Friday, October 10, 2014

Can you say that with me, adobe?

There are many films I've seen thousands of times.  Especially if they were childhood favorites.

Tim Burton's Pee Wee's Big Adventure is one such film.

In it, Pee Wee's bicycle is stolen and he goes around the country looking for it.

A psychic tells him that it's in The Alamo, in the basement.

So he goes to Texas.

He gets on a tour where he keeps trying to ask Tour Guide Tina about the basement but she repeatedly asks him to hold his questions until the end of the tour.

One of my favorite parts of the film is the tour.  (I never cared for the part ahead of it with Simone.)  And my favorite part of the tour is when Pee Wee simmers while Tina stops in front of two figures.

Tina:  This is one of my personal favorite parts of the tour. Please say hello to our residents, Pedro and his wife Inez. Inez is holding a clay pot that she seems very proud of. She has carefully detailed it with lots of paint and glaze. And Pedro is working on an "adobe." Can you say that with me? "Adobe".

She will go on to lose her chewing gum while declaring how much she loves everyone on the tour.

If you've seen the movie, you know the scene, it's a classic.

And Tina was played by comedian Jan Hooks who has passed away.

For many of us, she's Tour Guide Tina forever.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, October 9, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, World Can't Wait calls out the continued Iraq War, Barack Obama's 'plan' for Iraq is shot down across the political spectrum, 'trend stories' aren't news, 'trend stories' are frequently insulting to women, there's no such thing as a heroic or good suicide bomber, one country's media whores may have to find real jobs (yes, I wish it were the US but it's not) and much more.

Let's start with The World Can't Wait this is from their most recent statement where they point out the problems were not caused by the drawdown of US forces at the end of 2011:

The U.S. withdrawal left what had been a relatively secular country split along sectarian lines, with a weak puppet government, and a huge opening for Islamic fundamentalists to push for religious rule.
No party in this fight, not Islamic militias, not the new Iraqi government — paid for by the U.S. — and certainly not the war machine of the U.S. itself, has "right" on its side. Tomahawk missiles fired from US carriers in the Persian Gulf, drone strikes and bombs can only bring unimaginable suffering to the Iraqi people.
We in the U.S. must speak out against any U.S. attacks on Iraq & Syria. By exposing and standing against the lies and crimes of our government, whether by Bush or Obama, we can make a difference in how people see what's going on.
Months of cable "news" repeating Pentagon press releases, has created a situation where people in the U.S. are  supporting more war on Iraq - and now on Syria - based on lies.   Huge numbers -- enough to elect a Democrat as president in 2008 -- had come to oppose the Bush regime's unjust and immoral war on Iraq.
But now too many people are drawn back into accepting new wars, on the basis that "something has to be done about ISIS."
The Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) is both a response to U.S. occupation of the region, and also literally, in some cases, was created by torture in U.S. prisons in Iraq; by billions of dollars in U.S. arms strewn about the region; and funded by close U.S. allies Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, societies where people also have scarcely any rights.  The Islamic State offers a disastrous future for the people, and is no damn good.
But U.S. occupations, bombs, economic exploitation, and support of every reactionary regime in the region have done more damage, by far, than any Islamic fundamentalist group in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It was the Bush regime that sold the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq — countries which never attacked the U.S. — on the basis of defeating the Taliban and al Qaeda, only to have strengthened the basis on which they operate.
The U.S. military cannot do anything to stop the violence of ISIS. NOTHING good can come from U.S. bombing, and we need to say so immediately and widely. Join us.

Download PDF (half-page, double-sided).


Good for World Can't Wait -- and I mean that.

Too many people are silent, a fact Elaine noted in her last post:

For two years now, I've called out Medea [Benjamin]'s 'protest' literature on The Drone War for slamming this or that person but never Barack Obama.  There are articles she's written condemning The Drone War that don't even mention Barack.
She's a dirty whore.  She was just in Latin America a few months back saying we in the US had to worry because the next president might be worse than Barack.
We're spied on, he kills people with drones, he's apparently after Julian Assange and Ed Snowden, he's started one war after another.
If there's not a movement in the US -- and there really isn't -- that's on the heads and asses of whores like Medea who've spent the last six years applauding Barack and refusing to call him out.

And Elaine's right.

And when others refuse to speak it pushes the work off onto those of us who will and we're already doing all we can.

I'm tired and I'm tired of being online.

But good news, I don't have to be.

No, a man e-mailed today to inform me that, "since you claim to be a feminist," I have to write about Nicholas Vinocur and Pauline Mevel (Reuters) report which opens:

Foad, a French truck driver of Moroccan origin, traveled alone through Syria to rescue his 15-year-old sister from an Islamist group she said was holding her captive. But when they finally stood face to face, in tears, she would not leave.
Foad is convinced that his sister Nora, whom he described as an impressionable teen who loved Disney movies before leaving for Syria one afternoon in January, stayed on because she was threatened with execution by the French-speaking commander, or emir, of the group she joined.

The former high school student is among dozens of European girls, many of them her age, living with such groups in Syria. It is an aspect of the conflict that is beginning to worry European governments previously more focused on the flow of young men to join the ranks of Islamic State and others.

Do I have to write about that?

Well it's good to know I can step down and hand off the baton, or at least the curling wand, to a man so capable and knowing that he knows what I must do as a feminist.

Except I don't see the feminist value in that story.

I guess you can argue that it proves women can be into destruction and killing but is that really a newly emerging detail?  Did we miss all of human history as well as Hillary Clinton's 'diplomatic' efforts in and out of office?

There's nothing a woman can't do -- whether it's doing good or doing bad.

The Reuters story?

It's the sort of 'trend' story Susan Faludi's documented so well in Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women.

It's heavy on anecdotes and it's short on facts.

More to the point though, it's one of those It Sings stories.

They don't celebrate women, they don't note women.  The hook of these stories, the very narrative, is, "Look at what it can do" (or has done).  Women are "it."  Or maybe it's our vaginas are "it."

We've ignored two similar stories.

A female peshmerga went into an Islamic State area in Iraq and blew herself up.

She completed a suicide mission.

I don't get where I applaud that.

There were many people -- men and women -- e-mailing that this 'heroic' act had to be celebrated.

My own feelings about suicide would be if that's what someone wants to do, it's what they want to do and some of us carry more pain or handle it worse or whatever.  I'm not going to condemn anyone who's taken their own life.

But I'm also not going to celebrate suicide bombing as heroic.

If it's heroic for one side to do it, it's heroic for another side to do it.

