Sunday, September 30, 2007
Despite their intention to up the ante on meaningful discussion on the Iraq war, MoveOn’s ad in the New York Times, ironically, served to feed the GOP’s bait-and-switch machine. The GOP, having mastered the art of bait-and-switch under Karl Rove’s helm, succeeded in making the discussion all about the ad itself, rather than about of the validity of Petraus’s report, which the ad was attempting to call into question. In doing so, the GOP dodged another bullet in being answerable for the war in Iraq. MoveOn is not to blame, however, for it was up to the Democratic Party whether they would take the bait from the Republicans. The Democrats took the bait–hook, line, and sinker.
A resolution denouncing the MoveOn ad not only made it to the Democratic-controlled Senate floor, it was actually debated for an hour before it passed 72-25. It’s moments like these that make me wonder, who’s controlling whom? Has Democratic control joined the ranks of other political oxymorons, such as campaign finance reform and political accountability?
Even former president Bill Clinton had something to say about the recent bait-and-switch tactics implored by the GOP.
Bill Clinton on CNN: “Bait-and-Switch”
Given the monumental distractions surrounding the Monica Lewinsky scandal and President Clinton’s subsequent impeachment, Clinton should know a thing or two about the GOP’s bait-and-switch powers.
And now, Rush Limbaugh has inadvertently perpetuated the growing distractions by dropping a “phony soldiers” bomb on Iraq veterans during his radio show. Following is the transcript of Limbaugh's comments with a caller on his program on Wednesday:
LIMBAUGH: There's a lot more than that that they don't understand. They can't even--if-- the next guy that calls here, I'm gonna ask him: Why should we pull--what is the imperative for pulling out? What's in it for the United States to pull out? They can't--I don't think they have an answer for that other than, "Well, we just gotta bring the troops home."
CALLER 2: Yeah, and, you know what–
LIMBAUGH: "Save the–keep the troops safe" or whatever. I–it's not possible, intellectually, to follow these people.
CALLER 2: No, it's not, and what's really funny is, they never talk to real soldiers. They like to pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and talk to the media.
LIMBAUGH: The phony soldiers.
Iraq veterans and veterans groups have already taken action condemning Limbaugh’s remarks as they called for congressional Republicans to denounce Rush Limbaugh. In Iowa, the group “Americans Against the Escalation in Iraq” issued a press release calling for Iowa’s Republican congressional members, Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Tom Latham, to publicly denounce Limbaugh’s remark. (Rep. Steve King, the other Republican member of Iowa’s delegation, was not targeted in the campaign.)
"I served my country for five years in the Army Corp. of Engineers. I'm proud to have served and support the brave men and women in Iraq today. I know the tremendous strain the Iraq war is placing on our military, and I believe we need to come to some logical conclusion about responsibly pulling out of Iraq," Jesse Dinsdale, an Iraq War veteran, said in the release. "For Rush Limbaugh–a man that has never put on a uniform, much less gone to war– to call people like myself 'phony soldiers' is absurd... The war in Iraq has gone on for too long, and our troops and their families have sacrificed too much. Rush Limbaugh can talk all he wants about 'supporting the troops,' but this isn't support. It's offensive to all of our nation's soldiers and veterans, and Rush Limbaugh owes them an apology.”
Fat chance. The likelihood of Rush Limbaugh ever apologizing for something emitted from his mouth is about as likely as President Bush publicly apologizing for his Iraq War policy blunders and/or admitting he had made some egregious errors in implementing his war strategy. (For starters, I can’t even begin to imagine Bush pronouncing “egregious.”) This is one of the underlying reasons the GOP bait-and-switch machine has been so effective: discipline.
The GOP Fight Club has four primary rules they follow when engaging in distraction warfare:
First Rule: Never talk about GOP Fight Club.
Second Rule: Stay on the offensive.
Third Rule: When counterattacked, never admit you’re wrong.
Fourth Rule: When presented with overwhelming evidence proving that you’re wrong, review rules two and three.
It’s completely understandable that Iraq veterans would be upset by being called “phony soldiers.” This should be offensive to all veterans and non-veterans as well. Sure, the first instinct is to fight back, as did VoteVets.org, the largest political group of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. VoteVets released an internet-only ad targeting Limbaugh for his “phony soldier” comment and exposing his hypocrisy in the process.
"Rush Limbaugh has insulted the majority of US troops and veterans, who believe that we are on the wrong course in Iraq," Jon Soltz, Iraq War Veteran and Chair of VoteVets.org. said in a press release. "Their sacrifice is very real. The wounds many sustained are very real. The limbs they lost are very real. And their view that George W. Bush has this policy wrong is very real. The only phony here is Rush Limbaugh, who seems to think that he can pass judgment on us, when he's never had the guts to wear the uniform."
True, these Iraq veterans’ honor has been attacked, and they should go after Limbaugh and hold him accountable for his on-the-air blathering. But dragging these political skirmishes on to the Senate floor only serves to distract Congress from what they should be doing–crafting, debating and enacting legislation that supports the troops not only when they are deployed, but also when they return from their deployment battle-scarred, both emotionally and physically. Congress should be fighting to send more MRAP vehicles and other supplies to soldiers in Iraq; passing Sen. Jim Webb’s, D-Va., amendment that provides more downtime between deployments, enacting the Wounded Warriors Act, repealing the military’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy,” replacing discretionary funding for Veterans affairs with mandated funding…and the to-do list goes on and on.
