Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 in DVDs

Ann and Stan: Movies. In a sucking economy. That means for most people, you 'go to the movies' on the couch with a DVD rental or purchase. We use Redbox, Netflix, various independent rental stores and, in a pinch, Blockbuster -- though, on the last one, mainly to buy used DVDs cheap.

The two best DVD releases of 2009 are an action-adventure and a romantic comedy. We'll start with the action-adventure.

Terminator Salvation is a great film once you get past Christian Bale. His well reported tantrums on the set apparently left him too drained to work up emotions when the cameras were rolling. We actually can't think of a worse actor than Bale but McG's film is a pleasure ride.

terminatorsalvation
Sam Worthington is amazing as a machine with human tissues who doesn't know he's a machine. In fact, he's got more emotions than the mechanical Bale and you might wish they'd flipped the roles. It could have used more of Moon Bloodgood who plays Blair and is amazing throughout but probably owns the scene at the end involving the big sacrifice.

To really appreciate it, you should watch it a few times so you can grasp just how much Worthington delivers in every scene. McG delivers as well but could have used a Drew Barrymore in the lead role because Bale really misfires as John Connor. (McG directed Drew in the Charlie's Angeles films.)

Like the action-adventure film, the romantic comedy manages to rip at your heart.

theproposal1

That's Sandra Bullock and 2009 was her year. She gave amazing performances but don't think that The Proposal was a lesser performance than her big football drama just because it was comedy. The Proposal was an amazing comedy with an amazing performance from Bullock.


theproposal2
And we think Ryan Reynolds may be the first co-star she's had chemistry with since Keanu Reeves. (Hugh Grant is entertaining but always self-amused. If she had chemistry with Benjamin Bratt, who could tell? The shock from that body scarring, self-mutliation the actor apparently does in real life -- revealed when he's in a shirtless scene -- pretty much nullifies any chemistry.)

This is a movie that has you laughing, that has you rooting and that really touches you. It's the biggest film so far of Sandra's career and if you don't understand why, it's only because you haven't seen it. And credit to Anne Fletcher who directed this wonderful comedy.

Meanwhile Nine just opened and is already being pulled. We didn't even know Nicole Kidman was in Nine until after we heard it was being pulled. We might have seen it just for Nicole. We'll see it on DVD but that goes to the biggest problem of 2009, bad advertising. They don't seem to know how to hook you with trailers. We had no idea, until we saw it on DVD, that we'd like Terminator Salvation. The trailer was a bunch of nonsense.

But, like most, we see movies in the bad economy via DVD rentals and one of the best things about Netflix (we're plugging but we're not getting anything for it -- not even a free rental!!!!) is that if it's on DVD, Netflix tends to have it. So you're not limited to this month's releases. You're not limited at all. So you can delve into film past and see the classics and also see the audience pleasers because, sometimes, the films that are 'good for you' aren't the most entertaining.

To round out our ten, here are eight films we enjoyed seeing on DVD this year.

1) Mildred Pierce. Joan Crawford won the Oscar for this one and deserved it. Amazing performance and amazing film.

2) Boy Did I Get A Wrong Number. A Bob Hope caper film with strong support from a hilarious Phyllis Diller whose best scene may be her washing or 'washing' the dishes.

3) A Place In The Sun. Elizabeth Taylor is still a beautiful woman and we honestly assumed she was always the best looking person in any of her films. Then we saw this. She's still beautiful but Montgomery Clift manages to outshine her. (In looks. In acting, she holds her own and remains one of the most underrated actresses.)

4) These Old Broads. We love Elizabeth Taylor. And we go through Netflix to find films featuring her. Ann: "I called Stan and asked, 'What's These Old Broads? Cedric and I are thinking of renting it." Stan: "And I had no idea either." It's a TV movie co-written by Carrie Fisher that we both missed in 2001. Jonathan Silverman delivers his best performance we've ever seen. He plays Shirley MacLaine's son and she's just magnificent. She's an actress teaming up with two former co-stars: Debbie Reynolds and Joan Collins. Joan frequently steals the show. Debbie's given the thankless role of straight woman for most of the film (she and Joan do a great job singing "Get Happy" in a club) but she gets one really strong scene with a woman who stole her husband. Playing that part is Elizabeth Taylor. Carrie Fisher is the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher. And Eddie Fisher left Debbie Reynolds for Elizabeth Taylor (who left Eddie Fisher for Richard Burton). So that scene has a huge subtext. As wonderful as all the women are (Debbie's best moment other than her scene with Elizabeth is the sequence where Joan Collins' lover dies and they have to deal with the corpse), Elizabeth Taylor is just delightful as the three actresses' long time agent. She's got this hilarious voice and she's just wonderful and you wonder why more character roles aren't given to her. This is a woman who won not one but two Oscars.

5) Thoroughly Modern Millie. This film stars Julie Andrews, Mary Tyler Moore and Carol Channing. We love it. We love Millie (Andrews) and we love Miss Dorothy (Mary). We love the daring and the comedy and the way Judith pops up early in the film but we're not sure everyone catches that. It's a funny film. Is it a great one? If you measure great by pleasure provided, we'd say yes.

6) Ocean's 11. The original. Proving how much stronger the earlier version was. Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, Angie Dickinson and Shirley MacLaine are among the stars in this film. And it's got a ton more tension than the remake. If you enjoyed Clooney's film, see the original. It's like watching a high school production of Grease (Clooney) and then seeing the actual film (the original).

7) Dark Victory. Betty recommended this Bette Davis film to us early in the year. We'd seen many Bette Davis films and always enjoyed them but we'd never seen this one. Bette plays a wealthy socialite who has everything you could ever want and learns she's dying. It's a tear jerker and they really don't make those anymore. This is an amazing film.

8) Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Amazing comedic film starring Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell as two best friends. Famous for Marilyn's performance of "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" (which Russell also performs when she pretends to be Marilyn). If there's anything more wonderful than watching the film, it's picturing a remake. We like to picture Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in the roles of the gold digger and her best friend and would love to see Ben sing "Ain't There Anyone Here For Love?"


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

Thursday, December 31, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, questions are being raised in Iran and England about the release of a British hostage, questions in the US seemingly don't exist, can you be commander in chief while sending the message that you don't take seriously the loss of US troops, a new poll finds the bulk of Americans see no improvement in Iraq in the coming year, and more.

Peter Moore is alive. Alan McMenemy's status is unknown. The same as it was during
yesterday's snapshot. May 29, 2007, the two men were kidnapped at the Ministry of Finance in Baghdad along with three other British citizens: Jason Crewswell, Jason Swindlehurst and Alec Maclachlan. The League of Righteous staged the kidnapping using official vehicles of the Baghdad security forces and using official uniforms of the Baghdad security forces. Moore was released yesterday, Alan McMenemy's status remains unknown and the other three men are dead.

July 29th, the families and loved ones of the five held a press conference. The bodies of the two Jasons had been turned over and there were rumors that Alan and Alec were dead as well.

Haley Williams: These reports are the worst possible news for us but we continue to hope that they cannot be true. But whatever Alec's condition, he no longer should remain in Iraq. We appeal to those holding him to please send him home to us. I speak to you as the mother of Alec's son. We are not the people holding your men but I do understand your feelings cause you're going through the same pain we are going through. If we had any influence over the release of your men, we would release them to you but we don't. Please send him home because as a family we can't cope with this anymore.

That is what Haley Williams stated. But, as noted in the
July 29th snapshot, American audiences didn't get to hear all of Haley's statement. Most outlets ignored it and CNN cesnored it, stripping out this section: "We are not the people holding your men but I do understand your feelings cause you're going through the same pain we are going through. If we had any influence over the release of your men, we would release them to you but we don't." American audiences couldn't be told that the five British citizens were being used as barganining chips by the League of Righteousness. [See Deborah Haynes (Times of London link has text and also has video of the press conference) report for the families statements.]

Now that's really important. And it's important to what's happening right now and it's important to understanding how the whole thing played out. The British government never wanted publicity. They told the families -- they LIED to the families -- that going public would risk the lives of the five. They weren't trying to save the five. They never managed to, in fact. If Alan's alive and they save him, he'll be the first one they saved.

The British government was inept and it may have been criminally negligent. The kidnapping was high profile and the British government -- already being run out of parts of southern Iraq with their base destroyed and used as lumber by the Iraqi resistance -- had enough embarrassments on its hands. The government's request for a media blackout was never about the five men, never about saving them. It was always about saving Tony Blair and Gordon Brown from any further embarrassments. That's why Gordon Brown, current prime minister of England, could grand stand yesterday and speak of "Peter" yet only weeks before he refused to meet with Peter Moore's father.

