Friday, March 19, 2010

Dan Choi

Yesterday's Fresh Air (NPR) featured a discussion about Iran.

And if you think that might be interesting, give it a lesson. David Albright has to be the most boring guest in the world. Yawn. Yawn. Yawn.

Instead, let's talk about Dan Choi who was so brave yesterday and today.

Lt. Dan Choi served in Iraq. He came out as a gay man in the military on national TV. The military moved to kick him out under Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Recently, he was allowed to return to training with his unit but the move to get rid of him really wasn't stopped.

So Dan grew tired of all the empty promises about repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell coming someday, someday soon, someday soon (Judy Collins song "Someday Soon" got a nod from me).

So at a rally for equal rights yesterday, he decided to march to the White House and did so and handcuffed himself to the fence. The police arrested him (and another man whom I'm omitting only because I don't know his backstory -- he's mentioned in the snapshot by C.I.).

Dan Choi is not apologizing. He's saying more's coming.

Good for him.

On the left, we may be seeing a real leader emerge. It's been so long since we've had one, we may not recongize him.

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

Friday, March 19, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the ballot counting continues, protests take place against the wars and others gear up, Lt Dan Choi stands strong (as usual), we revisit yesterday's Don't Ask Don't Tell hearing because, among other reasons, Crazy Ass Joe Sheehan got some press attention no one called him out for calling a well known woman a man (just breezed right by, did it?) and more.

Let's start with NPR's
The Diane Rehm Show where Iraq had a cameo appearance.

Diane Rehm: Let's talk about the Iraq election results. We still have no final tally on these votes, Abderrahim?

Abderrahim Foukara: Yes, the counting is still going on and there are obviously conflicting reports coming out of -- or at least conflicting interpretations of what's going on in Iraq. One interpreteation is that no matter what the security challenges are, Iraq has definitely crossed a security threshold. You now have Iraqis actually going to the polls to fight the rather than fight it out on the streets. But the other interpretation is that given the results that are coming out so far the signs are not encouraging that sectarianism is over and done with in Iraq. The, uhm, tension between Ayad Allawi, the former prime minister, and Nouri al-Maliki the current present prime minister. Nouri Maliki representing the Shi'ites. Ayad Allawi, although he is a Shi'ite, he's actually representing the Sunnis in this election. It has come down to sec -- political sectarianism strife in this election.

Elise Labott: Well they're neck and neck. And who ever's party receives the greatest number of votes is goign to have a chance to try and form a coalition and that's when the real horse racing begins: The post-election jockeying to build a coalition and this could cause some tensions. I was just speaking to some US officials in Iraq, this morning and, you know, some might call it sectarianism others might just call it politics. These are politicians that are trying to jockey for position and influence and I heard everybody's up going to visit the Kurds and the question remains: What is going to happen when you have a winning party? Who is going to be -- is that person going to accept the results? Allawi might accept the results but if Maliki loses by a few votes, he has a big constistuenty in the country. Is he going to stand down? And that's when we might start to see some
problems.

Elise Labott just outlined some very serious issues but if you think that prompted a discussion, you didn't hear the show. It's a pity when Diane's 'experts' were calling the election for Nouri al-Maliki and speaking of Ayad Allawi's party as "lagging behind" that Diane wasn't able to interrupt a guest (Elise above) with a 'late breaking' announcement regarding Barack and an Israeli leader having a meeting. Wow! Amazing. A US president meets with the Israelis. The wall's really coming down, right? They opened the show with that story or 'story' and gas bagged forever and a day without saying much of anything. And just when listeners are getting some grasp on the Iraqi elections, it's time to return to the tired topic of how low will the US go for Israel. Even though they'd easily spent ten minutes on that at the start of the program (AT LEAST TEN MINUTES). And even though this is what?

"A woman started crying as she read the names of the people killed during the first seven years of the Iraq war,"
reports Paul Deaton (Blog for Iowa). "Today marks the beginning of the eighth year of US participation in this military action and it is hard not to be affected by reading the names of those who died. A bell ran after each name was read. It is especially disheartening when we realize that in addition to 43 Iowans, uncounted Iraqi men, women and children lost their lives during the Iraq war."

Could someone ask The Diane Rehm Show if today was some sort of annivesary for Israel since they were so quick to cut off Elise and change the subject back to a topic they'd already gas bagged on?
On PRI's The Takeaway today . . .

John Hockenberry: Seven years ago today, we began to hear sounds like this.

[Gunfire and explosions.]

John Hockenberry: The invasion of Iraq was beginning. Of course, the people in Baghdad were hearing those sounds first hand. The irony today is that even though this war which dominated the headlines for years after 2003, it's because of a lack of news that today we are permitted really to look back at the seventh anniversary of a war that's now, in a very real sense, faded from the headlines but is very much a part of the US experience. Here's George W. Bush speaking to the American people on March 20, 2003.

War Criminal and High Ranking Liar George W. Bush: My fellow citizens. At this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free it's people and to defend the world from grave danger.

John Hockenberry: Well what the military and the coalition forces discovered in Iraq quickly was that there was no "grave danger," that the disarming of Iraq had already been begun by Saddam Hussein himself and that the freeing of Iraqi people is something that political forces in Iraq are still grappling with even today.

I don't care for Michael Iskoff and that may be the only time his name has appeared properly at this site (as opposed to the many pet names I give that dog). Nor do we link to him. But PRI's The Takeaway remembered Iraq on the eve of the seventh anniversary of the illegal war while others just wanted to gas bag about Israel today.
So The Takeaway segment gets a link and I even mention that man's name accurately. Do not expect that it will ever happen again. Also on The Takeaway today, John Hockenberry spoke with Iraq War veterans Matt Gallagher (author of Kaboom: Embracking the Suck in a Savage Little War) and and Mike Scotti (Severe Clear) neither of whom expect the Iraq War to end any time soon. John Hockenberry offered, "Where was Stanley McChrystal seven years ago? The commander of forces in Aghanistan? He was actually running the briefings at the Pentagon. He was assigned to run the Iraq briefings at the Pentagon seven years ago. Now, of course, he's commanding forces in Afghanistan."

As bad as starting an illegal war is continuing one. At the tent meetings of the Cult of St. Barack throughout America in early 2008, Barack was fond of screaming into his mike, "We want to end the war now!" Of course Samantha Power, while still his chief foreign policy advisor, told the BBC News that Barack didn't know what he was going to do about Iraq and wouldn't make a decision until after he was in the White House. That didn't stop Barry O from letting the people think he was Mr. Peace and Mr. End The War Now!

War Criminal Barack Obama speaking in Santa Barbara in early 2008: And most of all the American people are tired of this disastorous war in Iraq that should have never been authorized and should have never been waged. A war that has cost us half-a-trillion dollars and thousands of lives and has not made us more safe but has diminished our standing in the world. They want an end to that! And they want an end now!
The White House changed parties and that's about all the change America or Iraq saw. Blood brothers Bush and Barack are so alike that, after winning the election, Barry O suddenly loved the SOFA -- the same Status Of Forces Agreement he termed "unConstitutional" when he was running for office. The same SOFA he protested.
Li Laifang (Xinhua) reports that Iraq today still has no security, still lags (too mild a term for it) in reconstruction. That's on Barack. He's the one who wanted to be president. There have been so surprises since he was sworn in. The economic problems were known starting in the fall of 2008. The Iraq War and the Afghanistan War were known. He came in under the rhubric of 'change' and he's done nothing except repeatedly sing, "Oh come let us adore me."

