Friday, August 6, 2010

3

Yesterday Terry Gross had 3 guests.

And all were men.

You honestly think this happens over and over and she never catches on?

You think it's just an accident?


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

Friday, August 6, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate continues, 2 US service members died Monday but no one wanted to 'cramp' Barack's style by announcing it, and more.

Jaimee Lynn Fletcher (Orange County Register) reports 300 soldiers with the California National Guard's 1-140th Aviation (Air Assault) Battalion deploy to Iraq this weekend. "Air Assault" -- doesn't sound like non-combat forces. And they're "also known as Task Force Long Knife." B-b-but, Monday, Barack Obama, President of the United States, stood up in front of cameras and creation in Atlanta, Georgia and insisted that no combat troops would be in Iraq after the end of this month. Are those California National Guard soldiers deploying for a few weeks and then flying back to the US?

And about that 'wowie' speech . . .

Elise Labott: Well he said that the US would maintain a longterm cariment -- commitment to Iraq in terms of the ever growing civilian presence on there but he spoke about bringing the war in Iraq to a responsible end and he's saying that the August 31st deadline for the military to bring their troops down to 50,000 is the closing of a chapter and that the US is going to be transitioning towards a more normal relationship with Iraqis as it does with many other countries. I mean, this is really for the US kind-of signaling the end of so-called occupation . But you -- What you have right now is a five-month deadlock on the government forming up, you have the drawdown of US troops and a lot of the, you know, instability in the country. You've seen a lot more violence. al Qaeda is doing a lot more recruiting to try and fill this void right now that the government isn't meeting because it's very much deadlocked. And the US is concerned that it's going to be leaving the country as there's more instability in the country. And you even saw Tariq Aziz, the Deputy to Saddam Hussein, say, "Don't leave Iraq right now! You're leaving them to the wolves!" So it kind of signals that the US is growing increasingly worried that the government won't be in place before all of these troops come out and America's clout diminishes further.

Susan Page: But you know in a way there was no news in President Obama's speech? He's simply reaffirming what he said before. So why -- why give the speech?

Jonathan S. Landay: Oh, I think there was -- I'm going to be really cynical about this. You're facing -- he's facing these Congressional elections coming up in Novmeber in which his party has got an uphill battle -- basically an uphill battle. And at the same time, he sent an additional at least 52,000 more American troops to a place called Afghanistan. The other thing that I feel when I look at this in a cyncical way is the fact that he's meeting requirements that were actually negotiated with Iraq by the Bush administration. And it seems the deadline for getting American troops -- combat troops out, the deadline for getting all American troops out, the fact is that he seemed to be trying to take credit. He used -- he used the expression all American combat [clears throat]. Excuse me. American combat troops will be out by the end of this month "as promised and on schedule." As if he's the guy who's fulfilling this promises when, indeed, these are required under an agreement that the Bush administration negotiated with the Iraqi government.

That's Susan Page filling in for Diane Rehm on today's
The Diane Rehm Show (second hour) where she was joined by Jonathan S. Landay (McClatchy Newspapers), Elise Labott (CNN) and James Kitfield (National Journal). Cynical?

How could anyone be more cynical than the White House was. As Barack Obama was still boning up on his speech, the number of US service members killed in the Iraq War stood at 4413. However, last night
Reuters reported 2 US soldiers killed on Monday -- and we only learn now. USF/MNF has nothing posted. When on Monday did they die?. Barack began speaking in Atlanta a little after 11:30 a.m. EST. That would have been 6:30 p.m. in Baghdad. Were they already dead by then?The White House knew while spinning all day Monday and continuing on Tuesday that two US service members were dead, killed by a bombing (a third wounded). But they didn't want you to know because it would interfere with Barack's messaging. It would hurt Brand Obama. Thursday, Ari Shapiro (All Things Considered, NPR) reported, "The White House has been on a good news streak this week, accentuating the positive every day in areas ranging from Iraq to the BP oil well to the auto industry." But it's easy to have a 'good news' streak if you control what information gets out and what information doesn't.Barack Obama grand-standed on the backs of 3 US service members -- two dead, one wounded. That announcement, which USF should have made on Monday, was killed because Barack needed some sweet-ass headlines. First order of business for the White House, finding a fall guy or gal to blame the decision to bury the news of the 2 deaths Monday. Tony Karon (Time magazine) notes:

Major U.S. combat operations in Iraq were first declared to have ended in March 2003, in President Bush's infamous "Mission Accomplished" address aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln. Seven years and many thousands of casualties later, President Barack Obama made a similar announcement this week. But it remains to be seen whether his note of finality has any more traction than that of his predecessor.
Yesterday
Paul Jay (Real News Network --link has text and video) interviewed Gareth Porter about Iraq realities.

JAY: And weren't they also committed to having all troops out, and not just combat, by, what is it, the end of 2011?

PORTER: They are in fact committed not just by a policy, but by the US-Iraq withdrawal agreement, which was signed in November 2008, to getting all US troops out of Iraq by the end of 2011. That's now a treaty commitment, or at least a formal international commitment, if not a treaty.

JAY: Of course, unless Maliki, their guy, happens to say, well, you can stay longer.

PORTER: Well, that's right. And of course we know that US military leaders have been saying, since even before that treaty or that agreement was signed in November 2008, they wanted to keep US troops there long, long beyond, way beyond 2011. We know that even after Obama was elected, the month of the signature of this agreement, November 2008, that General Odierno, the commander of US troops in Iraq, told Tom Ricks of the The Washington Post, when he was asked what kind of US military presence do you foresee in 2014-2015 (that's four years after the supposed event of US military presence under the agreement), his answer was: I foresee, and what I would like to see, is 30,000, 35,000 US troops remaining, and that they would still be on combat mission.

It's the fifth anniversary of the first Camp Casey and Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan reflects on the 'changes' in US policies (
here at Peace of the Action, here at Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox):

Back sometime after the Nobel Laureate was installed on top of the IDH, the mission that killed my son was renamed: "Operation New Dawn." So every single one of our troops and Iraqis that have been killed since Obama's reign have been killed in something that resembles dish-washing detergent and most certainly the selling of it. "Operation New Dawn: New and Improved with more Lemony Freshness -- and, boy, does it cut through grease!" Grease is the only thing that Operation New Dawn cuts through, though -- since many of my fellow USAians want to believe that Obama is the "New and Improved" George Bush.
Now, Obama has taken back a promise to have "Combat Troops" out of Iraq by September 1st of this year and now has pledged to have them out by the end of 2011 -- but of course, he has again redefined the mission and the troops are now on a "support and train" mission instead of a combat mission, so the Bots will believe that there is a new "Mission Accomplished." There will be some troops movement and more empty rhetoric about this as the next presidential season is rapidly coming to assault us with more Madison Avenue Trickery. And people on the so-called left and so-called antiwar movement were upset with John McCain when he said that troops would be in Iraq for "100 years?" Well, that is upsetting to me, also, but troops will be in Iraq for 100 years because WE only come out to fight when a Republican is in office and it is apparent that The Empire can tenaciously hang in there until the next cycle when a Democrat takes the "con" of The Empire and neutralizes the "Left" for another four to eight years.
Since I camped in Crawford, Texas beginning August 6th, 2005 --there has been little to celebrate and virtually no progress in a progressive direction regarding any policy.
Bush's troop "surge" in Iraq that was bought and paid for by Pelosi's Democratic Congress only "worked" because just about everybody that could be killed or displaced in or out of Iraq has been. In 2003, Iraq had a population of roughly 25 million and about 5 million of those have been killed or displaced -- that's 1/5 of the population. Devastating figures -- that would be comparable to 60 million USAians being killed or displaced! Significant and tragic figures that mean very little to most daily consumers of what passes for news here in the U.S.



