Wednesday, January 11, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, the Kurds say “no” to Nouri, the political crisis continues, the US comes off disinterested, a mayor is assassinated in Iraq, and more.
In both Iraq and Afghanistan, burn pits have been used. This means all the waste — including medical — is burned in an open area. Many US service members and contractors were exposed to these leading to respiratory illnesses and worse. In 2009, the practice was finally banned by the US government. Sadly, neither the war in Iraq nor the war in Afghanistan began in 2009. Many service members and contractors suffer from exposure to burn pits. Next month, the first ever scientific symposium will be held in New York.
We will note that again (probably in several snapshots). Any typos in the above are mine. That was sent to me in a PDF last month. I did two or three lines on it and said we’d note it in full (when I had time to convert the file, print it and then type it up). I completely forgot and they’re so kind they’re not one of the ones who ever send a reminder. (Some people e-mail you something they want highlighted at 10:20 a.m. And then e-mail you an hour later and an hour later and an hour later and hour later . . .) My sincere apologies for forgetting about it.
And the burn pits cause damage to those breathing in the chemicals. Other damage is unknown. But improperly disposing of chemical waste, for example, has led to the increased cancer risks at Camp Lejeune. That’s an issue many work on but Senator Richard Burr — Ranking Member on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee — has long highlighted. He and Senator Kay Hagan introduced the Caring for Camp Lejeune Veterans Act of 211 which won the unanimous support of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee but has not had a floor vote. US House Rep Brad Miller has a similar measure in the House of Representatives. Former US Senator Elizabeth Dole (Raleigh-Durham News & Observer) addressed the issue yesterday:
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I fought to expose the facts about the Camp Lejeune water contamination and to expedite notification to all potential victims. My legislation requiring the Pentagon to provide such direct notification through a registry was signed into law. The Corps, however, has not utilized the registry to directly inform military families about the EPA’s determination.
The provision of medical care for the people made ill by the contaminants in the installation’s drinking water must now be addressed through the legislative process. The cost of that care may eventually be high in terms of dollars. We must, nevertheless, meet our nation’s ethical and moral responsibilities.
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Rep. Brad Miller, D-N.C., are to be commended for their sponsorship of legislation that would provide medical care through the Department of Veterans Affairs for individuals who suffer from one or more of these cancers or other health effects and who are known to have served or lived at Camp Lejeune during the years in question. Passage of their legislation and its enactment into law are the necessary next steps.
Former US Senator Evan Bayh repeatedly attempted to create a national Burn Pit Registry with no success. Maybe now that the Senate’s chief objector to the registry is set to leave at the end of the year (Jim Webb — who also objected to the Agent Orange benefits the VA created), it can be championed again and this time passed?
Camp Lejuene should make you wonder what the effects from these burn pits will be on Iraqis in the future? (As well as the people of Afghanistan, but our focus is Iraq.) And don’t expect the US government to make public any risk assessment they’ve carried out or might carry out in the future as well as the effects from the depleted uranium and white phosophorus used in the second 2004 assault (November) on Falluja. Last week Dahr Jamail reported for Al Jazeera from Falluja and noted the huge increase in birth defects and there has been “a 12-fold increase in childhood cancer” since the second assault. Dahr shares:
Four-year-old Abdul Jaleel Mohammed was born in October 2007. His clinical diagnosis includes dilation of two heart ventricles, and a growth on his lower back that doctors have not been able to remove.
Abdul has trouble controlling his muscles, struggles to walk, cannot control his bladder, and weakens easily. Doctors told his father, Mohamed Jaleel Abdul Rahim, that his son has severe nervous system problems, and could develop fluid build-up in his brain as he ages, which could prove fatal.
“This is the first instance of something like this in all our family,” Rahim told Al Jazeera. “We lived in an area that was heavily bombed by the Americans in 2004, and a missile landed right in front of our home. What else could cause these health problems besides this?”
