Friday, July 24, 2009

Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie in Damascus

That's Angelina Jolie, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, in Syria.

I read a lot of snark today about Angelina's visit. She's a movie star!

I believe many of their Goodwill Ambassadors are.

The first time I saw Audrey Hepburn was some footage after she died. I was a kid, I have no idea how old. I don't think it was the news, I think it was one of those specials on Biography or something similar.

But I had no idea who she was and walked into the room at the last part of the story.

There was Audrey Hepburn with all those children. Helping all those children.

I thought then she was the most beautiful woman I'd seen.

My parents thought I would love to see her in a film then. So they rented Charade and we watched it and I thought she was pretty but she's beautiful when she's helping the children. She has a glow in footage and photos where she's on a Goodwill mission. She looks tired sometimes and too thin but she still looks so beautiful.

I think it's because it meant so much to her.

And I see something similar with Angelina. She looks so much more real and so much more attractive (and she's a beautiful woman in film) when she's doing a Goodwill mission.

Instead of attacking her, I don't know why people can't be happy that she's doing some real good with her life?

She doesn't have to. She's rich. She's got her own children. She's got her own life. So the fact that she goes out there and does something additional seems like something to give her credit for.

And something as important as refugees?

I have a lot of respect for her.


This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, July 24, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, Nouri makes a public statement the press treats like his little secret, the KRG gears up for the vote, Angelina Jolie visits Iraq, 7 US soldiers wounded on July 12th and that news comes from a regional US paper and not M-NF or a big news outlet, and more.
Today the US military announced: "BAGHDAD – A Multi-National Division–Baghdad Soldier died, July 24, of non-combat related injuries in eastern Baghdad. The Soldier's name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin. The names of the service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense Official Website at http://www.defenselink.mil/ . The announcements are made on the Website no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. MND-B will not release any additional details prior to notification of next of kin and official release by the DoD. The incident is currently under investigation." The announcement brings to 4328 the number of US service members killed in the Iraq War.

That number is not a complete count. Trejo Rivas just passed away and he was a veteran of the Afghanistan War and the Iraq War. It was in Iraq that a mortart attack October 12, 2006. As Sig Christenson (San Antonio-Express) explained Tuesday, "Retired Army Reserve Lt. Col. Raymond Trejo Rivas died Wednesday in San Antonio after battling to recover from head injuries suffered nearly three years ago. He was 53." Meanwhile John Hacker (Carthage Press) speaks with Isaac "Jerry" Conway who explains "his grandson, U.S. Army Spec. David Conway II, was injured in the Iraqi city of Sharqat when an improvised explosive device exploded near him while he was leaving a meeting with local officials. Also injured were six other American soldiers and two Iraqi civilians working with the soldiers." Conway says the incident took place July 12th. I'm not doubting Conway, but I am noting M-NF never noted it. They did have time, however, the day after, to issue a release about "Facebook, [and] other social media." Priorities. Yesterday Nouri al-Maliki announced US forces might stay in Iraq past 2011. And who noted it? Margaret Talev's "Iraq's Maliki raises possibility of asking U.S. to stay on" (McClatchy Newspapers) may shock some readers since McClatchy is the only newspaper outlet covering it. It's not because it just emerged or emerged late. The comments are noted in yesterday's snapshot. It's not ignored because it's not newsworthy. Three outlets rushed to print articles yesterday morning on the topic . . . when they claimed all US troops would be out in 2011. (See yesterday's entry.) It's only not news when it doesn't agree with their outlets spin purposes.

To recap, when you can pimp the lie that all US troops will be out of Iraq in 2011 (and, apparently, pimp yourself as a psychic who can tell the future), you run with it and call it news. When Nouri al-Maliki publicly, in front of a crowd, declares not-so-fast, you duck your head and pretend it didn't happen. Anne Gearan covers al-Maliki's remarks for AP.
Though most of the broadcast media ignores the Iraq War (and much of the print media), there are many news items related to and coming out of Iraq. It's Friday, so smart news consumers knew there was a good chance The Diane Rehm Show would cover the Iraq War -- the only program to do so regularly. Diane's on vacation. Steve Roberts filled in for her today. The panelists for the second (international news) hour were: The Financial Times' Daniel Dombey, Washington Post's David Hoffman and CNN's Elise Labott.
Steve Roberts: Let's talk about a neighboring country, Iraq, and, David Hoffman, Prime Minister Maliki in Washington this week. Interestingly, not only in talks with President Obama but also talking a lot about the economy of Iraq -- an issue we don't hear a lot about, but trying to drum up interest among American investors and entrepreneurs. Give us your take on his visit.
David Hoffman: Well I actually thought the most interesting thing was the president pledged to help get rid of these UN sanctions. You know, Iraq still has to pay billions of dollars to Kuwait in reparations. If they get some of that money back, that will help them and, you know, I think when Mal-Maliki goes home from Washington, it's going to look grimmer on the ground there. There's a big election coming in Kurdistan, it's very important. The parties that have led Kurdistan are being challenged by an upstart party. I think Kurdistan is the real new frontline, the real flashpoint, in potential sectarian tensions in Iraq so Maliki's country's not all together yet.
Steve Roberts: Uh, well you mentioned, there are several issue here including, in his conversation with President Obama, the whole issue of the deadline of withdrawal of American troops. What did we learn?
David Hoffman: Well, I think, you know, we're committed to the deadline but what's going to happen is the deadline is going to be tested and it was just tested this morning. There's going be firefights and there are going to be military conflicts involving all these rules and deadlines and those things, you know, they're very, very sensitive and volatile.
Steve Roberts: Uh, talk Daniel, about this sense of national unity. David raises this issue of Kurdistan. Over weeks now, there's been increasing assertions of independence on the part of Kurdistan leaders, there's a huge fight over the status of Kirkuk, an oil-rich area. Is Iraq holding together? Is-is there a real threat to its national unity hear.
Daniel Dombey: I think both are true. Iraqi is holding-holding together to the moment but the Kirkuk is-is the biggest unsolved problem of-of Iraq -- not least because of the oil revenue but also because of Kurds who have come in and Turkmens who were there before. But I think just to look at Maliki's visit, I think that you need to bear two things in mind. This is a cold relationship rather like the relationship with [Hamid] Karzai and if you looked at some of President Obama's comments where he talked about wanting an Iraq where everyone could thrive -- Shia, Sunni and Kurds -- it didn't take a genius, it didn't take a Sherlock Holmes, to see that the US worries that Maliki could be a bit more of a narrow sectarian than it would like. There's that tension there. There's also a little bit of tension about how much freedom of maneuver the US military has following the June the 30th pull-out. And I wonder Iraq's economic situation is hard. There biggest thing is oil. They had a big auction to-to sell out rights to eight big oil fields uh in, near Basra. Only one of those went through that seems to be renegotiated -- it still -- the British are kind of less keen than they were. They're not getting the investors they need at a time that the oil price is going down. They need oil and money to grease the wheels to make Iraq a more coherent place.
Elise Labot: Part of the issue has been that there hasn't been enough national reconciliation in the country and the issue is part of the reason for the surge was not just -- in 2007 -- was not just to improve security but it was to give the political space for more reconciliation and that never happened. And the kind of grand constitutional bargain and the concessions that were necessary to make that were never completed. So what President Obama was saying to Maliki: "You need to do this, you need to not only include Sunnis into the political process but you need to, uhm, settle some of these issues with the Kurds." And Maliki said to him: "We need your help on doing this. We understand that there will be a military disengagement but it can't be a political disengagement because Iraq has a lot more challenges that not only are of sectarian nature but go to the whole future of the country. Is the power going to be in the central government? Is it going to be in the provinces? Who's going to be in control over the oil and the natural resources? I mean, these are major issues that the Iraqis are going to have to resolve and they are looking for the United States in many ways to help mediate these.
Steve Roberts: Well there were stories this week about this pact or protocol that was apparently signed with Sunnis in Turkey, what was that all about?
David Hoffman: It's not really clear. But there were two meetings between Americans and representatives of the Sunni insurgency that were held in Turkey. It's really -- the third meeting is the mystery. Why didn't it happen? It was scheduled. The Americans didn't come. There's some signs of some disenchantment maybe, that this wasn't really a very good channel or it wasn't working. But I do think it's at least an indicator that reconciliation's got to be the goal.
During listener feedback, a panelist completely blew it. He had no idea what he was speaking of.
Steve Roberts: Let me read some e-mails from some of our listeners. This is Randall in Cincinatti: "With the death toll rising in Afghanistan, I want to know where the anti-war groups that were protesting during the Bush administration -- the anti-war movement was seen and heard daily during the few years but they seem to have disappeared in mainstream media since Obama was elected. Could it be these were just anti-Bush groups posing as anti-war groups?" What do you think?
David Hoffman: Well I think, also, you know Obama did endorse deadlines, troops have pulled back, violence has gone down in Iraq, that may play a big part.
When we noted the Iraq portion of The Diane Rehm Show on Fridays, there are things said by panelists I disagree with. If it's not called out by another guest, the issue is, can the person's remarks be seen? Could someone look at the facts and conclude as the panelist did? If it's an opinion, it can go in. But if someone is just factually wrong, we need to call it out. So we will. David didn't know what the hell he was talking about. Obama endorsed deadlines? You mean the June 30th 'pull-out'? You mean the draw down? You mean the supposed 2011 departure? If that's what you mean, you mean Obama "endrosed" Bush's "deadlines" because those 'deadlines' are Bush's. Those are from the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement which replaced the UN mandate (that Bush didn't want to renew) and which required a full-on push from the US government to pass through Parliament (with a huge number of Iraqi MPs skipping the vote) on Thanksgivng day in 2008. What was being asked was a fair question. More than fair.

