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Posts by Christina Davidson

DC Buzz
Three GOP Co-Sponsors Support Protections for Injured Soldiers
03/01/2007 4:42 PM ET
Senators Obama (D-IL) and McCaskill (D-MO) in a news conference on Capitol Hill, March 1, 2007
Mark Wilson/Getty
Senators Obama (D-IL) and McCaskill (D-MO) in a news conference on Capitol Hill, March 1, 2007

Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) (L) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) introduced a new legislative proposal this afternoon aimed at preventing the kinds of inadequate medical care exposed in the recent Walter Reed scandal.

The Dignity for Wounded Warriors Act of 2007 (S.713) has already garned the support of 22 co-sponsors, including three Republicans--Chris Bond (MO), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Olympia Snowe (ME).

As Sen. Obama described the intent of the legislation:

Our bill would fix deplorable conditions at outpatient residence facilities by setting high standards and increasing accountability. Under this bipartisan measure, the standards will be clear. First, recovering soldiers' rooms will be as good or better as the best standard rooms for active-duty troops. Second, our injured heroes will not have to wait more than two weeks for maintenance problems to be repaired. Third, we will have zero tolerance for pest infestations. And finally, emergency medical personnel and crisis counselors will be available to recovering troops 24 hours a day.

In a tip of the hat to Dana Priest and Anne Hull, McCaskill cited their two-part series as the inspiration behind the move to reform.

It is not often that you read something in the paper that makes you sick, but this is precisely the feeling I had just over a week ago as I read a Washington Post article that spoke of awful living conditions and an interminable bureaucracy being experienced by our war wounded who are receiving outpatient care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Specifically, the proposed Dignity for Wounded Warriors Act would:

— Reduce the paperwork that veterans must complete to receive disability benefits.

— Increase the number of caseworkers for recovering soldiers.

— Step up caseworkers' training.

— Require more frequent inspections of military hospitals.

— Establish timelines for repairs to hospitals.

— Improve access to psychological counseling.

After introduction, the bill was referred to the Armed Services Committee for further debate.

Complete text of the proposed legislation can be found here: woundedwarriors.pdf.

Blogosphere
Al-Zawra Owner Lambasts Terror Group in Televised Speech
02/19/2007 12:10 PM ET
Al-Zawra has often been charged with being a jihadist networks because of the station's propensity for broadcasting propaganda videos. But according to Nibras Kazimi, a major crack has appeared in the jihadi media alliance.

This past weekend, Al-Zawra's owner and disgraced parliamentarian, Mishaan al-Jebouri, took to the airwaves and gave an unexpected speech denouncing al Qaeda, and questioning the validity of pledging allegiance to phantom leader, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi.

Kazimi suspects that the dramatic turnaround may have been sponsored by Syria, since Jebouri is currently in Damascus and, according to rumors Kazimi has recently heard, Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia has recently been relocating some of their resources from Iraq to Syria in a plan to launch attacks against the Assad regime.

Kazimi has a full transcription of the speech with deeper analysis on his Talisman Gate blog, but here are al-Jebouri's main points:

-Al-Qaeda provoked the Shi'as and then failed to protect the Sunnis from retaliation.

-Al-Qaeda is forcing all the other insurgent groups to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq under Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, and is punishing the hold-outs.

-Al-Qaeda is killing and abducting Sunni notables who were part of the insurgency.

-Al-Qaeda wants to impose a Taliban-like Islamic State on Iraqi Sunnis, who are the worse for it—they don’t even have enough to eat.

-Al-Qaeda killed an emissary sent by al-Jebouri, who had wanted to negotiate with al-Baghdadi.

-Iraqi Sunnis across the board are preparing to clash with Al-Qaeda as is already happening in Anbar Province.

Commentary
Pat Lang Blames Culturally Naive American People for Current Chaos
02/19/2007 3:15 PM ET
Time magazine declared You the person of the 2006 because of the way MySpace, YouTube, and Wikipedia are changing the balance of power between the dominant few and the teeming masses. Now in the pages of Foreign Policy, Pat Lang also blames You for the failues in Iraq:

How did the highly educated, wealthy, and powerful American people make such a horrendous, catastrophic series of blunders? As Pogo, the cartoon opossum, once famously said, “We have met the enemy and he is us!” Yes, that’s right: We, the American people—not the Bush administration, nor the hapless Iraqis, nor the meddlesome Iranians (the new scapegoat)—are the root of the problem....