Protests will take place tomorrow against the Iraq War and Afghanistan War. Actions are scheduled across the country and the best known are the ones to be held in DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Michael E. Ruane (Washington Post) reports, "The protest, against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, will begin with a noon rally in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House. The march will follow." Ruane's article also has a video of people speaking out.Cindy Sheehan: You know some people have abandoned -- in the anti-war movement -- have abandoned peace since Obama's been president. But we need to recreate a movement. And that's what we're trying to do here at this march. We're trying to not just build a camp, but build a movement. Military Families Speak Out's Maggie Pondolfino: I feel like I have a heightened responsibility as a military family to lend my voice to the antiwar movement because these wars have gone on too long and they continue to kill our loved ones. My son is currently deployed in Kandahar Province in Afghanistan and he also did a tour in Iraq.Cindy Sheehan is briefly on Democracy Now! today (blink and you'll miss her.) Fight Back! interviews Jess Sundin (Freedom Road Socialist Organization) about tomorrow's actions.Fight Back!: What's going on with the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan?Sundin: After all these years, Iraq and Afghanistan are each occupied by more than 100,000 U.S. troops, plus the soldiers of U.S. allies. The U.S. runs prisons in both countries, operates checkpoints along roadways and controls government affairs. In Iraq, over a million people have been killed by occupying forces - every family has lost someone. Nearly 6 million Iraqis are refugees, having fled their homes and, in some cases, the country. The infrastructure is in a shambles, where most Iraqis have limited access to electricity, adequate housing, drinking water and sanitation services. Unemployment and underemployment are over 40% and there is no sign that any of this will improve. The people of Afghanistan are being hammered hard by Obama's policy of bringing in more troops - there are more than twice as many American soldiers there now than there was under Bush. And more are on their way. Top commanders promise this will be a brutal year - we have regular reports of civilian casualties. The troops plan to lay siege to more cities, as they did to Marjah last month, promising to make a whole country of ghost towns. There is no chance of victory for the U.S. - the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan will continue to resist the occupations and fight to control their own countries and futures.World Can't Wait and A.N.S.W.E.R. are among the organizations sponsoring the DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles actions tomorrow and you can refer to those websites for more information. Local actions are taking place around the country and we'll provide links on two. Karen Kucher (San Diego Union-Tribune) reports the details of Saturday's actions in San Diego. In New York, there will be an action in Nanuet. Jane Lerner (Lower Hudson Valley Journal News) reports on the details of that action.

There is plenty of outrage on the left for Americans on the left to demand that the Congress and the White House be responsive. It's ignored mainly because so many people have decided Barry O is King and they're loyal subjects. Not buying into that is Ian Wilder. From his "
Is Kucinich just herding sheep to slaughter?" (On The Wilder Side):IW: While faux progressive sites like Daily Kos and MoveOn have threatened Kucinich for not voting for the toothless health insurance bill, independent media site like Black Agenda Report and Democracy Now! have lobbed softballs his way. Even Nader refused to directly criticize Kucinich in his roll in mollifying a potential break away of progressives from the Democratic party over the Afghanistan/Iraq Wars and Health Care Reform. We need leaders who not afraid to speak truth to power, even when it's their friends. We need a political party that is willing to stand up for the best interests of the voter, not defense contractors and insurance companies. And where is a real voice that is not afraid to speak truth to power like Cynthia McKinney? Is leaving her out part of Democracy Now's continual policy of marginalizing the Green Party?

Protests against the wars took place today but the true example of protest could be found yesterday in DC. "You have been told that the President has a plan! But Congressman Barney Frank confirmed to us this week that the President still is not fully committed to repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell this year. And if we don't seize this moment it may not happen for a very long time."
Brian Montopoli (CBS News) reports that Iraq War veteran Lt Dan Choi made those remarks outside the White House where he and Capt Jim Piertrangelo were arrested for their activism. Theola Labbe-DeBose (Washington Post) explains, "Shortly before 2 p.m., Park Police came upon two men who had chained themselves to a section of the iron fence on the north side, said David Schlosser, a police spokeman. Officers told the men they did not have a permit for their demonstration and gave them three warnings about the violation." Queerty offers their analysis and we'll excerpt this section:They hijacked HRC's rally. Normally we wouldn't commend a group for taking over another organization's event. That's just rude, and it's like, plan your own shindig, jerks. But HRC wastes millions of its donors' dollars every year, so if anyone is going to make a HRC rally effective, it'll be a third party. [. . .] Like Get Equal. From this HRC statement, it appears Choi wasn't even supposed to speak at all, and instead, through a relationship with Solmonese, secured a chance to take the mic at the last minute: "There's been some confusion about Lt. Dan Choi's role in the rally. As Joe Solmonese was walking to the stage, Lt. Choi asked Joe if he could have a speaking role. Joe explained that it wasn't his sole decision to make on the spot given that there was already an established program that included Kathy Griffin, other organization and veterans. After Choi then spoke with Kathy Griffin, she agreed to bring him up on stage and speak to the crowd during her remarks. Lt. Choi in his speech called on the crowd to march on the White House. Joe Solmonese along with Eric Alva and others felt it was important to stay and engage those at the rally in ways they can continue building the pressure needed for repeal. This does nothing to diminish the actions taken by Lt. Choi and others. This is the nature of social change and everyone has a role to play." (Robin McGehee reportedly asked Joe Solmonese if she could take part in the rally, but was rebuffed; it was Kathy and Bravo's rally, she was supposedly told.) But what was supposed to be a camera op for HRC and Bravo became the mere launching pad for Choi's stunt. Nobody will remember the HRC rally for anything other than Choi taking it over. They got Kanye'd.
Yusef Najafi (Metro Weekly) reports that Choi and Pietrangelo entered not guilty pleas this morning in court and are taking their cases to trial. In addition, they've posted video of Dan Choi speaking outside the courthouse.

Dan Choi: There are other people who are oppressed that have the chains on them in their hearts. There were many times when people would say when you go and get arrested, it's difficult because your hands are restrained and the movement is a little bit stymied or halted on the physical level. But it is my hope that the larger movement, even with the chains on it, will do nothing but grow to the point where it cannot be controlled by anything but that freeing and that dignified expression of getting arrested for what you know is absolutely morally right. There was no freer moment than being in that prison. It was freeing for me and I thought of all the other people that were still trapped, that were still handcuffed and fettered in their hearts and we might have been caged up physically but the message was very clear to all of the people who think that equality can be purchased with a donation or with a cocktail party or with tokens that are serving in a public role. We are worth more than tokens. We have absolute value. And when the person who is oppressed by his own country wants to find out how to get his dignity back, being chained up and being arrested, that's how you get your dignity conferred back on you. So I think that my actions, my call, is to every leader -- not just gay leaders, I'm talking any leader who believes in America, that the promises of America can be manifest. We're going to do it again. And we're going to keep doing it until the promises are manifest and we will not stop. This is a very clear message to President Obama and any other leader who supposes to talk for the American promise and the American people, we will not go away .

From Dan's heroic actions and stance to Congress.
Yesterday's snapshot included moments from the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Don't Ask Don't Tell. Carl Levin is the Comittee Chair. Appearing before the senators were Lt Jr Grade Jenny Kopfstein, Maj Michael Almy and Gen John Sheehan -- the first two were drummed out of the military for their sexuality, the third was rewarded with a lengthy career (possibly in part due his homophobia).

Senator Kay Hagan: Mr. Almy and Ms. Kopfstein -- Kopfstein. Although the policy is referred to as Don't Ask, Don't Tell, as the law is currently written members of the armed forces are involuntarily separated regardless how their sexual orientation is disclosed. And under existing law, the quality of your service does not serve as the criteria for retention due to a presumed disruption to unit cohesion and discipline. During your discharge proceedings, what impact did the recommendations from your leadership within your chain of command have on the decision to involuntarily seperate you from your service? And I think, Mr. Almy, you were speaking about that.
Maj Michael D. Almy: Thank you, Senator. To my knowledge it made absolutely no effect on the Air Force's decision not to retain me. I had commanders I had survived with, I had superiors, peers and subordinates all who knew my records, who knew my achievements as an officer and supported me. And even though they knew the full story, still wanted me retained in the Air Force and still wanted me back as their leader. And, to my knowledge, that had zero effect on the Air Force's decision whether or not to retain me.

Senator Kay Hagan: Ma'am?

