Monday, July 23, 2007

Vets sue the VA, Third Estate Sunday Review and more

Monday, Monday. Back home. Had a blast hanging with the gang for the last two weeks but good to be back and good to see my niece again! She was just born when I left and she already looks bigger. :D

This is from AP:

Frustrated by delays in health care, a coalition of injured Iraq war veterans is accusing VA Secretary Jim Nicholson of breaking the law by denying them disability pay and mental health treatment.
The class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, filed Monday in federal court in San Francisco, seeks broad change in the agency as it struggles to meet growing demands from veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Suing on behalf of hundreds of thousands of veterans, it charges that the VA has failed warriors on several fronts -- from providing prompt disability benefits, to adding staff to reduce wait times for medical care to boosting services for post-traumatic stress disorder.

If you know about Cloy Richards or Tina Richards, you know how hard they had to fight to get his disability rating upped (I think it's at 70%) and that's not an uncommon story. It's funny because a centrist trying to pose left is going around promoting his new book saying we need to switch to the VA model. Guess he doesn't want universal health care? (Most centrists don't.) I think the law suit is great news but I also think we're going to see a Bully Boy appointed judge toss it out with some claim of "non-standing" or something. Bully Boy's packed the federal courts and they all rush to protect him and the administration.

And I'll note this from Democracy Now! "Five Pro-U.S. Sunni Leaders Assassinated:"

In the Iraqi city of Taji, at least five pro-U.S. Sunni leaders were assassinated on Saturday in a suicide bomb during a meeting.

Now for The Third Estate Sunday Review.

Truest statement of the week -- this was about how it isn't a democracy if you tell someone not to run. If Cindy Sheehan wants to run against Nancy Pelosi that's her business and her right.

A Note to Our Readers -- Jim breaks down the edition for the readers.

Editorial: Stop the Current Illegal War before the next one begins -- is the Peace Movement going to take 2008 off? They did in 2004. They all got on board the Anyone But Bush bandwagon. What were the results? (Besides Bully Boy still occupying the White House.) led the WalkOn path. You had idiot bloggers saying we had to listen to the religious right, you had the myth of "values voters" and you had nothing on Iraq. Go to archives and check it out if you don't believe me. Some of our 'big' voices today (who always cheer the Democrats for doing nothing) and want to pretend like they give a damn about Iraq were writing crap like "Bull Moose has a point" or tearing apart Dennis Hopper's wife or, in one case, having a freak attack because C.I. called one of the 'vangical right-wingers a "fool" (using the Beatles' "Fool On The Hill"). We couldn't, we mustn't! We have to be friends with the right wingers! That was the reality online in 2004 following the election with very few exceptions. C.I. started up The Common Ills right after the election and you can check those archives as well and you'll see C.I. was calling out the slaughter of Falluja while it was happening (immediately after the 2004 elections) and not dropping Iraq or selling about reproductive rights are encouraging Democrats to move to the right. Do you know how long it took to get Iraq back front and center? Forever. Cindy Sheehan really did spark the rebirth of the peace movement in the summer of 2005. And we can't afford to see that happen again. The usual sellouts will (once again) be talking crap and away from Iraq. They're not about anything but elections. The Peace Movement needs to be about ending the illegal war not about electing people to office. We need to pressure and prod candidates, not cheer them blindly.

TV: Losers & Fools -- Ma loves this. I do too. She said, "I can't believe they wrote it!" No one can, including Jim. This was the promised return to hard hitting and in depth and Jim didn't believe them. Ava and C.I. know too many people working on the crapfest that is Brothers & Sisters and didn't think Ava and C.I. would be calling the show out. They did. This is hilarious and true and you do not want to miss it.

Standing with the war resisters -- Let The Nation ignore war resisters, that magazine is useless. But you don't have to play into that game. War resisters are being brave and you can be brave too or play like Katrina vanden Heuvel and just be useless.

Iraq War Helper -- Betty's son came up with the idea for the illustration. Wally and me were talking about C.I.'s "Illegal war helper" last week and Betty's son (her oldest son) goes that we should do something with that and use the package of Hamburger Helper. We ended up having to go to the grocery store at the last minute and buy a box. I really like the way this turned out.

Mailbag -- I love this, love the entire edition. We spent way too much time talking and not enough time working and Dona was about to lose it, but it was a fun edition. This is dipping into the mailbag and a mini-roundtable.

