Malala Is What The Real War On Women Looks Like

On Friday, 17-year-old Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 for advocating for girls’ education rights in Pakistan, became the youngest person to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize. Malala’s story of perseverance and overcoming unbelievable odds as she continues to fight for children’s and girls’ rights to an education is inspirational and humbling. It is also a reminder of the reality of the truly horrific, real war on women that exists around the world today.

You have probably heard the worn-out rhetoric about the so called “war on women” here in the United States—but not in the context of girls like Malala, women sold into slavery, or women stoned to death. In the United States, that term is used by self-proclaimed women’s rights activists or from politicians looking to cash in on the female vote by portraying their opponents as threatening to take away women’s reproductive control.

This overused scare tactic isn’t only false, but grossly disrespectful of women around the world who face true oppression and cruelty on a daily basis.

Let’s Review Some Real Oppression

Right now, Christian and Yazidi women and children are being sold and traded on the black market in Iraq and Syria by the brutal terrorist organization ISIS (see, for example, this story from Jillian Melchior in Cosmopolitan, of Iraqi’ high schooler Hengi Abdullah’s best friend). These women and children have faced ungodly abuse, including torture and sexual assault. Children are separated from their mothers, women are gang-raped by terrorists, and then often sold for around $10. These women are kidnapped after being displaced because of the Iraq war or separated from their families.

Remember #BringBackOurGirls? It was the popular social media campaign celebrities and concerned people used after hundreds of schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria in April. The media interest in the story died down, but that doesn’t mean the problem went away or that all the well-intentioned tweeting actually brought back anyone. In fact, the status of the kidnapped girls remains a mystery. A few dozen of those originally kidnapped managed to escape, but whereabouts of most of these girls (let alone their health condition and treatment) remain unknown.

In Iran, women still face death sentences by “stoning.” It is a form of capital punishment where a woman is buried up to her chest, then people who have gathered to watch the event throw stones at her—not enough to kill her with the initial blow, but to make it a long, agonizing, and painful death. The initial stone throw is often by the woman’s husband, and followed by her children.

There’s No Comparison to First-World Problems

These stories come in and out of the fickle, U.S. news cycle, but they remain a constant presence and threat to too many women throughout the world every day. This is what the real war on women looks like: It is a day-to-day struggle for survival and to withstand kidnapping, torture, sexual assault, abuse, and oppression.

There is no comparison between what those women face and the “war on women” mantra used here in America. Women in America have equal opportunity and the freedom to pursue anything they choose. All Americans are granted the luxury of freedom and equality; a luxury that most women around the world wish they could experience. Of course, we should continue to work to improve the circumstance of women and girls here at home—make sure they have access to real economic opportunity and quality education. But it’s time we put an end to the ridiculous, over-the-top “war on women” rhetoric.

The war on women is all too real in large portions of the world. Girls like Malala and women who are raped or used as slaves to ISIS are the real victims of this war. It’s time for the Left to stop mocking their sufferings and daily struggle for survival by pretending there is a “war on women” in America.

Originally published at The Federalist
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No More Time to Waste: Bring Home Our Marine Held in Mexico

Today is Sergeant Andrew Tahmooressi’s 186th day in a Mexican jail after being arrested for taking a wrong turn, which took him unknowingly into Mexico. That’s 186 days away from his family, away from everything he knows and loves, but most importantly, away from any form of treatment for his combat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

As with many veterans who have fought for this country, Sergeant Tahmooressi left the war, but it never left him. The battles of war still haunt him. Not because he is weak or fragile or damaged, but because the effects of war are real. Many of our soldiers face this reality so the majority of Americans will never have to experience the horrific burden of war.

Many have had to witness ungodly encounters—hold their fellow service members in their arms as they die; carry small children who have had limbs blown off; hearing and feeling mortars and rockets explode on their base, day in and day out in a war zone—all can trigger lasting memories and suffering from PTSD. While Sergeant Tahmooressi was in Afghanistan he heroically applied a tourniquet to save the life of a fellow Marine whose legs had been severed in an IED blast.

These are the realities of war that our soldiers endure. And they do so voluntarily because they are selfless and put the needs and demands of our nation above their own. They understand that this country represents something greater than self —and that it is worth putting your life on the line for.

Sgt. Tahmooressi proudly did just that. That is why veterans are our nation’s heroes. And that is exactly why they deserve to be respected and taken care of by the nation they sacrificed so much for when they return home. Unfortunately, many are left to navigate a broken Department of Veterans Affairs with little to no help from the agency created to serve them. Many have to wait months, even years to get into the VA system to get the benefits they have earned.

But even worse than battling a broken bureaucracy like the VA is losing the trust of the commander–in-chief who chose to put American lives on the line to rescue a deserter, Bowe Bergdahl, but has yet to pick up the phone and start a dialogue with the president of Mexico to discuss Tahmooressi’s release. In a hearing at the House Foreign Affairs Committee held Wednesday, Tahmooressi’s mother testified that the president had not called her, nor was she aware of any attempt from the president to negotiate her son’s release.

