military families speak out

last week was the 8th anniversary of the iraq war. military families against the war did not forget that and today they've released the following letter:

Letter to Senators

To Senator

On behalf of Military Families Speak Out, we write to you to urge you to do everything you can to truly end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, bring our troops home now, and take care of them when they get here. These postcards are from your constituents who share our conviction that the wars are not making us safer, and are taking a terrible toll – both human and financial – on our loved ones and on this country. Our ongoing presence in Iraq and Afghanistan continues to contribute to unacceptable civilian casualties and is not the solution to problems in these countries.

Military Families Speak Out is an organization of close to 4,000 Military and Gold Star Families opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who have relatives or loved ones who are currently in the military or who have served in the military since September 11, 2001.

These wars are not worth the financial or human costs. We are bankrupting our future; we must reduce the overall military budget and reduce the financial toll from our military operations. For the sake of our loved ones and the future, we ask you to do everything you can to bring them to an end. We ask that you:
Initiate or support legislation comparable to HR 780, A Responsible End to the War in Afghanistan
Support efforts to reduce the overall military budget, and vote against continued funding

We know that voting against funding opens you up to critique that you are “abandoning the troops.” However, there is enough money in the Pentagon budget to quickly and safely bring the troops home. What is needed is political leadership from you and your colleagues. We are willing to stand by you when you take these stands. Our loved ones have their lives on the line, and we hope you will take risks and act with urgency to get them out of harms way. How we are using the troops does not honor their willingness to serve their country.

As people with family members in the military, it is our loved ones who are, have been, or will be on the battlefront. It is our loved ones who are at risk, who have been injured or who have paid the ultimate price for these wars. It is our loved ones who are returning scarred from their experiences, suffering severe physical and psychological injuries. Many of our loved ones have now been deployed multiple times, up to 6 and 7 in some cases. Many troops have been redeployed before they were fully recovered, mentally, physically and emotionally. Our troops have the right to heal, it is the least that we can do for these men and women that have put themselves on the line. Please support a Congressional inquiry into troop readiness to examine the issue of redeployment without adequate recovery time. Please ensure that health, housing and education services for veterans and military families are fully supported.

On behalf of Military Families Speak Out,

Larry Syverson, Chair of the Board of Directors
Nikki Morse, Interim Executive Director

that pretty much says it all and the only thing to really ad is that how sad it is that the man who ran claiming he would end the illegal war now has to be begged to do what he promised.

let's close with c.i.'s 'Iraq snapshot:'

Friday, March 25, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Iraqis turn out to protest across the country, Nouri attempts to diminish turnout be utilizing his usual tactics, Iraq is facing big water issues, a promise on electricity surfaces, and more.
It's Friday and, yes, protests continued in Iraq. And because the government disrespects the people's right to freely express themselves, roads into Baghdad's Tahrir Square were yet again blocked. Wamith Al-Kassab (MidEastYouth) reports that Iraqi forces shut down the streets around Thrir Square yesterday and encircled them with barbed wire to prevent protesters." Al Mada reports on what the youth movement protesters were saying, that they have been protesting since February 26th to bring about a better Iraq and that the government cannot hide behind the walls of the Green Zone. Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports that despite "heavy rains" and "tight security measures," hundreds of Iraqis protested in Baghdad's Liberation Square. At the Great Iraqi Revolution Facebook page, Hind Burgif wonders, "was it realy rain or baghdad crying and call iraqi people to help her and set her free???" Wedding Shawki and Adham Youssef (Al Mada) report on the demonstrations noting Iraqi security forces (again) used batons and water cannons while protecting themselves with shields (Youssef's photo shows a man with a menacing baton apparently aimed at a woman who is no threat to herself or anyone else). Iraqi women were a highly visible presence in today's protest in Baghdad and the article notes that women have been a part of the recent demonstrations, helping to demonstrate what a true picture of a democratic Iraq could look like. They then speak with women participating in the demonstrations like feminist Hmamonov Yousef Taher who feels the presence of women in protests helps reduce violence ("women's presence can lead the authorities to refrain from violence and it can reduce violence on the part of demonstrators") and is bothered by the inability of some to include women, noting the need to reach out with the message as well as obstacles that prevent women's participation (such as the curfew). She feels that the government's response to the protest with curfews and other repressive tactics has demonstrated the government's own failure and that women will increase their participation in the demonstrations. Sana, who is a poet, tells Al Mada, that women have bee participating in larger numbers in other countries and outlines some factors which may influence participation in Iraq. She also feels that the presence of women can help prevent the authorities from attacking the protesters. The Association of Iraqi Women's Suhaila Alaasm feels that women have been increasing participation throughout the country's provinces. She notes that women have been marginalized in Nouri al-Maliki's Cabinet. Like Sana, she points to the losses women have suffered since the invasion of Iraq and the oppression. The Baghdad Forum Cultural Center's Zainab Kaabi notes that women are oppresed and the Institute of Fine Arts' Precious Hashim notes that women face many obstacles but they will be present more and more in future demonstrations because when you participate and demonstrate for reform of Iraq you develop a taste for it and know that the soul and the connection will provide life and redemption. Mostafa Badr posts a photo of Iraqi women at Liberation Square and notes, "Elderly women demonstrating today in Tahrir Square demanding the release of their sons, husbands and brothers." Nafee Alfatlayi notes, "The mourning father of one of the demonstrators who was killed 4 days ago broke his mourning to attend the demonstration, stating that his son who was an agricultural engineer was killed 4 days ago by government security forces but he is here in Tahrir Square to uphold and support his son's stand." Ibrahim Laebi reports, "Suppression of the press in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, and the injury of 3 members of the press."
Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports on the Baghdad protest and notes that women calling for the "government to release sons and husbands who are in prison awaiting trial or investigation" were often "carrying photos of their loved ones" and that "in Najaf, Diwaniya, Kut and Hilla -- Shiite provinces south of Baghdad -- hundreds of demonstrators rallied Friday against unemployment and corruption, police said." The Great Iraqi Revolution notes Iraqi forces were sent to Ramadi and Falluja but protesters still turned out and demonstrated ("thousands" in Falluja). Mostafa Badr reports, "The people of Tikreet have come out from the Grand Mosque, Tikreet, after Friday Prayers in a large demonstration demanding the release of detainees and the change in government and for the Parliament to go!!!!" The Great Iraqi Revolution reports, "The People of Babil are out in a very large demonstration demanding that Parliament and government resign!" And they report, "The Askeriein Regiment is surrounding the Aisha Mosque in Sammarra'a in an attempt to break the large demonstration taking place now despite suprresion tactics and methods -- the people of Sammarra'a demand the exit of the Parliament and the government as well as are refusing to sell their land around the 'Hathra'. God Save Iraq all Iraqis."

