Friday, December 11, 2009

Carriers


That is the poster for the film Carriers. If the DVD cover had looked like that, Cedric and I wouldn't have rented it (or I wouldn't have watched it anyway).

The DVD cover has Chris Pine and the rest standing around and it looks like who-knows-what? I have no idea. A road movie?

It starts like one as well as you learn that Chris, his brother and two women are driving along in a stolen car. I was thinking, "Okay, this might be pretty good."

Then it turns out it's a horror movie.

And it's a cheesy one at that. It's not the first Friday the 13th or anything like that. It's more like the late 90s, kids-friendly 'horror' movies. It's chaste. It's the sort of film you can watch at 12 and not be shocked by.

So the whole point, the "carrier" is that there's a disease in the world and it causes you to bleed and then die. And you don't want to catch it because there's no cure. It's been around for years -- I'd guess ten by the storyline. It makes no sense. The four are carrier free (at least at the start of the film). So they drive all over the US. Uh, if gasoline is in short supply (you have to steal it) and if food, et al is a problem (although you actually never see them eat once in the movie), why the hell are you traveling the country. Grab your gun and ammo and hole up at that deserted resort the brothers visit each year.

It makes no sense.

It's a bad movie.

Two things can get you through it. 1) Piper Purabo who has a kind of Angelina Jolie quality that makes her someone to watch in the future. 2) Chris Pine who's just perfect right now but in three years the same weight will make him look fat. For now, he's plush and check out that back porch. I'm not joking. You've got Chris and Piper and not much else.

Humor?

I found no moments where you could laugh. In a scary movie, they generally try to give you that to break up the tension. Not here. It was pretty lame. It could have been a TV movie.




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



Friday, December 11, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, Big Oil goes a'bidding in Iraq, Amnesty International and UNHCR both issue alerts and more.

On the second hour of today's
The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), Iraq was discussed. Diane's panelists were Bryan Bender (Boston Globe), Moises Naim (Foreign Policy) and Nancy Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers).

Diane Rehm: Alright and let's talk about the trip that Secretary [of Defense, Robert] Gates made to Baghdad on Thursday. He was there meeting with Iraqi officials even as a wave of bombings was going on. Nancy.

Nancy Youssef: That's right, we saw several bombings go off almost simultaneously, 127 people killed, another 450 at least injured. And it triggered a widespread government outcry about who needs to be held responsible? We saw the police chief of Baghdad province -- who the Americans believe was sort of a key person in bringing down the sectarian violence -- ousted from office because another failed security breach. There were discussions about whether the minister Jawad al-Boloni needs to be taken out of office as well and Nouri al-Maliki really trying to defend himself in the face of elections coming up, now scheduled for March 7th. And so the thing that I thought was most interesting is you know the United States will brand this as: "Look the sectarian violence hasn't kicked off yet." But I think that's a too narrow focus because the attacks are no longer a strictly sectarian effort. This is an effort to take the Iraqi people and pit them against the Iraqi government and that seems to be having some effect. So I think looking forward, we no longer need to look about whether this is re-igniting sectarian violence but rather it is fundamentally destabilizing the Iraqi government

Diane Rehm: Moises.

Moises Naim: Yes, I would like to introduce two issues here. One is Syria and the other is oil. Syria is, as you know, the place where a lot of Ba'athists and Sunni have fled Iraq and now there is a very large exile community of Iraqis living there. And President [Prime Minister Nouri al-] Maliki -- Prime Minister Maliki has several times said that these attacks in Iraq have been organized and led by Ba'athists in Syria and that has created a -- has heightened the tensions and the friction between Syria and Iraq.

Diane Rehm: Bryan?

Bryan Bender: I think the real danger in the coming months as we lead up to the Iraqi elections is-is within Iraq and within the political system. You have leaders of the security establishment there who are supposed to be working together but at the same time are running for office and are on these slates from different political parties and I think it has made it almost impossible for the Iraqi government -- in a unified way -- to address some of these threats. It would be like the head of the FBI in this country coming out, talking about a recent terrorist attack but, at the same time, also running for Congress.

Diane Rehm: And of course the Prime Minister Maliki fired the head of the Baghdad security force after the attack.

Moises Naim: And that is under tremendous popular. He spent essentially a whole day in Parliament trying to explain and justify what happened and said this is a new way of showing some accountability.

[. . .]

Diane Rehm: Moises, before we end this hour, I know you wanted to talk about oil.

Moises Naim: Yes, it was about when we were talking about Iraq. Three days after the big, massive bomb attacks that killed hundreds of people, almost all of the large oil companies in the world were there bidding for one of the most important oil fields that was being put up to bid for development by the Iraqi government. The-the head of one of the oil companies, French oil company called Total, to [. . .] the merger and was reported by the Financial Times saying, 'The volumes are crazy. We know there's a potential to reach maybe 7, 8 million barrels a day and that alone will be a tremendous success.' We're talking about an undeveloped oil field that is one of the largest in the world where a lot of the western oil companies are trying to get into in the middle of this chaos and mayhem and-and highly unstable political situation.

Diane Rehm: So how does that effect US policy?

Moises Naim: It is -- well the hope is that there will be more development of oil, that the Iraq will have the wherewithall and the funds to sustain its own security, to pay for its own troops and to pay for its own development. So it is all for the good that oil is found there and developed and Iraqi government and Iraqi nation becomes more stable financially.

Diane Rehm: Nancy, you look somewhat skeptical.
Nancy Youssef: Well, you know, I mean my heart's with the Iraqis and I just can't help but wonder how long can they sustain every two months, these sensational attacks? You know, I see a disconnect. There's what the business community sees as a viable Iraq and there's what the Iraqis see as a viable Iraq.

The Total exec Moises Naim was referring to is Christophe de Margerie and he stated that the prediction of 12 million barrels was unrealistic ("crazy") and his quote was, "We know there's a potential to maybe reach 7 to 8 million barrels someday, and that alone would be a tremendous success." Last month,
Ben Hall and Carola Hoyos (Financial Times of London) reported, "'Not being in Iraq, seems impossible,' he told the FT in a recent interview. But he insisted the financial terms Iraq was offering for fields that were included in its first bidding round earlier this year were 'less unattractive' but still too poor." That link to a recent interview (October) is where the quote appears.

Anthony DiPaola and Maher Chmaytelli (Bloomberg News) report Shell Oil (Royal Dutch Shell) has been given the power "to develop the 12.6 billion barrels of oil reserves in Iraq's Majnoon field" beating out China National Petroleum Corporation and Total. Al Jazeera explains it's a joint-contract, a joint-'win' for Shell and Petronas Oil of Malasyia , while CNPC has been given the power to develop the Halfaya oilfield. Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) explains CNPC was in a consortium "with Petronas and France's Total" on that bid. Missy Ryan and Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) add, "Despite the anticipation, no one bid for one of the supergiants, the 8.1-billion barrel East Baghdad field, part of which lies under the sprawling Sadr City slum in the Iraqi capital. Baghdad is still wracked by periodic bombings and oil executives considered it unsafe to invest in the field." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports, "Iraqi police and soldiers sealed off roads leading to the Oil Ministry, where the auction took place while [US] helicopters hovered overhead." If you are interested in details on the contracts, please read Jane and not another US outlet which appears confused as to what was bid on or, as they put it, "sold." Meanwhile Ayla Jean Yackley (Reuters) reports that the Kurds are concerned the bidding has been rushed and that the issues of the hydrocarbon laws (never passed) and the disputed territories (oil-rich Kirkuk) should have been resoloved first. The KRG's Minister of Natural Resources, Ashti Hawrami, states, "Anything that is rushed in this manner is not in the interests of Iraq. It's rushed for political purposes."

Moises Naim also noted the Ba'athists issue. Ba'athists were expelled from the government following the start of the illegal war -- expelled by the US. This was addressed yesterday in the Iraq Inquiry which is taking place in London and is chaired by John Chilcot. Offering testimony was M16 head John Sawers -- John "SAWERS," not John "Sawyers" as I wrongly dictated
yesterday -- that was my mistake and my apologies for the error. Roderic Lyne is one of the committee members of the Inquiry. He asked Sawers about de-Ba'athification and other issues.

John Sawers: When I arrived in Baghdad on 8 May, one of the problems that ORHA were facing was that they had been undiscriminating in their Iraqi partners. They had taken, as their partners, the most senior figures in the military, in -- not in the military, sorry, in the ministries, in the police, in institutions like Baghdad University, who happened to be there. And in several of these instances, Baghdad University was one, the trade ministry was another, the health ministry, the foreign ministry, the Baghdad police -- the working level were in uproar because they were being obliged to work for the same Ba'athist masters who had tyrannised them under the Saddam regime, and tehy were refusing to cooperate on that basis. So I said, in my first significant report back to London, which I sent on the Sunday night, the day before Bremer came back, that there were a number of big issues that needed to be addressed. I listed five and one of those five was we needed a policy on which Ba'athists should be allowed to stay in their jobs and which should not. And there was already a debate going on among Iraqi political leaders about where the line should be drawn. So I flagged it up on the Sunday evening in my first report, which arrived on desks on Monday morning, on 11 May. When Bremer arrived late that evening, he and I had a first discussion, and one of the first things he said to me was that he needed to give clarity on de-Ba'athification. And he had some clear ideas on this and he would want to discuss it. So I reported again early the following monring that this was high on the Bremer's mind and I needed a steer as to what our policy was. I felt that there was, indeed, an important need for a policy on de-Ba'athifciation and that, of the various options that were being considered, some I felt, were more far-reaching than was necessary but I wasn't an expert on the Iraqi Ba'ath Party and I needed some guidance on this. I received some guidance the following day, which was helpful, and I used that as the basis for my discussion with Bremer -- I can't remember if it was the Wednesday or the Thursday that week but we had a meeting of -- Bremer and myself and our political teams, where this was discussed, and there was very strong support among the Iraqi political parties for quite a far-reaching de-Ba'athification policy. At the meeting itself, I had concerted beforehand with Ryan Crocker, who was the senior American political adviser, and I said to him that my guidance was that we should limit the scope of de-Ba'athification to the top three levels of the Ba'ath Party, which included about 5,000 people, and that we thought going to the fourth level was a step too far, and it would involve another 25,000 or so Iraqis, which wasn't necessary. And I thought Crocker was broadly sympathetic to that approach but at the meeting itself Bremer set out a strong case for including all four levels, ie the top 30,000 Ba'athists should be removed from their jobs, but there should be a policy in place for exemptions. I argued the alternative. Actually, unhelpfully, from my point of view, Ryan Crocker came in in strong support of the Bremer proposal, and I think he probably smelled the coffee and realised that this was a policy that had actually already been decided in Washington and there was no point getting on the wrong side of it. I was not aware of that at that stage and, in fact, it was only when I subsequently read the very thorough account by the Rand Corporation of these issues that I realised there had been an extensive exchange in -- between agencies in Washington.

