Friday, September 25, 2009

Hillary's important speech

This is "Women: Opening Remarks at Combating Violence Against Girls Event," which are Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's remarks today in a speech:

I want to start by saying something that I believe with all my heart, and, obviously, those of you who are here believe it also, that the issues related to girls and women are not an annex to the important business of the world and the United Nations, they’re not an add-on, they’re not an afterthought; they are truly at the core of what we are attempting to do under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that is the guiding message of this organization and what each of us in our own countries is called to do on behalf of equal opportunity and social justice.
So for me, this is a tremendous opportunity to speak about an issue that has basically been relegated to the backwaters of the international agenda until relatively recently: violence against girls and women, and particularly today, violence against girls.
I wish that we could transport ourselves into a setting where we could be in the midst of girls and women who have been suffering from violence, but we don’t have to because it’s all around us. It is in the home, it is in the workplace, it is on the streets of many of the countries represented here, including my friends Maxine and Celso. And it is in the places that make the headlines from time to time, and then in the very bottom paragraphs, there’s a reference to the violence that is a tactic of war and intimidation and oppression to prevent girls from going to school by throwing acid in their faces, by raping girls as a way of intimidating them and keeping them subjugated and demonstrating power.
So this, for me, is one of the most important events that I’ve done at the UN. I worked this week with President Obama on our agenda, on everything from nonproliferation and the threats posed by Iran to the P-5+1, to the ongoing challenge of the Middle East, and so much else. But oftentimes, my press – I’ll only speak for the American press – will pose a question that goes something like this: “Why are you spending so much time on these issues that are less important or not as significant as the ones that are really at the heart of foreign policy?”
And I usually patiently explain, for about the millionth time, that this is the heart of foreign policy. Because after all, what are we doing? We’re trying to improve the lives of the people that we represent and the people who share this planet with us. And we do it through diplomacy, and we do it through development, and occasionally we have to do it through defense. But violence against any one of our fellow beings is intolerable. And when it is part of the cultural fabric of too many societies, when it is an assumption of the way things are supposed to be, then it is absolutely a cause for our action collectively.
As some of you know, I traveled to Goma in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo last month. I went to a refugee camp that is home to 18,000 people in a very small plot of land; in fact, land that is covered by lava from a volcanic eruption. And it was a stark reminder of a conflict that has left 5.4 million people dead since 1998. And walking through that refugee camp was, as I’ve often felt walking through camps in other places, both the best and the worst of humanity: the worst because of what drove these people to this extreme measure of fleeing their homes, leaving their fields, running from danger; and the best because of the international response.
But the people leading me through the camp – they had a man who was the president, a woman who was the vice president – were talking about what life was like day to day, because the camp provides no security. You are there, but if you venture out, as too many of the girls told me, for water or firewood, or literally just to breathe because you’re living arm-to-arm with thousands of other people, you put your life at risk. Something like 1,100 rapes are reported each month in the Eastern Congo; that’s an average of 36 women and girls raped every day.
I heard a lot of terrible stories. A 15-year-old girl who looked younger than her years, who was fetching water from the river, when two soldiers – she wasn’t sure who they were, were they irregulars, were they militias, were they the Congolese army. They were just soldiers who told her if she refused to give in to them they would kill her. They beat her, ripped her clothes off, and raped her.
I met one of the nine-year-old girls who was nabbed by two soldiers, who put a bag over her head, and raped her repeatedly in the bushes; and a woman who was eight months pregnant when she was attacked, and after being so brutalized and losing her baby, she was no longer accepted in her own home.
And then I met a woman who was about my age, who had four children and a husband. They were farmers from one of the small holding farms that so many of the world’s poor try to survive by. And she called them bandits. They took her husband out, shot him. Two of her children ran out to try to help their father, shot them, came into the house, shot the other two children all in front of her, and then repeatedly gang-raped her, left her for dead. And she told me she wished that she had died.
Well, these are the most extreme examples, but there are so many that we could point to. And since I believe that the progress of girls and women holds the key to sustainable prosperity and stability in the 21st century, this is a matter of great concern to me and to my country. When women are accorded their rights and accorded equal opportunities in education and healthcare and employment and political participation, they invest in their families, they lift them up, they contribute to their communities and their nations. When they are marginalized, when they are mistreated, when they are ignored, when they are demeaned, then progress is not possible, no matter how rich and well-educated the elite may appear.