I don't want to live in a world where suicide bombing is applauded or considered heroic.

Had the woman fought to the death, it wouldn't have surprised me.  Many women throughout history have.  However, I would have agreed that could be heroic.

But I don't want suicide bombers all over the world because some nut jobs in the peshmerga think this is a cool way to kill.  There's nothing cool about it and if we applaud it in Iraq, we'll need to applaud it in the United States and elsewhere.

There was nothing heroic about what the woman did.  I wouldn't even call her a "human bomb" -- she was divorced from humanity when she took part in that effort.

And that has nothing to do with her gender, I'd feel the same way if it was a man.

I'm very bothered that the press tried to present her actions as glamorous or brave because if a suicide bomber goes off in Denver, it won't be glamorous or brave.

The other one we ignored was women fighters and how they may terrify the Islamic State.

We've covered women fighters before.  We may be the only who regularly noted the Daughters of Iraq. And we noted them and treated the development as something serious.  But then, repeatedly, the Daughters of Iraq popped up and disappeared based on whether or not they could be packaged as a 'trend story.'

We use "police officer" or "police member" here.  We realize the power of words and we know in spite of all the women in Iraq who had been part of the police force prior to the start of the illegal war in 2003, there was an effort to make it a job only men could do as Iraq was controlled by fundamentalists like Nouri al-Maliki.

And make no mistake, when you can't appoint women to your Cabinet, when even your Minister of Women's Affairs is a man, you're a fundamentalist.  You're actually much worse than that but we'll keep it clean.

My plan was to avoid these awful recent stories because at least women were getting recognized and the real story of Iraq reporting in the last eleven years is how western reporters have repeatedly ignored women and presented the story of Iraq as taking place in men's prison.  But this repeated nonsense in the e-mails where some drive-by insists this or that 'trend story' is about feminism or women's advancement is grating.

I don't know how to explain it with any more clarity but, no, feminism is not turning yourself into a walking bomb.

Now I am a feminist voice, not the feminist voice, but I'd be more than happy to have an exchange with any feminist that thought becoming a walking bomb was feminism -- mainly due to hearing just how they could shore up such a weak argument.

Speaking of weak arguments, Barack Obama's 'plan' for Iraq.

It's being called out across the political spectrum.

RIA Novosti quotes former Russian Ambassador to Libya Veniamin Popov stating, "Airstrikes alone are not enough to win against the Islamic State organization.  This is the US that lifted the lid, because they actively tried to overthrow [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, and thought that all means are good. So that, they directly or indirectly supported the terrorist organizations [in Syria]. And they got what they created."

In the US, Bill Van Auken (World Socialist Web Site ) notes yesterday's meeting Barack had with US military officials and explains, "As the meetings took place, there was further evidence that American policy in the region is in a state of disarray, beset by the immense contradictions in US policy, which had backed Islamist militias in the war for regime change in Syria, and is now attempting to curb the largest of these sectarian-based armed groups, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), after its overrunning of roughly a third of Iraq’s territory. American policy is further roiled by the conflicting agendas of the so-called “international coalition” that Obama has assembled to support the US-led war."

The Washington Examiner's editorial board weighs in noting, "Even where the casual deployment of air power can tip the balance of a war, it cannot establish a just or stable peace afterward. The best possible outcome of this strategy in Iraq and Syria might well be prolonged war among most of the same parties, but with a different balance in terms of their relative strength and odds of victory."


The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal offers:

A senior Obama Administration official headlined a leading story in Wednesday’s New York Times about American frustration with Turkish “inaction” in Syria. “There’s growing angst about Turkey dragging its feet to act to prevent a massacre less than a mile from its border,” this anonymous official said. “This isn’t how a NATO ally acts while hell is unfolding a stone’s throw from their border.” The charge was repeated in other media outlets.
It’d be nice to know why the White House thinks a public spat with a crucial NATO and Middle Eastern partner helps the war against ISIS. The U.S. “angst” over “dragging its feet” applies far better to what the French and British, the Arab Gulf allies, Jordan and above all Turkey have thought about American inaction on Syria while hundreds of thousands died and an Islamist ISIS army emerged to take huge chunks of territory.

Outside of the ever shrinking Cult of St. Barack, questions are being asked about the 'plan' and how it even qualifies as a plan.  On the issue of Turkey, Karen DeYoung and Liz Sly (Washington Post) report:

In a sign of their reluctance to directly antagonize Turkey on the eve of a key diplomatic meeting, U.S. officials sent mixed signals on Ankara’s demand that the United States establish a protected buffer zone along Turkey’s border with Syria.
“It is not now on the table as a military option that we’re considering,” said Rear Adm. John F. Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary.

Separately, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said the idea of a buffer zone was “worth looking at very, very closely” and that it would be discussed when retired Gen. John Allen, coordinator of the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria, holds high-level meetings in Turkey on Thursday.

The paper's Liz Sly Tweets:

Back to DeYoung and Sly's report, if the administration isn't sending mixed signals, they're antagonizing allies or would be allies.

They're also antagonizing the Iraqi people.  All the propaganda in the world can't hide that.  Yes, CENTCOM notes:

In Iraq, an airstrike south of Sinjar destroyed an ISIL bunker and ammunition cache and a small ISIL unit. Another airstrike, south of Sinjar Mountain, destroyed an ISIL armed vehicle and a small ISIL unit. To conduct these strikes, the U.S. employed attack aircraft deployed to the Centcom area of operations. All aircraft exited the strike areas safely.

 The strikes were conducted as part of President Barack Obama's comprehensive strategy to degrade and destroy ISIL.

Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports:

In Iraq's northern province of Nineveh, more than 20 people were killed and some 30 others wounded in the morning air strikes by the U.S.-led coalition against buildings believed to be IS headquarters in the eastern part of the provincial capital city of Mosul, some 400 km of Baghdad, an official from the security committee of Nineveh's provincial council told Xinhua.

Which is a polite way of saying the US just bombed civilians (again).  Still on violence, NINA notes a Baquba car bombing left 9 people dead and ten more injured and an Abu Dshir roadside bombing left 2 people dead and eight more injured.

Of course, today's Iraq news wasn't all bad.  Ibrahim Saleh (Niqash) reports:

Media organizations that fostered close links with and, some say, published or broadcast propaganda, for Iraq’s former Prime Minister are finding that their funding has dried up. Analysts and other suitably qualified individuals who used to defend al-Maliki in the media are having the same problems.

While his bosses searched for a new investor, young Iraqi journalist Hussein Aslawi was forced to resign. As the search for extra funding went on, the satellite TV channel Aslawi worked for had decided to cut down on its number of staff.