Commitee Member Roderic Lyne: Just to pause on that, this crucial decision, not just to take the top 5,000, which probably was not a matter of argument, but to add 25,000, sweeping up a lot of professionals, teachers, doctors people like that, who had been obliged to become members of the Ba'ath parties, had been stiched up between agencies in Washington but without any consultation with the number 1 coalition partner, Britain, who were going to be vitally affected by that?

John Sawers: I cannot vouch for that because I wasn't in London, I wasn't involved in those exchanges.

Commitee Member Roderic Lyne: But you would have been aware of if we'd been (inaudible), somebody would have told you.

John Sawers: When I was doing my calls in London on the previous week, this was not an issue that had been raised with me. So I don't know in the embassy in Washington or people in Whitehall were plugged into the debate. I would just say, though, Sir Roderic, that we do need to keep this in context, that a lot of parallels are drawn about Iraq in 2003 with Germany in 1945, and I have to say that was the intellectual mindset that Bremer brought with him, there was a parallel with the reconstruction of Germany in 1945. In 1945, the Allies excluded 2.5 per cent of the German population from jobs because of their links with the Naxi party. What Bremer was proposing was excluding 0.1 per cent of the Iraqi population, ie 25 times fewer, proportionately, than was the case in Germany. And in that context he was looking for a policy of -- a scope for giving exemptions.

That was one of the key moments in yesterday's hearing (the Iraq Inquiry did not hold a public hearing today, they resume public testimony on Monday with five witnesses scheduled, Lt Gen John Kiszely, Lt Gen Robin Brims, Lt Gen Jonathon Riley and Gen Peter Wall).
Michael Evans (Times of London) reports of Sawers' testimony, "He said that the de-Baathification programme and the disbandment of the Iraqi Army, which many critics claim triggered the Sunni insurgency, had been agreed in Washington -- apparently without prior consultation with Britain. Sir John said that the Government had supported plans to remove the top three tiers of the Baathist regime -- 5,000 officials -- but not the 25,000 lower-grade Iraqis on the fourth tier of the regime, many of whom were teachers. He told the inquiry that he had argued against the decision but that Paul Bremer, the US official in charge of the civilian effort in Iraq, ignored him." Con Couglin (Telegraph of London) emphasizes the exchange and provides context on the decision:

As the Chilcot inquiry heard yesterday from Sir John Sawers, the new head of MI6, who was in Iraq immediately after Saddam's overthrow, the "de-Baathification" policy implemented by the US-led coalition resulted in tens of thousands of Sunnis being thrown out of their jobs because of their support for Saddam's regime, and for his Baath political party. During the insurgency that followed, hundreds of thousands of Sunnis fled Baghdad and other areas to seek sanctuary in Syria. When Saddam was in power, there were an estimated five million Sunnis living in Baghdad. Today, that figure has declined to just a few hundred thousand: Baghdad is now a Shia city, where many prominent politicians are in the pay of their co-religionists in Iran.

Couglin also reminds readers of the benchmarks George W. Bush set with his 'surge' which did include de-de-Ba'athification. Benchmarks? They're meaningless. (Remember that as it relates to Afghanistan.) They were never followed. The White House benchmarks were supposed to take place by the end of 2007. They didn't. Then began the spin of "oh, we wanted progress on these benchmarks." No. Those benchmarks were how the Congress and the American people were supposed to be able to measure 'progress.' There was not supposed to be, "Well, they moved a little towards this . . ." Many of the benchmarks related to things the Iraqi Constitution already mandated. They weren't met in 2007, they weren't met in 2008. Coughlin feels they're forgotten by the Obama administration. At the end of November,
Steven Lee Myers showed the honesty that the GAO has refused to show when he wrote a thought piece for the New York Times (he's a reporter for the paper but the piece linked to is an opinion piece which appeared in the Sunday opinion section, the Week In Review). If you drop back to the September 16, 2008 snapshot, you can see US House Rep Lloyd Doggett grill Joseph Christoff of the GAO on the benchmarks. Bremer started the de-Ba'athification process. Ending it (parts of it) was a 2007 benchmark. In January of 2008, Solomon Moore (New York Times) reported on the much-trumpeted 'progress' on that: the Parliament passed a law -- "a document riddled with loopholes and caveats to the point that some Sunni and Shiite officials say it could actually exclude more former Baathists than it lets back in -- particularly in the crucial security ministries that U.S. officials have called the key to their plans for eventual withdrawal from Iraq." Back in November of 2004, Jon Lee Anderson (New Yorker) reported on some of the fallout from de-Ba'athification:

[Stephen] Browning recalled a meeting that he and other officials had with Bremer before the announcement. "Bremer walked in and announced his de-Baathification order. I said that we had established a good working relationship with technicians -- not senior-level people -- of the Baath Party, and I expressed my feeling that this measure could backfire. Bremer said that it was not open for discussion, that this was what was going to be done and his expectation was that we would carry it out. It was not a long meeting>'
The order had an immediate effect on Browning's work: "We had a lot of directors general of hospitals who were very good and, with de-Baathification, we lost them and their expertise overnight," he told me. At the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, which was another of his responsibilities, "we were left dealing with what seemed like the fifth string. . . . Nobody who was left knew anything."

The illegal war was both illegal and a disaster from the start. Built on that, there was little chance that 'good' would bloom. It did not. Among the many bad decisions after the illegal war started was the decision to force out the Ba'athists.

Today the
US military announced: "CAMP VICTORY, Iraq -- A Multi-National Corps-Iraq Soldier died Dec. 10 from non-combat related injuries. Release of the identity of the Soldier is being withheld pending notification of the next of kin. The name of the deceased service member will be announced through the U.S. Department of Defense Official Web site at http://www.defenselink.mil/. The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incident is currently under investigation." The announcement brings to 4369 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.

In other reported violence today . . .

Bombings?

Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which drew security forces to the site as a car bomb went off claiming the lives of 6 lives (2 police officers, 4 civilians) and leaving twenty-one people wounded and a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured a police captain.

Shootings?

Reuters notes a Kirkuk assualt on the Iraqi military in which 1 Iraqi soldier was injured.

Staying on the topic of violence, the
UNHCR issued a release today based on the remarks of spokesperson Andrej Mahecic:

UNHCR is shocked and saddened by the recent bombings and continued violence in Iraq which have left hundreds dead and wounded this week.
Despite the efforts of the authorities, the security situation remains precarious. For this reason UNHCR's guidelines on Iraqis (last revised in April 2009) should continue to be applied and countries need to refrain from forcibly returning Iraqis originating from the region of Central Iraq back to those governorates deemed to be unsafe, namely -- Baghdad, Ninewa, Salah al Din, Diyala, Tameem (Kirkuk).
In our guidelines issued last April, we noted that in view of the serious human rights violations and continuing security incidents throughout Iraq, most predominantly in the central governorates, asylum-seekers from these governorates should be considered to be in need of international protection. UNHCR therefore advises against involuntary returns to Iraq of persons originating from Central Iraq until there is a substantial improvement in the security and human rights situation in the country.
Concerning asylum-seekers from the three northern governorates, as well as those from the southern governorates and Al Anbar, UNHCR recommends that their protection needs are assessed on an individual basis.
While the number of security incidents has reduced many groups continue to face significant threats with UNHCR offices reporting that the numbers of Iraqi refugees returning are being offset by new arrivals.


The UN's alert comes as
Niraj Warikoo (Detroit Free Press) reports, "At a forum featuring a senior State Department official, Iraqi-American Christians blasted the U.S. government for policies they said have devasted Iraq's minorities." The official, the loose grip on numbers Michael Corbin, was asked if the Iraq War had hurt Iraq's Christian population and he replied, "I can't answer that. Let's leave that to the historians." Well, well, a Bush grows in the State Dept. Corbin should have been fired a long time and if the DC press had half the spirit and guts the Detroit group did, Corbin would have been pressed for answers on any of his many lies regarding refugees.

Iraq is not safe and while other nations attempt to use it as a dumping ground by forcibly sending refugees back to Iraq, look at how Nouri al-Maliki treats Iranian refugees in his country, specifically the residents of Camp Ashraf.
Amnesty International issued the following today:

The Iraqi authorities must not forcibly relocate about 3,400 members of an Iranian opposition group from a settlement north of Baghdad where they have lived since the mid-1980's, Amnesty International said on Friday. Sources have told Amnesty International that residents of Camp Ashraf, which is 60km north of Baghdad, have been given a deadline of 15 December 2009 to leave or they will be forcibly removed and relocated elsewhere in Iraq. Some may also be at risk of being forcibly returned to Iran. Camp Ashraf is home to over 3,000 members and supporters of the Iranian opposition group, the People's Mojaheddin Organization of Iran (PMOI). The group have been living there for more than 20 years and it is now a small town with shops, medical and other facilities. "Whatever measures the Iraqi authorities decide to take with regard to the future of Camp Ashraf, the rights of all its residents must be protected and guaranteed at all times," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa programme at Amnesty International. "Further no Iranian national in Iraq who is at risk of serious human rights violations in Iran should be forcibly returned there." Government officials in Iraq have been quoted as saying plans are in place to forcibly remove people from the camp to other sites within Iraq in the coming days. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has reportedly announced that Camp Ashraf's residents will be moved to the southern province of Muthanna. Amnesty International fears that forced removals of the residents of Camp Ashraf would put them at risk of arbitrary arrest, torture or other forms of ill-treatment, and unlawful killing. Since mid-2008 the Iraqi government has repeatedly indicated that it wanted to close Camp Ashraf, and that its residents should leave Iraq or face being forcibly expelled from the country. On 28-29 July 2009 Iraqi security forces stormed the camp and at least nine residents were killed and many more injured. Another 36 who had been detained were reported to have been tortured and beaten. They were released on 7 October in poor health after maintaining a hunger strike throughout their period of detention. No investigations are known to have been carried out by the Iraqi authorities into their alleged torture and other ill-treatment or into allegations that Iraqi security forces used excessive, lethal force when taking control of Camp Ashraf last July.