It is a matter of picking our, yes, our battles. Do we choose to take on Rush Limbaugh and the GOP attack machine, at the risk of losing sight of what’s important?
Or would it be best to consider the source, choose to ignore him, and move on?
Originally posted on "Iowa Independent"
Saturday, September 29, 2007
“I am heartened to see that after many months of talking about preventing suicide among our veterans, Congress finally took action,” Harkin said. “The Omvig family’s patience and selfless determination in seeing this through so other soldiers and families are protected is truly commendable. This is a matter of honoring the memory of their son Josh. And it is a matter of honoring the service and sacrifice of all our men and women in uniform. It is shockingly evident that our veterans urgently need the screening and counseling that this bill would require.”
The Omvig Act directs the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to integrate mental health services into veterans’ primary care and to step up counseling and other mental health services for returning war veterans. It is named after Joshua Omvig, a soldier from Grundy Center Iowa who took his own life after returning from Iraq.
“Our veterans should not have to suffer alone. They may be reluctant to seek help, but they need to know that help is there,” Grassley said. “We also need to make sure that the support mechanisms are in place to help veterans when they do seek help.”
The VA estimates that more than 5,000 veterans take their lives each year. Suicide rates are 35 percent higher for Iraq veterans than for the general population. And the Department of Defense recently reported that the Army is now seeing the highest rate of suicide since the Vietnam War. A study in this July’s issue of “Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health” found that those who have been in combat are twice as likely to commit suicide as men who have not served in a war.
“The memories of combat haunt many of our men and women who have served. We must provide the resources and support to prevent the unnecessary deaths of the men and women who have put their lives on the line to defend our nation,” said Harkin. “I look forward to seeing the President sign this critical bill into law to ensure that programs are in place to meet the needs of veterans.”
Harkin’s efforts to get the Joshua Omvig bill passed received praise on the presidential campaign trail from New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. "Tom Harkin's leadership on this issue in the Senate was essential to its passage,” Richardson said in a press release statement. “I encourage the House of Representatives to follow the leadership of Congressman Boswell and pass this bill. Then, for our veterans' sake, hopefully President Bush will see the error of his ways and sign the bill into law."
Originally posted on "Iowa Independent"
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
The opening scene of the play begins with a full-page ad printed in the New York Times, which reads in bold letters, “General Petraeus or General Betray-Us?” The ad was paid for by MoveOn, a political action organization that calls Gen. Petraeus’ credibility into question by implying that the messenger has betrayed the American people by misrepresenting the facts. By choosing to use the word, “betray,” in attacking the credibility of the messenger, a respected and decorated general, MoveOn has used a doubled-edged sword to draw first blood.
In doing so, did MoveOn cross the line?
By late May 2007, Congress had yet to successfully legislate any timetables for troop withdrawal, so they shifted their strategy by enacting legislation that mandated Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker deliver a progress report to Congress by Sept. 15 detailing whether or not progress had been made on 18 benchmarks set by Congress.
Ironically, Congress’ first success in imposing a deadline played right into Bush’s hands, providing him with the perfect gambit: Gen. Petraeus. As frustrations about the war in Iraq and the troop surge mounted at home, the death toll for American soldiers spiked in the theater of war in Iraq. Instead of taking responsibility for this, Bush shirked his responsibility for what happens on the ground in Iraq and placed the burden on to Petraeus’ shoulders. Bush’s credibility, having been shot to pieces, was reborn with the anointment of a respected general.
Meanwhile, the commander in chief had not only bought some time but had the perfect shield to deflect opposition fired at him from all fronts, including his own party members, who were feeling the escalating heat from their constituents. Moreover, congressional Republicans, including those who stood behind Bush’s policies in Iraq and those who were getting a little antsy, had the Petraeus Shield at their disposal, when they returned home during August recess to face their constituents.
Some people dogged their representatives at public speaking engagements, yet most Americans stood by and waited and waited and waited until September. But for what? Did anyone seriously think that Petraeus was going to present anything but an optimistic report indicating progress in Iraq?
While campaigning for presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Il., in Iowa in July, retired Air Force Gen. Scott Gration was asked what he thought about Petraeus’ new role. “I tell you one thing, I don’t envy General Petraeus at all,” said Gration. “He’s in a lose-lose situation.” Gration was referencing the notion that if Petraeus reports that progress is being made, he’ll be accosted by the growing anti-war sentiment in America, and if he paints a bleak picture, he’ll have to face the fallout from his boss, the commander in chief.
In addition, Petraeus has the added pressure of carrying the responsibility for the safety and welfare of all the troops in Iraq. The troops in Iraq are dependent upon Petraeus’ leadership and guidance, and a less-than-optimistic report would only serve to undermine their morale, which has already been stretched thin because of multiple and extended deployments.
“General Petraeus is in my opinion the best commander that we have had thus far in Iraq,” Iraq War Veteran war veteran James D. Mowrer told the Iowa Independent. Mowrer, who recently returned from Iraq with the Iowa National Guard 133rd Infantry Battalion and now serves as the state coordinator of Iowa Veterans for Joe Biden, had nothing but praise for Petraeus. “He took over a lot of problems that were not of his own making and is carrying out a strategy that he may or may not agree with.”
