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Iraq snapshot - June 14, 2012


June 14, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, War Criminal Colin Powell said his 2003 UN speech was about inspections but today let's slip the decision to go to war was already made, CJR self-embarrasses with a novel concept on journalistic ethics (If you marry, it wipes the slate clean -- quick, someone tell Stephen Glass, Janet Cooke and so many others!), the political crisis continues in Iraq, Senator Patty Murray has some tough questions for Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and more...

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Iraq snapshot - June 14, 2012

The Common Ills

Thursday, June 14, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, War Criminal Colin Powell said his 2003 UN speech was about inspections but today let's slip the decision to go to war was already made, CJR self-embarrasses with a novel concept on journalistic ethics (If you marry, it wipes the slate clean -- quick, someone tell Stephen Glass, Janet Cooke and so many others!), the political crisis continues in Iraq, Senator Patty Murray has some tough questions for Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and more.
 
Collie The Blot Powell continues to plug his bad and co-written (Tony Koltz) book It Worked For Me: Killing and Lying.  It's really amazing the way the liar keeps saying more than he means to.  But a War Criminal, like any other criminal, has a compulsion to confess (as Freud and Theodor Reik both argued).  You can't turn a trick without a john and a whore.  Presumably Colin played the role of the john for Kira Zalan (US News and World Reports).  We learn that Powell sees meaning when an elderly man is unable to pay attention to a discussion both due to age and to illness but to Collie it's a life lesson about division of labor.  As usual, he discusses the blot and for those fearing Colin's suddenly become part of the Neville family, it's not a facial blot.  It's the fecal smear on his public image that won't wipe off.  It's the lies he told the United Nations in an attempt at kick starting the war on Iraq.  Collie first floated the blot on TV in an interview he gave to Barbara Walters for ABC News.  After it aired, September 2005, Ava and I wrote about it:
 
 
 
Walters says, unable to look at him while she does -- oh the drama!, "However, you gave the world false, groundless reasons for going to war. You've said, and I quote, 'I will forever be known as the one who made the case for war.' Do you think this blot on your record will stay with you for the rest of your life?"

Powell: Well it's a, it's a, of course it will. It's a blot. I'm the one who presented it on behalf of the United Nations, uh, United States, to the world. And it will always be uh, part of my, uh, my record.

Walters: How painful is it?

Powell: (shrugs) It was -- it *was* painful. (shifts, shrugs) It's painful now.

Has a less convincing scene ever been performed?

Possibly. Such as when Powell informs Walters that the fault lies with the intelligence community -- with those who knew but didn't come forward. Unfortunately for Powell,
FAIR's advisory steered everyone to a Los Angeles Times' article from July 15, 2004:

Days before Secretary of State Colin L. Powell was to present the case for war with Iraq to the United Nations, State Department analysts found dozens of factual problems in drafts of his speech, according to new documents contained in the Senate report on intelligence failures released last week.
Two memos included with the Senate report listed objections that State Department experts lodged as they reviewed successive drafts of the Powell speech. Although many of the claims considered inflated or unsupported were removed through painstaking debate by Powell and intelligence officials, the speech he ultimately presented contained material that was in dispute among State Department experts.
 
 
 
That's the blot.  His lies that he denies were lies.  A year after his speech, Martha Raddatz (ABC News) observed:
 
 
But instead of discussing Iraq's weapons in terms of "possibilities" or "estimates," Powell spoke before the United Nations last February with certainty.
"These are not assertions," Powell told the Security Council. "What we are giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence."
Powell qualified only one of his remarks during the 75-minute presentation, saying there was some "controversy" over the intended use of high-strength aluminum tubes. On all other issues, Powell left no room for debate. He used the phrase "we know" 32 times.
 
Jonathan Schwarz (Mother Jones) fact checked the lies here.
 
The lies that you tell
will leave you alone
they'll catch you and trip you up,
Keep you hangin' around
-- "Love You By Heart," written by Carly Simon Jacob Brackman and Libby Titus, first appears on Carly's Spy album
 
 
Yes, liars usually will trip themselves up.  Like today when Powell tells Kira Zalan:
 
 
And when I gave it, people stopped and listened. And the president by that time had already decided that combat would be necessary, he decided that sometime in January. And now it's 5 February and I'm simply telling people why it may be necessary.
 