Casey Sheehan died serving in Iraq. Some Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans (as well as some in the military who have not deployed) are dying at their own hands.


"They gave me a gun" he said
"They gave me a mission
For the power and the glory
Propaganda piss on 'em
There's a war zone inside me
I can feel things exploding
I can't even hear the f**king music playing
For the beat of, the beat of black wings"
[. . .]
"They want you they need you
They train you to kill
To be a pin on some map
Some vicarious thrill
The old hate the young
That's the whole heartless thing
The old pick the wars
We die in 'em
To the beat of, the beat of black wings"
-- "The Beat Of Black Wings," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Chalk Mark In a Rainstorm

As noted in
yesterday's snapshot, the Marines released their suicide data and have classified 28 this year as suicides. Last year they saw 52 suicides and the Army saw 160. Today Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!) noted that "another 146 [Army in 2009] died by other violent means, such as murder, drug abuse or reckless driving while drunk; another 1,700 attempted suicide." He and Amy Goodman spoke with Gregg Keesling, the father of SPC Chancellor Keesling who was in Iraq on his second deployment when he saw no other solution but to take his own life on June 19, 2009, and with Joyce and Kevin Lucey, the parents of Iraq War veteran and Marine Jeffrey Lucey who received no help from the VA while repeatedly struggling to find some solution other than taking his own life and finally did that June 22, 2004. Excerpt (and remember DN! is watch, listen or read -- video, audio and text formats):


KEVIN LUCEY: I think when we decided to try to bring him to the hospital, we had been trying to negotiate with him for over a month. We had actually hired a therapist to be able to help us get them into the hospital. On Friday, May 28th, 2004, the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend, Jeff finally went to the hospital. He had no intention of staying. And they did say that he needed to stay. And so, finally, we did an involuntary commitment. It took about six hours to do it. During the three-and-a-half days that he spent there, we thought that he was being assessed, assessed for PTSD and assessed for treatment, but regretfully, they didn't assess him. What they stated was that he had to be detoxed, and they were just trying to detox him. And then he was going to have to stay sober, completely substance-free, for a period of three to six months. And I looked at him, and, in this age of dual diagnosis, I couldn't understand how they could even say that, because I went with the naive belief that the VA were the experts in regards to PTSD. Despite Jeff divulging how he had bought a hose to kill himself, that he had plans, what happened is that they ended up discharging Jeff three-and-a-half days later. Two days after that, Jeff got into a single car accident, totaled our family car. He was unscathed. And he saved the two coffees that he went to get for his mother and for himself. And then, that weekend, we tried to bring him back, because it had gotten much more severe. And the VA, they didn't even bother calling a person who had the authority to enter him involuntarily. And he just came back home. And at that point, I was furious. I lost faith in the VA.

JOYCE LUCEY: And I'd like to say that my dad did go along with Jeffrey on that second time, along with my daughters, and that he begged. He begged the VA to do something to help his grandson. My dad lost his brother in World War II at twenty-two years old, and he was now seeing his grandson going downhill right before his eyes. And nobody was there to help. So, to me, that -- that's heartbreaking. It really is.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And you, obviously, had no doubt from the beginning that the changes in his behavior, in his activities, his destructive activities, were as a result of being in the war, that he was -- he had been fine before he enlisted and went to Iraq?

JOYCE LUCEY: Absolutely, absolutely. His girlfriend said that, a year prior to this, he would never, never have thought about taking his life. I mean, that wasn't Jeffrey. That wasn't Jeffrey at all. And to listen to him when he came back and to sit on the deck -- and I remember sitting there going, "Who is this person? This isn't my son." I didn't understand what he was saying. It just seemed like it was my son's body, but the person was no longer my child. He was totally changed, and he was lost. He was in his own world, of everything going through his head, not really looking at me, just kind of staring out and reliving things, you know, saying things in fragments, so that you never really got the whole story. But you knew whatever he had gone through was horrific to him.

The Department of Veterans Affairs Suicide Prevention Hot Line is 1-800-273-TALK. Talk is something you can apparently do easier in foreign media.
The Hindu minces no words when analyzing 'Barry ends the war':

Thirdly, Washington's talk of reduction covers only combat troops and conceals the fact that the U.S. will maintain a network of gigantic bases in Iraq. The one at Balad, about 100 km north of Baghdad, can house 20,000 personnel; it covers 40 sq km and has an internal bus service and the usual American facilities. Inside, U.S. law applies and staff need not even set foot outside. The Al Asad base, 160 km west of Baghdad, holds 17,000 troops; one of its runways is 4.26 km long. The base is to be connected to the national electricity grid. Other U.S. stations in Iraq include Camp Falcon-al-Sarq at Baghdad, and Camp Victory near Baghdad International Airport, which can take 14,000 troops. The plan is apparently to maintain 70,000 troops and 200,000 contractors, or mercenaries by any other name, in Iraq.
The terms "enduring bases" and "permanent access" do more than evade the Congressional ban on permanent bases in foreign countries. The creation of such huge outposts in Iraq is entirely consistent with the Quadrennial Defense Review and the National Defense Strategy, both of which in effect put U.S. interests above the sovereignty or independence of other states.

In Iraq, a letter's been delivered. Not just any letter.
Barbara Slavin (Foreign Policy) reports the letter is to Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and is from Barack and it calls on al-Sistanit "to prevail upon Iraq's squabbling politicians to finally form a new government". The timeline on the letter? After Biden's visit at the start of last month -- "shortly after." Which would appear to indicate that nothing came of it. Ranj Alaaldin (Guardian) offers, "The letter from Obama to Sistani should simply be seen as the US pulling out all the stops for an Iraqi government. However, should it fail in its objective, which is quite likely, then it could be yet another depressing sign of Washington's diminishing influence in the country." However, Press TV reports, "Sadr City's Friday Prayers Leader Seyyed Muhammad al-Musawi accused the US of trying to portray the Iraqi government and security forces as weak and incapable of providing security for the Iraqis in order to justify the country's occupation." March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 4 months and 28 days.

Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing left two people injured, another left fifteen wounded (and may have claimed 2 lives -- according to a "police source"), a third one claimed the life of 1 police officer (five people injured), a fourth left six people injured and one late yesterday left two people wounded.

Yesterday the US State Dept released "
Country Reports on Terrorism 2009." There are 12 paragraphs in the Iraq section:

Iraq remained a committed partner in counterterrorism efforts. As a result of the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement, Iraqi security forces assumed primary responsibility for the security and stability of Iraq, with support from Multi-National Forces-Iraq. Together, U.S. and Iraqi security forces continued to make progress in combating al-Qa'ida in Iraq (AQI) and affiliated Sunni terrorist organizations, as well as Shiite militia elements engaged in terrorism. A significant reduction in the number of security incidents throughout much of Iraq, beginning in the last half of 2007, continued through 2009, with a steady downward trend in numbers of civilian casualties, enemy attacks, and improvised explosive device (IED) attacks.
Still, terrorist organizations and insurgent groups continued their attacks on Iraqi security forces, civilians, and government officials using IEDs, including vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), and suicide bombers. Although a scattering of small scale attacks continued to hamper the country's progress toward broad-based security, terrorist elements focused their efforts on high-profile and deadly attacks in Baghdad, as demonstrated by attacks on August 19, October 25, and December 8. The three sets of attacks targeted Iraqi government buildings with simultaneous, multiple suicide and/or remote-detonated VBIEDs in Baghdad. While AQI claimed responsibility for the violence, some Iraqi government officials publicly blamed Syrian-based individuals with alleged ties to the former Baath Party.
U.S. forces conducted full spectrum operations with the Iraqi forces to defeat the evolving threats employed by AQI. Their efforts to defeat AQI cells, in addition to an increasingly violence-weary Iraqi public, forced AQI elements to consolidate in Ninewa and Diyala provinces. Despite being limited to smaller bases of operation within Iraq, AQI retained networks in and around Baghdad and in eastern Anbar. In Ninewa, U.S. and Iraqi security forces focused efforts against AQI and other Sunni extremists through operations targeting warranted individuals and judicial detentions of senior leaders, and targeted the terrorists' operational support systems. AQI, whose apparent goal in 2009 was to discredit the Iraqi government and erode its security and governance capabilities, targeted primarily the Iraqi security forces, government infrastructure, Sons of Iraq (SOI) groups, and tribal awakening movement members. Despite the improved security environment, AQI, fueled in part by former detainees, still possessed the capacity to launch high-profile attacks against Iraqi civilians and infrastructure.
In addition to reducing the strength of AQI and Sunni extremists, Iraq made progress in containing other terrorist groups with differing motives, such as Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqah al-Naqshabandiyah (a Sunni nationalist insurgent group with links to the former Baath Party that advocates the removal of occupation forces from Iraq) and Kata'ib Hizballah (a Shia militant group with ideological ties to the militant wing of Hizballah).
The flow of foreign terrorists from North Africa and other Middle Eastern countries greatly diminished, although they continued to enter Iraq, predominantly through Syria. AQI and its Sunni extremist partners mainly used Iraqi nationals, including some females, as suicide bombers. Terrorist groups receiving weapons and training from Iran continued to endanger the security and stability of Iraq; however, incidents of such violence were lower than in previous years. Many of the groups receiving ideological and logistical support from Iran were based in Shia communities in central and southern Iraq.
Iraq, Turkey, and the United States continued their formal trilateral security dialogue as one element of ongoing cooperative efforts to counter the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Iraqi leaders, including those from the Kurdistan Regional Government, continued to publicly state that the PKK was a terrorist organization and would not be allowed a safe haven in Iraq. The trilateral discussions and other efforts continued through the end of the year, with a ministerial in late December.
The Iraqi government increased its efforts to garner regional and international support against terrorism. The Expanded Neighbors Process continued to provide a forum for Iraq and its neighbors to address Iraq's political and security challenges in a regional context. In October, the Iraqi government sent representatives to Egypt to participate in the sixth Neighbors Process working group on border security, in which the group sought ways to enhance and integrate border security systems in preparation for Iraq's 2010 parliamentary elections. Iraq also became a more active voice at the UN in 2009.
The Iraqi government pressed senior Iranian leaders to end support for lethal aid to Iraqi militias, and the Iraqi army carried out operations against extremists trained and equipped by Iran in Basra, Baghdad, and other areas. Although attacks by militants have sharply decreased, concerns remain that Iranian-supported Shia groups may be stockpiling weapons to influence the elections or the subsequent government formation. Shia militant groups' ties to Iran remained a diplomatic and security challenge and a threat to Iraq's long-term stability. National unity efforts to involve Iraqi Shia groups with Iranian ties, such as Asaib ahl al Haq (League of Righteousness) in the political process, decreased Shia-linked violence.
The Iraqi government faced internal and external pressure to relocate the Mujahadeen-e Khalq (MEK) organization, a U.S. designated foreign terrorist organization, from the group's current location in eastern Iraq. The Iraqi government committed to act with respect for human rights in any efforts to relocate the group, and UN and international observers monitored the situation.
The Iraqi government attributed security gains to Iraqi security force capability and proficiency, as well as to increasing popular support for Iraqi government actions against AQI and other extremist groups. SOI and other groups provided U.S. and Iraqi forces with valuable information that helped disrupt terrorist operations and exposed large weapons caches. The SOI began integration into Iraqi security forces in 2008, and many more transitioned to non-security ministries throughout 2009. Sunni tribal awakening movements continued alliances with U.S. forces against AQI and extremist groups. AQI targeting of Christian and other minority churches, schools, and institutions indicated that AQI pursued strategies that required the least resources and yielded the highest payoff in the media and minds of Iraq's citizens. Despite this, ethno-sectarian violence continued to decline.
On June 30, U.S. combat troops pulled out of cities, villages, and localities, in accordance with the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement, and after that conducted all kinetic operations in partnership with Iraqi security forces. The focus of U.S. operations moved from urban to rural areas where international support will remain critical for the Iraqi government to build its capacity to fight terrorist organizations. All U.S. military operations are conducted with the agreement of and in partnership with Iraqi authorities.
Iraq's intelligence services continued to improve in both competency and confidence but will require ongoing support and legislative authority before they will be able to adequately identify and respond to internal and external terrorist threats.


Meanwhile an Iraq War veteran remains imprisoned in Iraq. Danny Fitzsimons served in the British military for eight years and was stationed in Afghanistan and Kosovo as well as Iraq. He returned to Iraq last fall as a British contractor, or mercenary,
accused of being the shooter in a Sunday, August 9th Green Zone incident in which 1 British contractor, Paul McGuigan, and 1 Australian contractor, Darren Hoare, died and one Iraqi, Arkhan Madhi, was injured. From yesterday's snapshot:PA quotes Danny stating, "I'm making a direct plea to Mr Cameron asking him, telling him that it's a disgrace that I'm here. I served nine years for Queen and Country and I served another five years serving big British business in Iraq, you know. So, in a way that's five years serving the country as well. [. . .] I should be in hospital in Britian, in a mental hospital getting the treatment that I need. You know, I shouldn't be in a dungeon in Baghdad. Worst case scenario is guilty and death by hanging. I don't want to die. I don't want to end it here." Chris Jones, Peter Devine and Sunday Mirror reporters (Manchester Evening News) quotes Danny's step-mother Liz Fitzsimons stating, "Eric is on anti-depressants because of the terrible conditions Danny is behind held in, and it has all been a very, very stressful situation with no end in sight. Danny feels like he has been abandoned by the military. Some of the people who have been held in Iraqi prisons, and whom we have spokenw ith, have said they would rather face the death penalty than serve a life sentence in those conditions. Mentally, it must be a very, very tough for Danny because he is not being allowed outside, not getting adequate food and water and he is sharing a cell with 17 others who don't speak English, and we are very concerned. He is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder."Amnesty International issued the following yesterday:Responding to a new televised appeal to David Cameron made by Danny Fitzsimons, the British security contractor detained in Iraq and awaiting trial for murder, Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock said:"It's obviously right that private military and security contractors are made fully responsible for any alleged wrongdoing when they're working in places like Iraq, but we're very concerned about this case."Iraq has an appalling record of unfair capital trials and there's a definite danger of Danny Fitzsimons being sentenced to death after a shoddy judicial process."David Cameron should certainly seek assurances from the Iraqi authorities that Mr Fitzsimons will receive a fair trial and that the death penalty will be ruled out from the beginning."Iraq is one of the biggest users of the death penalty in the world. Last year Iraq executed at least 120 people, the third highest of any country in the world. Approximately 1,000 prisoners are currently on death row, many reportedly close to execution.

TV notes. On PBS'
Washington Week, Joan Biskupic (USA Today), Gloria Borger (CNN) and Eamon Javers (CNBC) join Gwen around the table. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is "What's to Celebrate, Mr. President?" This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with a number of female panelist on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. Need To Know is PBS' new program covering current events. This week's hour long broadcast (Fridays on most PBS stations -- but check local listings) features a discussion on WikiLeaks, the Gulf Disaster, prison reform and more. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

The Cost of DyingMany Americans spend their last days in an intensive care unit, subjected to uncomfortable machines or surgeries to prolong their lives at enormous cost. Steve Kroft reports.
Watch Video
The PatriarchEcumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the leader of the 300 million-member Orthodox Christian Church, feels "crucified" living in Turkey under a government he says would like to see his nearly 2,000-year-old Patriarchate die out. Bob Simon reports. Watch Video
Chef Jose AndresPioneering Chef Jose Andres takes Anderson Cooper's taste buds on a savory tour of his culinary laboratory, featuring his avant-garde cooking technique, molecular gastronomy. Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, August 8, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

iraq
nprall things considered
the washington postmaria goldthe associated pressmeg jonesusa todaytom vanden brook
need to know
60 minutescbs newsto the contrarybonnie erbe
washington week
nprthe diane rehm show

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Terry Gross just don't know

Terry Gross, if she were smart -- we know she isn't -- would stick to ProPublica guests when covering news stories.