Enter, stage left: MoveOn, whose frustration with the Petraeus report helped fuel its full-page ad in the New York Times Sept 10. Ironically, MoveOn’s attack strategy backfired as it has gone from taking the offensive to back pedaling into a defensive mode -- under the guise the organization has sparked a discussion at the nation level. On its website, MoveOn Executive Director Eli Pariser writes a post, “the thinking behind the ad,” which attempts to rationalize the group's decisions but invariably falls into defending its decisions.
MoveOn’s attempt to forge a discussion at the national level regarding Petraeus’ findings has been lost as the focus has shifted to the ad itself, driving the wedge between both sides even deeper. Pariser defends MoveOn’s usage of “betray,” in the ad. “As long as General Petraeus is ‘untouchable,’ the president can continue to hide behind him,” Pariser writes. “That’s why the public needs to know that Petraeus is neither objective nor trustworthy when it comes to assessing progress in Iraq.”
“A debate on our involvement in Iraq should focus on the policy and the commander and chief that sets that policy, not the soldiers that take orders regardless of their personal feelings,” countered Mowrer, who specialized in gathering intelligence while serving in Iraq.
Of course, Petraeus is not objective, namely because he’s not a civilian, and he works directly under Bush’s command. In the military, soldiers are trained to abide by the chain of command and not to overstep it. By presenting a report contradictory to the next link up in his chain of command and overstepping his commander in chief, Petraeus would have to betray the sacred oath he took upon swearing in to the military, meaning he would have to betray not only his country but himself.
Besides, Americans love their generals. There’s nothing to gain by attacking an active-duty general, let alone a retired general. When Gen. Colin Powell served as secretary of state under Bush and was assigned the task of selling the idea of invading Iraq to the international community, Powell ended up parlaying misinformation. But because of Powell’s distinguished military career, nobody dared to challenge Powell’s credibility by attacking his character.
Not only has MoveOn hunkered down into defensive mode, but the Democrats have been put into a defensive mode as the Republican attack machine revs up. Republicans have called upon Democrats, especially presidential candidates, to denounce the ad. The Senate approved a resolution Thursday denouncing the ad by a vote of 72-25. Given the fact that Democrats represent the Senate majority, it’s surprising this resolution was even considered for debate, thus illustrating that the Democrats stick to what they’re used to playing: defense.
Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Barack Obama of Illinois and Joe Biden of Delaware gave the resolution the attention it deserved by skipping the vote. Both senators canceled campaign events to return to D.C. to vote on significant measures regarding Iraq War policy but chose to skip the MoveOn ad vote and return to the campaign trail. Obama called the resolution a “stunt” and said, “By not casting a vote, I registered my protest against these empty politics.”
The day after the resolution passed, MoveOn boasted in an e-mail that “over 12,000 people had donated $500,000 – more than they’ve raised any day this year – for a new ad calling out the Republicans who blocked adequate rest for troops headed back to Iraq.” Again, there new ad is reactionary, the latter addressing the Webb/Hagel amendment that failed to pass in the Senate last week. Attacking Republicans after the fact is not going to change last week’s vote, much like the “Betray-Us” ad is not going to change what Petraeus reported.
Another possible consequence of the MoveOn ad, other than giving all of the Republican presidential candidates fodder to fire up the party's base, is that it risks alienating the military and veterans’ bloc of voters, who are considering voting for a Democratic candidate in next year’s election. “This incident has damaged the Democratic party’s 50-state strategy and has hurt our credibility with veterans and service members,” said Mowrer. “We can and will recover in time.”
Until then we’ll have to wait and wait until the fifth act plays out next November and the political dust settles. Only then we will know whether or we witnessed a Shakespearean comedy or tragedy. If the latter should prevail, the one certainty in a Shakespearean tragedy
is that the messenger, which in this play is Gen. Petraeus, always survives -- unscathed.
Originally posted on "Iowa Independent"
Sunday, September 23, 2007
There was a lot of noise and saber rattling in D.C. regarding our troops and veterans, but in the end, there was nothing to show for it – unless you want to count the resolution approved by the Senate denouncing MoveOn.org for its General “Betray-Us” ad in the New York Times. Although Gen. David Petraeus’ dignity may have received a bump in support, those serving under his command weren’t so lucky.
The Republican senators, including Iowa’s Sen. Chuck Grassley, fell in line with the Defense Department and President Bush’s stay-the-course policies in Iraq by rejecting a bipartisan amendment that would let soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan have at least the same time off at home as their latest deployment before they are redeployed. The amendment, sponsored by Sens. James Webb, D-Va., and Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., failed on a 56-44 vote because a 60-vote super-majority was needed for passage.
On the other side of the aisle, Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa was disappointed in the outcome and said in a statement to the Iowa Independent: "This amendment would have provided support to our troops by ensuring they didn't suffer from lengthy deployments without proper dwell time, unless absolutely necessary for our national security. I find it absurd that anyone can stand up there and say they support our troops, but vote against these amendments. Our troops are at a breaking point -- we cannot continue on the path we are on." (Iowa Independent)
Speaking of breaking points, Sen. Tom Coburn’s, R-Okla., hold on the Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention bill, which has blocked it from reaching the Senate floor, prompted the Iowa Democratic veterans to speak out against silence on the matter among the Republican leadership -- in particular, the GOP presidential candidates.