 
Does Collie realize what he just let slip?  It's no surprise to the peace community.  But still he just admitted that the decision by Bully Boy Bush to go to war was made in January -- two months before the Iraq War started.  That wasn't a part of Colin The War Criminal Powell's speech to the UN.  Click here for the full speech at the Washington Post (warning, not everyone has the full speech even when they claim to -- for example, the Guardian's lost the last third of Powell's speech -- specifically the 'human rights' portion -- but insists that it's the 'full text').  Lot of words, none of which revealed that a decision had already been made to go to war.
 
These, these, these are the words
The words that maketh murder.
These, these, these are the words
The words that maketh murder.
-- "The Words That Maketh Murder," written by PJ Harvey, first appears on PJ's Let England Shake 
 
Today Colin Powell tells US News and World Reports that the decision to go to war on Iraq was made a month before his UN speech.  Strange because the day of his speech, CNN reported (February 5, 2003):
 
At a lunch that followed Powell's presentation, diplomats said he responded to the French foreign minister's concerns about the impact war with Iraq would have on the region by saying, "I wasn't talking about war, but about strengthening inspections."
The diplomats said Powell also made clear to Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin that the United States is not ready to go to war immediately, and is interested in hearing France's proposals to strengthen inspections with the added value of the evidence Powell presented.
 
 
So Colin didn't just lie to the citizens of the world in his UN speech, he continued to lie immediately after and lied to diplomats and France's Foreign Minister.  Colin Powell is a liar.  He can pretend all he wants but the record bears out the reality that he has repeatedly misled over and over.  That is lying.
 
And it's really sad that someone known for doing so little on a national level (other than War Crimes) gets so much press attention for a co-written clip job while former US Senator Russ Feingold put real thought and real work into While America Sleeps: A Wake-Up Call for the Post-9/11 Era and the press is far less likely to offer coverage (or swoon).  Randy Hanson (Hudston Star-Observer) provides coverage on a recent book discussion Feingold gave:
 
 
His chapter on the Iraq War is titled "The Iraq Deception."
"What I tried to do in the book is explain what happened because of our general strategy in Iraq,"  Feingold said. "Everything we did was defined on the basis of Iraq. And it was crazy, because Bush actually said in his speeches over and over again that there were 60 or 65 countries where al-Qaeda was operating. His list included Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, the Slavic republics, Ireland, England -- but not Iraq."
He said that while the United States was concentrating on holding Iraq, terrorist groups were expanding in other countries.
"What I thought 9/11 showed us is what happens when we're not alert. We learned what it felt like to be taken completely by surprise," he said, recalling how the big news story during the summer of 2001 had been shark attacks in the country's coastal waters.
 
 
One book is mature and thoughtful, the other pure piffle.  The one with nothing to offer gets the bulk of the media attention. 
 
It's the immaturity that the press repeatedly embraces while pretending to be 'high brow' in order to justify their refusal to cover actual news stories.  One example, refusing to explore serious ethical violations by using matrimony as an excuse:  "But that was in 2008, and they're married now."  Is that Margaret Carlson?  No.  No, it's much worse than columnist Carlson.  That's Erika Fry forced into covering the story for CJR.  I was on the phone earlier today with a CJR friend for a half-hour, it was a pre-emptive call asking me to please understand . . .  No, it doesn't work that way.
 
I will allow that Erika Fry got stuck with the assignment (that's what I was told, I do not know her and didn't speak to her).  But she's an assistant editor and it's Columbia Journalism Review.  I'm real damn sorry that your panties and boxers go dry when you have to critique someone your wet dream Barack loves -- Brett McGurk.  But I'm genuinely sorry that you're such whores that you rush to minimize what took place. 
 
Brett McGurk is Barack Obama's nominee for US Ambassador to Iraq.  He's gotten into a lot of trouble for numerous things but Fry ended up stuck writing about the e-mails.  E-mails became public last week (see the June 5th snapshot) that he had exchanged with Gina Chon in 2008 when both were in Baghdad -- he was working for the US government, she was working for the Wall St. Journal.  The Wall St. Journal let Chon go on Tuesday due to the fact that she had concealed the affair in 2008 when McGurk was not only a US government official but the primary source for her stories and she was let go because she had shared stories she was working on with McGurk to let him alter them (she stated in her defense that she was using him as a sounding board for input). 
 