President Obama continues to say that veterans are our nation’s priority—that America leaves no one behind. He made the latter clear when he traded five top-tier Taliban terrorists for Bowe Bergdahl, who willingly walked off the base two months into his first deployment. The consequence of that decision will be paid for in years to come. Make no mistake, American lives are now at risk because of the president’s decision to release terrorists. While we might not witness the consequences today or tomorrow, sooner or later the released Taliban prisoners will continue to plot and coordinate attacks that kill Americans.

President Obama’s inaction with Tahmooressi is inexcusable. He is the commander in chief and it is his duty to act. It is disgraceful that he is picking and choosing when veterans matter and when they don’t. It is derelict leadership to make self-benefiting decisions while ignoring the areas that will yield smaller rewards.

President Obama needs to reevaluate the severity of the situation. Tahmooressi has been in jail for over six months in conditions that he says are worse than his two years in combat in Afghanistan. His suffering intensifies with each day he is incarcerated. In the same House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, his mother testified that in a conversation they had in the early stages of his confinement he said, “Mom, I tried to kill myself because the guards and the inmates were going to rape, torture and eventually execute me for information.”

Sergeant Tahmooressi’s health and well-being are in a dire state. His PTSD needs to be treated as an emergency medical situation. There is no more time to waste.

His release needs to become a priority now. I’m encouraged by reports that Tahmooressi may be released in the next few days, and I hope that they’re true. And if these reports aren’t true, Mr. President, pick up the phone—make the call. No more excuses. The world is watching; bring our Marine home.

Originally published at The Daily Caller

Follow Amber on Twitter: @AmberBarno

CNN: Veterans Panel on Obama’s ISIS Strategy

Shepard Smith, Fox News, Leaked Info Compromises Mission Tactics

 

With information getting leaked about the attempted mission to save James Foley in Syria, many are asking if revealing the information was a good idea. Amber Barno joined Shepard Smith Reporting to explain why families and friends of Foley and the second journalist captured, as well as the Special Operations community should be infuriated. There’s nothing more compromising to the lives of our fighters than telling the enemy what our tactics are.

Amber Barno’s Interview on Iraq in The Daily Signal from The Heritage Foundation

What are your thoughts on the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq?

I think Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq was completely botched. He left behind a weak government and an Iraqi military that was unable to defend itself. Obama’s decision to pull U.S. forces out of Iraq almost instantaneously with no sort of residual force to help them defend their own nation has consequences. There are real-world consequences to messing up the withdrawal as we’re now seeing with the [terrorist group] Islamic State, with their ability to have such significant advances into Iraq.

What about the recent airstrikes against the Islamic State (ISIS)?

The airstrikes are necessary. They’re happening a little late. The delay allowed ISIS to gain strength and momentum in Iraq for months. I don’t think they’re going to necessarily make that much of a difference on the grand scale of things. These are basically just pinprick airstrikes.

Yes, they’re going to take out some equipment here and there, but they’re not going to change the Islamic State’s mission, goals, intentions, etc. It’s basically just momentarily disrupting their freedom to maneuver. It’s temporarily holding them back rather than destroying them. It is a short-term solution to a long-term problem.

Do you think at some point we’ll need boots on the ground in Iraq again?

Right now, with our current leadership, I don’t want to see conventional U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq. That being said, the mission may require that in the future. Right now I’d like to stick to supplying Iraqis with weapons, ammo, and intelligence and basically guiding the Iraqis to fight back.

What is America’s best strategy in Iraq for the near future?

I think they need a coherent, comprehensive air campaign in conjunction with supplying Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga with weapons, ammo, and intelligence to help them fight against the Islamic State and regain control.

As someone who has served, is what’s going on in Iraq disappointing? Are you surprised, saddened?

It is disappointing. Thousands of American soldiers who served in Iraq made life-altering sacrifices. Some came home with physical or invisible wounds that they still have to deal with. It’s disheartening, and now we’re having to deal with the consequences of an early, too soon, withdrawal. The withdrawal was not managed properly.

“Thousands of American soldiers who served in Iraq made life-altering sacrifices,” says @AmberBarno.

The president was more concerned with a rapid withdrawal than ensuring all we fought for in Iraq was preserved. To see that and almost a decade of work, lives, and sacrifices put into Iraq be swept away in a few months of ISIS coming in and grasping control, it is extremely frustrating to watch that.

Read the full article here: The Daily Signal

House-passed VA compromise isn’t a cure-all

Monday marked a significant day in Washington politics, when self-proclaimed socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and longtime conservative veteran supporter Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) reached a compromise on the issue of veteran health care. With only one week left before the looming August recess, lawmakers struck a deal. Two days later, the $17 billion VA reform bill passed the House 420-5. But sadly this legislation doesn’t go far enough to address the real problems in our Veterans’ Affairs health system.

The bill would allow veterans to have private healthcare options under certain conditions and would allow for the firing or demotion of Senior Executive Service (SES) employees who are not performing to standard. These are positive changes, but this proposed legislation is not a cure-all for the plagued VA system.

First, veterans would have the option to seek private healthcare if the VA is unable to provide an appointment within 30 days, or if the veteran lives greater than 40 miles from the nearest VA medical facility. Veterans would be provided a “Veterans’ Choice Card” that would allow them to receive medical care at the expense of the VA.