"We support the efforts of Joshua Omvig's parents, Ellen and Randy, who as they deal with the tragic loss of their son Joshua, press forward on this bill so that other American families do not endure a similar tragedy," said Bob Krause, chair of the Iowa Democratic Veterans’ Caucus. "To have a single senator hold up this critical bipartisan bill with no publicly expressed outrage from the Republican presidential candidates calls into question which party truly supports the troops and military families in America.”
“All of the leading Democratic Presidential candidates, as well as the Democratic leadership in the Senate and the House, are on board. Where is the Republican leadership?" asked Krause. "Their silence exposes their shallow support-the-troops rhetoric," Krause said. "Support the Troops' means a lot more than `Support the War.' "(Iowa Independent)
Ken Burns’ New Documentary Ignites World War II Revival
Filmmaker Ken Burns’ new 14-hour film, “The War,” which documents World War II, kicked off tonight on IPTV, but not without sparking some controversy. The controversy has nothing to do with the level of violence depicted in the film, but, rather, the four uses of profanity in the 14 hours of edited footage. Burns finds it odd that nobody has expressed concerns about the level of violence in the film. "Nobody has complained to him about the beheadings in 'The War' or the dead bodies stacked up like cordwood," Burns said in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Despite the controversy, Iowa Public Television (IPTV) has decided to air "The War" in its original format during the prime-time hours while airing the edited version during the daytime. "We felt like it was essential to telling the story," IPTV Communications Manager Jennifer Konfrst told the Iowa Independent Tuesday. "It's hard to talk about an episode that talks about FUBAR without using the language that the soldiers used. We don't find it to be gratuitous or inappropriate. It's used in context depicting first-hand accounts of people who were there." (Iowa Independent)
Meanwhile, the Des Moines Register had extensive coverage of WW II on all fronts in its Sunday edition.
“When War Marched into Iowa”: Mark Klein provides in-depth coverage of WW II’s impact on Iowans at home and abroad: “World War II cost at least 50 million lives. Some 290,000 Iowans served and 8,398 died.” Focusing on some small towns in Iowa, Klein looks at how these communities were directly and indirectly impacted by the events surrounding WW II. (Des Moines Register)
“U.S. might at Last Honor Meskwaki War Heroes”: Columnist John Carlson revisits a bill that died in Congress three years ago, which would honor members of the Meskwaki Indian tribe in Tama with Congressional Gold Medals. Twenty-seven members of the Meskwaki tribe enlisted in the Army together in January 1941, while eight of them eventually served on North African and European battlefields as "code talkers." Why the bill hasn’t yet passed is unclear, but it has received unanimous support from Iowa’s delegation.
"What these men did during World War II - the sacrifices they made, the risks they took - it is really remarkable," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa ."I think one of the most intriguing parts of their story is the irony of it all. In the years before the war, the Meskwaki and other tribes were under constant pressure to abandon their native languages and cultures, but it was those distinct languages that saved countless lives during the war. The fact that they have yet to be recognized by the federal government is shameful. They deserve much more than that." (Des Moines Register)
“From a Sentimental Journey, a Salute to Aging Veterans”: Columnist Carol Hunter recounts her personal connection to the surviving members of the 40th Bombardment Group in WW II. (Des Moines Register)
Unlike Obama Girl’s (aka Amber lee Ettinger) detached obsession with Obama in her debut video, she insists her motives for signing on to “I Like a Boy” are more personal. Her father, who served 23 years in the military, was shipped off to Vietnam when he was 18. The video’s concept was conceived by Barely Political founder, Ben Relles, who joined IAVA founder Paul Rieckhoff to make the video expressing support for the troops. In addition to the plethora of underdressed morale-boosting models, the video features actual soldiers, plus army wives and girlfriends -- who lip sync the song’s lyrics to their loved ones.
Staying in tune with the YouTube generation’s interactive zeal, Barely Political is soliciting viewers, whose loved ones have also been deployed, to upload their own video message, which Relles plans on re-mixing into a new video.
"I've gotten such a great response today from all of [the army wives and girlfriends], saying they passed it around to their families," Relles said in a press release. "Both the soldiers and the army wives expressed that, when so much of the war is somber, it was great to be part of something that was upbeat and fun."
The video project has been in the works for weeks, before being officially released last week. Singer Leah Kaufman cut the track for the video in mid-August, when the video was shot with the political groupies lip syncing the words. To help give this song some firepower, rapper Mims performs a cameo, which Relles hopes will help push the new single into the mainstream. Currently, the single can be downloaded from iTunes and all the proceeds go to IAVA.
“I Like a Boy,” featuring Leah, Mims, and Obama Girl
Since the video caters primarily to male soldiers, one has to wonder what Relles plans on doing to help boost the morale of the female soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Can we expect an “I Like a Girl” rendition in the future, which will showcase the yet-to-be discovered talents of Hillary Boy?
Originally Posted in "Iowa Independent"
Thursday, September 20, 2007
The Democrats voted along party lines, while six Republicans defected (was Grassley one of them? need to say how he voted somewhere in story), which prompted disappointment on the Democratic side of the aisle. “I was disappointed that the Webb amendment did not pass yesterday," Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa said in a statement to the Iowa Independent. "This amendment would have provided support to our troops by ensuring they didn’t suffer from lengthy deployments without proper dwell time, unless absolutely necessary for our national security. I find it absurd that anyone can stand up there and say they support our troops, but vote against these amendments. Our troops are at a breaking point -- we cannot continue on the path we are on.”