Lt Jr Grade Jenny L. Kopfstein: Senator, in my case, I was honored and lucky that both of my commanding offers came to my discharge board. They were not required to do so. They took time out of their busy schedules to come and testify on my behalf. The board -- under Don't Ask, Don't Tell -- its hands were basically tied. I had made an admission and despite the vocifierous recommendations of both of my commanding officers, 206s, the board's hands were tied and they had to vote to discharge me.

Senator Kay Hagan: Mr. Almy, in your earlier discussion, I think you were talking about almost a general feeling of acceptance more from the younger generation than the older generation for homosexuals in the military. Do you -- can you elaborate on that? And ma'am too?

Maj Michael D. Almy: Senator I think that -- I think you probably hit the nail on the head there, I think in my mind, in my personal experience this is a generational issue. I have great respect for General Sheehan for his leadership and his sacrifice to our nation. From what I've seen a lot of senior officers, senior military leaders from that generation are the ones who are holding on to maintaining Don't Ask, Don't Tell. With notable exceptions. Adm [Mike] Mullen [Joint Chiefs of Staff], General [Colin the Blot] Powell, General [John] Shalikashvili. In my experience and that of my peers, the young men and women coming into the military today, the 20-somethings and most of the 30-somethings, which is the largest demographic in the military, for that group of people this is largely a non-issue. There are -- obviously, there are some xecptions but, as I stated earlier, that generation of men and women are far more comfortable with gays and lesbians because, chances are, that they know one.

Senator Kay Hagan: General Sheehan, do you have any feelings on the generational attitudes?

Gen John Sheehan: I absolutely admit that I am old.

Senator Kay Hagan: (Laughing with Sheehan) We all are.

And let's end the exchange there so Sheehan is able to tell at least one truth. And we won't have to note him using "totalitary" when he meant "totality."

Senator Kay Hagan: Ma'am?

Lt Jr Grade Jenny L. Kopfstein: Senator, I agree with Major Almy, the younger generation definitly has a diferent view on this issue. I'll give you a personal story. And I certainly don't have the general's experience but on September 11, 2001 my ship was in port in Seal Beach, California when this -- when we were attacked. And I was standing in the wardroom watching the television, watching events unfold. And one of the young Petty Officers that worked for me ran into the wardroom and said, "Ma'am, ma'am, request permission to load the guns." I was the Ordnance Officer so I was responsible for our anti-aircraft and self-defense weapons, so I turned to the Captain and I said, "Sir, request permission to load the guns." And he said, "Permission granted." And we did. And I can tell you for a fact, in that moment, neither my captain nor the Petty Officer that worked for me, cared one whit about my sexuality.

Senator Kay Hagan: Thank you. The phrase Don't Ask, Don't Tell implies a mutual agreement where the services would not inquire about the sexual preferences of our members and the military personnel would not publicly articulate your sexual oreintation. However, under Don't Ask, Don't Tell, we still have instances of very capable service members being involuntarily separated due to investigations initiated on tips provided by third parties. And this, Mr. Almy, in your situation, do you believe that private correspondence via e-mail while deployed constitutes a breech of the existing policy or do you believe that your case serves an illustration of how the policy is flawed?

Maj Michael D. Almy: Senator, I think it's probably a little of both. I didn't tell. The Air Force asked. And I refused to answer the question. So I think, while it's true I never made a personal -- or a public statement to the military, I was still thrown out. I think that illustrates a flawed implementation of the current law and my understanding of what Secretary [of Defense Robert] Gates has called for a review as far as the so-called third party outings would have had a direct bearing on my case and in all likelihood I would still be on active duty. Beyond that, I think it also illustrates that this law is making our nation and our military weaker by discharging qualified men and women who are patriotic and whose only crime is that the may or may not be gay and lesbian. All the while, we're actively recruiting people who aren't qualified to fill some of those vacancies.

And now we'll move over to Roland Burris. The senator has been a leader on this issue publicly since the spring of 2009. He and his office have made public statements on this issue, he has participated in events in his home state (Illinois) to show his support for the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. We're going into it and Burris does an amazing job but Sheehan? I'm starring two things. The first, a term I will not have appear here. That is not the term for Americans in the service, in the government, in any job. We don't use that word as a country and we haven't in many years. The second is another 'either he's an idiot or he's insulting' moment.

Senator Roland Burris: General, I'll challenge you on age. I'm pretty much your age. If you've served 35-years in, I think --

Gen John Sheehan: Sir, I'll conceed to you.

Senator Roland Burris: I'm sorry?

Gen John Sheehan: I will conceed age to you.

Senator Roland Burris: Thank you. And I can remember, General, when I was Attorney General of my state, how difficult it was for me to make a change But on my staff there was a young lesbian lady who would sit down with me each day and explain to me the problems of persons who were lesbian or gay that never ocurred to me because I grew up in a different era. We talked about them, we laughed about them, it was something -- yib-yib-yib, you know, it was all these derogatory terms that we used to use. And, General, it also deals with the racial question. Do you know a fellow named Jackie Robinson? You ever heard of him? [Gen Sheehan nods.] You talk about the bright and the best. We don't know if we've got the bright and the best serving in our military service until we let everyone serve with their best distinction, best ability. The bright and the best may not be Ever hear of a couple of tennis players named the Williams sisters? You ever hear of the young man who had a little personal problem called Tiger Woods? We didn't know how golf really could be until a Black person got into the competition. They were all eliminated from the game of golf. All eliminated from the game of baseball, General. Eliminated from type of sports which were for Whites only. Now we're saying the military is for straights only. General, I think we need to put a moratorium on this situation right now. Don't let anyone be discharged from the military because of their orientation until we can change this law -- which I'm currently supporting a co-sponsoring of Senator [Joe] Lieberman's bill to change this law. General, could you just give me a little insight into your background? Did you ever command Black soldiers under your command?

Gen John Sheehan: Sir, the American military has been in-in-integrated since President . . . Truman was the president.

Senator Roland Burris: 1947.

Gen John Sheehan: Yes.

Senator Roland Burris: By executive order, sir.

Gen John Sheehan: I have never commanded a unit that there were not Hispanics, Blacks, Whites . . . and Ori**tals.* At one time, during the Vietnam War, as both Senator Lieberman and the Chairman will remember, 65% of my rifle companies were Black. They sustained 40% of the casualties in Vietnam soldiers. They understand what it means to be in harm's way. So race in the military is not an issue. This institution

Senator Roland Burris: Pardon me, General --

Gen John Sheehan: -- that I represent has the finest --

Senator Roland Burris: -- I have to interrupt you

Gen John Sheehan: -- of integration of any instutiton in this country of ours.

Senator Roland Burris: Absolutely. How long did it take that to take place? What happened in WWII with my uncles and my uncles-in-law when they were discriminated against? Prisoners were being brought back from Germany and the Black soldiers that were guarding them couldn't even ride in the cars, they were put in the back cars because of the color of their skin. That's how far America has come. For you to now command those men and they're fighting and dying for us and at one time because of this [taps fingers to hand], the color of their skin, they could not serve this country. And they fought and they clawed to have an opportunity to serve. These are the same things with the gay and lesbian people. They want to serve. That's all they're asking. Continue, General, I'm sorry.


Gen John Sheehan: Well, Senator, I think that . . . if you go back to the 1993 discussions and hearings on Don't Ask, Don't Tell, there's a very rich history of a discussion with [Lt Gen] Cal[vin] Waller, Colin Powell and the Committee about this very issue when Congressman* Pat Schroeder was trying to equate this to a racial issue. Both Cal Waller and Colin Powell objected strenously to the analogy. And many of the Black leaders and Black Marines I was with at the time objected to the concept that their Civil Rights Movement was being hijacked by gays and lesbians. I'm not an expert on this issue. But I would only defer to Cal Waller and Colin Powell [C.I. note, Calvin Waller died in 1996. Colin Powell has changed his 90s position on the issue.] and refer the good Senator to their testimony back in 92 and 93.

