Brief Friday

Wally still here subbing for Rebecca who is in London and who I spoke to tonight. She needs me to write about something. Elaine told her that her daughter had a boyfriend.

That's me!

I don't know where she got it -- probably from her mother -- but she's decided I'm her boyfriend. She gets mad if anyone else sits by me besides her. She's a really cute little girl.

Okay, this is from Tom Evans (CNN):

On a day when car bombings targeting Shiite pilgrims in Iraq killed at least 32 people, Iraq's Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, said "drastic action" is required to improve the quality of Iraq's security forces.

Al-Hashimi told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that Iraq -- with U.S. help -- must put some sort of benchmarks in place to improve the qualifications of Iraq's armed forces and security services.

"Time is running out quickly," he said, referring to the fact the United States has agreed to withdraw all its forces from Iraq by the end of 2011. U.S. combat forces are due to leave much earlier, by August of this year.

There's no real withdrawal. It's amazing that so many people want to believe that fairy tale. You wonder what they're going to say when 2011 ends?

Once upon a time, they could pretend but it's not that far away anymore. It's already 2010.

It'll be interesting to watch who speaks out and who goes along with the lie even after the withdrawal doesn't happen.

And now here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, February 5, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq is slammed again with bombings resulting in mass fatalities, election chaos continues, was Tuesday all a Democratic photo op, and more.
Today, Iraq is again slammed with bombings resulting in mass fatalities. Fang Yang (Xinhua) reports, "Two car bombs went off at the same time on a bridge named Wadil- Salam which is located east of Karbala, 80 km south of Baghdad, an Iraqi interior ministry source told Xinhua. The two cars loaded with heavy explosives were parked at the two ends of the bridge respectively, said the source who refused to give his name." AFP states it was a mortar bomb. Chelsea J. Carter (AP) reports it was a suicide car bombing immediately followed by the mortar attack. CNN goes with two car bombings. The Washington Post's Ernesto Londono (at the Financial Times of London) explains, "Investigators were trying to determine whether there had been one or two explosions." Skipping the specifics of the bombing types, Al Jazeera notes, "Al Jazeera has learned that three Iraqi army vehicles were also destroyed in the attack." This morning AP counted 27 dead thus far and at least sixty injured. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) also counted 27 dead but 131 injured while noting that the numbers would likely rise throughout the day -- which they did. Muhanad Mohammed, Sami al-Jumaili, Michael Christie and Jon Boyle (Reuters) report the death toll has now reached "at least 40 people [dead] and wounded 145 others" according to "health officials". The US State Dept released the following statement from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:
The United States condemns the series of bombing attacks against Shi'a pilgrims in Iraq over the past week. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. Attacking men, women and children engaged in religious pilgrimage is reprehensible and exposes the cynical immorality of the terrorists who seek to replace Iraq's hard-won progress with violence and intimidation. They will not succeed in breaking the will of the Iraqi people. Iraqis are committed to realizing the promise of their democracy. There is no better rebuke to those who traffic in terror.
BBC News (link has text and a clip of the aftermath of the bombings) offers, "The BBC's Gabriel Gatehouse in Baghdad says that the stakes are high; a peaceful and credible election would allow the country to draw a line underneath the bloodshed and turbulence of recent years, he says. But, he adds, these recent bombings have raised fears of a return to sectarian violence, just as American forces prepare to withdraw." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) and Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) explain, "The bombings play to the worst fears of Iraqi and US officials that attacks could re-ignite the kind of sectarian violence that plunged this country into civil war three years ago. They sparked anger even among security officers." Anthony Shadid (New York Times) observes, "There was a sense of fatalism to the attacks, one of dozens this week on pilgrims that the Shiite-led government had girmly predicted but was powerless to stop. The killings have underlined the very meaning of the pilgrimage: a religious ritual to commemorate Imam Hussein, the grandson of the prophet Mohammed whose death in the battlefield in Karbala in A.D. 680 gave Shiite Muslims an ethos of suffering, martyrdom and resistance." Sayed Mahdi al-Modaressi (The New Statesman) explains:
For Shias, Hussein is the ultimate moral exemplar: a man who refused to bow in the face of tyranny and despotism. Shias see his martyrdom as the greatest victory of good over evil, right over wrong, truth over falsehood. In the words of the Urdu poet Muhammad Iqbal: "Imam Hussein uprooted despotism for ever till the Day of Resurrection. He watered the dry garden of freedom with the surging wave of his blood, and indeed he awakened the sleeping Muslim nation . . . Hussein weltered in blood and dust for the sake of truth."
But why would all these people walk for hundreds of miles to remember a painful event that took place over 13 centuries ago? Visitors to the shrine of Hussein and his brother Abbas in Karbala are not driven by emotion alone. They cry because they make a conscious decision to be reminded of the atrocious nature of the loss and, in doing so, they reaffirm their pledge to everything that is virtuous and holy.
The first thing that pilgrims do on facing his shrine is recite the Ziyara, a sacred text addressing Hussein with due respect for his status, position and lineage. In it, the Shia imams who followed him after the massacre in Karbala instruct their followers to begin the address by calling Hussein the "inheritor" and "heir" of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus.
There is something profound in making this proclamation. It shows that Hussein's message of truth and freedom is viewed as an inseparable extension of that list of divinely appointed prophets.
Pilgrims go to Karbala not to admire its physical beauty, or to shop, or to be entertained, or to visit ancient historical sites. They go there to cry. They go to mourn. They go to join the angels in their grief. They enter the sacred shrine weeping and lamenting.

Liz Sly and Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) provide this context, "Overall, there have been eight suicide bombings in Iraq the past 11 days, targeting hotels and government buildings as well as pilgrims, in a sign that the Sunni extremist insurgency appears to be regrouping in an attempt to destabilize the country ahead of the March 7 election." In other reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadise bombing which claimed the life of 1 pilgrim and left fifteen more injured.
Reuters notes 1 pilgrim was injured by a Baghdad sniper shooting and that 2 police officers were shot dead in Mosul.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Interior Ministry employee Brig Gen Ali Ghalib was kidnapped last night in Baghdad.
Reuters notes 1 corpse was discovered in Mosul ("kidnapping victim riddled with bullets").
The war that never ends. Jake Armstrong (Pasadena Weekly) notes that Tuesday, February 2nd was the 2,405 day of the Iraq War and, using DoD figures, notes 4,378 deaths of US service members in Iraq since the start of the Iraq War. The elections and violence were discussed today on the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR -- which is archived and you can also podcast) when Diane spoke with Bryan Bender (Boston Globe), Youchi Dreazen (Wall St. Journal) and Elise Labott (CNN).
Diane Rehm: And now let's talk about Iraq and it's election commison which has delayed start of campaigning for Parliamentary elections. How come, Elise?
Elise Labott: Well an Iraqi appeals court this week overturned an effort to bar hundreds of candidates from upcoming elections. Many of these were aligned with Saddam Hussein's former Ba'ath Party. Many of them were members of Parliament to begin with, in previous elections [post-invasion, previous elections] and they had already been vetted. But the ban, you know, really threatened to disenfranchise Sunnis once again and open up possible sectarian tensions that we've seen over the last few years. The court overturned this ban. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had said, you know, no, that's fine, it's a Constitutional -- it's unconstitutional to overturn the ban. And so now they've postponed the elections [she means the start of campaigning for the elections].
Diane Rehm: So what's that going to mean for the whole government, Youchi?
Youchi Dreazen: There's that wonderful line in [Francis Ford Coppola's] The Godfather III where Al Pacino says, "Every time I think I'm out, they pull me back in." And the US, we've thought that the war is over, that the violence has stopped, the sectarian tensions are gone, Maliki's a strong leader, we can focus on something else and pull our troops out. And what's been made clear over the last few weeks -- both politically as Elise talked about but much more horrifically in terms of suicide bombings, one of which destroyed our office -- the [Wall St.] Journal offices and, of course, much worse, many human lives at the Hamra hotel in Baghdad where I lived myself for close to two years.
Diane Rehm: Really.
Youchi Dreazen: The violence is back in force and what you're seeing is the kind of syncronized attacks throughout Baghdad that you saw in the worst days of '06, '07. So this belief that we won was resting, basically, on two pillars. One, violence was gone. Two, sectarian tensions are gone. What we're seeing now is that both are still back.
Bryan Bender: I think the seriousness with which these recent developments are viewed in Washington was evident by the fact that Vice President Joe Biden was sent to Iraq a couple of weeks ago in the wake of this decision to bar these candidates because there's some real concern that the longer the elections are delayed, the more this friction is there -- and the violence increase, that you could see things unravel there.
On the elections, Leila Fadel and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post) report that the ruling -- which didn't clear the 500-plus candidates of charges, only stated the charges would be evaluated after the election -- is questioned by the electoral commission, will result in Little Nouri meeting with "the Presidency Council, the parliamentary speaker and the top judge on the supreme court" and, if needed, with Parliament Sunday. As Nada Bakri (New York Times) points out, already the conflicting back and forth means that election campaigning is now scheduled to start February 12th and Bakri observes: "The latest escalation in the dispute over who is permitted to run in the elections has unsettled the political landscape. Iraqi law remains untested and perhaps bereft of mechanisms to reach a solution just a month before the vote." Anne Barker (Australia's ABC) covers the issue here. Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports that the potential Parliament meeting on Sunday is "an extra-ordinary session" Little Nouri is calling and that, meanwhile, other avenues are being stopped such as yesterday when "the seven-judge appeals panel postponed the review of the demands submitted by some of the banned politicians to check their charges till after the March 7 elections, giving a green light to the banned politicians to run in the elections." Should Little Nouri succeed with the supreme court or the Saturday meeting of the Sunday meeting, the banned candidates will once again have to scramble in an attempt to run for office via appeals -- appeals which have currently been stopped. Pakistan's The News reports Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi stated in DC yesterday, "The decision taken by the appeal committee should be espected by all parties. Hopefully, it will be debated in the parliament but at the end of the day I think nobody (has) the right to block the decision taken by the committee." Alsumaria TV breaks the news that Nouri's decrying the decision as foreign interference and "State of Law Coalition political committee held on Thursday an urgent meeting attended by head of Party Nuri Al Maliki. The meeting discussed the appeals panel decision and political pressure and interference in this regard." The New York Times editorial board offers the suggestion that Iraq 'get on' with the March 7th election:

Right now, Mr. Maliki and the Parliament should get on with the campaign. Instead of trying to keep competitors off the ballot, Iraq's leaders should be debating their country's many serious problems and telling voters how they will fix them. For Iraq to be stable and to thrive -- and for American troops to safely go home -- the candidate list, and the next Iraqi government, must represent all of Iraq's people.
Following a request by the Iraqi Election Commission (IHEC), UNHCR stands ready to facilitate the participation of Iraqi refugees living in the countries neighbouring Iraq in the forthcoming elections. The 7 March elections are considered to be a major opportunity to consolidate national reconciliation.
As of December 2009, UNHCR had on its records some 300,000 Iraqis who are believed to still be present in the region (including over 210,000 in Syria), of whom close to 190,000 are of voting age. Based on host government sources, the total number of Iraqis in the region is much higher, as hundreds of thousands of Iraqis do not register with UNHCR for a variety of reasons.
In close cooperation with the competent Iraqi authorities and the host governments, UNHCR's assistance will be limited to providing demographic data on the registered Iraqis, informing them of their rights to participate in the elections, and providing logistical support that may be needed for a smooth and orderly election process.
Lachlan Carmichael (AFP): Just a quick reaction on the charges against the 10 Americans in Haiti. And also if I may add, is the United States studying the idea of withholding recognition of the Iraqi elections in March if the 500 Sunni candidates are excluded? The reason I ask is Vice President Hashimi told a few of us State Department reporters last night that that was the case. He raised it with you and he heard that you're stdying it.
US Secreaty of State Hillary Clinton: Well, first, Lachlan, on the 10 American citizens detained and now charged in Haiti, we are providing consular services. We have full access to them. The American ambassador is speaking with his counterparts in the Haitian Government. Obviously, this is a matter for the Haitian judicial system. We're going to continue to provide support, as we do in every instance like this, to American citizens who have been charged, and hope that this matter can be resolved in an expeditious way. But it is something that a sovereign nation is pursuing, based on the evidence that it presented when charges were announced. With respect to Iraq, we were heartened by the decision earlier this week to reverse the deletion of the 500 names from the election lists for the upcoming election. We care very deeply that this election be free and fair and viewed by -- legitimate by all of the communities within Iraq and by the neighbors. This is an extraordinary opportunity for Iraqis to consolidate their democracy. We have not made any decision about reacting to events that might occur within the context of the elections, but we certainly were heartened by the court decision earlier.
In a follow up, Clinton refused to speculate on what the position would be if the 500-plus candidates were again banned and reiterated the support for the appeals court decision allowing all the candidates to run. James Hider (Times of London) offers this in terms of the mood and prospects:
The stand-off does not bode well for a country where the security gains of recent years are seen by a deeply traumatised population as fragile and reversible. The streets are filled with heavily armed security forces but suicide bombers manage to negotiate multiple checkpoints with ease.
Many analysts are unsure as to who will emerge victorious from the elections, some touting the pro-Western former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, others believing that Mr al-Maliki may be able to pull together enough backing for a second term.
Waiting in the wings are the Shia Islamist blocs the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the Sadrists, with the former hoping that they can clinch the prime minister's office.
Meanwhile Josh Rogin (Foreign Policy) speaks to the State Dept's Deputy Secretary Jack Lew who tells him the Dept will be increasing their role in Iraq and a FY2010 supplemental request for $2.1 billion has been made to raise the level of State Dept positions in that country to 664 by September 2010. Speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday (this is me, not Rogin) and the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates repeated that State Dept was beefing up their role in Iraq and, asked in the House why the Defense costs in Iraq have not come down, he stated that the hand-over with the State Dept as well as handing things over to Iraqis has resulted in the still large expenditures but that (for the Defense Dept) they would decrease in FY2011.
Yesterday's snapshot noted the US House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing. Wally, filling in for Rebecca, noted Chair Bob Filner's joke to the Ranking Member ("A hearing, a joke, a non-starting election") and Trina provided an overview and critique of the hearing ("The budget, our dollars"). Kat ("Collen Murphy wants the truth about daughter's death") noted Staff Sgt Amy Seyboth Tirador died November 4th while serving in Iraq. Jessica M. Pasko (Troy Record) reports that Colleen Murphy believes "the military is covering up the real cause" of her daughter's death and that the military is in the midst of 'creating' and 'amplifying' minor issues in order to make the death appear a suicide. Collen Murphy stated, "No one that knew Amy would believe that she'd ever commit suicide. In my opinion, it was a set-up. It was premeditated, and it was the perfect set-up."
Also in the news this week has been Don't Ask, Don't Tell which garnered a great deal of media attention following Tuesday's Senate Armed Services hearing. For coverage, see Tuesday's "Iraq snapshot," Trina's "Senate Armed Services Committee DADT," Wally's
"Armed Services Committee, Heroes," Kat's "Barack pretends to care about Don't Ask Don't Tell," Marica's "Not doing cartwheels right now," Betty's "Barack tries to trick big donors" and Marcia's "And they wonder why American voters are cyncial." Yesterday, James Hohmann (Politico) reported that US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is saying that actual voting on repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell probably won't take place until November 2010 at the earliest -- doing little to dispell the critique that the whole thing was a song and dance effort by Democrats to trick Big Donors who have decided to Just Say No while the policy is Don't Ask, Don't Tell into donating again -- just in time for the mid-term fundraising. While Nancy and others may have time for fun and games, there are people's lives at stake here -- people who've put their lives on hold, people who dream of getting back into the military and people who fear being outed and kicked out of the military. NPR's Ina Jaffee (Morning Edition, link has audio and text) tells the stories of veterans like Julianne Sohn who was a ramine until she was kicked out under the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy and she says, "Serving my country was a huge honor, and I was willing to sacrifice my personal life to go into the Marine Corps. [. . .] I was out to some of my close friends . . . these are lieutenants and captains . . . but a lot of them didn't care. All that really matters is getting the job done."
In London, the Iraq Inquiry resumes public hearings Monday when they are scheduled to hear from Gen John McColl followed by (in a return appearance) Jack Straw. Hearings concluded for the week on Wednesday but might as well have stopped on Tuesday after Clare Short's testimony to judge by the media's focus (that would be non-US media since US media has largely ignored the hearings). Last Friday, Tony Blair testified and those not talking about just Clare Short were often also talking about Tony Blair. Peter Biles (BBC News) covers Short's Tuesday testimony today, "She swept into the QEII Centre on the arm of one of the officials, but the former international development secretary needed no help. She had come, not for her day in court exactly, but to place on record an outpouring of anger that has been festering for the past seven years." Alan Cowell (New York Times) offers a column on Blair's testimony. Unlike Cowell, Dan Milmo (Guardian) notes today how Blair was heckled last week. Blair's inane testimony was called out by Short (called out and corrected by Short) and there's been other developments this week. As noted in Wednesday's snapshot: ". . . Elfyn Llwyd on Clare Short's assertion that Blair was frantic to support the US. Tomas Livingstone (Wales News) reports MP Elfyn Llwyd has stated that the the 2002 Crawford ranch meeting is where Blair and Bush agreed to go to war -- no hesistations, no ifs, just to go to war. He tells Livingstone that a memo exists noting this agreement and that he will gladly testify before the Inquiry eitehr in private or in person." Today BBC News reports:

The leader of Plaid Cymru's MPs has said he has a memo showing Tony Blair and George Bush struck a secret deal to invade Iraq a year before the 2003 war.

Elfyn Llwyd told the BBC's Straight Talk he had written to Iraq Inquiry chair Sir John Chilcot to say he would be prepared to hand the document over.
He said the memo, which is marked "Top Secret and Confidential" contradicted statements made by Mr Blair.
TV notes. NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):

Has the Democratic Party abandoned support of reproductive rights? Next on NOW.
To gain their historic control of Congress, Democrats fielded moderate candidates who didn't always follow the party line, especially when it came to abortion. Now that the Democratic Party has the legislative upper hand, are they willing to negotiate away reproductive rights for other political gains? On Friday, February 5 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW goes to Allentown, Pennsylvania to ask: Are abortion rights now in jeopardy at the very hands of the party that has historically protected them? Among those interviewed are pro-life Democratic U.S. Representative Bart Stupak and former DNC Chairman Howard Dean.
"If there was a bill on the floor to reverse Roe vs Wade, and says 'life begins at conception,' I would vote for it." Congressman Stupak tells NOW.
Jen Boulanger, director of the often-protested Allentown Women's Center, says, "I would expect more from the Democratic Party, to stick to their ideals, not just throw us to the curb."
Has the Democratic Party traded principles for power? Next on NOW.