Iraq reporting MSM style -- Jess and C.I. kept bringing this up forever and we didn't get the point. I don't know if we got the point (Jim thinks we did) and agreed to it this week or we agreed this time because we were just in a panic because we were running so late. But after it was done, everyone got the point and why Jess and C.I. had been pushing this feature forever.
It's funny because if you looked at the papers on Sunday or today, you might have seen something similar.

Sweet Nepotism -- Koo Koo Katrina vanden Heuvel. It must be nice to take over a magazine and then do nothing with it to be proud of but be sure to plug the groups you serve on. In this case, she's plugging a group that she AND her father serve on the board of. And she forgets to DISCLOSE that fact. As Elaine noted, it's not like Koo Koo Katrina is a journalist or trained in journalism.

New York Times enlists in the clampdown -- Last week the push back started with the administration trying to persuade the American people to accept November as a deadline and ingore the September report to Congress on Iraq. Somehow, the New York Times wanted to play stupid and pretend something else had happened and was happening.

Hightlights -- Dona said, "Include your links this week." :D Glad too. We usually list our names but this time we put our sites too and we also had Kat helping out. Along with Kat, this was written by Cedric, Wally, Betty, Rebecca, Elaine and me.

Okay, getting ready for the snapshot. First thing, it was later today and that's because C.I.'s doing test runs. There will be another before the day in August. I forget what day but C.I.'s got to go visit a friend who lives way up in the mountains. It's been forever since C.I.'s visited and the plan was to do it after the 2003 speaking which is still ongoing and will continue through at least 2008. So C.I. announced this (at the site) and I forget what day (I think it's the second week). The plan was to do no snapshot that day but members and visitors e-mailed asking if there could be at least a short snapshot? So C.I.'s testing that right now. Today was one trial run and there are at least two more planned. We were reminded Sunday when we were leaving that today would be a trial run so that snapshot would go up late. With all that, here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Monday, July 23, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces the death of another US service member, on Sunday the US bombed civilians (today the British follow suit), Iran and the US plan to meet tomorrow in Baghdad, and more.

Starting with war resistance.
Agustin Aguayo served in Iraq as a medic and attempted to be granted CO status. The US military refused to grant it and claimed that there had to be a religious awkening (which CO status does not require) while ignoring Aguayo's religious awakening. After his first tour, Aguayo was stationed in Germany when he was informed he would be returning to Iraq. Aguayo self-checked out and returned in less than 30 days which DID NOT prevent the US military from charging him with desertion (despite the fact that the accepted measure for a desertion charge is a minimum of 30 days). Aguayo's court-martial was held in the spring and he was sentenced to prison but the time since the end of September was recognized as time served. Aguayo is now back in the US and speaking out. Sunday he spoke in Los Angeles and Stuart Silverstein (Los Angeles Times) reports
he "received a hero's welcome" and declared that while serving in Iraq, "I realized I wasn't just a medic, someone that helps and patches up and heals the wounded. I was much more. I was an enabler of these missions."
Silverstein reports that Aguayo self-describes as a "conscientious objector/war resister." The Acorn reports that Aguayo will speak this Thursday from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm at Grant Brimhall, Thousand Oaks Library, 1401 E. James Rd., that the event is "free and open to the public" and more information is available by calling (805) 375-9939.

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Jared Hood and James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key,
Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Joshua Key, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Care, Kyle Huwer, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, forty-one US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.
Information on war resistance within the military can be found at
The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.

In a press briefing (via videolink) with reporters at the US Pentagon,
General Walter E. Gaskin, declared Friday, that "we have turned the corner. . . .we truly turned the corner". Reality? As noted by Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) today, "New Pentagon statistics show that the number of attacks in Iraq last month reached their highest daily average since May 2003. The data, which was obtained by Reuters, shows an upward trend in daily attacks in the four months since President Bush decided to escalate the war. During the month of June there was a daily average of 178 attacks against coalition troops, Iraqi security forces, civilians and infrastructure."