Lastly on Iraq,
Tom A. Peter (Christian Science Monitor) has an article on an important topic that we're noting at Third on Sunday (translation, Jim made me agree last night not to cover the topic here) so we'll just quote a section of Peter's article and probably hit on it again in Monday's snapshot. He's covering the counter-insurgency (war on a native people) program:

Today the program enjoys a core of supporters, but it's done little to address the concerns of anthropologists and, now, rising military complaints that the program has slowed the growth of the military's ability to train culturally sensitive warriors. At a time when the military's ability to conduct counterinsurgency is vital to the success of its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, determining the value of a program like HTS is increasingly important.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, US military leaders began placing increased importance on understanding local cultures and viewpoints as a critical component of their mission. The question for it is whether HTS helps or hurts that goal.
"I wish I could say I've seen something that made me feel better [about HTS], but I haven't," says Hugh Gusterson, a professor of anthropology and sociology at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., who has had concerns about the program since its inception.


Meanwhile
Princess Tiny Meat has not ended the Iraq War. Strangely, he picked up the Nobel Peace Prize this week and spoke of his Iraq plan -- his? It's the Bush plan. You would have thought, War Hawk to War Hawk, sisters under the skin, Barry O would have thanked George W. Bush in his acceptance speech. Cedric's "No one can figure it out" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! EVEN HE'S SHOCKED!" (joint-post), Rebecca's "barry disappoints," Marcia's "F**k Copenhagen and the Environmental movement" and Trina's "Look who's applauding" comment on the absurdity of awarding a War Hawk a peace prize. (Marcia's actually got a more blistering post -- which no one in this community will disagree with.) Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan was in Oslo and she spoke out. From her website, here's an excerpt of her speech:

This 'Peace Prize'to Obama was nothing but a slap in the face to people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine, Iran, North Korea, Colombia, Honduras, Venezuela and anywhere that Obama´s boot of Empire is crushing or threatening to crush.This 'Peace Prize' is a slap in the fact to parents like myself whose child has been killed in the Bush/Obama wars, now approved of by 'Peace committees.'This award was a slap in the face to us--we who have been sacrificing and struggling for true peace for years.

Yesterday
KPFA's KPFA's Flashpoints Radio found Dennis Bernstein addressing the issue with Jody Williams and Kathy Kelly. Excerpt:

Dennis Bernstein: One more question I wanted to ask you. Barack Obama has turned to use Iraq as an example of an effective, successful war -- withdrawing to the country side -- as the model for Afghanistan, Pakistan. What goes through your mind when you hear that?Kathy Kelly: I do think it's an obscenity, Dennis, to say to people in Iraq that we achieved a success in their country. We've devastated Iraqi society. What have they got? They don't have hospitals, they don't have schools, they don't have a middle class, they don't have electricity in many areas, they don't have much of a future for their children in terms of jobs and employment. Five million people have left the country. Families have been bereaved, millions have lost their lives in the combination of economic sanctions and the war. What have they got? They've got a 'surge'! I mean, you know, do we just say that they're 'lucky'? That the corruption is so high that we've basically been paying people not to attack the United States troops and are we to say that's a successful template that we're going to impose on Afghanistan? Are they then, the poorest country in the world, to be delighted that we've come over to give them bereavement, destruction, bloodshed and a quagmire of our troops being there? As a continuation of war, endless war, who benefits? I think we have to look at the security contractors, Kellogg Brown & Root, Blackwater, DynCorp, Triple Canopy and of course the big, the big weapon makers. These are the ones who are the beneficiaries of this war. But let's not act as though we're doing something kindly and humane for the poorest people in the world.

TV notes. Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings),
NOW on PBS asks: "Why are we sending thousands of military personnel to Guam?"Over the next five years, as many as 30,000 servicemembers and their families will descend on the small island of Guam, nearly tripling its presence there. It's part of a larger agreement that the U.S. signed with Japan to realign American forces in the Pacific, but how will this multi-billion dollar move impact the lives and lifestyle of Guam's nearly 180,000 residents? On Friday, December 11 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW on PBS travels to the U.S. territory of Guam to find out whether their environment and infrastructure can support such a largeand quick infusion of people, and why the buildup is vital to our national security.This Sunday the History Channel airs The People Speak, Anthony Arnove notes it's "the long awaited documentary film inspired by Howard Zinn's books A People's History of the United States and Voices of a People's History of the United States." It airs Sunday, December 13th at 8:00pm EST and 7:00 Central (8:00pm Pacific as well):
Using dramatic and musical performances of the letters, diaries and speeches of everyday Americans, the documentary feature film THE PEOPLE SPEAK gives voice to those who spoke up for social change throughout U.S. history, forging a nation from the bottom up with their insistence on equality and justice.Narrated by acclaimed historian Howard Zinn and based on his best-selling books, A People's History of the United States and, with Anthony Arnove, Voices of a People's History, THE PEOPLE SPEAK illustrates the relevance of these passionate historical moments to our society today and reminds us never to take liberty for granted.THE PEOPLE SPEAK is produced by Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Chris Moore, Anthony Arnove, and Howard Zinn, co-directed by Moore, Arnove and Zinn, and features dramatic and musical performances by Allison Moorer, Benjamin Bratt, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Chris Robinson, Christina Kirk, Danny Glover, Darryl "DMC" McDaniels, David Strathairn, Don Cheadle, Eddie Vedder, Harris Yulin, Jasmine Guy, John Legend, Josh Brolin, Kathleen Chalfant, Kerry Washington, Lupe Fiasco, Marisa Tomei, Martín Espada, Matt Damon, Michael Ealy, Mike O'Malley, Morgan Freeman, Q'orianka Kilcher, Reg E. Cathey, Rich Robinson, Rosario Dawson, Sandra Oh, Staceyann Chin, and Viggo Mortensen.
Monday December 14th, ABC airs
Jennifer Hudson: I'll Be Home for Christmas (8:00 to 9:00 pm EST, first hour of prime time). Academy Award and Grammy winner Jennifer Hudson's guest for her special is Michael Buble. Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen around the roundtable are Dan Balz (Washington Post), Janet Hook (Los Angeles Times), Eamon Javers (Politico) and Jeff Zeleny (New York Times). Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Kim Campbell, Melinda Henneberger, Eleanor Holmes Norton and Tara Setmayer to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
President ObamaIn his first extensive interview since his speech announcing his troop build-up in Afghanistan, President Obama talks about his plans for Afghanistan and Pakistan, the economy and the creation of jobs and reacts to the breach in security at last week's White House state dinner. Steve Kroft reports.
Growing Body PartsMorley Safer reports on the emerging technology of growing body parts from human cells taken directly from patients, providing new hope for amputees and patients on organ-transplant lists. Watch Video
Ricky GervaisLesley Stahl profiles the man who created the hit television program "The Office," which has opened other doors to the stage and screen for the British comedian. Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, Dec. 13, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.


Lastly independent journalist
David Bacon explores working conditions in the US in"MASS FIRINGS - THE NEW FACE OF IMMIGRATION RAIDS" (The Progressive):Ana Contreras would have been a competitor for the national tai kwon do championship team this year. She's 14. For six years she's gone to practice instead of birthday parties, giving up the friendships most teenagers live for. Then two months ago disaster struck. Her mother Dolores lost her job. The money for classes was gone, and not just that."I only bought clothes for her once a year, when my tax refund check came," Dolores Contreras explains. "Now she needs shoes, and I had to tell her we didn't have any money. I stopped the cable and the internet she needs for school. When my cell phone contract is up next month, I'll stop that too. I've never had enough money for a car, and now we've gone three months without paying the light bill."Contreras shares her misery with eighteen hundred other families. All lost their jobs when their employer, American Apparel, fired them for lacking immigration status. {Her name was changed for this article.] She still has her letter from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), handed her two months ago by the company lawyer. It says the documents she provided when she was hired are no good, and without work authorization, her work life is over.Of course, it's not really over. Contreras still has to keep working if she and her daughter are to eat and pay rent. So instead of a job that barely paid her bills, she had to find another one that won't even do that.Contreras is a skilled sewing machine operator. She came to the U.S. thirteen years ago, after working many years in the garment factories of Tehuacan, Puebla. There companies like Levis make so many pairs of stonewashed jeans that the town's water has turned blue. In Los Angeles, Contreras hoped to find the money to send home for her sister's weekly dialysis treatments, and to pay the living and school expenses for four other siblings. For five years she moved from shop to shop. Like most garment workers, she didn't get paid for overtime, her paychecks were often short, and sometimes her employer disappeared overnight, owing weeks in back pay.If that link doesn't work, try this one. David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which just won the CLR James Award. Bacon can be heard on KPFA's The Morning Show (over the airwaves in the Bay Area, streaming online) each Wednesday morning (begins airing at 7:00 am PST).



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Thursday, December 10, 2009

That basic

In a bold but risky year-end strategy, Democrats are preparing to raise the federal debt ceiling by as much as $1.8 trillion before New Year’s rather than have to face the issue again prior to the 2010 elections.

That's David Rogers of Politico. And Barack has continued both illegal war and spent a fortune doing so in the process. And now we're supposed to be thrilled because the debt ceiling can be raised?