Yesterday, she had AC Thompson on Fresh Air to talk about Hurricane Katrina murders done by the police. Excerpt:

GROSS: Is there a possibility that the leadership in the city, in their attempts to maintain a lawful atmosphere and to prevent anarchy from breaking out, gave orders that were interpreted too harshly by some cops who were maybe too ready to pull the trigger when they thought somebody was a looter?
Mr. THOMPSON: That is an ongoing question. That is something that we are still really trying to figure out. What we have been told by many people is that officers were instructed by higher-ups in the department to quote-unquote "take the city back," to go after looters with extreme prejudice, to use force in contexts that wouldn't normally be lawful, that normally if you are going to use deadly force, you need to be threatened with deadly force yourself as a police officer. You can't just shoot somebody willy-nilly who's stealing something. And it's been alleged to us that that's what was going on at that time period.
Now, other people, other officers, higher-ups in the department, say that's definitely not true, that that did not happen. And so for us, that's something that we're still trying to wrestle with, is why did these shootings occur and what happened in the chain of command that might have triggered them.
Eleven people were shot in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. And when you look at those shootings, there are a lot of disturbing similarities that make you wonder both about the mindset of officers at that time and the possibility that orders were given that gave officers the belief that they could use deadly force in ways that they wouldn't normally use it in peacetime, in a non-catastrophe situation.
As well, the mayor said we have martial law in effect right now, which might have affected police officers and made them think oh, the normal rules of engagement have changed.
The governor said: I'm sending in all these military troops, and they're locked and loaded, and they're going to shoot people if they have to. And so there may well have been a mindset with officers at that time that, hey, the normal rules are out the window. You do what you got to do.


That should have been the entire show.

In another indication that Terry doesn't know what she's doing, it was less than 30 minutes.

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

Thursday, August 5, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee considers bills and amendments, governmental proxy weigh in to note their distaste for WikiLeaks, military and veterans suicides continue at an alarming rate, and more.

Today in the US, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a mark up hearing on various bills. Senator Daniel Akaka is the Chair of the Committee, Senator Richard Burr is the Ranking Member of the minority party. Chair Akaka opened the hearing declaring, "Now that we have a quorum of nine, I invite a motion to proceed to the agenda items and according to tradition we'll vote on the agenda items and then as long as five members remain present including one member of the minority amendments will be in order." Senator Jay Rockefeller made the motion to proceed. After it was unamiously approved, Chair Akaka noted the importance of the process and that any amendments to the bills would result in his seeking additional input from all the stakeholders in the system. Ranking Member Richard Burr spoke out against the tuition stipend in the Post-9/11 GI Bill which some people find -- his terms" "unweildy, confusing and unpredictable." He didn't state it but there are some who find it unfair. (There are also some veterans who have no problem with it.)
Kat will, as usual, cover a unique remark by Burr and he had one today so check her site. Ava's going to blog at Trina's site tonight to note Senator Scott Brown.
For an overview, we'll note that Chair Daniel Akaka's office issued the following release on the hearing today:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, chaired by Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), approved comprehensive legislation to help veterans find jobs, simplify and improve the Post-9/11 GI Bill, get disabled veterans accurate and timely compensation, and make various improvements to VA health care.

"We must never forget that the care and benefits veterans have earned is a cost of war, and must be treated as such. I am pleased with the bipartisan input that has produced these bills, and I will work with my colleagues to move them forward during this session of Congress," said Akaka. Chairman Akaka's full opening statement is available
here.
The Committee approved the following bills:

S. 3234, Veteran Employment Assistance Act of 2010 (Committee Print, as amended). To improve employment, training, and placement services furnished to veterans, especially those serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, and for other purposes.

S. 3447, Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010 (Committee Print). To amend title 38, United States Code, to improve educational assistance for those who served in the Armed Forces after September 11, 2001, and for other purposes.

S. 3517, Claims Processing Improvement Act of 2010 (Committee Print, as amended). To amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the processing of claims for disability compensation filed with the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.

S. 3325, Veterans Telehealth and other Care Improvements Act of 2010 (Committee Print, as amended). To improve the quality of health care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, to increase access to health care and benefits provided by the Department, to authorize major medical facility construction projects of the Department, and for other purposes.

S. 3107, Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2010. To amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for an increase, effective December 1, 2010, in the rates of compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities and the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation for the survivors of certain disabled veterans, and for other purposes.

S. 3609. A bill to extend the temporary authority for the performance of medical disability examinations by contract physicians for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

An original bill -- S. ____ (Committee Print, as amended). To amend title 38, United States Code, to improve Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance and Veterans' Group Life Insurance and to modify the provision of compensation and pension to surviving spouses of veterans in the months of the deaths of the veterans, and for other purposes.

The bills approved today will be reported to the full Senate for consideration. For a copy of today's agenda, testimony and webcast, visit
veterans.senate.gov.
END
Kawika Riley
Communications Director and Legislative Assistant
U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs
Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman
http://veterans.senate.gov

S. 3234, the Veterans Employment Assistance Act of 2010 had an amendment attached to it by Burr. Akaka noted he wasn't sure he could support it. Rockefeller noted his opposition to the Burris amendment and Senator Sherrod Brown introduced a new amendment on behalf of himself, Senators Patty Murray, Rockefeller, Bernie Sanders, Senator Roland Burris and Senator Arlen Specter regarding VA employees collective bargaining abilities. We'll note this portion of exchange.

Chair Daniel Akaka: Is there any objection to making this a separate bill?

Senator Jay Rockefeller: Mr. Chairman, when you say a separate bill, does that mean it would not be -- couldn't be accepted as an amendment?

Chair Daniel Akaka: Well I feel that this is an important question that you raise here. We're only trying to skip a procedural role call vote. What I'm asking is if we can agree to debate this amendment individually? And of course, you will have an opportunity to speak and propose an amendment to this.

Senator Jay Rockefeller: Mr. Chairman, I don't mean to be anymore obnoxious than I usually am, but I thought that's what mark-ups were for?

Chair Daniel Akaka: Yes, Senator Rockefeller. We would like to separate this so that we can handle it separately and not be --

Senator Sherrod Brown: Mr. Chairman, I understand Senator Rockefeller's at least partial reservation. I know he's a co-sponsor of the amendment. Does the stand-alone -- I understand the stand-alone would make its chances of becoming a law greater then if it's part of a bill that there may be some objections to pay-fors on the floor and all of that. There won't be -- I assume there won't be those kind of objections on this. I'll do whatever the Chairman wants.

Chair Daniel Akaka: Senator?

Senator Jon Tester: Chairman, I support it as an amendment or a stand-alone bill so I ask unamious consent to be added to it as a co-sponsor. Secondly, if it increases the possibility of passage as a stand-alone, I support that. If it increases the passage of an amendment, I would support that. So as a co-sponsor of the bill I will go with whatever expedites it the quickest.

Chair Daniel Akaka: Any other comments?Senator Jay Rockefeller: Mr. Chairman --

Chair Daniel Akaka: Mr. Rockefeller.

Senator Jay Rockefeller: -- I would withdraw my comments. It is my understanding that this would make it easier to make it become law because of negotiations with the House.