$10 billion of the $17 billion allotted in this bill would go to a fund called the “Veterans Choice Fund” that would cover the payments of the private healthcare costs. This is a crucial part of the VA reform bill. Obviously, veterans deserve a better option when the VA cannot provide medical care in a timely manner or within a reasonable distance.

Second, the bill would allow the VA to have the authority to fire top-level SES employees if they are failing to meet the standard of the job or are participating in any form of misconduct. Currently, it is almost impossible to fire or demote people in these SES positions. This is not just a VA issue, but a problem in any federal agency.

If an SES employee gets demoted or fired, he has the option of a 21-day appeals process. If a decision is not made within the allotted 21-day time period, the initial recommendation of employment termination or demotion is approved. This is a much-needed change that will help bring an accountability culture back to the VA.

While both of these measures are steps in the right direction, the Sanders-Miller deal does not do enough to address how the overall VA culture is going to change. How is the VA going to become more transparent to prevent gaming the system, secret wait lists, ghost clinics, and retaliation against whistleblowers? This latest bill could be yet another short-term “solution” to a long-term problem of veterans’ access to health care.

A real solution would offer private healthcare options to veterans without stipulations, but this bill imposes many limitations: Private options will only be available under certain circumstances, and only to veterans who are enrolled in the VA healthcare system by August 1, 2014 or a veteran who will separate from service in the future (after August 1, 2014). This leaves out any veteran who has chosen previously to avoid the failures and frustrations of the VA.

And Friday’s enrollment deadline is almost a joke: Can the bureaucracy at the VA possibly process any paperwork by then? This leaves almost no time to inform current veterans of the change. (Compare that to ObamaCare enrollment deadlines, which were consistently delayed in efforts to enroll more people in coverage. Apparently, our vets don’t get that privilege.)

If the goal of this bill is to provide the best care for veterans, why does that only apply to certain veterans? Why punish those vets who refused to use the VA in the past (possibly for justified fears of bad treatment)? This bill is just another way to protect the VA bureaucracy and deny veterans from receiving the best care without extensive wait times.

Furthermore, this bill makes the common government-minded mistake of simply throwing money ($17 billion) at the problem. The VA has never had a funding problem; it has seen an increase in funding of almost 60 percent since 2009. No amount of money given to the VA will solve its problems without a clearly defined strategy to change the structure and culture of the program.

It is refreshing to see members of Congress working together and having the ability to compromise, but this bill is clearly an attempt to smooth over a recent set of scandals with policy tweaks. Veterans would be better served by real, meaningful reforms. We must get VA reform right once and for all, rather than turning our backs on a system that will continue to fail our nation’s veterans.

Originally published at Red Alert Politics

Follow Amber on Twitter: @AmberBarno

Ex-Army Chopper Pilot Amber Barno: ‘We Want to See Real Change’ at VA

By Lauretta Brown

(CNSNews.com) – Former Army helicopter pilot and Iraq war veteran Amber Barno says the scandal at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) calls for “a new reformed VA that’s going to help veterans,” not just “another piece of legislation that isn’t going to fix the VA.”
“We want to see real change,” Barno, who is now a military advisor at Concerned Veterans for America (CVA), told CNSNews.com.

She added that she has high expectations for the new conference committee that is trying to iron out the differences between VA reform legislation passed by the House and the Senate before Congress goes into recess.

Those expectations include “clear” standards of care for veterans and increased ability to fire VA managers who do not meet them.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that such an overhaul of the military veterans’ health care system would cost $35 billion.

“I think that the VA scandal is outrageous and really upsetting, as a veteran myself,” Barno told CNSNews.com.

“I think that the VA conference committee that’s going on right now, they really need to, before it gets to the president’s desk, it really needs to have very strict and straightforward language in it to make sure that there’s no loopholes moving forward that the VA can use, especially when it comes to private care and wait times in terms of basically what goes in to a veteran being able to receive private care because of a long wait time or too far a difference from or distance to a facility.

“So it needs to say 21 days or 60 miles or less. That’s what I would like to see come out of the VA select committee and hopefully legislation moving forward.”

“We want to see real change. We don’t want to see just another piece of legislation that isn’t going to fix the VA. And that’s what we want to see here is a new, reformed VA that’s going to help veterans,” Barno concluded.

Barno echoed the open letter CVA CEO Pete Hegseth sent to the VA Conference Committee last Thursday which stated that “the final legislation must both aggressively address VA’s systemic problems and shield reforms from VA bureaucratic sabotage.”

CVA stipulated provisions that should be included in the final legislation, including the establishment of “clear, independent, and automatic wait time and geographic standards for seeking private care,” “timely reimbursement payments,” and “real accountability.”

CVA stated that the “bill must reflect clear standards—no more than 21 days or 60 or less miles—to define what constitutes excessive wait times, or excessive travel, for VA care.”
“A core aspect of this reform is the ability for poor VA managers to be promptly removed for cause,” the letter said. “Any effort to further dilute accountability measures must be resisted; and final language should hew closely to the House accountability language.”

Read more at CNS.com