Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

santa

Betty's kids did the illustration above two Christmases ago.

I always liked that one because it's such a kid's picture -- and I mean that as the biggest compliment in the world. They've got the bright colors and the water colors. Santa's a snow man, it's just a wonderful collage of images. And it's got this life and excitement to it.

This is a short post from me because Cedric and I are going over to his grandmother's where my parents will be and we're all going to watch Christmas in Connecticut with other family members (don't know all or I'd list them) and just have a nice Christmas Eve.


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


Thursday, December 24, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Gen Ray Odierno shows leadership many below him lack, there's no 'safe' religion in Iraq, Congress is going to hold the VA accountable when?, and more.


The Ashura pilgrimage is ongoing in Iraq and so is the violence. Shi'ite Muslims head to Krbala for rememberance and mourning. As with all pilgrimages in Iraq -- and despite Nouri al-Maliki's claims of having brought 'security' to Iraq -- the pilgrims are targeted. AP reported 11 dead and seventy wounded in bombing attacks on the Pilgrims today in Babil Province -- AP has now updated the 11 to 13 dead and the number may continue to rise throughout the day. Li Xianzhi (Xinhua) explains, "An explosive charge went off at a parking lot in the center of Hilla, some 100 km south of Baghdad, detonated at about 1:30 p.m. (1030 GMT), the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity. Minutes later, a car bomb parked at the site went off after Iraqi security forces and onlookers gathered at the scene, the source said." Al Jazeera notes yesterday's attacks which led to the deaths of 4 pilgrims in Baghdad and twenty-eight more injured. CNN adds, "Ashura commemorates the martyrdom of Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. Hussein was killed in battle in Karbala in 680, one of the events that helped create the schism between Sunnis and Shiites, the two main Muslim religious movements." Michael Hastings (Washington Post) provides this context, "The Shiite festival, commemorating the death of Imam Hussein in 680 AD, has been marred over the past six years by sectarian violence." Along with Shi'ite pilgrims, Iraqi Christians are also being targeted. Catholic News Service provides some of the recent history of targeting:


In July, a series of church bombings in Mosul left at least four dead and more than 30 injured. A flare-up in violence in October 2008 claimed the lives of 13 Christians and forced thousands to flee the city.
In February 2008 Chaldean Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul was kidnapped, and his driver and two bodyguards were killed. Two weeks later his body was recovered after kidnappers revealed where it was buried.
His replacement, Archbishop-elect Emil Shimoun Nona of Mosul, is scheduled to be ordained in January. Pope Benedict XVI confirmed his election in November.

Alsumaria reports, "Iraqis are celebrating Christmas discretely due to deteriorated security and because of mounting attacks against Christians. Christmas ornament is decorating timidly Iraqi streets and Christian families are staying home after Mass." AFP explains, "Since the US-led invasion of 2003, hundreds of Iraqi Christians have been killed and several churches attacked. Around 800,000 Christians lived in Iraq at the time of the invasion, but their number has since shrunk by a third or more as members of the community have fled abroad, according to Christian leaders." Muhanad Mohammed and Suadad al-Salhy, Mustafa Mahmoud, Aref Mohammed, Missy Ryan, Alison Williams and David Stamp (Reuters) report 1 Iraqi Christian was shot dead in Mosul today along with another man (who may or may not have been an Iraqi Christian). Tuesday AFP reported that the Iraqi military was on high "alert" according to the Minister of Defense, Mohammed al-Askari, who stated, "We have put our forces on alert in Baghdad, the provinces of Kirkuk and Nineveh, including its capital Mosul, where our Christian brothers will be celebrating their holidays, because we have intelligence indicating they could be attacked during this period." Shi'ite Pilgrims and Iraqi Christians haven't seen any evidence of "high" alert. Saturday, noting the various high-level bombings in Baghdad, an Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy asked a question about the government's 'security strategy' that applies here as well, "After four bloody and brutal explosions, I wonder who has a strategy. Does our government have a security strategy or the enemy has a killing and destroying strategy????"

Reuters notes 1 man shot outside his Mosul home. AP notes a Sadr City which claimed 9 lives and left 33 people injured -- they were participating in a funeral process, while a Baghdad bombing resulted in the deaths of 4 pilgrims and ten being injured. Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports today on Wednesday violence: 3 police officers shot dead in Baghdad, a Baghdad roadside bombing injured two Shi'ite pilgrims, a Baghdad mortorcyle bombing claimed 1 life and left seven people wounded, a Falluja roadside bombing targeting Sawha leader Efan Sadoun and leaving two of his bodyguards injured (Sadoun is not reported harmed), and a Baghdad car bombing which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and wounded "a candidate to the coming national election" as well as relative accompanying the candidate. (I believe the other incidents Al Dulaimy reports on were noted in yesterday's snapshot.)

Now let's switch topics to the US military. First off, the top US commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno, continues to demonstrate common sense (if you doubt that, you were not paying attention when David Petraeus was top US commander in Iraq). Mohammed Abbas, Missy Ryan and Jon Hemming (Reuters) report he stated that, starting January 1st, there will be no criminal punishments for soldiers in Iraq over the non-crime of pregnancy. If you're lost, consider yourself fortunate. Tuesday ABC World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer covered the issue of Gen Tony Cucolo playing God an issuing an order that pregnancy was now a crime for any soldiers serving in northern Iraq. Thankfully, Diane Sawyer has a great deal more on the ball than Kate Snow who presented a one-sided 'report' that found time to quote Cucolo at length, to quote anonmyous internet chatters (misquote actually) who agreed with Cucolo's policy, to quote a military 'expert' (forever wrong) who agreed with Cucolo's policy and the only noted objection in her report was 47 words from NOW president Terry O'Neill -- or as Snow wrongly called them "National Organization of Women" (it's the National Organization for Women). Snow did note, "A group of female senators today also sent a protest letter to the Secretary of the Army." She failed to identify the senators or to quote from their letter. The letter was in the Tuesday's snapshot and we'll note it again:


December 22, 2009




The Honorable John McHugh

Secretary of the Army

101 Army Pentagon

Washington, DC 20310-0101

Dear Secretary McHugh:

It has come to our attention that Major General Anthony Cucolo III -- the Commander of Multi-National Division-North, Iraq -- has implemented a stricter policy that criminalizes pregnancy for members of the United States Armed Forces under his command and for others "serving with, employed by, or accompanying" the military. While we fully understand and appreciate the demands facing both commanders and service members in Iraq, we believe this policy is deeply misguided and must be immediately rescinded.

Under the policy, it is possible to face punishment, including imprisonment, for "becoming pregnant, or impregnating a Soldier, while assigned to the Task Force Marne" Area of Operations. The policy even extends to married couples jointly serving in the warzone.

Although Major General Cucolo stated today that a pregnant soldier would not necessarily be punished by court-martialunder this policy, we believe the threat of criminal sanctions in the case of pregnancy goes far beyond what is needed to maintain good order and discipline. This policy could encourage female soldiers to delay seeking critical medical care with potentially serious consequences for mother and child.

This policy also undermines efforts to enhance benefits and services so that dual military couples can continue to serve. We can think of no greater deterrent to women contemplating a military career than the image of a pregnant woman being severely punished simply for conceiving a child. This defies comprehension.

As such, we urge you to immediately rescind this policy. Thank you for your prompt consideration of this most important request, and for your continued commitment to our men and women in uniform.

Sincerely,

Barbara Boxer

United States Senator

Jeanne Shaheen

United States Senator

Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senator

Barbara A. Mikulski

United States Senator


If you need more background on this story, Feminist Wire Daily has a comprehensive item that they posted yesterday (so they don't note that Odierno has now killed the policy). We've covered this since Saturday and I'm assuming most reading are fully aware of this issue -- and I know the many service women e-mailing to complain about the policy know it very well -- including the issue that women who were sexually assaulted wouldn't be punished . . . after they'd proven their sexual assault. As if sexual assualt has ever been easy to prove in the military. Back to ABC where Snow quoted women from chat pages and Facebook who stated they were for the policy. She cherry-picked in order to just present women supporting the policy. But in terms of some women feeling that this policy punishing pregnancy was a good thing, why would women say that? Because there's a stereotype that women get pregnant to get out of service. That's a false stereotype and, in reality, it's no more common than straight males announcing they are gay in the hopes of being discharged. Instead of exploring that stereotype, Kate Snow just endorses it. (It's a sexist stereotype like the sexist and racist stereotype of the so-called "Welfare Queen" that Ronald Reagan always 'saw' -- remember he suffered from dementia.) Now there are women who say yes to the policy and women who say no and you can go through this American Women Veterans Facebook thread and find both. (Or you can be like Kate Snow and just pick the ones you agree with.) But what the policy plays into is a lot of hostility towards women and what you're hearing in what Kate Snow quoted is frustration women have with the system and their mistaken belief that it's "all" these women getting pregnant to get out of the military who are hurting their own chances to advance. No, girls, you're being lied to yet again. You're accepting a false stereotype that exists to turn you against other women and to blame other women instead of blaming a command culture that refuses -- despite multiple Senate investigations -- to move into the 20th Century even now as we are in the 21st one.

