On March 1, 2003, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was created, as a cabinet level department of the U.S. Government.
Independent Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman has been the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs since early 2007, when the Senate was reorganized in recognition of the 2006 election results. The committee, which has six subcommittees, has been criticized since the beginning of Lieberman's term as chair for not investigating a number of events that seem to fall under its purview. Most notably, in 2006 Lieberman - while running desperately as the head of Connecticut For Lieberman Party, in a successful bid to keep his Senate seat - promised to investigate why Bush's administrators "could.... have left us with so many of those agencies so unprepared that when Katrina struck too many of them ran around like “Keystone Cops,” uncertain about what they were supposed to do, or unable to do it?"
But when Lieberman took up the committee's gavel, he dropped investigative plans:
"The senator believes a more productive use of his time and that of his staff is to make sure legislative fixes are implemented and ensure that a response to a future catastrophe is better," Philips said. "The senator feels the American public has already concluded that the White House response was sorely lacking. Rather than take on the White House and open an old fight, he believes he can be more productive by moving forward."
Since Lieberman has taken over this committee, a lot of egregious problems having an adverse impact upon American long-term homeland security have come to light. Lieberman hasn't sought to investigate any of them:
• The Bush administration's Katrina responseHere's how a commenter at Crooks & Liars posed a question to Lieberman's committee:
• The continuing award of contracts to defense contractors who routinely steal millions from U.S. taxpayers
• Why the anthrax investigation led nowhere
• Huge cost overruns on the so-called border security system on the U.S.-Mexican border
• The hounding of Jewish and non-fundamentalist Christian soldiers by fundamentalists-in-uniform, leading to a number of suicides and AWOL cases
• How the dismal state of U.S. health care infrastructure leaves us insecure
Why wasn't Bush impeached for lying about the Niger "yellowcake?" Why wasn't Cheney indicted for outing Valorie Plame? Why wasn't Bush impeached for lying about WMD's? Why wasn't Cheney indicted for shooting his hunting partner in the face... while DRUNK? Why wasn't Turdblossem indicted for politicizing the Justice department? Why wasn't the Republican Party investigated for SCAMMING the Ohio vote in 2004? Why weren't Cheney and Rumsfeld indicted for authorizing TORTURE in Army prisons? Joe, WHERE WERE YOU when all that was going on?
II. On October 18th, Salon's Glenn Greenwald wrote a column - part of a series - about the observations of Davide Rohde, the New York Times reporter who had been a prisoner of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan for seven months. Greenwald observes that Rohde wasn't ill-treated by his captors (as some Americans certainly have been):
Rohde explains that the Taliban automatically believe that journalists -- especially American journalists -- are spies. Despite that belief, the Taliban never waterboarded him, never hung him naked in a cold room to induce hypothermia, never stuffed him in a coffin-like box as punishment, never deprived him of sleep to the point of severe disorientation, and instead adhered to their commitment regarding "the good treatment of prisoners." We might want to think about what that means about us. That many of the Taliban are inhumane, brutal and barbaric extremists only underscores that point further.
Rohde himself observed about the first weeks of his captivity:
For the next several nights, a stream of Haqqani commanders overflowing with hatred for the United States and Israel visited us, unleashing blistering critiques that would continue throughout our captivity.
Some of their comments were factual. They said large numbers of civilians had been killed in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Palestinian territories in aerial bombings. Muslim prisoners had been physically abused and sexually humiliated in Iraq. Scores of men had been detained in Cuba and Afghanistan for up to seven years without charges.
To Americans, these episodes were aberrations. To my captors, they were proof that the United States was a hypocritical and duplicitous power that flouted international law.
When I told them I was an innocent civilian who should be released, they responded that the United States had held and tortured Muslims in secret detention centers for years. Commanders said they themselves had been imprisoned, their families ignorant of their fate. Why, they asked, should they treat me differently?
Rohde himself is now free. At Guantanamo, Bagram, Diego Garcia and secret locations, Americans are detaining hundreds of people without charges.
III. Here's Lieberman on FAUX News Sunday morning:
More soldiers committed suicide at Fort Hood over the past 50 days than were killed by Maj. Hasan. Lieberman's characterization of this seems to connect a lot of dots that just aren't there:
But what we do know on the record from third parties reporting over the last two or three years — that he made a series of statements justifying suicide bombing, comparing it to the bravery of an American soldier who would throw himself on a grenade to protect his colleagues, that he said that — well, he shouted out, according to bystanders at that — while killing the other day at Fort Hood, the words Allah Akbar, an expression of faith in Islam which the Islamist extremists have corrupted. And the fact that he did that at the moment of these murders — if that’s confirmed, of course — raises genuine concerns that this was a terrorist act. I will add to this, Chris, this is not the first attempt by Islamist extremists to strike at American military bases. We’ve broken up plots to go after Fort Dix, Quantico Marine base in Virginia. In fact, the one successful, if I can put it that way, terrorist act that was done in recent years was the individual in Little Rock, Arkansas who walked into an Army recruiting station and killed a recruiter. And there is testimony that Dr. Hasan actually said that he understood that and supported that act.
Glenn Greenwald wrote this past Friday about how inaccurate the initial reporting on the shooting was. This is understandable. Greenwald observes, however, that:
.... having the major media "report" completely false assertions as fact can be quite harmful. It's often the case that perceptions and judgments about stories like this solidify in the first few hours after one hears about it. The impact of subsequent corrections and clarifications pale in comparison to the impressions that are first formed. Despite that, one false and contradictory claim after the next was disseminated last night by the establishment media with regard to the core facts of the attack.
To Lieberman's credit, he has promised not to let his committee get in the way of military and police investigations into the Ft. Hood tragedy. He's such a vile opportunities, though, I can't imagine him letting this go. It plays toward so many of his themes, especially the perfidy of Islam.