We're going to stop it there due to space limitations. As usual, Senator Burris did an outstanding job. Pat Schroeder, for those who don't know, was not a Congress MAN. Pat is short for "Patricia." Schroeder was the first woman Colorado ever elected to the US Congress (that was in the November, 1972 elections). You can
click here for her profile at Women in Congress. Did he mean to be rude? He may have. Or he may have not known what he was talking about (a repeat problem during his testimony). His "social engineering" remarks should have gotten attention -- and did yesterday. His yelling at Senator Burris -- on two separate occassions above (such as "this institution"). The man's unstable. A witness who appears before Congress of their own volition and can't control their self-presentation has some serious issues. Burris ended his allotted time by calling for a stop-order on Don't Ask, Don't Tell discharges from the military until the law can be repealed. Senator Jim Webb corrected General Crazy Ass on his 'statistics' -- "African-Americans were about 13% of the age group, about 12% of the people in military, about 12% of the casualities and about 10% killed in action." Webb noted that "people" (the press) were "walking out of the room" (to file their stories) and he wanted that to be clear because it's an issue he's studied for years, written of, etc. He was very clear that he was correcting the numbers and not attempting to take anything away from anyone for their service or sacrifice. General Crazy then allowed that he wasn't really talking about all the service during Vietnam, he was talking about one program.

Yesterday's snapshot contained some coverage of the hearing and other community coverage of the hearing are: Kat's "McCain can't shut up long enough to get an answer" covers what stood out to her the most, Wally also emphasized McCain in "McCain wants his recognition -- just his" at Rebecca's site and Ava's wrote about it at Trina's site in "What happened in that fox hole, General Sheehan?" In addition, Marcia and I discussed the hearing in her "Carl Levin's historic Senate moment."

In Iraq, the ballot counting continues. Pakistan's
Daily Times reports, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and main rival Iyad Allawi were locked in a close election race on Thursday, as updated results showed their blocs running neck-and-neck for seats in parliament." Alsumaria TV adds, "State of Law Coalition led by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki is slightly ahead of other coalitions, according to preliminary results of Iraqi Parliamentary elections." Mohammed al Dulaimy and Hannah Allam (McClatchy's Miami Herald) report that approximately 92% of the vote has now been counted and they observe:

For all the focus on the extremely tight race between Iraq's top two vote-getters - Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the former interim premier Ayad Allawi - election tallies released this week reveal several smaller dramas unfolding outside the capital. Sunni Arabs have weakened Kurdish leaders in diverse northern provinces, militant Shiites have overtaken their Iranian-backed allies for the religious vote, and many prominent figures will be cast into the political wilderness, according to the near-complete results issued by the Independent High Electoral Commission:
The election for the 325-seat parliament remains too close to call, with results still to come from out-of-country voting and early rounds for security forces and others such as hospital patients who needed special accommodation.


Bombings?

Reuters reports a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier with three more injured and a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 2 lives and left seven people injured.

Shootings?

Reuters reports 1 person was injured in a Mosul shooting and a Baghdad home invasion resulted in the death of a police officer (and it was his home) while, last night, Iraqi and US forces "killed an alleged" suspect in Mosul.

Corpses?

Reuters reports 2 corpses were discovered in Mosul yesterday.


TV notes.
NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):
There are places in the world where the success of a soap opera is measured not just in TV ratings, but in human lives. On March 19 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW travels to Kenya, where ambitious producers and actors hope one such TV show, "The Team", can help foster peace amongst the country's 42 official tribes.During presidential elections two years ago, tribalism-influenced protests in Kenya left almost 1,500 dead and nearly 300,000 displaced. Tensions continue today over issues including extreme poverty and widespread corruption. In "The Team", soccer players from different tribes work together to overcome historic rivalries and form a common bond. The hope is that commonalities portrayed in fiction can inspire harmony in the real world. Early reaction to the show's inaugural season is promising."I was very surprised to see how Kenyans want change, how they want to live in peace and the way the responded to us," Milly Mugadi, one of the show's stars, noted during a local screening. "There were people from different tribes talking about peace and how to reconcile with each other... they opened up their hearts."John Marks, whose organization Common Ground produces versions of "The Team" in 12 different countries, is cautiously hopeful. "You don't watch one of our television shows and drop your submachine gun," explains Marks, who says he was inspired by the influence of "All in the Family" on American culture. "But you can change the environment so it becomes more and more difficult to be in violent conflict." Can this soap opera for social change really make a difference in stopping violence? Next on NOW.
Staying with TV notes,
Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen around the table this week are Peter Baker (New York Times), Jeanne Cummings (Politico) and Karen Tumulty (Time magazine). Remember that the show podcasts in video and audio format -- and a number of people sign up for each (audio is thought to be so popular due to the fact that it downloads so much quicker). If you podcast the show, remember there is the Web Extra where Gwen and the guests weigh in on topics viewers e-mail about. And also remember that usually by Monday afternoon you can go to the show's website and stream it there (including Web Extra) as well as read the transcripts and more. They're beefing up their online presence and that includes highlighting archived shows and Gwen's weekly column which, this week, is entitled "Deadlines, Schmedlines . . ." Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Melinda Henneberger, Avis Jones-DeWeever, Tara Setmayer and Genevieve Wood on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And at the website each week, For the broadcast program, check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes:
Chief of StaffThe man in the middle of all things presidential - especially the health care reform legislation in Congress right now - is President Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Katie Couric talks to Obama's right-hand man about his tough job and his even tougher reputation.
The Lost Children of HaitiScott Pelley reports on the most vulnerable victims of Haiti's earthquake, children who not only face hunger, disease and sexual assault, but a form of slavery that is legal in the Caribbean country.
Tennis TwinsPro tennis' leading doubles champions are identical twins who are so coordinated on the court that their opponents actually suspect they have twin telepathy. Lesley Stahl reports.
Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, March 21, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.


We'll wind down with this from David Bacon's "
Californians March into the Heartland" (The Nation):Shafter, CA - As the March for California's Future left Bakersfield, marchers trudged past almond trees just breaking into their spring blooms. From Shafter and Wasco across dozens of miles to the west, white and pink petals have turned the ground rosy, while branches overhead are dusted with the delicate green of new leaves.The San Joaquin Valley's width--over seventy-five miles at its widest point--is even more impressive than its length, as it stretches several hundred miles from the Tehachapi Mountains in the south overlooking Bakersfield to the delta of the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers in the north. In the heart of that delta lies Sacramento, the state's capital and the marchers' goal. This immense space is filled with almond orchards, grape vineyards, dairies, and alfalfa and cotton fields. A myriad of crops, grown on a huge industrial scale, make obvious the historical source of the state's wealth. For almost two centuries, that wealth has located California's political center here. The conservatism of the valley's political and economic establishment has been the main obstacle to the growth of progressive politics, which long ago shaped the coastal metropolises of San Francisco and Los Angeles. For decades growers succeeded in preventing rural industrialization, for fear it would bring unions and higher wages. Even mass housing was discouraged, until the corporations that own the land realized that the profits of development rivaled those of grapes and pears. David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. Bacon can be heard on KPFA's The Morning Show (over the airwaves in the Bay Area, streaming online) each Wednesday morning (begins airing at 7:00 am PST).

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washington week

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I come to bury Terry

Yesterday, Terry Gross interviewed Karl Rove on NPR's Fresh Air.

First, she treated him as she did any other guest. Which was a surprise.

But that's all the praise I can offer. If you don't understand why, grasp that she badgered on his father maybe being gay. (It was sex related, so Terry was thrilled!) And yet, whether Bush lied or not she just allowed to pass.