The war in Iraq is supposedly over. The U.S. administration says the occupation, which began on March 20 eight years ago, is ending as well, with the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops. But as the U.S., Great Britain and France begin another military intervention in North Africa, their respective administrations are silent about the price Iraqis are paying for the last one.
Not so the Iraqi, however. Demonstrations have taken place in Baghdad, Basra and Kirkuk, among other cities, calling on the U.S. in particular to stop its escalating military intervention in Libya. Iraqi unions have been especially vocal, linking the U.S. invasion of Iraq with continued misery for its working people. According to one union representative, Abdullah Muhsin of the General Federation of Iraqi workers, "Eight years have ended since the fall of Saddam's regime, yet the empty promises of the "liberators" - the invaders and the occupiers who promised Iraqis heaven and earth - were simply lies, lies and lies."
The GFIW, which supported the recent uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, says the U.S. should "allow the people of Libya, Bahrain and other countries to determine their own destiny by themselves." Falah Alwan, president of the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq, says violence directed against workers and unions is intended to keep a lid on protests against miserable living conditions. "We are still under occupation," he charges. "The new Iraqi army, created by the U.S. occupation, is doing the same job, protecting the corrupt government while we are suffering from the difficulties of daily life."
"There's no electricity most of the time, and no drinking water - no services at all," says Qasim Hadi, president of the Union of Unemployed of Iraq. Eight years after the start of the U.S. military intervention, "there's hardly even any repair of the war damage - there's still rubble in the streets. People are going hungry."
Despite often-extreme levels of violence in the years of occupation, Iraqis have never stopped protesting these conditions. When demonstrations broke out in other countries of the Middle East and North Africa, people in Baghdad, Basra and Kirkuk had been taking to the streets for years. In large part, protests continued in Iraq because living conditions never changed, despite promises of what the fall of Saddam Hussein would bring.

David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award.

There was an attack on detainees in Rassafa Tasfeerat Prison according to The Great Iraqi Revolution, a week lon gattack, where "militias in plain clothes with knives and sharp instruments" attack the detainees and they note, "Journalist, Sa'ad Al-Awsi who has been detained for several months in Rassafa Prison in Baghdad on charges of terrorism, has an hour ago, been kidnapped by armed militias from the prison dressed in their black plain clothes uniform! Please mount a campaign for him -- they plan to liquidate him. Imagine prison officers colluding all the time with militias!"
In news of other attacks on journalists, Aswat al-Iraq reports that today the home of jounalist Majid Hameed (Al Arabiya News Channel) was bombed. In other violence, Aswat al-Iraq reports a Falluja roadside bombing injured 3 people, a Diala roadside bombing injured a Jalawlaa Hospital doctor., and, in Mosul, 46-year-old Yasin Taha apparently took his own life due to being unemployed and unable to support his two wives and five children and six missiles struck the "U.S. base and a headquarters of the Iraqi army's 8th Division in the city of al-Diwaniya"-- the US base is Camp Echo. DPA adds that a Mosul roadside bombing claimed 2 lives and left three more injured and an armed clash in Mosul resulted in 3 deaths . Aswat al-Iraq notes a bus accident outside Kut which resulted in 2 people dying and twenty-seven being wounded.

In other violence news, Al Mada reports that the Baghdad Operations Command has announced the recent wave of assassinations are being carried out by . . . al Qaeda in Iraq. Did you see it coming? That puts you several up on the Baghdad Operations Command, doesn't it?

No word on how many people it took to conduct that 'investigation' or how many 'hours' of 'investigating' before they 'cracked the case.' Al Rafidayn adds that Baghdad Operations Command has also 'solved' the weapons issues: the assassins are using silencers (on guns) and bombs. Shocking. It's only been a pattern for how long now? Al Rafidayn also reports that an intelligence officer with the Ministry of Defence was found shot dead in his Al Muthanna Airport office in Baghdad.

In other patterns, Al Mada reports that the Ministry of Electricity has announced a 'plan' to provide 16 hours of electricity come 2012. This sort of thing has been promised before and apparently everyone's supposed to pretend otherwise. Part of what is fueling the protests in Iraq is the refusal to forget all the broken promises of the last eight years.
Meanwhile UPI notes UNICEF's report on Iraq's water issue which includes that at least 1 million Iraqi children get their water from 'open source' and that "water-borne illnesses like diarrhea are the second-largest killer of Iraqi children." Iraq lacks a needed supply of potable water. This is due to the fact that in his five years and counting as prime minister, Nouri has failed to fix the infrastructure so Iraq's water contains sewage and otehr items. The recommendation each summer -- as the yearly cholera outbreak approaches -- is that Iraqis boil their water before drinking. Which is possible for some. It's not, of course, possible for Iraqi orphans living on the streets. A real answer would be for Nouri to spend some of those billions on rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure but you can't prepare for a palatial, post-prime minister life and also ensure that Iraqis' basic needs are met, apparently.

In Iraq, water is a major issue that's only become more of one in recent months. They share a border with many countries. Iran has been a problem with regards to water. There have been accusastions that Iran is building dams to prevent the flow of water. More seriously in the immediate term, the water is becoming too salty for consumption because water flowing into Iraq through Iran has too much saline in it. Not only does that make for problems with drinking water, it can be very bad for fertile land which might otherwise be productive and help Iraq restart their agriculture sector -- Iraq was the bread basket of the Middle East -- the Iraq War changed that as it did so many things. Within Iraq, a new move may heighten tensions. AFP reports that the Kurdistan Regional Government is constructing 11 damns with plans for an additional 28 to be built. AFP notes that "rainfall is now 60 percent below average" and that accusations were already flying in Kirkuk that farmers were being denied needed water due to Kurdistan dams.

Yesterday on Morning Edition (NPR), Mike Shuster reported on the efforts to rebuild the Askariya Shrine in Samarra and how it was contributing to the tensions: "It is over this plan, which is expected to generate millions of dollars, that new sectarian tensions have surfaced. The development project remains firmly in the hands of the Shia community, not in the hands of the city or provincial government, which are dominated by the Sunnis, who make up a majority of Samarra's population. They resent being cut out of what will almost certainly be a very rich project." Many groups are targeted in Iraq and that includes Iraqi Christians. The latest wave of attacks on Iraqi Christians began October 31st with the assault on Our Lady of Salvation Church. Sarah MacDonald (Catholic News Service) reports that Erbil's archbishop, Father Bashar Warda, has stated that the country has "near-genocide conditions" and, "We are living a region which cannot decide if it is for democracy or Islamic law." He notes 66 churches "attacked or bombed" as well as 2 "convents, one monastery and a church orphanage".
Intellectuals in Iraq have also been among the targeted populations. Gumer Isayev is the head of the St. Petersburg Center for the Study of the Modern Middle East, a professor at St. Petersburg State University and has his doctorate in history. Gazeta.ru interviews Isayev about events in Libya and their relation to Iraq.
Q: Being an expert on the Middle East, how do you assess the recent events in Libya? What's actually happening there, is it a "clash of civilizations", a "crusade', an attempt to protect democracy in Libya, or an attempt to overthrow Gaddafi's regime orchestrated by some countries, or perhaps a war for Libya's natural resources, or still something else?