IV. It is a bit eery that Alaska journalist and author Dahr Jamail addressed aspects of the unravelling of our armed forces and the deepening morale problems among members of combat units, on two Alaska radio programs this past week - one before the Ft. Hood attack, one yesterday.
On November 3rd, Jamail was on Alaska Public Radio Network's Talk of Alaska. He carefully recounted the layers of stress our combat troops are fighting and living under. He observed that the percentage of American troops fighting while under prescription for psychotropic drugs is in the double digits, both in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the percentage of unfit soldiers being called back to duty is rising under the Obama administration, not falling.
I believe Jamail hit upon more of the reasons terribly unbalanced people like Maj. Hasan finally become totally unhinged than will Lieberman. That came out even more fully Saturday evening, when Jamail was the guest on KBYR's Shannyn Moore Program. Here's my transcription of a key part of what was an excellent interview:
Moore (referring to Jamail's APRN interview on the 3rd): There were a couple of things that you said that seemed almost prophetic, in light of this week's shooting. One of the things that you talked about that has ben so striking for me was that every single day, among our United States veterans, 18 of them take their own lives.
Jamail: It's shocking That's actually according to the Veterans Administration. It was obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.....
There have been other incidents like this at Ft. Hood. There've been incidents of soldiers killing other soldiers, even within the past few years, just one at a time....
[What happened at Ft. Hood] is really a microcosm of how the repeated deployments, the stress on the soldiers, people not getting the care they need while they're in the military, certainly not when they get out - Ft. Hood, for example, is a base that averages , so far this year, over ten suicides every single month.
This situation last Friday, this incredible, horrific tragedy, is just another crack in the edifice of a crumbling structure that is the U.S. military that can't bear the weight of two occupations, one of them escalating by the day.
Moore: .... If 18 Americans a day take their own lives, and if we're looking at within the past year, by your account, 120 at Ft. Hood have taken their own lives, and when something as horrific as happened this past week, we're all in this swoon position, like "My GOD! - how could this have happened?" - when it's been a slow drip every single day.
Jamail: Right, I agree with everything you just said, except that it's a fast drip every single day. The spigot is open.
In addition to the statistic you talked about, in line with that, according to the Veterans Administration, every single month 1,000 veterans that are technically under the auspices of care of the VA are attempting suicide. Every single month.....
This is really the final desperate act of a veteran that desperately needs help, desperately needs counseling, desperately needs treatment for PTSD. Instead, we see in Iraq, 12% of all the combat troops are on psychotropic medications, and 17% of all the troops in Afghanistan are on psychotropic medications.
We're seeing people already being diagnosed with severe depression and PTSD and other physical and mental conditions that should make them non-deployable, in fact that DOES list them as non-deployable. But as of last year, more than 43,000 troops that fall into that category that list them as mentally unfit for deploying have been deployed anyway. And these numbers are increasing.
Moore: You know, there was this big rumor that we were going to have "change," that with the changing of the guard with Obama coming in, with George Bush and the "chicken hawks" going out, that we were actually going to be able to get a handle on this. And - I'm sorry - I don't feel the love here, I don't feel the change. Can you talk me off the ledge, or is like, you know, you're not feeling it either?
Jamail: No, I'm on the ledge with you. Obama is the "good cop," following up after "bad cop" Bush. The only change I've seen so far is someone who can speak in complete sentences, is charismatic and articulate It's nice to have a president that can do these things, but beyond that, the only real change we've seen, at least on my beat of covering the Middle East, is a massive escalation in Afghanistan. In Iraq, there's no change. We've only seen a minor drawdown of about 10,000 troops. There are still about 124,000 troops in Iraq as we speak.
Jamail goes on to discuss in detail the kinds of neglect our troops continue to suffer under the Obama administration.
V. Between when I began writing this article four hours ago and now, Joe Lieberman's proposal to investigate the Ft. Hood shootings has gone from way down the Yahoo news story list to the top.
Will Lieberman increase our homeland security by taking care of our troops and veterans? Of course not.
Will he use his hearings to look into the dangerously rising religiosity of troops other than Muslim ones? Of course he won't.
Will he use his hearings to coordinate actions with FAUX News and others, leading toward further hatred of Americans in the Muslim world? Most likely.
Will he use these hearings to beg further for a crazy war against Iran? Maybe.
Jeffrey Goldberg wrote an interesting post this morning at The Atlantic on aspects of this. It concludes:
I do think that elite makers of opinion in this country try very hard to ignore the larger meaning of violent acts when they happen to be perpetrated by Muslims. Here's a simple test: If Nidal Malik Hasan had been a devout Christian with pronounced anti-abortion views, and had he attacked, say, a Planned Parenthood office, would his religion have been considered relevant as we tried to understand the motivation and meaning of the attack? Of course. Elite opinion makers do not, as a rule, try to protect Christians and Christian belief from investigation and criticism. Quite the opposite. It would be useful to apply the same standards of inquiry and criticism to all religions.
Goldberg has been fair in the way he has condemned the Christianity-based anti-Semitism of Mel Gibson, for instance, or in characterizing the kind of hatred exemplified by young Israeli Jews toward Obama, as uncovered by Max Blumenthal last spring.
Both Robert Greenwald and Jeffrey Goldberg have been good at calling the American press to account when they get carried away on a tangent, like the one Sen. Joe Lieberman is about to take us upon. I'm sure that Greenwald's articles on this will be among the best, as will those from the many writers at the blog firedoglake.
Let us hope that the American press deals responsibly with the circus Lieberman is surely dreaming of putting on for us this coming year, as he finally holds hearings at the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.