Saturday, July 22, 2017

Leading Veterans Organizations Call on Members of Congress to Defeat Unacceptable Choice Funding Bill

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America issued the following today:


Claire Owens

Press Secretary Tel: 212-982-9699 Email:

WASHINGTON, DC (July 22, 2017) — Following is a statement released today by IAVA and the nation’s leading veterans organizations ahead of a vote scheduled Monday in the House of Representatives. This statement comes after a series of attempted, but failed negotiations between veteran leaders and Congress this week as they rush to solve the impeding “Choice” program funding shortfall ahead of their summer recess. This statement is also signed by AMVETS, DAV (Disabled American Veterans), Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), and Wounded Warrior Project (WWP):

As organizations who represent and support the interests of America’s 21 million veterans, and in fulfillment of our mandate to ensure that the men and women who served are able to receive the health care and benefits they need and deserve, we are calling on Members of Congress to defeat the House vote on unacceptable choice funding legislation (S. 114, with amendments) scheduled for Monday, July 24, and instead work with the Senate to reach a bipartisan, bicameral agreement.
As we have repeatedly told House leaders in person this week, and in a jointly-signed letter on June 28, we oppose legislation that includes funding only for the “choice” program which provides additional community care options, but makes no investment in VA and uses “savings” from other veterans benefits or services to “pay” for the “choice” program.

Veterans health care benefits have already been “paid for” through the service and sacrifice of the men and women who wore our nation’s uniform, millions of whom suffered injuries, illnesses and lifelong disabilities.

In order to ensure that veterans can receive necessary care without interruption, we call on House leaders to take the time necessary to work together with Senate leaders to develop acceptable “choice” funding legislation that not only fills the current funding gap, but also addresses urgent VA infrastructure and resource needs that led to creation of the “choice” program in the first place.

All of our organizations are committed to building a future veterans health care system that modernizes VA and integrates community care whenever needed so that enrolled veterans have seamless access to timely, quality care. However, if new funding is directed only or primarily to private sector “choice” care without any adequate investment to modernize VA, the viability of the entire system will soon be in danger.

We call on leaders in both the House and Senate to work together in good faith, and we remain committed to supporting such efforts, in order to quickly reach an agreement that ensures veterans health care is not interrupted in the short term, nor threatened in the long term.

# # #

Note to media: Email or call 212-982-9699 to speak with IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff or IAVA leadership.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America ( is the leading post-9/11 veteran empowerment organization (VEO) with the most diverse and rapidly growing membership in America. As a non-profit founded in 2004, IAVA’s mission is to connect, unite and empower post-9/11 veterans. Celebrating its 12th year anniversary, IAVA has connected more than 1.2 million veterans with resources and community, and provided more than 7,300 veterans with personalized support from IAVA’s Master’s level social workers.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Iraq snapshot

Friday, July 21, 2017.

Let's pretend that the fighting in Mosul really is over, what next?

Susan E. Reed (WBUR) offers:

ISIS did not rise up the minute U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq in 2011. It had been long fermenting in weakly governed communities marked by sectarian strife where Sunnis were routinely persecuted under the leadership of Iraq’s former Prime Minister Nouri Maliki.
The country’s current Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, has made progress in cultivating a more integrated society, starting with the military. The Obama Administration urged Abadi to develop more inclusive security forces under the command of the central government. In fact, Kurdish forces worked alongside Iraq’s army in liberating Mosul. This kind of cooperation must continue so that former ISIS-occupied areas don’t devolve into fratricidal cesspools when survivors seek to quench their thirst for revenge.
As Congress tied Iraq military aid to integration, it should tie development aid to the establishment of diverse, cooperative community groups that will rebuild and govern these delicate, violence prone areas. Prime Minister Abadi has talked about decentralizing control of Iraq, but this should only occur if minorities will have a voice in government.

Iraq, which defines itself as a democratic Muslim state, has the potential to become a model of integration of different Muslim sects, religions and ethnicities. While it faces many obstacles —  such as corruption, a weak judiciary and significant influence from Shia Iran — making progress on integration would help stabilize it while providing a protocol for other countries struggling with internal strife.