A: Any attempts to explain the events in Libya drawing on the abstract concepts produced by the West -- such as for instance the "clash of civilizations" -- are doomed to fail just as much as the attempts to come up with a strictly rational explanation. Revolutions, overthrows, and uprisings are irrational by nature and often develop in an unpredictable manner which does not fit any conventional theories. The events in Libya unrolled rapidly and were shaped by a number of factors, and while both Egyptian and Tunisian presidents gave up quite quickly, Muammar Gaddafi made it clear right away that he will fight to the end. Consequently, the internal uprising against Gaddafi which started in February developed into armed aggression against Libya by March, and God knows what it will be like by April… Obviously, the "uprising" in Libya was inspired by popular unrest in the neighboring Arab countries. But unlike the peaceful protests in Tunisia and Egypt, Libya's uprising was armed, and quite possibly relied on some external support.
The revolution bug appears to have bitten a large number of Arab countries, but in Libya it seems to have developed into an acute condition. There are witnesses who confirm that the uprising was pre-planned, that groups of youths attacked police and local authorities' buildings in different towns at the same time. But the crucial role was played by the fact that Gaddafi secured the support of a large share of the population, especially in the country's capital and in the West. There were no massive protests in Tripoli, and the rebellious East has demonstrated the breakaway ambitions of Cyrenaica that Libyan Jamahiriya had already dealt with before (although the number of rebels there did not exceed a few thousand). Gaddafi wisely waited out the critical phase and went on to some successful attempts to re-unite the country but faced serious counteraction from the West.
The attempt to overthrow Gaddafi by "global effort" has been quite cynical.
Libya's business partners, including Italy, France and other European countries, which until recently were signing multi million dollar contracts with Gaddafi now all of a sudden claimed his regime to be illegitimate and openly took the rebels' side. It's no secret that Gaddafi has ceased to be a thorn the West's side over the last decade as he gave up a number of notorious projects related to development of weapons of mass destruction, let the U.S. oil companies in on the Libyan market, paid compensation for the Lockerbie bombing, and started liberalizing the domestic economy. Nevertheless, the colonel didn't entirely "mend his ways": the Americans got hold only of a small share of Libya's oil reserves; the Lockerbie bombing, though paid for, was never admitted guilt for, and the project to privatize the state oil production company also fell through. Gaddafi was actively promoting the idea of African unity and a single currency pegged to gold, and he heavily criticized the West's policies in Asia and Africa. Removal of sanctions in 2003 stimulated economic growth and turned Libya in a rapidly developing economy capable of making Gaddafi's dream come true i.e. turning Libya into the leading power of the region.
Therefore it is not about Gaddafi's Western partners suddenly becoming appalled at his being cruel to the rebels. Western powers simply took advantage of the situation, i.e. a temporary weakness of the Libyan leader, to back up the uprising.
An unstable situation in Libya is in the European and U.S. hawks' opinion better than a strong and ambitious Gaddafi. That is why the desperate West started to stir up the almost gone fire of the civil war. And whereas for the United States, this war would be across the ocean, Europe might harvest some big problems ensuing from it in the very near future. And this tells us that in fact European leaders followed their U.S. counterparts.
Q: How do you explain the fact it wasn't the U.S. but France who was the first to bomb Libya? Is it simply part of the West's overall campaign against Gaddafi's regime, or
maybe France has its own interests and accounts to square?
A: The United States is already running two wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq. The incumbent president, Barack Obama, came to power surfing a wave of anti-war sentiment in American society. He positioned himself as a man to dramatically change U.S. foreign policy and withdraw the troops from Iraq. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in anticipation of his achievements. Therefore Obama hardly stands a chance of convincing the voters that the United States must get involved in yet another war. According to recent polls, the majority of Americans do not support the idea of the U.S. intervening with Libya's affairs in any way. Voters won't forgive their president any more losses. It was no coincidence that as soon as a report of an F-15 fighter aircraft being shot down was released, Robert Gates hurried to make a statement that the active phase of the operation is nearing its end. The U.S. fear getting involved in a war for the same reason Germany had to give up aggression. They fear the public reaction. But that seems to be of no concern to Sarkozy who was never hiding the special nature of his relations with the United States. While the U.S. is biding in the shade, Sarkozy is willing to do the dirty work and take the risks as he has nothing to lose. The French president's ratings are quite low, and he badly needs a "little glorious victory." Neither is Sarkozy concerned with the fact that destabilizing Libya will send off new waves of illegal immigrants straight to France. "After us, the deluge" -- this famous French by-word aptly characterizes the president's demeanor. Under current circumstances, it would be appropriate to recall the events of 1956 when the U.K., France, and Israel attacked Egypt attempting to win back the Suez Canal nationalized by Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein. The initiative belonged to Israel while France and the U.K played peace-makers while breaking into Egypt's territory. The United States stayed out of this, not wishing to mar their reputation with the Arab world.