And the honest answer, which Randall wasn't given, was that a large number of the 'anti-war' groups were nothing but anti-Bush groups -- and, more importantly, anti-Bush groups who existed to put Democrats into office. They weren't about ending the Iraq War. Look at MoveOn, for example. These were not real peace groups -- which is why they preferred the title "anti-war." These were not groups concerned with ending the illegal war. Their answer, over and over, check those stupid MoveOn e-mails from that time period, were: Stop the Iraq War by voting Democrats into office! That was all they had to offer. That and a few pathetic 'candle light vigils.' Randall asked a fair question and he didn't get a fair answer.
Randall would have been better served if the panelists had said nothing except, "Read Peter Feaver (Foreign Policy). He raises that issue:
That got me wondering: would those folks (say the mainstream Bob Woodward or Tom Ricks, let alone other people in the nuttier fringes of the Bush-bashing chorus) who established a cottage industry lambasting Bush Administration rhetoric as "happy talk" rise up and start calling a foul on President Obama? President Bush regularly caveated his statements of progress with reminders that there were "tough days ahead" and, if memory serves, Rumsfeld was the guy who coined "long, hard slog." In their coverage of Bush, sometimes the reporters would include mention of the caveats and qualify their lede accordingly; sometimes the reporters would include mention of the caveats and yet stick to a "happy talk" lede; and sometimes the reporters would simply omit any mention of the caveats, perhaps the better to advance the "happy talk" lede. Regardless of how many times President Bush presented carefully caveated assessments, the Bush-bashers could always rest their indictment on one or two off-the-cuff uncaveated remarks.
They could have also steered Randall to independent journalist John Pilger who holds both administrations accountable and was on KPFA's Flashpoints yesterday delivering a speech media and empire and covering for Obama, "The Rise of Barack Obama and the Silencing of Much of the Left." For the record, Elise Labott stuck to Afghanistan and stuck to her opinion based on facts. (This isn't the Afghanistan snapshot so we're not excerpting.) Daniel Dombey stuck to Afghanistan. (And was grossly wrong -- protests continue in England against the Afghanistan War including last week and it's damn stupid to use the pre-Iraq War global protest, if that's what Dombey wants to argue, as a measure. That was the largest global protest. And it was against the impending Iraq War -- not the Afghanistan War.) Adil E. Shamoo and Bonnie Bricker (Foreign Policy In Focus) explain, "Parliament members are afraid to attend meetings. Iraq's nascent economy is deteriorating. Hundreds of armed militias are ready to fight for their own interests. This is Iraq today." They also address the SOFA:
The current deterioration in Iraq has made advisors and pundits (many of whom supported the initial invasion) fearful of pulling out U.S. troops. The misleading terms of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) means U.S. troops are more involved than expected. The terms of the SOFA called for withdrawal of troops from the cities, for example, but the city limit lines were drawn within previous borders of the cities, allowing troops to be positioned in what was once considered part of the city.
David was completely wrong. It's a shame that a peace activist wasn't able to call in.
Well, it's shame that a peace activist with a brain wasn't able to call in and know what she was talking about.
Steve Roberts: And Ann in Washington, DC, welcome, you're on The Diane Rehm Show. Ann?

Ann: Oh, yes. Uhm . . .
Steve Roberts: You're on the air, please go ahead.
Ann: Thank you. I'm a member and have worked for the A.N.S.W.E.R. coalition which is anti-war colation for the last seven years. It isn't a question of who is in the White House. I personally support President Obama except when it comes to Afghanistan and whatever support he still gives to Israeli initiatives, um. I think you will be seeing more anti-war, um, protests as time goes on because the money we're spending in Iraq and the money we give to Israel could be better spent at home for jobs and health care and education.
What a load of garbage. "I personally support President Obama"? If you support him on Iraq -- which you are saying you do -- then you support 2008 George W. Bush on Iraq because Barack -- pay attention -- isn't doing what he supposedly promised while campaigning, he's instead embraced and is following Bush's Iraq timetable and SOFA. The same SOFA, you grasp this, stupid idiot, that Barack was calling out while campaigning for the nomination and then the presidency. Yeah, Barack called it out, said it was wrong, said it shouldn't go through and he wouldn't let it. But what's he doing? He's doing just what Bush did. But you "personally support" him. If that's typical A.N.S.W.E.R. membership, the peace movement's in a lot more trouble than any of us realize. We're going to move right into an excerpt from from Debra Sweet's "A Proposal for Actions Against (Obama's) War and Torture" (World Can't Wait) because the peace movement is in disarray:

We've put out a proposal for actions in early October, including Monday October 5 in Washington DC for actions at the White House & Congress, and a national day of resisting the recruiters in high schools Tuesday, October 6.

After networking and consulting with other organizations and leaders, the World Can't Wait Steering Committee will meet on August 1 to finalize fall plans. We want your input. Please take the survey
here by July 31. Or write me about the questions below...or what is on your mind.

1. Do you feel the controversy over the Obama administration not prosecuting anyone involved in torture has changed the political climate in this country? If so, how so? If not, why not?

2. What do you think of Obama's expansion of the war in Afghanistan? Why? Do others you know agree or disagree? How much has that war been successfully re-branded as the "good war"?
3. In the past few months has your opinion of Obama changed? Favorably or unfavorably? Why? How about people you know?
4. After reading the October 5/6th proposal what do you think is possible for these days of resistance? What do you think is necessary? What is your vision of protest for those days?