They never wanted to talk about it to the media or to the families but when they think they have a photo op Brown and his administration are all over the press bragging and self-congratulating. For what? They didn't accomplish a damn thing and shouldn't be allowed to use Peter Moore as a shield to hide behind. Three British citizens are dead and on one knows Alan's state.

When the families held their press conference at the end of July, they did so over the objections of the British government. Why CNN elected to censor what was said is a question that everyone needs to be asking and part of the answer goes to the fact that few want to talk about how Peter Moore and three corpses were released. From the
June 9th snapshot:


This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "
U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."
The League of Righteous conveyed to the British government (which should be asked about those 'channels' of communication) that as long as their leader, his brother and other members of the League of Righteous were held in US-run prisons in Iraq, the five British hostages would remain hostages. That was their demand, that was the kidnapper's ransom. It's awfully silly for CNN to leave that out when the families of the kidnapped are making an appeal to the kidnappers. It explains to CNN viewers what the kidnappers want. But it got censored right out of the story at the request of the White House. CNN needs to explain that. They need to explain, first of all, why they're allowing the White House or any government body to determine what they broadcast when the First Amendment exists to make sure that doesn't happen. Then they need to explain specifically why they were told they couldn't air any reference to release of prisoners?

In ten years, you'll probably read the whys to both in a New York Times column because that's how CNN works. The British government never wanted press coverage of the kidnappings (until the poll challenged Gordon Brown could hide behind Peter Moore like he did yesterday) and the US government didn't want coverage after Barack Obama became president. The Bush White House never gave 'notes' to CNN on this story. Not when the kidnapping took place, not any time after. But CNN took notes from the Obama White House including from Barack himself. Anyone going to get honest about that?

For the British, it was an embarrassment. Under Bush, the following was conveyed to the British government (through various channels including the State Dept and the White House itself): US forces will patrol and look, special forces can be deployed for search missions, but NO Iraqi prisoners will be traded for the British hostages. That was the policy under Bush. And the weak and inept British government couldn't do a thing to save their own citizens. With Barack, who fancies himself President of the World and not President of the United States, an appeal was made.

The appeals started before Barack was sworn in and there's confusion as to the dead. It's thought, in retrospect, that when the talks began that only one was known/assumed dead (although two on Barack transition team state it may have been known/assumed that two were dead) but before the June release of prisoners, it was known that three were dead and a fourth was assumed. Before the US released the prisoners in June, it was known that only Peter Moore might be alive.

Peter Moore is a British citizen. It was the responsibility of the British government to work to secure his release. That can include asking other governments for help. In Barack's case? The prisoners were responsible for a raid on a US base and the deaths of 5 US service members. The Iraq War had not ended nor had the Afghansitan War. Meaning, you still have boots on the ground, you're still sending people over there. As President of the United States, his first duty was to the American people. That includes the five US service members who died and it includes their families and their friends. It also includes all of the men and women he is deploying to war zones.

Barack Obama's actions spit on the military. There's no way to pretty that up. The scheme/scam never should have been entered into. George W. Bush was, by no means, the brightest bulb in the lamp, but even he grasped the issues on this.

Barack Obama is commander of chief of the US military. The military's commander made 2009 about saying that the lives of US troops do not matter. The actions he took state that 1 British citizen is more important than 5 dead Americans. He was elected to be president of the United States, it was a job he wanted and it was a job he said he was up for. He's clearly failed throughout 2009 at his job. But how do you, as commander in chief, now ask any other service member to deploy?

How do you do it? You've just 1 British life trumps five American soldiers. How do you do it? How you earn their trust now? How do you tell him the crap about fight with honor when everyone knows that the US military held the ringleader of the attack on the US base in prison and you ordered his release?

In the US, the media's largely avoided the story. Despite this, when we speak to the military or military families about the Iraq War, since July, this topic has regularly been raised by them. This under-reported issue of the US release is known and discussed.

Barack Obama has falsely accused the left of spitting on soldiers after Vietnam. Barack has a habit of accusing others of what he does. It's called projection and this habit became obvious during the 2008 primary campaign. While he was making that statement this year, he had already engaged in spitting on the troops.

Last night, Alice Fordham's "
Peter Moore freed after US hands over Iraqi insurgent" (Times of London) reported:The British hostage Peter Moore was dramatically set free yesterday after the United States handed over an Iraqi insurgent suspected of planning the deaths of five American servicemen. Mr Moore, an IT consultant, was freed by League of the Righteous, or Asaib al-Haq (AAH) -- an extremist Shia group allied to Iran -- after 31 months and spent his first night of freedom at the British Embassy in Baghdad. He is expected to fly home today. David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, said that officials had worked tirelessly to secure his release but strongly denied that the British Government had given ground to his captors. He said: "There were no concessions in this case. There was no -- quote, unquote -- deal." Foreign and Commonwealth Office sources confirmed, however, that the transfer from US custody a few days ago of Qais al-Khazali, a cleric and commander of AAH, helped to pave the way for Mr Moore's release. They also admitted that British diplomats had been pressing the US to hand over al-Khazali to the Iraqi administration. Today Suadad al-Salhy, Mohammed Abbas, Khalid al-Ansary, Missy Ryan, Mohammed Abbas and David Stamp (Reuters) report, "Iraq said on Thursday its judges could soon free the leader of a Shi'ite group believed to be behind the 2007 kidnapping of Briton Peter Moore if they found no criminal evidence, only a day after the hostage was released." Mona Mahmood, Maggie O'Kane and Guy Grandjean (Guardian) report:The men -- including Peter Moore, who was released yesterday after more than two years in captivity -- were taken to Iran within a day of their kidnapping from a government ministry building in Baghdad in 2007, several senior sources in Iraq and Iran have told the Guardian. They were held in prisons run by al-Quds Force, a Revolutionary Guard unit that specialises in foreign operations on behalf of the Iranian government.
[. . .]
One of the kidnappers told the Guardian that three of the Britons – Jason Creswell, Jason Swindlehurst and Alec Maclachlan – were killed after the British government refused to take ransom demands seriously.Part of the deal leading to the release of Moore involved
the handing over of the young Shia cleric Qais al-Khazali, a leading figure in the Righteous League.Let's zoom in on the Iranian issue. First, some question the Guardian story. BBC News' Fred Gardner (link has text and video) offers, "The findings in the Guardian's year-long investigation into alleged Iranian involvement in kidnapping Britons in Iraq are being disputed by both British and Iraqi government officials. A senior Foreign Office official said that while it was 'not impossible' that the British hostages had, at some stage, been taken across the border into Iran, that did not mean the Iranian authorities themselves were behind the kidnapping. The British government view remains that there is no firm evidence to suggest Iranian government involvement." Second, whether or not the Iranian government was involved, it shouldn't be used to push for war on Iran from the US. Though war on Iran is wanted by the White House, the reality is that the Obama administration was not forced into the deal. This deal has nothing to do with the United States until Barack made the call to release the prisoners. That decision was idiotic and stupid. But he wasn't forced into it and it's not a reflection on Iran or a reason for war with them. That's why we're stressing the White House deal right now and stressing it firmly. What was a few remarks in passing to many has now become a steady drip and as more and more talk about the deal, some in the press will report it and some factions will seize upon it saying, "We must go to war with Iran!" No, that's not what it says. Iran had nothing to blackmail the US with, had nothing to force the US. Barack made the decision to release the prisoners. Don't mistake his weak actions for an attack on the US by Iran. While the government of England and Iran are in denial about what took place, notice that in the US no one's even forcing the White House to go on record.

Meanwhile the world gets ready for a new year and that's true in Iraq as well.
Jamal Hashim (Xinhua) notes wishes of some Iraqs such as school teacher Ali Abbas, "I wish the new year will bring peace and security improvement to my people, and I wish that all Iraqis will take part in the vital parliamentary election which we hope it will draw better future. I wish my people will elect the right people for the coming parliament because we have suffered enough by the existing politicians. The ball is in my people's field, hopefully we will have for better future." That wish could be heard in any country. Ali Abbas isn't an enemy of anyone. The US government declared war on Iraq and it's the Iraqis who suffer. And the American citizens. The US government doesn't really suffer, now does it? Yesterday on KPFA's Flashpoints Radio Nora Barrows-Friedman spoke with the program's Iraq correspondent Ahmed Habib and we'll note a section of that (this broadcast is archived at KPFA and Flashpoints Radio).