Q: The fact that the Libyan conflict has been broken into by the Western powers means that it's altogether a different story than that in Tunisia or Egypt. Can we say that Libya is going through what Afghanistan and Iraq did? Can we draw parallels between Muammar Gaddafi and, for instance, Saddam Hussein?
A: The recipe for intervening with internal affairs of countries in disfavor is basically the same. The parallels with Iraq are obvious. Aggression was preceded by a media attack whose goal was to justify the necessity to overthrow the ruling regime. In case of Iraq, Hussein's regime was accused of secretly developing weapons of mass destruction, and the media unrolled a massive misinformation campaign. It only takes to recall Colin Powell flashing photographs of Iraq's alleged secret WMD facilities and mobile laboratories to media cameras. In case of Libya, the focus was made on "bloodthirstiness" of the regime, and the story of dealing cruelly with peaceful protesters circled the world. The global community was thus prepared for the news of air strikes and bombings. As soon as it became clear that insurgents have lost the battle, the UN Security Council was called up to pass Resolution 1973 whose ample wordings in their essence granted freedom to the anti-Libyan coalition and resulted in the country being bombed. On top of all the similarities with the situation in Iraq, one more thing might get similar -- the end result. Libya may cease to exist de facto, the way Iraq did. And both Libya and Iraq would degrade into "black holes."
Last Saturday in the US, protests took place to note the 8th anniversary of the start of the illegal war. Military Families Speak Out issued the following:
Dedication of the Jeffrey Lucey chapter of Veterans For Peace
A speech by Gold Star Mother Celeste Zappala, mother of Sgt. Sherwood Baker, KIA April 26, 2004 in Iraq. Sad anniversaries are marked in the faces we see here tonight, this weekend marks 8 years since the disastrous Iraq invasion, nine and a half years ago the official chapter of the misguided war on Afghanistan began – Joyce just told me that today is Jeffrey's 30th birthday, and my son Sherwood will always be 30 years old.
Lobby Weekend in Washington, DC
Members of MFSO traveled to Washington DC from all over the country to participate in a weekend of trainings and grassroots lobby visits. We delivered postcards to 80 Senators and 175 Representatives with the message "Bring our troops & tax dollars home"
Teaneck, NJ: Art Exhibit on the True Costs of War
Military Families Speak Out in Teaneck, NJ launched a month-long art exhibit on the True Costs of War with a cultural event on Sunday, March 20th with a standing-room only crowd.
March 18th, 2011: Cape Cod Veterans For Peace Honors Jeffrey Lucey
On March 18, 2011, the Cape Cod Chapter of Veterans for Peace will dedicate and rename our chapter in honor of Corporal Jeffrey M. Lucey. A 23-year-old Iraq War veteran, Lucey suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD and in his anguish took his own life on June 22, 2004, almost a year after his discharge from active military duty. Jeff's family home is in Belchertown, Massachusetts. His parents have, since his death, become tireless advocates for active duty and discharged military personnel who are experiencing this horrendous and widespread disorder.
War Is NOT a Hollywood Movie: Southern California MFSO
March 19, 2011 - Eleven military family members and veterans were arrested for civil trespass today in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre where they staged a sit in on the 8th anniversary of the occupation of Iraq. They brought with them the photographs and boots of soldiers who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq. The family members brought a block of cement with them when they sat among the hand and footprints of Hollywood legends and pressed the foot prints of an empty pair of combat boots into the cement signing the footprints 'Forgotten Dead.' copying what the stars do when they get their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
MFSO Member Carole Whelan Protests Senator in Maine who Supported Iraq War
MFSO members and other peace activists protested Senator Susan Collins' induction into the Maine Women's Hall of Fame Saturday in Augusta. Shortly after Senator Collins was awarded the honor at the University of Maine campus, a woman stood up in the audience and began speaking, reading a written statement, and saying Senator Collins should refuse the award for her role in helping advance the war in Iraq eight years ago. Senator Collins was among the majority in the Senate that gave then President Bush the authorization to use force against Iraq.
IVAW Connects the Dots in Madison, WI
The Iraq Veteran's Against the War (IVAW) hosted a rally last Saturday, March 19 on the 8th anniversary of the Iraq War. Todd E. Dennis, former nuclear machinist mate on an attack submarine and current Madison Chapter President for the IVAW was one of several responsible for organizing the event. The rally began at the library mall on the campus of UW-Madison. Songs and speeches were shared as people from all over the state assembled. The IVAW then lead a march of several thousand to the Capitol where several speeches were given by both veterans of several wars and union leaders of the state. Attached is a part from that day. Please take the time to view one of the most important speeches that connects the dots between our wars and workers rights.
Through April 7th, we're going to try to note this at least once each day, if you served in the US military and you were stop-lossed, you are owed additional money. That money needs to be claimed. DoD announces the date to file for that additional payment has been extended:

The deadline for eligible service members, veterans and their beneficiaries to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP) has been extended to April 8, 2011, allowing personnel more time to apply for the benefits they've earned under the program guidelines.
The deadline extension is included in the continuing resolution signed by President Obama Friday, providing funding for federal government operations through April 8, 2011.
Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay was established to compensate for the hardships military members encountered when their service was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss Authority between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009. Eligible members or their beneficiaries may submit a claim to their respective military service in order to receive the benefit of $500 for each full or partial month served in a Stop Loss status.
When RSLSP began on Oct. 21, 2009, the services estimated 145,000 service members, veterans and beneficiaries were eligible for this benefit. Because the majority of those eligible had separated from the military, the services have engaged in extensive and persistent outreach efforts to reach them and remind them to apply. Outreach efforts including direct mail, engaging military and veteran service organizations, social networks and media outlets, will continue through April 8, 2011.
To apply for more information, or to gather more information on RSLSP, including submission requirements and service-specific links, go to http://www.defense.gov/stoploss.
And lastly, turning to broadcast TV, CBS' 60 Minutes offers the following:
American companies are finding new overseas tax havens to legally protect some of their profits from the U.S. tax rate of 35 percent, among the highest in the world. Lesley Stahl reports. | Watch Video

One Child At A Time
Wars can literally shatter children's lives and Elissa Montanti is on a mission to make some of them whole again through a network of volunteers. Scott Pelley follows the progress of one of them, a badly maimed Iraqi boy. |
Watch Video

The Sage of St. Anthony
Tiny Catholic high school St. Anthony in Jersey City, N.J., doesn't even have its own gym, but it has Coach Bob Hurley, who has taken the team, now ranked number-one in the nation, to 24 state championships. Steve Kroft reports. |
Watch Video

"60 Minutes," Sunday, March 27, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.



On March 21, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow offered a defense of the Obama administration and its role in launching a military assault on Libya. With tortured logic, Maddow attempted to show that the means by which President Barack Obama made public this new act of Great Power aggression revealed the chasm that separates his administration from that of his predecessor, George W. Bush.

The arguments offered by the MSNBC news program host, a principal voice of the American liberal-left in the mainstream media, are absurd and unworthy, but it is unlikely anyone in and around her circle will object. This social layer is fully committed to the Obama administration and, moreover, to the defense of American imperial interests, with which it identifies, in the final analysis, its own material comfort and peace of mind. This helps explain the collapse of the official anti-war movement in the US since the 2008 election.

Maddow began her program Monday in a typically flippant manner. “In the United States of America, we are used to thinking of ourselves as a superpower, as a world leader, as a country capable of throwing our weight around when we feel the need to. … We go to war all the time—big wars, little wars, medium-sized wars, weird wars, normal wars, wars. America as a country fights a lot of wars.”

Maddow’s cynical tone hints at criticism and a vaguely anti-establishment, even anti-war stance, while actually committing her to no position or analysis whatsoever. Why does the US government go to war so frequently? What has been the character of those wars? What is her attitude toward those conflicts? About that, nothing …

that's from david walsh's 'msnbc's rachel maddow lines up behind obama's attack on libya' (wsws). i'm glad he's calling out maddow but why is he surprised?

did he not listen to air america radio? in 2004 and 2005, rachel maddow was for u.s. troops staying in iraq. she was not for withdrawal. she also refused to book peace groups but forever booked pro-war vets.

she had repeatedly justified the afghanistan war.

why is any 1 surprised that she's a little war hawk?

she dances for her corporate masters. that's how she stayed on air america to begin with and how she ended up on msnbc.

justin raimondo has never shied from calling out rachel maddow. he has a new column entitled 'liberals march to war' and here's a taste of it:

Now that President Barack Obama has intervened in Libya, his army of apologists is mobilizing to defend his “humanitarianism,” declaring that his war isn’t at all like Bush’s wars. It’s something new, and different – and admirable.

I’m not at all surprised. Are you? The anti-interventionist veneer of most American liberals and assorted “progressives” peels off quite readily when a little “humanitarian” lotion is applied – especially if it’s poured on thick by a liberal Democratic President with a domestic agenda they can endorse.

Mother Jones magazine, to cite one exemplar of this chameleon-like transformation, is no stranger to cheerleading the dark side of Obama’s presidency. You’ll recall that the magazine launched a scurrilous attack on Julian Assange, in which the author compiled a lot of quotes from self-described “experts” to the effect that WikiLeaks suffers from a lack of “transparency” – to the US government, no less! – and, alternatively, is a CIA “front.” That didn’t sit too well with their readers, as a look at the comments appended to that article attests, but a shill for power’s gotta do what a shill is born to do, and that is “spin” every event to make the team –Team Obama, in this case – look good. And certainly David Corn is up to the task.