The GOP, including Iowa’s Sen. Chuck Grassley, blocked what Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has characterized as a back-door attempt by Democrats to force the Bush administration to draw down troops. Grassley could not be reached for comment but had issued a statement to the Iowa Independent regarding his “no” vote when the amendment first came up for a vote in July. "The last thing politicians in Washington should do is tie the hands of our commanders on the ground by dictating troop rotations," Grassley said. “New troop deployment policies as well as increases to the size of the active duty military should help relieve the stress on our current forces, and the reserve forces in particular -- while maintaining the flexibility and capability to respond to national security needs."
Gates had recommended that Bush veto the proposed legislation before Wednesday’s vote in the Senate, contending the bill would hamstring the Pentagon’s ability to maintain current troop levels in Iraq. "It would be extremely difficult for us to manage that. It really is a back-door way to try and force the president to accelerate the draw-downs," Gates said.
Democrats appeared to have some momentum when Sen. John Warner, R-Va., had voiced his support for the amendment, only to change his mind after a last-minute campaign by the Defense Department and the White House to kill the bill. Warner’s late defection deflated any momentum that had been building, thus ensuring the amendment's second death.
Meanwhile, military personnel and family members are facing uncertainty upon the return of soldiers, not really knowing when they will be redeployed. One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., pleaded their case on the Senate floor. “We owe it to our troops and their families to adopt a fair policy that ensures predictable rotations, adequate time to be with their families before redeployment, and adequate time for realistic training for the difficult assignments we are giving them,” said Obama, a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.
“There are scores of anecdotes that bear out the strain on our families,” Obama said. "One woman from Illinois recently wrote my office to tell me how her husband was facing his fourth deployment in four-and-one-half years. She described how her husband had spent so much time in Iraq that, in her words: ‘He feels like he is stationed in Iraq and only deploys home.’ That is not an acceptable way to treat our troops. That is not an acceptable way to treat their families.”
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., an adamant opponent of the Webb/Hagel amendment urged Congress to reject the measure on constitutional grounds. “The Constitution of the United States gives no authority for the Congress of the United States to set lengths of tour or lengths of duty in the military, and I hope we will steadfastly reject this kind of micromanagement, which would create chaos,” McCain said.
Webb rejected McCain’s assertion that the Senate has no role in troop deployments on CNN. “Well, first of all, Senator McCain, who I’ve known for 30 years, needs to read the Constitution. There is a provision in Article I, Section 8, which clearly gives the Congress the authority to make rules with respect to the ground and naval forces. There’s precedent for this."
Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., backed up his Democratic colleague in a press release: “Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution says clearly that Congress must ‘make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces,’” said Biden. “This may be the president's war, but it is America's sons and daughters fighting it. Congress must and will do what is necessary to protect them and preserve the readiness of our military to meet any threats to our security.”
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Burns finds it odd that nobody has expressed concerns about the level of violence in the film. “Nobody has complained to him about the beheadings in "The War" or "the dead bodies stacked up like cordwood," Burns said in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Two of the four expletives in question are f-bombs in acronyms used by military personnel to describe a situation that has suddenly gone awry as either FUBAR (F**k*d Up Beyond All Repair), or SNAFU (Situation Normal: All F**k*d Up). The latter acronym inspired the cartoon character, Private Snafu (see pic), who starred in a series of black-and-white instructional cartoon shorts, which were designed to show soldiers what not to do and the consequences of irresponsible behavior.
The FCC hasn’t revealed its position as to whether or not it will fine public television stations for airing “The War,” which has left many broadcasters wondering what to do, thus spurring the Public Broadcasting System to supply its 350-member stations with a "clean" version of "The War" scrubbed of the four words.
Iowa Public Television (IPTV) has decided to air “The War” in its original format during the prime-time hours while airing the edited version during the daytime.”We felt like it was essential to telling the story,” IPTV Communications Manager Jennifer Konfrst told the Iowa Independent Tuesday. “It’s hard to talk about an episode that talks about FUBAR without using the language that the soldiers used. We don’t find it to be gratuitous or inappropriate. It’s used in context depicting first-hand accounts of people who were there.”
Regarding any concerns about the FCC, Konfrst cited the 2005 opinion in the “Saving Private Case,” in which the FCC looks at three factors in determining whether or not something is obscene:
1. The explicitness or graphic nature of the description or depiction of sexual or excretory organs or activities.
2. Whether the material dwells on or repeats at length descriptions of sexual or excretory organs or activities.
3. Whether the material appears to pander or is used to titillate or whether the material appears to have been presented for its shock value.
“Since ‘Saving Private Ryan’ is a fictionalized account of World War II, we presumed that airing a non-fictionalized account of actual people talking about their experiences in the war would be alright,” Konfrst said. “Besides, we wanted to stay true to the story.”