Staying with TV notes, Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen are Jackie Calmes (New York Times), Michael Duffy (Time magazine), Martha Raddatz (ABC News) and Pete Williams (NBC News) . Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Andrea Pennington, Tara Setmayer and Patricia Sosa to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes doesn't air this Sunday but returns February 14th.


A hearing, a joke, a non-starting election

Wally still here subbing for Rebecca who is in London.

Today we attended the House Veterans Affairs Committee and there's not really a great deal to note about it. John Buyer is the Ranking Member and, during his opening remarks, he kept talking about the need for scientific proof of this and that. As he was getting ready to leave, Chair Bob Filner noted that he should remember that scientific evidence the next time the issue was global warming. Then they let the VA Secretary speak and it was Charlie Brown's teacher rawh rawh rawh rawh.

Not a productive hearing in my opinion though it probably achieved whatever it intended.

Meanwhile, everything's gone crazy in Iraq. After a ruling yesterday that the banned candidates could run and the charges against them would be evaluated after the elections, Nouri and company went into overdrive and now the whole thing's a mess. This is from Nada Bakri at the New York Times and it just posted so it will be in tomorrow's paper:

Iraqi legal experts defended the court’s decision to postpone the determinations of the candidates’ eligibility, calling it constitutional, and said election officials should respect the ruling. “The appeals court didn’t find the candidates who were included in the procedures innocent yet,” said Tariq Harb, a prominent lawyer. “It just delayed its decision.”

C.I. covers this is the snapshot at length and also notes a letter Congress sent to the White House. If you're not getting it, Congress is (a) trying to restate that the withdrawal needs to happen (it may not, as they know since no plan has been presented to them despite repeated requests) and (b) trying to make sure something is done. We heard multiple Congress members today and yesterday mention the New York Times interview with then-candidate Barack that no one seems to have paid attention to in real time but are now discovering. Key point: Barack stated he had no problem sending troops back in if the 'security' 'situation' in Iraq got worse.

I need to stop here and call Cedric so we can work on our post or we'll end up posting tomorrow morning (like we posted this morning).

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

Thursday, February 4, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Little Nouri attacks the press, Little Nouri tries to reinstate banning of political opponents, the Iraq Inquiry forgets the "Iraq" part, and more.
The Times of London notes this week's bombings resulting in mass fatalties and that "Nouri al-Maliki, the Prime Minister, has made security a central theme in his re-election campaign." And that, in response to the latest wave of bombings, Nouri made the usual move: "He called on security forces to offer greater protection." This as Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reports that Nouri's "accidental rise to power" has not brought him a huge number of supporters -- leaving him "politically isolated and regionally estranged" and she explains:

Iraq has a multiparty parliamentary system. Lawmakers choose the president, who in turn gives the largest coalition in the parliament the first opportunity to choose the prime minister and form the government. If Maliki's bloc can win the largest number of seats, a majority in the parliament will still be needed to endorse his government. Without alliances, that could prove impossible.
"He has to manage to get alliances with others or he's done," said Askari, the independent Shiite politician.
Erstwhile allies say they will not support Maliki this time around.

Fadel goes on to note that Moqtada al-Sadr supporters are among those who feel burned by Little Nouri. No surprise there after his assault on Basra which also added an assault on Sadr City at the same time (2008) when protests began there against the Basra assault. Distanced from many Shi'ite sects, never embraced by Sunnis and no friend to the Kurds, time for Nouri to stomp his feet and again reveal his nasty side.
Shortly after being installed, the first thing Nouri al-Maliki (thug of the occupation) did was begin floating notions of curtailing media freedoms. When the Green Zone was stormed in June of 2006 (stormed but not breached), the 'crackdowns' became a regular feature of daily life and Little Nouri worked on a 'plan' that the media repeatedly misrepresented -- US media repeatedly misrepresented. It applauded the various planks -- including the neighborhood patrols which were already taking place and were neither an idea of Nouri's nor something that needed to be implemented. In addition, considering the ethnic cleansing that would soon take place (what some dub the civil war of 2006 and 2007), maybe armed militias really weren't something to applaud? But if they weren't giving Nouri credit for things he didn't do, the US press might have to call out the plank attacking journalism. The BBC called it out. Foreign outlets called it out. It was in the US reporting that you never heard about it. Nouri had been installed only months prior and had already made repeated anti-media remarks publicly, but his plank attacking journalism, his plank that required registration and more, it didn't register in the US media.
Considering all the waves of attacks on journalism that have followed under Nouri (most infamously when a New York Times reporter was 'fired' on by a member of the Iraqi military who then laughed because there was no bullet . . . this time), maybe the post-war mea culpa that's needed is the one for refusing to loudly and vocally defend the rights of the press? Nouri's at it again. From the Committee to Protect Journalism:

New York, February 4, 2010 -- An Iraqi government plan to impose restrictive rules on broadcast news media represents an alarming return to authoritarianism, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. CPJ denounced the rules and called on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his government to abandon their repressive plan.

CPJ's review of the plan found rules that fall well short of international standards for freedom of expression and that appear to contravene the Iraqi constitution, which provides for a free press. The new rules would effectively impose government licensing of journalists and media outlets, a tool that authoritarian governments worldwide have long used to censor the news.

The rules would also bar coverage that the government vaguely describes as incitement to violence. CPJ research shows that such broad and unspecified standards are often used by repressive governments to silence critical coverage.

A copy of the plan, obtained by CPJ, can be downloaded here as a PDF (9 MB, Arabic).

"The regulations suggest either a lack of understanding of the news media's role in a democratic society, or a deliberate attempt to suppress information and stifle opposing views," said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon . "Either way, the rules should be rescinded immediately so that the media can do its job free of government intimidation."

The new regulations were drafted by the Iraqi Communications and Media Commission (CMC), a government body that does not appear to have legal authority to draft such rules, CPJ research shows. The CMC was created with a narrow mandate to administer broadcast frequencies and other technical issues.

CPJ's review found that the rules are replete with broad and vaguely expressed restrictions. While demanding that all local and international broadcast media be licensed and that all individual journalists be accredited by the CMC, the rules provide little information on the criteria the government would use in issuing such licenses. (All equipment must also be registered with the government.) The plan also states that news media must abstain from "incitement to violence," but it does not define what would constitute a violation.

Media deemed to violate the rules could face closure, suspensions, fines, and confiscation of equipment.

CPJ found other alarming aspects to the rules. They stipulate, for example, that media organizations submit lists of their employees to the government. While the clause raises privacy concerns, it is particularly ominous in light of the recent history of journalist murders in Iraq . Of the 140 journalists killed in Iraq since 2003, at least 89 were targeted for murder, CPJ research shows. Another 43 media support workers, such as drivers and interpreters, were also murdered. In case after case, CPJ research shows, these journalists were targeted because of sectarian or work affiliations; many have gone to great lengths to conceal their profession for fear of reprisal.

In discussions with foreign reporters in Iraq, CMC representatives made it clear that media organizations would have to reveal confidential sources if they sought to challenge a determination made by the agency. If the CMC finds that a media organization has published information it deems inaccurate or inflammatory, the identification of sources would be central to any challenge to CMC findings, journalists who attended the meetings told CPJ.

"The regulations themselves, and the explanations provided by CMC officials, suggest that sources could be compromised, reporting could be censored, and Iraqi staff could be intimidated," Simon added.

Michael Christie (Reuters) observes, "It remains risky for Iraqis to be associated with foreign companies and Western media fear that handing over staff lists places them at risk from militia, insurgents like al Qaeda, or kidnap gangs. Many reporters working for foreign media do not tell their neighbors what they do. [. . .] Reuters and other media are already routinely threatened by officials with lawsuits or expulsion because of disparities between the number of bomb victims reported by their police and interior ministry sources, and official death tolls."
Yesterday came news of a decision reached by a ruling body in Iraq on the elections issue. Already Nouri is striking back at the decision. To recap, we'll note this from yesterday's snapshot:

On Al Jazeera's Riz Khan yesterday, the issue of the elections were addressed with Riz Khan asking, "How free and fair is an election when a government bans certain people from running? Iraq goes to the polls on March the 7th but has barred more than 500 candidates which could ultimately plunge the country into chaos, even civil war." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) reports today that the government has managed to avert "a political crisis of its own making" as a result of the ban being overturned today "by a panel of seven judges". The Economist calls it "Best news in weeks." Margaret Coker (Wall St. Journal) explains, "The decision now opens the way for full-fledged campaigning to begin, as scheduled, on February 7. It wasn't immediately clear how many of the banned candidates would accept the compromise decision, or how the decision might affect the election outcome itself." Scott Peterson (Christian Science Monitor) adds, "But if the ruling stands, there's a catch: those blacklisted will still be subject to investigation after the vote for past ties to the regime of Saddam Hussein." And what would happen then? Caroline Alexander and Kadhim Ajrash (Bloomberg News) observe, "Election Commission official Hamdia al-Husseini told Agence France-Presse that those later found to have links to the Baath Party would be 'eliminated.'" Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports, "The ruling enraged the architect of the blacklist, Ali Faisal al-Lami, who is a close aide of the head of the former ­de-Ba'athification Commission, Ahmed Chalabi. That commission, which was a signature body of the post-Saddam Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), evolved into a contentious group known as the Accountability and Justice Commission." And to clear up a nasty rumor, there is no known sex tape of Ahmed Chalabi and his boy pal Ali al-Lami being distributed in Basra. Absolutely not. Nasty, hurtful rumors. Unless a tape should surface. Ammar Karim (AFP) notes, "Chalabi, who has close ties to Iran, was appointed deputy prime minister after the invasion but intelligence he provided in support of those claims in the run-up to war later turned out to be flawed and he subsequently fell out of favour with Washington." The decision is still being studied and Al Jazeera notes Saleh al-Mutlaq, of the sectarian National Dialogue Party and who was one of the banned, "declined to give an immediate comment."