“A ghost hung over President Barack Obama,” writes Corn, “as he stood at a podium in the East Room of the White House on Friday afternoon to talk about Libya: the ghost of George W. Bush.”

Well, not really: that was the ghost of Woodrow Wilson. Bush, I would remind Corn, isn’t dead yet. But such details don’t bother a progressive on his way into battle. The latest US attack on a Muslim country in the Middle East may seem very similar to Bush’s wars – “absent references to WMD” – what with the rhetoric (He’s killing his own people! He’s a tyrant! He’s a terrorist!) and the stern Bushian mien. But that just shows how much you know ….

Because, you see, according to Corn, the President “in the second half of his remarks departed from the Bush-like script.” He then cites a single sentence in which the President refers to the “international coalition” arrayed against Gadhafi – one smaller than Bush’s, by the way – and includes some reassuring phrases about how, this time, we’re “shaping the conditions for the international community to act together.”

There – feel better now? Take two bromides that Bush himself could – and did – utter, and call me in the morning.

elizabeth taylor died yesterday. at hulu, you can watch this nightline special which is nothing but barbara walters - who interviewed her 5 times - covering taylor's career and life. it's well worth watching. and be sure to read kat's 'Elizabeth Taylor.' let's close with c.i.'s 'Iraq snapshot:'

Thursday, March 24, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq still has no vice presidents, it still can't pull together a Cabinet, a prison riot takes place today, the faux peace 'leaders' emerge to . . . continue their silence on Iraq, and more.
Because she will forever be the little Piss Panties girl who kicked Elaine in the shin when Elaine asked if little Katrina (well, not so little then, old enough to be toilet trained) might have messed herself, Katrina vanden Heuvel soils her nest again, this time at the website of The Nation where the Peace Resister thinks she has a moral soap box to stand upon in "Wake Up! End the Silence on Afghanistan" which is the sort of weak ass, half-assed nonsense we've come to expect from Katrina. Before she gets pissy -- and I mean that in every way imaginable -- please note that Piss Panties vanden Heuvel is whining about others allegedly forgetting the Afghanistan War or being unwilling to speak out against it. This from the woman who is both editor and publisher of The Nation magazine which did nothing, NOTHING, to note the 8th anniversary of the Iraq War. The same war that once led her to pen an editorial claiming that the magazine would support no Democrat who didn't end the war. Katrina hopes you've forgotten that editorial. Let's highlight the main point of that November 28, 2005 editorial:
The Nation therefore takes the following stand: We will not support any candidate for national office who does not make a speedy end to the war in Iraq a major issue of his or her campaign. We urge all voters to join us in adopting this position. Many worry that the aftermath of withdrawal will be ugly, but we can now see that the consequences of staying will be uglier still. Fear of facing the consequences of Bush's disaster should not be permitted to excuse the creation of a worse disaster by continuing the occupation.
The illegal war continues and Katrina can't be bothered with it. In that same editorial, they trashed "Senators Hillary Clinton, Joseph Biden and Evan Bayh, who continue to huddle for cover in 'the center.' They offer little alternative to Bush's refrain 'We must stay the course!'" Let's pretend for a moment US forces leave Iraq at the end of 2011 (it's not happening). Would some being sworn into office in January 2009 and keeping troops in Iraq in 2009 and 2010 and all of 2011 be "a speedy end to the war in Iraq"? Of course not. But The Nation refuses to call Barack out on that reality.
In the midst of her blog post today, Katrina wants to talk costs of the Afghanistan War but, having wasted her academic career fraternizing with professors, she never learned how to do her own calculations so she's left to raid the work of others which forces her to include Iraq for one paragraph:
You wouldn't know about all the real long-term costs from the sparse media coverage. For example, when taking into account caring for the physical and psychological wounds of returning soldiers, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard professor Linda Bilmes estimate the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will reach $4 trillion to $6 trillion. (This looting of our Treasury at a moment when people also say they would opt for cuts in defense spending over cuts in Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security.)
Now watch what she follows that with:
But until people wake up, speak out, organize and mobilize to pressure their representatives and President Obama, the opposition numbers reflected in the polls won't mean much, and the staggering numbers describing the costs of this war will continue to climb.
"Wars" drops back to "the costs of this war." Maybe Katrina's the one who needs to wake up. February 1st, the US Ambassador in Iraq James Jeffrey and the top US commander in Iraq Gen Lloyd Austin appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to beg for more money -- specifically three billion to three-and-a-half billion for this year alone. As Wally noted in his report on the hearing, "We have a record number of US citizens on food stamps, if the ambassador doesn't know, and we can't even seem to keep unemployment payments going without repeatedly voting for extensions in Congress, but James Jeffrey is comfortable spending your money and mine in Iraq." The same day as the hearing, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee released a 20 page report entitled [PDF format warning] "IRAQ: THE TRANSITION FROM A MILITARY MISSION TO A CIVILIAN-LED EFFORT." The reports notes that "uncertainty about the nature of the U.S. military presence in Iraq after 2012 is complicating all other aspects of transition planning." From the report:
But regardless of whether the U.S. military withdraws as scheduled or a small successor force is agreed upon, the State Department will take on the bulk of responsibility for their own security. Therefore, Congress must provide the financial resources necessary to complete the diplomatic mission. Consideration should be given to a multiple-year funding authorization for Iraq programs, including operational costs (differentiated from the State Department's broader operational budget), security assistance, and economic assistance programs. The price tag will not be cheap -- perhaps $25 - 30 billion over 5 years -- but would constitute a small fraction of the $750 billion the war has cost to this point.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee estimates that the next five years in Iraq could cost US tax payers $30 billion dollars. Yet Katrina vanden Heuvel, who can't find the courage to call for an end to the Iraq War, wants to insist other people need to wake up? Seriously?
In May of 2007, Bill Van Auken (WSWS) called out Katrina's craven editorials and sorry excuses offered for Democrats who continued to support the Iraq War:
Treating the Democratic leadership's hollow pledge to "keep fighting" as good coin, the Nation writes, "Pelosi and Reid are right when they say this is not the end of the fight over money for Iraq." The only problem, it suggests, is that "there are still prominent Democrats who don't get it" -- Levin, Hoyer and Co. --and they "are slowing movement toward unity in support of withdrawal."
The "unacceptable votes" cast by these supposedly rogue Democrats "should raise the ire of antiwar activists and the American people," the Nation affirms, and those who cast them should be "held accountable for extending the war."
The editorial concludes, "Americans must make it clear that when the next chance comes to use the power of the purse, our representatives should follow the will of the people and call a halt to Bush's disastrous war."
Nothing could more clearly sum up the Nation's political function. It seeks to delude its readers into thinking that the ongoing complicity of the Democratic Party in the launching and continuation of the war in Iraq is a matter of a "razor thin" majority in Congress and the wayward votes of a few political miscreants. Thus, the perspective it advances is that these few politicians -- mere warts on an otherwise healthy political body -- should be shamed, and the public should wait for the Democrats to do better next time.
Everything here is reduced to the small change of party politics and petty maneuvers in the halls of Congress. It leaves unanswered the big and obvious questions of why the Democrats are incapable of mounting a genuine opposition to the war and why the party's congressional leadership has no intention of doing either of the two things that could force its end -- blocking all funds for the Iraq occupation or impeaching Bush for the war crimes and anti-democratic abuses that have been carried out under his administration.
The explanation is to be found not in the "razor thin" majority that the Democrats have in Congress -- that never stopped the Republican Party from forcing through its right-wing agenda when it held the leadership -- but in the class nature of the Democratic Party and the character of the war itself.
It's the craven nature that allows elected Democrats to think they can continue to fool their constituents into thinking they any any way stand for peace and/or rationality. It's what allows the always embarrassing Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer to do what they did today. No, not the hair. But please, please, let's get a rule in place. If you're not an entainer and you're over 70-years-old, you wear you real hair in public, not bad wigs that you hope make you look '40-ish.' And Barbara, after we can all agree on that, let's do something about the racoon eye-liner you favor, okay? Members of Congress should look age-appropriate, not as though they're aging sex pot left over from a 60s Matt Helm film. There is something truly sad about supposedly powerful, supposedly mature women who turn themselves into objects of scorn and ridicule in the mistaken belief that they can shave multiple years off. That self-deciption is probably in part why Carla Marinucci (San Francsico Chronicle) can report that Babsie and Nance came out today in favor of the unconstitutional attack on Libya -- it is an attack on Libya, not on the leader, get real, those bombs fall on people. As John V. Walsh (Antiwar.com) notes today, "Partisan considerations should not impede the move to impeach Barack Obama. When George W. Bush was president, many on the Democratic Party Left called for his impeachment. They must do the same for President Obama who has more clearly violated the Constitution than President Bush since he did not even seek the dubious Congressional 'authorization' which George W. Bush asked for and received. If the Left cannot do this, its credibility will be in shambles, and quite deservedly so. On the other side clearly there is reason to indict Bush, and some on the Left are calling for that as are certain authorities in European countries where the former President dare not go. But at the moment Barack Obama is in charge and capable of greater damage if he is not stopped by impeachment. Impeachment of Barack Obama can no longer be avoided." Unless you're Katrina vanden Heuvel, a hopeless hypocrite who is unable to call out the continued Iraq War. Falls silent on the topic even on the 8th anniversary. Shameful.
Showing more courage on his own than Katrina, Nancy and Barbara combined could ever hope to have, Iraq War veteran Kevin Baker delivered an important and moving speech (March Forward!) at the LA rally Saturday for the 8th anniversary of the Iraq War:

On this day last year, Spc. Derrick Kirkland, who I served on a tour in Iraq with, hanged himself in his barracks room. He was found dead on March 20th.

This date also marks the date of the brutal invasion and occupation of Iraq by the United States. These two dates now mark two specific but not isolated atrocities committed by this government.

Derrick Kirkland was killed by this government -- for sending him to a war we had no reason to fight, then neglecting him when he asked for help.

He was in Iraq on his second tour and was sent home early because the pains of PTSD and other issues were to much to bear alone. Kirkland had tried three times before to kill himself. Despite 3 suicide attempts, Army psychologists labeled him a "low" risk for suicide. He was ridiculed and mocked by his chain of command, who then placed him in a barracks room by himself. He was there only 3 days before he took his life.

As someone who has battled though the Army medical system, I can tell you that it is not designed to help anybody. In fact, it sets up barricades to ensure soldiers stay in the military, despite seeking help. There are only a fraction of the number of psychiatrists that are needed. Appointments are months apart and treatment is reduced to nothing more than "checking boxes" to make soldiers legally ready for another deployment. Kirkland is not an isolated incident. In 2009 and 2010, more soldiers killed themselves than were killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Soldiers are killing themselves on an average of one per day.

If you want to know how much our chain of command cares about us, just look at what our executive officer Major Keith Markham, in memos he sends to other officers: "We can accomplish anything we put our minds to ... with an endless amount of expendable labor." The "expendable labor" this officer is speaking about is Derrick Kirkland, and every other soldier who has lost their life to suicide, and in combat.

Officers build their careers off of the backs of enlisted soldiers. Officers like Major Markham, General Petraeus, and everyone in the Pentagon, don't care about its soldiers -- our friends, loved ones, husbands, daughters, sons and wives. If this government does not care about its own soldiers then why would we even begin to think it cares about "liberating" peoples of another nation? This is why we say 'this is not our war' and service members have an absolute right to refuse orders to Afghanistan and Iraq!

We can stop these wars, but we need each other to do it. Those of us who mourned Kirkland's death, those of us who were sent to die in these wars, we know that this government cares nothing about us; we're just the cannon fodder in their wars for the rich. Those experiences have woken us up, and we are fighting back, and we will fight back until we stop these criminal wars!