Your input is needed! Please complete
this survey by July 31 to feed into our discussions on August 1. To make all this possible, send along a donation, or become a sustainer 4RealChange.
Adil E. Shamoo and Bonnie Bricker (Foreign Policy In Focus) explain, "Parliament members are afraid to attend meetings. Iraq's nascent economy is deteriorating. Hundreds of armed militias are ready to fight for their own interests. This is Iraq today." Joe Piasecki (Pasadena Weekly) points out that Tuesday was "day 2,313 of the war in Iraq". While A.N.S.W.E.R.'s Ann isn't at all worried about the Iraq War, Angelina Jolie declared yesterday, "There are still three million people displaced, innocent families," she added. "We have still many young men and women from our country who are fighting every day, there are men and women from all countries who have lost their lives, and this is a time to try to make some positive change." Angelina is the UNHCR's Goodwill Ambassador and made her third trip to Iraq yesterday. The above statement by her appears in CNN's coverage. The San Francisco Chronicle quotes her stating, "There are some changes. There are returns of displaced people, not a big number, but there is progress. This is a moment where things seem to be improving on the ground, but Iraqis need a lot of support and help to rebuild their lives."
As Angelina noted, the returnees are "not a big number." The displaced is composed of targeted populations. A large number of Iraq's external refugees are Iraqi Christians. Deutsche Welle reports Baghdad's "Archbishop Jean Benjamin Sleiman told Deutsche Welle that his country is slipping into a state of anarchy, and that the government has no control of the violence within its borders. In Germany he has spoken out against attacks on seven churches in Iraq, which killed four people and injured some 30 others." AINA reports Congressional Religous Minorities co-chairs, US House Reps Anna Eshoo and Frank Wolf have written the following letter to Nouri al-Maliki on the continued attacks on Iraq's Christian community:
It was with great sadness that we read recent accounts of targeted church bombings in Iraq. Reuters reported on July 12 that, "Bombs exploded outside five Christian churches in Baghdad on Sunday, in apparently coordinated attacks that killed four people and wounded more than 30." The New York Times reported that the bombings "appeared to be one of the largest single coordinated assaults against churches and Christians in Baghdad."
As co-chairs of the Congressional Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus, we have long been concerned about the plight ofIraq's ethno-religious communities including the ancient Chaldo-Assyrian Christian community. We have written numerous letters to our own government urging that there be a comprehensive policy to address the unique needs of these vulnerable minorities. U.S. Ambassador Chris Hill has indicated that the security ofthe Christian community is one of his paramount concerns, and we hope his attitude signals a willingness to develop a programmatic approach to dealing with this matter. When the new deputy assistant secretary for Near Eastern Affairs assumes this post at the end ofthe month, we will meet to discuss solutions to the problems faced by ethno-religious minorities in Iraq.
Our ongoing commitment to alleviating this situation is shared by many of our colleagues in the United States Congress. Two weeks ago, the House of Representatives approved $20 million in funding dedicated toward religious minorities in Iraq. This funding is intended to support a range of programs such as security, economic development, health care enhancement and democratization programs primarily in the Nineveh Plain region. Bipartisan congressional support for these minority faith communities remains strong.
We understand that it is your desire to see Iraqi refugees return to the land of their birth. We share this hope. But news analysis following the bombings indicates that Christians who were contemplating returning will understandably reconsider given the fear gripping their community in the wake of the attacks.
As the U.S. presence in Iraq draws down, the burden for protecting these ancient faith communities rests increasingly with Iraqi forces. Increased security at Christian places of worship and an investigation into who is behind these most recent attacks will send a powerful signal that your government is committed to preserving and protecting Iraq's ethno-religious minorities.
For those late the July 12 bombings, The Catholic Leader recaps and quotes Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni stating: "We cry: Why? Why? What is our fault? That we are Christians?" In June 2006, shortly after Nouri al-Maliki was installed by the US as prime minister, the Green Zone was almost breached and it was a frightening time for al-Maliki and American leadership. In the frenzy following that, al-Maliki was advocating (as were some lower in the US military brass) that trenches be dug around Baghdad, that the answer for Baghdad was "moats." Those late to the party can see Edward Wong's "Iraqis Plan to Ring Baghdad With Trenches" (New York Times, September 16, 2006). We bring that up for a reason. The waterless moats are back as a proposal. International Christian Concern advises that they have "learned that Iraqi Security forces are building trenches to protect Christians from further attacks following recent church bombings that killed four people and wounded several others. Iraqi officials are stepping up protective measures for Christians in the largely Christian towns of Tilkaif and Hamdaniya, in the northern province of Nineveh. The trenches come in the wake of a spate of bomb attacks against seven Iraqi churches on July 11 and 12 in the cities of Baghdad and Mosul." They quote Project Director of the Iraq Sustainable Democracy Project Michael Youash stating, "These trenches will require people to enter towns through 4 or 5 secure checkpoints making it far more difficult to smuggle in weapons and bombs. The construction of the trenches is a sad but necessary reminder of just how desperate the situation of the Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac Christians is becoming." UPI quotes Abdul Raheem al-Shimari (the province's security head) stating that "the trenches are roughtly 1.5 feet deep and are intended to prevent potential car bombers from getting through without the necessary security checks." Hazem al-Aisawi (Azzaman) adds, "It is not clear when the moat will be completed and who will be financing the dig." IRIN notes, "According to some reports, it is estimated that as many as half the Christian population has left Iraq since 2003."
It is clear that Iraq's Kurdistn Regional Government is holding provincial and presidential elections. Early voting began Thursday. Voting ends tomorrow. BBC News presents the viewpoints of five voters: Mateen Dooski, Alan Ali, Savina Dawood, Hassan Jalal and Ako Omer. Savina Rafaeel Dawood explains she's Assyrian, not Kurdish and states she's voting for "the 'Mesopotamia' list which will give me my rights." Hassan Jalal doesn't think the KRG will ever be able to increase their region due to resistance from the central government in Baghdad. Alan Ali is skeptical of the "Change" party ("we don't know where their change would take us") and states, "On Kirkuk - I think it should be part of Kurdistan. I'm not just being selfish because I am Kurdish and want the oil money - Kirkuk is connected to the region. Most of the people there are Kurdish, despite the Arabs brought in by previous governments. And Kirkuk is just one of many cities like this." And Mateen Dooski, who explains he's voting for incumbent President Massud Barzani, declares, "The biggest task facing the KRG is the implementation of Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution (a referendum on whether Kurdish areas of Diyala, Kirkuk, Salah ad Din and Ninawa provinces should become part of Iraqi Kurdistan). This would bring the 60% of purely Kurdish areas not run by the KRG: Kirkuk, Mosul, Diyala, under its control." Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reports on the elections with an emphasis on the "Change" party, "Though Change's leaders deny any conscious similarity to President Obama's campaign, it is evident in the slate's movement's official campaign slogan, 'Yes, We Can Change It.'" Adam Ashton (McClatchy Newspapers) reports on the "Change" Party and also notes these basics, "The Kurdish parliament has 111 seats, 80 of which are held by the alliance of the KDP and the PUK. Eleven seats are reserved for minorities, such as Christians and Turkomen." Salman Ansari Javid (Tehran Times) observes that the political parties "Change, the KDP, and the PUK have the same goals for Kirkuk". Kirkuk is the oil rich disputed region which is claimed by both the KRG and the central government in Baghdad. Timothy Williams (New York Times) reports that the Turkmen in Kirkuk Province are threatening to boycott a census currently scheduled for October. That'll teach 'em, seems to be the concept. The census, which was Constitutionally mandated to have been conducted in 2007, will survey the contested region. Turkmen are claiming Kurds are beefing up their population with transplants. They are. They have been doing it for years. If you don't like it, you probably should have demanded a census long ago. The shipping in of Kurds? That was a concern in 2006. It's too late to whine about something long on reported on. In 2005, some groups (largely Sunni) felt they would be shut out of the electoral process. A decision was made to boycott the elections. Some stood by that decision after the elections, some felt it was a mistake. In the January 31st elections this year, the real story was that the ones who had boycotted last time turned out in large numbers (while the drop off came from the Shi'ites who had participated in 2005). Now an election (or all elections) you might or might not want to boycott. You can certainly say, "Don't blame me, I didn't vote." But this isn't an election. This is a census. And if you feel you are already going to be under-represented because of an influx of Kurds, then your decision not to participate in the census makes little sense. Unless you're attempting to stop the census, which may be the point.
In other news, the US has continued talks with Iraqi leaders living in exile. Nada Bakri (Washington Post) reports on continued negotiations the US is having with former Ba'athists and other groups currently excluded from political life in Iraq. Bakri reports "two meetings this spring" held in Turkey and that the State Dept's P.J. Crowley would only say that they met to address "a wide range of Iraqi contacts with the purpose of promoting reconciliation and national unity." Sam Dagher (New York Times) adds that the central government in Baghdad states it is "demanding explanations" on the meeting and declares the meetings (known for weeks before they took place and covered in Arab media though the New York Times seems unaware of that fact) were "an interference in Iraq's internal political affairs". Dagher notes an Aljazeera interview aired on July 15th where Ali al-Juboouri (Political Council of the Iraqi Resistance) "revealed that his council, which represents Sunni insurgent groups, met in March with representatives of the American government in Istanbul. He said a protocol was signed then to govern future negotiations between the two sides. He said that a second meeting took place in May" but ended over differences including that the US agree to compensation and a public apology for the illegal war.
Maliki's out of the country and Iraq has no violence? No, it's just Friday, when reports trickle out slowly. Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) does note a Baghdad car bombing which injured six people. Meanwhile Missy Ryan (Reuters) reports on the drought effecting Iraq as the Tigris and Euphrates run dry, "Tensions intensified earlier in the month when Turkey announced that it would resume work on its controversial plan to build a hydroelectric dam on the Tigris in its southeast." Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli explores the issue in "Water Crisis in Iraq: The Growing Danger of Desertification" (Middle East Media Research Institute).