Ahmed Habib: The bombings, the violence, that we witnessed today, of course, is another chapter in the destruction of Iraq for the last seven years. We've seen over one million people die. Five million people have become refugees in a record time. We see that the infrastructure of the country has not only not been rebuilt but in fact been destroyed. The systematic theft of Iraq by American military contractors, by a corrupt government, has really left the Iraqi people in a situation where survival is their upmost priority. And of course, in contrast to that, we see an Iraqi government that seems adament at trying to project itself as a democratic institution. We just now, of course in the last few months of the year the Iraqi Parliament was able to get itself together and pass an election law and really these elections, what they're going to translate in terms of reality and people's lives in Iraq is that there's going to be an increase in violence. The way that politics under -- sort of unfolds itself in Iraq -- as perhaps not what our listeners in the United States are used to, you know, in terms of expensive television commercials or boring debates. But in Iraq, unfortunately, these sort of differences are dealt with through violence, bombings, car bombings. And, you know, in the last few months of the year, we saw bombings that ripped through the heart of Baghdad and I think that's a real sign that the election campaign in Iraq is under way. And the Iraqi Parliament? Last week there was a session held in the Iraqi Parliament that was going to discuss the budget for Iraq in 2010 and a whopping number of 12 members of Parliament showed up so I think it's really indicative of how serious the Iraqi government is about governing Iraq. Again the most important indicators of success in Iraq unfortunately are ones perhaps that aren't found only in the number of people killed but acts of violence are also buried in the chronic failure of the Iraqi govenrment to provide for its people. In the city of Baghdad, the capitol city of Iraq, the city of five million people, there is still a shortage of electricity, some areas of the city get only up to five or six hours a day of power, there is a complete lack of health care in a country that has already been destroyed by over a decade of genocidal sanctions that killed over one million people. And the lack of basic services and education and of course we've seen that Iraqi youths wander the streets of Baghdad searching for bread crumbs, searching for dignity and employment. And those are the real indicators that we should be looking at -- not election dates, not how many members of Parliament are running for which party. That is the kind of language and discourse that the Iraqi government, in conjunction with their American occupiers, are very busy trying to push but the people of Iraq are very cognitive of what the reality on the ground is. It's corruption, it's killing, it's chaos. And although people that have been reporting from outside of Baghdad are sort of trying to portray, have been trying to portray, an image of relative calm and improvement in the situation with security -- and that might be the case compared to the horrifying conditions that Iraqis lived in at the peak of the so-called sectarin violence in 2007 but that is not a reason or an accurate descrition that should lead us into a state of complacency thinking things in Iraq are heading in the right direction. The Constitution, which is sectarian in its most fundamental ethos, is still at the heart of the decisions in the way that political power is being divided. We seethe sell off of Iraq resources in the absence of legal mechanism to measure the transparnacye of such decision is now really being highlighted with the dozens of oil contracts that have either been signed or about to be signed . And I think that it important for people in the west, particularly to our listeners in the United States to hold their government accountable for their war profiteering and the destruction of Iraqi society that we're seeing. And, of course,the way to look at Iraq is not to look at it in a vaccum but to look at it within the context of Israeli apartheid, within the context of the occupation of Afghanistan, within the contest of the war mongering -- the beating of the war drums with countries we're seeing like Iran, with countries like Yemen. And I think it's important to look at it as another tragic episode in this so-called war on terror which is really a war of terror itself.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: That's the voice of our special correspondent Ahmed Habib speaking to us from Doha. Ahmed, let's talk more about the Obama administration's agendas over the past year. Obama inherited this occupation and has only sought to expand the war budget, continue the occupation, continue the policies of his predecessor, hire more private contractors. What are your biggest concerns and also what are your wildest dreams for your country, for Iraq, as 2009 draws to a close? Talk about the concept of revolution in a time of great suffering and deep despair in your country. Talk about that.

Ahmed Habib: There is no doubt that the Iraqi people have a great tradition and history of revolution. And the people of Iraq hold an immense ability to be resisting in the face of this violence and brutality that has gone hand-in-hand with the American occupation -- an extension, of course, of the kind of genocide Iraqis experienced under the sanctions and of course an extension of the genocide that they experienced under the American-sponsored dictorship of Saddam Huseein as well. So there is no doubt that the Iraqi people will be able to overcome these conditions and will talk later about some of the tremendous things that are happening in Iraqi communities and the diaspora. But I think it's important for our listeners to sort of dispell many of the myths that had been promoted by the Obama adminstration with regards to their attempts to "end the war in Iraq." The Obama administration has not only inherented many of the same policies that were adopted by the Bush administration and we saw early on in the year the Obama administration's refusal to publish images of people that had been tortured and de-humanized and bases that had become prisons throughout Iraq and of course in Afghanistan as well. But we also saw the emergence and sort of the truth unveiled about the Status Of Force Agreement -- known as SOFA in the American media. And this agreement was, of course, was supposed to be the agreement that would embody the withdraw of American troops from Iraq and subsequently lead to the end the occupation. What many people didn't know is that within this agreement there are clauses that will not only keep permanent military bases in Iraq but will give the America the ability to conduct military operations without the permission of the Iraqi government, that America will control air space above a certain altitude in Iraq, and, of course, America's political strangle-hold on the Iraqi government through, as you were mentioning, the ascent of thousands of military contractors in Iraq, through the privatization of the most fundamental sectors of Iraqi economy are the real elements of the American occupation here. We see, for example in Iraq, fundamental sectors such as agriculture and education -- ironically in a country that invented both agriculture and education -- now being sold off to American corporations under the guise of of American occupation. We also heard early on in 2003, Colin Powell speak about how NGOs are part of the American occupation and, in fact, on the front line. And this has become very true in Iraq as well. And the American occupation of Iraq is perhaps no longer constituted by American soldiers on the ground raping, killing and maiming Iraqi civilians but now has really taken on a much scarier and more longterm identity in terms of the strangle-hold it has on many of Iraq in terms of all the things I have mentioned but also in terms of how Iraqi politics and the day to day running of the government also unfolds.

Meanwhile a new Associated Press-GfK poll [PDF format warning,
click here] found that 65% of respondents rate the Iraq War as "extremely/ver important" -- the same number who stated they oppose the Iraq War. (5% said the illegal war was "not at all important"), only 49% approve of Barack's handling of the Iraq War (40% disapprove). Asked if they thought conditions in Iraq would improve in 2010, get worse or stay the same, 53% stated things would stay the same.

In other news, 5 Blackwater mercenaries received news today that there would be no prosecutions for the September 16, 2007 massacre in Baghdad.
BBC News reports that Judge Ricardo Urbina reviewed the evidence submitted by the prosecution and found it was built around statements the five made to US State Dept staffers -- despite the five being told that any statements to the State Dept would not be used against them. There will be a lot of disgust over Urbina's decision; however, Urbina's not the problem. If that was the agreement with the State Dept and that's what the prosecution relied upon, the charges had to be tossed aside (and, like it or not, it was fair). The problem has to do with the decision to grant immunity to begin with -- a decision that was called out in real time. So Donald Ball, Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, Nick Slatten and Paul Slough walk. And the judge's decision was a fair and accurate one. After blaming Condi and others at the top of State in 2007, the blame should then go to the current Justice Dept which damn well should have known not to use those statements. Ball, Heard, Liberty, Slatten and Slough start the new year with this legally behind them.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

1 British hostage still not accounted for

The wife of father-of-two Alan McMenemy, abducted with Mr Moore and three other men, said the release had given her fresh hope that her husband would be home soon.
And Prime Minister Gordon Brown demanded that the kidnappers release him.
Roseleen McMenemy told The Scotsman she was happy for Mr Moore's family and holding out for news of her husband. "All I want to say is I'm delighted for Pauline (Sweeney, Mr Moore's stepmother] and the rest of Peter's family," Mrs McMenemy said from her Milngavie home. "Hopefully, Alan will be home soon as well."

That's from Martyn McLaughlin and Gerri Peev's "Hopes rise for Scottish hostage in Iraq" (Scotsman). Two years ago, in Baghdad, five British citizens were kidnapped. Three corpses were handed over from June to September and today Peter Moore was released alive. Alan McMenemy is the fifth hostage. His status is unknown.

I hope he is alive. The British government doesn't think so. When you're the family, the person is alive until you have evidence otherwise. That's how it is.

You hope and you believe and you keep loving. And to doubt it for more than those pangs that are normal is to feel like you're turning your back.

So hopefully Alan McMenemy will be released next and hopefully he will be alive.

They should have some answers due to the fact that Peter Moore should know something. (Unless the five were held in Iran in different prisons as US Gen David Petraeus has speculated.)

My big hopes are that he's alive but my secondary hope is that, alive or dead, Peter Moore knows and will be able to tell them.

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

Wednesday, December 30, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Peter Moore is alive, Anbar Province's governor is in critical condition, Robert Knight says farewell to KPFA listeners (after being fired by KPFA) and more.