It's a shame that the all the real leaders are outside of Congress. But apparently it's an unwritten law that Congressional critters must be de-spined before taking their oath of office.
While they pretend otherwise, Iraq faces many problems as a result of the ongoing war. This month's Iowa Insights podcast offers a look at life for Iraqi Sabah Hussein Enayah who is attending the University of Iowa's graduate program. Excerpt:
Iowa Insights: Sabah Hussein Enayah dreams of a safer, healthier future for her war torn country. That's why the thirty-one year old boarded a plane and traveled more than six thousand miles from Iraq to Iowa. [. . .] Enayah is one of the first five Iraqi students who arrived in the fall of 2010 on the University of Iowa campus. She is part of an estimated 80 Iraqi students nation wide participating in an educational initiative funded by the Iraqi government. Enayah heard about the program from a friend while working as a lecturer at Thi Qar University [in Dhi Qar]. She lived with her husband and two sons in Dhi Qar City, Basra, a region in southern near the Iraq Iraq-Kuwait border with spotty internet access. It took Enayah a dozen tries to apply for the program. Then she traveled five hours by car twice for an English test and an interview
Sabah Hussein Enayah: I went to Baghdad to-to interview. I go to interview because my husband, official, and he can't come withme .And my kids stay home. Baghdad very dangerous, explosions, risk. I can't take my kids with me. I went alone. [. . .] I met interview in Baghdad Thursday. And go back to my city after two days.
Iowa Insights: Enayah waited and wondered for months. She became pregnant with her third child. And finally, the good news had arrived. She had been selected. She arrived on the UI campus in August along with four male students from Iraq. They have become good friends although none of them had met before arrving in Iowa. The students received scholarships from the Iraqi government which covers tuition, room and board, medical insurance and benefits. They were selected through a highly competitive, merit based process. The process ensured representation across ethnic, regional, religious and gender lines. No easy task in a country that has long been divided along these demographics. Enayah and her colleagues were conditionally accepted into different graduate programs. [. . .] This pilot program is designed to cultivate the next generation of Iraqi leaders to help stabilize the country and address the pressing issues facing Iraqis. In particular, Iraqis in the region where Enayah lives experience high rates of cancer. She'd like to use her expertise in histology, the study of the microscopic anatomy of cell tissues to change this.
Sabah Hussein Enayah: I hope to improve our situation in Iraq. I want to open the lab, special lab, to make the test of hormones, of blood, of anything to help my population in my city because in my city we have [. . .] suffering from cancer. We have every day some suffering from cancer. Each organ. Liver, and heart, lung, breast.
A cancer epidemic in Basra? Now how does that happen? Again, Kelley B. Vlahos explores the realities of what's been done to the land and future of Iraq in "Children of War" (American Conservative). Scott Horton discussed the article with her on Antiwar Radio. Excerpt:
Scott Horton: This is a very hard hitting piece there in the American Conservative magazine which is the flagship magazine of the anti-war right in this country and often times it's worth reading in depth but this article was really great and especially timely since it's now the 8th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. And primarily this article is concerned with the pollution of various kinds and the disastorous effects that this pollution has had for the people of Iraq. So that, I think as you even say in the piece, "Even though the American people would prefer to just pretend the Iraq War is ancient history or something, it's still going on for the people there." Can you tell us a little bit about the consequences and maybe some of the likely causes that we're talking about here?
Kelley B. Vlahos: Sure. I mean I -- I basically would call this if you're going to look at something that crystalized the US invasion of Iraq, I would say this is the greatest, you know, singular example of the tragedy of our invasion of Iraq -- if not the thirty year relationship we've had, the US has had with Iraq. This was a very difficult piece to write. But just to drill down a bit, basically it talks about the impact of, like you said, the pollution -- the impact of 30 years, really of war in Iraq beginning with the Iran and Iraq war in which we supplied monetarily and with weapons Saddam Hussein in the Iraq war and against Iran in which thousands and thousands of pounds of munitions were dropped, tanks and chemical weapons. Then you fast forward to the Persian Gulf War, another anniversary that was reached this week, the end of the Persian Gulf War 1991in which, again, we used heavy artillery and tanks notably with depleted uranium that still sits out in the deserts of Iraq. And then the more recent US invasion of Iraq and the last 8 years. So the impact of that on the landscape of Iraq has been devestating. And the greatest example we have right now is the increase of birth defects in places like Falluja, for example, and Basra which were very, very heavily hit -- both in this war, specifically Falluja, and in the Persian Gulf War, Basra. And what they're finding in a recent study that I -- that I mention in the piece, in Falluja they, scientists, have determined a 15% incident rate of birth defects among babies born in their General Hospital in 2010. And to sort of bring this into perspective, you know, an estimated 3% of every live birth in the US is effected -- is effected by birth defects and 6% worldwide. So we're talking a huge, auspicious number here. We're talking birth defects --

Scott Horton: Well hold on a second, Kelley. I was going to say if -- if people have young kids riding along in the back of the minivan right now, you might want to turn it to music before Kelley starts describing some of the birth defects we're talking about being found at the Falluja General Hospital.
Kelley B. Vlahos: Oh, yeah. I mean, as a mother, this is a particular difficult story for me to do because every time that I went to do research, Googling "birth defects Falluja" I would indiscriminately get photographs of these babies that were born and we're talking everything from congenital heart defects to what you would call skeletal malformations which could be pieces of the skull missing, missing eyes, missing limbs, additional limbs where there shouldn't be limbs, babies who are just lying there lifeless and limp because their heads are three, four times the size they should be. Things that you don't even want to see or ever hope to see, that will give you nightmares at night. And there are pictures and pictures and examples upon examples on the internet that, you know, I think most of us would probably -- not ignore, but never see unless we were investigating it ourselves. And this is sad because the evidence is there and we have basically, like you said earlier, have decided that the war is over but this is occuring. And they're looking for help and their own government isn't giving them help and we certainly aren't doing it. Now what are the causes? This is -- this is the big investigation that's going on. There's been -- There's many theories. One being that depleted uranium that I had mentioned earlier. Our depleted uranium basically is -- is a dense heavy metal that is used in both an armored plating on our tanks as well as in our munitions. Now the extent of how much we've used in this war is pretty much a secret because the military knows it's controversial. It's been controversial since the Persian Gulf War when it was used and our own soldiers were being exposed to it in friendly fire fights with tank battles. And they came home and complained of all sorts of illnesses but also birth defects in the babies that their wives were having. There had been many studies and many surveys done but the Department of Defense -- surprise, surprise -- has denied that depleted uranium has anything to do with incidents, increased incidents, of cancer birth defects among our soldiers so you can imagine that they don't want anything to do with anything that's happened among Iraqis. But anyway, so the use of depleted uranium is controversial but they're still using. The Air Force uses it, the Army, the Marines. And in places like Falluja which had been unbelievably pounded by US air power during 2004 and 2005 if you can remember, this was a big hot bed of Sunni resistance. They were the ones that hung the Blackwater contractors off the bridge, the Sunnis in Falluja. And so the Marines went in there and basically tried to basically restore order there, to take it out of control of the insurgents' hands. They managed to do that. They put -- They put the security in the hands of local uh-uh Fallujans and left and then they had to come back after George Bush -- the minute George Bush was re-elected in 2004. He -- He started another air campaign. So we're basically talking about large areas of the city just leveled. We're talking about GPS guided bombs just like plucking buildings out, plucking insurgents out. You know strafing going on. I mean, just -- you can imagine. Looking at pictures of Falluja today, it's a wasteland. But they managed to "pacify" them in the end. But anyway, so what's left there? And we can only imagine. So the babies that are being born today are, like I said, 15% of them in 2010 were being born with these birth defects. Is it the depleted uranium? Is it the fact that there's no sewage or clean water in Falluja? All sorts of -- I mean, the burning of the trash on the forward operating base, a little bit about that in the article. So we basically destroyed the ecology of Iraq. But we need to find out exactly what's causing the birth defects and also the high levels of cancer among Fallujans as well as the people in Basra which I mentioned earlier was also heavily hit too. The studies are there but they need the help not only to bring it to light and to do something about it. And we are-are so far ignoring the plight of these people. For all obvious reasons. It is -- It is an embarrassment and a humiliation. And it is anathema to everything we were told: we went into Iraq to save and to liberate these people.
Save the people we've condemned to live under the brutal puppet the US government installed? Lyle Boggs (Appleton Post Crescent) observes:
The much celebrated withdrawal of the last U.S. "combat" forces from Iraq has come and gone and yet 50,000 U.S. soldiers remain. It defies common sense to define elite units of Special Forces soldiers as "non-combat," but that's not stopping the Pentagon or White House.
Many of the departed soldiers have been replaced by private contractors and the cost of our occupation is shifting from the Pentagon to the State Department. The U.S. embassy is the same size as Vatican City and rivals any palace estate of the previous regime. It is our own unique symbol of power.
The Iraqi government we protect has recently turned to violence to put down protesters trying to exercise the political freedom that we claim our very presence provides. As they say in Iraq, same donkey, different saddle.
Meanwhile Raman Brosk (Zawya) reports, "The National Coalition (NC) said Wednesday that the delay in voting for the deputies of the president was due to political necessities that emerged from the previous stage, while the Iraqiya list headed by Allawi assure that it didn't cause any delay in voting for the deputies. The Iraqi parliament postponed last month voting for the deputies of the president of the Republic because of the dispute over Khudair al-Khuzaie who was nominated for the post by Maliki's coalition." The Constitution of Iraq is very clear that, should something happen to the President, the vice president (the Constitution allows for two vice presidents) replaces the president and Parliament then elects a new president within 30 days. If there's no vice president, the Speaker of Parliament becomes president while waiting for Parliament to elect one in thirty days. Thirty days appears to be the most Constitution waits for an office to be filled. That's Article 75. Article 138, Second, section A makes clear that the vice presidents are supposed to elected at the same time as the President. November 11, 2010, Parliament elected Talabani for another term as president. Four months and thirteen days later, they still haven't elected a vice president. Do you wonder why Iraqis are upset with their do-nothing government? And Iraqis voted March 7, 2010. It is one year and 17 days after the elections and their country still has no vice presidents. Meanwhile Jalal's 77-years-old, has serious heart problems (and has had heart surgery), regularly stops in at the Mayo Clinic to have his arteries 'cleaned' while binging on saturated fat rich foods at every meal. You think the country doesn't need vice presidents?
In Cabinet news, Dar Addoustour reports that Iraqi List MP Nahida Daini states Khalid al-Obeidi will be the nominee for Minister of Defense. Al Mada reports that the National Council appears dead. This was the body that Joe Biden and the Kurds pushed in an attempt to end the political stalemate. Ayad Allawi, whose political slate won the most votes in the March 7, 2010 elections, would be put in charge of the newly created security body in exchange for Nouri al-Maliki being allowed to continue as prime minister. Apparently everyone was willing to play stupid or else they honestly didn't suspect Nouri might not live up to his word. Allawi walked out of Parliament the day the deal was formally announced and was right to. When Nouri refused to address the National Council immediately, it was clear (check the achives) that he was not going to create the body. And so he hasn't.