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. Im Terry Gross, back with more of our interview with Karl Rove, the controversial Republican political strategist who ran President Bush's campaigns and served as his senior advisor and deputy chief of staff. He's written a new memoir called "Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight."
Let's move on to the war in Iraq. You write in your book: would the war in Iraq have occurred without weapons of mass destruction? I doubt it. President Bush would've looked for other ways to constrain Saddam Hussein.
I want to play a quote for you from a recent interview I did with Tom Ricks, former military correspondent for the Washington Post who wrote the bestseller "Fiasco" about how we got into the war and what happened after the invasion, and he has a new book called "The Gamble." And so this is Tom Ricks as recently recorded on FRESH AIR about the war in Iraq.
Mr. TOM RICKS (Author): We invaded a country on false premises, preemptively; I think, perhaps the worst decision in the history of American foreign policy. And Americans, I think, still don't grasp just what a terribly expensive decision that was, not just in money, but also in blood and moral credibility.
GROSS: Your reaction to that, invading a country on false premises, worst decision - worst foreign policy decision in American history?
Mr. ROVE: Well, I disagree. We thought he had WMD and it was a broad consensus, bipartisan in nature. In chapter 21 in my book, I take on the argument by those on the left that Bush lied about WMD. This was a political attack launched on July 15th of 2003 by Ted Kennedy and later that day, Tom Daschle, and the following day, John Kerry, John Edwards and Jane Harman.
The intelligence failure was that we thought he had WMD. We know that he had it as late as the late 1990s. Blix uncovered chemical and biological stocks in the mid-1990s. We found out that he had a nuclear program in contravention of the surrender agreement. He refused to let in U.N. inspectors into - and he refused to account for the material that he had in the aftermath of the first Gulf War. He thumbed his nose at 14 resolutions and there was a broad bipartisan consensus based on a widespread agreement within the intelligence community, not only intelligence agencies in the United States, but throughout the West that he had WMD.
We now know two things: we know that that happened in part because he wanted us to believe he had it. He thought that the presence of WMD, the view that he had it made him strong in the neighborhood, kept him in power in his own country, and was a deterrent to action by the West. We also know, through Charles Duelfer and David Kay's reports, that Saddam Hussein retained an active interest in these programs, believed that the sanctions put on him by the United Nations were eroding and would be gone soon, and was literally diverting tens of millions of dollars from the oil-for-food program to keep together the dual-use facilities and the scientists, engineers and technicians to reconstitute these programs. The chemical and biological programs could be restarted in a matter of weeks and he could begin again to have his nuclear program.
We had, in the aftermath of 9/11, to act on the information we had: a man who was thumbing his nose at the U.N., thumbing his nose at the international community, refusing to abide by the agreements he made after he was expelled from Kuwait. And we could not, in the aftermath of 9/11, allow him to remain in power. And imagine what would happen, Terry, if he were in power today with a third of the world's oil reserves and a restarted chemical and biological program, and in a weapons race for dominance in the Middle East with Iran and the two of them trying to prove who was the biggest opponent on the block to the West. It would be an ugly and dangerous situation for the world.
GROSS: Well, speaking of ugly and dangerous, look at the situation we're in now. Many experts agree that the war in Iraq created a whole new breed of Islamic extremists and potential terrorists. That Iraq was used to mobilize people from throughout from the Islamic world to become jihadists, to come to Iraq and become jihadists. And many experts who follow terrorism...



She just moves on. Rove says they didn't lie. Well I believe Bush knew about Joe Wilson's trip. And he lied. He lied in the State of the Union. He lied and they outed Valerie Plame.

How do you interview Rove and not ask about the outing of Valerie Plame?

Terry Gross. Ugh.

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

Thursday, March 18, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, ballot counting continues, the US military announces another death, the Senate hears from Mr. Crazy, Gordon Brown's error hasn't yet washed away and more.

Starting in the US where Congress saw some honorable moments and a whole lot of crazy. On the former (honorable), Lt Jr Grade Jenny L. Kopfstein shared her experience serving in the military while gay:

It was difficult being on the ship and having to lie, or tell half-truths, to my shipmates. Under Don't Ask, Don't Tell, answering the simplest questions can get you kicked out. If a shipmate asks what you did last weekend, you can't react like a normal human being and say, "Hey, I went to a great new restaurant with my partner. You should try it out." An answer like that would have gotten me kicked out of the Navy. But if you don't interact like that with your shipmates, they think you're weird, and it undermines working together as a team. So after being on the ship for a while, I wrote a letter to my commanding officer and told him I was a lesbian because I felt like I was being forced to lie. I did not want to get out of the Navy. I wanted to stay and serve honorably and to maintain my integrity by not lying about who I was. After I wrote the letter, I continued to do my job on the ship to the best of my ability. We went on a six-month deployment to the Middle East. I qualified as Officer of the Deck and was chosen to be the Officer of the Deck during General Quarters which is a great honor. During all this time, I am proud to say, I did not lie. I had come out in my letter officially and I came out slowly over time to my shipmates. I expected negative responses. I got none. Everyone I talked to was positive and the universal attitude was that Don't Ask, Don't Tell was dumb. I served openly for two years and four months. One thing that happened during that time was the Captain's choosing me to represent the ship in a shiphandling competition. I was the only officer chosen from the ship to compete. My orientation was known to my shipmates by this time. Nobody griped about the captain choosing someone being processed for discharge under Don't Ask, Don't Tell to represent my ship. Instead a couple of my fellow junior officers congratuled me and wished me luck in the competition. I competed by showing the Admiral my shipdriving skills and won the competition.

She was speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee which is chaired by Senator Carl Levin. The Ranking Member is Senator John McCain. Appearing before the Committee today as they explored Don't Ask, Don't Tell which veered from the moving (such as above) to the outright puzzling. Along with Kopfstein, Maj Michael D. Almy and Gen John Sheehan spoke. Kopfstein and Almy are 'former' because they were drummed out of the service for being gay. They aren't former at this site. They didn't chose to leave, their rank stands in the snapshot. Sheehan is retired. He is not gay but if someone wants to spread a rumor, go for it. You'll understand why I say that shortly.

The hearing moved along nicely during opening statements. It seemed respectful of all and fairly typical for a hearing. There were moving statements made of the losses suffered as a result of being forced out of your chosen profession due to your sexuality. Again, Carl Levin is the Chair and he opened his questions after the prepared remarks.

Committee Chair Carl Levin: Mr. Almy, should somebody be forced to be silent about their sexual orientation in the military?

Maj Michael Almy: In my opinion, no, Senator. I think the Don't Ask, Don't Tell law is inherently in conflict with the service's core value as Adm Mullen reflected in his testimony before this hearing a month ago. The prinicpal core value of the Air Force is integrity first. And Don't Ask, Don't Tell says that gays and lesbians can serve in the military as long as they're not who they are, as long as they lie about who they are. And to me, personally, that was in direct violation of the core values of the Air Force.


Committee Chair Carl Levin: So while you were willing to keep your orientation private, you don't feel it is the right policy or the fair policy. Is that correct?

Maj Michael Almy: Correct, Senator.

Committee Chair Carl Levin: Mike, would you like to return to the military if you could?

Maj Michael Almy: Absolutely. It's my greatest desire. It's my calling in life and I miss the military considerably.

And with that Levin had finished with Almy for the first round. He moved immediately to the retired general and this is where it all went crazy. I have a name "*" starred in the following. I'm guessing at the spelling and will explain why at the end of the exchange.

Commitee Chair Carl Levin: General, you've been the NATO Supreme Allied Commander and I assume that as NATO Commander that you discussed the issue with other military leaders of our allies. Is that correct?

Gen John J. Sheehan: Yes, sir, I have.

Committee Chair Carl Levin: Did you -- did they tell you, those allies who allow open service of gay and lesbian men and women, did they tell you that they had cohesion and morale problems?

Gen John Sheehan: Yes sir they did. If you don't -- l beg the indulgence --

Committee Chair Carl Levin: Sure.