Over the weekend, the US military conducted an air strike in the heavily populated area north of the capital.
Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Qais Mizher (New York Times) reported that the US military asserted they had killed 'insurgents' only. Molly Hennessy-Fiske (Los Angeles Times) reported that the Saturday air attack was disputed by eye witnesses in Husseiniya "said U.S. helicopters attacked three houses in a four-hour period, killing at least 18 people, including women and children. They said about 21 people were wounded in the attacks, which leveled the buildings" and quoted Hazim Hussein stating, "It was a war and not a response to an attack targeting them. It was a war against civilians inside their houses."
Hannah Allam and Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) quoted Salam al Rubaiye who disputed the US military's account and declared, "Lies, lies, lies.The Americans always try to change the truth, especially when it concerns the Sadrists," and Bassem Musawi who stated, "I took out with my own hands the bodies of two young children, two men, two adult women and four little girls. I don't know why the Americans bombed these homes. I know one was the house of Abu Mustafa. He's a very poor man with only one boy and the rest of his family are girls. And he didn't even have a rifle." Democracy Now! today quoted one unidentified resident declaring, "This is what the occupation does. The occupation. Look at the fork-lift trucks, they've turned the world upside down, our relatives have been ripped to pieces. Does God accept this? Does Mohammed accept it? Why, are we heathens? Even Israel hasn't done anything like this. Israel did not do what America has done to us." And Amy Goodman (DN!) informed that "Sunday nearly 1,000 Iraqis rallied in Husseiniya to protest the killings."

In some of today's violence . . .


Sinan Salaheddin (AP) noted three car bombings in Baghdad today "within thirty minutes" Mohammed al Dulaimy and Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) report that three car bombs were followed later in the day by a fourth with an estimated 18 people being killed while at least 40 were wounded, that "Madhi Army militiamen barred a journlist from photographing the scene," that the Badr militia "set up their own checkpoing" within a 100 feet of the US forces (with apparently no US objection), and quote locals including Haider who declared, "We don't have a government! It's worthless. Bring me one honest man from the Sunnis or the Shiites!" and an elderly woman who asked, "Why are they killing us? We have no one left! They aren't saving anyone, they're killing civilians. And who's behind this?"
before pointing "to the American soldiers."

Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bus bombing claimed 1 life and left seven more wounded, a Baghdad mortar attack left four people injured, a bombing on Kafri - Tooz St. targeting Soleman Beck (who survived), a Mosul mortar attack that claimed the lives of 3 members of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, a child was wounded in a rocket attack in Basra, and one person was killed in Basra bombing by British forces which left eight more injured and damaged homes. BBC reports, "At least two policemen were killed and 10 wounded when a woman hiding an explosives belt under her Islamic gown blew herself up in the western Anbar province."


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the inury of 4 Iraqi soldiers from gunfire in Baghdad, 2 people shot dead in Baghdad, 2 people shot dead in Mosul, "2 electricity directorate workers" shot dead in Baquba (a third wounded), 2 shot dead at a fake check point in Khalis (five kidnapped, one wounded), and 2 shot dead at a fake check point in Khanaqeen (one wounded and at least two kidnapped). BBC reports, "Two people were shot dead in the town of Iskandariya, south of the Iraqi capital " CBS and AP report that the two were husband and wife and that a police officer was also killed.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 24 corpses discovered in Baghdad, 3 in Tooz, 1 in Bani Saad, and 8 in Mosul. CBS and AP report 3 corpses discovered "at a construction site in Iskandariyah".

Today the
US military announced: "One MNC-I Soldier was killed when an improvised explosive device detonated next to his vehicle during combat operations in Baghdad Saturday." The announcement brings the ICCC total to 3633 US service members killed in the illegal war with 54 of those for the month of July thus far.

Turning to political news. On Sunday, Turkey held elections.
Today's Zaman reports that the results of the election meant no big changes with the AK Party retaining their hold on power in "a landslide victory" leaving it "projected to win 340 seats in the 550-member Parliament." AP is calling it "a mandate" while noting "the new government faces a series of challenges, including a presidential election, Kurdish rebel violence and lingering tension over the role of Islam in society." Al Jazeera quotes Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan declaring, "This is the first time in 52 years that a party in power has increased its votes for a second term. We will continue to work with determination to achieve our European Union goal" but notes EU membership remains elusive with France objecting and other countries wanting to see more reforms. Today's Zaman notes there was a record and peaceful turnout with an estimated 42,533,041 people casting ballots. The Kurdish also won more seats in the election and this applies to Iraq in that the PKK, defined as a "terrorist group" by many Western nations including the United States, has favored a separatist movement in Turkey and is said to receive support in northern Iraq which has led to cross-border excursions by the Turkish military in recent months as well an exchange of mortars. As The Turkish Daily News noted Friday, Turkey is asking Iraq to extradite Ali Riza Altun (head of the PKK) after Austria waived him through. The Turkish Daily News also reports that Kurdish leader Leyla Zana is under investigation for remarks at a Friday get-out-the-vote rally where she allegedly called for the partitioning of Turkey supposedly stating, "It is time to divide Turkey into states. Ankara: Divide the country into states and establish the state of Kurdistan."

