Tuesday, December 28, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, a US soldier is wounded in a bombing, the Speaker of Parliament discloses his finances and urges others to do the same, Nouri says the SOFA stands (and then adds it stands unless it's replaced with a new SOFA), some Baghdad checkpoints may be pulled, the Nineveh governor faces calls to step down, what of the responsibilities of Progressives For Obama, and more.
Nellie Hester Bailey: You are undoubtedly aware of the letter that originated with, I think his name is Paul Halle [John Halle]. He is a professor at Bard College. And this letter was sent out almost a month ago and it called upon basically the Progressive for Obama -- i.e. Bill Fletcher, Tom Hayden, Barbara Ehrenreich to look at Obama for what he is and, in fact, called upon them specifically to support the December 15th action Veterans for Peace, that was in Washington, DC, there was a demonstration in front of the White House about 131 people were arrested in that protest. [. . .] And Halle wants to get about 5,000 signators on that letter. He has close to 4,000 now. The response from Tom Hayden has been rather visceral: 'Who are you to talk to me like this?' Bill Fletcher is very upset. Yet they continue in this vein of Progressives for Obama to support his policy and not pull him back because what we need most of all for poor and working people and, in particular, African-Americans is for the blinders to be pulled off so that people can see actually what it is that we are dealing with and that President Barack Obama is no longer sugar coated as "the historic first," "he's our Black president,' 'no matter what he does, we're going to support him' when at the same time, as we see the collapse of the empire -- and I think there is an inevitability in all of that when you look at the unstatainable wars that we are engaged in, when you look at the move to the right domestically with that of the Republican agenda which means more civil rights oppression against the populace here, when you look at the economic demise of so many Americans which is why White America is so upset -- because they're standard of living has declined dramatically, when you look at the recent report, I believe, from the Center for Disease Control that now we have more than a 50% increase in the number of people who are uninsured [PDF format warning, click here]. And when you look at all of these factors and the work force has been reduced, we are expected to work long hours, we are expected to retire later in life. In fact, we are being worked to death and our kids are being sent to war, and, if you are an immigrant and if you want the Dream Act, if you want to become an American citizen, then prove to us that you are willing to die and, if you do die, then we will grant you citizenship. These are the realities, the undeniable realities that we are looking at when we look at and when we embrace the Obama administration. Now, what it is that we can do, we can support the initiatives of Halle, we can put those strattling liberal progressives on the sideline by saying, "You no longer can lull the people, or herd the people like sheep, into this nightmare of compromise which in fact is our demise from the Obama adminsitration. What we can do, and this is a big problem we have in the African-American community because upon his election, one noted activist here in New York City said, 'You know President Obama gave us a wink-and-a-nod. You know, he knows, he knows. And we can expect the best out of him. And Michelle is going to make him do right. And Michelle will do --" I mean, this soap opera scenario and day dreaming which is just incomprehensible and particularly when you look at the left, we're talking about the Marxist left, that there was no class and race analysis about this man's presidency. How can one call themselves and declare themselves a Marxist and you support President Barack Obama? How is that possible? What was the failure of the left? Why was the left so blinded by this 'historic first'? 'First African-American president.' Well we had --
Michael Smith: You had Colin Powell, you had Condoleeza Rice --
Nellie Hester Bailey: We had Colin Powell, we had Condoleeza Rice as the first and we saw what fruit that bore. It was not a good fruit.
Michael Ratner: So why do you think it happened? I mean, I understand. Really your analysis is quite clear, quite sharp and one could even argue that the powers-that-be got Obama in to essentially supress the progressive movement and the African-American community --
Nellie Hester Bailey: Absolutely.
Michael Ratner: -- that would have actually diverted it and it created this whole tension about should we do this or not. But why do you think people missed it so much? Particularly, there are a lot of good people who you know. Your friends who were certainly on the fence if not worse in terms of their thinking this was going to be the great savior.
Nellie Hester Bailey: I-I'm at a loss. I mean, when you look at people whom I love dearly -- Amiri Baraka, I mean how do you explain that?