Columbia JOURNALISM Review.  And they rush to dismiss it.  And they rush to treat it as no big deal.    "But that was in 2008, and they're married now."
 
Who gives a damn?
 
That doesn't change a thing.  You either start having standards or you don't.  Right now, CJR has no standards at all.  Judith Miller could go back to work for the New York Times tomorrow and any argument CJR might make would be pointless.  Because right now, they're telling us, that if you marry the source for whom you cater coverage too, it doesn't matter that you misled readers and your editor and it doesn't matter that your lover got copy approval of anything you turned in.
 
If that's the position CJR wants to take, then they are nothing but a joke. 
 
 
"We get that sex sells," Fry lies.  It's not about sex, it's about ethics.  If it were about sex, we'd talk about the doggie style encounter in a hallway.  We can do that.  Brett McGurk was very 'popular' in Iraq.  Gina Chon wasn't the first woman he cheated on his wife with.  (That may or may not be news to Chon.)  If Fry wants to make it about sex, we can do that.
 
But don't dimiss sleeping with a source, letting your lover vet your copy and misleading the public and your editor as it being about sex or as ethical lapses that expire because they two got married.
 
This is embarrassing and shame on CJR for this nonsense.  Again, I had to listen to  half hour of excuses today.  I hadn't even read the piece.  I return a voice mail and suddenly it's "Well we . . . and we . . and we . . ."  Wee wee?  That about sums it up.  CJR has just pissed on journalism ethics.  That's not a proud moment.
 
Nor is Erika Fry's inability to be factual.  Fry writes, "For what it's worth, The Wall Street Journal has said that Chon's relationship did not affect her reporting." That's not what they said.  They said, "At this time the Journal has found no evidence that her coverage was tainted by her relationship with Mr. McGurk."   That's your first clue that Fry knows what happens is much worse than she let on -- the fact that she has to distort what the Wall St. Journal actually said.
 Lisa Dru (Business Insider) reported on the news Tuesday and included the Wall St. Journal's statement:
 

Wall Street Journal reporter Gina Chon agreed to resign this afternoon after acknowledging that while based in Iraq she violated the Dow Jones Code of Conduct by sharing certain unpublished news articles with Brett McGurk, then a member of the U.S. National Security Council in Iraq.

In 2008 Ms. Chon entered into a personal relationship with Mr. McGurk, which she failed to disclose to her editor. At this time the Journal has found no evidence that her coverage was tainted by her relationship with Mr. McGurk.

Ms. Chon joined the Journal in 2005 in Detroit, followed by an assignment as Iraq correspondent in Baghdad from 2007 to 2009. She also reported for the Journal from Haiti in 2010 in the aftermath of the earthquake and has served as a M&A reporter for Money & Investing in New York since April 2010.

 
Erika Fry maybe shouldn't be writing about journalism ethics for CJR when obviously she has ethical problems of her own as evidenced by taking an "at this time" and turning it into something else.  (For the record, the paper only learned of what took place in Baghdad after the e-mails surfaced.  I was told the paper became aware of the problem on  Wednesday of last week.  And that a number of journalists feel burned by Chon's actions and the general consensus is that she didn't give the paper a heads up and let them be completely blindsided.)
 
For the responsibilities that CJR shirked, let's note this from Paul Farhi (Washington Post):
 
The idea is to avoid relationships that could compromise a reporter's judgment or give the appearance of playing favorites, said John K. Hartman, a professor of journalism at Central Michigan University. "Serious journalists know that it is imperative to avoid any conflict of interest and any situation that might taint their reporting perspective," he said. Sometimes, however, reporters "can take cozying up to sources too far."
Similarly, journalists aren't supposed to disclose unpublished stories, lest it compromise the gathering of information.
 
 
See, Erika Fry, serious journalists know that.  How serious do you think CJR looks right now?They're married now, huffs Erika Fry.  So if Bully Boy Bush marries Tony Blair, that excuses the Iraq War?  Matrimony has nothing to do with the ethical violations.  But let's play like we're as stupid as Erika Fry hopes we are.  So if Gina Chon and Brett McGurk stay married another year, it matters even less.  If they make it to ten years then there was no ethical violation at all?  It's funny because Fry should be familiar with the code of ethics for journalism and I see no 'matrimony card' that excuses any violation.
 