Let's note the end of Snow's 'report' (and you can stream video here at Sarah Netter and Luis Martinez's ABC news story which was much more balanced than anything Snow offered):


Diane Sawyer: But you're not saying that there was no criticism from inside --

Kate Snow: I'm certainly not saying that.

Diane Sawyer: -- the military?

Kate Snow: No, no. We scanned online, there is both. There are men and women in the military thinking this is a bad policy.

Diane Sawyer: But if he is the only general in Iraq with this policy is he going to be forced to back down?

Kate Snow: Not so far.


Kate Snow, with a straight face, insisted that she wasn't saying there was no objection -- when her entire report was built around that premise. (For full transcript, click here.) She then lied and said "Not so far," when Diane asked her if Cucolo was backing down. Uh, yeah, he was backing down. He'd declared Saturday he'd court-matial and imprison and on Tuesday he was rushing to say he'd decided not to do that. That's backing down, Kate Snow.

Repeating, Gen Ray Odierno has common sense. The order dies January 1st. Good for Ray Odierno. Thank you for having common sense, Ray Odierno, and showing leadership on the issue. No one else stepped up to the plate.

Okay so Odierno steps up to the plate, what about the US Congress? We have to ask that question because yesterday Kimberly Hefling (AP) broke the story that the GI Bill payments due at the start of the fall semester? Some still haven't received them. "Thousands" still wait. For the checks that should have been cut no later than the first day of the fall semester last August or September (depending on when the semester started which differed for some campuses). It is now the end of December. It is now Christmas in fact. And veterans are still waiting. The year will end with them still waiting. Now let's be really clear, the rent doesn't wait, the food doesn't wait, the bills don't wait. Veterans have to take care of all of those things. While waiting for the VA to get off it's happy and bloated ass and do what it should have done months ago.

October 14th, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki appeared before the US House Committee on Veterans Affairs. At that point, veterans across the country were struggling as they waited for the VA to make good on the payments they were led to believe would start with the fall semester. And the Committee should have focused on that but they didn't. They fretted that Shinseki kept his "light under a bushel" (that's a direct quote from a member of Congress) and that he needed to hire a PR person so that everyone would know what a wonderful job he was doing. What wonderful job? The scandal had broken, the press was all over it and the committee was kissing Shinseki's ass instead of holding him accountable. They all played dumb when he volunteered that the VA always, ALWAYS, knew this would happen, that a huge number of veterans would wait and wait and wait for checks. The Committee should have exploded with righteous indignation over the fact that (a) this was done to veterans and (b) the VA failed to inform Congress of what they knew.

Of course, they didn't. They weren't holding him accountable. It was embarrassing in real time and it's only more embarrassing today as we now know the problem that Shinseki said was fixed has not, HAS NOT, been fixed. Here's the money quote from Shinseki, here's what he told Congress:

I'm looking at the certificates of eligibility uh being processed on 1 May and enrollments 6 July, checks having to flow through August. A very compressed timeframe. And in order to do that, we essentially began as I arrived in January, uh, putting together the plan -- reviewing the plan that was there and trying to validate it. I'll be frank, when I arrived, uh, there were a number of people telling me this was simply not executable. It wasn't going to happen. Three August was going to be here before we could have everything in place. Uh, to the credit of the folks in uh VA, I, uh, I consulted an outside consultant, brought in an independent view, same kind of assessment. 'Unless you do some big things here, this is not possible.' To the credit of the folks, the good folks in VBA, they took it on and they went at it hard. We hired 530 people to do this and had to train them. We had a manual system that was computer assisted. Not very helpful but that's what they inherited. And we realized in about May that the 530 were probably a little short so we went and hired 230 more people. So in excess of 700 people were trained to use the tools that were coming together even as certificates were being executed. Uhm, we were short on the assumption of how many people it would take.

He knew. He knew when he came into office. He was told it and he confirmed it with an outside consultant. But he never told Congress. No one ever told Congress and no one told the veterans waiting for the checks. "Thousands" of whom are still waiting all this time later.

The October 16th snapshot covers the October 15th appearance of the VA's Keith Wilson appearing before the Subcommittee that US House Rep Stephanie Herseth Sandlin chairs. We'll note one exchange from that hearing:

US House Rep Harry Mitchell: Mr. Wilson, this is not your first appearance before this subcommittee. You have appeared before it several times since the GI Bill was signed into law to keep the committee members apprised of the VA's efforts to implement the GI Bill. And you offered assurances that the VA would be ready by August 1st. You even brought in a detailed timeline to show us how the VA would be ready by August 1st. In February, [John] Adler of this Committee asked if the VA needed more tools to accomplish the goal of program implementation and you responded by stating, "This legislation itself came with funding. This funding at this point has adequately provided us with what we need for implementing payments on August 1, 2009." If this legislation provided you with what you needed then why did you go to the VA -- or then where did you and the VA go wrong in meeting the implementation goal? So I'd like to ask two questions. How are we supposed to believe the assurances you're offering today? And, two, knowing how interested Congress is in implementing the GI Bill, once you knew you were running into problems, why didn't you let us know? Why did we have to first hear about it from veterans and read about it in the Army Times?

Keith Wilson: You rightly call us out in terms of not providing timely service to all veterans. We acknowledge that and uh are working as hard as humanly possible uh to make sure that we are meeting those goals. Uh the timeline that we provided to the subcommittee uh I believe was largely met uh in terms of our ability to generate payments on the date that we were required to deliver the first checks -- first payments did go out August 3rd. Uh there were a couple of significant challenges uh that we had not anticipated. One was uh the volume of work created by the increase in applications for eligibility determinations that did not translate into student population dropping off other programs. But we had significantly more work in our existing programs than we would have expected to have to maintain going into the fall enrollment. One of the other primary challenges that we have responded to is uh when we began our ability to use the tools that were developed uh to implement the program in the short term. Uh May 1st is when we began using those tools and it was very clear to us from the get-go that even accounting for our understanding that they weren't perfect, we underestimated the complexity and the labor-intensive nature of what needed to be done. We responded by hiring 230 additional people to account for that.

US House Rep Harry Mitchell: And I read all of that in your testimony. My point is, once you knew you were running into problems, why didn't you come back to us? We heard it first by veterans and through the Army Times that you were having problems.

Keith Wilson: [Heavy, audible sigh] It has been our desire from the get-go to make sure that the subcommittee has been informed all along. If we did not meet those expectations, then we need to be held accountable for that. We provided information that we had at each of the hearings and we have had a long standing mechanism by which we have provided updates to staff on a regular basis. Uh we did notify the Subcommittee at the time of the hiring of the 230 additional people.


In that hearing, Stephanie Herseth repeatedly asked if he needed additional staff at the call center for educational benefits. She also underscored that "we need to be made aware of the problems immediately if there's any complications that arise" and "if you start anticipating problems or start experiencing problems" then let the Committee know. She wasn't alone in stating that. US House Rep John Adler also touched on this repeatedly such as asking Wilson "are there any other tools you need from Congress" and reminding him that "we would like to hear from you as needs arise, before the crisis arise" and "tell us what you need from us." Congress hasn't been informed of these problems and if the checks still aren't out, then obviously the VA needed additional staff. Obviously. Another VA witness lies to Congress (or doesn't know the status) and veterans are again waiting. And when does Congress intend to take the VA to task? This is nonsense. No veteran who enrolled for the fall 09 semester should still be waiting for the monies owed to them from the new GI Bill. That is ridiculous, that is insulting and until Congress gets ready to hold the VA accountable, there won't be any improvement.

The next hearing on this issue should get to when a problem was known and why Congress was not immediately notified. The next hearing should probe whether a decision was made to keep Congress out of the loop. Congress is supposed to offer supervision and thus far the VA has thwarted that by repeatedly providing the Congress with false information -- and a good portion of the false information was provided intentionally.

It is outrageous that as so many use tomorrow to celebrate with families or reflect, veterans continue waiting for fall '09 checks. It is outrageous that the New Year will begin with these veterans still waiting. If the Congress doesn't pursue this and do so strongly, then their behavior will be outragoues. Right now, it's just sad.

In other news, Black Agenda Report is not on 'holiday' this week (many sites are). Among their new offerings is a commentary by Glen Ford (link is text and audio) which includes):

It is now beyond question that civilian military contractors -- mercenaries -- are permanently embedded in the structure and longterm planning of the United States Armed Forces. In recent years, about half the U.S. personnel in the combined South Asia theaters of war -- Afghanistan and Pakistan -- have been civilians, according to Pentagon figures. The one-to-one ratio of military to civilians -- a percentage that would have been unthinkable prior to the invasion of Iraq -- may become even more lopsidedly mercenary with President Obama's troop escalation in Afghanistan. The Congressional Research Service estimates that as many as 56,000 civilian contractors may accompany the 30,000 uniformed troops scheduled for deployment to Afghanistan. That's a ratio of almost two-to-one civilian to military. The Afghanistan/Pakistan theater has become the modern world's first large scale corporate/civilian war.


In an update to that, Walter Pincus (Washington Post) reports on a new proposal by the Dept of Defense to replace contractors with "full-time federal personnel" as a cost-cutting measure. The only thing to add to his article is that such a shift would carry with it the belief (right or wrong) that accountability would be easier since these would be government employees with codes of conduct.