Peter Moore is alive. England's
Foreign Secretrary David Miliband declared today, "Peter was set free by his captors this morning in Baghdad and delivered to the Iraqi authorities. He is now in the care of the British Embassy in Baghdad." December 19th Andy Bloxham (Telegraph of London) reported on the plea from Moore's family and the family of Alan McMenemy. Moore was kidnapped in Iraq along with four other British citizens with the League of Righteous claiming credit for that May 29, 2007 action in which they utilized official uniforms and official vehicles to kidnap Moore, Alec Maclachlan, Jason Crewswell, Alan McMenemy and Jason Swindelhurst from the Ministry of Finance in Baghdad. Today Deborah Haynes (Times of London) reminds, "The lead kidnapper, dressed as an Iraqi police major, shouted 'Where are the foreigners?' as he led a team of gunmen, also in uniform, into the Finance Ministry building in Baghdad." For a little background on the League of Righteous, from the June 9th snapshot:


This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "
U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."

Since the release, and the League of Righteous face time with Nouri and with Nouri's spokesperson, three of the British hostages were released, or rather, their bodies were. The three were Alec Maclachlan (body handed over in September), Jason Crewswell (body handed over in June) and Jason Swindelhurst (body handed over in June). The British government announced over the summer (with no explanation why) that they considered Alan McMenemy deceased. His family has continued to hope that he is alive. The British government had announced at the same time that they believed Peter Moore was alive.

ITN is calling Peter Moore's release "a late Christmas present" for his family. Last month
Leicester Mercury reported the current prime minister of England, Gordon Brown, was refusing to meet with the father of Peter Moore. Today, with public support continuing to crater for Gordon Brown, he declared:

I am hugely relieved by the wonderful news that Peter has been freed, and will be reunited with his family as quickly as possible. They have faced a terrible ordeal and I know that the whole nation will share their joy that he is coming home. I pay tribute to all those who helped in the protracted effort to secure the release. At this moment of celebration, we also remember the families of British hostages who have been killed in Iraq and elsewhere. And we pledge to continue to do everything we can to bring British hostages back to their loved ones, including the remaining hostage of the group in Iraq, Alan McMenemy. I demanded that the hostage takers return him to us.

Diane Moy (New York Daily News) quotes Peter's father Graeme stating, "We are so relieved and we just want to get him home, back now to his family and friends. I'm breaking down, I'm just so overjoyed for the lad. It's been such a long haul." The most confusing part of the press reports is the family. Graeme Moore is Peter's father. His mother re-married and now has the last name of Sweeney. Some credit Pauline Sweeney as his mother and Frank Sweeney as his father. Pauline Sweeney is not his biological mother. Avril Sweeney is Peter Moore's biological mother. The Times of London and the Telegraph of London have long covered this story and their correspondents reporting today, such as Deborah Haynes, have been on the story since it began in 2007. So before anyone e-mails to say, for example, "Emma Alberici of Australia's ABC says 'Mr Moore's father and stepmother, Pauline and Frank Sweeney . . .'" -- Graeme Moore is Peter's biological father and Avril Sweeney is Peter's biological mother. Stephen Adams (Telegraph of London) sketches this out, "Mr Moore, 36, is the son of Graeme Moore, now 60, a delivery driver from Wigston, Leicestershire, and Avril Sweeney, 54, from Blackburn, Lancs. Mr Moore, 36, is the son of Graeme Moore, now 60, a delivery driver from Wigston, Leicestershire, and Avril Sweeney, 54, from Blackburn, Lancs. His parents split when he was six months old and soon divorced. His mother remarried but that relationship also ended and she moved out when he was 12. He chose to stay and live with his stepfather, Patrick Sweeney, and later Mr Sweeney's second wife, Pauline." It is a blended family and it's surprising that so many in the press don't grasp that since Gordon Brown was insisting he didn't have to meet with Graeme Moore for a variety of reasons. Call all family members but unless you're going into the walk through (as Stephen Adams did), Graeme Moore and Avril Sweeney are his legal parents. Frank Sweeny is his step-father. All are overjoyed and all deserve to be but when the prime minister has refused to meet with Graeme Moore mere weeks ago, you better believe this is a sore issue and you better take care to get the facts right. And if you're not getting what a source of pain this is, Graeme Moore told CNN (link has text and video) he learned the "news on the television" and that he called Miliband's claims of Brown's administration keeping the family updated a lie: "They don't talk to Peter's family. They never have."

Sam Jones (Guardian) notes other skepticism about Miliband's statement (disclosure I've known David Miliband for years). Miliband declared, "The British government does not make substantive concessions to hostage takers, anywhere and any place, and there was no such substantive concession in this case." And some are zooming in on "substantive concession" and saying it's worded that way to leave leg room or "cover [for] the deal predicted to lead to the imminent release of one of the leaders of Righteous League, a hardline Islamic group." Alberici observes, "T'he kidnappers from Asaib-Al-Haq, which translated means 'the league of righteousness", a Shia splinter group, are believed to have been told by the Iraqi Government that if they handed over Mr Moore and the body of Mr McMenemy, they would be given the right to run in the Iraqi elections next year." CNN adds, "Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said government officials were not involved in the talks that led to Moore's release, but said the decision to free him 'is part of the national reconciliation program' aimed at convincing Iraq's remaining armed factions to lay down their arms." Ned Parker and Janet Stobart (Los Angeles Times) report, "The U.S. military blamed the abduction and killing of five soldiers in Karbala in January 2007 on Asab al Haq and later captured its leaders, Qais and Laith Khazali. Laith was freed in June; Qais was transferred to the Iraqis today, said a spokeswoman from the British Foreign Office." John Leland and Jack Healy (New York Times) remind, "Earlier this year, Iraq's national security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, said the group might have targeted the five men because of the work Mr. Moore was doing to help combat theft and corruption in the Finance Ministry." Jim Muir (BBC News) also notes the questions being raised and offers, "Although the security situation has improved hugely over the past two years, Iraqis -- including schoolchildren -- continue to be kidnapped for ransom, a practice that was extremely widespread during the worst of the violence and lawlessness that prevailed during 2006-7. "

George Pitcher (Telegraph of London) observes, "There has been a protracted media and communications shut-down on the circumstances of these kidnaps. There may be very good intelligence reasons for that approach. But high-profile coverage over the years assisted with the release of hostages such as Alan Johnston and John McCarthy. The latest discreet strategy has yielded just one safe from five. I hope we learn more of the reasons for this approach soon. The families of those who were not as lucky as Mr Moore deserve no less." And he's correct. Silence on kidnappings is good for governments, not for individuals. (Along with governments, the New York Times regularly blacks out the kidnappings of their journalists.) The British government's FAILURES on kidnappings in Iraq go far beyond the four kidnapped with Moore and also include Margret Hassan. December 7th, the Iraq Inquiry explored the issue of kidnappings when questioning the British Ambassador to Iraq in 2004, Edward Chaplin.

Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: Part of this, perhaps particularly relevant for British opinion was the start of hostage taking. So we had in this period the Kenneth Bigley and Margaret Hassan cases. How aware were you of the danger to British nationals in Baghdad?

Edward Chaplin: Very aware. And, indeed, I think if you looked at the travel advice at the time, it would be "don't come anywhere near this place". They were terrible incidents. I mean, terrible obviously for the families, but terrible for the embassy in the sense that we were very helpless. Kidnapping was widespread at the time. This was often criminals rather than political. Of course, as we have seen elsewhere, often criminal gangs will carry out kidnappings of what they think are valuable people, valuable in the sense that they can be sold on to some political group. And I don't think we know even now exactly who was behind either kidnapping. I would have to refresh my memory. I mean, they were different in the sense that Ken Bigley, we didn't even now. He hadn't even registered with the embassy, we didn't know he was there. He was working with these two Americans for a Gulf company. The first thing we knew of his existence was when the news of the kidnap came through. Margaret Hassan was different. In fact, I had met her before when I was Ambassador in Jordan because she worked for CARE Australia, a very effective NGO, one of the few working inside Iraq before and after the invasion. So I admired the work that she was doing and the embassy kept in touch. So that was, if you like, an even greater blow. But just to explain -- I don't know if you want to go into detail about this, but I probably cannot because what happens when a kidnapping of a British citizen takes place is you have set up a really discrete team because this needs 24-hours-a-day attention. So that team was led my deputy and we had a lot of support particularly coming out from London, experience negotiators and so on. So after the initial phase, my job was really to keep it in the minds of Iraqi ministers who we thought would could help, the army and the police and so on, and do whatever else I could do to help.

Commitee Member Lawrence Freedman: What sort of response did you get from --

Edward Chaplin: Very positive and, of course, this was raised all the way to Allawi himself and it was raised by ministers, but they didn't have the capacity to help very much, I don't think. And, of course, they were dealing at any one time with lots of other kidnappings.

Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: We had no evidence oursevles of who was holding her?

Edward Chaplin: I think the assumption early on was it was a criminal gang of some sort, but we never got very far in pinning down exactly who was behind it and -- let alone having contacts that might lead to some progress.