“And I tendered my resignation because things just are not the same anymore,” explains Aslawi, who worked as a news editor. “All of this is happening because the channel’s administrators have strong links to [former Iraqi Prime Minister] Nouri al-Maliki. So this is the result of his election loss,” Aslawi notes.

The media organisation’s administrators had pinned all their hopes – and the future of their operating budget - on al-Maliki winning a third term. “And despite our warnings, they didn’t do anything to protect themselves in case al-Maliki lost,” Aslawi says. “That’s why things have gotten so bad.”

Shortly before the last general elections in Iraq, held at the end of April this year, Aslawi says the satellite channel, whose name he did not want to reveal for fear of repercussions, received a lot of money from al-Maliki and his allies from out of a special campaign budget. “The money was paid on the condition that the channel changed its policies and supported al-Maliki,” says the young journalist, who adds that he and his colleagues were all shocked when they heard about the deal.  

“The channel became like al-Maliki’s spokesperson,” Aslawi says. “And it stayed that way up until Haider al-Abadi [the new Iraqi prime Minister] was assigned to form a government.”

At that stage, the channel was forced to stop broadcasting for almost two weeks. “And today its fate lies in finding somebody to finance it,” Aslawi notes. “But that seems very unlikely to happen.”

Whores forced out of their jobs?  Forced to work real ones or starve?

It could happen here!

Pacifica Radio could be taken down -- largely because of the waste and theft at WBAI throughout the '00s  and because All Media Whore Amy Goodman scammed Pacifica and walked away with millions.  The Nation has the coffers filled enough to continue online but print is iffy by the financial projections they hope no one leaks to the media.  (Will I or won't I? -- that is the question.) Others are even more worse off.

And should be.

Your loyalty should be to your listeners and readers.  You shouldn't whore yourself out for the powerful.  When someone's in the Oval Office, they have not just the Secret Service but also a team of rabid attack dogs to defend them.  They don't need the so-called press whoring to protect them.

But democracy does need a real press.

And Panhandle Media has failed the country and if dried up and disappeared what would we really miss?

Not much at all.

They don't report, they don't do much of anything except explain how awful Republicans are (or anyone who criticizes Barack) and look the other way.

They don't deserve to be on the air and they certainly don't deserve your money.

In Iraq, whores are being sent packing.

Too bad we can't say the same for the United States.

Lastly, David Bacon's latest book is The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration. We'll close with this from Bacon's "Tribunal Takes Up Mexico's Migrant 'Hell'" (The Progressive):

MEXICO CITY (10/8/14) -- Just before judges heard testimony on migration at the Permanent People's Tribunal in Mexico City last week, the Mexican government announced a new measure that might have been deliberately intended to show why activists brought the Tribunal to Mexico to begin with, three years ago.  Interior (Gobernacion) Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong told the press that the speed of trains known by migrants as "La Bestia" (The Beast) would be doubled.

Photos of "La Bestia" have become famous around the world, showing young migrants crowded on top of boxcars, riding the rails from the Guatemala border to near the U.S. It's a slow train, but many boys and girls have lost arms and legs trying to get on or off, and wind up living in limbo in the Casas de Migrantes -- the hostels run by the Catholic Church and other migrant rights activists throughout Mexico.  Osorio Chong said Mexico would require the companies operating the trains - a partnership between mining giant Grupo Mexico and the U.S. corporation Kansas City Southern - to hike their speed to make it harder for the migrants.

In the Tribunal, young people, giving only their first names out of fear, said they'd see many more severed limbs and deaths as a result, but that it wouldn't stop people from coming.  Armed gangs regularly rob the migrants, they charged, and young people get beaten and raped.  If they're willing to face this, they'll try to get on the trains no matter how fast they go.  "Mexico is a hell for migrants already," fumed Father Pedro Pantoja, who organized the Casa de Migrantes in Saltillo.



Thursday, October 09, 2014

The War Criminals

The Oman Tribune notes Joe Biden's apology tour continues:

US Vice-President Joe Biden called Saudi Arabia’s foreign affairs minister on Tuesday and “clarified” his diplomatic gaffe in which he suggested Saudi Arabia and other key allies had financed the rebels of what is called the Islamic State, the White House said.

Biden had already apologised to the leaders of the two other countries, Turkey and the UAE, which, like Saudi Arabia are key members of the US-led coalition taking on IS in Syria and Iraq. 

We'll always have Joe, right?

How will historians look back on this?

I think they'll see Joe as a buffoon and Barack as a War Criminal.

It's funny because the older Dick Cheney gave Bully Boy Bush a level of 'credibility' for some while Biden does just the opposite for Barack.

Both administrations need to be put on trial for War Crimes.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, October 8, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue,  Barack's 'plan' continues to fail, another helicopter is shot down in Iraq, Americans are unimpressed with the 'plan,' Jimmy Carter joins Leon Panetta in criticizing the 'plan,' the State Dept struggles to find success with the 'plan,' Brett McGurk ignores the lack of success by Tweeting about the US military, apple polisher Michael Cohen attacks Panetta, Save The Children calls for attention to the possibility of civilian casualties, A.N.S.W.E.R. organizes a protest for October 10th, and much more.

If you're a cross-eyed loser with a douche goatee, you learn to lie to yourself daily.  But that still doesn't excuse Michael Cohen lying to the rest of us.  In a column for The Daily Beast, Little Mikey attacks because that's what fat bitches do when the objects of their lust are in trouble.  That's how Michael came to blame not Barack but the American people for Barack's lie that "If you like your health care you can keep your health care."  I really don't like overgrown children who masturbate in public and pretend like they've made a logical argument.

Like an incontinent beast, Cohen just sprays all over the floor:

When Panetta became CIA director in 2009, he was demonstrably unqualified for the job. He had no background in foreign policy, intelligence or national security. His most apparent and highly-touted skill was that he understood his way around bureaucratic Washington.

I'm sorry, a member of the US military has no background in foreign policy, intelligence or national security?

A First Lieutenant in the Army has no background in foreign policy, intelligence or national security?

I'm sorry what was Leon Panetta doing at Fort Ord?

Oh, that's right, intelligence.

Cohen's such a sad little man.

Panetta dared to criticize Barack Obama and that's too much for Cohen.

So he damns Panetta for . . . advocating for a big budget for the Defense Dept when he headed the Defense Dept and for advocating for a bigger budget for the CIA when he headed the CIA.

These are not shocking developments but the natural aspect of the job.