Turning to England, the Iraq Inquiry concluded public hearings for the year December 17th. They resume public hearings January 5th. In the new year, they will hear from former prime minister Tony Blair and current prime minister Gordon Brown. Helene Mulholland (Guardian) reports that the latter "has been called to give evidence to the Iraqi Inquiry" as have David Miliband (disclosure, I know Miliband) and Douglas Alexander, but all will testify after England's upcoming elections. Mulholland also notes: "Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's former chief spin doctor, is included on the list alongside the former prime minister hemself, who recently caused controversy by telling the BBC he would still have thought it right to remove Saddam Hussein if he had known he had no weapons of mass destruction." In addition, Miranda Richardson (Sky News) adds, "Lord Goldsmith, the former Attorney General whose advice on the legality of the 2003 invasion has been at the centre of controversy, will give evidence in January or February." Yesterday the Liberal Democrats released the following statement:

"Gordon Brown signed the cheques for the Iraq war, and he should explain that decision before polling day," said the Liberal Democrat Shadow Foreign Secretary.

Commenting on today's statement from Sir John Chilcott which reveals that Gordon Brown, David Miliband and Douglas Alexander will not appear before the Iraq inquiry until after the election, Edward Davey said:
"Giving special treatment to Labour ministers not only undermines the perception of independence of the inquiry but will damage the public's trust in politics further still.
"This looks like a deal cooked up in Whitehall corridors to save Gordon Brown and his ministers from facing the music.
"Gordon Brown signed the cheques for the Iraq war, and he should explain that decision before polling day.
"British soldiers will not be impressed by a Prime Minister unwilling to step into the firing line."


The UK Conservative Party issued the following statement:

William Hague has accused Gordon Brown of "the very opposite of open and accountable government" after it emerged that he will not give evidence to the Iraq Inquiry until after the General Election.
The Shadow Foreign Secretary said that the public will rightly ask why it is that numerous officials have given evidence to the Inquiry about their role in carrying out the Government's policy on Iraq, but not a single Minister has had to face questioning.
William said that it was becoming "clearer and clearer" why Gordon Brown delayed setting up the Inquiry for so long after it should have begun its work, and he added:
"His intention throughout has been to ensure that the Inquiry won't report until after the coming General Election -- and now we have the added effect of Ministers not having to give evidence at all before the election."

The Socialist Party's statement on the inquiry includes the following:

That the political establishment in Britain and the US have no interest in conducting an honest inquiry into the war is not surprising, given its legacy. Iraq is a fractured country with a wrecked economy and simmering sectarian and ethnic tensions that threaten to engulf society in violence.
George Bush and Tony Blair's war, supported by the Tories and the rest of the political establishment in Britain, is the cause of this.
When the allied occupation - "Operation Iraqi Freedom" - began, Iraq was thrown into chaos. Widespread looting broke out and millions of Iraqis were cut off from electricity and water supplies. But the main priority for the occupying forces was not to prevent Iraq's social collapse but to secure oil fields and ministries.
US and UK multinationals immediately began a lucrative contract carve-up of the Iraqi oil industry, and the supplies of arms and military equipment - the least priority being rebuilding the shattered infrastructure and supplying the Iraqi people with essential services.
For the US capitalist class "regime change" in Iraq meant unchallenged control and profits from an abundant oil supply.
Oil wasn't the only reason for going to war. The war was part of a wider agenda of strengthening US imperialism's prestige - a message to third world leaders and imperialist rivals that any opposition to US hegemony would not be tolerated.
This inquiry will be used as a PR tool by the political establishment to attempt to appear to be listening to the public, particularly those directly affected, such as military families.
But in the eyes of millions who opposed the Iraq war and continue oppose the war in Afghanistan, they are guilty and should be tried as war criminals.
We need 'regime change' of the rotten political establishment in Britain, who conducted the war on behalf of big business and imperialism, by building a mass socialist opposition.

Francis Elliott (Times of London) reports, "But the evidence of Mr Brown, Mr Miliband and Mr Alexander will be saved until the inquiry resumes its public sessions next summer, after the election." Michael Savage (Independent of London) continues, "However, Jack Straw, who was the Foreign Secretary at the time of the Iraq invasion and remains in the Cabinet, will be questioned before the election. Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister, Alastair Campbell, his former spokesman, and Jonathan Powell, Mr's Blair's former chief of staff, will also give evidence before the start of any election campaign." Olivia Midgley (Spenborough Guardian) reports Pauline Hickey wants Blair to answer questions: "Her son, Christian, a sergeant with the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, was killed by a roadside bomb during a foot patrol in Basra - just three days before he was due to return home, in 2005." Meanwhile Joe Murphy (London Standard) reveals, "A letter by Jack Straw asking Tony Blair to consider alternatives to invading Iraq is set to be revealed at the official war inquiry." Dmitry Babich (Russia's RIA Novosti via the Telegraph of London) reports that M16 head John Sawers is insisting that Russia -- by refusing to go along with sanctions as a member of the UN Security Council -- forced England into the Iraq War but that Andrew Billigan's response is, "I would say to John Sawers: 'Nice try.' but I don't think there is any truth in what he said at all."

Today, Chrismas Eve, Free Speech Radio News examines the costs to Iraqis of the Iraq War in a special half-hour broadcast:

Iraqis make up the world's largest population of refugees. The 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq released a wave of violence and economic instability and brought with it the destruction of key infrastructure and the near-collapse of basic services. More than 2.7 million Iraqis have been displaced within their borders and another two million have fled their country, largely to Syria and Jordan. Today we bring you a special FSRN documentary called, "Guests in the Waiting Room: Iraqi refugees in Jordan," produced by Hanan Tabbara and Salam Talib.



Next snapshot, which will probably be Monday, will note this article by David Price. Closing with this from Sherwood Ross' "Federal War Spending Exceeds State Government Outlaws" (Veterans Today):

The U.S. spends more for war annually than all state governments combined spend for the health, education, welfare, and safety of 308 million Americans.
Joseph Henchman, director of state projects for the Tax Foundation of Washington, D.C., says the states collected a total of $781 billion in taxes in 2008.
For a rough comparison, according to Wikipedia data, the total budget for defense in fiscal year 2010 will be at least $880 billion and could possibly top $1 trillion. That's more than all the state governments collect.
Henchman says all American local governments combined (cities, counties, etc.) collect about $500 billion in taxes. Add that to total state tax take and you get over $1.3 trillion. This means Uncle Sam's Pentagon is sopping up nearly as much money as all state, county, city, and other governmental units spend to run the country.
If the Pentagon figure of $1 trillion is somewhat less than all other taxing authorities, keep in mind the FBI, the various intelligence agencies, the VA, the National Institutes of Health (biological warfare) are also spending on war-related activities.
A question that describes the above and answers itself is: In what area can the Federal government operate where states and cities cannot tread? The answer is: foreign affairs---raising armies, fighting wars, conducting diplomacy, etc. And so Uncle Sam keeps enlarging this area. His emphasis is not on diplomacy, either.




iraq
the washington post
michael hastings
xinhua
li xianzhi
mcclatchy newspapers
mohammed al-dulaimy
inside iraq
abc news
diane sawyer
abc world news tonight with diane sawyer
kate snow
sarah netter
luis martinez
the washington post
walter pincus
the guardian
helene mulholland
sky news
miranda richardson
francis elliott
the times of london
michael savage
the telegraph of london
dmitry babich
sherwood ross

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Don't enable sexism

I am a woman blogger and I am a Black blogger. As such silence is never an option for me.



I stand with Marcia. Her "Men are sexist coz women like Riverdaughter enable it" is on the nose.



I was raped. I've never tried to hide that online.



Anyone who thinks I'm going to applaud some man using women's bodies to promote his bad writing, using women's nude bodies to drive up his traffic, is just crazy.



Joe Cannon's disgusting. Riverdaughter's disgusting for covering for him.



As any real feminist knows, you speak up against sexism. If you can't, what are you? An Obama supporter in 2008! True.



But real feminists call out sexism.



And no real feminist will defend a man posting a photo of a topless woman, shot from below to distort her, with erect nipples to add to the distortion. No real feminist will say, "Oh, sure, that's cool. That's groovy in fact."



Joe Cannon is trash. Riverdaughter has made herself trash by refusing to call out the sexism. But when The Confluence was in the midst of its Slut Shaming (remember that?), they never apologized for it after, did they?

In fact, I believe Klownhaus hopped on a Huffy bike and insisted that he wasn't guilty of Slut Shaming because the woman had posed for the pictures and they were wrong.

But posting topless photos at Cannonfire, Klownhaus is a-okay with. Because he's a creep. Another one of the whiny White guys who feels the whole world's against him.

I always think of that episode of American Dad where Stan gets a new friend and they lament the loss of the days when White men had all the breaks as opposed to now when they just have some.

And for those who don't know me, the "whiny White guys" refers to a specific segment who are always whining that Affirmative Action needs to be overturned and that racism is over and 101 other lies. It does not refer to most White men. I do have friends who are White men. In fact, there's one who's practically my brother-in-law. So Joe Cannon and his little gang don't need to distort my words (though they will regardless, that's just how they roll).