 
I learned of the e-mails (overheard in the office of a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) Tuesday June 5th before the hearing.  As I left the office, I was searching on my iPhone for the e-mails and found them at Cryptome. Eli Lake (Daily Beast) offers some background on Cryptome:
 
But what's received less attention is the website that published those emails, and the man who runs it. John Young founded Cryptome, a clearinghouse for leaked documents from the military and intelligence community, in 1996, roughly a decade before WikiLeaks existed. It has since become a must-read for some people who track the intelligence community and the military. "Cryptome has become part of the national security information landscape," says Steven Aftergood, the director of the project on government secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, a nonprofit think tank. "I check it every day," he adds.
 
Yesterday, some Senators weighed in on McGurk.  Sunlen Miller (ABC News) reports, Senators John Barrasso, Jim DeMint, James Inhofe, Mike Lee, James Risch and Marco Rubio wrote a letter to the White House explaining, "As members of the committee, with the responsibility of providing advice and consent, we write to respectfully urge you to reconsider this nomination.  There are strong concerns about Mr. McGurk's qualifications, his ability to work with Iraqi officials, and now his judgment."  The six are Republicans.  Matthew Lee (AP) reports, "Earlier, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the chairman of the committee, hinted that the nomination could be reconsidered. He said he had spoken with Vice President Joe Biden about McGurk."  Lee quotes Kerry stating, "I think there are some very fair questions being asked and they need to be answered."  Ted Barrett and Paul Courson (CNN) report that Kerry is considering delaying the planned Tuesday Committee vote on McGurk and quote him stating, "I need to talk to senators and evaluate where we are.  People have become aware of things they weren't, so we have to evaluate."   Al Kamen (Washington Post) adds, "Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the panel's second-ranking Democrat, is said to have deep reservations about him as well."
 
 
 
Yesterday Baghdad was slammed with bombings and 72 people were known to be dead.  This morning Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports that the death toll has risen "to 93 and 312 people wounded" according to the Ministry of the Interior.  The Voice of Russia reports, "EU High Represenative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton has condemned the series of terrorist attacks in several Iraqi provinces that claimed dozens of lives."  The State Dept had nothing to say yesterday or today in their press briefings.  The White House spokesperson Jay Carney did acknowledge the bombings on Wednesday:
 
Jay Carney:  With regard to the violence, we strongly condemn the recent attacks in Iraq. The targeting of innocent civilians and security forces is cowardly and reprehensible. We offer our condolences to the families of the victims, and support the continued efforts of Iraqi government forces to bring those responsible to justice. I  would simply say that it's important to remember that while we have seen that extremist groups in Iraq are still able to use violence and cause harm, we believe their capabilities have been diminished in recent years. Also, Iraqis continue to reject extremist tactics in support of peaceful methods of resolving their disputes. There have been occasional periods where there have been increases in violence, but overall violence is greatly decreased from the time period that you referenced in particular. Also I think worth noting is that Iraq hosted -- Baghdad hosted an important series of negotiations not that long ago, and their ability to do that in a secure way demonstrates the progress that they've made in that country and in their capacity to provide security in a place like Baghdad.
 
 
 
Moqtada al-Sadr has declared that the government must protect all the citizens and notes that the violence took place as the political differences continuedAlsumaria reports Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi -- still in Turkey while he's tried in abstentia in Baghdad -- also condemned the attacks.  The report also notes that the judges refused the request of the defense to call President Jalal Talabani to the stand.  al-Hasehmi is being tried for terrorism or 'terrorism' in what many see as a political attack on either Iraqiya or Sunnis.  Tareq al-Hashemi is the highest ranking office holder from Iraqiya -- the political slate that defeated Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law in the 2010 parliamentary elections.  al-Hashemi is also Sunni. 
 
The 2010 elections found Iraqiya winning and Nouri digging in his heels and refusing to surrender the post of prime minister despite coming in second.  Because Tehran and DC backed him, Nouri was able to have a public tantrum for 8 months and then get rewarded with a second term.  The US brokered an agreement, The Erbil Agreement, which gave Nouri a second term in return for Nouri making concessions.  The US government told the political blocs this contract would be honored.  Nouri used it to grab a second term as prime minister and immediately tossed it aside.  Since the summer of 2011, the Kurds, Moqtada al-Sadr and Iraqiya have called on Nouri to return to the Erbil Agreement.  He has refused to do so.
 