Gen John J. Sheehan: Most of this Committee knows that current militaries are a product of years of development. They reflect societies that they are theoretically paid to protect. The Europen militaries today are a product of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nations like Belgium, Luxenberg, the Dutch, etc. firmly believed that there was no longer a need for combat capability in the militaries. As a result, they declared a peace dividend and made a concentrated effort to socialize their military. That included the unionization of the militaries. It included open homo - homosexuality demonstrated in a series of other activities. But with a focus on peace keeping missions because they did not believe the Germans were going to attack again or that the Soviets were coming back. That led to a force that was ill-equipped to go to war. The case in point I'm referring to is when the Dutch were required to defend Srebrenica against the Serbs. The battalion was under strength, poorly led and the Serbs came into town, handcuffed the soldiers to telephone poles, marched the Muslims off and executed them. That was the largest massacre in Europe since WWII.

Committee Chair Carl Levin: And did the Dutch leaders tell you it was because there were gay soldiers there?

Gen John J. Sheehan: It was a combination --

Committee Chair Carl Levin: But did they tell you that? That was my question.

Gen John J. Sheehan: Yes. They included that as part of the problem.

That there were gay soldiers among the Dutch --

Gen John J. Sheehan: The combination was the liberalization of the military. A net effect, basically social engineering.

Committee Chair Carl Levin: The -- You said that no special accomdiations should be made for any member of the military.

Gen John J. Sheehan: Sure.

Committee Chair Carl Levin: Are members who are straight, who are heterosexual allowed in our military to say that they are straight and heterosexual? Are they allowed to say that? [Long pause as Levin waits for an answer before adding] Without being discharged?

Gen John J. Sheehan: Are they allowed to say --

Committee Chair Carl Levin: Yeah.

Gen John J. Sheehan: -- sexuality.

Committee Chair Carl Levin: Are they allowed to say "Hey, I'm straight. I'm heterosexual." Can you say that? Without being discharged.
Gen John J. Sheehan: There's no prohibition to my knowledge.

Committee Chair Carl Levin: Is that a special accomidation to them?

Gen John J. Sheehan: [Long pause] I wouldn't consider it a special accomodiation.

Committee Chair Carl Levin: Why would it be a special accomidation then to someone who's gay to say 'Hey, I'm gay.'? Why -- why do you call that special? You don't call it special for someone who's heterosexual or straight. Why do you believe that's a special accomodation to someone who's gay?

Gen John J. Sheehan: I think the issue, Senator, that . . . we're talking about . . . really has a lot to do with the individuals. It has to do with the very nature of combat. Combat is not about individuals, it's about units. We're talking about a group of people who declared openly sexual attraction to a particular segment of the population and insist and continue to live in intimate proximity with them. That allows them to --

Comittee Chair Carl Levin: You allow that for heterosexuals?

Gen John J. Sheehan: Yes.

Committee Chair Carl Levin: You don't have any problem with that?

Gen John J. Sheehan: Don't have any problem. But that --

Committee Chair Carl Levin: You don't have any problem with men and women serving together even though they say they're attracted to each other?

Gen John J. Sheehan: That's correct.

Committee Chair Carl Levin: That's not a special accomidation?

Gen John J. Sheehan: No.

Committee Chair Carl Levin: Okay. But it is special to allow --

Gen John J. Sheehan: It' is because it identifies the group as a special group of people who by law make them ineligiable for further service.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: But the whole issue is whether it ought to be, whether they ought to be ineligable? Whether we ought to keep out of our service.

Gen John J. Sheehan: That's correct. the current debate, the current law clearly says --

Committee Chair Carl Levin: No I know what the law says, the question is should we change the law?

Gen John J. Sheehan: My recommendation is no.

Senator Carl Levin: No, I understand. And can you tell us which Dutch officers you talked to who told you that Srebenica was in part caused because there were gay soldiers in the Dutch army?

Gen John J. Sheehan: Uh, Chief of Staff of the Army who was fired by the Parliament because they couldn't find anybody else to blame.

Committe Chair Carl Levin: And who was that?

Gen John J. Sheehan: Hank van Brummen*.

Committee Chair Carl Levin: Pardon?Gen John J. Sheehan: Hank van Brummen.

Committee Chair Carl Levin: Why is the burden to end the discriminatory policy based on people who would end the discriminatory policy? Why do the people who want to end the policy have to show that it would improve combat effectiveness? If we're satisified it would not harm combat effectiveness and for many who would be allowed to serve they would then be permitted to serve without discrimination and without harm. Why is that not good enough for you?

Gen John J. Sheehan: Because the force that we have today is probably the finest fighting force we have in the world.

Committee Chair Carl Levin: And maybe we could have an equally fine or even better force but if it's equally fine -- if you could be satisified that it's no harm to combat cohesion or effectiveness, would that be satisifactory to you?

Gen John J. Sheehan: No. I think it has to be demonstrated, Senator.

Committee Chair Carl Levin: That there be an actual improvement.

Gen John J. Sheehan: An actual improvement.

Committee Chair Carl Levin: No harm wouldn't be good enough for you?

Gen John J. Sheehan: No. The reason I say --

Committee Chair Carl Levin: Pardon?

Gen John J. Sheehan: The reason I say that, Senator, is we've gone through this once before in our lifetime. You were in the Senate at the time. It was called the Great Society. When it was deemed that we could bring into the military categories fours and fives and help the military out and make it part of a social experiment. Those categories fours and fives almost destroyed the military.

Commitee Chair Carl Levin: I don't know what that has to do with this issue.

Gen John J. Sheehan: Well it has to do with the issue of . . . being able to demonstrate that the . . . change in policy is going to improve things. We were told . . . that this was going to help out combat strength. Combat deployable strength. It didn't. It did just the opposite. It drove people out. So I think the burden has to be on demonstrating that something's going to become better, not hoping that it will become something better.

Committee Chair Carl Levin: Well I think the burden of people -- the burden to maintain a discriminatory policy is on the people who want to maintain the policy. Not on the people who want to end it.

"Hank van Brummen*"? I'm not Dutch. I had to call around until someone said they knew who the general meant: Ad van Baal. Full name: Paulus Adrianus Petrus Maria van Baal. He was the Chief of Staff when he resigned. He resigned in April of 2002. He resigned because of a United Nations' report which found leadership at the top to be responsible for (or contributing to -- I haven't read the report, I'm going by a Dutch diplomat here) the massacre. If that's correct (I have no reason to doubt it), then does General John Sheehan even know who he was speaking to? I asked whether or not there was anyway the names could be pronounced similarly and was told "no."
The above excerpt shows that Levin conducted himself honorably. Almy did as well but he's not really the focus in the snapshot.
Kat will write about this at her site tonight, Wally will write about the hearing at Rebecca's site and Ava's writing about it at Trina's. In addition, Marcia's going to quiz me on a few things at her site tonight.

Turning to Iraq where the ballot counting continues.
Katrina Kratovac and Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports that 89% of the ballots have been counted as of today and paint a scene of "chaos" where votes are announced and then pulled back, where votes are no longer displayed for the reporters on screens but instead they're handing compact discs and hustled off elswhere. Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports that the final (unofficial) tally has been postponed "yet again". AP is listing the 89% for the vote counted (Margaret Coker says 86%) but what the vote actually is appears to be changing regularly. For example, AINA reports that Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission has issued an announcement via Sardar Abdul Karim (who serves on the commission) "that IHEC will reconsider its decision to exclude votes from Iraqi expatriates." If the ballots allowed are being increased, the percentage of counted may be off. AFP says the 89% "includes 70 per cent of special voting, conducted three days before the election, for the security forces, hospital patients and staff, and prisoners." If accurate, the big remaining votes to be counted are among the refugee populations. As noted in yesterday's snapshot, the security forces and the refugees were the two categories that were thought to then be uncounted. Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) notes various thoughts and whispers on the potential outcomes. Stephen Sackur (BBC News' HARDtalk) interviews Ayad Allawi regarding the elections (a clip is available at link, interview airs later). Hannah Allam and Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) explore the terrain for Nouri al-Maliki:

Maliki has no outright majority, no mandate and precious little support from factions that would be the key to his survival. The campaign against him is so robust that members of his own State of Law coalition haven't ruled out dumping him as the prime minister nominee in order to lure partners that would give them a dominant voice in the next government, according to interviews with Maliki's allies, opponents and independent observers.Even if Maliki pulls off a second term over the objections of rival parties, his opponents have said privately that they'd block his efforts in parliament and open up potentially embarrassing corruption inquiries, strategies that could lead to an even weaker and more violent Iraq just as U.S. forces prepare for a full withdrawal by the end of next year.