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


Wednesday, December 23, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Iraqi Christians are again targeted, an examination of US labor's role in the movement to end the Iraq War, and more.

Michael Prysner and Iraq War veteran James Circello were on
Antiwar Radio with Scott Horton and Charles Goyette discussing their group March Forward! "an affiliate of the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition" composed of veterans and active-duty service members. (For those who can't stream or who are not able to listen to streams, there's an excerpt of the interview in yesterday's snapshot.) Information Clearing House has a video of Michael Prysner speaking:

And I tried hard to be proud of my service, but all I could feel was shame. Racism could no longer mask the reality of the occupation. These were people. These were human beings. I've since been plagued by guilt. Any time I see an elderly man, like the one who couldn't walk that we rolled onto a stretcher and told the Iraqi police to go take him away. I feel guilt any time I see a mother with her children like the one who cried hysterically and screamed that we were worse than Saddam as we forced her from her home. I feel guilt any time I see a young girl, like the one I grabbed by the arm and dragged into the street. We were told we were fighting terrorists. The real terrorist was me and the real terrorism is this occupation. Racism in the military has long been a tool to justify the occupation and destruction of another country. It's long been used to justify the killing, subjugation and torture of another people.
Racism is a vital weapon employed by this government. It is a more important weapon than a rifle, a tank, a bomber or a battleship. It is more destructive than an artillery shell or a bunker buster or a Tomahawk Missile. While those weapons are created and owned by this government, they're harmless without people willing to use them. Those who send us to war do not have to pull a trigger or lob a mortar round. They do not have to fight the war, they merely have to sell the war. They need a public who's willing to send their soldiers into harm's way. They need soldiers who are willing to kill and be killed without question. They can spend millions on a single bomb but that bomb only becomes a weapon when the ranks in the military are willing to follow orders to use it.
They can send every last soldier anywhere on earth but there will only be a war if soldiers are willing to fight and the ruling class, the billionaires -- who profit from suffering, care only about expanding their wealth, controlling the world's economy -- understand that their power lies only in their ability to convince that war, oppression and exploitation is in our interest. They understand that their wealth is dependent on their ability to convince the working class to die to control the market of another country. And convincing us to kill and die is based on their ability to make us think that we are somehow superior. Soldiers, sailors, marines, airman have nothing to gain from this occupation. The vast majority of the people in the US have nothing to gain from this occupation. In fact, not only do we have nothing to gain but we suffer more from it. We lose limbs, endure trauma and lose our lives. Our families have to watch flag draped coffins lowered into the earth.
Millions in this country without health care, jobs or access to education have watched this government squander over $450 million dollars a day on this occupation.
Poor and working people in this country are sent to kill poor and working people in another country to make the rich richer. And without racism, soldiers would realize that they have more in common with the Iraqi people than they do with the billionaires who send us to war.
I threw families onto the street in Iraq only to come home and find families thrown onto the street in this country in this tragic and unnecessary foreclosure crisis.
We need to wake up and realize that our real enemies are not in some distant land, they're not people whose names we don't know and cultures we don't understand. The enemy is people we know very well and can identify. The enemy is the system that wages war when it is profitable. The enemy is the CEOs who lay us off from our jobs when it is profitable. It's the insurance companies who deny us health care when it's profitable. It's the banks who take away our homes when it's profitable.
Our enemy is not 5,000 miles away. They are right here at home. If we organize and fight with our sisters and brothers, we can stop this war, we can stop this government and we can create a better world.

Labor has been a significant force in the push to end the Iraq War and they don't often get the credit for their contributions. On
KPFA's The Morning Show today, independent journalist David Bacon brought on US Labor Against the War's co-coordinators Kathy Black and Gene Bruskin and the USLAW's national organizer Michael Eisenscher.

David Bacon: So we wanted to take a look at what's going to happen with the war in Afghanistan and the [US President Barack] Obama administration. But in order to understand that, I thought it might be useful if, Eugene or you, Kathy, wanted to talk about what the change was in relation to the -- in terms of union's relation to the war in Iraq, the change from the way in which US labor has essentially supported, or sometimes with a great deal of conflict but nevertheless supported, most of the other military interventions by the US from WWII on through Vietnam and Central America. So why don't you start us off, Gene, by ta,king about what the historical position of US unions has been in relation to US intervention and what the change was with Iraq here?

Gene Bruskin: Well we have a, I think, the labor movement has, in some ways, not a proud history in how we've judged foreign policy cause we've pretty much accepted whatever the existing government and power structure wanted going back to the Philippines and I mean both the World Wars, of course, and Korea and Vietnam and El Salvador. There was some actually splits in the labor movement but in general what foreign policy was for many years including, you know, in all the post-WW period, is whatever policy we had to oppose the Soviet Union, for example, even if it meant supporting dictatorship supported unions in places like the Philippines and helping with the coups in places like Chile, the labor movement followed suit. So it was a huge break when US Labor Against the War was formed and the scope and the influence of that break is unprecedented.

David Bacon: What, uhm, Kathy, what do you attribute the change to? Aside from -- we're going to talk quite a bit her about US Labor Against the War itself as an organization, but are their changes that have taken place in unions and in our labor movement in terms of, for instance, the rejection of the policies of the Cold War or changes in terms of demographics which provided an opportunity I guess you would say for developing opposition to the war in Iraq which didn't exist earlier in terms of Vietnam, Central America, going all the way back to Korea?

Kathy Black: Yeah, of course all those things are factors. I think there are so many Vietnam war veterans in the labor movement and, in retrospect, people look back on that war -- even those that may have been strong supporters -- and see it in a different light. historically. You know, problems with veterans' illness and just a reflection on the policy has evolved. But I think, frankly, the single biggest factor if you can pick one that helped USLAW organize and galvanize support, it was George W. Bush. You know, I think that certainly there have been historical changes but people in the labor movement were so predisposed to be skeptical of anything he did and suspicious and automatically oppositional that that was probably the single biggest factor that helped us organize and convince people to look at the war from a different perspective.

Philip Maldari: And again, "USLAW" is US Labor Against the War, the acronym. Kathy, uh, one thing that certainly has changed is that there's no longer a Soviet Union. During the Cold War, was the labor -- official labor movement so scared of being red-baited that they uh-uh were backing every anti-communist intervention around the world for fear of being --
David Bacon: Well some actually expelled people, actually expelled whole unions.

Philip Maldari: Oh, expelled unions that had alleged Communists in their ranks, uh-uh, so was it, when the Cold War ended, did that give the labor movement a chance to get out under this fear of being red-baited?

Kathy Black: Uh, they pretty much purged the labor movement of the, you know, of Communist influences well before that so I don't know if I see it as fear but there was enormous complicity in the labor movement as Gene already spoke about.

Gene Bruskin: The most important part of it was that the labor movement had really bought into the fear of Communism and anti-communism because the criticism within the labor movement had been crushed earlier on and so they just bought the policy whole hook, line and sinker.

Kathy Black: They advocated the policy. Not everybody, but there were certainly prominent leaders in the labor movement who-who trumpeted those positions. Loudly.

Gene Bruskin: And so it did, I think, go out, after the end of the Cold War, there was clearly more openness to see what was actually workers' interest as opposed to what we usually called "national interest" which is generally business interest. But now we have not the issue of anti-communism so much as the whole issue of the fight against terrorism which is essentially the same set of logic has replaced -- you know, the Domino Theory is now the spread of terrorism.

David Bacon: And then, perhaps, I think one other factor -- maybe you could comment on this, Mike -- that played into this was the cost of the war on working people. I remember hearing this argument made at the first assembly of US Labor Against the War. And the fact that our labor movement now has a very, very large sector of public workers in it who are much more directly effected by the cost of the war and that there was a basis for saying to the people that if this war goes on people are going to lose jobs.

Mike Eisenscher: That certainly is true --

Philip Maldari: Wait a second, we've got to get your mike on. Go ahead, Mike.

Mike Eisenscher: Uh, that's certainly true. Another factor related to that is that the composition of the labor movement has changed quite a bit and there are now many, many immigrant workers in the labor movement who bring with them experiences in their own country that give them a different view of the international situation and a much more rounded and critical perspective.

David Bacon: So, Gene, the -- sort of compressing the history here a bit -- from the beginning of the war and the occupation of Iraq in 2003 and the convention at the AFL-CIO where the AFL-CIO officially adopted a position calling for the withdrawal of US troops which I believe took place in the summer of 2005?

Gene Bruskin: Right.

David Bacon: Right. There was obviously a great deal of activity that went on in terms of getting union by union opposition to that war organized. Can you kind of like go through that history pretty quickly for us here?

Gene Bruskin: Well what was, in a way, breath taking to many of us was that after US Labor Against the War was launched in January 2003 and then the war happened. We weren't, unfortunately, able to prevent it. But then rather than have the reaction that happened after the Gulf War when the yellow ribbons went up everywhere, people got even angrier and there was just a-a huge wave that summer and all into the next year through every union virtually of any significance in the labor movement -- on the shop floor, at monthly union meetings, at regional meetings and a meetings of international Unions, resolutions went onto the floor and there were really intense debates where people were just saying, "This is not the role of the labor movement to take these kind of positions. We're supposed to just deal with people's job-related issues." And in many cases what happened is vets or military families stood up and said, "Look, you know, I got a son that is about to go over there and I want the troops home tomorrow cause I don't want my kid to die." That kind of stuff --

Philip Maldari: Well let's talk about exactly who's in the army, who is in the marine corps, who's fighting this war. It seems like more often than not, it's the children of the working class. It's not the children of the upper middle class that are uh-uh troops, you know, boots on the ground in Afghanistan right now.