Stop the wars. Stop the corporate bailouts. And start working for the American people who are sick and tired of seeing all of our money wasted on one military 'adventure' after another.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Thursday December 10, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, Nouri finds a new group to scapegoat for violence in Iraq, Nouri orders residents of Camp Ashraf 'relocated,' big oil circles Baghdad, as does Defense Secretary Robert Gates on layover, and more.
Today the US military announced: "BAGHDAD -- A Multi-National Division–Baghdad Soldier died, Dec. 10, of non-combat related injuries. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/. The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incident is under investigation." The announcement brings the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4368.
Bombings?
Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul roadside bombing injured two Iraqi soldiers. Reuters notes another Mosul roadside bombing which injured one person, a third Mosul roadside bombing which left five people wounded (two were police officers) and a fourth Mosul roadside bombing which injured three bodyguards for police Brig Gen Majed al-Bayati.
Shootings?
Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the Baghdad assassination of 1 sheik.
Meanwhile, this afternoon Iraqi journalist Riyadh Mohammed (New York Times' At War Blog) explained, "Since the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, I had kept a list of ever relative or friend killed in violence. As of late 2006, I counted 124 deaths. Suddenly I stopped. No. 125 was my father. My father had told me a few weeks prior to his tragic death that his phone book was filled with telephone numbers of killed and missing people. He was soon to join my list."
As the violence continues in Iraq and people are wounded and dying, it's not all about oil, Ayla Jean Yackley (Reuters) helpfully explains, it's about the "drilling rigs" which will need "thousands of tonnes of cement and steel, many miles of pipeline and tens of thousands of trained and qualified workers." PFC Energy's Raad Alkadiri crows, "Iraq will place a massive call on the service sector. It will start to be a black hole, sucking a lot of the sector in from the region and beyond." Hassan Hafidh and Guy Chazan (Wall St. Journal) report on the running of the bores, foreign oil execs who "are flocking to Iraq" in the hopes of landing some of the winning bids in the Friday and Saturday rounds of bidding. Remember, if you're going to Baghdad Green Zone, be sure to wear the blood of many dead, if you're going to Baghdad Green Zone . . . Sinan Salaheddin and Brian Murphy (AP) report 15 fields are up for bid and 44 companies are competing to be the big winner (the people of Iraq have already been cast as the big losers in the continued filming of The Theft Of Iraqi Oil). Reuter's Simon Webb has apparently been hired to do the soundtrack and performs a modified Elvis classic "It's now or never . . for Big Oil in Iraq." During a spoken rap at the bridge, Webb explains, "It is one of the largest auctions ever held, with around the same reserves on offer as all the oil in OPEC-member Libya." The Iraq War, the illegal war, is big business. Iran's Press TV today reports on the $2.4 billion, BILLION, weapons deal Iraq entered into with the Ukraine. If you're missing the point, Bellamny Pailthorp (KPLU -- link has audio and text) quotes Iraq Ambassador to the US sami Sumaida'ie in Seattle declaring, "Iraq is open for business." On the visit, Chris Grygiel (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) adds: "The purpose of Samir Sumaida'ie's two-day visit to the region was to meet with Boeing, Microsoft and others as Iraq continues to rebuild after the Saddam Hussein regime was toppled and the United States scales back its military presence in the country."
Scaling back the military presence? Before the tag sale? Not hardly. In fact, some might consider the US Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, landing in Baghdad today increasing the US military presence. Kevin Baron (Stars and Stripes) reports Gates met with President Jalal Talabani. Remember the supposed 'improved' 'security' in Iraq? Even now, nearly seven years after the Iraq War started (March, 2003), Robert Gates still has to sneak into the country on what Baron terms an "unannounced stop". Iran's Press TV terms it "a surprise visit" which sort of makes you picture Gates arriving with a bag of presents. Gates may have wante to be in and out on the same day; however, Nouri put him off and now Gates has a layover as he waits for Nouri to find the time to meet with him. Elisabeth Bumiller and Marc Santora (New York Times) explain, "American defense officials insisted that Mr. Maliki had not rebuffed the defense secretary, but it was not until late Thursday, hours after Mr. Gates landed in Baghdad, that they said that Mr. Maliki had agreed to see him on Friday morning. Mr. Gates' aides scrambled to rearrange his schedule." CNN adds that Gates "called off a planned news briefing as a result" of the postponement.
Nouri was busy with a number of things today including facing Parliament. Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) quotes Nouri insisting: "It is hard for us to appoint the chief of intelligence since each political bloc demands that this man should be from their blocs." Al Jazeera quotes from this melodramatic Nouri moment: "All of the recent crime is because of political and sectarian differences. I call on parliament to issue a decision to purify the security services from anyone who belongs to any political party, including my party." BBC News explains that quotes from Nouri "were relayed to reporters after the closed door-meeting on Thursday." Which only makes it more confusing because Nouri's talking out of every side of his mouth. Tuesday he did what he always does, insist it's former Ba'athists in Syria. David Kenner (Foreign Policy) notes Nouri did that in August and October as well (on "Bloody Wednesday" and "Bloody Sunday") and that, "Maliki raised eyebrows for previously pointing the finger at Syria, when the released evidence looked less than definitive. However, the fact that he is repeating his claims now shows he has on intention of backing down -- and is an important data point on where Iraq will stand on intra-Arab disputes in the future. Saudi Arabia, for example, has remained intensely skeptical of the Shia-dominated government, and has so far refused to send an ambassador to Baghdad." Meanwhile Lara Jakes (AP) explores Rabiya, on the border Iraq and Syira share, and finds little to support a claims of Syrian foreign fighters or Ba'athists entering from Syira and "Iraqi and American security forces alike [. . .] say they've neither seen nore heard of Baathists illegally crossing the border in recent months." In Syria, Andrew England (Financial Times of London) speaks with former Ba'athists, "Syria has rejected all those claims. Mr [Abdul Nasser al-] Jenabi, who represents a Sunni insurgent group aligned with Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, a Baathist who served as deputy head of Saddam Hussein's Revolutionary Command Council, said his group did not target Iraqis and had no role in the bombings. He said that he and others like him in Syria were involved in media relations and political issues. Some observers also say Mr Maliki may have decided to point the finger of blame because of the damage the attacks have caused to his own credibility."
Credibility? Nouri? Tuesday, Dar Al Hayat reported (translation is mine and my Arabic is very poor) that there is a possiblity Sahwa ("Awakenings," "Sons Of Iraq") will stop receiving payment from the Iraqi government at the end of December and that this comes as Sahwas continue to be targeted (gives an example of recent violence that claimed 6 lives). The article notes that the Sahwa were supposed to have been incorporated into Iraqi jobs by the end of this year "according to an agreement between US forces and the Iraqi government". A Sahwa leader (from western Baghdad), Naji, speaks of concerns about a security vacuum should Sahwa be taken off the payrolls and he notes the possiblity that they could return to their older ways (the US military paid them off originally so they would stop attacking US military personnel and equipment) -- he terms this "a big problem." He speaks of announcements by the National Reconciliation Commission (a body in Parliament headed by Zuhair al-Jalabi) that they will be closing out the Sahwa at the end of the year. A Diyala Province Sahwa leader, Sheikh Hussam, issued a call on the Iraqi government to live up to the promises it made to Sahwa and refers to the need for the government to compensate the families and children of Sahwa who have been killed. Again, that's my translation and it's very poor.
Nouri's credibility? Today wasn't all melodrama, Nouri also played bully. Iran's Al-Alam News reports that he stated (at his website) that the Mujahedin-e Khlaq Organization (MKO -- also known as the MEK) would be "quarantined in a far-fetched region south of Iraq before leaving the country." The residents of Camp Ashraf are Iranian dissidents who were welcomed into Iraq by Saddam Hussein. When the US invaded in 2003, they took over the protection of Camp Ashraf. An agreement was reached between Nouri and the previous administration at the end of last year whereby Nouri promised not to attack or harm the residents. Nouri never lived up to that promise and -- pay attention, KRG -- the US didn't do a damn thing. Not a damn thing. [Pay attention, KRG? The KRG's been promised a lengthy list of items by the Obama administration. A great many of those things will require the consent of Nouri or the next prime minister. And if they don't consent? The US government doesn't exactly have a record they can point to.] July 28th, Nouri ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf, at least 11 residents were killed. Nouri's announcement today of moving them (possibly as soon as next Tuesday) is certainly beneficial . . . for him. Sarah Cosgrove (Edgware Times) reports British "MPs and Peers from across the political spectrum have welcomed a Spanish court's deicison to investigate claims Iraqi troops killed refugees at Camp Ashraf." Since the attack, Nouri's barred most journalists and aid organizations from visiting Camp Ashraf. Now, as Spain's going to investigate, he wants to ship all the residents to "a far-fetched region"? The Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance on Iran states Nouri is taking orders from Iran and:
The Iranian Resistance denounced remarks by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, concerning "Transfer of Camp Ashraf residents to Nuqrat al-Salman" which was described by him as a "step towards expelling them (from Iraq)," as unlawful and disgraceful kowtowing to orders of the religious fascism ruling Iran in the midst of nationwide uprising in Iran. The Iranian regime has set the suppression of Ashraf residents in Iraq as a precondition to its support for al-Maliki in the upcoming parliamentary elections in Iraq.
Simultaneous with the nationwide uprising during the past few days that people have been chanting "Down with Khamenei" and "Down with the principle of velayat-e faqih (absolute rule of clergy)" that has sounded the death knell of the regime;
While the international community has condemned suppression of uprising in the strongest terms and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stressed that "The suppression of protests is escalating, it is much more serious," and has been "calling for respect for the right to protest that is also a fundamental freedom," and Amnesty International described "Human rights violations in Iran are now as bad as at any time in the past 20 years";
Turning to London where the Iraq Inquiry continues. John Chilcot is the chair of the five member commission -- six if you count Margaret Aldred. Mark Tran (Guardian) gives an overview of the commission. Today's witness was M16 head John Sawyers (link has video and transcript) which is England's Secret Intelligence Service. Sawyers is the third head of M16 since the start of the Iraq War. Before the war broke out Richard Dearlove headed M16. In 2004, he was replaced by John Scarlett (who offered testimony yesterday) and Sawyers took over in 2009. Prior to that he held many jobs but the one pertaining to Iraq would be the UK Special Representative in Baghdad (2003). Prior to that -- we're including this because a friend in England's telling me that several press accounts are getting it wrong -- prior to be the UK Special Representative in Baghdad, he was the British Ambassador to Cairo and held that position from 2001 until 2003. There appears to be some confusion about when he was an advisor to Tony Blair (his title was "Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister) that was 1999 to 2001 and not, as some are reporting, from 2001 to 2003). We'll pick up with Sawyers complaint today about the US military:
Yes, General Mike Jackson, who was then the newly appointed chief of general staff, visited Baghdad in my first few days there and and I talked with a small company of paras who were there to help protect our -- I think they were a platoon actually to protect our embassy, which was outside the Green Zone, and in discussion it became clear that part of the problem was the posture of the US army. They were in their tanks, in their Darth Vader kit, with wraparound sunglasses and helmets and flack jackets and everything else, and there was no real rapport between the US army and the ordinary citizens of the capital, and Mike Jackson -- and I have to say I have some sympathy with this -- thought there was a case of bringing a large contingent of paras, not just the 20 or so in the platoon, but a battlion of paras up to work with the Americans to demonstrate a different way of the army deploying in urban areas, and this was all part of what we had learnt in other places, in Northern Ireleand and so on. I reported this as one option backt o London, after I discussed it with Mike, but it was clearly a military matter -- Mike Jackson. There were differences of views between the Chiefs of Staff on this.
He had strong criticism for ORHA (Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance -- later becomes the CPA in Baghdad -- Coalition Provisional Authority) as well:
But ORHA, as an organisation, did not have a clear strategy and was not well managed or coordinated and didn't have very many resources. Living conditions were pretty appalling. I had certainly not experienced the sorts of conditions that we had to live under, the heat. For the first time in my life I was sleeping in a dormitory with a lot of other people. There were no doors to the bathrooms. There was itnermittent water and electricity. It was pretty grim. So the US civilians were unable to [get] their own act together, let alone the act for the rest of Iraq.
Sawyers also spoke of problems the British were having in 2003, including in getting reliable information back to London (he did not feel the media reports were reliable -- he didn't say whether they were overly bleak or overly optimistic in his opinion). This led Committee Member Roderic Lyne to raise the point Hilary Synnott did earlier this week, about having no equipment to communicate with London on and the US military giving him a computer and his using Yahoo to send messages. Sawyers said that when the British embassy staff finally arrived in May, "they then had access to Foreign Office communications. But it didn't last very long because the place where the embassy was located, which was outside the Green Zone, was very soon determined to be unsafe for us to occupy." The illegal war never should have been started. After it was, more bad decisions were made (that's what happens when you build onto an illegal framework). Two of the most cited poor decisions are the de-Ba'athification program and the disbanding of the Iraqi military. On the first, the de-Ba'athification referred to removing Ba'athists from various positions. The Ba'ath Party was Saddam Hussein's political party. He was overthrown (and executed). A purge of all Ba'athists followed. This caused huge problems and, despite repeated promises from Nouri, it has still not been addressed and continues to fester in Iraq. No de-de-Ba'athification program has been implemented. The issue of de-Ba'athifcation was touched on at length today.
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: You arrived on 8 May, [head of CPA, the US' L. Paul] Bremer on the 12th, and within Bremer's first two weeks he had promulgated two extremely important decisions on de-Ba'athification and on dissolving the former Iraqi army. Can we look at those two decisions? To what extent were they Bremer's decisions or -- how had they been pre-cooked in Washington? I see you have got the Rand Report there, and the Rand Report suggests there had been a certain interagnecy process in Washington leading to these decisions, albeit Rand is quite critical of that process. And, very importantly for us, was the United Kingdom consulted about these crucial decisions? Was the Prime Minister consulted? Were you consulted? It is pretty late in the day be then for you to have changed them. Can you take us through that story.
John Sawyers: Can I separate them and deal with de-Ba'athification first.
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Yes.
John Sawyers: When I arrived in Baghdad on 8 May, one of the problems that ORHA were facing was that they had been undiscriminating in their Iraqi partners. They had taken, as their partners, the most senior figures in the military, in -- not in the military, sorry, in the ministries, in the police, in institutions like Baghdad University, who happened to be there. And in several of these instances, Baghdad University was one, the trade ministry was another, the health ministry, the foreign ministry, the Baghdad police -- the working level were in uproar because they were being obliged to work for the same Ba'athist masters who had tyrannised them under the Saddam regime, and tehy were refusing to cooperate on that basis. So I said, in my first significant report back to London, which I sent on the Sunday night, the day before Bremer came back, that there were a number of big issues that needed to be addressed. I listed five and one of those five was we needed a policy on which Ba'athists should be allowed to stay in their jobs and which should not. And there was already a debate going on among Iraqi political leaders about where the line should be drawn. So I flagged it up on the Sunday evening in my first report, which arrived on desks on Monday morning, on 11 May. When Bremer arrived late that evening, he and I had a first discussion, and one of the first things he said to me was that he needed to give clarity on de-Ba'athification. And he had some clear ideas on this and he would want to discuss it. So I reported again early the following monring that this was high on the Bremer's mind and I needed a steer as to what our policy was. I felt that there was, indeed, an important need for a policy on de-Ba'athifciation and that, of the various options that were being considered, some I felt, were more far-reaching than was necessary but I wasn't an expert on the Iraqi Ba'ath Party and I needed some guidance on this. I received some guidance the following day, which was helpful, and I used that as the basis for my discussion with Bremer -- I can't remember if it was the Wednesday or the Thursday that week but we had a meeting of -- Bremer and myself and our political teams, where this was discussed, and there was very strong support among the Iraqi political parties for quite a far-reaching de-Ba'athification policy. At the meeting itself, I had concerted beforehand with Ryan Crocker, who was the senior American political adviser, and I said to him that my guidance was that we should limit the scope of de-Ba'athification to the top three levels of the Ba'ath Party, which included about 5,000 people, and that we thought going to the fourth level was a step too far, and it would involve another 25,000 or so Iraqis, which wasn't necessary. And I thought Crocker was broadly sympathetic to that approach but at the meeting itself Bremer set out a strong case for including all four levels, ie the top 30,000 Ba'athists should be removed from their jobs, but there should be a policy in place for exemptions. I argued the alternative. Actually, unhelpfully, from my point of view, Ryan Crocker came in in strong support of the Bremer proposal, and I think he probably smelled the coffee and realised that this was a policy that had actually already been decided in Washington and there was no point getting on the wrong side of it. I was not aware of that at that stage and, in fact, it was only when I subsequently read the very thorough account by the Rand Corporation of these issues that I realised there had been an extensive exchange in -- between agencies in Washington.
Commitee Member Roderic Lyne: Just to pause on that, this crucial decision, not just to take the top 5,000, which probably was not a matter of argument, but to add 25,000, sweeping up a lot of professionals, teachers, doctors people like that, who had been obliged to become members of the Ba'ath parties, had been stiched up between agencies in Washington but without any consultation with the number 1 coalition partner, Britain, who were going to be vitally affected by that?
John Sawyer: I cannot vouch for that because I wasn't in London, I wasn't involved in those exchanges.
Commitee Member Roderic Lyne: But you would have been aware of if we'd been (inaudible), somebody would have told you.
John Sawyers: When I was doing my calls in London on the previous week, this was not an issue that had been raised with me. So I don't know in the embassy in Washington or people in Whitehall were plugged into the debate. I would just say, though, Sir Roderic, that we do need to keep this in context, that a lot of parallels are drawn about Iraq in 2003 with Germany in 1945, and I have to say that was the intellectual mindset that Bremer brought with him, there was a parallel with the reconstruction of Germany in 1945. In 1945, the Allies excluded 2.5 per cent of the German population from jobs because of their links with the Naxi party. What Bremer was proposing was excluding 0.1 per cent of the Iraqi population, ie 25 times fewer, proportionately, than was the case in Germany. And in that context he was looking for a policy of -- a scope for giving exemptions.
Now let's skip way ahead. They weren't listening to the British. Who was the US listening to on this decision? Sawyers said, "Why London wasn't involved in it you will have to ask others because I wasn't in London at the time. But it had clearly been thought through in Washington and they were, to some extent, under the influence of people like Ahmed Chalabi, who took a very hard line on this issue."
Sawyers testified that, as with the de-Ba'athification program, Bremer told him at their first meeting that he wanted to disband the Iraq army and that DC had agreed to this and issued "a decree". Sawyers stated, "This, again, was a new issue for me."
The Inquiry does not hear from any witness tomorrow. They resume public testimony on Monday with five witnesses scheduled, Lt Gen John Kiszely, Lt Gen Robin Brims, Lt Gen Jonathon Riley and Gen Peter Wall. Independent journalist John Pilger weighs in on the Inquiry with "Normalising the Crime of the Century" (Information Clearing House):