Chair Daniel Akaka: Are there any objections to separating this bill? . . . So no objections, it will be separated. Let me further say that there is merit to this amendment of Senator Brown's I agree that employees should be allowed to grieve as has been mentioned over correct compensation to which they are entitled. So let me call on any further comments. Senator Burr?

Ranking Member Richard Burr: Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, I understand the intent behind the amendment. But I'm worried that we are flying blind here without having the views of the administration and others on how this amendment might impact providing care to veterans. As you know, Title 38, employees can bargain over everything except matters concerning (1) the professional conduct or competence, (2) peer review or (3) employee compensation. Senator Brown's amendment would make all compensation matters except basic rates of pay open to collective bargaining. Here are my concerns. The law granting only certain collective bargaining rights to VA employees has not been amended in 20 years. Doing so without views and without an impact assessment concerns me greatly. In this Congress, and in the last Congress, we had bills proposing to expand collective bargaining rights, both the prior administration and the current one strongly objected arguing patient care would suffer. I understand your amendment is narrower in scope. But I'm still concerned that it would have unintended consequences on care. Here's a brief list of items under your amendment which would be open to collective bargaining: market pay, performace pay, premium pay, on-call pay, [. . .] special salary rates, requirement and retention and bonuses and nurse locality pay. Are we prepared to say that we understand how extending the ability to collective bargaining over these matters will effect operations of the VA health care system? What about the cost associated with doing this? What effect does this have on our veterans health care? Do we know any of the answers to those questions? Again, I truly believe we're legislating without all the facts. Therefore, I would urge my colleagues to oppose this amendment and to wait until we have an opportunity to have some of the answers to these questions.

Chair Daniel Akaka: Senator Brown, did you --

Senator Sherrod Brown: Yes. Let me give you an example of what -why this amendment matters. A nurse in Buffalo worked all weekend to deliver H1N1 vaccines to veterans. It wasn't her normal shift, she should have been entitled by contract to 25% additional pay. She had stepped forward for work that weekend because she wanted veterans to have access to flu shots and they worked during the week. She stepped forward to assist those workers on the weekend. On her paycheck, it didn't reflect the premium pay she was entitled to. She asked her union to help out but was told she couldn't grieve this issue through the union. Now that speaks pretty clearly that this is amendment is narrow and it doesn't make any changes -- It changes the compensation exclusion in the law. It doesn't make changes to the other two exclusions: peer review and direct patient care. It has no impact -- absolutely no impact -- on management's right to determine the best medical procedures or practices for the patient.

And it continued. And we're noting it because half the hearing was spent on this. Was there really a need, for example, for Akaka's motives to be questioned? Did anyone think the Chair was secretly plotting to torpedo the proposal? Part of the exchange was give-and-take, fine. Part of it was just time wasted.

A roll call vote was called with Senators Rockefeller, Murray, Bernie Sanders (by proxy), Brown, Jim Webb, (by proxy), Tester, Mark Begich, Burris, Arlen Specter (by proxy) and Chair Akaka voting yes; Burr, Johnny Iaskson, Roger Wicker (by proxy), Mike Johanns (by proxy), Scott Brown and Lindsey Graham (by proxy) voted no. In other words, the vote was strictly on party lines.

We'll come back to the topic of veterans in a moment. Switching to today's violence in Iraq . . .

Bombings?

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing which wounded one police officer. Reuters notes a Ramadi car bombing in which 1 person was killed and three were wounded.

Shooting?

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 people shot dead (eight more wounded) at a Baghdad currency exchange, a Wednesday night home invasion in which 1 police officer 'His wife and a guest" were shot dead, 1 police officer shot dead Wednesday night on the streets of Baghdad and an attack on a Mosul checkpoint today in which 1 assailant was killed. Reuters notes an attack on a Sahwa checkpoint in Thar-Thar which resulted in the death of 3 Sahwa (two more injured), a Yathrib attack on Sahwa in which three bodyguards for a Sahwa leader were wounded and one police officer wounded in a Kirkuk attack.

An Iraq War veteran remains a prisoner in Iraq. Danny Fitzsimons continues to await trial in Iraq. He served in the British military for eight years and was stationed in Afghanistan and Kosovo as well as Iraq. He returned to Iraq last fall as a British contractor, or mercenary,
accused of being the shooter in a Sunday, August 9th Green Zone incident in which 1 British contractor, Paul McGuigan, and 1 Australian contractor, Darren Hoare, died and one Iraqi, Arkhan Madhi, was injured. PA quotes Danny stating, "I'm making a direct plea to Mr Cameron asking him, telling him that it's a disgrace that I'm here. I served nine years for Queen and Country and I served another five years serving big British business in Iraq, you know. So, in a way that's five years serving the country as well. [. . .] I should be in hospital in Britian, in a mental hospital getting the treatment that I need. You know, I shouldn't be in a dungeon in Baghdad. Worst case scenario is guilty and death by hanging. I don't want to die. I don't want to end it here." Chris Jones, Peter Devine and Sunday Mirror reporters (Manchester Evening News) quotes Danny's step-mother Liz Fitzsimons stating, "Eric is on anti-depressants because of the terrible conditions Danny is behind held in, and it has all been a very, very stressful situation with no end in sight. Danny feels like he has been abandoned by the military. Some of the people who have been held in Iraqi prisons, and whom we have spokenw ith, have said they would rather face the death penalty than serve a life sentence in those conditions. Mentally, it must be a very, very tough for Danny because he is not being allowed outside, not getting adequate food and water and he is sharing a cell with 17 others who don't speak English, and we are very concerned. He is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder."


"They gave me a gun" he said
"They gave me a mission
For the power and the glory
Propaganda piss on 'em
There's a war zone inside me
I can feel things exploding
I can't even hear the f**king music playing
For the beat of, the beat of black wings"
[. . .]
"They want you they need you
They train you to kill
To be a pin on some map
Some vicarious thrill
The old hate the young
That's the whole heartless thing
The old pick the wars
We die in 'em
To the beat of, the beat of black wings"
-- "The Beat Of Black Wings," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Chalk Mark In a Rainstorm

WLBT reports an Iraq War veteran claimed up a Vaiden, Mississippi water tower and the police, fire, sheriff's department talked him down after eight hours: "The mother of the war veteran says upon his return from service in Iraq, he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia." At the end of last month, the Army released a report on suicides.
Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times) reported, "At a time of record-high military suicides, commanders are ignoring the mental health problems of American soldiers and not winnowing out enough of those with records of substance abuse and crime, a United States Army report has concluded." The report was 234 pages of text entitled [PDF format warning] "ARMY: Health Promotion Risk Reduction Suicide Prevention REPORT 2010." And as July drew to a close, James Dao (New York Times -- link has text and video) reported on and from a Department of Veterans Affairs Suicide Prevention Hot Line (1-800-273-TALK) center where Melanie Poorman was speaking to an Iraq War veteran with a loaded gun, watching a movie that had triggered memories of the war, "Over here, Rebecca talked to a drunken man who was seeing people he had killed. Over there, Katie was on the line with a bipolar man having nightmares. Across the room, Virginia tried to calm a man who had refused to take his medications and was threatening to run headlong into traffic." The rate of suicides among military and veteran population has reached crisis status. The Louisville Courier-Journal editorial board noted this week, "Sometimes, the fallout of war on the warriors isn't known for a long time. That is not the case for some of the men and women who are fighting in the long wars of Iraq and Afghanistan. If they haven't yet captured the attention of the American public, the suicide rates in the U.S. Army have sounded alarms among veterans groups, as well among those, belatedly, in the active-duty military." "Today, Mark Walker (North County Times) reports the Marines have released their suicide date for the month of July and they've found seven attempted suicides and "six suspected" ones. Walker explains that the total number of confirmed suicides this year thus far is 28 (52 was the number last year for the Marines -- the number of suicides in the Army last year was 160). Jim Vines (Lake Country Sun) writes, "Consider the facts: earlier this spring, troubling data showed an average of 950 suicide attempts by veternas who are receiving some type of treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Seven percent of the attempts were successful, and 11 percent of those who didn't succeed on the first attempt tried again within nine months. There are about 18 veteran suicides a day and approximately five by vets receiving VA care." Iraq War veteran Sgt Daniel Cotnoir tells Yadira Betances (Eagle Tribune), "It has to do with the guilt factor, that you survived and your buddy didn't." Jacob G. Hornberger (MWC News) states of military suicides, "The most popular explanations are war stress and stress at home. I've got another possible cause: guilt, arising from the wrongful killing of other human beings." Vietnam veteran Julian Garcia (Register-Pajaronian) writes, "Many of our Vietnam brothers chose to take their own lives rather than endure the horrors they had seen or committed. [. . .] What we Americans are seeing is that our young people are not prepared to handle the mental challenges presented by continual exposure to combat with an enemy that you cannot see. Hundreds are choosing to end their lives rather than endure the horrors of war over and over again." Garcia goes on to advise:

For those veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, please don't do to yourselves what we Vietnam veterans did. You need to talk about your experiences. If you do not seek help through the Veterans Administration then come to the
American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars posts in your city or town. There you will find veterans who can relate to you, someone who has been there and done that, yet found the inner strength to overcome and succeed in life. You are not alone. It is when you feel alone that you lose what is most precious -- yourself.
Staying on the topic of Iraq War veterans,
Bradley Manning. Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Philip Shenon (Daily Beast) reported last month that the US government is attempting to track down WikiLeaks' Julian Assange. This month, the military charged Manning. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported last month that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning is now in Virginia, under military lock and key and still not allowed to speak to the press. The Bradley Manning Support Network is organizing a rally for this Sunday (at noon) outside the Quantico Marine Corps Base when Bradley's being held. Iraq Veterans Against the War issued the following press release:


August 3, 2010
CONTACT:
Mike Ferner, Veterans For Peace, 419-729-7273
Deb Forter, Military Families Speak Out, 617-983-0710
Jose Vasquez, Iraq Veterans Against the War, 917-587-3334
As organizations, we represent veterans and military families. We have personally carried the burden of the war in Afghanistan, along with wars past. We are glad that the truth about the war is getting out to the public with the recent 92,000 documents on Wikileaks. Hopefully, this will inspire a massive outcry against this war that is wreaking so much destruction to our exhausted and demoralized troops and their families while draining our national coffers. Obama administration officials are trying to spin events in their favor. Their words must be carefully examined. On the one hand, in an effort to downplay the significance of the release, we are told the documents contain no new information. On the other hand, some high ranking members of the U.S. military are trying to: 1) intimidate anyone else from doing the same thing and 2) turn public opinion against whoever leaked the current documents. Towards those goals, we are told that grievous harm will surely come to many Afghans and U.S. military personnel -- if not now then certainly later. A more damning statement could hardly be imagined than this one from Admiral Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "The truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family." While we certainly do not wish to see one additional person put at risk in this tragic, wrongheaded war, we must state the following as clearly as we can. As veterans and families with members in the military, we consider statements like Admiral Mullen's to be nothing more than calculated attempts to turn public attention away from the real problem – the ongoing occupation of Afghanistan that has already caused the deaths and injuries of many thousands of innocent people all the while millions of Americans are jobless and face foreclosure or eviction. This suffering in Afghanistan and this bleeding at home will continue as long as our troops remain in that country. Congress must stop funding this war. We must bring our troops home now, take care of them properly when they return and pay to rebuild the damage we have caused to Afghanistan.
# # #
Veterans For Peace is a national organization in its 25th year, with military service members from WWII and every conflict and period since then. Military Families Speak Out is an organization of people opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who have relatives or loved ones who are currently in the military or who have served in the military since the fall of 2002. Iraq Veterans Against the War is a national organization comprised of active duty, guard, and reserve troops and veterans who have served since 9/11. We call for immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, reparations to the people of those countries, and full benefits for returning service members.

Mark Hosenball (Newsweek) adds:As we reported last week, WikiLeaks is believed to be sitting on a vast archive of secret reports from U.S. forces in Iraq similar to the trove of 76,000 documents the site made public on July 25 -- but as much as three times larger. (The site has also reportedly withheld as many as 15,000 additional Afghanistan-related documents as potential security problems.) Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, who was arrested by military investigators earlier this year on charges of unauthorized downloading and disclosure of classified information, has been quoted on the techie blogs Threat Level and boingboing as referring to "a database of half a million events during the iraq war" in purported e-mail chatter.One person familiar with the Iraq cache claims that it shows U.S. forces' involvement in a "bloodbath" in that country, although some of the most controversial material may relate to alleged abusive treatment of detainees by Iraqi security forces, rather than by Americans. It is unclear who -- besides the site's Australian founder and frontman, Julian Assange -- might be involved in vetting the unreleased documents, but a source familiar with the material says more than one person is involved in the review.Patrick Martin (WSWS) reports on attacks on WikiLeaks from across the political spectrum and we'll note the ones from what passes for the left:Liberal Democrats have chimed in with their own proposals to target Wikileaks. According to a report Wednesday in the New York Times, two Senate Democrats, Charles Schumer of New York and Diane Feinstein of California, are drafting an amendment to the "media shield" legislation now being considered in Congress "to make clear that the bill's protections extend only to traditional news-gathering activities and not to web sites that serve as a conduit for the mass dissemination of secret documents."The bill was originally drafted in response to a series of cases in which reporters were jailed for refusing to disclose their sources to judges, prosecutors or plaintiffs in lawsuits. In order to avoid WikiLeaks taking advantage of such a shield law, Schumer and Feinstein want to specifically exclude whistleblower sites.The Times quoted Paul J. Boyle, senior vice president for public policy at the Newspaper Association of America, the industry trade group, endorsing such a policy, which would reserve this type of First Amendment protection for "traditional news organizations subject to American law and having editorial controls and experience in news judgment." In other words, such safeguards would be reserved to the corporate-controlled media, run by people loyal to the American ruling elite and the capitalist state.The major concern of those targeting WikiLeaks and Private Manning is that the leaks of internal government documents provide evidence to justify war crimes prosecution of US government officials, past and present. To save their own skins, they want to criminalize the exposure of these atrocities, rather than the atrocities themselves.

Meanwhile
Jeffrey M. Jones (Gallup) reports on the latest Gallop poll which finds 50% of respondents believe things are going "well" in Iraq while 48% believe things are going "badly." The survey, conducted in July, has a margin of error of plus/minus 4%.

iraq
the new york times james dao
north county timesmark walker
newsweekmark hosenballwswspatrick martin
mcclatchy newspaperssahar issa

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Terry Waste of Time Gross

Yesterday, Fresh Air (NPR) offered several solid reasons why you shouldn't bother listening.

First up, no woman has gotten 40 minutes or more while I've been listening. But yet another man got it yesterday. Brian May of the 80s rock group Queen.

If you're underwhelmed reading the previous paragraph, just trying listening to the broadcast.

The Terry Turd floating at the bottom was Geoff Nunberg (yes, another man) who offered an opinion. Or he called it that.

It was another slam on Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin used "refudiate" when she meant "repudiate." Half way into his lengthy (and boring) musings, he offers that she should have just corrected herself because it was no big deal. If it's no big deal, why he's attacking her for it? Why's he ridiculing her?

I'm so damn sick of these people, Terry Gross and all her sick friends.