Gene Bruskin: Right. I mean it was clearly a thing where people said, "It's us that's fighting the war, it's -- we're paying for the war and we don't want it." And it came at the time when our rights were clearly under attack from every corner, from the Bush administration. So it was very clear to see that. And we made the link even to the extent of going to Iraq. David Bacon was a part of that on a couple of occasions. And bringing Iraqi trade unionists here to make the link to workers in both countries that we had more in common with each other than we did with the Bush administration, we should oppose the war.

David Bacon: So Kathy, here we are. First of all, the Iraq War is not over yet. But we have a whole new emphasis on increasing US military intervention in Afghanistan. A very different war, one that essentially was described by Obama during his election campaign as the war we should be fighting as opposed to the Iraq War which was the war that we should not be fighting. And there are a lot of important differences between Afghanistan as a country and Iraq as a country and the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq. How do you think US unions are going to relate to the war in Afghanistan and what kind of tactics and strategies were developed at the recent national assembly of US Labor Against the War in relation to developing labor opposition to this war

Kathy Black: Well it's a much more difficult task for us now. Bush is no longer president. The solidarity work that Gene referred to, that you were such an important part of, is a harder thing to establish. Afghanistan doesn't have unions although Pakistan does and we do have connections there. But we're not going to be bringing a tour of Afghani union leaders to this country to put that human face and make those direct connections for union people. And uh, and then of course there's the concern that the labor movement feels that they elected Obama, that he's our president and they're loathe at this point to criticize him for almost anything -- and certainly to come out in opposition to a major policy initiative like this. So it's a tougher lift but, unfortunately, we think that events and the trajectory of this war is on our side to build that opposition. And some of the tools -- probably the most important tool that we came out with was this terrific DVD that Michael Zweig, one of our major activists in New York has developed called
Why Are We In Afghanistan? And actually it's already having a very positive effect. It was shown here in Pennsylvania there was a big SEIU state worker council and they immediately passed a resolution opposing the war and there have been some other reports like that around the country.

For more information, visit
US Labor Against the War. David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which just won the CLR James Award. And there's already a link for Zweig's film; however, to correct something, the most important tool is always the same and no one spoke of it.

One small voice Speaking out in honesty Silenced, but not for long One small voice Speaking with the values we were taught as children So you walk away and say, Isn't he divine? Don't those clothes look fine on the Emperor? And as you take your leave, you wonder why you're feeling So ill-at-ease--don't you know? Lies take your soul You can't hide from yourself Lies take their toll on you And everyone else One small voice speaking out in honesty Silenced, but not for long One small voice speaking with the values we were taught as children Tell the truth You can change the world But you'd better be strong
-- "One Small Voice," written by
Carole King, first appears on her Speeding Time. [Carole begins a world tour with James Taylor in the new year, click here for information.]
Too much time has been wasted pathetically propping up Barack. We spoke the truth on Bush (those of us who did when it mattered, when it was hard) and we changed the perception. Those of us who do the hard lifting, "the tough lift," we're already doing that, we've been doing that. We don't cut slack for War Hawks. Those of us who've been doing the heavy lifting will continue to do so. Like the Little Red Hen, apparently all by ourselves. And those who are useless will continue to be so.
Paul Street (ZNet) observes and names some of the useless:

Another example is Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor of the liberal weekly public affairs magazine The Nation. "Whatever one thinks of Obama's policy on any specific issue," Vanden Heuvel proclaimed last month, "he is clearly a reform president committed to improvement of peoples' lives and the renewal and reconstruction of America ... Progressives should focus less on the limits of the Obama agenda," Vanden Huevel intoned, "and more on the possibilities that his presidency opens up."[15]

How Vanden Heuvel could have come to include the word "clearly" in light of the President's numerous rightward and center-leaning policy decisions was something of a mystery, assuming that The Nation's top authority meant what she wrote. As one totals up the president's cumulatively reactionary record of policies (and non-policies) on numerous specific issues - energy, health, war, labor rights, war, militarism - it becomes rather difficult to sustain the image of Obama as anything but a business and war president, certainly not a people's reformer. It was difficult to see a leader of America 's so-called radical left so easily hooked by the deceptive marketing that left author Chris Hedges has written about in connection with the president:

"Barack Obama is a brand. And the brand designed to make us feel good about our government while corporate overlords loot the Treasury, our elected officials continue to have their palms greased by armies of corporate lobbyists, our corporate media diverts us with gossip and trivia and our imperial wars expand in the Middle East . Brand Obama is about being happy consumers. We are entertained. We feel hopeful. We like our president. We believe he is like us. But like all branded products spun out from the manipulative world of corporate advertising, we are being duped into doing and supporting a lot of things that are not in our interest."

"... President Obama does one thing and Brand Obama gets you to believe another. This is the essence of successful advertising." [16]
In some cases even people who call themselves Marxists have run to Obama's whistle. Last November, Carl Davidson, a former Sixties Maoist turned "Marxist" Web-master of "Progressives for Obama," wrote a widely circulated essay claiming that Obama's victory in the presidential election was "a major victory" for left progressives. Badly misusing the terminology of the Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci, Davidson claimed that the Obama administration represented the rise of "an emerging historic counter-hegemonic bloc" containing elements of Marxian/proletarian "class struggle." He strained the bounds of credulity by claiming that the new Obama presidency represented a decisive break with both neoliberalism and corporate liberalism and that the new White House was torn by a major tension between forces representing the capitalist class's "old hydrocarbon sector" and forces representing a progressive new left-leaning "green sector."[17] As the left journalist Arun Gupta quipped, "Obama must have missed Davidson's memo," for the Obama White House had committed to spending $1 trillion a year on the Pentagon but just a "few billion on green jobs, mainly as subsidies to big corporations like the big three [automakers]."[18]

Last January, United for Peace and Justice leader and top U.S. Communist Party official Judith LeBlanc actually called President Obama's appointment of Richard Holbrooke as a special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan last January "an exciting moment for the peace movement, because its possible diplomacy will be the first step...It's incredibly important that the antiwar movement reach out to this envoy," LeBlanc said, "and speak directly to the White House about our concerns." [19] This was remarkable commentary given Holbrooke's rather unsavory history as a leading U.S. foreign policy operative and commentator over the years - a record that included critical support (in his role as Under-Secretary of State for Asian Affairs in the Carter administration) for Indonesia's U.S.-supported atrocities (bordering on genocide) against East Timor in 1975, promising (in his role as Bill Clinton's special envoy to the Balkans) immunity to Serbian war criminal Radovan Karadzic (according to Karadzic himself and to former Bosnian foreign minister Mohammad Sacirbey), helping lead (in his role as special envoy to Kosovo) the "diplomatic" charge to the U.S. bombing of Serbia in 1999, providing Democratic support for George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq, and serving as a pro-war foreign policy advisor to the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. As Holbrooke took up his appointment with a ringing endorsement from the Communist Party's LeBlanc, a left U.S. newspaper reported that "Angry protesters gathered in Me htarlam, capital of Afghanistan 's eastern Laghman Province , to protest deaths of at least 16 civilians in a U.S. raid on a village Jan. 23. The same day, across the border in western Pakistan , a senior Pakistani official said two U.S. missile attacks may have killed up to 100 civilians. In Washington , administration officials refused to answer whether President Obama had okayed the missile strikes." [20]

Names some. Remember that. He wastes a footnote raving over Howard Zinn and Francy Fox Piven, both members of the Cult of St. Barack and shamefully so in both cases. Apparently Street is happy trashing any and everyone in a 'southern' state but it's too difficult for him to call out those who pushed to put a War Hawk in the White House. I don't want blood, I do want accountability. Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) abandoned everything he ever knew about journalism (or decency) to pimp Barack. In what may be the closest to a mea culpa any of that group will ever offer,
Rothschild declares today, "Seems to me that Obama played us all for fools." We'll take that as accountability -- no others offered anything remotely close and Progressive Radio will be added back to the links this week.

It's past time for the left to stop playing so wilfully stupid. As
Ava and I pointed out Sunday:

If you're unhappy with the US policy on global warming, you better blame the person in charge. And despite the lunatic ravings of Naomi Klein on Goody's show, Hillary Clinton is not the president of the United States. Though Naomi could screech ("screech" is the only word for it) that Hillary was attempting to "blackmail" developing countries -- "naked blackmail" at that, the offer was the one that the administration wanted proposed. But there was never time to call out the person responsible. Goody offered lots of 'love' segments for Barack. She just didn't hold him accountable. It's not an accident, it's intentional. It happened with his 'surge' speech (
as we documented before) and it'll continue to happen. And don't expect any movement in this country when 'left' 'leaders' are too cowed to call out a sitting president. Expect people to continue being Naomi Klein Zombies, wandering around in a daze, having "made a really conscious choice that I was going to enjoy the night."