Turning to the US, July 12th, Topeka, Kansas was in the news as a veteran had a standoff with police at the Colmery-O'Neil VA Medical Center. India's Thaindian reported, "An unknown gunman stormed a Topeka, Kansas hospital on Sunday afternoon, officials told BNO News." Taylor Atkins and Ann Marie Bush (The Topeka Capital-Journal) explained:

Jim Gleisberg, public affairs officer for the medical center, said no one was injured when a veteran, whose name and hometown won't be released, walked into the emergency room with a handgun at 12:10 p.m. and asked to talk to a VA police officer.
"The veteran showed the officer he had a gun and threatened his own life," Gleisberg said. "The police officer acted very professionally. He got the veteran to leave the emergency room area, and other staff members on duty called the Topeka police."

KTKA quoted the VA's Jim Gleisberg stating the man is an Iraq War and Afghanistan War veteran and, "Veterans are being stressed. The soldiers over there now that are in the conflict that are coming back with issues just because they've been deployed either once or twice at 12 or 15 months at a time it's a very stressful situation and so they are going to have issues." Michigan's WHMI reports "a suicidal veteran" -- Iraq War veteran -- holed up at the Homoetown Trailr Park and "held Howell Police at bay for more than nine hours". Jon Gunnells (Daily Press & Argus) reports that the "veteran is undergoing psychiatric treatment" and quotes police chief George Bassar stating, "He made statemens about suicide to his mother who calle dthe sister to check on him. He threatened his sister and she fled te home . . . He has some pretty good battle injuires and post traumatic stress syndrome. This apparently was something bubbling up." Steve Pardo (Detroit News) states the veteran is thirty-four-years-old and that after hours of attempted negotiations, "around 3:30 a.m., police threw tear gas into the house and the man was taken without further incident. He remains in St. Joseph Mercy Livingston hospital."

TV notes. This week on NOW on PBS:

The Obama Administration recently released its proposal for financial regulatory reform, but before change comes to Wall Street, a reform plan has to get through Congress with its teeth intact.
This week, David Brancaccio sits with Zanny Minton Beddoes, economics editor for The Economist magazine, to review the proposal and its ramifications for America. Beddoes encourages streamlining the regulatory system, leaving fewer but more efficient overseers. But where powerful interests are at stake, nothing is a sure bet.
"There is some good stuff in [the reform plan]. But it's a relatively modest rearranging of the financial supervisory structure ... I think it's more interior design than a whole new foundation."

On Bill Moyers Journal, health care is addressed with CJR's Trudy Lieberman (who has a strong article in the current CJR) and by Marcia Angell. My goodness, Bill found two women. Mark the calendars! As noted in Third's "Editorial: Taking sexism seriously," "In the first six months of this year Washington Week had 33 female guests and twice that number (66) of male guests while Bill Moyers featured 43 men and only 13 women." And, for the record, I'm only noting that segment. In another Bill floats his attacks on free speech. Free speech is something you support or you don't. Believing in it doesn't mean you can't decry statements, that you can't call them out, that you can't say they're offensive or that they crossed a line. But it does mean that you support free speech and grasp the difference between words and action and grasp that the Constitution supports free speech for an important reason.


Now did we just note Washington Week? Usually four guests a week sit down with Gwen but as of the last week of June, she'd spent the year with 66 men and only 33 women on her program? How does it happen? By weeks like this one where she sits down with three men and one woman: New York Times' Peter Baker, Washington Post's Michael Fletcher, National Journal's Marilyn Werber Serafini and Wall St. Journal's David Wessel. Now how do you book that show and not notice that you have three men and only one woman? You know it. You know it and you do it on purpose. You don't accidentally end up with twice as many men as women. PBS' Editorial Standards & Policies states: "The goal of diversity also requires continuing efforts to assure that PBS content fully reflects the pluralism of our society, including, for example, appropriate representation of women and minorities. The diversity of public television producers and funders helps to assure that content distributed by PBS is not dominated by any single point of view." Repeating, "Appropriate representation of women and minorities." Why have a policy if PBS doesn't ensure that their programs follow it? There's no excuse for Bill or Gwen to get away with the crap that they continue to get away with. They are in direct violation of PBS' own Standards & Policies and they need to get their shows in order and PBS needs to provide the supervision to ensure that they do.

Bonnie Erbe sits down with Eleanor Holmes Norton, Melinda Henneberger, Kathleen Parker and Tara Setmayer on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, all four PBS shows begin airing tonight on many PBS stations. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Nouri and Barry

maliki_meeting_blog2_PS-0180

That's yesterday in the White House. Barack Obama's speaking with Nouri al-Maliki.

Note the translator between them. Marvel over that's who Barack's speaking to and maybe think of the episode of Friends where Phoebe dates a diplomat who doesn't speak English and Monica dates his interpreter. That picture kind of reminds you of that.

If you're wondering why Nouri needs an interpreter, it's because he didn't immediately go to Europe the way most exiles did. Most Iraqi exiles went to London and began plotting (for other countries to do the hard work) from there. But Nouri went to Iran. (He actually went to Syria and Jordan prior but Iran's where he made his home away from home.)

After the US invaded, Nouri decided it was safe enough for his soft flesh to return home. And now he's the prime minister . . . ruling over all the Iraqis who didn't turn tail and run.