More than anyone, it was Sir Jeremy who tried every trick to find a UN cover for the bloodbath to come. Indeed, this was his boast to the Chilcot enquiry on 27 November, where he described the invasion as "legal but of questionable legitimacy". How clever. In the picture he wore a smirk.
Under international law, "questionable legitimacy" does not exist. An attack on a sovereign state is a crime. This was made clear by Britain's chief law officer, Attorney General Peter Goldsmith, before his arm was twisted, and by the Foreign Office's own legal advisers and subsequently by the secretary-general of the United Nations. The invasion is the crime of the 21st century. During 17 years of assault on a defenceless civilian population, veiled with weasel monikers like "sanctions" and "no fly zones" and "building democracy", more people have died in Iraq than during the peak years of the slave trade. Set that against Sir Jeremy's skin-saving revisionism about American "noises" that were "decidedly unhelpful to what I was trying to do [at the UN] in New York". Moreover, "I myself warned the Foreign Office … that I might have to consider my own position ...".
It wasn't me, guv.
The purpose of the Chilcot inquiry is to normalise an epic crime by providing enough of a theatre of guilt to satisfy the media so that the only issue that matters, that of prosecution, is never raised. When he appears in January, Blair will play this part to odious perfection, dutifully absorbing the hisses and boos. All "inquiries" into state crimes are neutered in this way. In 1996, Lord Justice Scott's arms-to-Iraq report obfuscated the crimes his investigations and voluminous evidence had revealed.