Commitee Member Lawrence Freedman: And in the aftermath of her murder, we still seemed to have been in the dark as to what had happened and, indeed, where her body was.

Edward Chaplin: Some time later some of her clothes and possessions were found. We knew her husband as well, who stayed on in Baghdad. So we would see him from time to time. I don't know what the investigation -- continued investigation showed.

His comments were and are outrageous and indicative of how useless the British government made itself during kidnappings -- do-nothing, hope someone else does something or finds out something.
David Brown (Times of London) reported that both of Margaret Hassan's sisters were present at the inquiry and hoped to hear some details about their sister. He quotes Deidre Fitzsimons explaining, "We have been waiting years for the chance to hear what happened to my sister but she was worth so little that she received just three minutes. We came to find out the truth even though we were skeptical, because we were told this would not be a cover-up. We have been betrayed. The authorities did not do one thing to help her when she was kidnapped and they are now doing nothing to find out why. As for Ken Bigley, it was almost as if he didn't matter at all [by Chaplin's testimony]. He was an innocent man who was murdered for no reason." Reuters offers a timeline for British citizens kidnapped in Iraq.

Earlier this month (December 17th) on
CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees, Michael Ware reported on the September 2005 rescue of US citizen Roy Hallums. From the transcript:

WARE: Three months after Roy Hallums disappeared in Baghdad in 2004, this proof of life video appeared. ROY HALLUMS, KIDNAPPING SURVIVOR: My name is Roy Hallums, I'm an American national. WARE: Hallums was an American contractor, building mess halls and providing food to the U.S. military, and his kidnappers were demanding $12 million for his release. HALLUMS: You're just basically in shock. And you're moving and you're walking but it's almost like an out of body experience. You can see what's going on, but you don't believe it. WARE: Before it was over, Hallums would be held nearly a full year by Iraqi insurgents -- 311 days, something I know a little about having been taken by Al Qaeda myself. WARE (on camera): When I was grabbed by Al Qaeda and pulled from my car, I mean, they were just going to cut my head off. But it was like it was someone else. At that moment, it felt to me like it was happening to someone else even though I was completely or even hyper- aware of the moment. HALLUMS: You're right. It's like it's almost third person, that I can sit there and tell the story. I can answer any question anybody has. It doesn't bother me, and what's for lunch, you know? WARE (voice-over): This is Hallums at the end of his ordeal. He lost 40 pounds but says he never lost hope. For most of the time, his kidnappers kept him in a secret and cramped underground cell, the entrance sealed shut. HALLUMS: You could hear them trawling this concrete over the door, and then they would shove a freezer over the top of that to hide where the door was. You're buried in there, and if they decide, well, it's just too dangerous to go back to the house and they never come back, then you're in your tomb. WARE (on camera): Dead men tell no tales. WARE (voice-over): Eight months after his proof of life video had appeared, U.S. special forces received a crucial tip on his whereabouts. Worried Hallums would be moved, they instantly launched a daylight rescue, four helicopters sweeping into a village south of Baghdad.

The rescue isn't the only news out of Iraq today.
Fadhel al-Badrani, Khalid al-Ansary, Missy Ryan and Philippa Fletcher (Reuters) report "twin suicide bombs" in Anbar Province have claimed "at least 24" lives with over one hundred people left injured (that should really be 26 if there were two suicide bombers): "At the Ramadi hospital, doctors crowded around injured policemen lying on stretchers. One of the wounded was a tiny baby, its diaper and white sweater dotted with blood." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports that among the injured is the province's governor, Qassim al-Fahdawi and that "[t]he bomber who targeted him was one of his bodyguards, said the Anbar Salvation Council." Anne Barker (Australia's ABC) notes that "conflicting reports" exist on the condition of al-Fahdawi and states that he was wounded in the second of the two bombings. Al Jazeera quotes police Capt Ahmed Mohammed al-Dulaimi stating, "A suicide bomber wearing an army uniform ran towards the governor. Some security people held him back, and he detonated himself." Bassim al-Anbari (AFP) offers, "The US military declined to confirm reports by Ramadi General Hospital that American troops took the provincial governor to a US-run hospital for treatment, when contacted by AFP." This afternoon Anne Barker (ABC) sketched out the attacks, "The first explosions appeared to target the governor's convoy at Ramadi, about 100 kilometres west of Baghdad. A suicide bomber detonated a bomb in a car, which was followed soon after by a second suicide attacker on foot." Mark Langford (Sky News) explains the first bombing attracted attention and "Deputy police chief Qassim al Fahdawi said he and other officials had gone to inspect the damage when a suicide bomber on foot detonated a vest full of explosives nearby." UPI reports the governor is in a Baghdad hospital. The Washington Post's Michael Hastins (at Financial Times of London) notes the death toll rose to 24, the governor "had undergone surgery" and "The attacks in Ramadi follow a string of about 40 assassination attempts in the past month in Anbar province, mostly targeting politicians, police officers, religious figures and tribal sheiks." Jamal Naji and Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) report:

The sophisticated attack in the provincial capital of Ramadi, about 70 miles west of Baghdad, was the deadliest in months for Anbar, and it raised fears that an uneasy peace that's prevailed in the province since Sunni tribes and security forces joined forces with U.S. troops to weaken al Qaida in Iraq, a mostly homegrown offshoot of the international terror network, may be unraveling.
Once most of the militants were killed or driven underground, the factions turned to internecine fighting for control of security forces and lucrative reconstruction contracts, and now those struggles appear to be escalating. The rival camps accuse one another of insurgent infiltration, corruption and cronyism, fragmenting the Sunni political bloc ahead of elections in March.
"The city is moving toward destruction because of the parties who rule the province, from the head of the Anbar provincial council to the Anbar police commander. The issue is a power struggle that's resulted in the return of terrorists to the city," said Sheikh Raed al Sabah, a prominent Ramadi tribal leader who helped to organize tribesmen into U.S.-backed Sunni militias as part of the "Awakening" movement.

The twin bombings were not the only violence reported out of Iraq today.

Bombings?

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Khalis roadside bombing which claimed 7 lives ("including Khalis chief of police") and left twenty-five people wounded, a Tuesday Mosul bombing which injured two police officers, and 2 Baghdad roadside bombings last night which wounded two people.

Shootings?

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an attack on the Ministry of the Interior's director general, Mohammed Salih Ahmed, which left him, his son and their driver wounded and, dropping back to yesterday, 1 man shot dead in Mosul. Reuters notes "a judge and his wife" injured in a Kirkuk shooting and 1 person shot dead in Mosul yesterday.

The Early Show (CBS) weather anchor Dave Price is in Iraq -- not reporting, entertaining the troops. Except for McClatchy Newspapers (who keeps rotating staff), no major outlet is sending reporters back into Iraq. As was obvious on Talk of the Town (NPR -- link has text and audio option) everyone's pulling reporters out of Iraq and moving them to Afghanistan. So in other words, if Iraq really falls apart (hard to determine at this point since it's never been "together" since the start of the illegal war), it won't just be Barack who 'took the eye of the ball,' it will be the press. Grasp that. Grasp that Barack campaigned saying (just like John Kerry before him) that Bully Boy Bush focused on Iraq when he should have focused on Afghanistan. Grasp that the 2012 candidates may say Barack took his eye off Iraq to increase US presence in Afghanistan. Grasp that the move needed, the ones many voters thought they were voting for, was for both wars to have been ended. Alissa J. Rubin explains to Neal Conan that it's easier to move around Afghanistan than it was to move around Iraq -- Rubin didn't leave Iraq that long ago. So what's that really saying?

Panhandle Media's never been interested in Iraq. They bellowed and they hollered (Carly Simon's "Memorial Day") but they didn't do much else except make a buck off the illegal war. They had a million excuses for why this war couldn't be covered. Including it was just too dangerous. Somehow Free Speech Radio News managed and still manages to speak to Iraqis for reports. But dream on if you think you'll hear about Iraq on any of the bulk of Pacifica's radio programs or in any of the 'independent' magazines for the left and 'left'. There was one huge exception.
KPFA's Flashpoints Radio regularly covers Iraq. Dahr Jamail and others provide segments. Yes. But Robert Knight, in his "Knight Report" at the top of so many Flashpoints broadcast, never forgot the Iraq War. He wasn't just a 'news reader' ripping off AP, either. He provided context and passion and managed to convey the horror and the need to continue to focus on Iraq. His thanks for that? As Kat noted Monday night "KPFA fires Robert Knight." In last night's "Robert Knight's KPFA farewell," Kat noted the final segment of the final Knight Report.