 

Since the government was formed at the end of 2010, all efforts of power sharing among Prime Minister Maliki and the main Sunni political bloc, Iraqiya, the Kurds, and even some of his Shiite partners has faltered. As a result, the three security ministries that were supposed to be shared among all of the political blocs remain under the prime minister's control.

The cabinet as it functions now allows the prime minister to rule by decree. Those bylaws were supposed to be revised. That has never happened. An oil law was also supposed to be passed, and that hasn't happened. As a result, mistrust has grown on all sides.

Since late April, the primary Sunni bloc--Iraqiya--the main Kurdish bloc, and Sadr's Shiite lawmakers have all come out in favor of a vote of no confidence against Maliki. This effort climaxed last weekend when the president of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, was asked to call for a vote of no confidence in the parliament. But Talabani, who is a Kurd but has very close ties with Maliki, at the end of the day said that there were not enough signatures to call for such a vote. So now Maliki's main competitors--the Iraqiya block, the Sadrists and the Kurds--are trying to gain more signatures to force Talabani to call a vote of no confidence. But if not, they are saying they're still going to call Maliki to the parliament--which technically they can do--for hearings, for questioning, and then after that, they want to call for a vote for no confidence. All of that shows the trust has broken down in Iraqi politics.

 

Jalal?  An angry Jalal is seen at Alsumaria denying reports about him in recent days.  Jalal's upset with the fall out over his actions.  He's pissed that Kurds in the Kurdish Alliance and Ayad Allawi have come forward with how he (Jalal) said he could take out Nouri al-Maliki.  He's ticked off that his stock is falling.  He's upset about rumors that the PUK is exploring new public faces.  (He's 78-years-old, they should have a different public face.)  As Al Rafidayn notes, so many are upset with Jalal that he's had to prepare a public letter for the PUK to distribute to its members.

Alsumaria reports a bombing in Falluja today targeting police -- eight people were harmed (dead and wounded -- there are no numbers for either category).  It was a car bombing and abumlances arrived on the scene, police said.  In other security news today, Alsumaria reports the Ministry of the Interior is telling the media that a small spy plane was shot down today in Baghdad by the First Brigade (Iraqi police).  Since there is  no mention of a pilot being dead, wounded or captured, this was most likely an unmanned drone.  Which means, it was most likely a US drone.
 
 
Today, the White House issued the following statement:
 

The White House

Office of the Vice President
For Immediate Release
June 14, 2012

Statement on National Security Advisor to the Vice President Tony Blinken's Travel

National Security Advisor to the Vice President Tony Blinken visited Iraq on June 13-14 and met with a range of senior Iraqi leaders, including Prime Minister Maliki, Deputy Prime Minister Shahristani, and KRG President Barzani.  He also spoke by telephone with President Talabani, Foreign Minister Zebari, and Council of Representatives Speaker Nujaifi.  NSA Blinken made clear to all his interlocutors that the United States takes no side in the current political situation, but favors any solution that is reached by the Iraqis themselves, in accordance with Iraqi law and the constitution, and is achieved in a clear and transparent manner that does not promote or lead to violence.  He urged Iraqi leaders to move quickly to alleviate current tensions in order to refocus energy on critical state-building challenges, including preparations for provincial and local elections next year.  He underscored that the United States calls on Iraq's neighbors to support Iraq's sovereign right to choose its own government.   He also stressed that the Iraqi and American people have sacrificed greatly for Iraq's constitutional and democratic system, which continues to have our unwavering support.
 
No mention of the fact that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has personally invited and/or urged Nouri and KRG President Massoud Barzani to come to DC for what State doesn't want to be called "peace talks."  (But that's what they would be.)
 
 
In yesterday's snapshot, we noted Wednesday's Senate Veterans Affairs Committee with regards to employment rights and with regards to burn pits.  Last night at her site, Kat covered Ranking Member Richard Burr's proposed bill.  The plan was to continue coverage of the hearing today.  We'll do that tomorrow.  Among the reasons for that is that we included a portion of a news release from Senator Patty Murray's office in yesterday's snapshot and we need to include it in full.  Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Her office issued the following yesterday:


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
Wednesday, June 13, 2012 
CONTACT: Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834
 
Under Pressure from Sen. Murray, Panetta Announces Military-Wide Review of Behavioral and Mental Health Diagnoses Since 2001
 