They get some twisted joy of going after Palin and appear to think that we 'rabble' (Black America) are just cheering them on. No. We're really not the Palin haters. I would guess that most of us wouldn't vote for her (I wouldn't) but we don't the venum and hatred that so many White people seem to have. Sarah Palin's someone we disagree with politically but we don't hate her and sit around wishing harm on her and her family or take delight in the latest round of gossip.

I've said it before, I'll say it again, I have a lot of respect for Sarah Palin. I have zero respect for men who mock her for getting a word wrong. Next up, Geoff's going after my Aunt Debbie who says "aks" and not "asks."

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

Wednesday, August 4, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate continues, the costs of war are noticed, Barack's broken promises are as well, and more.

Today United Nations Secretary Ban Ki-moon addressed the issue of Iraq in a report the the United Nations Security Council. His [PDF format warning]
remarks included:

I am concerned with the overall human rights situation in the country, notably the high rate of indiscriminate and targeted attacks against the civilian population. Ongoing violence and targeted assassinations also continue to be reported against government officials, newly elected members of the Council of Representatives, media workers, minority and ethnic and religious groups. In May, approximately 100 Christian students travelling in buses to the University of Mosul were injured and a bystander was killed when two roadside bombs exploded as the buses passed. In April, approximately 50 civilians were killed as the result of bombings in Shi'a neighbourhoods in Baghdad. Between May and June, political figures were also the target of indiscriminate attacks: five family members, including three children, of an Awakening Council member were killed in Baghdad; a newly elected member of the Council of Representatives, Bashar Hamid al-Egaidi, was assassinated in Mosul; and a parliamentary candidate, Fares Jasim Al Jabour, was killed in his house in West Mosul on 5 June. Journalists and media workers continued to be targeted in attacks aimed at restricting freedom of expression and opinion. A 23-year-old freelance journalist, Sardasht Othman, was kidnapped outside the Salahaddin University in Erbil and was later found shot dead on 6 May near the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan office in eastern Mosul. Mr. Othman was known for his writing critical of members of the Government. KRG is currently investigating the matter.
The UNAMI Human Rights Office continued to monitor government detention centres in Kirkuk, Basra and Erbil, in which poor conditions have been reported. In the detention cenre in Basra, the Human Rights Office reported that the physical conditions of the prison did not meet minimal international standards. In another incident of concern, on 12 May, seven detainees suffocated while in transit from Al-Taji detention centre to Al-Tasfirat pretrial detention facility in Baghdad. It was reportedly the result of Iraqi army personnel transporting 100 detainees in two windowless vheicles whose capacity was for only 15 persons.

Not quite the rah-rah Barack Obama spun earlier this week. He also spoke of the political stalemate. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. It's four months and five days and,
in 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 4 months and 28 days. The Secretary-General noted:

[. . .] I am concerned that continued delays in the government formation process are contributing to a growing sense of uncertainty in the country. Not only does this risk undermining confidence in the political process, but elements opposed to Iraq's democratic transition may try to exploit the situation. The number of recent security incidents throughout Iraq, mainly in the north of the country and in Baghdad, including attacks against newly elected members of parliament and religious pilgrims, are of particular concern.
In this context, I urge all political bloc leaders to work together through an inclusive and broadly participatory process to end the present impasse. After exercising their right to vote on & March, there are high expectations among the Iraqi people that their leaders will adhere to the Constitution and ensure an orderly and peaceful transition of power. I firmly believe that this will contribute to the country's stability and the prospects for national reconciliation. In accordance with their mandate, my Special Representative and his team in UNAMI stand ready to assist.

Salam Faraj (AFP) reports that Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya is supposed to be in a better position currently as a result of the split between the Iraqi National Alliance and State of Law over Nouri's insistance that he remain prime minister. Tariq Alhomayed (Al Arabiya) ponders the stalemate:

[. . .] what is the difference between Nouri al-Maliki and Saddam Hussein? Al-Maliki is saying that Allawi won the elections by only one vote, and that he does not consider this to be an election defeat, while Saddam used to say that the Iraqis had elected him with 100 percent of the vote; therefore what is the difference between them? The most important question that must be asked here is, in this case, why did the US forces even topple Saddam Hussein, if they are going to allow another Saddam -- Nouri al-Maliki -- to rise up and appear to us and the people of Iraq, but this time with democratic cover?

Still on the stalemate, dropping back to the
April 26th snapshot: "At The Huffington Post, former Booz Allen Hamilton employee, current Truman National Security Project fellow and Georgetown PhD candidate Peter Henne advocates for Ayad Allawi as the new prime minister:" Today at the Huffington Post, he again advocates for Allawi:

This latest phase in Iraq's struggle began with March's parliamentary elections. Allawi, a secular Shiite and former Prime Minister who was initially placed in power by the United States, won a slim majority over the incumbent Nouri al-Maliki. Allawi won in part through support from secular-minded Iraqis, but also through the votes of many Sunnis -- who were wary of al-Maliki -- and divisions between al-Maliki and some of the religious parties who had been his partners. The vote was too close to call, however, and al-Maliki refused to relinquish power. The ensuing stalemate continues -- despite intervention by Vice President Biden -- resulting in sectarian tensions and
degraded government capabilities.
My arguments about the danger al-Maliki poses still hold true. Al-Maliki proved willing to stir up sectarian sentiment when it benefited him politically, then reframed himself as an Iraqi nationalist when facing opposition among some Shiites. His attempts after the election to hold on to power, which included threatening comments about his role as commander of the military and a move to disqualify some candidates in Allaawi's bloc due to reputed Baathist ties, demonstrate he is still likely to place personal advancement over Iraq's stability.
Yet, there is also much going for Allawi besides not being al-Maliki. Despite becoming Prime Minister while Iraq was under U.S. control, Allawi proved a responsible and effective leader, albeit one undone by his U.S. ties. Moreover, his Shiite identity and secular tendencies make him legitimate to a majority of Iraqis and less threatening to its Sunni and Kurdish minorities than the more Islamist al-Maliki. Finally, his Sunni-Shia coalition gives him cross-cutting appeal. This provides Sunnis a stake in the system and Allawi a disincentive to draw on sectarian tensions to increase his political standing, as this would alienate many of his supporters.

For those late to the party, you have not missed this site's endorsement. I'm not an Iraqi. Their leader is a decision for them to make. Nouri is a thug and he's always been a thug and we've called him out since he first showed up as the compromise candidate. Iraq would be a lot better off if Nouri were out of office for a number of reasons. But other than that, we're not making any calls because the issue goes to Iraq to decide. That should not be read as, everybody kick back and relax. The White House has done an awful job of helping to resolve this crisis. Iraq continues to receive money from the US and it continues to receive special status that other countries (Iran, for one) do not. It would be very easy to convey that if talks are not conducted and a leader not chosen quickly, certain favors and actions will be placed on hold. The US could have done that and should have done it. Long gone are the White House claims that Iraq would install a new government long before the August drawdown. Does the press even remember those claims? They don't appear to.

But instead of the White House doing the above, insisting that the groups come up with a leader, they've interfered. It's one thing to say, "We'll take this back, we'll place this on hold." That's fine. It's another to say, "You will choose this person." And, as
UPI again reminds today, the White House continues to insist that a deal must be worked out (okay so far) which allows Nouri and Allawi to share power.

No, no such deal MUST be worked out. In fact, such a deal isn't even genuinely possible in Iraq's Constitution. Part of the reason for the stalemate has been that instead of putting pressure for parties to come to a decision, the US government has felt the need to tell Iraqis, "This is what your decision will be." That's how colonialism worked (or 'worked') and how empire works (or 'works') but it's not how democracy works.