John Glaser (Antiwar.com) adds, “Antiwar.com columnist Kelley B. Vlahos wrote a brilliant piece in April 2011 in The American Conservative cataloguing the scientific support behind the conclusion that this ongoing suffering in Fallujah is caused by the U.S. weapons used in America’s siege of the city in 2004.”
Thomas Seiberg (The National) reports, “Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime miniser has started a bid to end the power struggle in Iraq, warning that religious strife had turned the neighbouring country into a ‘sea of blood’. Mr Erdogan was scheduled to talk to Nouri Al Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, by telephone yesterday. There was no word on whether a statement would be released afterwards.” Today’s Zaman adds, “In a telephone conversation late on Tuesday, Erdogan told Maliki that transformation of mistrust into animosity toward a coalition partner will negatively affect democracy in Iraq, a veiled warning to the Iraqi prime minister that his latest arrest warrant for Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi is a blow to democracy in the war-torn country.” Hurriyet Daily News reports on a speech Erdogan gave Tuesday “to his party’s parliamentary group” in which he alluded to Nouri al-Maliki, “Without naming him directly, Erdoğan slammed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, saying ‘a positive outcome cannot be expected from a mindset which is sending tanks to besiege the homes of ministers from his own coalition’.” Nouri started that as soon as he returned to Iraq after his meet up with Barack Obama in DC. Saturday, December 17th, Liz Sly (Washington Post) reported, “In recent days, the homes of top Sunni politicians in the fortified Green Zone have been ringed by tanks and armored personnel carriers, and rumors are flying that arrest warrants will be issued for other Sunni leaders.” Nouri received praise yesterday as well, Al Mada reports. The militant group Army of the Mujahideen declared support for Nouri and his efforts to form a “single and unified Iraq” . . and that they claimed that they had been behind the rocket attack on the Green Zone ceremony celebrating the creation of the Iraqi Army.
Iraq’s political crisis continues. Al Mada notes that President Jalal Talabani has called for a meeting next week for a ‘wider’ conference and that he had a meeting yesterday with Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and Nouri. Al Sabaah states that KRG President Massoud Barzani has stated he will not attend but will send an emissary to the conference and that US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey has praised the efforts of Talabani to start a national dialogue. But, Al Mada adds, if the conference were held in the KRG, Barzani would attend and that his office is stating any national meet-up should be in a mutually agreed upon location. Supposedly, later this year, the Arab Summit will take place in Baghdad. This summit has been repeatedly postponed due to safety concerns. Safety concerns might be among the reasons that Barzani feels the meet-up should be held in the KRG. Safety concerns might include that another of Nouri’s supporters might rocket attack the Green Zones. Dar Addustour explains the wider conference next week will involve more participants — this is not the often called for national conference but a conference to explore the national conference. Alsumaria TV elaborates that next week’s planned conference will include more representatives in the political process. As for the national conference, Aswat al-Iraq quotes State of Law MP Ali al-Alaq stating, “The reason behind holding the conference in Baghdad is to show its sovereign role following US forces withdrawal and as an emblem for national unity.”
Sunday on Face The Nation (CBS News — link is transcript), host Bob Schieffer spoke with US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta about Iraq.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you about Iraq. We still have 15,000, 17,000 civilians there, as I understand it. Are you confident that they’re safe?
SECRETARY LEON PANETTA: We’re confident that we have an Iraqi government and an Iraqi security force that is capable of dealing with the security threats that are there now. The level of violence has been down. It’s been down for a long time. And even though we’ve had these periodic acts of violence, that’s something we’ve experienced there for a long time. But the bottom line is that the Iraqis can provide good security and that our people can be secure in what we they’re doing there.
BOB SCHIEFFER: But I mean, the fact of the matter is, we’ve had over 100 people killed just this week there, have we not? As this– these various attacks have come about, and…
SECRETARY LEON PANETTA: Bob, you’re right. We’re going to see those kinds of acts of violence take place. But when you look at the level of violence overall, it is down and it has been down, mainly because the Iraqis have been able, effectively, to develop good security. And that’s important.