The problem of violence against women and girls is particularly acute in conflict zones, but that’s not the only place we find it. The UN has done some excellent work in the last years in war-torn areas. And while boys are pressed into service as child soldiers and trained to kill, and often drugged to do so, girls are raped and often forced into becoming sex slaves. And this has happened to thousands and thousands of children. We also know that despite the best efforts of those of us in this room, all too often these acts of brutality and de-humanity do not just affect the individuals, they affect the fabric that weaves us together as human beings.
Next week, I will chair a Security Council session here in New York on the epidemic of sexual violence against women and girls in conflict zones. And the United States will introduce a resolution to strengthen our efforts to curb these atrocities and hold all those who commit them accountable. We will call for a special representative of the Secretary General to lead, coordinate, and advocate for efforts to end sexual and gender-based violence in armed conflict.
But violence against women and girls happens everywhere. You have not only domestic violence, but female feticide, dowry-related murder, trafficking in women and girls. It’s quite alarming that even among well-educated people in some countries, the rate of selective abortion against girls is alarming. There are millions – some estimate as many as 100 million – missing girls. And they are missing because they’re either aborted or they are still subjected to infanticide or they are denied nutrition and healthcare and allowed to die in alarming numbers before the age of five.
In Thailand in the 1990s, I met girls who’d been sold into prostitution by their fathers, when they were as young as eight. And by the time they were 12, many of them were dying of AIDS. I drove around the area in northern Thailand, and one of the people with me said, “You can tell which homes have sold their girls, because they’re the ones with the satellites” and that there’s a lot of peer pressure; it would go satellite, satellite, then you’d have no satellites, and then satellite, satellite.
So we know these statistics. A third of all women will face gender-based violence at some point in their lifetime. In some parts of the world, the number is as high as 70 percent. The United Nations estimates that at least 5,000 so-called honor killings take place each year. Nearly 50 percent of all sexual assaults worldwide are against girls aged 15 or younger. And more than 130 million girls and young women have been subject to genital mutilation.
All over the world, you find a higher value on male children, girls being coerced into early marriages, denied access to schools, adequate nutrition and healthcare, and enslaved in forced labor. And so there are many stories. We have two young women with us today, and we have many more who they represent.
The problem is that very often there is no legal action taken against those who perpetuate this violence, even when they are members of a nation-state’s armed forces. We are pressing the government of the DRC very hard to bring to justice five officers of the military who have been implicated in either these actions themselves or in a permissive environment for them.
And there are many young women who are standing up and who need our support. The story of Mukhtar Mai, a young woman who I’ve come to know, who was gang-raped in 2002 on the orders of her tribal council in rural Pakistan because of something her brother had done. She was forced to walk home naked in front her village, and she was expected to kill herself. I mean, that’s what you do. You get humiliated, you get shamed, you get attacked. It’s your fault, you go kill yourself. And the crime, the best we could determine, was her brother was seen walking with a girl from an upper caste village.
So what happened to her? She refused to kill herself, and she refused to hide, and she refused to give in to the cultural milieu in which this attack had taken place. And her case became something of an international cause. And people began asking: What can we do for her? They donated money. She built the first school in her village. She herself enrolled in that school. And now, because of the money that has come in since she was courageous enough to speak out, the school has an ambulance service, a school bus, a woman’s shelter, a legal clinic, and a telephone hotline.
Now, she’s a remarkable young woman, but she’s not alone. And what we need to do is support those who are standing up. I have a friend here, Molly Melching, whom I first met and worked with more than 10 years ago in Senegal, where she very deliberatively began to build community rejection of female genital mutilation by going from village to village and making it a health issue, making it an issue that the tribal elders and the imams began to recognize was not in keeping with their views of themselves or of Islam. And this is possible. It takes time, and we can’t, can’t give up.
So let me just end with a call to action from the leaders of many religious faiths who came together last year to advocate for an end to violence against women, and here’s what they said: Each of our faith traditions speaks to the fundamental value of all human life. Violence against women denies them their God-given dignity. We cannot afford to remain silent when so many of our women and girls suffer the brutality of violence with impunity.
So this meeting could not be more timely or important. Now, we’ve got to follow up. And hopefully, in UNGAs to come, we will fill larger and larger rooms. We will have people making commitments. I know the Dutch Government is very intent upon trying to make sure that action follows. And we can work with our friends not only from Brazil, but I see many of my other colleagues here today. And I hope that we will be the voices for those women who will never appear before the Security Council, they will never leave Goma, they will never leave rural Pakistan, they will never leave their village in Latin America or anywhere else, to come and plead their case before us. So it falls to us to make sure their voices are heard.
Thank you very much.