Learn to stand or continue begging on your knees. We'll return to Michael Prysner to note his explaining an upcoming action:

So I encourage everyone to pay attention to a national march on Washington, DC that's going to happen on March 20th. There's also going to be coinciding marches in Los Angeles and San Francisco. But a large organization of antiwar groups have come together. It was initiated by the
A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition -- you can go to A.N.S.W.E.R.org for information about the march. But we're calling on everyone to be a part of this action. We want soldiers, we want veterans, we want military families and we want all people in the United States who are suffering because of these wars. We're in the middle of a Depression where every month, more and more jobs are being lost. There's this health care debate going on, we're seeing that there's people that are not going to have access to quality health care. Education -- tuition is skyrocketing. We need money so badly, most people, yet we're spending over $500 million dollars a day to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan. So if you're angry about this war which everyone should be, there is something you can do and that's become active in the movement. And the first thing you can do is become involved in the organizing for March 20th and of course participate in that demonstration as well. We need as many people as possible to send a message that the people are not in support of this war and we're going to fight until it's over.

Yesterday's snapshot included:Meanwhile AFP reports that the Iraqi military is on high "alert" according to the Minister of Defense, Mohammed al-Askari, who states, "We have put our forces on alert in Baghdad, the provinces of Kirkuk and Nineveh, including its capital Mosul, where our Christian brothers will be celebrating their holidays, because we have intelligence indicating they could be attacked during this period." Brothers? How typical of Nouri's flunkies to forget the women. Timothy Williams (New York Times) reports, "At churches in Baghdad this week, Christians are being asked for identification to determine if they have names that security force members recognize as Christian. Some churches around the northern city of Mosul are digging in, surrounding their buildings with giant earthen berms to prevent car bombers from getting too close." Extra security hasn't helped. Today AFP reports, "With Christmas just around the corner, a bomb attack on a church in the Iraqi city of Mosul killed two passersby and wounded five others, the sixth attack on Christians there in less than a month." Mohammed Tawfeeq and CNN add, "This was the second bombing near a church in Mosul in a week. On December 15, four people were killed and 40 others were injured in a car bombing near a church in western Mosul." Actually, it's the third. There were two bombings on December 15th. From that day's snapshot:Today in Mosul, Iraqi Christians were again targeted with violence. Al Jazeera notes one bombing was at the Syrian Catholic Church of the Annunciation and another exploded at "the Syrian Orthodox Church of Purity and a nearby Christian school". Iran's Press TV counts four dead in one of the church bombings and forty injured which they identify the church as Virign Mary Church which AFP says is the Syrian Orthodox Church of Purity. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the Catholic Church (which is billed as "Mariamana Church") was targeted with two bombings -- the first apparently to draw a crowd of which the 4 were then killed and the forty injured. The other church, Issa states, only suffered "material damages to the church" with no one reported dead or wounded. Mohammed Abbas and Missy Ryan (Reuters) reports among Teba Saad Jassim was among the dead ("a seven-day-old baby girl") and quotes a Mosul priest who did not want to be named stating, "We are peaceful people, but we come under attack sometimes. We are the victim of instability in this province."Deng Shasha (Xinhua) offers this context, "Iraq's Christian community has been estimated at 3 percent of Iraq's roughly 30 million people, and has a significant presence in the Nineveh province, which has been the scene of major security crackdowns by U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces to uproot the insurgency that erupted shortly after the U.S.-led invasion." And don't e-mail me the garbage from the New York Times on this topic. I've already griped at a friend with the paper who wanted that s**t included. Don't note ICCC's bad 'civilian' count. (Which isn't even a civilian count -- it includes police and military -- learn to read idiot press, learn to read.) We already called that count out and revealed how wrong it was (whole days they forgot to include violence and they single-sourced to Reuters). Since we called it out, ICCC's discovered a whole world beyond Reuters and hopefully their December count will be better but their past counts are embarrassments and it takes a real idiot to cite them. Enter John Leland.
In other violence . . .
Bombings?

Reuters notes a Baghdad plastic bag bombing which claimed the life of 1 Shi'ite and left four others injured, a Mahmudiya roadside bombing injured five Shi'ite pilgrims, a Baghdad roadside bombing injured five Sh'ite pilgrims, another Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 2 lives and left twenty-eight people injured, a Baghdad minibus bombing which claimed 1 life and left three people injured and, dropping back to Tuesday for all the rest, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured one person, and a Tarmiya roadside bombing injured three people.

Shootings?

Reuters notes 1 "retired Iraqi army officer" was shot dead in Mosul and, dropping back to Tuesday, Brig Gen Riyada Abdulmajeed was shot dead in Baghdad.

Labor doesn't get enough credit for their work on opposing the Iraq War and David Bacon is a wonderful journalist so we have the lengthy excerpt above. But that means we're postponing something's in order to include it. Tomorrow we'll note that the VA still can't get the checks out -- people never should have believed the lies and the excuses -- and by "people," we mean Congress. K
imberly Hefling (AP) reports that, no surprise, the GI Bill payments due at the start of the fall semester? Some still haven't received them.

iraq
antiwar radioscott hortonantiwar radio with scott horton and charles goyettemarch forward!
david baconkpfathe morning show
matthew rothschildprogressive radio
the new york timestimothy williamscnnmohammed tawfeeqxinhuadeng shasha

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

March 20th March on DC

I've never been embarrassed by Senator Roland Burris until now. How very sad.

Let's move to another subject.

A.N.S.W.E.R.

A.N.S.W.E.R. and other groups are calling for a March 20th March on DC.

I think we really need to be participating in this march (marches, there will be some local actions as well). We need to make it clear that we do not support these illegal wars and that we will not be silent while they continue.

If we can't do that, if we can't speak out, then we really should just start saying, "I love the Iraq War. I love that Iraqis are killed. I love that US soldiers are sent to Iraq for no reason except to die." I'm sick of these wars. I'm sick of these wars defining a decade.

It stops now.

If we stand up.

If we don't?

It's no longer war. It's daily life.

You either stand now or accept this as an event as common as the sun rising.


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

Tuesday, December 22, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, four US Senators demand changes in a US general's order which criminalizes pregnancy (ABC World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer covers the latest developments of this story on this evening's broadcast), March Forward! explains their mission, the US Treasury issues a news release on Iraq, war resister Cliff Cornell's sentence is reduced and more.


Michael Prysner: . . . the way that we're going to end this war and the way that we're going to stop this atrocity that's happening -- the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians and thousands of soldiers -- which are no doubt going to increase as this war rages on -- is we need to build a movement, we need to build a mass, people's movement. Which is what we're doing. So I encourage everyone to pay attention to a national march on Washington, DC that's going to happen on March 20th. There's also going to be coinciding marches in Los Angeles and San Francisco. But a large organization of antiwar groups have come together. It was initiated by the
A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition -- you can go to A.N.S.W.E.R.org for information about the march. But we're calling on everyone to be a part of this action. We want soldiers, we want veterans, we want military families and we want all people in the United States who are suffering because of these wars. We're in the middle of a Depression where every month, more and more jobs are being lost. There's this health care debate going on, we're seeing that there's people that are not going to have access to quality health care. Education -- tuition is skyrocketing. We need money so badly, most people, yet we're spending over $500 million dollars a day to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan. So if you're angry about this war which everyone should be, there is something you can do and that's become active in the movement. And the first thing you can do is become involved in the organizing for March 20th and of course participate in that demonstration as well. We need as many people as possible to send a message that the people are not in support of this war and we're going to fight until it's over.

Iraq War veteran Michael Prysner was explaining that on
Antiwar Radio with Scott Horton and Charles Goyette. He and Iraq War veteran James Circello were on to discuss March Forward! "an affiliate of the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition" composed of veterans and active-duty service members.

James Circello: Yeah. Well
March Forward!'s position on the officer corps -- or we refer to them as the officer class -- it's pretty straight forward. The officers, they do little suffering in times of war. They merely put forth the line by Washington. And the enlisted members of the military -- who we view as workers -- are made to carry out these orders. They're made to follow these orders without question or you become slandered with the "unAmerican" and even jailed for-for disobeying orders that are obviously illegal. But our line is pretty simple in that the officer class, once they retire, they go straight into the Pentagon and right into the War Profiteers right across the street. And the enlisted were obviously cast out onto the street. There's a million homeless enlisted -- or veterans, I should say, on the street tonight and 2 million will be on the street homeless this year. So there's a real class struggle within the military and the enlisted soldiers are doing all the suffering, all the dying, all the killing, coming home with PTSD and missing limbs while the officers are celebrating and stacking their resumes for their future jobs.

Scott Horton: It's almost like all the commercials about "Be All That You Can Be" and 'once you get out, then you'll be guaranteed a great job,' all that's really true for the officers basically but they're selling that for the masses out there.