The documentary, produced by Burns and Lynn Novick, was six years in the making and focuses on the stories of citizens from four geographically distributed American towns -- Waterbury, Conn.; Mobile, Ala.; Sacramento, Calif., and the tiny farming town of Luverne, Minn. The four communities stand in for -- and could represent -- any town in the United States that went through the war's four devastating years. Individuals from each community take the viewer through their own personal and quite-often-harrowing journeys into war, painting vivid portraits of how the war dramatically altered their lives and those of their neighbors, as well as the country they helped to save for generations to come.
Feeding off Burns’ documented war stories, IPTV has made an attempt to further engage Iowans and WW II veterans by interviewing and recording 50 WW II veterans around Iowa, capturing their stories to preserve on film. These stories have been sent off to the “Veterans History Project” at the Library of Congress and can be viewed on the IPTV website. “These veterans’ stories will be archived forever and Iowa will be well represented in the Library of Congress,” Konfrst said. “In addition, IPTV has been hosting “In Honor” dinners for Iowa veterans around the state, recognizing WW II veterans for their service and sacrifices for their efforts during the war.”
The Library of Congress launched the comprehensive community awareness campaign, “Veterans History Project,” with PBS and Ken Burns. “We stand at the ready to continue our tradition of honoring America’s war veterans by preserving their stories for future generations," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington in a press release. "The Veterans History Project" collects and archives the one-of-a-kind stories that represent the diversity of the veterans who served our country—veterans from all conflicts, all branches of the military, all ranks, all races and ethnicities."
"There have been countless books and films about the Second World War," Burns said in a press release. "In ‘The War,’ we try to allow a small group of individuals to tell their bottom-up story. This film is as much about storytelling, about sharing unique experiences, as it is about World War II, and as such we hope that it touches on the universal human experience of battle. Of course, the film only provides a small window into the much larger experience of the hundreds of thousands who have served during times of war. We hope that by providing the tools to people around the country, especially young people, we can work together to capture many more of these stories before the generation that fought in World War II has passed."
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
“This is clear bipartisan support for a bill of vital importance,” said Bob Krause, chair of the Iowa Democratic Veterans’ Caucus. “We are surprised that none of the Republican presidential candidates has publicly voiced objection to Senator Tom Coburn’s action that continues to block debate on the measure in the Senate.”
Coburn has vowed to continue his hold on the Joshua Omvig bill, introduced in the Senate by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, before the August recess. Coburn called the bill insulting to veterans and warned that its mandatory mental-health screening could harm their future job options. "I'm going to continue to hold this bill until we work on the issues to guarantee freedoms of the veterans in terms of the tracking," Coburn said on the Senate floor.
The Joshua Omvig Suicide Prevention bill is named after a soldier from Boswell’s district in Grundy Center, Iowa, who took his own life after returning from Iraq. The bill directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to step up screening, counseling and other mental health services for returning war veterans by mandating this process.
“We support the efforts of Joshua Omvig’s parents, Ellen and Randy, who as they deal with the tragic loss of their son Joshua, press forward on this bill so that other American families do not endure a similar tragedy,” Krause said. “To have a single senator hold up this critical bipartisan bill with no publicly expressed outrage from the Republican presidential candidates calls into question which party truly supports the troops and military families in America. All of the leading Democratic Presidential candidates, as well as the Democratic leadership in the Senate and the House, are on board. Where is the Republican leadership?”
Harkin, who served in the military during the Vietnam War, was surprised by Coburn’s hold and steadfastness and took the Senate floor to fight for his fellow veterans. “The Joshua Omvig Suicide Prevention Act has received intense scrutiny, including two hearings in the House and three in the Senate. The bill has been strongly endorsed by the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Disabled Veterans of America and other veterans' groups,” Harkin said. “So it is a travesty to have this bill held up, now, by a single senator for reasons that are completely bogus.” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has also joined 30 of his senatorial colleagues in co-sponsoring the bill, including presidential candidates Sens. Joe Biden, D-Del., Hillary Clinton, D-NY, Barack Obama, D-Il., and Sam Brownback, R-Kan.
The aim of the bill is to reduce the shocking rate of suicide among our men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The VA estimates that more than 5,000 veterans take their lives each year. Suicide rates are 35 percent higher for Iraq veterans than for the general population. And the Department of Defense recently reported that the Army is now seeing the highest rate of suicide since the Vietnam War.
For now, the fate of the Joshua Omvig bill rests upon the shoulders of Coburn, whose hold is blocking it from a debate and subsequent passage on the Senate floor. On the Democratic side of the aisle, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., whose father committed suicide years ago, has vowed to push this bill through by the end of the year. "We are not going to let one or two senators stop us from moving forward on this," Reid said on the Senate floor during Harkin’s plea to Coburn.
Until then, members of the Iowa Democratic Veterans’ Caucus have called upon the Republican presidential candidates to take the leadership on the bill and speak out on the campaign trial, thus removing the congressional cog from the bureaucratic machine. “Their silence exposes their shallow support-the-troops rhetoric,” Krause said. “ ‘Support the Troops’ means a lot more than ‘Support the War.’ ”
Originally posted on "Iowa Independent"
Sunday, September 16, 2007
On the Democrat side, Obama is one of two presidential candidates, who has stood against the war in Iraq from the beginning, while Paul is the only candidate on the Republican side who has been vehemently opposed to the war. Ironically, the more Bush ratchets up his support-the-troops rhetoric, the more the troops are supporting candidates who don’t support the war. During the first six months of this year, Obama received 44 contributions worth about $27,000 and Paul 23 for about $19,300.