Robert Knight: And finally, we close today's Knight Report with the unwelcome news that your reporter is now the third target among Flashpoints production personnel of a relentless and disproportionate series of cutbacks by the current management of KPFA. Your reporter learned of his dismissal -- effective today -- by way of a FedEx letter that was delivered three days after the deed. It has been a great honor to serve with The Knight Report as the contextualizer of breaking world developments, clandestine operations and international policy on Flashpoints which remains the most important investigative news program produced and nationally distributed by -- and pursuing the very best traditions of -- the Pacifica network. Your reporter hopes to rejoin you at some future date under more favorable administrative times at KPFA. With gratitude and regret from exile and in limbo I'm Robert Knight reporting live in New York for Flashpoints.

Henry Norr (at The Daily Censored) writes about what is seen as a targeted attack on Flashpoints and we'll again note the last paragraph of the article: "To express support for Flashpoints, write to general manager Lemlem Rijio at gm@kpfa.org and turn out for the first meeting of the new LSB, now set for 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 11, 2010 (disregard dates announced earlier) at the Humanist Hall, 390 27th St. (near Telegraph), Oakland." Lastly, NOW on PBS begins airing on most PBS stations Friday (check local listings) and their upcoming broadcast explores elections, soccer and soap opera:


There are places in the world where the success of a soap opera ismeasured not just in TV ratings, but in human lives. On January 1 at8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW travels to Kenya, where ambitiousproducers and actors hope one such TV show, "The Team", can help fosterpeace amongst the country's 42 official tribes. During presidential elections two years ago, tribalism-influencedprotests in Kenya left almost 1,500 dead and nearly 300,000 displaced.Tensions continue today over issues including extreme poverty andwidespread corruption. In "The Team", soccer players from different tribes work together toovercome historic rivalries and form a common bond. The hope is thatcommonalities portrayed in fiction can inspire harmony in the realworld. Early reaction to the show's inaugural season is promising. "I was very surprised to see how Kenyans want change, how they want tolive in peace and the way the responded to us," Milly Mugadi, one of theshow's stars, noted during a local screening. "There were people fromdifferent tribes talking about peace and how to reconcile with eachother... they opened up their hearts." John Marks, whose organization Common Ground produces versions of "TheTeam" in 12 different countries, is cautiously hopeful. "You don't watchone of our television shows and drop your submachine gun," explainsMarks, who says he was inspired by the influence of "All in the Family"on American culture. "But you can change the environment so it becomesmore and more difficult to be in violent conflict." Can this soap opera for social change really make a difference instopping violence? Next on NOW.



iraq
the times of londondeborah haynes
the new york timesalissa j. rubin
cnnanderson cooper 360anderson coopermichael ware
the los angeles timesned parker
john leland
reutersfadhel al-badranikhalid al-ansarymissy ryanphilippa fletchercnnmohammed tawfeeqabc newsanne barkeral jazeeraafpbassim al-anbari
mcclatchy newspapersjamal naji
hannah allam
sahar issa
pbsnow on pbs

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Graffiti

Graffiti

That's the cover to the DVD American Graffiti collection which contains the original film and, on the flip side of the disc, More American Graffiti.

I will probably write about one of them on Thursday. I plan Thursday to be my last post for the week. If there's a Friday snapshot, I will post Friday. Otherwise I won't.

We used the illustration in "Must see film for 2010" at Third. The first time I saw American Graffiti it was on an 'indepedent' station. Meaning local broadcast that wasn't ABC, CBS, NBC, etc. It showed The Lucy Show, Gunsmoke, movies and things like that.

And I knew Happy Days. Didn't care for it much, but I knew the show. I really loved American Graffiti from the first time I saw it. It zipped along and the characters were all so interesting and fleshed out. I was giddy during the commercials. I'm not joking. I'd rush to the kitchen to make a quick grilled cheese sandwich (pop two pieces of bread in the toaster, toast, slap cheese between and nuke in the microwave for 1 minute).

It was such a great movie and I was home alone and had no one to share it with. So I'd just rush around during the commercial breaks and rush back to the TV. I was so sad when it was over. I think it was the first film I ever saw that used the "where are they now" concept at the end.


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

Tuesday, December 29, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq makes oil contracts legal and . . . oops, not so fast, the press can't stop gushing over some oil contracts while ignoring the big one (the one the White House is steering), Sahwas come under attack, Robert Knight's reward for doing a solid and amazing job is to be fired by KPFA, and more.

Starting with oil.
James Kanter (New York Times) reports that Lukoil and Statoil have signed a joint-contract with the government out of Baghdad "to develop the vast West Qurna 2 oil field". Kanter identifies Lukoil as "of Russia" which is meaningless or are we all supposed to be stupid and ignorant of the 90s tag sale on Russia's public sector? The same sort of privatization that's happening in Iraq -- but slower than the US wanted. Lukoil brags about being "the second largest private oil Company worldwide". And of course, they're not a "Russia" private company. A private Russian company doesn't have US citizen Donald Evert Wallette Jr. on their board (he is also President of ConocoPhillips Russia/Caspian Region -- somewhere Averell Harriman is offering a lusty groan of despair). Statoil is also a public company (headquarters in Norway) and a multi-national company with a multi-national board (such as British citizen Roy Franklin). Hassan Hafidh (Wall St. Journal) reports, "Lukoil president Vagit Alekperov told a Russian television service this week that Lukoil aims to invest $4.5 billion in the West Qurna Phase 2 project in the next three to five years. He said he believed that the project would be profitable and would have a rate of return of 15%. Iraq awarded this year 10 oil fields contracts to international oil companies in two postwar licensing auctions. If these contracts were implemented, they would quadruple Iraq's crude oil production to nearly 11 million barrels a day, which could match or even exceeds that of the world's largest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia." Xinhua adds, "Lukoil owns 85 percent of the venture, while Statoil, 15 percent." But Kanter notes Statoil asserts they redid the contract so that their share "will eventually" increase to 18.75. Grab that three percent, Statoil!

Look for the above to start off another frenzy of misinformed (in fairness, some were not misinformed, they were LIARS) chatter that the US is suffering!!!! Such suffering!!! These are multi-national companies. These are publicly traded companies. Meanwhile? You could have been more than a name on the door on the 1400 suite in the air more than a credit card swimming pool in the backyard. That's
Joni Mitchell's "The Arrangement" (first appears on her Ladies of the Canyon album). Only she says "33rd floor." I say 1400 suite because that's your clue to who's getting ready for the big score. The US oil company that's not only set its sites on oil fields -- in the north, in the KRG -- but has the White House pledge to push through the deal. The deal that seemed a no-go shortly after it was announced in the fall of 2007. That's what everyone's talking about (but no one's writiing about it for the public). Nouri's agreed to now go along with the agreement -- as part of the arrangment to push through the elections law. The KRG wants the money. The White House promised it would happen (this is part of Barack's ten minute personal phone call) and the KRG told the US based company (also a multinational) that the deal is 'done' . Nouri could still balk (though he said he wouldn't). But not only are multi-nationals signing but a US based multi-national is gearing up for, as they say on Wheel of Fortune, "Big money!" And since information on this deal is now available for pay (I didn't pay and I heard about the Monday after the Parliament passed the election law), we'll go ahead and note it here. Since it is available for pay and since a number of 'business' reporters now know about it, the only real question is why they aren't talking about. (Repeating: The deal could fall through. Anyone who ever trusts Nouri's word is an idiot. Equally true, Nouri could be out as prime minister which would mean new trading with the next prime minister. But right now, the KRG, the White House and the company on the 19th floor think it's a go. If you go sleuthing and identify 19th floor and sink your money in there and the deal falls through, that's on you. You shouldn't be trying to make blood money anyway.)

That's a KRG contract. Back to those wacky Baghdad contracts? Not so rock solid.
Mohammed Abbas and Christian Wissner (Reuters) report this afternoon, "Ali al-Dabbagh said ministers had decided that proposed long-term service contracts for the oilfields, which were offered in two bidding rounds this year, needed "technical and legal" changes even after initial agreements for most of the fields had been signed." Not surprising and apparently not legal. Earlier this month on Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera) Jasim al-Azzawi discussed the issue of Iraqi oil with Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain Ibrahim Saleh al-Shahristani and the country's previous Oil Minister Issam al-Chalabi.

Jasim al-Azzawi: Issam, how dangerous is it for Iraq to sign these contracts and Memorandum of Understanding with no oil law in place.

Issam al-Chalabi: With all due respect, Dr. al-Shahristani seems to be moving on a shaky ground. I think he had fallen in his answers to your question, had fallen in the conflict between the Constitution and the existing laws. The Constitution says that, the two Articles about the oil and gas ought to be explained and there will be separate law to be issued. Until then, in a very clear, separate Article, it says that all existing oils will remain valid. Hence Law 97 of 1967 is valid as he mentioned and he ought to abide by it. That means, yes, the Minister of Oil is authorized provided they go and seek endorsement from the existing legislative body which is the Parliament for each case.