Reuters reported this morning that Nouri's mouthpiece, Ali al-Dabbagh, posted to his website the following: "Postponing implementing the law of the Justice and Accountability Commission till after the election is illegal and not constitutional." Anne Tang (Xinhua) notes the cries of "illegal!" as well while Margaret Corker (Wall St. Journal) adds, "Faraj Al Haidari, the head of the electoral body running the election, says he has asked the Supreme Federal Court to weigh in on the political controversy to quell the mounting accusations among political parties that the closely watched poll set to take place on March 7 has been tainted by sectarianism." Corker explains that Al Haidari doesn't believe that this would delay elections but if elections are scheduled for March 7th and it's February 4th, exactly when would candidates campaign? While they were 'banned,' they couldn't campaign. Now with the question mark Nouri's throwing on them, they may not be able to campaign -- and certainly some of their time will be taken up with this mess even if they are campaigning. How do you have fair and free elections when candidates aren't even sure they're going to be on next month's ballot? How do you have fair and free elections when Iraqi voters are using their own limited time (just as limited as any American voter or any voter in any other country) to study up on the issues and deciding, "Well, if I have to cut back somewhere, maybe I just won't look into these candidates who might not even make the ballot"? That's not speculation, BBC News reports, "Iraq's electoral commission has said it will delay the start of campaigning for next month's parliamentary elections."
And it is apparently not enough to toss the matter to the courts -- or rather, back to the courts again. Scott Peterson (Christian Science Monitor via Gulf News) reports, "Baghdad: Iraq's premier has convened parliament for Sunday to debate what his government branded an 'illegal' decision to reinstate candidates with alleged links to ousted dictator Saddam Hussain in next month's election, state television said." So the decision to allow ALL candidates to run is being targeted by Nouri with a court appeal and an appeal to Parliament. And if the two are in conflict? Or if the two both shoot Nouri down? Where does it end? And when does it end? March 5th when candidates are left to scramble? This is nonsense and it's turning the entire elections into a joke. (Or, if you prefer, a bigger joke.) Gulf News, after yesterday's decision, was editorializing in praise of it and noting, "Elections serve no purpose if they are seen to be manipulated, since the government that emerges from a corrupt process will not have a popular mandate. Elections must have transparent rules that are published well in advance and do not change. This allows parties to form, adopt political positions, campaign for support and form electoral alliances. Any last-minute shift in the rules necessarily corrupts this complex process." Instead, those who are seen as threats to Nouri are left to scramble.
Jomana Karadsheh and Yousif Bassil (CNN) note, "While U.S. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the top U.S. military official in Iraq, said about 55 percent of the group were Shiite with alleged links to the Baathist party, the most prominent politicians on the list were Sunni Arabs. Members of that community swiftly deplored the move and even threatened an election boycott." Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reminds, "Ali Lami, executive director of the separate Accountability and Justice Commission, which ordered the disbarments, condemned the judges' decision as representing 'American interference' in Iraqi politics, and vowed to fight it in the courts. U.S. officials have charged that Lami has close ties to Iran. The chairman of the accountability commission is Ahmad Chalabi, who was once a Pentagon favorite but fell from grace after he was suspected of passing information to Iran." NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (All Things Considered -- link has audio and text) reports:
According to Human Rights Watch, the Supreme National Commission for Accountability and Justice -- a body without clear authority that compiled the list -- mainly targeted candidates from the two largest secular coalitions. They are both expected to do well on March 7.
Veteran Sunni politician Salah al-Mutlak, who had been on the banned list, told NPR in a interview this week that the commission targeted him because the current crop of elected officials are afraid losing power.
"They are scared because most of them, they don't even have the qualifications to be a parliamentary member or they are corrupted financially, or their hands are not clean from the Iraqi blood. So they know that the coming government is going to go after them, and there will be a law if there is a decent government, and the law will follow them," Mutlak says.
The above and more has resulted in a letter to the White House, House Reps William Delahunt, Howard Berman, Gary Ackerman, Donald Payne, Russ Carnahan, John Tanner, Lynn Woolsey, Barbara Lee, Brad Miller, Keith Ellison, Jim Moran, Dennis Kucinich, Edward Markey, Steve Cohen, David Price, Maruice Hinchey, John Conyers, Earl Blumenauer, Bob Filner, Jan Schakowsky, John Tierney, Jim McGovern, Rosa DeLauro, John Olver, Niki Tsongas, Stephen Lynch and Richard Neal have [PDF format warning} written President Barack Obama:
We are writing to express our strong support for a continued focus by your Administration on the upcoming general elections in Iraq. These elections, currently scheduled for March 7, 2010, will determine Iraq's political future -- and America's relationship with that nation.
If elections are accepted by the Iraqi people and the world as free, fair and successful, they will deepen Iraq's democracy and provide a basis for a stable, respectful relationship between our countries. But -- as we have already seen in Afghanistan and Iran -- if the elections are seen as fraudulent, they could inflame tensions inside and outside the country and undermine efforts to strengthen democracy. In the worst case, they could even lead to a civil conflict and a resumption of wide-scale violence.
The impact on the U.S.-Iraqi relationship of a failed or fraudulent election would be equally disastrous, particularly as U.S. troops continue to withdraw from Iraq as mandated under the U.S.-Iraq bilateral agreement which entered in to force on January 1, 2009.
With regard to that agreement, we commend your commitment to it and support your plan to bring our troop levels down to 50,000 by August 2010 and to withdraw all U.S. force by the end of 2011. We believe that it is important that your Administration deliver a clear message to the Iraqi government and people that, while we are committed to helping Iraqis stabilize their country, we will not change our withdrawal plans based on the date or outcome of the elections. Our continued presence in Iraq -- even after the successful June 30, 2009 withdrawal of our combat forces from Iraqi cities -- is already an issue in Iraqi politics. To explicitly tie our withdrawal to the elections or their outcome would only further exacerbate existing tensions.
We believe that, as part of our commitment to helping Iraqis stabilize their country and strengthen their democracy, the U.S. should encourage Iraqi leaders to comply with the recently agreed-to election date of March 7, 2010. As you well know, the elections have already been postponed from the original target in January. Further delays will only undermind the confidence of the Iraqi people in the elections and will have a correspondingly negative impact on the U.S.-Iraq bilateral relationship.
Furthermore, it is critical that all political parties can field candidates in the elections. Rather than banning politicians from participation, the Iraqi authorities should trust the Iraqi people to decide who they want to elect. Otherwise, the appearance of manipulation of the ballot -- even before votes are cast -- could compromise the legitimacy of the election. We ask you to work with Iraqi authorities to ensure the Iraqi people have a full range of options on the ballot.
We also strongly urge your Adminstration to assist Iraq in ensuring the elections are free and fair. The Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) has repeatedly called for international organizations to send monitors to Iraq. However, to the best of our knowledge, few have responded. We urge you to allocate emergency funding for U.S. NGOs and encourage them to go to Iraq to observe the election. We also suggest that your Administration increase its cooperation with the United Nations in supporting Iraqi domestic observers. And we recommend you explore other avenues -- perhaps through regional organizations -- to encourage non-U.S. international observers.
Finally, we commend your Administration's assistance to Iraq in its efforts to end the UN Chapter VII mandates still pertaining to that country, and urge you to make this a priority over the next year. We also urge you to fully implement the Strategic Framework Agreement agreed to on November 17, 2008 to enable more non-military collaboration between our two countries. Taken together, these efforts will demonstrate to the Iraqi people our continued commitment to their nation's stability and our desire for a realtionship based on mutual respect and support.
In conclusion, Mr. President, we believe the upcoming elections in Iraq will be the most improtant in that nation's history. We urge your Administration to do all it can to ensure that they are successful and viewed as free and fair. And we commit to working with you toward that goal.
If you control who runs, if you intimidate the press, how are you different from Saddam Hussein? That's a question that might be asked in the near future if this issue isn't resolved. Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
KUNA reports a suicide car bombing in Mosul which claimed the life of the driver as well as the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers while leaving eight people injured. Reuters notes 1 man was shot dead as he departed a mosque in Mosul.
Today in the US, the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing on the Fiscal Year budget request for 2011. Comittee Chair Bob Filner noted voting would mean they had to get the first panel started quickly so that the members could then go off an vote. Ranking Member Steve Buyer would use his opening statement to ask a series of questions -- questions, he himself pointed out, he'd be unable to hear the answers to because he was rushing off to a Comcast hearing. That more than set the tone for the hearing.
Chair Bob Filner: Mr Secretary, you and the President have requested a VA budget of $125 billion roughly including a total discretionary request of $60 plus billion. And the VA medical care represents 86% of the total discretionary budget. Also for FY2011, the administration is requesting $51. and a half billion in resources for this VA medical care. Appropriated resources for FY2011 have already been provided in last year's consodlidated approriations act and the funding level is an increase 4.1 billion or 8.6% over FY2010 levels. Rest assured that this committee will be working closely with our counterparts in the administration and the Senate to make sure the process moves forward to ensure that veterans have the medical care resources they need when fiscal year 2012 begins in 2011.
VA Secretary Eric Shinseki would deliver a lengthy statement supposedly taking accountability for various misteps and repeatedly insisting (such as when it came to processing medical claims) that the VA's actions were not 'good enough' and needed to improve. But for someone supposedly interested in accountability, the issue of the 2009 fall sememster checks that should have gone out in August under the GI Bill was not addressed, this depsite the fact that as of January 1, 2010, over a thousand veterans were still waiting for the checks they should have received over four months prior. When the VA steps forward this year to suddenly claim they need addtional funds for the GI Bill remember that Shinseki ignored addressing that program (a program which VA has clearly failed at thus far) when delivering his request for Fiscal Year 2010 funding.
That really summarizes the entire hearing. Yesterday's snapshot addressed a House Armed Services Committee hearing on sexual assault in the military, Wally, filling in for Rebecca, covered it last night with "House Armed Services' Military Personnel Subcomittee," Trina covered it with "Niki Tsongas asks the question" and Kat with "Defense Task Force on Sexual Assault in the Military Services." If any cover today's hearing, we'll note it tomorrow. (Wally may cover a joke told in the hearing, I'm not aware of anyone else expressing great interest in the hearing for the reasons outline above. Trina may do an overview.)
The Iraq Inquiry held hearings in London yesterday and will hold its next scheduled public hearing on Monday. Of yesterday's hearing, the Yorkshire Post notes Kevin Tebbit's testimony that the military "had to cut projects for helicopters, warships and Nimrod spy planes" due to then-Chancellor Gordon Brown cutting military spending. Brendan O'Neill (Guardian) focuses on Ann Clwyd's testimony and offers:
Clwyd is Labour MP for Cynon Valley and head of Indict, a group that campaigned for many years for the arrest and punishment of Saddam Hussein and his cronies under international law. On the eve of the Iraq War – 18 March 2003 to be precise – Clwyd wrote an article for the Times in which she claimed that Saddam had a people-shredding machine.
Apparently the Ba'athists would dump their opponents into a machine "designed for shredding plastic", and later put their minced remains into "plastic bags" so they could eventually be used as "fish food".
It gets worse: apparently these unfortunate men were put into the shredder feet first so that they could briefly behold their own mutilation before death.
Not surprisingly, Clwyd's shocking claims spread around the world like a virus. The then prime minister of Australia, John Howard, talked of Saddam's "human-shredding machine" in a speech justifying his decision to send troops to Iraq. Paul Wolfowitz, the Bush administration's hawkish deputy defence secretary, expressed his admiration for Clwyd's article and a link to it was posted on the US state department's website. Numerous pro-war journalists repeated Clwyd's claims.
There was only one problem: there was no strong evidence, and there still isn't, that Saddam had anything like a people-shredding machine.
When I investigated this story for the Spectator and the Guardian in early 2004, I found no convincing evidence that such a medieval-sounding contraption ever existed.
Meanwhile, the Inquiry is being watched by the world. Neil Berry (Al Arabiya News Channel) offers this take on how some may be seeing it:

The objective of the Chilcot inquiry is to examine how Britain came to be involved in the Iraq war and identify what lessons may be learned. The official hope is that it will achieve "closure" by demonstrating to the British public and the wider world, and not least to the grieving relatives of dead British servicemen, that, however unhappy its consequences, Britain undertook military action in good faith. What is now overwhelmingly apparent, following Blair's testimony before the inquiry and the testimonies of fellow politicians, diplomats and civil servants, is that "closure" is not in prospect.
For many in the Arab world, its very personnel is bound to make it hard to respect the inquiry's bona fides. The fact is that two of its five members, Sir Martin Gilbert and Sir Lawrence Freedman, are Jews who supported the war. Yet the question of the propriety of including two such figures without any corresponding representation of the Arab point of view can hardly be raised in Britain without inviting the charge of anti-Semitism. The BBC reported that Sir Martin Gilbert told an online Israeli settlement radio station of his hurt at being named as a Jew by "anti-Semite" writing in British newspapers. Gilbert was referring among others to the former British diplomat, Sir Oliver Miles, whose manifest concern was not with Gilbert's Jewishness but the counterproductive consequences of including Jewish supporters of the war in the panel of an inquiry that is surely meant to command international respect. Not that you would have understood Miles' qualms from the BBC's tendentious report.
Among others, the Inquiry has refused (thus far) to call Hans Blix (who's made clear he's willing to testify). Gulf Daily News points to others who are being excluded:
Why have no Iraqis, or Americans for that matter, been asked to testify about an event that affected them more than anyone?
If, as so many people believe, the war was about oil, why not call Hussein Al Sharistani to testify? He was a prisoner in Abu Ghraib under Saddam, escaped, resettled in London and returned to become oil minister.
Or what about Ahmad Chalabi, the former leader of the Iraqi opposition in exile?
He was accused of providing misleading intelligence on weapons of mass destruction that helped make the case for the invasion.
He is now regarded as an Iranian ally. He was certainly at the centre of events leading up to the war.
So too was Ayad Allawi, the Surrey-based opposition figure, openly supported by the British government and now a candidate in next month's elections.
All three had front-row seats in the run-up to the war, its conduct and the aftermath.
Iraqis could also help establish whether this war was justified, not in the narrow legal sense that has obsessed politicians in Britain, but morally.
Meanwhile This Is Somerset notes, "Relatives of Radstock soldier Corporal Gordon Pritchard, pictured -- who was the 100th serviceman to die in the Iraq war -- say they are disgusted that former Prime Minister Tony Blair did not say sorry or that he regretted the loss of life when he appeared at the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war last week. The 31-year-old soldier who lived in Radstock with his wife Julie-Ann and their three children, was killed by a roadside bomb on January 31, 2006." Still for some it's all about the elections in England and specifically about whether or not Labour will be harmed. Deborah Orr (Guardian) threw a text tantrum over the matter and we called her out here. Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) does a better job of taking on her agument here and observes, "If the effect on voters is an important test of the Inquiry's usefulness – and I am not saying that it is -- it may prove to be very useful. Despite Sir John Chilcot's best efforts, it is giving the opposition a stick with which to beat the government and could -- as many Labour MPs are said to fear -- have a significant impact on the coming election. So a comparison between a pre-Inquiry election and a post-Inquiry one would not support Orr's thesis."

TV notes. NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):

Has the Democratic Party abandoned support of reproductive rights? Next on NOW.
To gain their historic control of Congress, Democrats fielded moderate candidates who didn't always follow the party line, especially when it came to abortion. Now that the Democratic Party has the legislative upper hand, are they willing to negotiate away reproductive rights for other political gains? On Friday, February 5 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW goes to Allentown, Pennsylvania to ask: Are abortion rights now in jeopardy at the very hands of the party that has historically protected them? Among those interviewed are pro-life Democratic U.S. Representative Bart Stupak and former DNC Chairman Howard Dean.
"If there was a bill on the floor to reverse Roe vs Wade, and says 'life begins at conception,' I would vote for it." Congressman Stupak tells NOW.
Jen Boulanger, director of the often-protested Allentown Women's Center, says, "I would expect more from the Democratic Party, to stick to their ideals, not just throw us to the curb."
Has the Democratic Party traded principles for power? Next on NOW.


House Armed Services' Military Personnel Subcomittee

Wally here subbing for Rebecca who is in London. Okay, so we sat through some hearings today including one that's the House Armed Services' Military Personnel Subcomittee and they were hearing about sexual assault in the military.

Here's my big beef with hearings, especially short ones, why all the opening statements?


Fine. But if you're prepared statement can be put into the record, why don't you just summarize it?

They so rarely do. John Kerry, on the Senate Foreign Relations Committe, will strongly urge witnesses to summarize. He'll tell them, "We'll put it in the record, just summarize it." And you can tell he is ticked when after he says that a person goes on to read word for word their statement.

And, here's the other thing on that, if you're a bad reader, why are you doing that?

And don't give me, "Maybe they don't know they are bad readers."

You know. I was one in grade school. I knew. I never wanted the teacher to call on me. I got better in middle school but I knew it when I was bad at reading out loud. It's not like I didn't know I was reading in a monotone and that others were good readers.

So why read your statement in full, word for word? And why do that when you're a bad reader?

I have no idea.

So we got copies and I'm typing up from the witnesses (Louis V. Iasiello and Brig Gen Sharon K.G. Dunbar) opening statement (in paper, it was one statement, they divided up reading it out loud). This is their finding:

On 1 December 2009, we submitted our report of findings and recommendations to the Secretary of Defense. Our review found that DOD overall has made notable progress in addressing sexual assault since the establishment of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Program in 2005. Key to this progress has been heightened awareness attributable to leadership emphasis and involvement at all levels, increased program funding, and establishment of dedicated SAPR positions. At the same time, we found many opportunities for improvement. Specifically, while DOD has made important improvements in responding to victims’ needs, there must be greater focus on effectively addressing the spectrum of sexual assault prevention and response. In our recommendations, we highlight the need for substantial institutional emphasis on preventing sexual assault: doing so is not only a moral imperative, but is critical to military readiness. To this end, we recommend developing greater consistency among the military services and their reserve components, particularly given the increasing nature of joint operations and basing. We also make several recommendations geared to increase collaboration among the military services, as well as with civilian communities and organizations engaged in sexual assault prevention and response efforts. In formulating our recommendations, we addressed the need for greater strategic oversight of the SAPR Program, developing more effective prevention and training strategies, improving care and responsiveness to victims, and ensuring appropriate accountability.