TV notes. Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings), NOW on PBS asks: "Why are we sending thousands of military personnel to Guam?"

Over the next five years, as many as 30,000 servicemembers and their families will descend on the small island of Guam, nearly tripling its presence there. It's part of a larger agreement that the U.S. signed with Japan to realign American forces in the Pacific, but how will this multi-billion dollar move impact the lives and lifestyle of Guam's nearly 180,000 residents? On Friday, December 11 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW on PBS travels to the U.S. territory of Guam to find out whether their environment and infrastructure can support such a large
and quick infusion of people, and why the buildup is vital to our national security.

This Sunday the History Channel airs
The People Speak, Anthony Arnove notes it's "the long awaited documentary film inspired by Howard Zinn's books A People's History of the United States and Voices of a People's History of the United States." It airs Sunday, December 13th at 8:00pm EST and 7:00 Central (8:00pm Pacific as well):
Using dramatic and musical performances of the letters, diaries and speeches of everyday Americans, the documentary feature film THE PEOPLE SPEAK gives voice to those who spoke up for social change throughout U.S. history, forging a nation from the bottom up with their insistence on equality and justice.

Narrated by acclaimed historian Howard Zinn and based on his best-selling books, A People's History of the United States and, with Anthony Arnove, Voices of a People's History, THE PEOPLE SPEAK illustrates the relevance of these passionate historical moments to our society today and reminds us never to take liberty for granted.

THE PEOPLE SPEAK is produced by Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Chris Moore, Anthony Arnove, and Howard Zinn, co-directed by Moore, Arnove and Zinn, and features dramatic and musical performances by Allison Moorer, Benjamin Bratt, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Chris Robinson, Christina Kirk, Danny Glover, Darryl "DMC" McDaniels, David Strathairn, Don Cheadle, Eddie Vedder, Harris Yulin, Jasmine Guy, John Legend, Josh Brolin, Kathleen Chalfant, Kerry Washington, Lupe Fiasco, Marisa Tomei, Martín Espada, Matt Damon, Michael Ealy, Mike O'Malley, Morgan Freeman, Q'orianka Kilcher, Reg E. Cathey, Rich Robinson, Rosario Dawson, Sandra Oh, Staceyann Chin, and Viggo Mortensen.

And finishing up TV notes, Monday December 14th, ABC airs Jennifer Hudson: I'll Be Home for Christmas (8:00 to 9:00 pm EST, first hour of prime time). Academy Award and Grammy winner Jennifer Hudson's guest for her special is Michael Buble.
In other news, Princess Tiny Meat had another big day. Mr. Vanity accepted the Nobel 'Peace' Prize while most Americans were asleep. They missed nothing but the continued display of Barry O's enormous ego. In an attempt to sound humble, he declared, "I have no doubt that there are others who may be more deserving." Apparently, he didn't study English in this country. "I have no doubt" "there may be" do not go together. The wording is, "I have no doubt that there are other who are more deserving." When he says that "there may be"? That indicates doubt. As per usual, Barry O's ego trumped grammar. See who catches it and watch how many look the other way. Last night, Cedric's "He's not winning them over" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! THE REVIEWS WERE BRUTAL!" (joint-post for Cedric and Wally) and Ann's "Didn't they have diplomacy and manners in Chicago?" addressed the topic of Barry O's latest award. And earlier this week, World Can't Wait noted "Barack Obama Deserves the Nobel War = Peace Prize!:"

The U.S. organization "The World Can't Wait," having organized weeks of protest against President Barack Obama's escalation of troops to Afghanistan, announced today that it accepts the wisdom of the Nobel Committee's choice of Obama as winner of its most famous prize. We find no irony in December 10 being International Human Rights Day.
We hope the Nobel Committee is satisfied that Barack Obama's increase of US troops to occupy Afghanistan is enough to merit the prize. The speech he delivered at West Point on December 1 echoed 8 successful years of George Bush justifications, and Obama's commitment to "win" certainly should have removed any reservation that he deserves the prize.
His speech rested on the notion that war brings peace, that the military is an instrument of peace. Strange because though basic training teaches many, many things, conflict resolution really isn't one of them.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Didn't they have diplomacy and manners in Chicago?

Get your ass over to The Daily Beast to read Katarina Andersson's "Obama Snubs the King:"


A day before President Obama receives his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, the president’s treatment of his Norwegian hosts has become hot news across Scandinavia.
News outlets across the region are calling Obama arrogant for slashing some of the prize winners’ traditional duties from his schedule. “Everybody wants to visit the Peace Center except Obama,”
sniped the Norwegian daily Aftenposten, amid reports the president would snub his own exhibition at the Nobel Peace Center. “A bit arrogant—a bit bad,” proclaimed another Aftenposten headline.

Well he's never known how to put anyone but himself first. The man is vain. The image from the 2008 campaign is him with his head tossed slightly back, looking down his nose at everyone else.

You also have to grasp that if Desiree Rogers weren't social secretary, maybe someone could tell Barack, "There are certain things you don't do."

He's bowing and scraping in Japan and then he's snubbing today. No happy middle with him.

He's our new embarrassment on the world stage. Taking over from Georege W.

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

Wednesday, December 9, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, despite his so-called money woes Nouri is notching up another big buy, Tony Blair's right hand test public waters about revising the public record, the Rolling Stones are mentioned in the Iraq Inquiry, Iraqis want answers to yesterday's bombings, and more.

National elections in Iraq were once supposed to take place this month. They hit the snooze button but swore it would happen by January 2010. The Constitution mandated that the elections take place in January because the terms of the current members of Parliament (that includes Nouri al-Maliki) expire at the end of January. December was pushed by the Bush administration because Iraq does not vote and have the results that night or the next day. Futhermore, after the votes are counted, there are many deals and alliances to make. It was months after the last national elections before the Parliament came up with Nouri as prime minister -- however, their first choice was shot down by the US government. So December was thought to be ideal since it would allow weeks after the election to sort out various things.

Despite the promise of January, despite the Constitutional mandate of January, no elections will take place in January.
Anne Tang (Xinhua) reports elections are now supposed to take place March 7th. Al Jazeera explains, "The election, which will now fall on a Sunday, the first day of the working week in Iraq, is seen as a crucial step towards consolidating Iraq's democracy and securing a complete US military exit by the end of 2011, as planned." Prashant Rao (AFP) reminds that the new date is "almost six weeks later than the originally planned date of mid-January". An overview of the changes resulting from Sunday's measure Parliament passed shortly before midnight can be found here. These are still 'intended' elections. After what's taken place in the lats months, nothing should be accepted as a done deal until the elections are actually held. (For example, Nouri might postpone the elections citing 'rising violence'. That's the fear of one European diplomat.) CNN reports that today a presidential decree is supposed to be issued making March 7th the election date.

Yesterday, Baghdad was rocked by bombings. Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) counts four bombs which "exploded near education facilities, judicial complexes and other targets" leading to the deaths of "at least 127 people" and approximately five-hundred injured. Warren P. Strobel and Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) quote Mohamed Hussein who was in the court house during one of the bombings, "My colleagues and I were fine, but as I ran out of the room and outside the building I saw the female employees and other men injured and running, not knowing where to run. We carried our general director and other employees to the hospital." The Daily Mirror offers a photo of two injured little girls, sisters, who were wounded in yesterday's bombings. Nouri immediately began proclaiming the 'evil doers' were al Qaeda in Iraq. And Ba'athists outside the country. And people in Syria. And possibly little green men from Mars will be next in the Nouri blame game. Ned Parker, Raheem Salman and Usama Redha (Los Angeles Times) report, "It was not known who was responsible for the bombings. Some believe political blocs in teh centeral government could be sponsoring attacks in an attempt to bring down Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki. Others believe that dissidents, including some army and police officers resentful of the political order installed by the United States, are intent on overthrowing the system." Today the Independent of London editorializes (and hypothesizes), "The aim of the bombers is none other than to sow public panic and expose the government as too weak to safeguard people's security. In the fearful atmosphere that would result, many people would be deterred from voting, so discrediting the whole process -- and tipping Iraq back to the brink of civil war, where it was as recently as two years ago. For the many Iraqis for whom life has started to improve after the ravages of a war they did not seek, this would be nothing short of another tragedy." The NewsHour (PBS) reported on the bombings yesterday (link has text, video and audio options) with Washington Week's Gwen Ifill speaking with the Christian Science Monitor and GlobalPost's Jane Arraf who didn't buy into the absolute 'knowledge' the Independent does.JANE ARRAF: And this was kind of more of the same. The attacks were government institutions. And, in fact, two of them, connected to the finance ministry and the justice ministry, were based in buildings that were actually moved after their major ministries were bombed earlier in the year. So, this really is connected, a lot of people think, to undermining the government, undermining faith in the security forces, and, a lot of people believe, geared at influencing the elections.GWEN IFILL: Well, that's what I was going to ask next, whether it's a coincidence that these attacks should occur just as people were -- as they were announcing this March 7 date for these elections.JANE ARRAF: Probably not a coincidence, but, certainly, the feeling is that it takes more time than a couple of days to plan these kind of attacks. And the cycle of what we have seen is actually that they have been about two months at a time. Now, these have probably been in the works and probably have been sitting in some car bomb factory somewhere waiting to be detonated and waiting to set out into the city. But that is one of the issues that Iraqi security forces are grappling with.

