The cacophony about Iraq is about to take on a shrillness and volume not heard in Washington, or beyond, since the nation was rent in two by the Vietnam War.
The anti-war forces, who take credit for the decline in public and political support for continuing the fight in Iraq, are readying a series of rallies, vigils and other events in a run-up to what they promise will be a massive march from the White House to the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 15.
That is when Gen. David Petraeus is expected to present to President Bush his pivotal report on the success so far of the “surge” Petraeus has commanded in Iraq since February.
Meanwhile, those who believe the war is finally making progress and deserves more time to succeed are raising their voices as well.
Leaders of the two largest veterans organizations — the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars — both recently returned from a look-see in Iraq armed with the conviction that the fight is winnable. A new group, Vets for Freedom, promises its own “pro-mission blitz” for September.
And both sides say they’re preparing for a full-bore lobbying effort on Capitol Hill when Congress returns and takes up measures to set a deadline for troop withdrawal.
Blind and vision-impaired activists have lost patience with the cell-phone industry, which they claim has failed to comply with a federal law that mandates the manufacture and distribution of phones accessible to people with such disabilities. While AT&T has been a leader in this area, most other companies continue to offer phones that are all but unusable by the blind, they contend.
Unless it has an audio component, screen information is useless, while the command keys are essentially indistinguishable by touch. Product manuals and phone bills are often not available in Braille or large print.
Eleven consumers across the country have filed complaints with the Federal Communications Commission asking that the agency enforce the regulations, and more complaints are expected to be lodged in coming weeks.
The effort to preserve hundreds of sites that were key links in the anti-slavery Underground Railroad just got some added fuel when the House recently plunked down $1 million for the National Park Service project. In all, 285 locations in 27 states have been identified as part of the network of abolitionists and others who helped slaves escape the South during the Civil War era.
Backers of the restoration project had wanted $2 million for 2008, while the White House proposed $500,000. The Senate is expected to go along with the House and split the difference.
The Marines have finally unveiled the first revision of their rules governing grooming in about a decade.
Among the new rules: Female leathernecks in Iraq can no longer shave their heads (as some have been doing for comfort and cleanliness reasons), but must leave at least a quarter-inch of hair in place. Women with long hair may not wear it in a bun that is wider than the head or extends more than 3 inches from the scalp, in order not to interfere with wearing a helmet.
No Marine can wear more than one ring per hand, and that one cannot be on the thumb. When in civilian clothes, showing a lot of chest or cleavage is forbidden, and the midriff and buttocks must be covered — in both sexes.
Who better to train U.S. troops in how to investigate criminal groups in Iraq and Afghanistan than veterans of the trenches in the war against organized crime. Such is the thinking behind the Army’s invitation to the Chicago Crime Commission to share its knowledge on investigative techniques, tactical strategies and operating methods. Commission president James Wagner has begun working with a new intelligence unit within the 101st Airborne Division, which is deploying soon to the combat zones from Fort Campbell, Ky.
(E-mail Lisa Hoffman at hoffmanl(at)shns.com.)