Michael Ratner: That one's a hard one.
Nellie Hester Bailey: Fletcher? Nnnnnhhh -- he straddled the fence here and there. Nnnnhhh, you know you can, okay. But people like Baraka? Some of the other noted left wingers, a long history, tradition of Marxist analysis -- How is that possible? One of the excuses we heard was, "Well the people are for him, we don't want to display this vanguard elitism." These forces, Progressives for Obama, need to step back and realize their responsibility to building a working class people, multi-racial movement to take on this system that is declining, that is in collapse, it is not sustainable. We see the desperation every single day. And it seems to me that if they cannot wake up at this point, then a large part of the movement that we're trying to build, that Michael talked about, we saw it from the very beginning, that you're talking about, that others are talking about, that we are all going to be doomed not unless conditions force the populace into the streets as we are seeing in Ireland, as we are seeing in England, as we are seeing throughout Europe, as we are seeing in Greece, as we're seeing in France. And if conditions don't drive people into the street, that there comes a point that they can no longer tolerate the assault on their lives and their civil liberties, then we are in fact doomed and I'm not too optimistic. But, as Che said, if you are a revolutionary, then we are full of optimism. So I am optimistic but it is a hard road ahead of us.
Also on this week's broadcast, Michael Ratner and Michael S. Smith discussed political prisoner Lynne Stewart. The child of Brooklyn grew up to be the people's attorney -- called that because she took the cases of those targeted and those in need. Sometimes she was the only one who would take the cases. As she declared at an anti-war rally in March 2005, the government was targeting her for "what I have been doing for the last 30 years, organizing and defending people who need to be defended, and nothing to do with the 'T' word." The 'T' word being terrorism. Lynne is an attorney. She is now in prison. Not for breaking a law because guidelines aren't laws and because the Justice Dept cannot pass laws (though they can make guidelines). Lynne's 'crime' was issuing a press release. As Peter Daniels (WSWS) reported in real-time on Lynne's 2005 trial, "The government's case was based on illegal spying on confidential attorney-client communications. The prosecution presented as evidence tape-recorded phone conversations and prison visits. The charge was that Stewart, who had been forced to agree to draconian rules restricting [Sheik Omar] Abdel Rahman's communications with the outside world, had nevertheless relayed messages to the media from the imprisoned cleric. The politicl character of the charges against Stewart was clear from the beginning. Although the heart of the government's case deals with a May 2000 meeting between Stewart and her client at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minnesota, nothing was done about this until six months after the September 11 attacks." If you're late to the charges, Elaine Cassel (Find Law) covered the charges and what they meant for the future in this 2002 column. and, in this February 14, 2005 column, she's covering the verdict. In July of this year it was decided her sentence was too 'easy' and she was re-sentenced. Michael S. Smith (at Monthly Review) wrote about the re-sentencing. As Fight Back! News notes, "Stewart is a 71-year old breast cancer survivor who was jailed for her work as a lawyer representing Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, also known as the 'Blind Sheikh.' Abdel-Rahman was accused of plotting the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Stewart has a long career as a human rights champion, defending the poor, the oppressed and the unpopular, who rarely get good legal representation or a fair trial." Petra Bartosiewicz (Los Angeles Times) observed last July that "Stewart's plight has larger implications for us all: It is a bellwether of the increasingly stringent secrecy and security measures imposed in federal courts, particularly in terrorism trials -- all part of the systemic erosion of due process that reformers expected would end with the election of Barack Obama, but which has been only further institutionalized. Stewart's case has come to symbolize the increasing difficulty attorneys face in zaelously advocating for politically unpopular clients -- a necessary component of due process in an adversary legal system." Ruth and Mike covered Michael Ratner and Michael S. Smith's discussion of the latest Lynne news, she's been moved from New York (where her family is) to Texas. We'll note this letter from Lynne posted at her website:
Some nuts and bolts and trivia
1 New Address Lynne Stewart Federal Medical Center, Carswell 53504 – 054 Unit 2N PO Box 27137 Fort Worth TEXAS 76127
2 Visiting is very liberal but first I have to get people on my visiting list Wait til I or the lawyers let you know. The visits are FRI, SAT, SUN AND MON for 4 hours and on weekends 8 to 3. Bring clear plastic change purse with lots of change to buy from the machines. Brief Kiss upon arrival and departure, no touching or holding during visit (!!) On visiting forms it may be required that you knew me before I came to prison. Not a problem for most of you.