Cohen lies throughout and deliberately distorts Panetta's remarks and statements.

The reason for that is, Cohen's point is to ensure that no one explore what Panetta's arguing.

Cohen wants to shut him down, wants to destroy him.

People like Cohen do the world no good at all.

He can string together words but he can't actually write and his plodding prose is an embarrassment.

He can't present ideas or even repeat them.

His thinking is simplistic and infantile.

Panetta favors US troops in Iraq.

I don't.

Panetta believes that US troops on the ground will assist Barack's (thus far faltering) military operation.

I've seen this before, we all have, Bully Boy Bush did it with the 'surge.'

With the 'surge' -- as with Barack's 'plan' -- the focus was on the toys not on the work.  Both men see/saw the US military as toy soldiers to be played with.

Both men swore a political solution was the answer but couldn't stop playing war games and do the damn work required to get to a political solution.

Putting US troops on the ground in Iraq -- and, yes, they already are -- is putting their lives in danger.


For a political solution that the administration wants but can't define and refuses to work towards?

US troops will do their mission -- they did during the surge -- and it will be for naught because Barack's got no plan for how a political solution comes about.

Troops will be used, as they were by Bully Boy Bush, to defocus from the real issues.

That's misusing the military.

I'd argue it's grounds for impeachment.

Panetta would argue that US troops on the ground will make a difference because you'll not just be causing scattering by bombing but you'll have forces on the ground to fight, round up, capture, etc in the aftermath of bombing.

And I'll gladly allow Panetta's points may be accurate.

Yet none of that provides a political solution for Iraq.

And so why is the US military being (mis)used?

There is no military solution in Iraq -- even Barack admits to that.  Barack repeatedly states the situation requires a political answer.

So how about you figure out how that comes about?

Instead, Barack wastes time getting more nations to agree to bomb Iraq.

John Pilger (Independent of Australia) observes, "As Barack Obama ignites his seventh war against the Muslim world since being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the orchestrated hysteria and lies make one almost nostalgic for Kissinger’s murderous honesty."

If bombing is the point, the US military can bomb Iraq over and over for years.  There's no need to round up other nations.

I can take on Leon's points.  (And can and have done so face to face -- I know and like Leon.)

Cohen can't.

And won't.

Because he exists solely to worship Barack Obama.

There is nothing more disgusting than a teacher's pet and that's only more true after the age of 20.

Tomorrow, Michael Cohen will probably work on attacking the American people (again) and attacking Jimmy Carter.  Justin Sink (The Hill) reveals the fairy tales are losing their luster with the American people:

Some 51 percent of respondents in the CBS News poll released Wednesday said they disapprove of the job the president is doing with the radical jihadist group, while just four in 10 approved. Those numbers are slightly worse than a month ago, when 48 percent disapproved of how Obama was approaching the situation.

Among those disapproving?  Former US President Jimmy Carter.  Cheryl K. Chumley (Washington Times) explains, "Former president Jimmy Carter took a harsh jab at President Obama this week, telling the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that the commander-in-chief dragged his feet on confronting Islamic State terrorism."

Carter's disapproval appears to be primarily over dropping bombs on an inhabited land without having trained people on the ground to call in those strikes.  He and Panetta both argue, in different ways, that Barack is not properly using the military or engaging the military command.
Today at the Pentagon, spokesperson Rear Adm John Kirby declared, "This afternoon, as you know, President Obama will also be coming to the Pentagon to meet with the senior DOD leadership, including the combatant commanders. I know Secretary Hagel is very much looking forward to hosting the Commander-in-Chief here in the building. There will also be a full meeting of the president's national security team here this afternoon to provide the president with an update on the campaign to degrade and destroy ISIL."
From that press briefing:
Q: Another question on the president's meetings today at the Pentagon. Do you think those meetings could result to a change in the strategy against ISIL? Can we see -- can we expect more U.S. advisers going to Iraq soon?

ADM. KIRBY: The purpose of today's meeting is to update the commander-in-chief on our progress across a wide variety of fronts. Yes, he'll be updated by General Austin on the campaign against ISIL. He'll get an update from General Rodriguez on what we're doing with Ebola. And the other combatant commanders will have a chance to speak, as well, for their regions and what they're doing.

It'll be a -- it'll be a global update. Clearly those two very hot topics will be discussed. I won't -- I can't speak for the president and what he will or won't decide as a result of the updates he's getting. We're not expecting any change to our strategy as a result of today's meetings.

Over two months after the start of bombing, it's news that Barack finally gets his ass to the Pentagon.

Carter has previously noted the possibility of civilian casualties.  It's a reality most refuse to acknowledge. Save The Children notes:

As Australian fighter jets drop their first bombs over Iraq, aid agency Save the Children stresses that military action by all must remain in line with humanitarian law and prioritise the protection of children and other civilians.
Aram Shakaram, Save the Children’s Program Director in Iraq said: “Children are already the innocent victims bearing the brunt of this war. Traumatised by the brutality of fighting even before the latest bombing, children are also at risk of being injured or killed as these air strikes are scaled up. It is the responsibility of all parties involved to make sure children and other civilians are kept safe.”
The children’s aid agency is particularly concerned about the on-going use of explosive weapons in populated areas, including Fallujah and Kirkuk, which have seen constant bombardment and fighting for weeks. This is the largest contributor to the killing and maiming of children in conflict.
“Air strikes, artillery fire, mortars and shelling are being used in towns and villages and risk killing innocent children. The impacts of these explosive weapons are indiscriminate: they kill and maim children and destroy hospitals and schools. The lethal nature of these deadly weapons prohibits our teams from delivering life-saving aid to children and families that need it,” Mr Shakaram added.
Save the Children has been working in Iraq for 23 years and was already supporting thousands of Syrian refugees in the country before the latest fighting erupted. The aid agency has launched a large-scale emergency response to support hundreds of thousands of the 1.8 million people who have been forced to flee their homes because of the conflict. More than 200,000 people have fled in recent months, many forced to live in abandoned or unfinished buildings, churches, mosques and schools.
“On the ground we’re seeing a dire situation – every day more people are forced from their homes fleeing brutal violence and fearing for their lives. Families are crammed into already-packed classrooms in schools being used as makeshift camps or living in unfinished buildings, completely unprotected from the elements. They are running out money and harsh winter weather is just around the corner. Yet, in some ways those that have escaped are the lucky ones – those left behind face even greater dangers as the fighting escalates.”
Save the Children is calling on the Australian Government to use all of its relevant diplomatic and advisory powers to ensure that all parties to the conflict and those considering military interventions to make the following commitments:
· Not to target civilians or civilian objects, including schools and hospitals
· Not to use explosive weapons in populated areas
· Not to use children in any role in armed groups or forces, including non-combat roles
· Not to use schools or hospitals as military assets
For interviews with Aram Shakaram call Olivia Zinzan on 0416 355 851

 Among many realities most refuse to acknowledge.   From this morning:

In other reality-based news, All Iraq News notes an Iraqi helicopter went down in Baiji. IANS adds:

Technical malfunctioning during landing apparently caused the chopper to crash while it was flying over al-Seiniyah area, just west of the refinery city of Baiji, some 200 km north of Iraq's capital Baghdad, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
The crashed chopper was one of the three carrying food and ammunition to an army force stationed at the besieged oil refinery outside Baiji. The besieged troops have been fighting the Sunni militant groups, including the Islamic State (IS), inside the vast refinery area for months.