 
Panetta to Murray: "I am not satisfied either"; "still huge gaps" in how departments diagnose PTSD and other conditions; announces that all branches of military will undergo major review of diagnoses
 
 

 
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, under questioning from Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that he has ordered the heads of every branch of the U.S. military to review diagnoses for the invisible wounds of war going back to 2001. The Secretary's announcement comes after Murray worked to spur a similar review by the Army which arose from hundreds of soldiers being misdiagnosed and in many cases accused of faking the symptoms of PTSD at Madigan Army Medical Center in Washington state.
"The Pentagon and the VA are losing the battle on mental and behavioral health conditions," Murray told the Secretary at today's hearing. Murray also noted that the Army has already begun a system-wide review saying "This is not just an Army disability evaluation system. This is a joint DOD and VA program covering all of the services. Why has the Department not taken the lead in evaluating and making improvements to this system?"
"What I've asked is the other service chiefs to implement the same approach that the Army's taken" Secretary Panetta responded. "…I'm not satisfied either. We're doing everything we can to try to build a better system between the Pentagon, the Department of Defense and VA. But there are still huge gaps in terms of the differences in terms of how they approach these cases and how they diagnose the cases and how they deal with them, and frankly, that's a whole area we have to do much better on."
Secretary Panetta indicated that the Pentagon-wide review will be led by the Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness. At the hearing Senator Murray also highlighted the impact that mental health care shortcomings are having pointing to statistics that show that military suicides are outpacing combat deaths.
A full transcript of the exchange between Senator Murray and Secretary Panetta at today's hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee follows:
 
 
MURRAY: Mr. Secretary, I want to continue the thought process of Senator Murkowski. I, too, am very alarmed by the suicide rate of our service members and our veterans. New analysis is showing us that every day in 2012 one of our service members committed suicide and you just commented on outpacing combat deaths. In our veteran population, we know a veteran commits suicide every 80 minutes. Every 80 minutes.
Now, I think we can agree on two things. First of all, our service members and their families have risen to the challenge. They've done everything that their countries asked of them throughout the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we're all eternally grateful.
Secondly, the Pentagon and the V.A. are losing the battle on mental and behavioral health conditions that are confronting a lot of our service members, loved ones, and as we just talked about is resulting on such extreme things as suicide.
Secretary Panetta our service members and veterans can't get needed treatment access to needed resource without correct diagnosis. This has been a problem for soldiers in my home state of Washington. At Madigan to date, over 100 soldiers and counting have had their correct PTSD diagnosis restored after being told they were exaggerating their symptoms, lying, and accused of shirking their duties.
So understandably, a lot of our service members trust and confidence in the disability evaluation system has been seriously shaken in the wake of these events. As you know, I have continually raised concerns about the consistency and accuracy of behavioral health evaluations and diagnosis within the entire disability evaluation system, and have offered my recommendations on how to improve the system. And as you also know the Army has taken some critically important steps forward and beginning to address these concerns.
Secretary McHugh has announced a sweeping, comprehensive Army wide review of behavioral diagnosis back to 2001 to correct the errors of the past and to make sure the service members get the care and services that they need and that they deserve.
But I wanted to ask you today, but this is not just an Army disability evaluation system. This is a joint Department of Defense and V.A. program covers all of the services.
So I wanted to ask you why the department has not taken the lead in evaluating in taking the lead to the entire system?
 
 

PANETTA: Senator, we are. What I've asked is the other service chiefs to implement the same approach that the Army's taken here...
 
MURRAY: To go back and go back to 2001 and review all cases?
 
PANETTA: That's correct.
 
MURRAY: Throughout the entire system?
 
PANETTA: That's correct.
 
MURRAY: OK, so they are all following the Army's lead and we are told the evaluation and the progress of that. Who is heading that up?
 
PANETTA: Our undersecretary for personnel and for health care. That's the individual that you need to...
 
MURRAY: I would very much like to be kept inform as all of our members of Congress would. I think this needs to be transparent and clear. We need to make sure that people are accessing the system, getting back if they need it and the only way to get that is to be clear, open and honest with everyone.
So I didn't know we were looking at all of the other services and I would like more information and to be informed on that as soon as possible about how that's taking place and what the timetable is and how that's going to occur.
 