Nouri will never be of Iraq because he chose to make himself something else. He doesn't represent the people and doesn't appear to care about that.

By the way, an e-mail from a stranger. My first. (Community members have e-mailed, thank you.) What's my theme? That was the question.

I don't have a theme per se. I'll grab a photo or an illustration and write about that. Kind of the way Isaiah grabs his old comics and writes about them at his site -- I enjoy his new and old comics.


This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, July 23, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US Ambassador in Iraq doesn't appear to stay at his post very much ("Is he here? I look in the pool hall . . ."), Nouri admits US troops may stay in Iraq past 2011, the House Veterans Committee holds a hearing on the needs of disabled veterans and their families (though some witnesses seem unclear on that topic), and more.

This morning the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs held a hearing entitled Examining the Ancillary Benefits and Veterans Quality of Life Issues.

"This Subcommittee has actively tackled many complex and complicated issues that have been encumbering the Veterans Benefits Administration and and it's ability to properly compensate veterans who file disability claims," explained US House Rep John Hall who is the Chair of the Subcommittee. "These issues have majorly centered on VA business processes and operations. Today's hearing will focus on the actual appropriateness of available benefits in meeting the needs of disabled veterans and their families."

US House Rep Doug Lamborn is the Ranking Member and, due to other demands, made his opening remarks before Hall did and then Lamborn had to leave the hearing. The hearing was grouped around three panels. The first was composed of
Paralyzed Veterans of America's Carl Blake, National Veterans Legal Service Program's Ronald Abrams and Blinded Veterans Association's Thomas Zampieri. The second panel was composed of National Academies' Lonnie Bristow, Economic Systems Inc.'s George Kettner, Quality of Life Foundation's Kimberly Munoz and National Organization on Disability's Carol Glazer. The third panel was the VA's Bradley Mayes and Thomas Pamperin.

Chair John Hall: Mr. Zampieri, as you noted in your testimony, eye and ear injuries have been associated with TBI, with explosions of roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan among other battlefields and theaters of combat. Do you feel that VA has done a sufficient job evaluating all the face and head trauma completely and accurately to compensate veterans and provide them with all necessary ancillary-ancillary benefits?

Thomas Zampieri: Thank you for the question. I think it's actually a concern of ours and probably safe to say many of the other VSOs that individuals with Traumatic Brain Injuries that have sensory associated symptoms have a very difficult time in getting their ratings because so many of those are subjective kind of complaints. You know we frequently hear a a lot about the problems with tinnitus, for example. Frequently TBI patients complain of photophobia which is extreme sensitivity to light. And those are very difficult to rate. But those things can have quite an impact on the individual's ability to function and also their relationship socially, employment wise. And so we're concerned about the way TBI assessments are done in regards to sensory losses. I know that the VA has put a lot of effort towards looking at new assessment methods and congratulate them for-for recognizing this is a serious problem.

Chair Hall then asked him whether there were any devices currently are in the works that hoped to address sight issues and he pointed to the Brainport Vision Device which was a topic of the May 13th House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing. From
that day's snapshot:

Robert Beckman [Brainport Technologies] spoke of a portable device, the Brainport Vision Device, where a small camera ("with zoom capability") is hooked to other neurochannels ("such as the tongue"). Beckman stated, "One blind user with two glass eyes was able to successfully shoot a basketball and another used the Brainport Vision Device at an indoor rock climbing gym to see the next rock holds and at home with his daughter to play Tic-Tac-Toe."

"The Brainport Vision Device will not replace the cane or the sight dog," he continued. "But it will become an important, additional tool to improve the safety, mobility and quality of life for blind users. Some examples. Finding the open seat on a crowded bus or train. Identifying the direction to the target building in a confusing parking lot. Finding the handle in order to remove a hot pot from the stove. Wicab recently sponsored clinical testing of the Brainport Vision Device at the Atlanta VA. Dr. Michael Williams, the PI concluded, 'Bottom line, the device performs remarkably well for the tasks that we looked at in phase one'. To optimize the device we need feedback from a much larger pool of users who are blind. We would welcome the opportunity to further test the Brainport Vision Device at VA sites. Perhaps those willing soldiers who are blind as a result of a blast injury should be first in line to test this new technology?"

Zampieri noted the device was still in the early stages of research and stated those who have tested it would declare "it holds some hope, but it's not going to replace natural vision." Under questioning from Hall, Abrams explained that he had a relative in residential care "and it cost over $90,000 to $100,000 to put somebody in a home and homecare, if you need twenty-four hour care, is hugely expensive."

"First observation," declared Glazer on the second panel noting an ongoing program -- Army Wounded Warrior Career Demonstration Project -- the National Organization on Disability is conducting with the army, "a fundamental mismatch many of the supports for veterans are constrained to an active service model placing the burden on veterans and their families to find and approach agencies But we find that the most seriously injured soldiers, especially with cognitive injuries are not really able to effectively access these services. [. . .] Second observation, the need to deal with both a veteran and the family member. As others have stated, the process of recovering from injury and coming home and coming to terms with disability is a very complex process that impacts the entire family. Ancillary benefits in our belief must be available to veterans and family members."

Glazer would go on to note issues such as criminal charges for veterans suffering from PTSD or TBI, training in the management of personal finances. Glazer, and her organization, are a little too Republican for me (Tom Ridge chairs the organization) and it's a little too "smile and pull up those bootstraps." But Glazer was one of the few who knew how to speak. Globbidy-gook? No one gives a damn. Don't reference a model, for example, in another country, without explaining it. If that's the root of your response to Hall's question, you're wasting everyone's time including your own. I don't usually note "I like this organization, I don't like that one" but on this panel, Glazer's being noted because she knows how to speak and because two others will be ignored, I want to be really clear that no one reads this as I'm endorsing Glazer's organization. And let's also note that when all you do is toss out a bunch of numbers, no one's really impressed. In fact, it's assumed you actually don't know what you're talking about -- including your numbers -- or you'd be offering testimony that people could actually follow. I've never seen as many blank stares in a hearing before (true of the first panel to a lessor degree). Those not doing blank stares? A man to the right of us repeatedly put his hand over his face during the second panel, at a loss as to what was being said. At the end of the hearing, he stated he felt as if it had been conducted in a foreign language. Glazer knew how to speak and so did Kimberly Munoz.

Munoz was asked to estimate the amount spent by veterans and their families for assistance and stated she didn't know that answer but that it varies due to the fact "that some families have the assistance they need to get the benefits they need from VA and they have to use less out of pocket to get the services their veteran needs. Other families who may have not had the guidance from perhaps a VSO or who don't have the education in our country -- maybe they've moved here from another country -- and they don't speak our language, it's hard for them to run through all the rules and regulations and applications
and so they have a difficult time accessing the benefits that they need. There was a study that was released by the Center for Naval Analysis that estimated 19 months of lost income of around $2,000 some odd dollars for a total of $36,000 average loss per family of a catastrophically injured service member. That's their income loss which isn't necessarily answering your question of how much do they spend out of pocket to get the services but it is -- it is a figure that's been widely reported."

Chair John Hall: Thank you and what additional factors do you think VA should specifically consider when it adjudicates aid and attendance or housebound rates?

Kimberly Munoz: I think they need to consider the -- one of the key questions is: Can the veteran keep themselves safe from the hazards of daily living? There's many other questions related to a body part function or a loss of a body part but buried deep in there is can the veteran keep himself safe from the hazards of daily living? For those who have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and stand-alone TBI I believe that that is a key to determining whether or not that veteran needs aid and attendance. The aid and attendance can also vary in terms of do you need physical aid and attendance or do you need oversight? So one package of aid and attendance does not meet the needs of every single veteran.