And this is some of their recommendations:

Our Task Force makes a number of recommendations related to the strategic oversight and direction of the SAPR program. We found that the current organizational placement of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) has limited its visibility and ability to effectively address integral cross-cutting issues. We therefore recommend the Deputy Secretary of Defense provide oversight for SAPRO for at least one year or until the Program is meeting established institutional goals. We realize this recommendation may be considered unconventional, but believe that higher level
oversight will ensure appropriate funding and focus on a program that is at a critical juncture.
Military and civilian officials at all levels advised that funding for the SAPR program was often inconsistent and insufficient. We believe this issue can best be resolved by DOD including SAPR program funding in its Program Objective Memorandum budgeting process to ensure allocation of specific and sufficient funding. Adequate resources are also essential to conduct research across the full spectrum of prevention and response. In fact, we believe research collaboration and strategic partnerships with civilian research initiatives would be particularly helpful. SAPRO should continue to leverage the expertise, information, and resources of public and private entities facing similar challenges, such as colleges and universities as well as national organizations and coalitions dedicated to eliminating sexual assault and providing victim support. Research funding is essential to identify effective prevention strategies and initiatives, as well as meaningful incidence metrics; presently, there is no such research.
Our Task Force noted that SAPRO does not provide policy or oversight for several of its significant responsibilities. For this reason, we recommend that DOD restructure SAPRO to include the expertise essential to address prevention, response, training, and accountability. Given that military personnel are increasingly serving in joint and deployed environments, the Task Force believes SAPRO must also drive consistency across the Services in policy, terminology, personnel structures, and standards for managing and assessing the SAPR program. We found lack of standardization in significant areas such SAPR program structures and funding, training and deployment preparation, terminologies used in policies and training, reporting and response procedures, and interpretation of SAPR guidance. For a DoD-wide program and for an issue that affects personnel in all Services, we believe greater standardization is essential.

Now if that didn't rivet you, imagine sitting through two adults reading that out loud.

I just had to holler to C.I., "Who's the Ranking Member?" I know Susan Davis is the Chair of the Subcommittee. The Ranking Member is Joe Wilson. Right after C.I. told me that, I could hear Susan Davis in my head saying, "Mr. Wilson?"

He noted that the report finds that victims are dis-satisfied with their treatment and I wish that could have been pursued but I felt like both witnesses weren't really interested in pursuing anything. They were rote. They stuck to a message (except in the excerpt C.I. provided -- there the General grasps what the man didn't, they are losing the Subcommittee by insisting that the SAPRO office be directly under the Assistant Secretary of Defense).

I really expected to hear more and I heard nothing. I listened to that entire boring opening statement and thought that they would flesh it out.

But they didn't. Not because they weren't asked questions. Joe Wilson tried to ask them questions. Loretta Sanchez tried to ask them questions (Kat's writing about Sanchez). Niki Tsongas asked them questions. I believe Vic Snyder asked them questions.

And the witnesses moved their mouths and you could hear sound. But to call any of their remarks "answers" was to distort the term.

And here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, February 3, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq is slammed with another deadly blast, the Iraq Inquiry may be hitting the road (that is not a joke), sexual assaults get some attention from the US Congress, election news out of Iraq, and more.

Iraq has been slammed with another bombing resulting in mass fatalities today.
Yousif Bassil and CNN report a Karbala motorcycle bombing has claimed 20 lives and left at least one-hundred-and-seventeen people wounded. Tom Bonnet (Sky News) notes that, "Women and children were among the dead after the explosives-packed vehicle blasted through the crowd on the outskirts of Kerbala, 68 miles south of Baghdad." Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) cites Iraq's al-Iraqiya TV's report that the bombing took place "near the Institute of Art" and says the death toll and wounded numbers are coming from the Ministry of the Interior. Al Jazeera says the motorcycle bombing was actually a suicide bomber on a motorcycle and quotes Saad al-Muttalibi ("an adviser to the Iraqi council of ministers") stating, "The security forces need to be more proactive and more aggressive in fighting these Wahhabi groups. The prime minister [Nouri al-Maliki] hands are completely tied, putting him in a very weak position to question his ministers and hold them accountable for their misconduct." Leila Fadel and Qais Mizher (Washington Post) report, "At 11 a.m. Wednesday, a parked motorcycle loaded with explosives detonated, ripping through a crowd of walking pilgrims on the city's northeast perimeter, a source from the Ministry of the Interior in Baghdad said. [. . .] The scene of the carnage, near the Technical Institute, remained blocked off Wednesday afternoon. Vehicles were stopped on the outskirts of the city and pilgrims walked the rest of the way." Citing police sources, Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the death toll is 21 and the number wounded 128. Issa notes that some say it was a parked car, Muhanad Mohammed, Sami al-Jumaili, Ahmed Rasheed, Aseel Kami, Jack Kimball and Michael Christie (Reuters) note that others say the bomb was in a cart the motorcycle pulled.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left three people wounded, a second Baghdad roadside bombing resulted in three people being injured, a Twereej bicycle bombing left twenty-two people injured and, dropping back to Tuesday for all that follows, a Hamdaniyah roadside bombing left four people injured and a Mosul bombing (homemade grenade) wounded one police officer and one bystander. Reuters notes a Tuesday night Kerbala sticky bombing ("attached to a military vehicle") which claimed 3 lives and left twenty-one people injured.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul home invasion in which 1 person was killed. Reuters notes 1 police officer shot dead in Kirkuk.

Al Jazeera's Riz Khan yesterday, the issue of the elections were addressed with Riz Khan asking, "How free and fair is an election when a government bans certain people from running? Iraq goes to the polls on March the 7th but has barred more than 500 candidates which could ultimately plunge the country into chaos, even civil war." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) reports today that the government has managed to avert "a political crisis of its own making" as a result of the ban being overturned today "by a panel of seven judges". The Economist calls it "Best news in weeks." Margaret Coker (Wall St. Journal) explains, "The decision now opens the way for full-fledged campaigning to begin, as scheduled, on February 7. It wasn't immediately clear how many of the banned candidates would accept the compromise decision, or how the decision might affect the election outcome itself." Scott Peterson (Christian Science Monitor) adds, "But if the ruling stands, there's a catch: those blacklisted will still be subject to investigation after the vote for past ties to the regime of Saddam Hussein." And what would happen then? Caroline Alexander and Kadhim Ajrash (Bloomberg News) observe, "Election Commission official Hamdia al-Husseini told Agence France-Presse that those later found to have links to the Baath Party would be 'eliminated.'" Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports, "The ruling enraged the architect of the blacklist, Ali Faisal al-Lami, who is a close aide of the head of the former ­de-Ba'athification Commission, Ahmed Chalabi. That commission, which was a signature body of the post-Saddam Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), evolved into a contentious group known as the Accountability and Justice Commission." And to clear up a nasty rumor, there is no known sex tape of Ahmed Chalabi and his boy pal Ali al-Lami being distributed in Basra. Absolutely not. Nasty, hurtful rumors. Unless a tape should surface. Ammar Karim (AFP) notes, "Chalabi, who has close ties to Iran, was appointed deputy prime minister after the invasion but intelligence he provided in support of those claims in the run-up to war later turned out to be flawed and he subsequently fell out of favour with Washington." The decision is still being studied and Al Jazeera notes Saleh al-Mutlaq, of the sectarian National Dialogue Party and who was one of the banned, "declined to give an immediate comment." al-Mutlaq did have a comment on Chalabi when he appeared yesterday on Al Jazeera.

Riz Khan: Let me ask you then how you regard the role of Ahmed Chalabi who's the head of the de-Ba'athification commission? I mean, he's, uh, is he conducting a witch hunt? Is he trying to basically exclude those he doesn't like, his political enemies? Is he arbitarily picking those he doesn't want taking part in the election here?

Saleh al-Mutlaq: Ahmed Chalabi deceived the whole world and deceived the United States and convinced them some, some years ago that there was mass destruction equipment in Iraq. And he led, I mean he convinced the United States to go -- to invade Iraq. And now he's also leading a project to destroy Iraq again -- to destroy Iraq by letting people lose hope in this political process and go to the violence again. To bring us back to the first square. So Ahmed Chalabi is a very dangerous person. Ahmed Chalabi is wanted by the Jordanian government and if the United States is serious enough, they should remove the cover from him and then he will be taken by -- he will, he will be in jail for the rest of his life because he's been wanted by the law. But unfortunately he's being protected in this country. Ahmed Chalabi is not doing his own agenda but an outside agenda which he is the agent to do it in Iraq and nobody is stopping him from this-this decision.

The de-Ba'athification policy was implemented by Paul Bremer and he states (no reason to doubt him -- despite Colin Powell's whispers to the press) that he did so at the direction of the White House. Paul Bremer is mentiioned in the
Iraq Inquiry more than any other American (that includes Bush, Tommy Franks, Condi Rice, Blot Powell and all the rest). After the start of the illegal war, in May of 2003, Tony Blair named Ann Clwyd to be England's special envoy on human rights to Iraq. We'll jump in at this section of her testimony today where she is speaking about the job and what she brought to the job.