Hayder al-Abadi has not done a good job.

Nouri was an outright thug.

Compared to him, anything looks better.

But let's not mistake Hayder not digging the hole even deeper for actually addressing the problem.

Let's again note Human Rights Watch from earlier this week:

International observers have discovered an execution site in west Mosul, Human Rights Watch said today. That report, combined with new statements about executions in and around Mosul’s Old City and persistent documentation about Iraqi forces extrajudicially killing men fleeing Mosul in the final phase of the battle against the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), are an urgent call to action by the Iraqi government.
Despite repeated promises to investigate wrongdoing by security forces, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has yet to demonstrate that Iraqi authorities have held a single soldier accountable for murdering, torturing, and abusing Iraqis in this conflict.

“As Prime Minister Abadi enjoys victory in Mosul, he is ignoring the flood of evidence of his soldiers committing vicious war crimes in the very city he’s promised to liberate,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Abadi’s victory will collapse unless he takes concrete steps to end the grotesque abuses by his own security forces.”

That is but one example.

But if there is no justice in Iraq under Hayder, let's not pretend he's accomplished anything.

He is ineffectual at best.

Zaid al-Ali (ALJAZEERA) explains:

As if reading from a script, a stream of soldiers, federal police officers and popular mobilisation fighters have engaged in mass arrests, torture, and summary executions of suspected ISIL fighters. 
Increasingly, the perpetrators record every detail of their gruesome acts and post them on social media for all to see, including videos in which captives are thrown from the top of buildings and showered with bullets after they land on the riverbank. Just as seriously, individuals who are thought to be related to ISIL fighters, colloquially referred to as "ISIL families", are imprisoned in horrific conditions, many of them left without sustenance and medical care. 

For the sake of clarity, the perpetrators include people of all faiths and races and are members of almost every security agency imaginable. In fact, just about the only security force that has not been accused of human rights abuses is the Counter Terrorism Service, which has been leading the fight against ISIL since 2014 (because the CTS is not politicised, it has not received anywhere near as much attention as other groups, such as the Popular Mobilisation Forces and the Peshmerga). Its commander, Lieutenant Abdel Ghani al-Saadi, is rumoured to have unsuccessfully challenged his counterparts from other agencies, as he learned of the abuse that was taking place, before storming out of the city. 
Senior interior ministry officials have noted that torture and unlawful killings will be investigated and prosecuted in all cases, but it is common knowledge that prosecutors and judges are largely powerless to move against the security forces, despite a few token arrests. In fact, some of the worst perpetrators of abuse have argued that courts are so corrupt that any ISIL fighter who is arrested could bribe their way out of prison. 

So let's stop the pretense that Hayder al-Abaci is a leader to rally behind or support.

This we-have-to attitude led to the silence from so many during the reign of the butcher Nouri al-Maliki.

And the desperation for him to be better than he is or can be is leading a number to look the other way.

Replying to 
: Video shows |i soldiers abusing an old man and walk him on a leash in Western .

Let's stop the pretense -- the US military brass also needs to stop pretending.

MARINE TIMES spoke with US Brig Gen Robert Sofge:

Q: The U.S. military has faced some criticism for a spike in civilian casualties in Mosul. Did the coalition change any policies or rules of engagement in the latter months of the fight to make it easier launch air and artillery strikes?

Our process for strikes has remained the same and is as stringent as it has always been. We do everything in our power to avoid civilian casualties while precisely and effectively killing the enemy. I can speak with some authority: There was no change in the rules or the very strict criteria required to release ordnance in this country. 

The idea that we’ve loosened the ROE in order to more aggressively fight the enemy is not an accurate statement. There have been a couple of unfortunate incidents, but zero civilian casualties is our goal each and every day. We haven’t loosened that up in any way, shape or form. 

We do everything in our power to avoid civilian casualties?

Or do everything our power to avoid acknowledging civilian casualties?

There's a difference.