Jasim al-Azzawi: So far they haven't done that. Is that a reflection on the lack of oversight by Iraqi Parliament about this huge and overreaching contracts?

Issam al-Chalabi: No, the Oil & Gas Committee and many Parliamentarians have sought that and they have asked him, they have subpeoned him, that they should look into the matter. In fact, one particular member had gone to the federal court. And you asked about the dangers of these new contracts, I do say that it is very possible that in the future these contracts could very well be under questioning and somebody could question the legitimacy of these contracts and maybe they would be required to be amended or maybe anulled.


More excerpts from that broadcast can be found in the
December 21st snapshot.
Meanwhile
Alsumaria TV reports that Iraq's Ministry of Oil is calling on OPEC [Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries] "to grant Iraqi its natural right in exporting crude oil" because "it owns huge oil reserves." Carol Sonenklar (HeatingOil) observes, "OPEC members have said they are content with oil prices in the range of $70–80 per barrel and maintained their production targets at their recent annual meeting. But Iraq might not adhere to OPEC's production quotas. The cash-poor country recently auctioned off some of its largest oil fields, with Russian and Chinese companies winning the most lucrative contracts. According to analysts, the auction could boost Iraqi oil production from 2.5 million barrels per day to as much as 12 million by 2016, which would quadruple its capacity and make it a rival to Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil producer. Such a drastic increase in oil production could threaten to undermine OPEC's influence on oil prices, which currently stand at an amount that the Saudi Arabian oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, believes keep producers and consumers happy."

Still with oil, maybe Iran invaded Iraq and seized an oil well maybe they didn't. It's still a mess of accusations and heated denials.
Alsumaria TV reports today, "Iraqi Vice President Tarek Al Hashemi affirmed that Iran has transgressed the border and violated Iraq's sovereignty on 96 different occasions. Iraq's Parliamentary defense and security committee MP Abbas Al Bayati confirmed that Iranian troops have withdrawn from oil well no.4 in Al Fakka oil field." Iranian government officials have maintained no such violation of Iraq's territorial sovereignty took place and Iran's Press TV reported that Iran and Iraq are just fine, thank you very much. Iranian government officials have also stated that the whole story is an attempt by 'foreigners' to inflame tensions between Iran and Iraq. Certainly the two appear to still be prepping to enter into a national gas deal in the new year. Khayoon Saleh (Azzaman) reported Iraq and Iran are drawing close to an agreement on the importation of natural gas from Iran: "The statement said the delegation would seek striking a long-term contract to supply gas-driven power plants with fuel particularly in southern and central Iraq." Fatima Kamal (Azzaman) reports:Iraq has set up a committee which is to draw up a road map on how to develop oil fields the country shares with neighboring Iran, Oil Ministry Undersecretary Abdulkarim al-Aibi said. Aibi said the committee will soon travel to Tehran to meet with Iranian officials.The committee's formation comes following border tension between the countries over Iran army's occupation of a producing oil field inside Iraqi territory.Aibi made no comment on the Fakka oil field which Iran currently controls.Fakka is not a joint field as it is situated within Iraqi territory. Zawya notes, "Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mihman-Parast said on Tuesday that implementation of the 1975 accord signed by Iran and Iraq is the best way to remove any possible misunderstandings between the two neighboring states. Talking to reporters during his weekly press briefing, he added that the accord is an international one which can settle any possible border disputes between Iran and Iraq." Alsumaria TV also reports that Nouri al-Maliki is insisting that Iraq gives up no land to its neighbors but that he "denied that Al Fakka oil well crisis will affect oil and investment licenses rounds. Iranian violation should not have occurred because the oil well is suspended since 1979, Al Maliki said stressing the necessity to return back to the past situation."

Turning to the topic of Sahwa. Sahwa are also known as "Sons Of Iraq" and "Awakenings" and they are Sunnis the US military put on the (US tax payer) payroll (at an estimated $300 a month per Sahwa -- Sahwa leaders made more) in order to . . . Well let's drop back to April 2008 when the then-top US commander in Iraq David Petraeus and the then-US Abassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker were giving their joint-testimonies to the House and Senate. April 8, 2008 they started the day before the US Senate Armed Services Committee. From
that day's snapshot: "The most hilarious moment was hearing Petraeus explain that it's tough in the school yard and America needs to fork over their lunch money in Iraq to avoid getting beat up. In his opening remarks, Petraues explained of the 'Awakening' Council (aka 'Sons of Iraq,' et al) that it was a good thing 'there are now over 91,000 Sons of Iraq -- Shia as well as Sunni -- under contract to help Coalition and Iraqi Forces protect their neighborhoods and secure infrastructure and roads. These volunteers have contributed significantly in various areas, and the savings in vehicles not lost because of reduced violence -- not to mention the priceless lives saved -- have far outweighed the cost of their monthly contracts.' Again, the US must fork over their lunch money, apparently, to avoid being beat up." Pride and Joy, as Marvin Gaye once sang. Nouri al-Maliki, stashing away billions in oil revenues at the time, was supposed to pay for all the Sahwa . . . in the fall of 2008. And? In November 2008 there was a bunch of hot air from the press (and no one ever retracted their 'reports') but the US was still paying. Feburary another round of panting but the US was still paying. As late as June, the US was still paying significant amounts. Arab media has been reporting that next month Nouri intends to stop payments. Over the weekend Chelsea J. Carter (AP) reported that the US military is expressing concerns over Nouri's plans for the Sahwa ("Awakenings" or "Sons Of Iraq") and that 212 of them have been killed in the last two years. Paul McLeary (Aviation Week) reports on a new study by the US Marine Corps, "Al-Anbar Awakeing: Iraqi Perspectives From Insurgency to Counterinsurgency in Iraq," on the Sahwa which "mkes some blunt assessments of the insurgnecy, including who caused it and what fixed it. According to the USMC report: 'In Iraq to a very large degree, we -- the U.S. military and civilians -- were the source of the insurgency. Honest men and women can argue the whys, what-ifs, and what-might-have-beens, but ultimately, it was mostly about unfulfilled promises and the heavy-handed military approach taken by some over the summer of 2003 that caused events to spiral out of control'." McLearly notes that the report can "be interpreted as the Corps' pushback against the celebrity of Army Gen. David Petraeus and the counter-insurgency field manuel he championed" and goes on to quote from the report, "No single personality was the key in Anbar, no shiny new field manual the reason why, and no 'surge' or single unit made it happen. It was a combination of many factors, not the least of which -- perhaps the most important -- was the consistent command philosophy that drove operations in Anbar from March 2004 forward." Also weighing in on the Sahwa is Jeff Huber (Antiwar):Petraeus' personal stenographer, former journalist Thomas E. Ricks, admits that Petraeus misled Congress and the public into thinking he was trying to end the war when he was in fact laying "the groundwork for a much more prolonged engagement in Iraq." Three years after the surge began, violence shows no signs of disappearing. Holiday attacks were especially brutal. Mosul Mayor Zuhair Muhsen al-Aaraji escaped an assassination attempt on Christmas Eve. (Mosul is the town Petraeus supposedly "tamed" during his first tour in Iraq. Within weeks after he left and the graft well ran dry, Mosul went up for grabs and has been a trouble spot ever since.) Also on Dec. 24, as the Shi'ite religious festival of Ashura approached, five attacks killed at least 19 people and wounded over 100. The Iraqi government was quick to blame al-Qaeda in Iraq, but I'll bet you a shiny new Ohio quarter that the Sunni-based Awakening movement that Petraeus armed and funded had more than a little something to do with the attacks. In violence news, AFP reports 3 Iraqis have received the death sentence from a judge whose name cannot be published for 'security reasons' but in this 'open' society, it was determined (by unnamed people) that the three were responsible of a June bombing in northern Iraq. In the 'open' society of Iraq, the guilty or 'guilty' can be named while the judges remain hidden: Ali al-Juburi, Walid Mahmoud Mohammed al-Hamdani and Jawad Falah al-Hamdnai. Xinhua adds, "On June 20, a truck rigged with explosives detonated in the predominantly Shiite Turkmen town of Taza, 30 kilometers south of Kirkuk, killing 81 people and wounding 300 others, along with destroying dozens of houses." Assel Kami, Mohammed Abbas and Louise Ireland (Reuters) note that no details of the three's alleged involvement in the bombing have been released and that although there are "few convictions for such blasts," the big press play comes "as Iraq prepares for a March 7 parliamentary election, and as Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki struggles to defend his reputation for quelling violence in Iraq after a series of major bombings in Baghdad in recent months." From those sentenced to death to those imprisoned, Mohammad Ghazal (Jordan Times) reports on approximately 44 Jordanians imprisoned in Iraq:Families of Jordanian prisoners in Iraq appealed to the government on Monday to place pressure on the Iraqi government to release their loved ones. Several families began a hunger strike on Monday and said will appeal to Amman's governor on Tuesday through the Arab Organisation for Human Rights (AOHR) to erect a tent in front of the Iraqi embassy in Amman to call for the release of the prisoners. At a press conference yesterday, the AOHR accused successive governments of not taking the issue of prisoners in Iraq "seriously" and failing to perform their duties "properly" in this regard. "We take the issue of Jordanian prisoners abroad, including those in Iraq, very seriously and it tops the government's priorities and we hope to end this file with our brotherly Iraqis," Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications Nabil Sharif told The Jordan Times on Monday.