That's an important speech. C.I. forwarded it to me when I said I wasn't sure what I'd write about tonight. And I'm looking at the speech and thinking, "Great, but is it Hillary?" There was no identifying paragraph, the whole e-mail was just the text of the speech. So I checked to be sure. C.I. said, "Yes, that's Hillary's speech. Honest. I'm not pulling a fast one on you and forwarding you a speech Michelle [Obama] gave." I laughed.

But that's a really important speech and we're very lucky that Hillary Clinton is heading the State Department because who else would give it?

I can't think of many who could or would. And after 2008, Hillary has the gravity to really speak on these subjects. Both because of what was done to her to steal the nomination and because they had to steal it since she got the most votes. She is the most popular member of the current administration.

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

Friday, September 25, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Talabani buries a prized request in his UN speech to emphasize a momentary one (already addressed as it turns out), the VA has a really, really bad week and ends the week on a bad note, Nouri's forming his own coalition and right now it's . . . well Nouri, and more.

Yesterday (6:18 pm EST), Jalal Talabani, Iraqi President, addressed the United Nations General Assemnbley. He tapped the microphone four times before he began reading his prepared speech for the next 17 minutes and four seconds

The most important challenges we face in the near future is the legislative elections due to be held in January 2010 for which the political parties have already started preparations. The success of these elections will put the current political regime based on democracy, pluralism and the peaceful transfer of power on the right path. The success of the elections will transfer the political process from the establishment stage to one of permanence and stability and will promote stability and security in Ira. The elections will strengthen our capabilities in building national institutions qualified to fulfill the requistes of a strong state based on law, living peacefully with its own people and neighbors and to be a key factor in the security and stability in the region. This will reflect postively on Iraq's Arab, regional and international relations and its active return to the international community.
The real danger currently facing Iraq is outside interference in its internal affairs which has committed the worst crimes against innocent Iraqis from various segments of society, men, women, children and the elderly. In an attempt to destabilize security and stability achieved in Iraq during 2008 and 2009, Iraq has witnessed recently a series of bombings and terrorist attacks, the last of which was the Bloody Wednesday explosions that targeted the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Finance which targeted the country's sovereign institutions on 19 August 2009. This led to many innocent victims, including many employees of the government, diplomats and administrators. These criminal acts and large number of victims have reached the level of genocide and crimes against humainty subject to punishment under international law. We believe these acts at this level of organization, complexity and magnitude cannot be planned, funded and implemented without support of external forces and parties and primary investigations indicate the involvement of external parties in the process.
Therefore, the government of the Republic of Iraq puts this important matter on the table of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and requests its submission to the Security Council for the purpose of forming an independent international investigation outside the jurisdiction of Iraq and bring those found guilty to a special international criminal court.
The Iraqi government finds itself obliged to resor to the United Nations to protect its people and stop the bleeding of innocent Iraqis and we are looking to the assistance of the international community and its support ot the Iraqi positions in the formation of an independent international commission to investigate the crimes of terrorism against the Iraqi people we request the United Nations Secretary General to name a senior offficial to evaluate the extent of foreign intervention that threatens the security and integrity of Iraq and to consider terrorist crimes as genocide. We also look for better cooperation and coordination with the neighboring countries and other concerned states to control Iraq's boraders, exchange information, coordinate efforts and prevent the groups that support terrorism and work against Iraq under any cover.

It was a far cry from his speech to the United Nations September 25, 2008 when he was speaking of the importance of ensuring that women were able to participate in "all spheres of influence". This year, almost 12 months to the day, he stood before the United Nations and wanted to open with what can be seen as an attack on Syria. Bloody Wednesday, Black Wednesday, August 19th, whatever you call it, no one knows who was responsible. Nouri al-Maliki had been in Damascus and met with Bashar al-Assad, president of Syria, to demand that Syria turn over 179 Iraqis residing in Syria to Iraqi authorities. This demand wasn't new. When Nouri was hiding out for 18 years in Syria, there were many calls from Saddam for Syria to turn Nouri and others over to Iraqi authorities. Syria refused then to turn over anyone without proof and Syria stands by that policy today. The demand for the 179 to be turned over came before the August 19th attacks.