Patrick Cockburn (INDEPENDENT) reports:

More than 40,000 civilians were killed in the devastating battle to retake Mosul from Isis, according to intelligence reports revealed exclusively to The Independent - a death toll far higher than previous estimates.

Residents of the besieged city were killed by Iraqi ground forces attempting to force out militants, as well as by air strikes and Isis fighters, according to Kurdish intelligence services.

Nehal Mostafa (IRAQI NEWS) reports:

Three civilians were wounded in an IED blast northern Baghdad, a police source has said.
“A bomb, placed on the side of the highway at al-Taji region, north of Baghdad, exploded on Friday leaving three civilians injured,” the source told AlSumaria News.

“Security troops arrived at the accident spot and transferred the injured to a nearby hospital for treatment,” the source, who asked to be unnamed, added.

We are closing with this,

(248) 252-5973

Green Party 2016 Presidential Candidate Campaigns For Green Wayne County Slate

The Wayne County Green Party is set to host a fundraiser and meet-and-greet for a slate of local candidates for office. Each candidate has received the endorsement of the Wayne County Green Party and are hard at work on the campaign trail, speaking with voters, making appearances around the community and conducting issue-based workshops to help educate the public about some of the most pressing concerns of Wayne County residents.

Set to be held at Bert’s Warehouse, 2727 Russell St, Detroit 48207, the event will get underway with a press conference with the slate of candidates at 5pm and will feature five Green Party-endorsed candidates including Ingrid LaFleur, who is a write-in candidate for Mayor of Detroit. “Detroiters must not be left out of the future of this city, “ LaFleur states. “I am fighting for the right to equal representation for all Detroit residents.” LaFleur faces several other candidates in the primary race for the seat, including incumbent Mayor Mike Duggan and State Senator Coleman Young II. LaFleur has been hosting a set of “Co-creation” workshops in the area to raise awareness about specific issues in the area including cryptocurrency and cannabis reform.

The event will include the Green-favored choice for Detroit City Clerk, Attorney D. Etta Wilcoxon. Wilcoxon has zeroed in on the issue of election integrity, vowing as Clerk to “...fight for every vote to count.” Wilcoxon believes election integrity is a top issue. “The integrity of our elections is the key to democracy.” Wilcoxon explains.

Also running on the Green slate are a trio of candidates for City Council, including At-large candidate Beverly Kindle-Walker, James Eberheart Jr., a write-in candidate in Detroit City Council District 1 and Joanna Underwood, who is running for the Detroit City Council seat in District 7. Kindle-Walker recently was quoted as saying, “As a public and civil servant, I am dedicated to Detroit. Together, we can bring accountability back to our city.” Eberheart belives in having a close relationship with fellow members of the community, stating, “I am a community organizer working in Detroit every day.” He looks to secure prosperity for the residents of the city, explaining, “Together, we can empower our youth and bring a renewed excitement and fortune to black businesses. For Underwood, recent foreclosures in the city are of serious concern. “I will work as hard as I can to save Detroit homeowners from foreclosures,” said the candidate. As councilwoman, Underwood would strive to make the city a safer place for residents, and plans to bring the entire community together in order to achieve such a goal. Underwood offers, “Join me in my quest to represent you on Detroit’s City Council. Together, we can make Detroit a safer place to live.”

2016 Green Party Presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein will join the event as a special guest at 7pm. Stein is slated to appear in Flint earlier in the day to speak with residents affected by the Flint Water crisis before travelling to Detroit for the fundraiser. “These candidates exemplify the future of Detroit politics,” Stein remarked. “We need to elect fresh faces to local government in Detroit who will portect residents from foreclosures and water shutoffs. These five candidates are leading the way toward a brighter future for the city and are deserving of strong support from Detroit voters. I look forward to standing in support of these fine candidates Friday night in the Motor City.