In United States political news,
John V. Walsh (CounterPunch) reports that the tired and boring Toad is back in the news penning an op-ed whining about Ralph Nader who may or may not run in the 2008 presidential election. Walsh notes that chants of "Run, Ralph, Run!" sprang up while Nader was speaking at this month's Green Party convention. Walsh reports that Toad gives a sloppy wet kiss to and hails it for its close relationship with DC (a relationship some might characterize as fondeling) despite the reality that "Gallup shows . . . the public is fed up with the crowd in Congress" referencing the fact that Congress' current approval rating is lower than when the Republicans were in charge in 2006.
On the Green Party convention,
Kimberly Wilder reported on it at her site and you can click here for video of Nadar addressing ballot access. No known video exists of Toad fueling rumors that he is the Dark Lord; however, several Manhattan adult video outlets may be of assistance.

In diplomatic news,
CBS and AP report that Iran and the US will meet in Baghdad tomorrow as a follow up to their May Baghdad meeting and that the US continues its whisper campaign accusing the Iranian government of arming Iraqis opposed to the US illegal war and occupation in their own country. In a Thursday press briefing (via videolink) with reporters, Lt. General Ray Odierno attempted to up the whisper campaign by claiming that
there was "a link between Iranian support to extremists" meaning al Qaeda but, when questioned further, admitted, "
We don't see any evidence -- significant evidence".
Mohammed al Dulaimy and Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) report that "some Iraqi officials had complained that they were being sidelined; another example of overlapping forces at play in Iraq. It was later agreed that Iraqi officials would observe the talks, though U.S.-Iranian interests would take center stage."

This as
Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) informs that 'benchmarks' are stalled in Iraq for a number of reasons including the planned vacation by the Iraqi Parliament next month (due to the increase heat) which makes it unlikely that anything will be passed before the US Congress receives the September 'progress' report that the White House had set as its own 'benchmark' but now tries to back peddle away from furiously with US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker declaring that the 'benchmarks' really don't matter. This follows the down playing of the September report by Lt. General Ray Odierno, Commander Multinational Corps-Iraq, in the Thursday press briefing where he stated that November was the time the escalation could really, really be measured. When questioned about the push-back in the briefing, Odierno responded, "What I was saying is -- again, my remarks were, in 45 days I will have a better idea if the trends are continuing, and that's September. Obviously, we have an assessment we will conduct in September that will provide -- that General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will provide. I was not looking at extending that time frame when they have to report back. What I imagine we'll have to do is do assessments that follow that initial assessment in September, and that's -- I'm assuming we'll continue to do assessments while we're here." Odierno never stated the September report would not take place -- nor could he, Congress accepted Bully Boy's talk of 'benchmarks,' wrote them into legislation and they are now Congressionally mandated.

Despite those facts (Congressionally mandated and Odierno being clear that he wasn't saying the report was off),
Thom Shanker and David E. Sanger (New York Times) spun Saturday trying to make 'good news' out of the fact that the September report was still 'on' -- it was never off. This was grasped on Thursday (by those paying attention) and on Friday when Tony Snow, White House flack, gave a press briefing and tried to Happy Talk the way Sanger and Shanker would the following day. When Snow attempted that, a reporter at the press briefing responded, "We know that he [Odierno] didn't ask to change the September reporting date. That isn't the point." But the New York Times tried to play dumb and make it the point on Saturday. The actual point is that the White House is attempting a push-back wherein they begin selling, "Ignore the September report we've repeatedly cited. It doesn't matter. What really matters is the November report." The push-back is to lower expectations, clampdown on public outrage and attempt to buy more time for the illegal war.