Today's (reported) violence centers around Baghdad and one incident brings us back to the topic of Sahwa.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 4 Sahwa were shot dead "in Al Mishahda area". Timothy Williams and Mohammed Hussein (New York Times) explain they were "apparently killed as they stood guard at a checkpoint" bringing the total number of Sahwas known to have been killed this month to 15. Fadhel al-Badrani, Khalid al-Ansary and David Stamp (Retuers) quote Sahwa leader Awad Sami stating that, "(Insurgent) activity has increased recently, mostly targeting us, and also police patrols." The number killed is actually 5. Lara Jakes (AP) reports that and that the fifth was beheaded.

In other violence . . .

Bombings?

Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing which injured four people ("in a parking lot in front of the ministery of transporation building). Lara Jakes reports a Baghdad mortar assault left 2 women dead and five other people injured.

Shootings?

Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 Iraqi army officer shot dead in Baghdad. Lara Jakes (AP) identifies him as 1st Lt Wadi Direa Atiyah.

Kidnappings?

Reuters notes 1 school teacher (female) was kidnapped in Falluja. Possibly related, Michael Hastings (Washington Post) observed an emerging trend in violence over the weekend: "assassination attempts" targeting various leaders -- religious, political and educational.

Turning to the United States where the Happy Talk of 'withdrawal' is wearing off as people begin to notice more and more that even the draw-down appears questionable. Betsy Ross offers "
Iraq Troop Withdrawals Another Spin? Say It Isn't So" (GroundReport):
So, just what gives actually? We are sending MORE not LESS troops to Iraq at this point. And National Guardsmen at that, meant for domestic security and deployment most of all.And as with the invasions in the border states as of late, "backup" for the border patrols, who it appears were also offered huge increases in their salaries if they put in for transfers from border patrol to service in Iraq during 2006 when Arizona was officially receiving troops which the Governor (Napoliano) had called out due to the continued victimization of American citizens in property thefts and other civil crimes, and drug cartel wars which were brewing on the U.S. side of the border. It indicated that the terms of service for these Guardmen was 18 months also. When "officially" it has been announced that most troops were to be withdrawn from Iraq by the middle or end of 2010 per the "accord" signed by President Bush during his last 100 days in office - which it appears Mr. Obama is now following also - his "peace" candidate posture during the election cycle was clearly another campaign strategy and fascade as many prior candidates have been from both sides of the aisle - Mr. Bush included as the "conservative" and "Christian" after Clinton's MonicaGate fiasco.

The people are a lot smarter than the press. Asher Dvir-Djerassi documents that in "
Government responds only when people take action" (Las Vegas Sun):Our moderator began our discussion by asking if the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will ever come to an end. Going around the room, one student said that President Barack Obama has announced a 2011 deadline for the withdrawal of troops in Iraq. In response, a student claimed Obama cannot put a deadline on the war in Iraq that has continued with unpredictable changes, and that Iraq lacks a solid and legitimate government. As we began to talk about the war in Afghanistan, a student who has dual citizenship between the United States and Pakistan said the U.S. government must invest in education. From living in Pakistan and visiting Afghanistan, she contended that the population is heavily illiterate and uneducated, allowing for Islamic fundamentalism and regression. Many other students at the Sun Youth Forum agreed that a troop increase will not solve the root of conflict in Afghanistan and acknowledged that the U.S. must also heavily invest in the Afghan economy and infrastructure. After 30 minutes of discussion on this issue, a student asserted that whatever our perspective is on the war, it will not affect Obama's policy regarding the Middle East. He continued to state that by looking at poll results, the majority of Americans favor withdrawal from Afghanistan, but Obama has discounted this perspective.



Across the country, people are beginning to notice that not only did the draw-down follow the promises, but that withdrawal appears to be a joke. March 20th there's a DC action being called by
A.N.S.W.E.R. and others. In addition, people are asking questions about the assertion of 'secure' and 'security' in Iraq. Diana West offers "Victory? Really?" (The Dickinson Press):I don't know how to candy-coat reality: Post-surge Iraq is a state of increasing repression, endemic corruption, religious and ethnic persecution and encroaching Sharia. Recent media reports flag just some of these glaring truths that American elites, civilian and military, seem to shy away from. In October, from AsiaNews, came the latest news of, to quote the headline, "Sharia Slowly Advancing in Najaf and Basra, for Non-Muslims Too." Here, the Sharia (Islamic law) is invoked to ban alcohol sales and consumption by non-Muslims -- namely, Christians, given the eradication and dispersal of Iraq's ancient Jewish population -- "on the grounds that Iraq's constitution," as Ahmad al Sulaiti, deputy governor of Najaf, notes, "bans everything that violates the principles of Islam." More on that below.In November, Reuters highlighted the government crackdown on the media via lawsuits against criticism, and laws enabling the government to close media outlets that "encourage terrorism, violence," and -- here's a handy catch-all -- "tensions." There are new rules to license satellite trucks, censor books and control Internet cafes. "The measures evoke memories of ... the laws used to muzzle (journalism) under Saddam Hussein," Reuters writes.


Meanwhile
KPFA's Flashpoints Radio is facing serious cuts while other programs don't appear to be. As Kat noted in "KPFA fires Robert Knight" last night, Robert Knight did his final (barring some changes at KPFA) Flashpoints broadcast last night. Apparently budget constraints are best dealt with by firing those who are actually gifted, talented and good at their jobs. Unlike the host of 'news' (AP wire) readers, Robert Knight will be missed. Henry Norr (at The Daily Censored) writes about what is seen as a targeted attack on Flashpoints and we'll again note the last paragraph of the article: "To express support for Flashpoints, write to general manager Lemlem Rijio at gm@kpfa.org and turn out for the first meeting of the new LSB, now set for 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 11, 2010 (disregard dates announced earlier) at the Humanist Hall, 390 27th St. (near Telegraph), Oakland." Lastly, NOW on PBS begins airing on most PBS stations Friday (check local listings) and their upcoming broadcast explores elections, soccer and soap opera:


There are places in the world where the success of a soap opera ismeasured not just in TV ratings, but in human lives. On January 1 at8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW travels to Kenya, where ambitiousproducers and actors hope one such TV show, "The Team", can help fosterpeace amongst the country's 42 official tribes. During presidential elections two years ago, tribalism-influencedprotests in Kenya left almost 1,500 dead and nearly 300,000 displaced.Tensions continue today over issues including extreme poverty andwidespread corruption. In "The Team", soccer players from different tribes work together toovercome historic rivalries and form a common bond. The hope is thatcommonalities portrayed in fiction can inspire harmony in the realworld. Early reaction to the show's inaugural season is promising. "I was very surprised to see how Kenyans want change, how they want tolive in peace and the way the responded to us," Milly Mugadi, one of theshow's stars, noted during a local screening. "There were people fromdifferent tribes talking about peace and how to reconcile with eachother... they opened up their hearts." John Marks, whose organization Common Ground produces versions of "TheTeam" in 12 different countries, is cautiously hopeful. "You don't watchone of our television shows and drop your submachine gun," explainsMarks, who says he was inspired by the influence of "All in the Family"on American culture. "But you can change the environment so it becomesmore and more difficult to be in violent conflict." Can this soap opera for social change really make a difference instopping violence? Next on NOW.
Related, thank you to Bill Moyers Journal for FINALLY taking the "finger-f**king lesbians" 'post' off their front page. How it ever made it to the front page to begin with is a question someone should answer. Whether or not the ombudsperson does, the CPB heard all about it and was not amused that Sunday and Monday that message was on the front page of Bill Moyers Journal. Again, there was no excuse for it to be. And the f-word was posted in full.


iraqalsumariaazzamanfatima kamal
khayoon salehthe dickinson pressdiana westthe aviation weekpaul mclearyzawyathe jordan timesmohammad ghazal
the associated presschelsea j. carter
antiwar.comjeff huber
mcclatchy newspapersmohammed al-dulaimy
lara jakes
xinhua
the new york timestimothy williams
al jazeera
inside iraq
jasim al-azzawi
the groundreportbetsy ross
the dickinson pressdiana west
the las vegas sunasher dvir-djerassi
the washington postmichael hastings
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