FYI: Press conference with the slate of Detroit candidates begins at 5:30pm sharp at Bert’s Warehouse, 2727 Russell St, Detroit 48207. For further information, please contact WCGP Chairperson Jennifer Kurland at (248) 252-5973

The following community sites -- plus PACIFICA EVENING NEWS -- updated:

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    Thursday, July 20, 2017

    Isakson, Tester Introduce Comprehensive G.I. Bill Reforms Broad, bipartisan measure will make necessary improvements to post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits for student veterans


    Senator Johnny Isakson (above) is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  His office issued the following today:

    Thursday, July 20, 2017
    Contact: Amanda Maddox (Isakson), 202-224-7777
    Marneé Banks (Tester), 202-604-5521 

    Isakson, Tester Introduce Comprehensive G.I. Bill Reforms
    Broad, bipartisan measure will make necessary improvements to post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits for student veterans

    WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, today introduced broad, bipartisan legislation that seeks to improve veterans’ education benefits and enhance the post-9/11 G.I. Bill.

    The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, S.1598, will further invest in the proven educational success of our veterans and help propel them toward becoming our nation’s civic, business and public leaders.

    “We have worked closely with our partners in the veterans community and with our colleagues in the U.S. House to ensure this legislation makes the necessary changes to improve the G.I. Bill and helps veterans succeed in their desired career field,” said Isakson.“I am proud to introduce this important legislation with Senator Tester after the House introduced its companion legislation last week. We urge our Senate colleagues to join us in supporting these improvements to the G.I. Bill to help further our investment in the futures of our veterans.”

    “The G.I. Bill has provided generations of veterans with access to higher education after they have bravely served our country,” said Tester. “It’s been a pleasure working with my colleagues in the House and Senate, as well as veterans and advocates, to craft bipartisan legislation that will break down barriers to and strengthen education benefits for servicemembers, Guardsmen and Reservists. I look forward to working with Senator Isakson and our colleagues on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee to ensure veterans have every shot at success.”

    The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 makes much-needed updates for reservists, Purple Heart recipients, veterans who face school closures while enrolled and surviving family members. The legislation also provides increased resources and authority for educational assistance to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs, computer programming and career technical training.

    Most significantly, this bill recognizes our country’s need for an agile and adaptable workforce and that American workers need to be lifelong learners. For that purpose, this bill eliminates the arbitrary 15-year period within which a veteran is required to use their G.I. Bill so they can use their benefits at any time in their professional career.

    Additionally, the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017:

    ·         Provides G.I. Bill eligibility for reservists mobilized under selected reserve orders for preplanned missions in support of the combatant commands or in response to a major disaster or emergency;

    ·         Provides G.I. Bill eligibility for reservists undergoing medical care;

    ·         Provides full G.I. Bill benefits for Purple Heart recipients regardless of length of service;

    ·         Extends Yellow Ribbon Program benefits to Fry scholarship recipients; and

    ·         Increases G.I. Bill payments by $2,300 per year for veterans with less than 12 months of active service.

    A one-page summary of the legislation can be found here.

    The legislation is named in honor of Harry Walter Colmery, an Army Air Service veteran and former national commander of the American Legion who drafted the original G.I. Bill in 1944 to improve the transition for World War II veterans back to civilian life.

    The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 has broad bipartisan support in the Senate and is cosponsored by U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., John Boozman, R-Ark., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Shelley Moore-Capito, R-W.V., Ben Cardin, D-Md., Susan Collins, R-Maine, John Cornyn, R-Texas, Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Steve Daines, R-Mont., Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Al Franken, D-Minn., Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.,  Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Dean Heller, R-Nev., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., Tim Kaine, D-Va., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Bill Nelson, D-Fla., Gary Peters, D-Mich., Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Mike Rounds, R-S.D., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Tom Udall, D-N.M.

    Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by U.S. Reps. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., and Tim Walz, D-Minn., chairman and ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on July 13.

    The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is chaired by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in the 115th Congress. Isakson is a veteran himself – having served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966-1972 – and has been a member of the Senate VA Committee since he joined the Senate in 2005. Isakson’s home state of Georgia is home to more than a dozen military installations representing each branch of the armed services as well as more than 750,000 veterans.

    Iraq snapshot

    Thursday, July 20, 2017.