Like George W. Bush, Nouri used an attack to push through things he already wanted. Nouri and others thought Turkey would be the one to lean on because Turkey does conduct raids in (and assaults on) northern Iraq. Their 'right' to do so was just renewed and the hope of Nouri and his allies was that the desire to renew would mean Turkey would automatically side with Iraq against Syria. That's why Iraqi officials made idiotic statements in the last few weeks on Arabic TV claiming that Turkey agreed with Iraq and said the 'proof' offered by Iraq that Iraqis in Syria were responsible for the August 19th bombings was irrefutable. Turkish officials didn't say that, nor did they feel that. Their role was to get the two sides to come together. That's how they saw it. It's doubtful that Turkey's desire for continued raids could have been leveraged by Nouri to begin with but the fact that Iraq suffers from a drought and needs Turkey for water further undercut any hopes that Iraq could strong-arm Turkey.

So yesterday Jalal Talabani took the matter to the United Nations. Not to the Arab League. They don't want to take it to the Arab League because a Cairo meeting this month did not go well for Iraq and indicated that other governments saw Iraq's 'evidence' to be as weak as did Syria. Despite attempting to bypass the Arab League, Talabani claimed to the United Nations yesterday that "we seek to establish better relations with the Arab and Islamic countries and we are committed to the decisions of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Conference."

How much can one person beg for? Traditionally, you beg for one thing. Jalal was begging non-stop. After demanding an international inquiry, he then went into how Iraq should be spared of its debts and obligations. Is Iraq a new country? No. And the 20 million-plus Iraqis that lived there before the start of the illegal war (approximately 26 million was the CIA estimate in 2002; they estimate 28 million today which apparently includes external refugees and corpses in the count) are still in Iraq. So what's going on?
Under a United Nations mandate authorizing the foreign occupation of Iraq -- issued after the illegal war started (no UN mandate was issued on the illegal war) -- Iraq was seen as a ward that needed protection -- not only from foreign forces but also from the international community. The treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement was wanted by the White House and by Nouri. Nouri wanted it so that Iraq was no longer a 'ward of the state'. As such, Jalal Talabani pressed the UN to lift Iraq's debts, "Therefore, we request a clear resolution issued by the Security Council to terminate all resolutions issued under chapter VII which affected the sovereignty of Iraq and led to financial obligations which are still binding on Iraq because the situation which necessitated the adoption of those resolutions no longer exists. We and the Iraqi people look forward to the day when Iraq is released from chapter VII sanctions."

To some degree, Talabani's second round of begging will most likely be met. However, he will forever be criticized historically for making that his second request and not his first and only request. Nouri's petty-grudge war resulted in the Iraq basically being taken out of receivership on the internaional stage becoming request number two and not the primary one. This request was the one the non-representative government in Baghdad had worked the last three years on and suddenly it became a secondary issue in Talabani's speech.
With news from Alsumaria that Foreign Minister Hosheyar Zebari has declared Syria, Turkey and Iraq have agreed "to form a Turkish-Syrian-Iraqi investigtation committee," Talabani's decision to emphasize August 19th over the economic issues looks like an even bigger mistake.

Yesterday, there was a prison break in Tikrit with sixteen prisoners escaping -- one of whom was later caught, five of whom had been sentenced to death. Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) notes the curfew and that "American search dogs and aircraft" are being used to hunt for the escapees. Ned Parker and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times) reported this morning that two of the sixteen have now been captured and that 4 "prison guards were under investigation on suspicion of helping the detainees escape. The prison director was dismissed and detained while under investigation, officials said." BBC News reports 5 of the escapees have now been caught and that the "police detain 100 staff for questioning about the breakout." Nada Bakri (Washington Post) adds, "Authorities said Friday that at least 100 prison officials and guards, including 10 officers, have been arrested and three special committees formed to investigate the prison breakout in Tikrit." Bakri also notes that with 5 of thte 15 escapees back in custody, the curfew in Tikrit has been lifted. Iran's Press TV notes that posters of the escapees "have been distributed across Tikrit and other cities in Salaheddin province to ensure that the 10 remaining jail breakers will not remain long at large." Reuters notes Iraqi officilas are now saying 6 of the 15 escapees have been captured.

In other prison news,
Anne Tang (Xinhua) reports Nouri al-Maliki, thug of the occupation, stated of allegedly violent prisoners in Iraqi prisons, "Those people, who had been involved in killing Iraqis must be punished. [. . .] We hear voices calling for release of criminals under claim that they have been defending rights of minorities and (religious) sects, forgetting that those criminals had been behind catastrophes." Nouri's words are laughable since he's so tight with the League of Righteous (responsible for an assualt on a US base in which 5 US service members were killed, responsible for the kidnapping of 5 British citizens in Baghdad -- four of whom are known to be dead -- those are the crimes they've claimed credit for). He's so tight with them that he got their leader (and the leader's brother) released from a US prison earlier this year and has met with them repeatedly. Despite the fact that a fight British citizen is either still held hostage or dead. Thug Nouri runs with his own. And his pretense to care for Iraqi lives is laughable when he sits on billions and Iraqis struggle for something as simple as potable water.