Michael Prysner: Right and it's interesting because if you look at the statistics, you're actually less likely to get hired if you're a veteran because it's somewhat of a liability for the employers. But just to clarify a little more about our view on the officer corps, you know, I-I, myself in my personal experience and this is an all too common story in Iraq and in Afghanistan and James had a similar experience and it's a story that you hear much too often where, for example, myself, officers join the military because they're trying to be successful in a career. Most people become enlisted soldiers because they're pushed in for economic reasons, because they need access to health care for their family, because they need, they want, a college education, because they want job training, because they want a place to live, things that all people need and deserve which, I think, are basic human rights. But that's what pushes most enlisted soldiers into the military. Officers join for a very different reason. And what results in that is officers generally do very little time in combat but what they do is they want their units to get attacked, they want to take fire. And I know myself, personally, I went on missions called -- which we called -- "Draw Fire" missions where there'd be an officer who knew that a certain vehicle had a ransom on it if the vehicle was destroyed so he knew that it was a target so he'd say, "Hey go get so-and-so and let's drive around town and see if we can get shot at?" This is because if his unit gets in combat or if he gets in combat, it's good for his career, it's good for his promotion. He'll get a bronze star and he'll get all of these things. So there's-there's many, many soldiers who have died, who have had life changing injuries, whose lives are destroyed because they had an officer who's going to do one tour in combat who wants to help his career and wants to move up in the ranks and people have died because of this.
Scott Horton: Well now, Michael -- that's Michael right?

Michael Prysner: Yes.

Scott Horton: Now, Michael, you're basically talking about the-the satire, Joseph Heller's satire Catch 22. You're telling me and you're telling my audience that that is truly and literally and really the operational incentive in a war like Iraq? For officers to get the people under them killed for points?

Michael Prysner: Yeah, there's something that is very frequent and it was something that was very frequent in the Vietnam war too and that's why there was such a massive GI rebellion against the officer corps in Vietnam as well. And, as James mentioned, it's very obvious to see the different interests that the officer corps has because there's a study -- two years ago there was a study released that showed there's over two thousand retired generals and colonels that now are employed by defense contractors. It's kind of the most common retirement path is either you're a lobbyist for defense contractors, you're sitting on corporate boards for defense contractors and oil companies while at the same time still being paid by the Pentagon as consultants. So all this team of generals right now that's telling us that we have to be in Afghanistan, that we can't leave. This team of generals, this team of officers, that's telling us that are people that are actually on the payroll of companies like Chevron, of some of the largest defense contractors in the world So we say that we have very different interests, the enlisted and the officers. It's very obvious what their interests are. So we think that we shouldn't be ordered into combat by officers that are trying to build their careers. We think that officers should be democratically elected by enlisted soldiers in their unit. And I think that's something that most enlisted soldiers.

[. . .]

James Circello: It takes a strong voice, and that is what
March Forward! is trying to become, to tell the enlisted soldiers exactly what is happening. We all understand what is happening. There's-there's definitely dissent in the military ranks. Thousands of men and women have deserted the military in the last decade. The last time I checked, the statistic was upwards to 50,000 and that isn't shown. A lot of the times it's not a political stance. A lot of the time it's just that these soldiers miss their families, that they've been deployed four times and don't want to go back to a war zone. Or a lot of the time, it's that these soldiers are suffering through PTSD and no one is listening to them, no one the VA, the medical bases -- the medical stations on the bases, they won't diagnose them for fear that they won't be able to deploy them when the time comes. So soldiers have taken it upon themselves to stand up and to leave the military and a lot of the times they're quiet about it and March Forward! is calling for that in a wider scope for all soldiers that are being told to deploy to refuse that because Afghanistan and Iraq not only are they illegal and immoral but they're against our interests as workers in the United States.

Scott Horton: Alright everybody, I'm talking with James Circello and Mike Prysner, Michael Prysner, from
March Forward! They're soldiers basically telling the rest of the soldiers to quit to refuse to participate in this -- well I call it madness, you call it what you want, anymore.


This morning a female service member e-mailed to be sure we all knew one of the worst parts of the "100% repulsive order" coming down from General Prude Anthony Cucolo. Backstory,
yesterday's snapshot, over the weekend Cucolo couldn't stop giving interviews about his new order which punishes any women serving in northern Iraq for pregnancy -- married or unmarried, she's punished and that may include court-martial. Yes, women in the military are not allowed to have sex with other women unless they want to risk being drummed out of the military and now they better not have sex with men (unless they have their tubes tied because contraception is never 100% effective 100% of the time). But the female service member caught another detail of the order and steers us to Navy Seals Blog's post which notes: "If the pregnancy of a female soldier, however, was proven to be caused by a sexual assault, then the soldier will not be subjected to punishment."

If.

Do they train these generals in anything or just slap them on the back and say, "Strut around in pure ignorance"?
Vic Lee (San Francisco's ABC, KGO-TV, link has text and video) reported yesterday on sexual assualts in the military -- someone might want to get a copy to General Know Nothing. Brave women like Swords to Plowshares' Tia Christopher shared their stories. Tia Christopher went to report it and the officer above her's response was whether or not this was a joke? It was no joke for Christopher who never saw justice but did receives "an early discharge with a personality disorder." Lee notes, "The National Institute of Justice says one in five women will be sexually assaulted. The ratio in the military, according to the Department of Defense is one in three or four women and a new Pentagon report says sexual assaults are increasing." And when a woman comes forward, watch the brass and 'justice' system bend over backwards to ignore the assualt. Suzanne Swift is only one example of a woman fighting back in this decade and being punished, only one example of a complete and utter failure for the military to discipline their own or to take the victims seriously.

So now in a culture that doesn't take sexual assaults seriously and then blames the victim, a woman who ends up pregnant faces even more harassment. Maria Lauterbach was raped while she was in the Marines. She identified her rapist, Cesar Laurean. The military refused to take her seriously. She was forced to continue to be around him. At what point does the US Marine Corps intend to take accountability and responsibility for their role in what happened? Maria disappeared. As the police searched for her and her family frantically worried, the Marines refused to inform the police about Cesar Laurean or even restrict him to base. Which is how Maria's murdered managed to escape to Mexico. (He is now back in US custody.) He murdered her. Then he set her body on fire. Then he told his wife. If a Marine is missing and she's accused a fellow Marine of rape, it stands to reason that command puts the accused under watch. But that's how little women mattered at Camp Lejeune. A Marine can go missing and the brass doesn't give a damn. A woman who has accused another service member of raping her and they don't give a damn. That's reality for a lot of women in the service.

But the general in Iraq doesn't live with reality. He fancies himself a king issuing orders. The heat's been on Cucolo including from the Senate.
Rebecca Santana (AP) reports that he held another press conference today where he "appeared to back from the policy [. . .] saying the policy was to emphasize the problems created" by pregnancy and that no woman who got pregnant would be put in jail for "the offense." American Women Veterans charted the developments on their Twitter account:

The General clarifies: "I see absolutely no circumstance where I would punish a female soldier by court martial...
http://bit.ly/6U8XuW from Facebook

Senate heat came from US Senators Barbara Boxer, Kirsten Gillibrand, Barbara Mikulski and Jeanne Shaheen who sent the following to the US Secretary of the Army today:

December 22, 2009

The Honorable John McHugh
Secretary of the Army
101 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310-0101

Dear Secretary McHugh:

It has come to our attention that Major General Anthony Cucolo III -- the Commander of Multi-National Division-North, Iraq -- has implemented a stricter policy that criminalizes pregnancy for members of the United States Armed Forces under his command and for others "serving with, employed by, or accompanying" the military. While we fully understand and appreciate the demands facing both commanders and service members in Iraq, we believe this policy is deeply misguided and must be immediately rescinded.

Under the policy, it is possible to face punishment, including imprisonment, for "becoming pregnant, or impregnating a Soldier, while assigned to the Task Force Marne" Area of Operations. The policy even extends to married couples jointly serving in the warzone.

Although Major General Cucolo stated today that a pregnant soldier would not necessarily be punished by court-martialunder this policy, we believe the threat of criminal sanctions in the case of pregnancy goes far beyond what is needed to maintain good order and discipline. This policy could encourage female soldiers to delay seeking critical medical care with potentially serious consequences for mother and child.

This policy also undermines efforts to enhance benefits and services so that dual military couples can continue to serve. We can think of no greater deterrent to women contemplating a military career than the image of a pregnant woman being severely punished simply for conceiving a child. This defies comprehension.

As such, we urge you to immediately rescind this policy. Thank you for your prompt consideration of this most important request, and for your continued commitment to our men and women in uniform.

Sincerely,

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

Jeanne Shaheen
United States Senator

Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senator

Barbara A. Mikulski
United States Senator


On
ABC World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer, Diane will be covering this story this evening. Meanwhile NOW president Terry O'Neill pronounces the order "ridiculous" and tells ABC News, "How dare any government say we're going to impose any kind of punishment on women for getting pregnant. This is not the 1800s."