Americans (and the world) have heard that bulls**t of “we’re going to see those kinds of acts of violence take place” since 2003 following the “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED” banner. It’s Tony Hayward BP time: “We’re sorry. We’re sorry.” Because it is and has been the standard response, it doesn’t address the political crisis and makes the administration sound either uninformed or uncaring (or both).
Contrast that with, from the same broadcast, US Senator John McCain addressing the topic (link is video and text).
Senator John McCain: Secretary Panetta mentioned in Iraq. In all due respect, Iraq is unraveling. It’s unraveling because we didn’t keep a residual force there because the President of the United States pledged to get out of Iraq [clears throat] and we could have kept a residual force there and kept some stability. Instead, it’s unraveling and Iran’s influence is increasing. And there’s every possibility you could see a very chaotic situation —
Bob Schieffer: You think there’s a civil war coming there?
Senator John McCain: I think there’s clearly an unraveling going on which could eventually lead basically into three different kind of states in Iraq. We needed to keep a residual force there and that is what the Bush administration envisioned and that is what we should have done. We never gave them a number until, in the words of General Dempsey, the numbers cascaded down to 3,500. The Iraqis were ready to deal on this issue. The administration did not give them a number. And so what the perception is now, particularly in that part of the world, is that the United States is weak and withdrawing. And that is also having its effect in other places including emboldening Iran. Leading from behind is not what this world needs. And we still do have the best military in the world. And we still do have the most efficient and we still do have the most effective ways —
Bob Schieffer: Well let me just ask you, you heard Secretary Panetta said he’s confident that there’s an Iraqi army in place that could protect those 15 to 17,000 Americans that are still there. Are you confident that those people are safe?
Senator John McCain: Of course not.
Bob Schieffer: And what would happen? We have to go back?
Senator John McCain: No, I think we would have to withdraw them. Look, what Secretary Panetta may not understand — and I have great admiration and respect for him — that the situation is unraveling. The Vice President of Iraq is now hiding out in Erbil. There is militias and death squads operating. There is a breakdown in the Iraqi government. And there will be increased tensions on the border between the Kurdish areas of Iraq and the other areas of Iraq. And all of these could have been avoided if we had led rather than followed.
One party sounds concerned, the other sounds ho-hum. Remember what happened to Tony Hayward as he did his blah-blah over and over and the world grew more and more enraged? He and BP parted ways. And there was no public outcry of, “How could they do that to Tony!” There was a sense of he got what he had coming. Why the administration — which responded so poorly during the Gulf Disaster — thinks Tony Hayward’s is the behavior to role model is beyond me. If this remains their approach and presentation, don’t be surprised if a number of people begin saying, “Well, I don’t agree with John McCain but he cares, you can tell he cares.”
Ali Hussein (Al Mada) reports on the political crisis and speaks with a member of Parliament to ask whether the current situation was planned by Nouri or whether it was a huge miscalculation on Nouri’s part? The feeling is that Nouri’s sparked a crisis which leaves the country’s very future “hanging by a thread” and Iraqis had expected this time to be one of peace and hope, having survived Saddam and the US occupation; however, now the political scene grows “darker and darker” and Nouri attempts to seize power from his political rivals. Iraqi politicians fear that Barack Obama made a miscalculation (regarding US troops) and that this will be “the last bullet fired on Iraq.”
Yes, it is a crisis. Jon Hemming (Reuters) reports the Kurds aren’t willing to hand Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi over to Baghdad. Nouri officially started the crisis by charging al-Hashemi with terrorism. The vice president was already in the KRG at the time and has remained there as President Jalal Talabani’s house guest. That they weren’t just going to hand over was covered in Monday’s snapshot, that was the point of the press conference the spokesperson for the judge held. Hemming reports Kurdish officials state that Nouri should accept al-Hashemi’s request for a trial held somewhere other than Baghdad. (Nouri controls the Baghdad courts.) It’s doubtful any political rival of Nouri’s would feel comfortable being tried in Baghdad.