Allwai washed his hands of it weeks ago and announced he would not seek to head the non-existent body. He's now been angling for the post of Arab League president. Tim Arango (New York Times) notes that the rotating presidency of the Arab League will go to Iraq and that has some in government excited about the mark Baghdad might leave. Arango observes, "Iraq, with a democracy imposed by American force, is still a volatile tableau from which to draw lessons about how to establish a democracy in the Middle East. Insurgent attacks occur daily. Its prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, has raised alarms recently with moves to consolidate power over the judiciary and the security forces. Transparency International ranked Iraq as the fourth most corrupt country in the world last year, just ahead of Afghanistan, Myanmar and Somalia. Iraq is still more violent for civilians than Afghanistan, and American soldiers still die here, as one did Sunday from a roadside bomb in the south."
Al Mada reports the announcement that militia groups will lay down their weapons. The announcement comes as a wave of assassination attempts plague Iraq and, the paper notes, as Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc attempts to install Ahmed Chalabi as Minister of the Interior. Which militia groups? It's not being announced. Alsumaria TV adds, "Representatives of armed factions who held an extended meeting with government representatives at the National Reconciliation Ministry affirmed that the reason for handing arms is the commitment to the agreement with the US that stipulates mainly the withdrawal of US Forces from Iraq. Iraq's National Reconciliation Ministry declined to name the armed groups for security reasons. None of these factions is related to the defunct Baath Party, the ministry said." BNO notes, "A number of armed groups inside Iraq, in its capital of Baghdad and other provinces of Salahaddin, Kirkuk, Diala and Mosul, have decided to throw their arms. They exceed five groups, which did not attack Iraqi citizens." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) quotes Amer Khuzaie, the Minister of State for National Reconciliation, "The national reconciliation is only with armed groups who carried weapons against the occupiers and not against Iraqi people." So there you have it: Groups have laid down arms. We can't know which groups. It would endanger them. But take the Iraqi government's word for it, progress is being made. No doubt just like in 2007 when Nouri was claiming huge progress was being made on providing electricity. Al Rafidayn notes criticism that claims this is an agreement between Dawa (Nouri's political parties) and the Ba'ath Party.
Reuters notes that a Baghdad "temporary detention centre" was the site of a riot today requiring "30 anti-riot vehicles" and "13 ambulances". In addition, Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing left three people injured and that despite reporting yesterday that he had died, Maj Gen Ahmed Obeidi has thus far survived the assassination attempt. Aswat al-Iraq notes a 4-year-old girls corpse was found in Amara and, in Kut, a father and a brother killed a man.
There's much more to note -- I'll try to grab religious issues tomorrow -- but I want to note an upcoming radio program and we're trying to note one announcement every day until April 7th. First radio. Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan notes that she will interview US House Rep Dennis Kucinich on her radio program Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox this Sunday:

I gave up on Robber Class politics a long time ago and I think that most politicians are motivated by cynicism and greed, and many of my supporters and comrades will tell me that Dennis is a shill to keep the antiwar segment of the Democratic Party tied to the party -- and I think they could be correct -- but Dennis will stand up for peace and against blatant power grabs no matter who is president. In fact, he and Ron Paul of Texas and Walter Jones of North Carolina (both R's) just co-sponsored a bill to have the troops out of Afghanistan by the end of this year -- it failed, but it got 28 more votes than last time. It might all just be a charade, but I also know that there is no great movement of civil society pushing hard to make Congress defund the wars to end them -- it's just not there. We are failing, too.

Of course, I would be thrilled if Dennis would leave the Democratic Party and become a Green, or Independent, like Bernie Sanders of Vermont, but we need his voice where it is, for now.


And what we need to be noting each day: If you served in the US military and you were stop-lossed, you are owed additional money. That money needs to be claimed. DoD announces the date to file for that additional payment has been extended:

The deadline for eligible service members, veterans and their beneficiaries to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP) has been extended to April 8, 2011, allowing personnel more time to apply for the benefits they've earned under the program guidelines.
The deadline extension is included in the continuing resolution signed by President Obama Friday, providing funding for federal government operations through April 8, 2011.
Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay was established to compensate for the hardships military members encountered when their service was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss Authority between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009. Eligible members or their beneficiaries may submit a claim to their respective military service in order to receive the benefit of $500 for each full or partial month served in a Stop Loss status.
When RSLSP began on Oct. 21, 2009, the services estimated 145,000 service members, veterans and beneficiaries were eligible for this benefit. Because the majority of those eligible had separated from the military, the services have engaged in extensive and persistent outreach efforts to reach them and remind them to apply. Outreach efforts including direct mail, engaging military and veteran service organizations, social networks and media outlets, will continue through April 8, 2011.
To apply for more information, or to gather more information on RSLSP, including submission requirements and service-specific links, go to http://www.defense.gov/stoploss.