Nine of 22 Member states of the League of Arab Nations carried out executions in 2011: Egypt, Iraq, Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, United Arab Emirates and Yemen." Approximately a third of the League of Arab Nations practiced execution last year and Iraq was one of them.
But that's not really fair to the Iraqi government, burying it in the group like that. The government of Iran executed at least 360 people in 2011 which allowed it to come in first with the most executions. What an honor. And nipping at its heels, first runner up, was Saudi Arabia with 82 and just behind it? Iraq with 68. Third. They came in third. What a great moment for the country. It's method of choice for the 68 executions? Hanging.
68? Iraq even beat out the United States which shamefull executed 43 people in 2011.
As you read through the report, you see Iraq stands out time and again, such as in this passage:
Amnesty International remained concerned that, in the majority of countries where people were sentenced to death or executed, the death penalty was imposed after proceedings that did not meet international fair trial standards, often based on "confessions" that were allegedly extracted through torture or other duress. This was particularly the case in Belarus, China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia. In Iran and Iraq, some of these "confessions" were then broadcast on television before the trial took place, further breaching the defendants' right to presumption of innocence.
Or there's this:
The government of Iraq rarely discloses information about executions, especially names of those executed and exact numbers. According to Amnesty International information, at least 68 people were executed in Iraq, including two foreigners and three women. Hundreds of people were sentenced to death; 735 death sentences were referred to the Iraqi Presidency for final ratification between January 2009 and September 2011, of which 81 have been ratified. Most death sentences were imposed, and executions carried out, on people convicted of belonging to or involvement in attacks by armed groups, including murder, kidnapping, rape or other violent crimes.
On 16 November, 11 people, including one woman, convicted of terrorism-related offences, were reported to have been executed in al-Kadhimiya Prison in Baghdad. Among the executed men were an Egyptian and a Tunisian national, Yosri Trigui, who was arrested in 2006 by US forces for his alleged involvement in terrorism-related acts. He was sentenced to death by the Central Criminal Court of Iraq (CCCI) for his alleged involvement in a bomb attack in Samarra the same year, in a trial that did not appear to meet international standards. The intervention of Tunisian Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi had initially led to a short postponement of the execution.
Trial proceedings before the CCCI were very brief, often lasting only a few minutes before verdicts are handed down. Defendants in criminal cases often complained that "confessions" are extracted under torture and other ill-treatment during pre-trial interrogation. They were often held incommunicado in police stations or in detention without access to their legal representatives or relatives, not brought before an investigative judge within a reasonable time and not told of the reason for their arrest. The "confessions" extracted from them are often accepted by the courts without taking any or adequate steps to investigate defendants' allegations of torture. The "confessions" are also frequently broadcast on the Iraqi government-controlled satellite TV Al Iraqiya, which undermines the presumption of innocence.
For an overview of the report (HTML format) click here.
The new report is yet another reality that could detract from Nouri al-Maliki's attempts to portray a new Iraq via the Arab League Summit. Another bit of reality? The latest charge against his government, of torturing someone to death. Iraq's political crisis finally got the world's attention when Nouri charged Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi with terrorism -- it's not every day that a vice president gets charged with anything. More recently, Amir Sarbut Zaidan al-Batawi has died in the midst of months of being held by Nouri's security forces. He was al-Hashemi's bodyguard and al-Hashemi states he was tortured to death. Human Rights Watch has called for an investigation into the death. AFP reports he gave a speech today:

"I ask all human rights related organisations in Iraq to take urgent actions by sending (a) neutral and specialised committee to examine the body medically and to identify the cause of death," Hashemi said in a televised speech delivered in English.

"I also ask security and judicial authorities in Iraq to provide an explanation for what happened."
He said his lawyers had not been allowed to witness investigation hearings, and when they were given access to minutes of the hearing, judges barred them from taking notes or making copies.
"I beseech (the) international community to take rapid action to rectify (the) disastrous situation and status related to human rights, as the situation in Iraq has become intolerable," Hashemi said.

The Associated Press observes, "Al-Hashemi's timed his speech for the arrival in Baghdad of dignitaries, journalists and political observers for the annual Arab League summit in the Iraqi capital this week. Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby flew into Baghdad on Sunday and was meeting Iraq's leaders." And the questionable death seems all the more questionable as a major human rights organization notes Iraqi 'justice' and forced "confessions."