    Since the discussion of human rights abuses -- War Crimes -- entered the press conversation regarding Mosul last week, there has been silence from the US government.

    Turns out not all leaders of government are being silent.  REUTERS reports:

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday urged Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to investigate alleged human rights abuses that occurred during military operations to regain control of the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants.
    Merkel telephoned al-Abadi to congratulate him on the victory of U.S.-backed Iraqi forces in Mosul, calling it a "big step forward in the fight against Islamic State," her spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement.

    The German leader also encouraged Abadi to investigate claims of human rights abuses that emerged after the military operations, Seibert said.

    Hayder al-Abadi is the prime minister of Iraq.

    He has not set a good example and his record is appalling.

    This was noted by Human Rights Watch yesterday:

    International observers have discovered an execution site in west Mosul, Human Rights Watch said today. That report, combined with new statements about executions in and around Mosul’s Old City and persistent documentation about Iraqi forces extrajudicially killing men fleeing Mosul in the final phase of the battle against the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), are an urgent call to action by the Iraqi government.
    Despite repeated promises to investigate wrongdoing by security forces, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has yet to demonstrate that Iraqi authorities have held a single soldier accountable for murdering, torturing, and abusing Iraqis in this conflict.

    “As Prime Minister Abadi enjoys victory in Mosul, he is ignoring the flood of evidence of his soldiers committing vicious war crimes in the very city he’s promised to liberate,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Abadi’s victory will collapse unless he takes concrete steps to end the grotesque abuses by his own security forces.”

    Despite repeated promises . . .

    That is his record.

    The same one as Nouri al-Maliki had before him.

    Merkel has called out the abuses.

    The US government has not.

    Gwynne Dyer (RED DEER ADVOCATE) observes:

    The shooting was still going on down by the river last week when Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi dropped by and prematurely declared that the battle for Mosul was over. He was misled by the various Iraqi army, police and militia units who were competing with one another to declare victory first, but now it really is over – and there is little left of Mosul.

    The siege began on 17 October of last year, so it lasted nine months – longer than the Battle of Stalingrad. It probably killed more civilians, too, because the US-led air forces were used to compensate for the shortage of trained and motivated Iraqi ground forces.

    On the issue of media coverage, Adam Johnson (FAIR) offers an analysis which includes:

    Earlier this week, human rights group Amnesty International issued a lengthy report accusing US-backed forces of “repeated violations of international humanitarian law, some of which may amount to war crimes,” in Mosul, Iraq, causing the deaths of at least 3,700 civilians. Neither this report, nor the broader issue of the civilian toll in the US war against ISIS, has come close to penetrating US corporate media.
    The only major radio or television outlet to report on Amnesty’s claims was NPR (7/12/17). While traditional print outlets, such as the New York Times and Washington Post, did run Reuters (7/11/17) and AP (7/12/17) articles, respectively, on the report, neither covered it themselves. Neither Amnesty’s charges, nor the broader issue of civilian deaths in Mosul,  garnered any coverage in television news, with no mention on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN or MSNBC.

    The expulsion of ISIS from Mosul by the US-led coalition did receive coverage, but the US role in killing civilians was uniformly ignored.

    Amnesty International actually issued the report two weeks ago (this snapshot was the first time we mentioned it).

    The silence isn't just over broadcast media, it's also in State Dept press briefings.  Mosul was frequently mentioned

    The Amnesty report?


    The abuses?


    These are not broadcasts.

    No reporter can whine, "My producer wouldn't air it."

    This is when reporters can ask anything.

    And they chose to ignore the issue.

    They refused to press the US government on what was taking place.

    It's exactly these moments that go to why the press is not respected.

    They are pretending to do so much but they do so little.

    Let's not this upcoming event.

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    Senator Johnny Isakson is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Yesterday, his office issued the following statement on Senator John McCain:

    WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today released the following statement regarding U.S. Senator John McCain, R-Ariz.:

    “John McCain is an American hero and one of the greatest Americans of my generation. He, Cindy and the entire McCain family are in my prayers. God bless John McCain.”


    The following community sites updated:

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