Margaret Coker (Wall St. Journal) notes in the unofficial count thus far, it "is still razor-thin" which Nouri having a slight edge however, "Analysts expect Mr. Allawi to benefit from expatriate votes, especially among the large numbers of Iraqis living in Jordan and Syria. Mr. Allawi made re-establishing ties with Arab allies such as Jordan and Syria a key part of his campaign."

And no one from State of Law went to Syria to get out the vote; however, Tariq al-Hashimi did visit Syria a few weeks ago in part to encourage the refugee community to vote. Tariq al-Hashimi is one of the current vice presidents of Iraq (they have two) and a member of Allawi's political party. Allawi is also thought to be hugely popular among the Iraqi refugee community in Jordan.
Duraid al Baik (Gulf News) observes, "The advance of the Iraqiya bloc of Eyad Allawi against the State of Law bloc led by incumbent Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki has surprised Iraqis and analysts." Though Allawi is expected to do well in the refugee community in countries neighboring Iraq, that won't be true of all the refugee communities or 'refugee' communities. We've already called out the nonsense of allowing Iraqis who left Iraq in the seventies, eighties and nineties, were granted asylum and became US citizens -- and vote in the US -- to vote in the Iraq elections. But that did happen. And in Michigan, that population is said to be firmly for Nouri's State of Law and it's said to be true in California as well. Is it true? I don't know. I'm going by members of those communities. And we're including it because it appears that there are a few votes outstanding from provinces and the rest is the refugee population. You need to factor in that with Iraqis who left long before the invasion, there appears to be (for some) a tie to Nouri. So if that's the big remainder on vote counting, State of Law will benefit from some refugee communities and it should not automatically be seen as "They won't support Nouri!" (Why might someone see it? They're labeled "refugees." Most of us, rightly, consider a refugee to be of a recent period of time. Going back three and four decades? Most of us don't consider that to be a "refugee." Current refugees would, if they supported Nouri, be more likely to move back to Iraq. They'd feel he'd made it 'safer' whereas actual refugees know better.)

One of the political parties in the Ahrar Party and they issued the following today:

Conditions to apply for a scholarship from Ahrar Party

According to the promise made by Ahrar Party to the Iraqi youth and graduates from Iraqi or foreign colleges, Ahrar Party agreed with the American General Motors Company to provide scholarships for Iraqi cadres for a period of six months outside of Iraq for study and training on the latest means and methods of management and leadership and granting a Master's degree. The graduate of this course will be qualified to do administrative and leadership work in jobs assigned to him at a very high standard. Acceptance will be in accordance with the following conditions:
General Conditions:
The applicant should:
Be an Iraqi national.
Be a graduate from an Iraqi or foreign university and have a bachelor's degree or equivalent.
Have no fewer than two years of practical experience.
Be between 25 and 40 years old.
Have good conduct and behavior.
Pledge to work in the place commensurate with his capabilities for no fewer than ten years after graduation from the course.
Agree to be subjected to the preferences and testing determined by the admissions committee.
Required Documents:
Original Civil Affairs ID card + colored replica photocopy.
Original Iraqi citizenship certificate + colored replica photocopy.
Housing card or housing confirmation letter from the Office of Information for the residents of Baghdad and other provinces. This paragraph does not apply to Iraqis living abroad.
A colored replica photocopy of the ration card for the year 2009-2010, this paragraph does not apply to Iraqis living abroad.
Original graduation certificate, certified by the University he or she graduated from and his or her scientific degrees should be listed on it.
A colored replica photocopy of the passport.
(2) personal photos.
Note: Apply to the following email:
a7rar_jamalalden@yahoo.com
For further information, contact:
Ahrar Media Bureau Tel: +964 (0)790 157 4478 / +964 (0)790 157 4479 / +964 (0)771 275 2942
press@ahrarparty.com
About Ayad Jamal Aldin:
Ayad Jamal Aldin is a cleric, best known for his consistent campaigning for a new, secular Iraq. He first rose to prominence at the Nasiriyah conference in March 2003, shortly before the fall of Saddam, where he called for a state free of religion, the turban and other theological symbols. In 2005, he was elected as one of the 25 MPs on the Iraqi National List, but withdrew in 2009 after becoming disenchanted with Iyad Allawi's overtures to Iran. He wants complete independence from Iranian interference in Iraq. He now leads the Ahrar party for the 2010 election to the Council of Representatives, to clean up corruption and create a strong, secure and liberated Iraq for the future.

On the topic of Iraqis, what do they think about their elections?
Today on The Takeaway (PRI), Celeste Headlee spoke with Iraqis Lubna Naji and Waria Salihi about the elections.

Celeste Headlee: It's almost 7 years since the United States led invasion of Iraq began. And the country is now awaiting the results of its March 7th Parliamentary elections. We felt it was a good time to check in with Iraqis on the state of their country and how far it's come in the past seven years. We're joined again by Waria Salihi. He's with us from Kirkuk. He's president of the Salihi Group, the company involved in reconstruction in Iraq. And also Lubna Naji joins us from Baghdad this morning, a 24-year-old medical student from Baghdad Medical School. Good morning. Lubna, I'm wondering if you could kind of compare that day before -- the feeling in Iraq before the invasion and what it's like now?

Lubna Naji: Well look, you know, at the beginning of the invasion, you know, we had -- as young people, we had such great hopes for the future of our country. We thought that Iraq was going to be like a prosperous, peaceful nation -- powerful nation -- and that we are going to get rid from one of the most dicatators on the face of the earth, Saddam Hussein, as you know. But the trouble is that, you know, there has been lots and lots of disappointments over the way. But I can tell you that the news of the moment is much better than it used to be in 2006 and 2007. There is much hope. There is much faith in the future. But there is still a lot to be done and a lot of unsolved problems that seem to make such, you know -- so it's kind of difficult to compare if you ask me to compare the period under Saddam Hussein. But at least, you know, life used to be stable. You know things used to be predictable. But after the invasion, life has become, you know, bad as well but the problem is that there's the element of surprise and, you know, most of the time the surprises weren't good. We would hear that a loved one of yours had gotten killed or you know injured or receive threats or whatever. So the element of stability and predictability, that's the element we used to suffer from. But I can tell you that things are a little bit better than they used to be before. As I said there's still a lot that must be done. Yes.

Celeste Headlee: Okay. Waria Salihi, you actually -- things were bad enough in Iraq that you actually left the country and came to the United States and returned after the invasion. Is that correct?

Waria Salihi: Yes, that's correct.

Celeste Headlee: And you started a non-profit which does microfinance projects for business people in Iraq now.

Waria Salihi: Yeah. Actually for poor people who have no access to conventional funds or the banks.

Celeste Headlee: So with your clients that come in to get financing for their businesses, what kind of sense do you get from them? Do you -- o you get --as you heard from Lubna that there's less stability but a better country now?

Waria Salihi: Well, yes, to be fair. There is less stability but it's a better country and people like us, we believe that the country has a chance to become a good country down the road when at the time, prior to 2003, there was no such a feeling or chance for Iraq ever transformed to an open society, open market, open media and so on. So we have a chance but also, to be fair, in the last seven years a lot more progress should have been done which has not been done, in my view. The government could be much more transparent and more institutional rather than a lot of corruption and so on.

Celeste Headlee: So you were in the United States for awhile and you've had a chance to see elections as they work here and the elections as they worked in Iraq recently. Do you feel like there's a burgeoning, fair democracy in Iraq? Your own version there in your country?