On the subject of retired generals with 'new careers,'
Ray Locker, Tom Vanden Brook and Ken Dilanian (USA Today) report on the 'mentor program' (easy money for generals who retire) and how you can be pulled off the tax payer dole for objecting to official policy publicly as happened to Gen Ricardo Sanchez (of Abu Ghraib War Crimes) and they note that the military currently pays "at least 158 senior mentors, about 80% of whom also have connections to various defense contractors." On the subject of war resistance, Courage to Resist reports war resister Cliff Cornell has seen his one year jail sentence reduced by 30 days. They note: "Clemency appeals (known as "1105 requests" in military justice terminology) are rarely granted. However, Courage to Resist continued to fund Cliff's post-conviction legal defense despite the odds. Our efforts, made possible by your donations, paid off for Cliff! We're still about $500 short of being able to pay Cliff's final legal bill. Although we have closed our separate fundraising page for Cliff, please donate at couragetoresist.org/donate. This is an important development as most define a felon as a person sentenced to one year or more imprisonment, so Cliff will no longer fit this definition. Hopefully this will make it easier for Cliff to find a job, and to eventually return to the community of Gabriola Island, Canada." In protest news, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates spoke Friday at the University of Georgia's graduation ceremony and Russ Bynum (AP) reports protesters were outside carrying signs. Saturday, WCSI reports, he spoke at Indiana University's commencement ceremony and protesters turned out for that appearance as well.

Turning to the violence in Iraq . . .


Bombings?

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded two people. Reuters notes a Kirkuk bombing which injured three police officers and a Falluja car bombing which injured Abdul-Hadi al-Isran, a local politician. AFP reports 2 Shi'ites were shot dead outside "Baquba while leaving a mosque" and they note that the Falluja bombing which injured "the head of the town's city council" also injured police Capt Mohammed Shikhan. Reuters drops back to Monday to note a Baghdad car bombing which claimed 1 life.

Shootings?

Reuters notes 1 Iraqi soldier was shot dead in Mosul, another was shot dead in a Mosul home invasion (in which his brother was also injured) and dropping back to yesterday, 1 civilian was shot dead in Mosul.

McClatchy's Scott Fontaine is back in Iraq and he report (link has text and video) and he reports on the fears of Iraqi police offiers in Khandari including one who is now being targeted: "Al-Qaida in Iraq killed his mother, brother and uncle. The man started the habit of checking under his car each morning. One day last month, he discovered a magnetically attached bomb." (A longer version of Fontaine's article can be found at the Tacoma News Tribune).

Moving to the 'great mystery' of the invasion of Iraq by Iran and the seizing of the oil well. Once upon a time . . .
Alsumaria reports, "Iraqi Foreign Minister Hosheyar Zebari affirmed that Al Fakka oil well crisis has been resolved with Iran." As usual, one idiot for a British publication can't grasp the facts. Now it can be argued that the facts are fluid regarding this item filled with you-invaded-no-we-didn't! but no one's a bigger idiot than ____ who writes like a paid lobbyist for Nouri al-Maliki. (No, I'm not referring to Patrick Cockburn. He writes out of love, not for money.) Reuters reports that Iran continues to insist the entire thing was a "misunderstanding" which may or may not be an upgrade from "it never happened!" Chicago Tribune, clipping furiously from wire services, insists that Iraq has defended and reclaimed the oil field. Of course, they also insist Shell's oil contract has to "be approved by Iraq's Cabinet" and that's not based on any law. The law is that it must be approved by Parliament. So don't take the Chicago Tribune too seriously (the whole world would be better off to follow that advice on every news item). Yee Kai Pin and Gavin Evans (Bloomberg News) note that oil has risen to $73 per barrel and that: "Prices had jumped after Iranian troops occupied an oil field in a disputed border region with Iraq. The troops withdrew from the al-Fakah well in the East Maysan field late Dec. 19 after an armed confrontation, Iraq's deputy minister of oil Abdul Kareem al-Luaibi said yesterday. Separately, Iraqi television cited government spokesman Ali Al-Dabbagh as saying Iranian soldiers remained in Iraqi territory. "

But the Iraq War is more than a story of oil, so much more. Let's check out the other dominant thread in the news cycle: Flow. Hustle and? Oops. No, we're back to oil.
Alsumaria reports Abdul Karim Al Luaibi, Iraq's Deputy Minister of Oil, is saying the pipeline attacked Saturday will be back pumping today. Fang Yang (Xinua) explains Turkey says something different (the pipeline goes to a Turkish port), that country's Energy Ministry does not say pumping resumes today, it states that it will "resume within a week". They keep saying it had nothing to do with oil but it's all the media can report on.

In other news, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has issued a new report entitled "
Global Restrictions on Religion" and Iraq finds itself among the top scorers when it comes to social hostilities. [Note: Do not e-mail saying, "Iraq is number one! You should have noted that." It's not. There are outlets reporting -- one example here -- that and they haven't read the study. Iraq is the first country listed under the "Very High" category; however, this note of caution is being ignored by some outlets: "The Pew Forum has not attached numerical rankings to the countries because there are numerous tie scores and the differences between the scores of countries that are close to each other on this table are not necessarily meaningful."] While scoring with other countries as "Very High" when it comes to Social restrictions, it makes the "High" list for government restrictions. Meanwhile AFP reports that the Iraqi military is on high "alert" according to the Minister of Defense, Mohammed al-Askari, who states, "We have put our forces on alert in Baghdad, the provinces of Kirkuk and Nineveh, including its capital Mosul, where our Christian brothers will be celebrating their holidays, because we have intelligence indicating they could be attacked during this period." Brothers? How typical of Nouri's flunkies to forget the women. Timothy Williams (New York Times) reports, "At churches in Baghdad this week, Christians are being asked for identification to determine if they have names that security force members recognize as Christian. Some churches around the northern city of Mosul are digging in, surrounding their buildings with giant earthen berms to prevent car bombers from getting too close." Chrismas Eve, Free Speech Radio News examines the costs to Iraqis of the Iraq War in a special half-hour broadcast.

Today the
US Treasury Dept issued the following news release:



The U.S. Department of the Treasury today designated the Iraq-based insurgent group Jaysh Rijal al-Tariq al-Naqshabandi (JRTN) for threatening the peace and stabilization efforts in Iraq. JRTN has committed, directed, supported, or posed a significant risk of committing acts of violence against Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces and is being designated today pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13438, which targets insurgent and militia groups and their supporters. Today's designation freezes any assets that JRTN may have under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibits U.S. persons from conducting financial or commercial transactions with the entity. The U.S. Government has no information indicating any tie between JRTN and the Naqshabandi Sufi order of Islam.
"Today's designation is an important step in protecting Coalition troops, Iraqi Security Forces, and innocent Iraqis from insurgent groups like JRTN that use violence to undermine Iraq's progress toward a more democratic and prosperous future,"‪ said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey.‪
JRTN has conducted attacks against Coalition Forces in Iraq since April 2009, including the August RKG-3 (armor-penetrating grenade) attack against a Coalition Forces convoy in Hawijah, Iraq. Subsequently, a JRTN cell operating in Kirkuk, Iraq, fired rockets at the Kirkuk Regional Air Base in two separate attacks. As of mid-2009, JRTN planned to conduct attacks against Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces and intended to overthrow the Government of Iraq and reinstate Ba'ath Party rule. In mid-July, JRTN members were responsible for an improvised explosive device (IED) attack on Coalition Forces near an Iraqi police station in Salah ad Din Governorate, Iraq . Later that month, JRTN detonated an IED targeting Coalition Forces in Kirkuk and in August, conducted an indirect fire attack on Joint Security Station McHenry in Kirkuk.
In December 2008, a JRTN member operating in Kirkuk purchased three Katyusha rockets and an undetermined number of magnetic improvised explosive devices that were intended to be used in attacks against Kirkuk Regional Air Base, Iraqi police or Government of Iraq officials. JRTN's Abu Ghurayb Brigade also targeted Coalition Forces stationed at or around Baghdad International Airport .
Web postings made by JRTN further demonstrate that the group conducted attacks against Coalition Forces. In a statement on the al-Mindar Network's website in May 2009, JRTN claimed to have conducted three separate attacks against Coalition Forces, including a May attack that destroyed a U.S. Humvee in Anbar Province, Iraq; an April 2009 sniper attack against a U.S. soldier in al-Ta'mim Province, Iraq; and the destruction of a U.S. vehicle in Anbar Province in April. In a separate instance, in August, JRTN posted a video of a military vehicle being hit by powerful explosion to the JRTN website,
www.alnakshabandia-army.com.

We'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "
Escalating War in Afghanistan Apt to Bring More Economic Woes" (YubaNet):

If Iraq war spending helped plunge the U.S. economy into its worst slump since the Depression, what does President Obama think his escalation of the Afghan war will do it?Besides forcing taxpayers to cough up fresh billions to enable the Pentagon to chase down a few hundred Taliban fighters, the Afghan war is liable to continue to inflate oil prices---and this means more than the ongoing swindle of motorists at the pump. Higher oil prices also slow the global economy, causing our trading partners to buy fewer Made-in-USA goods, thus reducing demand for our products and leading to layoffs. Spending money on war also siphons billions of dollars from truly productive uses.
"Today, no serious economist holds the view that war is good for the economy," write Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard government finance expert Linda Bilmes in their book "The Three Trillion Dollar War: the True Cost of The Iraq Conflict." Referring to Iraq, they write, "The question is not whether the economy has been weakened by the war. The question is only by how much." They note, "Oil prices started to soar just as the war began, and the longer it has dragged on, the higher prices have gone."



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