Iraqi Spring MC notes rebels are saying they downed the helicopter -- and they were in the area bombing a Baiji refinery.

Downed by mechanical failure or by an attack, it's a possible outcome that really hasn't been addressed.  Last Friday an Iraqi helicopter was shot down.  If that happens to a US helicopter, I guess the media will finally be interested in exploring possible outcomes.

So what did happen to the helicopter?

This evening, Kirk Semple and Omar al-Jawoshy (New York Times) report:

Insurgents from the Islamic State militant group shot down an Iraqi military helicopter on Wednesday near a refinery town, Baiji, killing two onboard, Iraqi military officials said.
It was the second time in less than a week that the militants had shot down an Iraqi helicopter, raising the stakes for the Iraqi forces and the United States-led coalition fighting the group, which have dominated the sky during a campaign of airstrikes.

Barack's 'plan' is a failure.

Attacking Panetta won't change that.

At the State Dept today, spokesperson Jen Psaki made another attempt at defining success:

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry acknowledged today there were some setbacks and some successes with the Iraqi Security Forces. You were going to discuss yesterday some of the successes that --

MS. PSAKI: Sure, I talked about a few of them. And I think, obviously, there have been – as he said today, there have been some successes and there have been some areas where we know more work needs to be done. And we’re continuing to work with the Iraqi Security Forces to strengthen them. As you know from the assessment that we’ve done, we’ve assessed that there are certainly some that need more training, there are some that are fully prepared to fight. And so we’re working within those constraints. But let me just give you a few.
I think I mentioned these yesterday, but just in case you weren’t there for it, we’ve already seen Iraqi Security Forces retake and hold land at the Mosul Dam, Amirli, and push back ISIL forces around the Haditha Dam. They’ve also refortified around Baghdad. We’ve seen reports, as I mentioned yesterday, that Kurdish forces, with the support of Sunni tribes, retook the Iraq-Syria border crossing at Rabia last week, which fell to ISIL in June. This is an encouraging development as it will make it harder for ISIL to operate across the border.
And there were also reports within the last week that Iraqi Security Forces, working in conjunction with Sunni tribes, have pushed back ISIL in the town of Dhuliya. And so those are some of the areas where we’ve seen some successes. But obviously, we’re not naive of – about this and there’s much more work that needs to be done, which is why we’re working closely with them.

Well that's not impressive.

More to the point, what does any of that have to do with a political solution?

Not a damn thing.

For the State Dept, Brett McGurk is the lead on the diplomatic effort for Iraq.

But you'd never know it to follow him on Twitter.  Today's Tweets included:

What does any of that have to do with reaching a political solution in Iraq?

Not a damn thing.

But the State Dept, like the White House, can't point to any real accomplishments in Iraq.

In 2003, Barack's efforts -- done by Bully Boy Bush -- would have been called out loudly by the peace movement.  Today?  Not so much.   While so many are silent in the US, the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition is calling for action:

At his fundraiser with SF’s “elite”, let’s tell President Obama: No War!

Date: October 10, 2014
Time: 4:00 - 7:00 pm
Location: "W" Hotel
3rd and Howard Sts.
San Francisco, California
Contact: ANSWER Coalition at or 415-821-6545              
Join us to demand:
• Stop bombing Syria and Iraq!
• U.S. out of the Middle East!
• End U.S. aid to Israel!
• Money for jobs, housing, healthcare,  education, not war and occupation!

President Barack Obama is coming to San Francisco to raise tens of millions of dollars for the Democratic Party’s “war chest” and upcoming elections, as the peoples of the Middle East suffer a new U.S. bombing war, this time expanding into Syria and deepening in Iraq. The Pentagon generals are demanding “boots on the ground” in Washington’s quest for total domination of the oil-rich region. Gaza is still under rubble and blockaded by Israel, due to both Democrats’ and Republicans’ military aid to Israel. We urge everyone to come and protest Obama’s visit, to say: Stop bombing the people of the Middle East, U.S. Out! Money for Jobs and Housing, Not War!

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Panetta talks

Leon Panetta served in the White House, during Barakc's presidency, as both head of the CIA and as Secretary of Defense.  He was there when decisions were made.  Which makes this report from The Hill all the more disturbing:


He called the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq after 2011 "a mistake" and also said the administration's failure to anticipate ISIS's rise was "more than just an intelligence failure, it's a policy failure." 
Panetta also backed the idea of using special forces against ISIS in Iraq if military leaders recommended it. 
"If the military thinks that we ought to have special forces, boots on the ground in order to do what's right, I think the president ought to be open to that kind of recommendation," he said. 
Several times, Panetta doubted whether the president had the will to make tough decisions. 
"I'm a guy who believes that Barack Obama by virtue of what I've seen in the time I've been there has the guts to do the right thing, the real question is will he make the decision to do it," he said.

Unlike Leon Panetta, I don't believe we need to put more US troops in Iraq nor do I believe we need to be bombing.  This is a problem for Iraq to resolve.

If the Iraqi government -- which helped create the problem -- wants to solve it, they can.

But setting that aside, look at that judgment, a character judgment, from someone who knows Barack.

That's very damning.

In fairness to Panetta and Barack, I'll note this statement Panetta made:

“Don't get me wrong," Panetta said. "I think he was very strong in terms of the war on terrorism. And he made some tough decisions. But there were these decisions that basically never were confronted that I think, in many ways, contributed to the problems we're facing today."

Even with that, Panetta's remarks are still damning.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Tuesday, October 7, 2014. Chaos and violence continue, US officials betray the Constitution with remarks that goes against democratic principles, Barack's 'plan' gets more criticism, AP's Matt Lee asks the State Dept if they can point to a success, a new US Ambassador to Iraq has arrived in Baghdad, and much more.