And the Iraqi people grapple with the bombings as well.
CBS News' Charlie D'Agata reported on the bombings (link is video) and survivor Ahmed Jabbar wondered how the Iraqi forces allowed the car with bombs to pass through their checkpoint? Yesterday, Glenn Reeder (The Pacifica Evening News -- heard on KPFA, KPFK and other California outlets and streamed online) observed that "authorities also faced angry questions about how bombers found holes in Iraqi security again." This is echoed by Michael Jansen (Irish Times) who observes, "However, many Iraqis ask why, after more than five years of US training, the country's post-war police and security forces are unable to halt the bombings, particularly at high profile government institutions." (Mike noted that last night and passed it on to me, thank you Mike.) Meanwhile, Alsumaria reports that the Minister of the Interiror, Jawad al-Boulani, is saying he will appear before Parliament "to clarify security conjunctures around Iraq." Oliver August (Times of London) added that Nouri "and several senior ministers are expected to appear in Parliament today to justify the current safety precaustions and give details of the attacks". Michael Gisick (Stars and Stripes) reports that the appearances before Parliament have been postponed until Thursday according to Speaker of Parliament Ayad al-Samarraie. While testimony was postponed, Warren P. Strobel and Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspaper) report Baghdad's "chief military official" has been relieved of his duties by Nouri. Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) adds that Lt Gen Abboud Qanbar (the one relieved) will be replaced with Lt Gen Ahmed Hashim Ouda.

US officials also had reactions to the violence in the country they continue to occupy. Yesterday, Robert Knight (
KPFA's Flashpoints Radio) noted that "Obama's Press Secretary Robert Gibbs insisted that today's bombings mean the country is 'going in the right directions' and asserted that it was the attackers who he believed were threatened, rather than the Iraqi public." Also Tuesday evening,the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, found anchor Katie Couric addressing the bombings with the top US commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno:

Katie Couric: Does it make you rethink the strategy of withdrawing US forces from major cities? Gen Ray Odierno: Uh, no, it doesn't. That's what they'd like us to do, frankly. I-I think it's important for Iraqi security forces to secure their own people. Combating suicide bombs is a very difficult business. But they are doing very well at it and we'll continue to support them in all their endeavors. Katie Couric: Having said that, why weren't the Iraqi security forces better able to protect these innocent people? Gen Ray Odierno: Yeah. Well, in two cases today -- in two of the bombs, actually, they were stopped at police checkpoints. Unfortunately one of the bombs went off near a school, a college, which killed many young people and children as well. And frankly, what it's doing is turning the Iraqi people more and more against their movement. So I think it's a strategy for them that's not going to work. And it just is so painful for me and for everybody to see these innocent people killed.

Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .

Bombings?

Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which claimed 2 lives and left seven people injured, a Baghdad bus bombing which claimed 2 lives and left eleven people injured and a Baghdad mini-bus bombing which claimed 3 lives and left eight people wounded.

Shootings?

Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul shooting at a police checkpoint in which one police officer was injured.

Corpses?

Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses discovered in Mosul. Reuters identifies the corpses as "Christian men".


Turning to the Ukraine. From Kiev,
Simon Shuster (AP) reports Ukranian MP Anatoly Grytsenko is trumpeting the new $2.5 billion sale of "weapons and military equipment" deal that has just been made for the "Ukraine to produce and deliver 420 BTR-4 armored personnel carriers, six AN-32B military transport planes and other military hardware to Iraq." There's no money to fix the services -- the basic services (potable water, electricity, etc.) -- but yet again Nouri's making a big money buy of weapons?

Excuse me, but setting aside the fact that these weapons aren't needed and overlooking the fact that turning all of these weapons over to a Failed State which can still not protect its own government building's might strike many as dangerous, wasn't concern over Iraq and weapons the heart of selling the illegal war. England could be attacked in 45 minutes! (It couldn't.) Chemical and biological weapons were amassed! (They weren't.) We don't want the next warning sign to be a mushroom cloud! (Iraq had no nuclear weapons.)

Not only were weapons what the Iraq war was sold on, but weapons were what the conservatives attempted to sell debt relief on. Don't believe me.
Click here for the Heritage organization -- right-wing as they come -- advocating for debt relief for Iraq in 2003 and let's zoom in on one key section:

The case of Iraq also raises an important moral dilemma: Should the citizens of a liberated country be burdened with the debts of a brutal dictatorship? As U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz observed in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, much of the money borrowed by the Iraqi regime had been used "to buy weapons and to build palaces and to build instruments of oppression."

So in 2003, not only did alleged possession of weapons sell the war on Iraq but the fact that Saddam Hussein spent money on weapons was reason enough, according to Paul Wolfowitz, for Iraq's debt to be forgiven. But all Nouri does is buy weapons. Does no one get that. He stockpiles a ton of money and spends a bit -- but spends it on weapons. For those who have forgotten, let's drop back to March of this year.
Aseel Kami (Reuters) reported, "Iraq's falling oil income will force it to cut spending on basic services that its war-weary citizens crave, such as sewage treatment and power supply, officials say." Grasp that Nouri's deal today is only one of many weapons deal. And yet Kami was reporting that the electricity contracts with GE -- for $600 million -- were canceled because Iraq just didn't have the money. For things that really matter. But for weapons? Nouri's always got the money for the weapons. Something is very wrong with this picture. Nouri, the new Saddam, is allowed to stockpile weapons and no one's supposed to ask: "Weren't weapon allegations how the illegal war was sold?" Nor are they allowed to point out that while Nouri spends everything on weapons, the Iraqi people continue to do without. And how did Basra's deal with the lack of potable water this summer? Saleem al-Wazzan (Nisqash) reported in July, "Recently, Shiltagh Abboud Sharad, the province's governor, resorted to religious pleas to encourage the frustrated population. On a tour of teaching hospitals the governor told doctors complaining about the lack of drinking water to be 'patient' and to remember the fortitude of the revered Iman Hussein."

NPR's Corey Flintoff (Morning Edition) filed a report earlier today where the problem for Iraq's economy was that the private sector is forced to face too many rules and regulations. Of course Flintoff also used Leigh University's Frank Gunter as an expert for the same story which made it only more questionable. Gunter insists, "If they don't find jobs, then these young Iraqis, mostly men, mostly young, mostly uneducated, become a recruiting pool for the criminal gangs, for the insurgency, the militias that work for the religious and political groups." Really? That's the problem? That's the problem if you're both a pig and and idiot. In the real world, Iraq has two growth 'areas': Orphans and widows and shame on any 'expert' who dismisses women's need to work. Of course, Nouri does have that new plan for women. They can whore themselves out and get a few bucks tossed at them for marrying a Sunni (if they're Shia) or a Shia (if they're Sunni). That's Nouri's 'answer' to the widow issue. And shame on Gunter for refusing to acknowledge the serious problem women face and let's note that Sahar Issa remains the only one at a major US outlet who has reported on women's economic plight this year from Iraq.

Sahar Issa is an Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers. It's not easy to be a US reporter stationed in Iraq but it's not easy to be an Iraqi reporter in Iraq and, in fact, most evidence would suggest being an Iraqi makes it even harder -- as evidence by the death toll of journalists in Iraq (most are Iraqis).
McClatchy's Warren P. Strobel reported at the end of November on Iraqi journalists being brave and taking a public stand in Baghdad's Firdos Square: "There was nothing stage-managed about today's gathering--a demonstration in response to the near-fatal shooting five days ago of Imad Abadi, a well-known television anchor known for his criticisms of politicians and parties of every stripe, his crusades against corruption, and his aggressive defense of press freedom. Abadi, 36, was wounded in the head and neck, in what the nonprofit group Reporters Without Borders said was clearly a target shooting. He remains in intensive care at a Baghdad hospital." In October, Joel Brinkley (News Observer) noted another demonstration by journalists and explained, "Today many of the surviving reporters are scared. The government is censoring, suing and harassing reporters. In July, The Economist reported, police arrested a journalist for taking pictures of a typical, massive Baghdad traffic jam, saying the photos reflected badly on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's campaign to demonstrate that the quality of life was improving." Noting that the satellite channel Al-Alarn was taken off the air, the Layalina Review points out:

Other media outlets are also feeling the wrath of censorship in Iraq, reports
Asharq-Alawsat, raising fears of a crackdown on Iraq's often partisan media ahead of national elections early next year. Lawsuits have been filed or threatened against both foreign and local media outlets critical of Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki's government.
Asharq-Alawsat points to a recent incident where the British newspaper The Guardian was ordered by an Iraqi court to pay 100 million Iraqi dinars (USD 86,000) in compensation for an article "in which unnamed Iraqi intelligence officials accused Maliki of being increasingly authoritarian."
At the same time, the Iraqi Department for Communications and Media has issued rules allowing it to shut down any media company that encourages "terrorism, violence and tensions," and requiring individual broadcasters to obtain licenses. The Iraqi government is also moving to censor some books, and is seeking powers to block websites deemed to be pornographic or inciting violence.

As November grew to a close the Guardian newspaper and the press found a hitherto unknown defender: former UK prime minister and forever Poodle Tony Blair.
Julian Borger (Guardian) quoted Tony Blair writing and e-mailing the following statement, "I have been following the Ghaith Abdul-Ahad court case against the Guardian in Iraq. We fought for freedom in Iraq including freedom of the press. Often what the press says is harsh or unfair. But that freedom is essential and must be upheld. So while I may not always agree with what the Guardian write I do hope that when the case goes to appeal the courts will follow due process in accordance with the Iraqi constitution." But it was Tony Blair's decision to force the scientist David Kelly to testify in public (Blair already knew who Andrew Gilligan's source was) that added to Kelly's stress. If indeed Kelly killed himself (there's a call for an inquiry into that) then Blair's actions clearly influenced Kelly's actions. Blair was offended that Kelly had told the BBC about the way intell was fixed and "sexed up." It's a strange kind of support for a free press Tony Brown thinks he has.