In Iraq today 15 Iraqi soldiers were killed in Baashiqa.
Xinhua reports that the 15 were in northern Iraq attempting "to blow up a large arms and ammunition depot" but things went horribly wrong. In addition to the 15 dead, another is reported injured. BBC has the bombing taking place while the soldiers were transporting "confiscated bombings to a disposal area". However, Nada Bakri (Washington Post) reports, "The explosion took place in a lot where security forces store and detonate explosives and ammunition confiscated from insurgents." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) explains, "Officials described the blast as an accident but provided few other details." Gulf News adds, "Witnesses said American soldiers had cordoned off the area. The US military did not immediately respond to queries for additional details."

In other reported violence today . . .

Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing injured two police officers. Reuters notes two other Baghdad roadside bombings from yesterday which injured four people and an attack on a Mosul military checkpoint which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left another injured.

Moving to political news.
September 11th on Al Jazeera's Inside Iraq (a transcript excerpt is in this snapshot), Kassim Daoud repeatedly insisted to host Jasim Azzawi that there was still the possibility that Nouri al-Maliki might join the Shi'ite alliance.

Jasim Azzawi: al-Maliki has refused to join the new bloc that has been created and you are a member of that bloc, the Iraqi National Alliance primarily because of the presence of Ibrahim al-Jaafari and perhaps because of Moqtada al-Sadr. Can Maliki win without your bloc?

Kassim Daoud: Well that's a very difficult question. I mean it's premature to answer the question like this to comment that the Alliance, actually, is still open to everybody. We announced it as a bloc which has to be the foundation for the national mandate or the national enterprise. We cannot say that Maliki didn't join us so far, the negotiation is still going on.

Jasim Azzawi: Kassim Daoud, it seems to me that his answer is final. He wanted to be the sole candidate to run for the premiership as well as he wanted a limitation on to Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Moqtada al-Sadr blocked. That has become amply clear.

Kassim Daoud: Well the problem before you is clear but for me since I'm an insider, actually, I'm not looking at the situation as it is. The guy having sort of a political mandate, he would like to pursue with his mandate. The Alliance would like to -- their own mandate so I cannot say the negotiation terminated. I think still we have room although the room is probably slim but I think that we cannot give such a sharp answer till we have to wait for probably too more weeks.

Jasim Azzawi: Slim indeed it is.

Slim indeed.
Alsumaria reports that Nouri has revealed he's creating his own coalition and "will announce" it in the next week. The coalition will be Dawlat al-Qanun (State of Law) and will be a mixed coalition as Nouri attempts to paint himself more secularist due to the January 2009 elections in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces indicating that fundamentalists were not popular with the people. Caesar Ahmed and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) report on the plans by the politicaly party SIIC (Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council) which include recruitment and appearing open (possibly being open, but time will tell on that) and to point out the current government's broken promises: "The cleric critiqued the government's management of electricity and vowed his list would improve basic services. He heaped scorn on the country's current electricity minister, Kareem Wahab, for failing to improve power." Alsumaria also reports that the Kurds are calling for elections to take place in Kirkuk and not be postponed "under the pretext of voters' register incomplete scrutinizing." The upcoming elections are scheduled for January 2010 and the fate of Kirkuk will not be, according to Nouri, addressed then. Despite the Iraqi Constitution long ago calling for a referendum on Kirkuk (disputed territory claimed by both the KRG and the centeral government in Baghdad).

On the topic of the elections, they're often presented as the saving moment for Iraq that will change everything. Last week
Marc Lynch (Foreign Policy) offered another take after recounting the US government's distaste for the recent elections in Lebanon, Iran and Afghanistan:

The similarity in American thinking about the role assigned to elections in the Iraqi and Afghan case bears particular attention. In each case, the elections are supposed to do very specific things for American strategy: legitimate the political order, bring excluded challengers into the political process, resolve enduring political conflicts, create a political foundation for the counter-insurgency campaign. In Afghanistan, the opposite appears to have happened. Should this worry those assigning the same hopes to Iraq?
This is not to say that the scheduled Iraqi elections don't matter (even if it were an American decision to hold them, which it most assuredly is not). The looming elections have very clearly profoundly shaped Iraqi politics. The jockeying over electoral coalitions, questions about Maliki's power or vulnerability, and reshaping of both intra-communal and inter-communal politics have dominated the Iraqi political arena for months. The outcomes will matter in important ways-- Shia politics could fragment or reunite, Maliki could emerge as the power broker many hope for or fear, Sunni groups might find a better entree into the ruling coalition, particular groups may rise or fall --- and in contrast to most Arab elections, the outcomes are not pre-ordained.
But things could go in bad directions as easily as in good directions -- or, even more likely, could shuffle the deck without producing any miraculous breakthroughs in national reconciliation. Certainly the 2005 elections produced their fair share of negative results -- worsening the spiral towards civil war, locking in communal representation, and paralyzing the government for months over the inability to agree on a Prime Minister. The January 2009 provincial elections were seen, by contrast, as a great success. But as the Times pointed out the other day,
disillusionment with the results of the provincial elections -- which carried similar weight in U.S. thinking -- has grown in Anbar as new leaders fall into old habits.

F. Gregory Gause (Abu Dhabi's The National Newspaper) also questions whether too much emphasis is put on the elections:

But neither immediate security concerns nor short-term electoral politics will determine the future of Iraq. Ultimately, political stability in Iraq will depend on how Iraqis (and, for the near future, the American government) define the kind of state they want to have. Do they want a strong centralised government? Or do they want to empower regional governments and carefully divide and circumscribe power in Baghdad? Neither quantifications of terrorist violence nor the 2010 parliamentary elections will answer that question.
[. . .]
There is certainly an argument to be made that what Iraq needs now is strong leadership. State-building is rarely done effectively by committee, and Iraq is still in the midst of rebuilding the institutions that were hollowed out by Saddam Hussein and then upended by the American occupation. The core of al Maliki's appeal, and his argument for a new term as prime minister, is that only a strong leader can build the institutions necessary to maintain security, promote economic development and prevent the political fragmentation of Iraq. Of course, a strong leader is no guarantee of such progress. Plenty of kleptocratic states are headed by strongmen; Zimbabwe is no model for state development. But it is hard to see how al Maliki's rivals in the Kurdish leadership or in the sectarian Shia Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), which in the past has advocated a Shia regional government on the model of the KRG, could rally Iraqis across ethnic and sectarian lines to support the rebuilding of the state.
But after the disastrous experience of Saddam's rule, perhaps Iraqis would prefer a central government that is both weaker, in terms of its authority over the provinces, and more divided, with a separation of powers in Baghdad – so that no single figure can consolidate power, even if that means relatively inefficient governance. The risk of a new dictatorship, in this view, trumps arguments about security and efficiency and the logic of centralised state power. The political groups forming coalitions against al Maliki will make that argument in the upcoming elections. The major Kurdish parties, invested in their own autonomy in the KRG, certainly see things this way. Even Arab parties that in the past have advocated strengthening the centre are reluctant to ally with al Maliki, at least right now.

Turning to the US where
Gregg Zoroya and Mary Beth Markelein (USA Today) report, "Nearly a month into the fall college semester, the Department of Veterans Affairs has paid benefits for fewer than half the former Iraq and Afghanistan veterans requesting under the new post-9/11 G.I. Bill, according to a VA estimate." And they quote the director of the VA Education Service, Keith Wilson, stating, "We realize we're not meeting everybody's expectations." David Zucchino (Los Angeles Times) notes Amber Oberg's expectations. The army veteran has been attending UC Davis for a month. And the promised funding? Hasn't arrived. Oberg states, "I didn't expect to get out of the military and then have to wait and wait for the education money that was promised me. Now she and her kids are in danger of being homeless as she waits for the promised monthly housing payment of $1,736. Across the country, veterans check the mail looking for the promised funding. Audrey Hudson (Washington Times) reports John Kamin has been waiting and thought he had good news yesterday only to open the envelope and discover he was being notified that he might "be called back into active duty." He tells Hudson, "It felt like salt in the wound. That was really disheartening." Jessica Calefati (US News & World Reports) explains that "some 70,000 eleigible veterans who filed claims for this school year are still waiting for their first checks." After a very bad week for the VA, they knew it was time to spin into action. Kimberly Hefling (AP) reports that the department stated late today "that checks will be issued starting Oct. 2." That link, by the way, also includes an earlier report by Hefling on VA Secretary Eric Shinseki making statements. I am saying this, he is either ignorant of what he is speaking on or he is lying through his teeth. He pushes the problem off on the colleges. The VA program is no different than the US Pell Grant program. There is no delay in the Pell Grants so for him to claim it's the colleges screw up reveals extreme stupidity on the subject matter or a gross eagerness to lie. He also tries to hide behind drop and add periods. What an idiot. Drop and add periods. Anyone who has gone to college and received assistance is damn well aware that the assistance starts at the start of the semester. They're also damn well aware that students have many, many more weeks to drop classes. We'll go with stupidity because it wasn't just college tuition, it was book allowances, living allowances and more. Shinseki embarrasses himself and that's also part of the reason for the late announcement that checks will be out starting October 2nd. They don't want people digging to deep into his spin. When the entire department already looks incompetent, it's not a good idea to go into the weekend with the focus on the director's stupidity. If you're late to the party on the VA's bad week, you can refer to Wednesday's "Iraq snapshot" covering a hearing which Kat covers in "Crooks in the VA" and there was more on Congress addressing veterans issues in Thursday's "Iraq snapshot" and Kat's "House Veterans Affairs Committee."