PANETTA: I appreciate your leadership on this, Senator. I'm not satisfied either. I think the misdiagnosis that took place, what's happening in this area between -- we're doing everything we can to try to build a better system between the Pentagon, the Department of Defense and V.A. But there are still huge gaps in terms of the differences in terms of how they approach these cases and how they diagnose the cases and how they deal with them, and frankly, that's a whole area we have to do much better on.
 
MURRAY: You can't imagine what it's like to talk to a soldier who was told he had PTSD, his family was working with him, and then when he went to the disability evaluation system, was told he was a liar or malingerer. He was taken out of it and he went out in the civilian world not being treated. That's a horrendous offense.
You know, I chair -- I am chair of the veterans affairs committee and I held a hearing on the joint disability evaluation system, and I just have to tell you I am really troubled by what with I'm hearing.
Enrollment is continuing to climb, the number of service members cases meeting timeliness goals is unacceptably low, the amount of time it takes to provide benefits to the service member who is transitioning through the system has risen each year since we began this.
In response to these problems we heard from the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs together about how five years after -- five years after the Walter Reed scandal, they are just now beginning to map out business processes to find room for improvement. You know, that's just unacceptable.
The public, all of this really believed this was being taken head-on, that we were dealing with it and five years out. Unacceptable numbers we're seeing.
So I wanted to ask you what you are doing at your level to deal with this, five years into this program and we're still hearing statements from Army leaders about how the disability system is fundamentally flawed, adversarial, and, tell me what I'm going to do.
 
PANETTA: Let me do this. Secretary Shinseki and I have been meeting on a regular basis to try to do what we can to implement improvements and frankly, we're not satisfied either by the progress being made here. Part of it is bureaucratic. Part of it is systems and part of it is the complicated...
 
MURRAY: You can't imagine what it sounds like to hear that.
 
PANETTA: Pardon me?
 
MURRAY: It's bureaucratic. I mean that -- if you're in the system, that's not the word you want to hear.
PANETTA: You know, I see it every day. I'm in charge of a very big bureaucracy. And the fact is that sometimes just the bureaucratic nature of a large departments prevents it from being agile enough to respond and do what needs to be done. And so a large part of this is making sure people are willing to operate out of the box and do what needs to be done in order to improve these systems. What I would offer to you is let Secretary Shinseki and I sit down with you and walk through the steps we're taking to try to see if we can try to shake the system...
 
MURRAY: I really appreciate that commitment. I know you have not been there the entire five years, but I will tell you this, we've been told for five years that the DOD and V.A. are sitting down on a regular basis addressing this.
And I'm talking to soldiers that are stuck in the disability evaluation system. There are bureaucratic delays. The people that are supposed to be helping them they're training them because they've been in the system longer than the trainers that are supposed to work with them. Their families are facing you know horrendous challenges as they try to figure out what the future brings months on end.
You know people at the top are saying that this is fundamentally fudged, you want to hear who the people at the bottom who are in it are saying.
 
PANETTA: Right.
 
MURRAY: I totally appreciate your saying that to me today, but sitting down and talking with Secretary Shinseki is something we've been hearing for a long time. We need some recommendations and we need to move forward and we need to be a top priority out of the Pentagon as we transition now out of Afghanistan, this is not going to get more simple.
Add to that the complexities of now going back and reviewing all of these PTSD and behavioral health cases, you have people who are in the IDES (ph) system right now who are saying what's going to happen to me while you go back and review all these people? Are we putting personnel into deal with this? Or now am I going to take another back seat while we deal with that?
This is complex, it's hard. It's problematic, but it needs every single effort from top to bottom.
 
PANETTA: Listen, I share all of your frustrations, and my job is to make sure that we don't come here with more excuses and that we come here with action.
 
MURRAY: I truly appreciate that comment. I want to work with you. All my efforts are at your disposal. We do a fantastic job of training on you are men and women to go into the service. We still today have not gotten this right in making sure that we transition back home.
We have families and soldiers and Airmen and -- throughout the service who are really stuck in a process they shouldn't be stuck in. We've got to get this right and we've got it get it right now and we need every effort at it and I will sit down with you the minute we tell you you're available, but I want more than a meeting.
 
PANETTA: OK, I agree.
 
###
Matt McAlvanah
Communications Director
U.S. Senator Patty Murray
202-224-2834 - press office
202--224-0228 - direct
 
 
 


:: Article nr. 88858 sent on 15-jun-2012 18:37 ECT

www.uruknet.info?p=88858



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