"Paul and Obama are talking straight to soldiers, and what they are saying is resonating," Larnell Exum, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, said in the USA Today. Exum, who gave $500 to Obama, works for the Army as a congressional liaison and is a Democrat but voted for George Bush in 1992.
In the big picture, donations by military personnel comprise only a small fraction of the overall contributions made during the first half of this year, but who they’re contributing to resonates symbolically -- especially with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan spilling into the next presidential term. In 2004, military personnel contributed $1.2 million to presidential and congressional candidates, the center said. This year, those donations are about $200,000.
Traditionally, U.S. military members have voted Republican, but since the start of the war in Iraq in 2003, military personnel have dramatically shifted their allegiance to the Democrats:
In the 2000 and 2002 election cycles, uniformed service members gave about three-quarters of their federal contributions to Republicans. The percentage dropped to 59 percent in the 2004 cycle and has remained there since. This shift toward Democrats is most visible among members of the Army, who gave 71 percent of their money to Republicans before the war began. So far this year, members of the Army have given a mere 51 percent to the GOP, spreading their contributions nearly evenly between the two major parties.
In the 2002 election cycle, the last full cycle before the war had begun, the Democrats received a mere 23 percent of military members' contributions. So far this year, 40 percent of military money has gone to Democrats for Congress and president.
"People are saying now enough is enough," said Lt. Col. Joyce Griggs, an intelligence officer who said she spent two months in Baghdad earlier this year, speaking for herself and not the Army in the report’s study. "If you're a soldier, you're going to do your job, do what you're commanded to do. But that sentiment is wide and deep."
The drop in contributions to Republicans suggests that military personnel, who cannot speak out against military policy and directives, are using the power of the purse to express themselves.
Monday, September 10, 2007
I also call upon the Governors of the United States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, as well as appropriate officials of all units of government, to direct that the flag be flown at half-staff on Patriot Day. Further, I encourage all Americans to display the flag at half-staff from their homes on that day and to observe a moment of silence beginning at 8:46 a.m. eastern daylight time, or another appropriate commemorative time, to honor the innocent victims who lost their lives as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Either way, all flags should be flying half-staff tomorrow in the state of Iowa, and Gilbertson will be buried with military honors at the Cedar Memorial Park Cemetery at 11 a.m. While most Iowans memories will be preoccupied with the memories and events surrounding Sept. 11, 2001, it’s important not to forget Iowa’s fallen sons and daughters, who have paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives.
One such person is Army Sgt. Kevin Gilbertson, 24, who was shot by enemy forces in Ramadi, Iraq, while on foot patrol Wednesday. Two days later, Gilbertson died in a Germany hospital, where he lived with his wife and eight-month old son. Gilbertson is the 61st person with Iowa ties to die in conflicts in Iraq or Afghanistan since March 2003.Gilbertson was a graduate of Cedar Rapids Jefferson High School. He served with the 1st Battalion, 77th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, based in Scheweinfurt, Germany, and was serving his second tour of duty in Iraq.
"He joined the Army right out of high school to get a college education when he got out," Don Gilbertson, the soldier's father told the Des Moines Register. "His dream was getting a degree and supporting his family. He was the greatest kid in the world."
Sunday, September 9, 2007
Even more tragic is the fact that these wounded veterans’ battle did not end on the battlefield, but had just begun upon their return to American soil as they fight the day-to-day struggles resulting from their war-related injuries. “The fight doesn’t stop when you get home. In our cases, it’s just begun,” says Corporal Jake Schick, one of ten soldiers interviewed for the new HBO documentary, “Alive Day: Home from Iraq.” Moreover, these veterans must fight through a barrage of red tape to get what they need, including the funding that will help make the rest of their lives more manageable.
A large part of this problem is that many Americans are not directly affected by the loss of a loved one in the war, nor do they know anyone personally who has suffered from a war-related injury. Then there’s the media, which, for a plethora of reasons, chooses to focus on the front-end politics of the war, without striking a balance that would emphasize the consequential back-end effects of the war. Not until a Walter Reed manifests does the media rally around the plight of wounded veterans.
In an attempt to bring the back-end of the war home, HBO is premiering its documentary special “Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq” tonight. For those of you who don’t have HBO access, the documentary will be streamed on hbo.com beginning Sept. 10 The website will feature extensive soldier profiles, including personal videos and blogs as well. Produced by three-time Emmy winner James Gandolfini, the documentary about wounded soldiers surveys the physical and emotional cost of war through memories of their “alive day.”
Marine Staff Sgt. John Jones, who was injured in 2005, shares his stories in the HBO documentary, "Alive Days: Home from Iraq"
Gandolfini, who has visited the troops in Iraq on behalf of the USO, interviews ten soldiers who reveal their feelings about their future, their severe disabilities and their devotion to America. Their first-person stories are augmented by harrowing footage from the war-torn streets of Iraq and from embedded cameras in the vehicles of the soldiers. It includes scenes shot when the soldiers were injured, as well as disturbing video of IED (Improvised Explosive Device) bombings released by insurgents. Additionally, soldiers’ blogs, personal home videos and photographs can be read and viewed online.