The homeless problem continues to grow while the VA offers excuses and, no doubt, promises of a toll free number on the way that will be the 'answer' to everything.
Thom Patterson (CNN, link has text and video) reports on the homeless veterans and notes the numbers for Iraq War and Afghanistan War veterans could be over 7,000 with the VA estimating "about 10 percent of all homeless veterans are women." Iraq War veteran Angela Peacock shares her story with Patterson which includes raped while serving, PTSD, self-medicating leading to a drug addiction, loss of spouse, eviction from apartment. For more on the issue, we'll drop back to the June 3rd snapshot, when US House Rep Bob Finer chaired the House Committee on Veterans Affairs committee for the hearing entitled "A National Commitment to End Veterans' Homelessness:" The number of women veterans who are homeless is rising. [Vietnam Veterans of America's Marsha] Four observed, "There certainly is a question of course on the actual number of homeless veterans -- it's been flucuating dramatically in the last few years. When it was reported at 250,000 level, two percent were considered females. This was rougly about 5,000. Today, even if we use the very low number VA is supplying us with -- 131,000 -- the number, the percentage, of women in that population has risen up to four to five percent, and in some areas, it's larger. So that even a conservative method of determinng this has left the number as high as [6,550]. And the VA actually is reporting that they are seeing that this is as high as eleven percent for the new homeless women veterans. This is a very vulnerable population, high incidents of past sexual trauma, rape and domestic violence. They have been used, abused and raped. They trust no one. Some of these women have sold themselves for money, been sold for sex as children, they have given away their own children. And they are encased in this total humiliation and guilt the rest of their lives." About half of her testimony was reading and about half just speaking to the committee directly. Click here for her prepared remarks. We'll come back to the issue of homeless women veterans in a moment. [. . .] Marsha Four: I believe, sir, that there are very few programs in the country that are set up and designed specifically for homeless women veterans that are seperate. One of the problems that we're run into in a mixed gender setting is sort of two-fold. One the women veterans do not have the opportunity to actually be in a seperate group therapy environment because there are many issues that they simply will not divulge in mixed gender populations so those issues are never attended to. The other is that we believe, in a program, you need to focus on yourself and this is the time and place to do your issue, your deal. In a mixed gender setting, let's say, interfering factors. Relationships are one of them. Many of the veterans too come from the streets so there's a lot of street behavior going on. Some of the women -- and men -- but some of the women have participated in prostitution and so there's a difficult setting for any of them to actually focus on themselves without having all these other stressors come into play. So we feel that's an important issue.

While some veterans go homeless, efforts are made to deport the spouses of some deceased veterans. Most recently, the
September 17th snapshot, we noted Kristin M. Hall (AP) report Hotaru Ferschke, a military widow. Her husband, Sgt. Michael Ferschke, died serving in Iraq August 10, 2008. They had tried to have children for some time and when they learned she was pregnant, he was already in Iraq so they got married by proxy and the US military recognizes the marriage but the US Immigration and Naturalization Service plays dumb. She and their son Michael "Mikey" Ferschke III, are now facing deportation. INS is stating that the proxy marriage could be a fake because it wasn't consumated. Consumated? He remained in Iraq and they're not counting their long relationship prior to the proxy marriage. Her mother-in-law, Robin Ferschke told Hall, "She's like my daughter. I know my child chose the perfect wife and mother of his child."Bob Yarbrough (Volunteer observes, "Too bad we can't legislate common sense. If we could, Hotaru Ferschke would be raising her son in Maryville without fear of being kicked out of America." Tim Morgan (National Ledger) adds, "What should become of her and her son - should they not get to stay in the US for her husband's ultimate sacrifice? Right now Hotaru Ferschke, and the baby are living in Tennessee with his parents." Matthew Stewart (Daily Times Staff) reports that Second Battle, a documentary about Hotaru's struggle and those of another military widow, was shown at Maryville College and Stewart notes, "Ferschke and his bride had been together in Japan for more than a year, and she was pregnant when he deployed. They married by signing their names on separate continents and did not have a chance to meet again in person after the wedding" and he quotes immigration attorney Brent Renison stating, "She is being denied because they are saying her marriage is not valid because it was no consummated -- despite the fact that they have a child together."