There seems to be some confusion over this part of yesterday's snapshot:

Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has taken public many criticisms that he made in real time privately to the administration.  They can't deny these charges, so the administration has tried to attack Leon.  I know Leon and I like him.  I also know and like Vice President Joe Biden.  But . . .

I don't think Joe's ever said anything as idiotic as what Jason Ditz quotes him as saying:

Vice President Joe Biden was quick to criticize Panetta, although not on the content of his hawkish comments. Rather, Biden said it was “inappropriate” for Panetta to criticize Obama at all, on anything, until after 2016, and that he should “at least give the guy a chance to get out of office.”

A friend was joking over the weekend that "Uncle Joe" should run for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination with the slogan Free Flow Joe to note that Joe lacks any filter or self-censorship.

And he's said many dumb things but to insist that Leon or anyone is unable to criticize Barack for two more years is so deeply stupid and so deeply offensive that Joe, who doesn't have a real shot at the presidential nomination, should go ahead now and announce he won't be seeking it.

I like John Kerry and I supported his 2004 run.  When he had an incident that was just too destructive, I noted here he should give up plans to seek a second run in 2008.  Joe's remarks are the same type of offensive.  You really can't come back from that.  It doesn't go away and it undermines you at every step.

That's far from Joe's only problem remarks of late. As Alsumaria reported, Joe spent the weekend working the phones with the UAE and Turkey after he publicly declared that the two governments supported terrorism.

A number of e-mails maintain that I stated (stated, not wrote, the snapshots are dictated) Joe had blown his shot at the presidency due to his remarks about the UAE and Turkey.

That's not what I said.

That error was glaring because you don't say what Joe said -- whether it's true or not -- about Middle East countries who are assisting you with your 'plan' to destroy the Islamic State -- especially when you're trying to shore up support in the region.

At today's State Dept press briefing, spokesperson Jen Psaki noted:

Okay. I have two items for all of you at the top. General Allen and Ambassador McGurk are in Amman today, where they met with tribal leaders and sheikhs who have bravely resisted ISIL in Iraq. General Allen and Ambassador McGurk praised their courage and affirmed that those who stand against ISIL will continue to be supported by the international coalition. They also discussed our support for Prime Minister Abadi’s vision of a united Iraq and a united Iraqi National Guard that both empowers local populations to protect their communities and incorporates those forces within the formal national security structure.
Tomorrow, General Allen and Ambassador McGurk will meet with the King of Jordan and other Jordanian Government officials. They will also travel tomorrow to Cairo and then will be in Ankara October 9th and 10th. And we’ll have, of course, further readouts of their meetings there as the week continues.

Joe's remarks threw a monkey wrench into the efforts of reaching out to other MidEast countries.

The remarks were poorly timed and diplomatic efforts had to come to a sudden stop in order to address the situation Joe created.

I stated Joe's criticism of Leon Panetta was the problem.

Joe can be as stupid as he wants to be but while he's the Vice President of the United States, he needs to defend the Constitution -- in fact, he took an oath to do so.

Free speech is not aided by Joe's ridiculous and undemocratic barriers.

And that's not an open society or democracy -- one in which people must wait until an elected official is out of office for him or her to face any criticism.

Leon Panetta does not just have a legal right to speak out, he has a duty to as a member of a democracy.  And open society only exists when people can speak freely.

Anyone -- including Joe -- can disagree with what Leon says.

But if Leon feels it's important to democracy, he has a duty to speak out.

Joe makes many silly comments -- he also makes his share of wise ones -- but that wasn't the problem with the issue Jason Ditz was reporting on.

The problem was that Joe Biden argued Leon should be quiet until Barack was out of office.

That goes against the Constitution, it goes against free speech, it goes against democracy and open societies.  Someone who expresses that sort of belief -- a fleeting one or a firmly held one, it doesn't matter -- should not run for the US presidency.

I know there are many things going on in the world and that Joe says his share of stupid things; however, I am surprised that the media failed to pick up on the statements, specifically the undemocratic nature of them.

Joe's not the only one saying stupid things.  Democratic member of the House of Representative Dutch Ruppersberger has added his voice to the cry for more war and US boots (officially) on the ground in Iraq.  Peter Sullivan (The Hill) reports the House Intelligence Committee's Ranking Member appeared on Erin Burnett's CNN program last night and noted he was open to (more) US troops on the ground in Iraq.  He observed, "We have boots on the ground right now but they're not out there fighting."  Ruppersberger apparently wants them to be but frets that this would be announced ahead of their entering combat because, he says, "The only thing I'm concerned about, you don't tell the enemy what you're going to do."

Uh, yeah, you do.

You declare a war, Dutch.

Do you not know how it works, are you that stupid?

Maybe you are.

It's one thing not to offer battle plans to the enemy or 'enemy.'

But saying, "X will lead to combat" -- or saying "We are declaring war" -- those are basic statements.

Again, a war is supposed to start with a declaration.

Maybe Dutch should stop flapping his gums and brush up on the US Constitution?

One of the reasons declaring war is not hidden?

Because in a democracy citizens are supposed to weigh in.

In a democracy, citizens are over the officials.  The officials work for the citizens.

Dutch seems to struggle with that concept.  It's a shame people in his district can't give him two years off via the November election so he could take some time to learn about civic participation and other elements of an open society.

The bombing of Iraq is disturbing, the ongoing illegal war is disturbing.

But so are undemocratic statements made by elected officials who betray the Constitution with their guttural
expressed remarks that embrace totalitarianism and deception.

 US President Barack Obama has no plan.  By Dutch and Joe's 'educated' opinions, I should be silent about that.

No, I'm an American citizen and I can offer my opinion and should.  And so should all voices in a democracy.

Barack not only doesn't have a plan, he's repeating Bully Boy Bush (yet again!).

Bully Boy Bush knew the way to save Iraq from violence was (a) send a huge infusion of US troops into Iraq and (b) this military might would create the space -- fostered by US diplomatic officials -- for a political solution.

Barack knows he can save Iraq by (a) sending in us planes and helicopters over Iraq to bomb and (b) this military might will create the space -- fostered by US diplomatic officials -- for a political solution.

As with Bully Boy Bush, Barack got distracted playing war and forgot about the need for a political solution.

The surge failed because part (b) never took place.  The US military did their part.  The US diplomatic effort was a joke.

And that's what's happening with Barack's 'plan' today.