Chair John Hall: That seems to me that that judgment about the safety of the veteran living independently is similar to a judgment that one would have to make about an Alzheimer-Alzheimer's patient, for instance. In many families they go through that difficult time when they realize that a stove or an electric socket is no longer a safe thing for this adult family member to be handling alone.

Kimberly Munoz: Some of the family members have suggested specially adapted equipment be included in the grants available for home modifications -- like stoves that automatically turn off after a certain amount of time. Or other appliances that consider short term memory loss for some of the Traumatic Brain Injury patients.

Chair John Hall: And what else do you think Ms. -- Ms. Munoz what else could the VA do to improve the quality of life of disabled veterans and their families.

Kimberly Munoz: It sounds simple but I know it's very difficult and that is: Make it easier for families to get what they need. Anytime you look at the Title 38 and try to determine, "Well what am I -- what is this veteran eligible -- or how do I go about it?" It's so hard to know who is eligible for what. One family care giver told me the story of, you know, "We thought we were eligible for respite care and then when we called my son's rating wasn't, wasn't high enough." Or the SMC [Special Monthly Compensation] code wasn't the right code. So they work very hard then to find out, "Well how to I get that code?" And that's a backwards way to work a system. You need to find out what does that veteran need, much like you [George Kettner] suggested, what is the need of that veteran and what is the need of that family so that they can live safely and live independently -- not how do we get you pigeon holed into the right code so that you get the services that that code offers.

Can you follow that? Yes, you can. And an organization that sends a speaker like that. or Glazer, into a hearing is way ahead of others. You need to know the topic of the hearing -- a problem for one person on the first panel who repeatedly answered questions with a variation of "I don't know" -- and you need to be able to speak clearly on the topic. Glazer advocated for less benefits -- I'm not joking -- and whether anyone agreed with her or not, everyone could follow what she was saying. (She was saying that benefits can prevent work. And that's as much as I'm doing to circulate her nonsense argument.)

Yesterday's snapshot noted the House Veterans Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Kat covered it last night at her site (and plans to cover today's hearing at her site tonight). Despite the fact that the New York Times and one of their reporters were repeatedly trashed in that hearing, the paper of some record ignored the hearing, as did most of the press. Walter F. Roche Jr. (Pittsurgh Tribune-Review) covers the VA's Kent Wallner's testimony. I didn't find him believable, Roche obviously did and use the link to read about that aspect of yesterday's hearing. Rachel Baye and Naomi Jagoda (The Daily Pennsylvanian) cover the hearing and zoom in on Dr. Gay Kao and his attempt to play victim.

Also in yesterday's snapshot was Nouri al-Maliki, puppet of the occupation, and US President Barack Obama's performace at the Rose Garden. Apparently journalists also wanted to play a role -- something other than reporter -- judging from the articles filed on the nonsense. For perspective, we drop back to Whit Stillman's Barcelona. Specifically, a party where American Fred (Chris Eigeman) is discussing his home country.

Female Party Goer: You can't say Americans are not more violent than other people?
Fred: No.

Female Party Goer: All those people killed in shootings in America?

Fred: Oh. Shootings, yes. But that doesn't mean Americans are more violent than other people. We're just better shots.

America's not more violent, insists Fred, they're just better shots. Apparently some similar defense was on the minds of
Karen DeYoung (Washington Post), Jeff Zeleny (New York Times) and Mark Silva (Los Angeles Times and other Tribune properties). None of the three challenges Barack's laughable assertion that "Violence continues to be down". No, it doesn't. As we explained yesterday, the trend in lower violence ended with the month of January. Starting with February, you see an uptick in violence. That trend has held each passing month. We also cited Al Jazeera which was explaining, "An estimated 437 Iraqis were killed in June, the highest death toll in 11 months, and the near daily attacks have continued in July." June, the most recent month with data, saw "the highest death toll in 11 months," but Barack wants to claim violence is down? Apparently Iraq isn't more violent currently, it's just seen better shots and better bomb builders? DeYoung has the strongest article, then Zeleny and then Silva. One compliment to all three is they covered it. Strongly or badly, they covered it. Nouri al-Maliki met with Barack Obama yesterday. The Iraq War is six years old and counting. Where was the coverage? Amy Goodman's pathetic two sentences in headlines? That's something to be proud of? How pathetic. What do you get instead? You get the crap Bob Somerby's calling out today (the mind readers who 'just know' something but don't know a thing -- which didn't stop Amy Goodman from doing yet another segment on it today). You really need to ask how the media -- Big and Small -- is serving you because in this round of Liar's Poker, seems to be a lot of Liz Smiths sitting down at the table wanting to be dealt in.

Back to this morning's articles: Where are Americans? The leader of a country the US remains at war with visits and where are the voices of Americans? We do grasp that the Iraq War continues, right? Check
yesterday's snapshot and then read the articles again. A poll was released yesterday. It addressed Iraq. Where's any citation of the results? From yesterday's snapshot:A new AP-GfK Roper poll finds a decrease in the number of respondents who believe Barack will remove troops from Iraq -- 15% lower than the last poll. [PDF format warning, click here for the data breakdown.] 62% of respondents ranked "The Situation in Iraq" as either "Extremely important" or "Very important." The poll found an increase of five percent on the number of respondents who disapprove of Barack's handling of the Iraq War. Is this increase a result of angry right-wingers upset over Barack's so-called plan? Maybe. But the respondents were asked if they believed Barack would "remove most troops from Iraq?" In January, 83% of respondents said it was likely and 15% said it was unlikely. The 83% who thought it was coming has fallen to 68%. The number who believe it is not happening has risen to 26%.
Nouri and Barack meet up at the White House yesterday as a poll is released which finds the number of people who believe Barack will "remove most troops from Iraq" has fallen from 83% in January to 68% presently -- a 15% drop. Where's that in any of the articles?The articles repeatedly (and falsely) claim the US will be out of Iraq in 2011. That's not what's happening. It's not even claimed to be happening. Does no one listen to Adm Mike Mullen, Gen Ray Odierno or even Secretary of Defense Robert Gates? Reading the articles today, it doesn't appear that anyone does. Uh-oh. Reality slaps them in the face.
Aljazeera reports, "The Iraqi prime minister has admitted US troops could stay in the country beyond 2011." Yeah, he did it today and it's only a surprise if you've never grasped what the Status Of Forces Agrement does and does not do. The Washington Post, for example, has one person on staff who understands the SOFA completely. That's one more than the New York Times has. Drop back to real time coverage (Thanksgiving 2008) and you'll see the Washington Post could explain what it did and didn't do and get it right. No other US outlet can make that claim. (The Los Angeles Times hedged their bets but did appear to grasp it in an article co-written by Tina Susman.) McClatchy Newspapers? Oh goodness, Leila Fadel made an idiot of herself over the SOFA. Even more so than the New York Times (Elisabeth Bumiller -- in December and January -- offered some realities but they were lost on the other reporters at the paper). The Times just got it wrong. Fadel got it wrong and sang praises of it. It wasn't reporting, it was column writing passed off as such. Today, Nouri declared, "Nevertheless, if the Iraqis require further training and support we shall examine this at the time, based on the needs of Iraq." Sound familiar? It should. This month you should have heard Adm Mike Mullen make the same statement, you should have heard General Ray Odierno make it over and over beginning in May and US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has made it many times -- generally he's asked when he's visiting a foreign country because US reporters don't really seem to care. One exception would certainly be Dahr Jamail who was on KPFA's Flashpoints yesterday and explained, "We still have over 130,000 troops in Iraq. Troops are not being withdrawn from Iraq. They are being relocated to different bases, some of the bases still within cities, but they are not being withdrawn thus far." Dahr's latest book The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan has just been released this month. IPA provides this context from Global Policy Forum's James Paul: "For all the talk of 'U.S. withdrawal' from Iraq, the reality on the ground is starkly different. U.S. troops still patrol the cities, in flagrant violation of the U.S.-Iraqi security agreement, while Washington remains hugely influential in the politics of the country. The gigantic U.S. embassy looms large in Baghdad, U.S. forces still hold thousands of Iraqi prisoners in the vast U.S. prison camp in the southern desert, dozens of U.S. military bases remain in place including the sprawling 'Camp Victory' complex in Baghdad and Washington continues to press towards its ultimate goal -- the de facto privatization of Iraq's vast oil resources."