Winding down, we'll note the opening of Sherwood Ross' "
PENTAGON TAKING OVER U.S. FOREIGN POLICY" (Veterans Today):The Pentagon has virtually replaced the State Department in making U.S. foreign policy, The Nation magazine charges. "Quietly, gradually---and inevitably, given the weight of its colossal budget and imperial writ---the Pentagon has all but eclipsed the State Department at the center of US foreign policy-making," reporter Stephen Glain writes in the Sept. 28 issue. In addition to new weapons and war fighters, the Pentagon's budget "now underwrites a cluster of special funds from which it can train and equip foreign armies---often in the service of repressive regimes---as well as engage in aid development projects in pursuit of its own tactical ends." Although these programs technically require State Department approval and are subject to Congressional review, Glain writes, "legislative oversight and interagency coordination is spotty at best." Meanwhile, the Pentagon "is pushing for full discretionary control" over large sums that Glain points out "would render meaningless the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act, which concentrated responsibility for civilian and military aid programs within the State Department."

This is the opening to "
'We Made them Millions, and they Complain About Insurance,' Lupe Chavez, a housekeeper at the San Francisco Hilton, tells her story to David Bacon" (ColorsNW):I was born in Santa Tecla, near San Salvador. My father was a big rig driver and my mother was a stay at home mom. We had a big family -- four brothers and two sisters. When I was old enough, I worked in the Armando Araujo coffee and soap factory. We Salvadorenos are hard working people. From the time I was twelve my aunts took me with them whenever they had a demonstration. They were teachers, and taught me that we have to fight for what we need, because that's the only way to achieve anything. Even before the war, it was dangerous to be involved with a union. After the war started, many died protesting.I was nineteen years old when I came to the U.S. to care for an elderly woman. My family was very poor and when the opportunity came I didn't hesitate. The woman eventually returned to El Salvador, but I stayed on with her family. I thought I was going to earn money and help my family, but they didn't pay me for an entire year. They told me I had to repay the transportation fee and all the money they'd spent on me. A friend of my grandmother told me I was being treated as a slave. She said she'd rescue me, so I found my passport where they'd hidden it, grabbed my bag and left. But my rescuer took me to another home, to care of another elderly woman. They hardly paid me anything -- just $100 a month. When I said I wanted to go to school, they told me immigration officers would get me.David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which just won the CLR James Award. Bacon can be heard on KPFA's The Morning Show (over the airwaves in the Bay Area, streaming online) each Wednesday morning (begins airing at 7:00 am PST).

TV notes.
Washington Week begins airing tonight on many PBS stations and joining Gwen around the table are John Harris (Politico) Doyle McManus (Los Angeles Times), Karen Tumulty (Time) and Nancy Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers). Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Linda Chavez, Melissa Harris Lieface, Irene Natividad and Genevieve Wood 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 offers:
McChrystal As the news from Afghanistan moves to the front pages of Americans' newspapers, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, tasked with turning things around there, tells 60 Minutes that the spread of the violence in Afghanistan was more than he expected. David Martin reports. Watch Video
The Liquidator The man in charge of recovering assets from Ponzi scheme king Bernard Madoff says there is about 18 billion still out there that he hopes to recover for victims of the scam. But it won't be easy. Morley Safer reports.
A Living For The Dead Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and Elvis are dead and now, so is Michael Jackson. But as Steve Kroft reports, they are very much alive when it comes to earning money for their estates.
The season premiere of 60 Minutes, this Sunday, Sept. 27, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

iraqthe new york timessteven lee myersthe los angeles timesned parkersaif hameed
caesar ahmed
the washington postnada bakri
gulf newsalsumaria
usa todaygregg zoroyamary beth markleindavid zucchinothe washington timesaudrey hudsonkimberly heflingthom pattersoncnn
tim morganbob yarbroughmatthew stewart
60 minutescbs newspbsto the contrarybonnie erbe
sherwood ross
david baconkpfathe morning show

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