3. One hour time difference
4. Commissary Money is always welcome It is how I pay for the phone and for email. Also need it for a lot that prison doesn't supply in terms of food and "sundries" (pens!) A very big list that includes Raisins, Salad Dressing , ankle sox, mozzarella (definitely not from Antonys–more like a white cheddar, Sanitas Corn Chips but no Salsa etc. To add money, you do this by using Western Union and a credit card by phone or you can send a USPO money order or Business or Govt Check. The negotiable instruments (PAPER!) need to be sent to Federal Bureau of Prisons , 53504-054, Lynne Stewart, PO Box 474701, Des Moines Iowa 50947-001 (Payable to Lynne Stewart, 53504-054) They hold the mo or checks for 15 days. Western Union costs $10 but is within 2 hours. If you mail, your return address must be on the envelope. Unnecessarily complicated ? Of course, it's the BOP !)
5. Food is vastly improved. Just had Sunday Brunch real scrambled eggs, PORK sausage, Baked or home fried potatoes, Butter(sweet whipped M'God !!) Grapefruit juice Toast , orange. I will probably regain the weight I lost at MCC! Weighing against that is the fact that to eat we need to walk to another building (about at far as from my house to the F Train) Also included is 3 flights of stairs up and down. May try to get an elevator pass and try NOT to use it.
6. In a room with 4 bunks(small) about two tiers of rooms with same with "atrium" in middle with tv sets and tables and chairs. Estimate about 500 on Unit 2N and there are 4 units. Population Black, Mexicano and other spanish speaking (all of whom iron their underwear, Marta), White, Native Americans (few), no orientals or foreign speaking caucasians–lots are doing long bits, victims of drugs (meth etc) and boyfriends. We wear army style (khaki) pants with pockets tee shirts and dress shirts long sleeved and short sleeved. When one of the women heard that I hadn't ironed in 40 years, they offered to do the shirts for me. (This is typical of the help I get–escorted to meals and every other protection, explanations, supplies, etc. Mostly from white women.) One drawback is not having a bathroom in the room—have to go about 75 yards at all hours of the day and night –clean though.
7 Final Note–the sunsets and sunrises are gorgeous, the place is very open and outdoors there are pecan trees and birds galore (I need books for trees and birds (west) The full moon last night gladdened my heart as I realized it was shining on all of you I hold dear.
Michael Ratner urged that people send letters, send books and Lynne's enjoying the birds in that region and asking for books about birds of the south. Michael S. Smith quoted her telling him, "I'm walking out of here." Both men noted that she sounded hopeful and optimistic. From the crazy that keeps Lynne wrongly behind bars to the crazy that is the Iraq War.
any old way you please!
In this place everyone talks to his own mouth.
That's what it means to be crazy.
Those I loved best died of it --
the fool's disease.
-- "Flee On Your Donkey," written by Anne Sexton, from Live Or Die.
Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) reports on an interview he conducted with thug and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. Were Dagher still working for the New York Times, the laughable report would never have been printed. You've had too many reports from too many reporters at that paper about the plans for 2012 for any of the nonsense printed without question to fly.
A majority of Iraqis -- and some Iraqi and U.S. officials -- have assumed the U.S. troop presence would eventually be extended, especially after the long government limbo. But Mr. Maliki was eager to draw a line in his most definitive remarks on the subject. "The last American soldier will leave Iraq" as agreed, he said, speaking at his office in a leafy section of Baghdad's protected Green Zone. "This agreement is not subject to extension, not subject to alteration. It is sealed."