At
Time magazine online, Bobby Ghosh offers a look at yesterday's press conference and what it means:

You wouldn't know all that from al-Maliki's performance at a Rose Garden press conference on July 22. Standing alongside Obama, the Iraqi Prime Minister was the picture of self-confidence. He talked about broadening Iraq's relationship with the U.S. and cooperation in the area of economics, culture and education as well as a conference in October for potential investors in Iraq. "All of this comes as a natural consequence of [Iraq's] stability," he said.
(See pictures of the U.S. troops' six years in Iraq.)
But in private, Iraqi officials concede that the stability is, well, unstable. Before any meaningful economic and cultural cooperation takes place, they say, the U.S. must shepherd Iraq through to the elections, scheduled for January 2010. They worry that the Obama Administration, eager to move on to more pressing problems at home and abroad, may not realize just how fragile Iraq is. The Obama Administration "must not lose its focus" in Iraq, Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari told journalists on July 21.

Spencer Ackerman (Washington Independent) examined the speech by Nouri today and contrasted it with remarks by Afghanistan's Ambassador to the US (Said Jawad) where Jawad noted, at length, US military fatalities. Ackerman observes, "By contrast, in his speech today to the U.S. Institute of Peace, here's the closest Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki came to recognizing the fact that over 4,300 U.S. troops have died in Iraq: "He extended his thanks to 'the international community and all the countries that have cooperated and helped Iraq,' saying Iraq would enjoy a 'solid relationship with a great and strong country like the United States'."

Chris Hill is the US Ambassador to Iraq. He's in the US (we'll get to it) and today he was interviewed by Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC's
Andrea Mitchell Reports (link offers video options -- Hill is "Iraq, what next?"):

Andrea Mitchell: You're here obviously because Prime Minister Maliki's here and met with the president. There are still tensions over the terms of disengagement if you will. What do we know now as a result of the meetings? About the way Iraq is stepping up to the plate and taking on its own governance?

Chris Hill: Well, first of all, this is pretty complex withdrawal. We have 130,000 troops in country, we just brought them out of the remaining cities. This is a, you know, major undertaking. And for the Iraqis, it was a major development, a major political development for them. So they're very pleased at how it went. Now it's a complex business. You have the world's greatest fighting force, the United States military, turning it over to the IRaqis who aspire to being better than they are but, you know, this is going to be a work in progress. Certainly the world's greatest fighting force has also become the world's greatest training force. That is, we have done a lot of work for the Iraqis. We've really tried to prepare them for this but, you know, they'll be some glitches through this but we will work through them. And I think, so far, so good.

Andrea Mitchell: The Pentagon has said that things are working with the fact that there are new rules of the road, the US is not in the cities. Yet commanders in the field are still complaining that there are time lags and intelligence lags, that you have to get permission from the Iraqis before you can engage. That doesn't work in a fighting field.

Chris Hill: Well, first of all, I think overall, it's going very well. You know there's a joint-operation center where the Iraqis and the US military sit together. They get the information at the same time, they make the decisions about what to do. So overall, it's going well but are there incidents where it hasn't gone well, are there incidents where the Iraqi say we want to do X and the American military guys say we want to do Y? Of course there are, and there will probably continue to be. But I think what is important is to stand back and look at where we are --

And that's as much of Hill as I can take.
Back in March, Ava and I were asked by a MSNBC friend to note Andrea Mitchell Reports:

"But I'm in there fighting every day because I got a few more dreams in me." A male friend at MSNBC asked us Friday night why we never mentioned Andrea Mitchell Reports? We honestly weren't aware of it. He pointed out that Mitchell, a reporter, is actually anchoring a daily hour long show (airs Monday through Friday, one p.m. to two p.m. EST). He pointed out that Women's Media Center and other "women-centric" (his term) outlets had tongue-bathed non-journalist Rachel Maddow for her on air musings and abusings but no one's giving Andrea Mitchell credit for holding down a solid hour of news. That may be due to the fact that MSNBC hasn't created a site for her. We looked and couldn't find it. We could find other MSNBC programs (even Al Roker Reporting: Marijuana Inc.), but no page for Andrea Mitchell's show. But, yes, it is disturbing that the "women-centric" outlets can repeatedly note the factually-challenged Rachel Maddow, the non-journalist on a news channel, but they can't give even a mild shout-out to Andrea. "But I'm in there fighting every day because I got a few more dreams in me." Though we frequently disagree with Andrea, we wouldn't ever claim that she's not out "there fighting every day because I got a few more dreams in me." And when we might lose faith in all, it's good to find someone who is. Her fights aren't usually our fights, but she keeps fighting. And for those who doubt the power of doing that, Katie Couric.

The same friend advised about the Hill interview today and that MSNBC (finally) has a webpage for
Andrea Mitchell Reports. Ava and I will note that on Sunday but this is the first I've heard that they finally gave her program a webpage. So we'll note it and underscore it and make sure everyone grasps that. (I'm not being sarcastic about community readers or even drive-bys. I am underscoring the fact that MSNBC had a one hour program driven by an actual journalist -- not a sports commentator or drive-time hijinks radio reject or any of the others -- and they refused to promote the show or even give it a webpage.) In terms of Hill.

Why is he in the US? Andrea says on air that it's because of al-Maliki being in the US. Hill's not supposed to hold Nouri's hand when Nouri travels. More importantly, early voting has started in the KRG. What is Hill doing back? This is his second trip to the US since going to Iraq and, for those who've forgotten, despite telling John Kerry he would leave immediately upon confirmation for Iraq, when his nomination was confirmed, he waited days before leaving. And that was at the end of April. It's July and Chris Hill, so eager to be confirmed, is now out of Iraq for his second trip to the US. And he's out at a time when you would think the ambassador would want to be present, to monitor reports on the elections. As for his comments to Andrea Mitchell about what's going on in Iraq, we'll drop back to
Liz Sly and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) interview Hill:

The Times asked whether the embassy will have enough information to judge what is happening in Iraqi cities now that U.S. forces will be restricted in their movements and based outside of cities.
Hill: We have embassies operating in scores of countries, and developing good information about what is going on is always a challenge anywhere in the world. I think our contacts in Iraq are better than in most countries. Our ability to reach senior ministers, our ability to talk to people, get their views and get information from them is pretty good in Iraq compared to many countries we operate in. I personally don't feel we have a problem there. If you are comparing it to a time when we ran all the security ourselves, that is obviously a different era. It was a different era that was not sustainable for the rest of history. Clearly there is a point where you return security to the host country security forces.