To be blunt, our foreign policy tends to be predicated on the notion that everyone wants to be an American. In the months leading up to the start of the Iraq War, it was common to hear seemingly educated people say that the Arabs, particularly Iraqis, had no way of life worth saving and would be better off if all “that old stuff”—their traditions, social institutions, and values—were done away with, and soon.

Lang does have a point, and reminds me of the something a former CIA analyst told me once: "Bush thinks American-style democracy is a program that can be saved on CD-ROM and downloaded in whatever country he chooses."

According to Lang, this type of culturally-ignorant Amero-centric thinking has infected every step of planning and execution of the war, and can be blamed for a large portion of its failures. The most obvious way this handicap continues to influence American planners is in the way they continue to unrealistically hold on to dreams of Iraqi multi-ethnic unity.

We are still acting out our dream, insisting that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Shiite sectarian government “unify” the state, imagining that Maliki is a sort of Iraqi George Washington seeking the greater good for all. He is not that....

The entire piece is a worthy read. You will have to click through to see what Lang writes to correct what he claims is the typical too-hopeful American impression of Maliki. (Ouch.)

Commentary
And Thinks They're Informing Us of Something We Don't Already Know
02/19/2007 11:28 PM ET
The BBC has announced, or perhaps admitted, that they just learned the US military maintains contingency plans for air strikes on Iran that would extend beyond nuclear sites and include most of the country's military infrastructure.

Apparently naive BBC correspondents would be equally shocked to learn that U.S. Central Command has detailed target sets drawn up for a number of countries, not just Iran.

The BBC piece inserts the US view that they're only trying to exert pressure on Tehran to stop uranium enrichment, but then goes on to assert:

"But diplomatic sources have told the BBC that as a fallback plan, senior officials at Central Command in Florida have already selected their target sets inside Iran."

Of course the nature of a "contingency" plan is to have it on the shelf if the need for it ever arises, which is why CentCom maintains so many files.

The BBC would have to tell me much more than this article about the Iran plan that has them so worked up before I would determine it held any significance for current events.

Anonymous Asia Times "Special Correspondent" Reports from Iran
02/20/2007 12:09 PM ET
Politically-active Iranian Kurds are fleeing across the border into northern Iraq to receive military training and indoctrination at a camp high up on the rugged Mount Qabil, run by the Party of Free Life in Kurdistan (PEJAK), a follower of the Turkish PKK.

Educated men and women make up PEJAK, and rumors persist of ties to U.S. or Israeli intelligence. According to the Jamestown Foundation, in 2005 Pejak killed at least 120 soldiers in Iran. iran has shelled Mount Qabil, and the PKK and PEJAK have threatened reprisals.

None of this is "news," which makes it particularly curious that The Asia Times granted anonymity to its "Special Correspondent." It probably has something to do with trying to not get him/her booted from the country.

The piece is supposed to be about Kurdish smugglers, but other than one line on the first page, that topic isn't really discussed until the second half of the second page. It's meandering structure makes it a poorly written/edited piece, though there are a few good nuggets.

In a hilarious reversal of the norm, the anonymous "special correspondent" quotes a former CIA offical by name. Ray Close, former station chief to Saudi Arabia, said:

"If reports are true that we have third-party agents and even a few Special Forces teams of our own inside Iran, why isn't Tehran screaming bloody murder about that?

"Perhaps in the past this was because they were embarrassed to admit that they had not caught any of our agents. But now that we have done so in Iraq, wouldn't you expect that the Iranians are probably launching a major campaign to grab some American and display him on TV as an infiltrator? Stay tuned."

Further Reading

Last year, James Brandon had an excellent two-part series in the Jamestown Foundation's Terrorism Monitor about Mount Qandil and its safe harbor for the PKK. See here for Part One and here for Part Two.

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Wounded Warrior Project