If you're not getting what a failure at diplomacy Barack has been, you may have missed yesterday's snapshot.  It closed with a transcript of a US press conference in Baghdad from last Friday.

Think about the issue of diplomacy as we note the key passage:

AMBASSADOR JONES:  Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the American Embassy.  It is great to see you here. So, welcome to the Embassy, it is great to have you here.
My name is Stuart Jones.  I had the honor yesterday of presenting my credentials to His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Iraq.  And so I am now very pleased to be here to replace my good friend and colleague, Steve Beecroft.  And, on this, my third day of work, it is also a great honor to present to you my good friend and colleague, General John Allen, who, as you know, is the President's special envoy to building the coalition against Daeesh.

In the midst of a diplomatic mission and focus, Barack is yet again switching US Ambassadors to Iraq.

In his six years as president, Barack has had four Ambassadors to Iraq:

1) Chris Hill
2) James Jeffrey
3) Robert S. Beecroft
4) Stuart Jones

Where is the consistency?

Maybe a stronger Iraq would be possible if the White House wasn't forever changing the lead US diplomat in Iraq.

Chris Hill was an utter failure, no question.

But Jeffrey was competent and Beecroft was competent and energetic.

How is there a consistent message to the government of Iraq or consistent support for it when they should be expecting every US ambassador to disappear within 16 months.

On Barack's 'plan,' Walter C Ladwig (Irish Independent) offers:

The recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have demonstrated that air power and other forms of long-range precision strikes can be devastatingly effective against relatively unskilled opponents, such as the 2001-era Afghan Taliban or Iraqi army conscripts in 2003. 
However, the same weapons have proved to be far less effective against relatively more skilled opponents, such as al-Qa'ida's foreign fighters, who have the ability to employ cover and concealment, build effective fighting positions, and otherwise adapt to the circumstances on the battlefield. .
Despite the startling advances in sensor technology in the past 20 years, it is still very hard to find targets to strike with air power in complex terrain, be it natural or man-made. Although Iraq is devoid of detection-disrupting forests, the critical landscape is its urban areas, which contain vast amounts of cover, not to mention innocent civilians that must be distinguished from legitimate military targets. Conducting effective air strikes in these circumstances against an opponent who knows how to exploit the terrain for their protection is not an easy task.

Ladwig goes on to argue that US troops are needed on the ground in Iraq.  And that really appears to have been the point of Barack's plan.  The planes were the early pregnancy of this wave of the Iraq War.  Now, at the start of the second trimester, he's adding helicopters.  Like a pregnancy, the war will continue to grow and increase in size.

You can object to the bombings without calling for more US troops to be sent into Iraq.  Last night, Mike noted  Robert Fisk (Indpendent) pointing out how limited Barack's plan actually is:

Is there a “Plan B” in Barack Obama’s brain? Or in David Cameron’s, for that matter? I mean, we’re vaguely told that air strikes against the ferocious “Islamic State” may go on for “a long time”. But how long is “long”? Are we just going to go on killing Arabs and bombing and bombing and bombing until, well, until we go on bombing? What happens if our Kurdish and non-existent “moderate” Syrian fighters – described by Vice-President Joe Biden last week as largely “shopkeepers” – don’t overthrow the monstrous “Islamic State”? Then I suppose we are going to bomb and bomb and bomb again. As a Lebanese colleague of mine asked in an article last week, what is Obama going to do next? Has he thought of that?

After Alan Henning’s beheading, the gorge rises at the thought of even discussing such things. But distance sometimes creates distorting mirrors, none so more than when it involves the distance between the Middle East and Washington, London, Paris and, I suppose, Canberra. In Beirut, I’ve been surveying the Arab television and press – and it’s interesting to see the gulf that divides what the Arabs see and hear, and what the West sees and hears. The gruesome detail is essential here to understand how Arabs have already grown used to jihadi barbarity. They have seen full video clips of the execution of Iraqis – if shot in the back of the head, they have come to realise, a victim’s blood pours from the front of his face – and they have seen video clips of Syrian soldiers not only beheaded but their heads then barbecued and carried through villages on sticks.

Barack's 'plan' is a failure.

The Associated Press' Matt Lee underscored that at today's State Dept press briefing:

QUESTION: Jen, you said that the President had laid out a clear and comprehensive strategy for dealing with this. Is it not at all distressing to the Administration that this clear and comprehensive strategy thus far has seen ISIL make gains rather than driving – than retreat?

MS. PSAKI: Well, in fact, I would disagree with that, Matt. There have been certainly gains made by the Iraqi Security Forces in Iraq. I can go through some of those for you if that would be useful.
We’ve said from the beginning and the President has said from the beginning that this would be a – an – would not be overnight, that this would be a long-term effort. And certainly, I outlined – as I just outlined, there are some strategy objectives that we’re focused on. We’ve gone after refineries. We’re going after strategic locations. And let me just tick through these and then we can go to your next question – some of our successes we’ve seen on the ground by the Iraqi Security Forces. One moment. Sorry. Well, I’ll find these.


MS. PSAKI: Sorry, I wanted to highlight them --

QUESTION: Does that mean there aren’t any? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: That does not at all mean that, Matt. There have been – the Iraqi Security Forces have pushed back and regained territory, and I just wanted to list through those. But I’ll find them before we end the briefing.
Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. But you say, clearly it’s – this isn’t going to be an overnight campaign, regardless of whether it’s clear and comprehensive or not. But overnight Kobani almost fell and by tomorrow may be in ISIL’s hands. And so I just don’t know how – is there not any concern at all that you’re not doing – that the clear and comprehensive strategy the President has laid down is not – isn’t working yet?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think --

QUESTION: Or do you think that the successes --

MS. PSAKI: -- the reason why I outlined our objectives here and what are the deliberate and focused campaign is, is to outline and highlight the fact that it’s been focused militarily on command and control structures, destroying ISIL’s critical infrastructure, and attacking sources of ISIL’s fuel and financing. And certainly, we’re undergoing airstrikes in a range of places, including in the neighborhood.

Iraq has so many crises and Barack's 'plan' does not appear to address any.