In London, the Iraq Inquiry continues. Brian Jones worked for the UK Ministry of Defence from 1973 to 2003.
In the Guardian, he argues the Iraq Inquiry needs to show more openess:

I have published all my witness submissions to the Hutton inquiry and Butler review on the
Iraq Inquiry Digest website to add to public understanding of the two issues on which I feel best qualified to comment: weapons of mass destruction and intelligence analysis. These are complicated matters, and there is a risk that the Chilcot inquiry will miss significant facts.
So far the inquiry has provided
precious little documentary evidence as background to its hearings. It is not clear whether this is the inquiry's decision or a consequence of the protocols imposed by the government. However, the result is that there is uncertainty about the sources the inquiry is using and the assumptions it may be making about their evidence.
Such uncertainty is likely to inhibit those who might be inclined to offer additional insights to the inquiry, because potential witnesses are unsure whether the inquiry is already aware of the information they know about. There may also be some reluctance to submit complicated information through a secretariat whose loyalties are unclear and that may decide to prevent public release under one or other of the exclusions offered by the protocols. I hope that others who provided written evidence to previous inquiries might be encouraged to disclose them for public scrutiny.

In the opening to the [PDF format warning] statement he's released, he argues for various reforms regarding intelligence analysis and the communication of it. Reports going up the chain are not, he argues, always properly appraised due to a lack of knowledge in the higher pools reviewing the reports. This makes it easier to misunderstand and also easier to distort what the data actually states. We'll note this re: Iraq from his statement:

At the time of the production and issue of the Prime Minister's dossier on Iraq's WMD in September 2002 and up to my retirement in January 2003 there was no convincing evidence that Iraq had nuclear weapons or even significantly progressed its programme following its dismantlement in the 1990s.
The evidence supporting the existence of an offensive CW [Conventional Weapons] and BW [Biological Weapons] capability was of a much lower order than in 1990. [. . .] there was no solid evidence of the continued existence of either capability or continuing programmes.

Jones then republish's his previous statements to both inquiries.

Today's witnesses were
Lt Gen Frederick Viggers, Lt Gen Andrew Figgures, Hilary Synnott, Lt Gen Lamb and Maj Gen Andrew Stewart (link hs videos and transcript). John Chilcot is the chair of the Inquiry which started with Viggers and Figgures whom Chilcot identifed as "the Senior British Military Representatives in Iraq based in Baghdad". The two testified together and had no disagreements, even when asked such as by Committee Member Lawrence Freedman ("Can I just check with General Viggers, did you have that role in terms of liaison with the CPA as well?" "Absolutely."). The following section sums up their joint-testimony:

Commitee Member Lawrence Freedman: When you arrived, did you have any sense that -- had you been warned this is what you were going to face or did it become glaringly obvious on arrival?

Lt Gen Frederick Viggers: Yes, and I think before we came it was rather like going to the theatre to see one sort of play and realising you were watching a tragedy as the curtains come back. We suffered from the lack of any real understanding of the state of that country post-invasion. We had not done enough research, planning, into how the country post-santcions -- the country coming out of 30 years of the Ba'athist regime, the dynamics of the country, the cultures, the friction points between Sunni, Shia, Kurd, the malevolent influence of people from the region, none of that had really been thought through. So as this curtain came back, what we thought we were going to be dealing with, which was essentially a humanitarian crisis and a population willing to support us, was a long way from that.

The next grouping of witnesses did not offer a more organized picture of preparations or support. Maj Gen Andrew Stewart testified with Lt Gen Graeme Lamb and the former Coalition Provisional Authority South head Hilary Synnott. We'll note this section of Synott's testimony where he's speaking of having heard from Basara that things were "bleak" before he arrived.

Hilary Synnott: Once I got out there, this was very much confirmed: A pretty dysfunctional team of eight to ten different nationalities, very, very few British, three Foreign Office officials, one permanent DFID official and a lack of focus and a lack of capability. In a way, to me on the first night the taste of it was confirmed to me when I said, well, I have been asked by the Foreign Office to send at least a report a day. So I said, well, how do I report back? And there was nothing available. The phones didn't work, there were no mobile phones at that time and nobody had thought to provide me with any form of computer. So the Americans very kindly provided one and linked me through their computer network through Washington and the only way I was able to communicate with the Foreign Office was by setting up my own free computer link on Yahoo. And that became the main, and, indeed, only form of communication to London for some time. Fortunately -- I mean, what we agreed was that those reports should be taken off Yahoo and then circulated as Foreign Office telegrams, as coming from me. So that to me was a sort of indication of the sort of problems we had to face.

Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: Not exactly a secure line?

Hilary Synnott: No. Actually, funnily enough when I called on the Prime Minister the day I left, at the Prime Minister's request, I had already heard there was no secure communication and I pointed this out, and the head of the JIC was present at that meeting and was not aware, he said, that there was no secure communications. But then, you know, up to that point it hadn't been a British-run arrangement.

Another key moment for that group of witnesses was the following.

Maj Gen Andrew Stewart: I think the biggest concern I had was the one that Graeme had had, which was the inability to meet the expectations of the Iraqi people, because retaining the consent of the Iraqi people there, we saw as my centre of gravity. I had to work within their country, they had to accept us and we just were never going to meet expectations. If I can give you a very quick example, walking through the souk, went to a white goods seller, "How many washing machines do you sell a week," I asked, because washing machines use electricity, they use water and they produce sewage. Three areas -- three of the four things we could not provide. He was selling 20 a day. So our ability to help the Iraqis by producing white goods for them at a cheap price was destroying our ability to help, and we were never going to meet that expectation. And I think it is -- that's something that we never really came to terms with. And if you think again about the Basrawi, he used to have under Saddam 18 to 20 hours' electricity a day; under us, because Baghdad was the centre of gravity and CPA saw that and it was, "We must sort Baghdad," they reduced from 18 to 20 hours a day to about 12 hours a day because electricity was being moved up to Baghdad. So life was getting worse for the Shia under us than it was getting better, and that was a real issue with how we, therefore -- all the commanders -- were focused on trying to talk to the major dealers, whether it was the clerics, whether it be the local heads of the SCIRI or Badr, to try to keep them on side, to say, "Look, this is how we are trying to help" because actually each day it was getting worse for them and actually we started to see that build up as time went by.

Lt Gen Graeme Lamb felt that CPA was not at all helpful and declared that ". . . Hilary's arrival was most welcome. I think we got on pretty well actually, but it is all in the delivery and I think in one of my reports I likened the CPA to dancing with a broken doll. It was a lot of effort, and in fact the department wasn't giving much in return. In fact they were making you look rather stupid." Lamb also found a way to compare Moqtada al-Sadr to the Stones, s "Those that followed Moqtadar himself, rock star status -- he could call out a large crowd a bit like the
Rolling Stones".

The Iraq Inquiry is on MP John Prescott's mind. He's served in Parliament for nearly forty years now and was Tony Blair's Deptuy Prime Minister.
He spoke with James Macintyre and Sophie Elmhirst (New Statesman):

Prescott makes his most outspoken comments yet about Iraq: "Listen, Bush is crap; you know it, I know it, the party knows it." He also recalls the conversations he observed between the then US president and Blair: "I did listen to some of the video links between Tony and Bush . . . and I mean, they can be hair-raising, because Bush has got his own kind of approach . . . It did make you think."
He went to see the then US vice-president, Dick Cheney, with Christopher Meyer, who at that time was Britain's ambassador to Washington ("bloody red socks, that idiot"), and was alarmed at the US administration's approach. He has since imagined how Blair might have stood up to Bush, musing: "I've often thought, 'Well, you could have just said: Sod you . . . we're not doing it.'"
He acknowledges that the Chilcot inquiry is essential, but suspects it still will not be enough for those who want to see Blair punished. Even though Prescott will not be called to give evidence, the inquiry is forcing him to reflect on his and his colleagues' roles in the run-up to the war. He is clear about the suggestion that the then attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, was bullied by Blair into giving his approval of the war: "If you say, 'Was Goldsmith a happy man about this?' - no, he wasn't." He clarifies his position, arguing: "That's quite different from saying, 'No, I'm sorry, my view is that it's illegal, I'm not supporting it.'"

Forcing him to reflect or to rewrite?

TV notes. Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings),
NOW on PBS asks: "Why are we sending thousands of military personnel to Guam?"Over the next five years, as many as 30,000 servicemembers and their families will descend on the small island of Guam, nearly tripling its presence there. It's part of a larger agreement that the U.S. signed with Japan to realign American forces in the Pacific, but how will this multi-billion dollar move impact the lives and lifestyle of Guam's nearly 180,000 residents? On Friday, December 11 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW on PBS travels to the U.S. territory of Guam to find out whether their environment and infrastructure can support such a largeand quick infusion of people, and why the buildup is vital to our national security.This Sunday the History Channel airs The People Speak, Anthony Arnove notes it's "the long awaited documentary film inspired by Howard Zinn's books A People's History of the United States and Voices of a People's History of the United States." It airs Sunday, December 13th at 8:00pm EST and 7:00 Central (8:00pm Pacific as well):

Using dramatic and musical performances of the letters, diaries and speeches of everyday Americans, the documentary feature film THE PEOPLE SPEAK gives voice to those who spoke up for social change throughout U.S. history, forging a nation from the bottom up with their insistence on equality and justice.Narrated by acclaimed historian Howard Zinn and based on his best-selling books, A People's History of the United States and, with Anthony Arnove, Voices of a People's History, THE PEOPLE SPEAK illustrates the relevance of these passionate historical moments to our society today and reminds us never to take liberty for granted.THE PEOPLE SPEAK is produced by Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Chris Moore, Anthony Arnove, and Howard Zinn, co-directed by Moore, Arnove and Zinn, and features dramatic and musical performances by Allison Moorer, Benjamin Bratt, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Chris Robinson, Christina Kirk, Danny Glover, Darryl "DMC" McDaniels, David Strathairn, Don Cheadle, Eddie Vedder, Harris Yulin, Jasmine Guy, John Legend, Josh Brolin, Kathleen Chalfant, Kerry Washington, Lupe Fiasco, Marisa Tomei, Martín Espada, Matt Damon, Michael Ealy, Mike O'Malley, Morgan Freeman, Q'orianka Kilcher, Reg E. Cathey, Rich Robinson, Rosario Dawson, Sandra Oh, Staceyann Chin, and Viggo Mortensen.


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