But obviously I saw it -- because of my contact with Iraqis over the years, you know, I now knew people that were in government in Iraq, like the President Jalal Talabani, like Latif Rashid, the Water Resources Minister, Hoshyar Zerbari, the Foreign Minister, and many, many others who had been members of CARDRI and who had support INDICT, Hamid Al-Bayati and others. So I felt that I did have a particular friendship with those Iraqis and that, if I could help in improving the culture of the perception of human rights in Iraq, that really that should be one of the main issues, because obviously, you know, a country that has been absued for 35 years, human rights is not a phrase that trips lightly over the lips. So I felt -- and I still feel actually -- it takes a long time to change those perceptions -- it can't be done in a short time -- and so I started -- I also -- originally, detention issues was not in my terms of reference, but I did argue that they should be, because, you know, I knew that what happened to people in detention needed an outside voice to actually blow the whistle on occasions, and so there was some resistance but eventually it was put into my terms of reference. So, of course, I started visiting prisons, I talked a lot to Americans, because the Americans were sharing the same building in Baghdad at that time and Mr Bremer was in charge of the operation there and the British were there and so we talked about some of these issues. One of the first things that struck me was -- because, again, because of my friendship with Iraqis, one of my Iraqi friends had [been] a General in Saddam's army. He was now in a staff college, but he was a General, and immediately after 2003, my friend rang me up and he said, "Do you know what is happening with the military? Because there are lots of the military that my brother knows who would help the British. There are 50 to 100 senior Iraqi officers who are ready to help the coalition." Well, obviously, I passed that information on. But, you know, the army wasn't there anymore, but they were queuing up in very hot weather for their pensions, for their stipends, and I discovered that the man -- the brother of my friend had been queuing up every day for two weeks, and he was a senior, you know, army officer, and yet had nevr got to the front of the queue. He said -- I spoke to him eventually, and he said to me, you know, "If they want to humiliate us, this is the way of doing it." [. . .] So I was telling the Americans and the British but the Americans were mainly in charge in Baghdad and so I would go straight to Bremer and tell Bremer what was going on and he argued with me. He said, "Oh, nonsense, all the -- you know, the senior people have received their pensions". So I said, "Well, they haven't". So I gave him the name and address of the person I was talking about, and somebody went away and came back half an hour later and said, "Sorry, they must have slipped through the net". Well, I think many people slipped through the net actually, senior people, who could have been used in those early stages to help the coalition and wanted to help the coalition.

At the end of Clwyd's testiomony, Chair John Chilcot declared of Iraq: "We do hope very much to visit. We can't commit yet. To visit Iraq before our Inquiry is complete."

We'll come back to today but right now,
yesterday, Clare Short testified to the Iraq Inquiry and covering the Inquiry in this community last night were Mike ("Tony Blair gets served"), Stan ("Grab bag") and Elaine ("Clare Short at the Inquiry"). One of the few US outlets to regularly devote attention to the Inquiry is The Pacifica Evening News which airs on KPFA and KPFK (as well as other stations) from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. each Monday through Friday.

John Hamilton: Former British Minister Clare Short accused Tony Blair of lying over the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and stifling discussion in the Cabinet in the run up to the war. Short is a long time critic of Blair who served as International Development Secretary in his government. She disputed evidence the former prime minister gave last week to an inquiry into the war. Short voted of the 2003 invasion but quit Blair's government shortly afterwards because she said Blair had conned her into thinking the UN would play a lead war in post-war Iraq. Speaking today before the Chilcot Inquiry, which is examining Britain's role in the war and its aftermath, Short accused the former Attorney General Peter Goldsmith of not telling the Cabinet of his doubts about the illegality of the war nor that senior Foreign Office lawyers believed it would be illegal without a second UN resolution on Iraq.

Clare Short: I think for the Attorney General to come and say there's an unequivocal legal authority to go to war was misleading. And I must say, I never saw myself as a traditionalist but I was stunned by it because of what was in the media about the view of the international lawyers but I thought "This is the Attorney General coming just in the teeth of war, to the Cabinet, it must be right." And I think he was misleading us.

John Hamilton: Goldsmith has said he initially doubted the war's legality and only concluded it would be lawful without such a resolution a week before the invasion -- days before the Cabinet was briefed. Short told the Inquiry today she believed Goldsmith had been pressured by Blair -- something that both men deny -- but she had no direct evidence to back this up. Last Friday, Blair defended his decision to go to war telling the Inquiry that Saddam Hussein had posed a threat to the world and had to be disarmed or removed. He said there had been substantive discussions with senior ministers in the Cabinet but Short told the Inquiry that she had been excluded from talks and that Blair had not wanted Iraq discussed in the Cabinet because he was afraid of leaks to the media .
Clare Short: There was never a meeting that said: "What's the problem, what are we trying to achieve? What are our military, diplomatic options?" We never had that coherent discussion of what it is that the problem is and what it was that the government was trying to achieve and what our bottom lines were. Never.

John Hamilton: Short accused Blair of being frantic to support the United States and said claims the French would have vetoed any second UN resolution in authorizing military action had been untrue.

We're stopping there, not because Hamilton's made a mistake (they did a fine job as usual in covering the Inquiry) but because we are short on space and we can move over to Elfyn Llwyd on Clare Short's assertion that Blair was frantic to support the US.
Tomas Livingstone (Wales News) reports MP Elfyn Llwyd has stated that the the 2002 Crawford ranch meeting is where Blair and Bush agreed to go to war -- no hesistations, no ifs, just to go to war. He tells Livingstone that a memo exists noting this agreement and that he will gladly testify before the Inquiry eitehr in private or in person.

On Clare Short, you can refer to
Iain Martin (Wall St. Journal -- he doesn't like Short and doesn't believe her, he's been covering the Inquiry regularly so we will link to him), Simon Hooper and CNN, Jason Beattie (Daily Mail -- always an outstanding job of coverage by Beattie), Iraq Inquiry Blogger offers thoughts here, Rosa Prince (Irish Independent via Independent of London), David Brown (Times of London), John F. Burns (New York Times), Philip Williams (AM which airs on Australia's ABC) and Mark Hennessy (Irish Times). If someone was omitted (especially someone requesting to be included), I either forgot or made a judgment call that you do not matter. Which is one reporter we'll be noting in a bit (not naming, not linking to) and which is one web site that wants a link but is too damn lazy to blog about the Inquiry so they post a paragraph of John F. Burns' report and then say 'read the rest at the New York Times'. Honestly, the Gabor sisters worked harder so I think we should all lay off comparing you know who to a Gabor sister.

The Inquiry continued today.
Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger gives this run down of the witnesses: "Sir Kevin Tebbit returns for a brief spin to round off evidence about his period as MoD Permanent Secretary 2001-05. Dr John Reid has served many different government briefs but attends today as Secretary of State for Defence 2005-06, effectively completing our MoD card-hand after Geoff Hoon, John Hutton & Des Browne. And Ann Clywd worked as the prime minister's (or rather prime ministers') special envoy to Iraq from 2003-09." Video and transcript options for the three witnesses here. Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger live blogged today's hearing at Twitter and Sky News' Glen Oglaza live blogged John Reid's testimony.

Gary Gibbon (Channel 4 News) reports that Tebbit stated the current Prime Minister of England, Gordon Brown, "guillotined" the military budget when he was serving as chancellor: "Sir Kevin, who was MoD permanent secretary from 1998 to 2005, stressed that defence chiefs saved resources needed for Iraq but admitted the cuts had a long-term impact." Sky News reports he stated, "The Treasury felt that we were using far too much cash and in September 2003 the Chancellor of the day (Mr Brown) instituted a complete guillotine on our settlement. It meant that we had to go in for a very major savings exercise in order to cope with what was effectively a billion reduction year-on-year in our resource." In what would appear to back up that testimony, Francis Elliott, Deborah Haynes and Tom Coghlan (Times of London) report, "Gordon Brown demanded immediate and deep cuts to military spending only six months after the invasion of Iraq, a letter seen by The Times reveals."

Biggest laugh in England today? The reach around between eternal suck up Petey Kyle and his uber dom Alastair Campbell. In the internet version of snowballing, Petey sucks him off and spits it back in Alastair's mouth -- Petey writes that it's awful, just awful (no link to that trash -- and Labour better get it through their heads that apologists like Petey are going to mean death at the polls) how the media's treated poor Tony Blair. He writes it, Alastair reposts it at his vanity blog and then they both Tweet on it. Somebody get those two to the chapel already. No links, they've echoed one another enough. Also of note, a certain reporter for a non-right wing paper, non-Murdoch paper, who repeatedly reports wrong on the Inquiry? Maybe his editors should ask him about his contact with Alastair because Alastair's bragging to Labour Party members that he has said reporter in his pocket. Very few are covering it in the US.
Kelly B. Vlahos (Antiwar) notes some of the silence:
Don't know much about any of this? Not surprising, because the American mainstream media has practically blacked-out the story on this side of the pond. It's amazing, after seven years and a growing reservoir of evidence that the Bush administration deliberately manipulated intelligence and the emotions of the American public to invade Iraq -- for which it had no comprehensive plan to stabilize or reconstruct -- the corporate press is still doing its best impression of the debauched idiots in
The Hangover:
Stu: "Why don't we remember a G**damn thing from last night?"
Phil: "Obviously because we had a great f**king time."
When the press isn't treating us all like morning-after marshmallows who would prefer a cold-compress of Sarah Palin and updates of
The View on the head to a clinical X-ray of how the Bush White House marched our nation into a trillion-dollar war of choice, it takes on a gratingly condescending tone. In fact, the media view jibes quite well with the standard Republican spin: that any criticism or inquiry into party-supported policies from 2001 to 2009 is "looking backward" or "rehashing the past," or worse, "we've been there, done that," when really, no, there hasn't been any "been there, done that," not anything compared to what's going on in London right now.