The United Nations News Centre notes:

The deteriorating humanitarian situation in Iraq is more than a crisis of food and shelter, it is a “crisis of spirit” that requires urgent action from the international community, the Deputy United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq said today.
Briefing reporters in New York via video-link from Erbil, Kevin Kennedy said that currently there are some 1.8 million people displaced in the country, mostly in Kurdistan and Anbar Province.
Over 860,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have arrived from Anbar, Mosul and Sinjar in the last several months as the situation has deteriorated in all those regions, he noted.
In August alone, 650,000 people arrived in Kurdistan seeking shelter, security and safety. Many of them have been staying with friends and relatives. Most of the refugees arriving now are seeking shelter in schools. This has caused the start of the school year to be delayed for months, Mr. Kennedy said, adding that it is uncertain when schools will reopen.
The IDPs are also dispersed, with about 400,000 of them in Anbar Province, which is not controlled by Iraqi Government forces. On top of that, Iraq is also hosting some 220,000 Syrian refugees and another one million people displaced since the start of the 2003 war.
“The people who are here came here to seek refuge. They are very traumatized having seen things they did not want to see,” said Mr. Kennedy, recalling a recent visit to Tikrit, where he met an elderly man who said that he could not account for his 41 family members.

As distressing as that is, it's October.  This is a time when cholera often becomes a serious issue in Iraq.  With all the fighting, if there is another serious cholera outbreak, it will probably receive little to no press coverage.

The waves of cholera result from a lack of potable water -- water which can be drank without causing illness, safe drinking water.  Iraq has a problem with that due to the decaying infrastructure.  Nouri al-Maliki was prime minister from 2006 until this past summer.  Eight years and he failed to address water and sanitation issues.  The water in many areas is unsafe to drink.

If you don't boil it or use purification tablets in it, you will likely get ill.

For eight years, Nouri was allowed to ignore this while claiming to represent the Iraqi people.

The water and sanitation issue may also be an issue this month if heavy rains emerge.

The decaying public infrastructure also means that sewers which would normally drain water remain out of commission and rains lead to flooding as the water stands.  It's now common for heavy rains to result in water up to the knees in parts of Sadr City.  (Sadr City is a section of Baghdad where some of cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr's followers live.)

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is a non-partisan group. They have released a voters guide for the upcoming mid-term elections.

Ahead of Election Day, IAVA Releases Voter Guide for Veterans’ Issues

CONTACT: Gretchen Andersen (212) 982-9699 or

Ahead of Election Day, IAVA Releases Voter Guide for Veterans’ Issues
Issue guide will help Americans cast smart votes to support new veterans on November 4th

Washington, D.C. (October 6, 2014) – In advance of midterm elections, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the nation’s first and largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization representing post-9/11 veterans and their families, has released a guide to help voters assess candidates on their support for vital veterans’ issues. The 2014 IAVA Veteran Voter Guide focuses on policy issues for: combating suicide among troops and veterans; ending the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability claims backlog; improving support for female veterans; combating effects of burn pit exposure; defending veterans’ education benefits; and lowering the veteran unemployment rate. The guide includes issue summaries and a checklist to help every American evaluate a political candidate’s platform and talking points.

To read the full 2014 IAVA Veteran Voter Guide, click here. Also included in the nonpartisan guide are questions voters can ask directly to candidates running for office; techniques to use when raising veterans issues at town halls and political events; and a tear-away Call to Action page.
IAVA is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization and does not endorse any candidates for office or support any political party.

“This election year, IAVA wants to make sure that every veteran’s voice is heard loud and clear by candidates across the country,” said IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff. "This is a pivotal year for the military and veteran communities, as 22 veterans die by suicide each day and our country marks 13 years in Afghanistan. We expect more than yellow ribbons and campaign speeches from our lawmakers. Thousands of servicemembers will be returning home this year and our country isn’t yet capable of meeting their needs. From increasing mental health care access to modernizing VA services for the unique needs of women, each American’s vote will get us one step closer to improving the lives of the new greatest generation.”

IAVA and its supporters want to see smart policy and tough decisions from leaders of both sides of the aisle on six critical issues:

1. Combating suicide among troops and veterans: According to the VA, 22 veterans die by suicide each day. Combating veteran suicide has been IAVA’s top priority in 2014 with the “We’ve Got Your Back: IAVA’s Campaign to Combat Suicide.” In July, House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) introduced the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention For American Veterans Act (Clay Hunt SAV Act), H.R. 5059. Once passed, the bill will combat veteran suicide and improve access to mental health care. IAVA is urging for bipartisan support for H.R. 5059.

2. Ending the VA disability claims backlog: Although the VA has made significant changes to meet its goal of reaching backlog zero by FY 2015, there is still work to be done. Currently, more than 230,000 veterans are stuck in the disability claims backlog. IAVA continues to call on the VA to create an infrastructure that allows the disability compensation system to protect future needs and adapt to a growing population of new veterans and even more complex injuries.

3. Improving support for female veterans: Women are the fastest growing segment of the veteran population. Similar to their male counterparts, women are facing challenges with unemployment, suicide and accessing mental health care.  According to the latest data from the VA, 57.4 percent of female veterans are enrolled in VA health care. However, the VA health care system is not designed to support the unique needs and experiences of female veterans with a lack in even the most basic VA services. IAVA is urging the VA to modernize its health care system for our women warriors.

4. Combating effects of burn pit exposure: According to IAVA’s 2014 Member Survey, 76 percent of respondents were exposed to burn pits while deployed and 54 percent of those exposed feel they have symptoms associated with that exposure. IAVA urges Congress to pass the Helping Veterans Exposed to Toxic Chemicals Act (H.R. 2510) to help improve health outcomes for veterans exposed to burn pits.

5. Defending veterans’ education benefits: The Post-9/11 GI Bill (or New GI Bill) has been the best investment our country has made in its veterans since World War II. However, GI Bill benefits are under attack. Due to the “90/10 loophole,” some for-profits are targeting the New GI Bill to line their pockets with taxpayer money by aggressively and deceptively recruiting veterans while failing to deliver the high-quality education and career opportunities they promised. Congress should pass legislation to close the 90/10 loophole that causes veterans to be unfairly targeted by some predatory for-profit schools.

6. Lowering the veteran unemployment rate: Post-9/11 veterans have consistently experienced a higher unemployment rate than their civilian counterparts. According to IAVA’s 2014 Member Survey, 10 percent of respondents are currently unemployed. While veteran unemployment rates have gradually declined in the last few years, there are still populations of veterans that are struggling more than most. IAVA calls on Congress to pass legislation to translate military skills into equivalent certifications.

Note to media: Email or call 212-982-9699 to speak with IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff or IAVA leadership about pressing veterans issues during the 2014 midterm election cycle. 

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America ( is the nation's first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has nearly 300,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Celebrating its 10th year anniversary, IAVA recently received the highest rating - four-stars - from Charity Navigator, America's largest charity evaluator.