Reuters notes today’s violence includes the assassination of Mayor Saeed Hamdan in Hit, a Baghdad roadside bombing which left five people injured, and, dropping back to Tuesday night for the next two a Baghdad roadside bombing which claimed 1 life and left nine people injured and a Qaim attack on a police checkpoint in which 3 police officers were killed (and 1 assailant).
Turning to Iraq discussed in the US. And e-mails. Contrary to what some visitors e-mail, I haven’t endorsed anyone for president. I haven’t said, “I’ll vote for ___ for president.” As Elaine noted last night, what I’m actually leaning towards is just not voting for the first time in my adult life. Before yesterday’s snapshot went up, before it was even dicated, I knew someone would e-mail to insist that saying Steve Inskeep should focus on policies and not fashion would be seen as an endorsement of Mitt Romney and sure enough it was. Sunday night, I noted John McCain which led to a lot of dumb e-mails. A number of visitors seem to think he’s running for president in 2012. A smaller number saw it as my attempt to raise Jon Huntsman profile. Oh, I am crafty! ‘Noting John McCain’s remarks on Iraq,’ I secretly thought, ‘will allow Hunstman to win the New Hampshire primaries!’ Right? Because McCain endorsed . . . Romney. Get your facts straight. But, some insisted, John was noted and Leon Panetta wasn’t and I never, ever noted Rick Perry’s comments from the weekend so I must be endorsing Rick Perry.
Let’s start with Rick Perry. Of all the GOP contenders, Perry’s gotten slammed the hardest here. That’s because he was a governor and we cover Iraq and I note deaths and I note when NO ONE in the state of the fallen, not one politician, issues a public statement about the death. He was governor — he is governor — and Texas has lost a number of service members in the Iraq War. His failure to do what my governor (Jerry Brown) does immediately is appalling. And we’ve called him out repeatedly. Saturday night, I wasn’t in the mood for Iraq as noted near the end of this entry. I wasn’t in the mood for all the people who won’t recognize the realities of the deaths and the destruction. I was not in the mood. I did mention the Perry thing to Jim (who was reading over my shoulder as I wrote the Saturday night entries) and he and others (not Ava and I) attempted a piece on that for Third that never worked out. (I didn’t read it, I wasn’t in the mood.)
Monday’s the first time it could have appeared and New Hampshire was Tuesday. I’ve slammed Perry harder than any other GOP candidate and now, a day before the primary, I’m going to slam him again? I didn’t see the point (nor did I want to wade through a transcript of the debate). We’ve covered his failure to note the fallen, in his role of governor, we’ve noted his attack on Barack Obama regarding the parades is insane considering (a) he (Perry) can’t even note the fallen and (b) he’s a governor. He can put on a parade tomorrow if he wants one. (However, I was told Texas had decided to hold their parade in November on Veterans Day. If true, Perry may need to explain why that is if he’s going around demanding others hold parades.)
John McCain was noted over Leon Panetta. Panetta is Secretary of Defense. Panetta is also someone I know. That has not prevented me from calling him out on hearings or other issues. But to do that, I need to have the energy to do it. Having worked all Sunday morning on Third Estate Sunday Review (including Ava and I doing a major rewrite of our TV piece at the last minute Sunday night to include other topics and make the piece harder hitting at Jim’s request), I just wasn’t in the mood to take Leon to task if he needed it. And the way things work, when I have no energy left at all is when I usually have to find it due to events. Also true, I know Leon meaning I know when he’s not telling the truth, I know when he’s lying. If he was lying — and these days there’s half a chance of it due to administration policies — I just wasn’t in the mood to take someone I know and like to the woodshed. That’s why we went with McCain. We’ll go into this topic one more time Thursday night (not in the snapshot) and that will be it for this topic here in 2012.
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