Debra Sweet: And don't forget that the war in Iraq is not over. The occupation is as robust as ever. 50,000 -- you know, now they call the troops advisors or trainers -- they're still there with the full compliment of military equipment. They're still an occupying army. And all they've done is militarize some of the people under the control of the State Dept and those are the combat troops. Now, this is kind of incredible, run not by the Defense Dept but now by commanded by Hillary Clinton and the State Dept. This is what passes for an end of the occupation of Iraq: 17 military bases, huge numbers of private contractors that they don't even have to account for and reveal to us.
Debra's describing the widely reported -- and acknowledged -- plan for what happens if US soldiers have to 'leave' Iraq. In that case, they continue to stay but under the cover of the State Dept (and commanded not by Hillary but by the NSA -- which is why NSA has been in Iraq so much in 2010 -- but don't notice that, don't notice that the NSA has issued more statements on Iraq in 2010 -- and often issued from Baghdad -- than has the current US Ambassador to Iraq -- an ambassador who also has NSA ties).
But that's the back up. That's what the US government will do if they can't get an extension. Joe Biden thinks they'll get one, Robert Gates thinks it's probable, those are just some of the executive branch employees on the public record.
Nouri says it's not happening! Well for the Wall St. Journal that probably passes for 'reporting.' Away from it? Most would feel the need to note that Nouri made similar noises in 2006 -- before extending the UN mandate -- and in 2007 -- before extending the UN mandate. Only the Wall St. Journal would ignore pattern. Amy Goodman ignores pattern and fact check today on Democracy Now! as well but does add, "Maliki added that the timetable could be changed if Iraq and the US reach a new Status Of Forces Agreement, which would require parliamentary approval." Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) might have wanted to have stuck around for that last sentence before rendering an opinion. UPI also notes, "Maliki said the only way for any of the remaining 50,000 U.S. soldiers to stay beyond 2011 would be for the two nations to negotiate a new Status of Forces Agreement similar to the one concluded in 2008."
Meanwhile Fadel al-Nashmi (Niqash) provides a lack-of-character sketch of Nouri which includes: "Al-Naser Duraid, a political analyst, believes that, whereas after 2005, Maliki was keen to break from the legacy of his predecessor, al-Jaafari, which based on sectarianism and an absence of a national project, he has now abandoned this path." Duraid states, "Today, I am not sure if Maliki's behaviour is a tactic or a strategy. But I believe that the way he acted to retain power has shaken people's confidence in him." Looking back at the year, Michael Jansen (Irish Times) notes, "The Iraqi election campaign began with an all-out effort by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and the dominant Shia religious parties to prevent the secular Sunni Iraqiya bloc from gaining an appreciable number of seats in the national assembly in the March 7th election. When polling was deemed largely fair by local and foreign monitors, Maliki refused to accept being edged out of the first place by Iraqiya. It took eight months and intervention by Iran and the US to break the deadlock, caused by his drive to stay in office. Maliki succeeded, despite accusations of being a dictator, at the exepense of the credibility of the political system. Violence escalated, and increasing numbers of foreign fighters infiltrated Iraq to join al-Qaeda." Basaer News reports that the Association of Muslim Scholars accuses the Kurds of cooperating with "Zionists" in order to disrupt Iraq and that the Kurdish leaders "no longer represent the Kurdish people" and have abandoned the call for Kurdish rule.
DPA reports attacks in Mosul (a car bombing and an assault on police) have claimed 8 lives. Alsumaria TV reports that a Baquba bombing claimed the life of 1 child and left another person injured, a Baghdad bombing wounded a Foreign Ministry employee and a US patrol in Najaf was targeted with a bombing (no word on whether anyone was harmed -- US or Iraqi). Reuters adds an attack on a Tal Afar Iraqi military checkpoint resulted in the death of 1 Iraqi soldier and another left injured and, dropping back to last night, 1 employee of the Parliament was shot dead in Baghdad. That's 11 dead and three wounded in today's news cycle. In addtion, Reuters reports a Baghdad roadside bombing wounded 1 US soldier.