Meanwhile, Iraq War veteran B.J. Jackson of Des Moines is preparing for his bike ride to help raise money for wounded veterans. Jacskon, who lost his leg to a landmine in Iraq, is participating in the bike-riding fundraiser sponsored by Operation American Spirit, a nonpartisan group that supports wounded soldiers and their families. The group hopes to raise up to $50 million dollars over the next few years, thus addressing their mission statement:
To help make a difference in the lives of soldiers and their families by providing support and funding during and after rehabilitation, in ways that teach them self-sufficiency, including scholarships, job and trade assistance, home modification, and to improve morale.
The 16-day, 1500-mile ride from Seattle to San Diego begins Sept. 22, where Jackson will join other veterans, celebrities, and politicians for the bike ride. Operation American Spirit has become a partner with the “America Supports You” network, a nationwide program launched by the Department of Defense that recognizes citizens' support for our military men and women and communicates that support to members of our Armed Forces at home and abroad.
Originally posted on "Iowa Independent"
Friday, September 7, 2007
Harkin, who served in the military during the Vietnam War, was surprised by Coburn’s hold and steadfastness and took the Senate floor to fight for his fellow veterans. “The Joshua Omvig Suicide Prevention Act has received intense scrutiny, including two hearings in the House and three in the Senate. The bill has been strongly endorsed by the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Disabled Veterans of America, and other veterans groups,” Harkin said. “So it is a travesty to have this bill held up, now, by a single Senator for reasons that are completely bogus.”
The aim of the bill is to reduce the shocking rate of suicide among our men and women retuning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The VA estimates that more than 5,000 veterans take their lives each year. Suicide rates are 35 percent higher for Iraq veterans than for the general population. And the Department of Defense recently reported that the Army is now seeing the highest rate of suicide since the Vietnam War.
The Joshua Omvig Suicide Prevention bill was first introduced in the House by Iowa Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-3rd District, who named the bill after a soldier from his district in Grundy Center, Iowa, who took his own life after returning from Iraq. The bill directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to step up screening, counseling and other mental health services for returning war veterans by mandating this process. The House bill overwhelmingly passed in March by a vote of 423-0.
Harkin’s version of the bill, which is supported by fellow Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, appeared to be on the fast track before the August recess, but hit a snag over recess with Coburn’s hold. “Out of the blue, Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma objected to the unanimous consent request,” Harkin said. “And his principal reason for doing so is completely baseless. He speculates that if we have mandatory screening of all veterans for suicide risk, the resulting medical data might be used to deny a veteran the right to purchase handguns.”
Harkin refuted Coburn’s claim on the Senate floor Thursday. “No medical professional can refer an individual to the background check system that would limit access to firearms. This can only be done through the judicial system,” Harkin argued. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., asked Harkin to yield the floor during his speech and proffered additional support for the bill and serve notice that bill will be moved before Congress before they adjourn. "We are not going to let one or two senators stop us from moving forward on this," said Reid, who, citing his father’s suicide years ago, made a personal plea to help prevent any more suicides.
To help build his case, Harkin shared pieces of a New York Times editorial, “Locked, Loaded, and Looney” (Aug. 30, 2007):
…Even the craven gun lobby should manage some shame over this absurd example of Second Amendment idolatry…Harkin closed his remarks on the Senate floor by making one final plea on behalf of veterans and asked Coburn to reconsider his objections to the bill. “We need to make it clear that preventing veteran suicide is a congressional and national priority,” Harkin said. “After our veterans have served and fought for our country, many times they’re being left to fight their own private mental health wars alone. Private wars they often lose.”
The senator’s office points to another bill near passage — prompted by the Virginia Tech gun massacre — that would encourage states to do a better job of listing mentally troubled individuals on the federal roll of risky gun purchasers. But tying these two measures together is itself evidence of defective reasoning, or at least scurrilous politicking. The Virginia Tech measure has nothing to do with veterans and affects only those Americans formally judged by a court to be mentally disturbed…
“I urge the objecting senator to reexamine this important bill and reconsider his objection. Lives are at stake, and we need to move forward on the Joshua Omvig Suicide Prevention bill as quickly as possible.”
Originally posted on "Iowa Independent"
Sunday, September 2, 2007
A recently released Gallup poll shows that the military veterans’ presidential preferences closely mirror the national polls. With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan expected to be waged through next year’s November election, the candidates have targeted military veteran voters, which comprise roughly one out of every six Americans. These efforts, however, have yet to show any major impact in the polls thus far.
Another reason why the candidates are attempting to shore up support from veterans, is that most of them have not served in the military themselves and a strong veteran endorsement will help validate their support of the troops. A few interesting anomalies in the poll did manifest. On the Republican side, Arizona Sen. John McCain, a former Vietnam prisoner of war, received a high favorable rating by veterans, but this favorability did not translate to solid preferential ratings when compared to his Republican rivals. Conversely, on the Democrat side, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton received low favorability ratings among veterans, but she received the highest preferential rating among her competitors, thus indicating that veterans are weighing more factors than just military and veterans’ issues. (Gallup Poll News Service)
As Congress prepares to reconvene Tuesday, a number of bills affecting military members and veterans await. One of these bills, the Joshua Omvig Suicide Prevention Act, is one such bill; however, a hold was placed on the bill by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who cited issues concerning the second amendment as the reason for his hold. (Iowa Independent)