What's going on Iraq? Chris Hill depends on stringers to tell him, not unlike many a US outlet. The KRG holds provincial and presidential elections Saturday, early voting has begun.
Heath Druzin (Stars and Stripes) explains that despite "a canopy of colorful campaign banners and a stream of breathless programs on party-run television channels, there's an eerie quiet on the streets of this regional capital just days before elections in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region." He quotes "Change" candidate Dara Saeed stating that people are "afraid of the police and security forces, of being fired from their jobs" and don't want to say who they'll vote for. Change is one party competing with the KRG's two long dominat political parties: Jalal Talabani (president of Iraq) represents the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Masoud Barzani (president of the KRG) represents the Kurdish Democratic Party. Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) reports "Change" is former PUK members who are "fed up with the party's leadership" and "who are attracting voters who are frustrated with what they say has been corruption, curbs on democracy and the neglect of basic services in recent years." NPR's Quil Lawrence (Morning Edition) follows that theme for his report and notes the so-called Change Party. Lawrence offers his opinions and those of others. It's an overview and one that is cheapened by the snarky intro Linda Wertheimer offers. Ranj Alaaldin (Guardian) offers the opinion (he's doing a column, not a report) that "the status quo is likely to continue for a while" and, on the power-sharing/horse-trading of the past, "The PUK and KDP, as a coalition government, have a number of agreements to divide key governmental positions equally between them. The Kurdistan region presidency, for example, is held by the KDP in return for its support for a Talabani presidency in Baghdad. Most important of all is the KRG premiership which carries a host of decision-making powers. A KDP official, Nechirvan Barzani, also holds this position. He should have relinquished the role to the PUK in 2008 but, with Talabani's consent and against the will of PUK politburo members, is to carry on until after the elections; the understanding was that he would then make way for leading PUK candidate Barham Salih." AFP explains early voting has begun for the Kurdish military, the "police, prisoners and the sick."

Violence continued today in Iraq with multiple bombings.

Reuters reports a Kirkuk roadside bombing which claimed 1 life and left three injured, a Ghazaliya bombing that injured three members of one family, a Yusufiya roadside bombing (targeting the US military) which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi bystander and left two more injured, a Kirkuk grenade attack which left three US soldiers and one Iraqi interpreter and one Iraqi bystander injured. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baquba roadside bombing which wounded 1 Iraqi soldier and notes of the three family members wounded in the bombing that they were "a returning displaced family."


We'll close with Cindy Sheehan. First, her radio program
Cindy's Soapbox airs each Sunday and this Sunday the scheduled guest is Gore Vidal. And we'll note this from her latest column, "George W. Bush, Part III" (Cindy's Soapbox).Okay, so the United States of America has had a new puppet regime for six months now. I was never so much into giving Obama a "chance" and I think it's way past time to call Obama and his supporters out, like we called Bush and his supporters out. Our Presidents are merely puppets for the Robber Class and Obama is no exception. I am observing very little "change" in actual policy, or even rhetoric from an Obama regime. Granted, his style and delivery are more polished than the last puppet, but especially in foreign policy, little has changed. Evidently we elect Presidents based on empty rhetoric and if we can find someone who can say as little as possible with using as many words as he can, that's better. I knew a year ago when Obama and his ilk were blathering on about "change" that they didn't mean positive "change" for us, but it's a shame Obama's voters didn't ask him to be a little more specific or demand some good "change." Besides foreign policy where he is a complete disaster, it appears Obama's jobs program is little more than adding tens of thousands of troops to an already bloated military, instead of bringing troops home from anywhere. Billions will go to the money trap of the Pentagon to invest in recruiting our innocent, young, jobless and hopeless youth, when the budgets of peace groups who do counter recruitment are tanking. This is the 3rd week in July and already it's the deadliest month for US and coalition troops deaths in Af/Pak. Who would ever have thought when violence is surged that deaths would surge, also? I think I've seen this movie before.

Oops. we'll note this from
ETAN last:

Groups Oppose U.S. Training of Indonesia's Notorious Kopassus Special Forces Contact: John M. Miller, ETAN, +1-718-596-7668 July 23 - More than 50 U.S. organizations today urged the U.S. government to "strictly prohibit any U.S. cooperation with or assistance to the Indonesian Special Forces (Kopassus)' in a letter sent today to President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and members of Congress. The letter was coordinated by the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN). "Restrictions on U.S. military assistance to Indonesia are needed to support democracy and human rights in Indonesia. Supporting Kopassus, which has <
http://www.etan.org/news/2008/04brikop.htm>a long history of terrorizing civilians, would send the worst possible signal to those fighting for justice and accountability in Indonesia and East Timor," said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN. The letter, signed by human rights, religious, peace and other groups, states, "The history of Kopassus human rights violations, its criminality and its unaccountability before Indonesian courts extends back decades and includes human rights and other crimes in East Timor, Aceh, West Papua and elsewhere." A recent <http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/06/24/indonesia-abuses-special-forces-continue-papua>Human Rights Watch report documents how Kopassus soldiers "arrest Papuans without legal authority, and beat and mistreat those they take back to their barracks." In 2008, the Bush administration proposed to restart U.S. training of Kopassus. the State Department legal counsel reportedly ruled that the ban on training of military units with a history of involvement in human rights violations, known as the Leahy law, applies to Kopassus as a whole. "The previous administration was forced to conclude that training Kopassus was both illegal and bad policy. The Obama administration should maintain this restriction," said Miller. The text of the letter is below. The letter with a complete list of signatures can be found at http://www.etan.org/news/2009/07kopassus.htm. ---Text of Letter We the undersigned organizations call upon the U.S. government to strictly prohibit any U.S. cooperation with or assistance to the Indonesian Special Forces (Kopassus). This force, more than any other in the Indonesian military, stands accused by the Indonesian people of some of the most egregious human rights violations. The annual human rights report of the U.S. Department of State, the East Timor's (Timor-Leste) truth commission (CAVR), United Nations human rights monitors, and the full range of Indonesian and international human rights have reported in detail the many crimes of Kopassus. Those responsible for these violations continue to enjoy broad impunity for their actions, even in a democratizing Indonesia. The history of Kopassus human rights violations, its criminality and its unaccountability before Indonesian courts extends back decades and includes human rights and other crimes in East Timor, Aceh, West Papua and elsewhere. In 1998, a program -- organized and led by then Kopassus commander (and recent vice- presidential candidate) General Prabowo Subianto -- kidnapped, tortured and killed pro-democracy activists. Prabowo told reporters he is unrepentant over these crimes saying, "we could say it was preventative detention." Other well-documented Kopassus crimes include organizing anti-Chinese rioting in Jakarta in 1998 and the 1984 massacre at Tanjung Priok in Java. Throughout 24 years of brutal Indonesian occupation of East Timor, Kopassus personnel, tortured and killed civilians in an attempt to intimidate and terrorize the population. Kopassus personnel played a key role, including organizing militia proxies, in the violence and destruction during 1999, the occupation's final year. The crimes of Kopassus are not only in the past. A recently published Human Rights Watch report details ongoing Kopassus human right violations in West Papua. The report documents how Kopassus soldiers "arrest Papuans without legal authority, and beat and mistreat those they take back to their barracks." Those who favor engagement argue that U.S. training could lead to reform of Kopassus. This argument is clearly refuted by history. For decades, the U.S. trained and gave other assistance to Kopassus personnel, including General Prabowo and other leading officers. This relationship had no ameliorative affect, rather, it provided the equipment and skills used for repression. U.S. law prohibits the training of military units with a history of involvement in human rights violations. This provision has been long been interpreted as narrowly as possible. However, in 2008, the State Department ruled that the ban, known as the Leahy law, applies to Kopassus as a whole. We believe that this ruling should apply and the U.S. must continue to refuse to train Kopassus.


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