Waria Salihi: I-I think this one was much better if you compare them and use them as a measurement to the last one. This one was much fairer than the past one, however, there's no way to compare the Iraqi elections which happened 2 weeks ago to the US elections because there's a lot of mismanagement, no system in place and, to some extent, there is corruption and playing with ballots and playing with people's votes. But I think if I personally compare to the last one, there's a bit of of progress and we are going toward hopefully an open, fair election.

Lubna Naji's remarks hint at something
Abdu Rahman and Dahr Jamail (IPS) reported on earlier:Under Saddam Hussein, women in government got a year's maternity leave; that is now cut to six months. Under the Personal Status Law in force since Jul. 14, 1958, when Iraqis overthrew the British-installed monarchy, Iraqi women had most of the rights that Western women do.Now they have Article 2 of the Constitution: "Islam is the official religion of the state and is a basic source of legislation." Sub-head A says "No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam." Under this Article the interpretation of women's rights is left to religious leaders – and many of them are under Iranian influence."The U.S. occupation has decided to let go of women's rights," Yanar Mohammed who campaigns for women's rights in Iraq says. "Political Islamic groups have taken southern Iraq, are fully in power there, and are using the financial support of Iran to recruit troops and allies. The financial and political support from Iran is why the Iraqis in the south accept this, not because the Iraqi people want Islamic law."With the new law has come the new lawlessness. Nora Hamaid, 30, a graduate from Baghdad University, has now given up the career she dreamt of. "I completed my studies before the invaders arrived because there was good security and I could freely go to university," Hamaid tells IPS. Now she says she cannot even move around freely, and worries for her children every day. "I mean every day, from when they depart to when they return from school, for fear of abductions."


From lawlessness to violence . . .

Bombings?

Reuters notes a Mosul bombing which injured two boys, two Baghdad roadside bombings left six people injured and a Mosul grenade attack left two people injured.

Shootings?

Reuters notes 1 truck driver shot dead in Mosul (his son was injured in the shooting), a Mosul home invasion left a 24-year-old woman dead and 1 man was shot dead in Baghdad.

Corpses?

Reuters notes 2 decapitated corpses were discovered in Shirqat (police officer and Iraqi solider).

In addition,
Reuters notes, "A U.S. soldier was killed in combat operations in Baghdad, the U.S. military said in a statement." That would be at least the second US service member killed in combat this month. We don't draw that distinction the press does. If you're the family or loved one and lose someone in Iraq to a 'vehicle rollover' or whatever, it doesn't hurt less and doesn't make your loved one 'less dead.' But we're noting that because Gen David Petraeus was so highly inventive this week -- or maybe just selective -- when appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee and the next day before the House Armed Services Committee. In both instances, he raised the combat deaths statistics. Bragging about how there hasn't been one since blah, blah, blah. Reality, when he gave that testimony, it was already known by the military that Pfc Erin L. McLyman had died Saturday, March 13th during an attack on the US military base in Balad.

Meanwhile Tony Blair told Bully Boy Bush that Bush made he feel sensual? What? For recap for the next item we'll note this from
yesterday's snapshot:Still in England, Gordon Brown testified to the Iraq Inquiry March 5th. Miranda Richardson and Ruth Barnett (Sky News -- link has text and video) report that while taking questions on Wednesday Gordon Brown's claim to the Inquiry that when he was Chancellor (under Tony Blair) defense spending rose each year ("in real terms") and confronted, with it today, Brown admitted he had mispoken. [PDF format warning] Sky News has posted the letter from Brown here. Richardson and Barnett point out, "The four-page document does not acknowledge that the Prime Minister made an error in the way he described defence spending." Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) gets the last word on Brown's letter, "It is typical Brown -- no admission of error, no apology, a lot of spin. It may be Brown's way of limiting the political damage, but to puff such a letter out with so much spin must have seriously alienated the Inquiry." Polly Curtis and Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) explain, "The prime minister was forced to correct his official evidence to the Chilcot inquiry -- which he repeated just last week in the commons -- after Ministry of Defence figures revealed that once inflation was accounted for, the budget declined in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2007. The revelations are particularly damning because some of the real-term cuts spanned years when the armed forces were at war in Afghanistan and Iraq." James Kirkup (Telegraph of London) terms the incident "an embarrassing retreat". Quentin Letts (Daily Mail) observes, "The truth was extracted by Tony Baldry (Con, Banbury), who put his question in an unhysterical but assertive manner. Mr Baldry spoke along the lines of 'come on now, there's a good boy, say you're sorry, then we can all start afresh and nothing more will be said of the matter'. Mr Brown hated admitting it. Shades of a child drinking its spoonful of cod liver oil." Cathy Newman (Channel 4 News) quotes MP David Cameron offering his thanks to Brown, "In three years of asking the prime minister questions I don't think I've ever heard him make a correction or retraction." Nico Hines and Philippe Naughton (Times of London) note that Brown's correction still wasn't accurate since he claimed that it was only one or two years that his statements were incorrect: "In fact, it fell in three separate years, according to figures compiled by the House of Commons library -- four years if 1997/98 is included, although the financial year had already started when Labour came to power." Jon Craig (Sky News) wonders what other things Brown might "own up to between now and election day?"
Jason Groves (Daily Mail) reports, "Gordon Brown is under more pressure to return to the Chilcot inquiry today after he was forced into an humiliating admission that he had slashed defence spending while British troops were at war in Iraq and Afghanistan." Emma Alberici (Australia's ABC) observes, "The mistake is a blow to Mr Brown, coming just weeks before a general election is due to be held." Staying on the topic of the Iraq Inquiry, Andrew Sparrow was among the reporters covering the Inquiry for the Guardian and he notes today:
Andrew Rawnsley should have been put in charge of the
Iraq inquiry. I've only just started his 800-page book, The End of the Party, but I've already picked up three key facts about Tony Blair's relationship with George Bush that haven't emerged from the Iraq inquiry hearings. Many of the figures interviewed by Rawnsley also gave evidence to Sir John Chilcot and his team. But Rawnsley seems to have asked the more searching questions.
Here are the revelations that struck me.
1. Blair told Bush: "Whatever you decide to do, I'm with you."
The inquiry has heard about the private letters that Blair sent to Bush in 2002. Alastair Campbell told
Chilcot that the letters were "very frank" and that the central message was, in Campbell's words: "We share the analysis, we share the concern, we are going to be with you in making sure that Saddam Hussein is faced up to his obligations and that Iraq is disarmed." But the letters have not been published and the precise contents remain a secret.

So basically, Tony Blair sang
Tina Turner's "Whatever You Want (Me To Do)" (from Tina's Wildest Dreams album) to Bush?

Whatever you want me to do, I will do it for you
Whatever you want me to be, I will be what you need
Because it's love that I feel whenever you're really near
I'm feeling sensual
I can't rely on myelf, I'm wanting you and no one else
You've got me wrapped up

In the US, individuals, organizations and groups are gearing up for the demonstrations Saturday. DC, Los Angeles and San Francisco have scheduled demonstrations. Those are three national actions, there will be actions in many communities.
Michelle Rindels (The Union) reports on the action in Nevada City on Saturday:This year's event starts at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 20, with a rally in the parking lot at the intersection of Nevada and Broad streets and will feature music and speakers. Local musicians include The Shreds, Cool Hand Uke, Luke Wilson and Maggie McKaig, and Anytime Band.Marchers will continue up the sidewalks of Broad Street and end with a reception at the Peace Center, 216-B Main St., next to the South Yuba River Citizens League building. "It's not just for people to come out and express feelings about the war. It's about protesting the state of our economy," [Lorraine] Reich said. "We encourage everyone that has concerns about the economy to come out and demonstrate their democracy."


iraqthe guardianmartin chulovthe los angeles timesned parker
mcclatchy newspapershannah allamlaith hammoudi
the takeaway
ipsdahr jamailabdu rahman
the daily mailjason grovesabc newsemma alberici
the guardianandrew sparrow
the unionmichelle rindels

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