Turning to Iraq,
Sinan Salaheddin (AP) reports an agreement reached between Iraq and China in which China would "write off 80 percent of Iraq's" $8.5 billion debt. In other agreements Iraq is entering into with other countries, Anne Tang (Xinhua) reports Iraq declares it is willing to turn 46 Jordanian prisoners over to Jordan and notes the Arab Organization for Human Rights, "According to the organization, there are 46 Jordanians jailed in Iraq, of whom many are held with no charges and are either students or traders." While those talks between Iraq and other governments continue, Today's Zaman reports the top US commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno, is in Ankara meeting with Turkey's Interior Minister Besir Atalay. Alsumaria TV quotes Odierno stating, "It is important that we develop a common unerstanding of the root causes of violence, so we can assit in determining political, economic and security measures that will contribute to increased security and safety of the Turkish and Iraqi people." Scott Fontaine (The Olympian) reports on increased tensions between US forces and Iranian forces on the Iraqi border.

Yesterday in the US, the Senate Armed Services Committee spent a little over an hour addressing Don't Ask, Don't Tell. All three broadcast networks' evening news covered the story. Some did better than others. We'll note highlights. NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams:Brian Williams: 62 years ago today, President Truman ordered the Defense Secretary to take the needed steps to remove discrimination in the military. He was talking about race. Today the topic was sexual orientation, specifically the Clinton era policy known as Don't Ask, Don't Tell -- a policy that is now on borrowed time. More on this story from our Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski. Jim Miklaszewski: In a hearing today on Capitol Hill, the nation's top military commander revealed the worst kept secret in the armed services. Adm Mike Mullen: I have served with homosexuals since 1968.Jim Miklaszewski: Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen said it's time to scrap Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the law that prohibits gays and lesbians from openly serving in the military.
Picking up with
ABC World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer:

Martha Raddatz: Lt Dan Choi is a West Point graduate, an Iraq veteran and one of the few Arabic speakers in the military. Like thousands of others, he now faces dismissal from the army for saying publicly that he is gay.Lt Dan Choi: I was living in the closet. Then I realized, no, this is really a violation of the honor code which, on the first day of West Point, we learned: You will not lie or tolerate those who lie. And I believe in that honor code.Martha Raddatz: Lt Choi's case is still pending but he also told us if you're actually thinking about national security first and you're saying that it's okay to fire Arabic speakers because somebody's uncomfortable with gays, then you have your priorities in the wrong place.
And wrapping up with
CBS Evening News with Katie Couric::

David Martin: Today's testimony made clear it will not happen any time soon -- certainly not this year, if at all. For one thing, Gates wants a year to study . . ..Secretary of Defense Robert Gates: What the-the men and women in our armed forces really think about this.David Martin: For another, Don't Ask, Don't Tell is a law enacted by Congress.Senator John McCain: I'm happy to say that we still have a Congress of the United States that would have to pass a law to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. David Martin: Right now with the military fighting two wars, there are not enough votes to repeal.

PBS' NewsHour, like Diane Sawyer, led with the issue while the other two broadcasts buried the story further into the mix. Margaret Warner offered the best report of any of the correspondents. She also offered more variety in her report when quoting from the hearing -- except for Jim, all the above reports had quoted from the opening statements plus Saxby Chambliss -- and why did everyone Click here for transcript as well as audio and video options of Warner's report. We covered the hearing in yesterday's snapshot and other community coverage: Wally was at the hearing and guest blogged at Rebecca's site with "Armed Services Committee, Heroes" and, like Warner, he quoted from Burris -- who probably had the strongest and most moving remarks. Trina focused on Mike Mullen's opening remarks "Senate Armed Services Committee DADT" -- and Trina's take is like David Martin's, nothing's happening. That was our take based on the hearing and based on speaking to a few aids and senators after the hearing. You can especially see that in Kat's "Barack pretends to care about Don't Ask Don't Tell." Marcia takes this issue very personally and quizeed all of us (including Ava) at length before writing about it in "Not doing cartwheels right now."

Today the House Armed Services' Military Personnel Subcomittee held a hearing where the witnesses were Louis V. Iasiello and Brig Gen Sharon K.G. Dunbar of the Defense Task Force on Sexual Assault in the Military Services and, as noted, the two were present speaking on behalf of the Defense Task Force, not for any branch of the military. Subcommittee Chair Susan Davis called the hearing to order and noted that they held two hearings on this issue last year in addition, she stated:

I do not want to steal the thunder of our witnesses, but there is a recurring theme in their report that needs to be mentioned from the outset while the [Defense] Department has done much in recent years to address sexual assault in the military, much more remains to be done. Thankfully, due to the work of this task force and others, we have a much clearer understanding of the problem. It is important that we make significant improvements to how the Department deals with sexual assault and that we do all we can to avoid inadvertently making things worse in the process. Sexual assault within the ranks is antithetical to the trust and camaraderie that defines military culture. Any sexual assault undermines the moral foundation of our armed forces and does irreparable harm to unit cohesion. Hopefully today's hearing will help us chart a legislative course to make progress in our goal to eliminate sexual assaults in the military.

We'll note this exchange which took place after opening statements.

Subcommittee Chair Susan Davis: One of the recommendations that you've had -- and especially as we move forward -- is to place a sexual assault prevention and response office under the Deputy Secretary of Defense for at least a year and you thought that would give them a chance to kind of aprise what is happening. Our experience has been that they just aren't really in a position to-to be able to do that. It's not the staff -- they're not designed for that kind of oversight. I'm wondering if you've had any additional thoughts about that? If you feel that -- if you looked at that and felt that this was the only way to give this a kind of stature perhaps that we're looking for? There is a concern that they're just not ready to do that. We had an experience as well with oversight of the process at Walter Reed. You know there's really a lot of questions as to whether that's the best place to put this additional responsiblity and for oversight?

Louis V. Iasiello: It was our-our thought as we put forward that recommendation that after 2005, each of the services sort of took off in their own direction trying to answer this issue and trying to confront this issue in the best way possible and we applaud that initiative that each of the services took in sort of taking this forward.but-but what I think I speak for the Task Force membership when I say that we would really like to see a strategic leadership role taken by the SAPRO office at the DoD. That would help to bring together these incredible efforts that we see now from the leadership of the different services. [. . .]

Subcommittee Chair Susan Davis: think what we're just wondering is if a decision was made that perhaps they don't have the ability now, the capacity, to provide the kind of oversight that we're really seeking here, was there some other thoughts about how this might be done? What I think I hear you say very strongly is that you want to have more authority, more oversight and certainly raise the level of -- I'm not sure that the word is competency, I think it's the capacity to deal better and to be seen as an office that really means exactly what it says
here and we're struggling a little bit to sort of define that better

Brig Gen Sharon KG Dunbar: Yes, ma'am, I think the intent behind the recommendation is to provide higher oversight and I think that there are a number of ways to do that. The recommendation was geared to highlight the fact that that oversight is necessary. And so that it one recommendation but there are clearly other ways of doing that. And we indicated in the report one of the areas that we found a shortcoming in was just in the staffing alone of the SAPRO office in order for it to do what is required. And I think when you look at some of the issues that drove that recommendation it stemmed from the under resource nature in terms of staffing the office that, frankly, if you go back to the inception of the office, it was geared more towards response. And now it needs to expand into prevention training and other areas and in order to do that quickly, higher level oversight at a level whether it is the level recommended in the report or elsewhere, we believe is prudent.

Louis V. Iasiello: And if I may, we see it as critically importnat that there be uniformed members as part of that staff. People in uniform. And people that have had the experience of leading and understand. We are also asking for a seasoned JAG officer from one of the military services to be part of that staff and to have a designated Victim Advocate on staff with the expertise to handle the issues at that strategic level.

Subcommittee Chair Susan Davis: I was going to ask if there are professionals and you mention the JAG officer experience level, education level that you feel would contribute greatly to that kind of stature and authority that the -- that it would have. Is there anything in addition to that?

Brig Gen Sharon K.G. Dunbar: Principally the leadership of the office and the recommendation that we make is that it be led by a General Flag Officer or a civilian equivalent.

You can check other community sites tonight for coverage -- Trina, Wally and Kat were at the hearing as well (Kat plans to cover US House Rep Loretta Sanchez). TV notes.
NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):Has the Democratic Party abandoned support of reproductive rights? Next on NOW. To gain their historic control of Congress, Democrats fielded moderate candidates who didn't always follow the party line, especially when it came to abortion. Now that the Democratic Party has the legislative upper hand, are they willing to negotiate away reproductive rights for other political gains? On Friday, February 5 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW goes to Allentown, Pennsylvania to ask: Are abortion rights now in jeopardy at the very hands of the party that has historically protected them? Among those interviewed are pro-life Democratic U.S. Representative Bart Stupak and former DNC Chairman Howard Dean. "If there was a bill on the floor to reverse Roe vs Wade, and says 'life begins at conception,' I would vote for it." Congressman Stupak tells NOW. Jen Boulanger, director of the often-protested Allentown Women's Center, says, "I would expect more from the Democratic Party, to stick to their ideals, not just throw us to the curb." Has the Democratic Party traded principles for power? Next on NOW.

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