Rebecca Santana (AP) reports Nouri's ordered an examination of the 870 checkpoints in the city of Baghdad to determine whether any of them could be eliminated. At Inside Iraq, an Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers adds, "I don't know how the authorities are going to specify the importance of the security checkpoints. When I meet with my friends, we almost agree that the security checkpoints do nothing but delaying people and causing traffic jams. Some of my friends who have military experiences believe strongly that 24 hours patrols can do better job than checkpoints. Hameed Jasim, 40 years factory manager served for more than 6 years in the former Iraqi army says 'I feel so worried whenever I reach a checkpoint because I always expect a suicide bombing because I know the insurgents target civilians.' Hameed believes that patrols can do better because they can watch all the roads not only the areas of the checkpoints." Additional checkpoints and Bremer walls was Nouri's 'solution' this month to the targeting of churches in Baghdad. Asia News quotes churchgoers stating, "The churches are like fortresses now and its difficult to pray as we should in them." October 31st kicked off the latest wave of attacks targeting Iraqi Christians as Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad was attacked leaving approximately seventy dead and seventy more injured. Following that, Christians in Baghdad and Mosul were regularly targeted leading to a large number fleeing -- some to the Kurdistan Regional Government, some to bordering countries. Catholic Culture reports that the European Parliament President, Jerzy Buzek, declared today that he will "monitor the situation closely".
Hamid al-Zubaidi (Iraq Hurr) reports that last night in Mosul, the Presidency of the Conference of Nineveh, calls were made for the removal of the governor of Nineveh Province (Ethel Nujaifi also spelled Atheel al-Najafi). It's been a busy second half of the year for Nujaifi. In August, he was nearly assassinated, in September he condemned a US raid in Mosul and the arrests which followed, dubbing them "politically motivated," October saw further tensions between the Provincial Council and Nujaifi and that Nujaifi was angling for the post of Foreign Minister (Hoshyar Zebari had the post at that time and Zebari holds the post in last week's 'new' announced Cabinet) and, along with many other activities, he also helped delay the census. Last night in Mosul, Nujaifi was accused of overstepping his role and exceeding his powers due to various alleged abuses including the appointment of a mayor whom he allegedly has ties to. His brother is Osama Najafi who is the new Speaker of Parliament. New Sabah reports Osama Najafi is raising the issues of salaries in the Parliament -- Jalal Talabani's and the two vice presidents. As President of Iraq, Talabani's salary "is more than the salary of [US] President Barack Obama." It is agued that laws are needed to address this -- the same argument was made in the previous Parliament. Nujaifi, who surprised many by disclosing his own finances in a Monday Parliament session, is calling for other MPs and Cabinet ministers to do the same.
Turning to the US, Byron Pitts (CBS News) reports on service members who were stop-lossed that "fewer than half of those eligible have received the funds [. . .] just 69,000 of the 145,000 eligible servicemen and women have filed and received payment." Stop-loss is the backdoor draft. Those thinking their service contracts were ending are informed by the military that, no, they're not. Though no one's explored this aspect in this year's coverage, when the person stop-lossed was not an American citizen, the law was violated. Those who were stop-lossed and were not US citizens at the time should consider seeking legal advice on what their options are if they are now citizens (if they have not become US citizens, they are welcome to consider suing but they should be aware that the most likely response from the government would be deportation).
The deadline for eligible servicemembers, veterans and their beneficiaries to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay has been extended to March 4, 2011, Defense Department officials announced today. The deadline extension is included in the continuing resolution bill that President Barack Obama signed Dec. 21, providing funding for federal government operations through March 4. Congress established the retroactive pay to compensate military members who served involuntary extensions or whose retirement was suspended between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009. Eligible members and their beneficiaries are required to submit a claim to their respective military service to receive the benefit of $500 for each full or partial month served in stop-loss status. The services estimate 145,000 servicemembers, veterans and beneficiaries are eligible. Because most of those eligible had separated from the military, the services have engaged in persistent outreach efforts throughout the year. Efforts, including direct mail, engaging military and veteran service organizations, social networks and media outlets, will continue throughout the period of eligibility, Defense Department officials said.