Since the White House appears to have forgotten the Iraqi Constitution (or maybe Barack never knew it -- Joe Biden used to know it), let's go over how it works. Parliamentary elections are held. Votes are counted and certified. The political slate or party receiving the most votes has first crack at forming a government. They need 163 seats in Parliament to become the ruling government. If they get that either due to the results of the Parliamentary elections or due to being able to assemble a power-sharing government with other slates and parties, then that's that. If not? First crack only. If, after the first attempt, others want to form their own, that's fine. It's a scramble and whomever can get to the magic number first (163) is the government. That's how it works. It's a winner take all system. There is nothing in the Constitution about "You be prime minister this year, then I'll be prime minister. We'll share the term."

By insisting that Nouri and Allawi enter into such an agreement, the US government is sending a number of messages and none of them are appropriate. The most irresponsible message is: If you don't like what the Constitution says, just ignore it. The March elections were only the second Parliamentary elections since the start of the Iraq War. If the Constitution is being tossed aside now, don't expect it to last through a third round or Parliamentary elections.

By insisting that Nouri and Allawi enter into a power-sharing arrangement, the US is also guaranteeing Nouri a seat at the table -- the government table, not the formation. And yet one of the biggest stumbling blocs has been Nouri. State Of Law was supposed to trounce everyone and come in far ahead of the others. That didn't happen and the fact that it didn't happen is a reflection of the will of the Iraqi people. The will of the bulk of Iraqi leaders is that Nouri needs to go. That's why the alliance between State of Law and the Iraqi National Alliance just collapsed. As Iraqi leaders work to convey the message of the people (as well as their own message) that Nouri's not welcome, the US government should not be demanding that Nouri get a spot in the new government.

And to be clear, my criticism above is of the White House and the 'leadership' provided by Barack Obama. Peter Henne can have any opinion he wants and is free to express it (and, having expressed it, he's open to any and all criticism -- that's life in the public square). I'm not slamming him for his opinion and I'm not endorsing his opinion.

Right or wrong, many feel that the political stalemate has resulted in increased rates of violence in Iraq.

Bombings?

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing late last night left "two traffic police" injured and a Shirqat roadside bombing left one Iraqi soldier wounded.

Shootings?

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 police officer was shot dead in Baghdad early this morning while Sahwa member Mohammed Abu al Jeez was shot dead in Diyala Province.

Well over one million Iraqis have died since the start of the illegal war. Iraq is a nation of one million widows.
Some of the widows share their story with BBC News and we will note Adawyia Mutar Hussein:


I lost my husband while I was pregnant with our daughter, who is now six years old. She became fatherless even before she was born.
My husband was killed in 2004 in a family dispute and left me with two daughters to take care of, alone. I have tried to get my husband's entitlements but no-one seemed to help, neither the government nor my family.
My first source of income is from my neighbours and well-wishers who collect money for me every now and again. My second source is from working as a cleaner at party and wedding venues.
More than half of my income goes on rent for the house that I live in at the moment, which consists of one room. I currently live with my two daughters and my 35-year-old orphaned nephew who is completely disabled.
We want only one thing from the government, and that is a small piece of land to build the simplest house just to keep the family all together under one roof.

Barack didn't speak to or of the Iraqi widows in his 'big speech' at the start of the week.
Dale McFeatters (Scripps Howard News Service) observes, "Obama will be giving a series of speeches this month, drawing attention to the fact that his administration had met the Aug. 31 deadline 'as promised and on schedule.' But Operation Iraqi Freedom has left behind a familiar litany of problems -- armed Shiite and Sunni gangs, Kurdish separatists in the north, a meddling Iran on its borders, al-Qaida seeking to regain a foothold ,and dysfunctional power grids and oilfields." Abdel-Karim Abedl-Jabbar tells Anthony Shadid (New York Times), "Wherever the Americans go, the situation is going to stay the same as it was. If anything, it's going to deteriorate. The peace Obama's talking about is the peace of the Green Zone." But did Barack keep his promise? Gareth Porter (IPS via Asia Times) provides a walk-through:

That statement was in line with the pledge he had made onFebruary 27, 2009, when he said, "Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end."In the sentence preceding that pledge, however, he had said, "I have chosen a timeline that will remove our combat brigades over the next 18 months." Obama said nothing in his speech on Monday about withdrawing "combat brigades" or "combat troops" from Iraq until the end of 2011.Even the concept of "ending the US combat mission" may be highly misleading, much like the concept of "withdrawing US combat brigades" was in 2009.Under the administration's definition of the concept, combat operations will continue after August 2010, but will be defined as the secondary role of US forces in Iraq. The primary role will be to "advise and assist" Iraqi forces.An official who spoke with Inter Press Service (IPS) on condition that his statements would be attributed to a "senior administration official" acknowledged that the 50,000 US troops remaining in Iraq beyond the deadline would have the same combat capabilities as the combat brigades that have been withdrawn.

Thomas R. Eddlem (New American) also questions the claims put forward by Barack Obama on Monday:

Part of that "transition" to civilian control is the construction of a new U.S. army in Iraq managed by the State Department rather than the Defense Department. The U.S. military's Stars and Stripes magazine
announced on July 21: "Already, however, the State Department's requests to the Pentagon for Black Hawk helicopters; 50 mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles; fuel trucks; high-tech surveillance systems; and other military gear has encountered flak on Capitol Hill."
And Obama's announced withdrawal does not include the army of private security contractors employed by the United States in Iraq. National Public Radio
reported on August 3 that the "Pentagon estimates about 86,000 private contractors in Iraq and more than half of those contractors are American."

There's much in the exchange to note but the most telling moment may have been at the end. Melissa Block asked, "And, Tom, another deadline coming up at the end of next year, 2011, when every U.S. soldier is supposed to be out of Iraq. Is that a realistic timetable?" Once upon a time the only answer -- remember how we were lied to? -- was the SOFA means the US leaves!!!! Remember Jar-Jar Blinks and all the other liars -- many of whom have attacked this site for stating the obvious and providing a legal analysis of the SOFA from the start (one that is and was accurate)? Tom Bowman replied, "You know, many people I talk with say it's not realistic. That deadline is part of a deal signed two years ago by the U.S. and Iraq, and we may see that agreement renegotiated. That's because the Iraqis will still need these trainers, logistics help, maybe even security help at the end of 2011. So the sense is some number of soldiers will end up remaining, not to mention American contractors." The SOFA replaced the UN mandate. Another agreement will replace the SOFA, that's a given. Whether or not it allows for US forces in Iraq is the only question.

Along with all the deaths, the Iraq War has had other costs. "So thinking about the war in Iraq, America, you already bought it -- but do you have any of the price?" John Hockenberry asked that question today on
PRI's The Takeaway. He and Lynn Sherr (sitting in for Celeste Headlee) spoke to economist Linda Blimes.

John Hockenberry: You know, when we spoke quite awhile ago, your estimates [for the financial cost of war] were theoretical. We're much less theoretical now. Is there a running tally of what's actually gone out the door and -- versus what we're committed to?

Linda Blimes: Well I think that people are familiar with the fact that we've already spent close to a trillion dollars in real terms on combat operations in Iraq. But what is less well known is that there are still trillions of dollars of costs more that we have already incurred but not yet paid out. So drawing down the number of troops doesn't save nearly as much money as you would think.

John Hockenberry: And when you say what we're committed to, when you say trillions, is that two trillions or is that going to be six trilliion? You know, you used plural.

Linda Blimes: Well when you think about the costs that we still have ahead -- There are several costs which are going to add. We have estimated a minimum of two trillion dollars more ahead. And first of all we should just be clear that we're still going to have 50,000 troops or so in Iraq for the next year and a half.

John Hockenberry: Right.

Linda Blimes: And we also have troops, thousands of troops stationed in Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar and our Navy ships in the region who are not being withdrawn and who are supporting them. So it costs billions of dollars every month just to keep them there. But there are at least five big costs that are still ahead. First of all veterans disability claims.

John Hockenberry: Right.

Linda Blimes: And two million US troops have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and already about 450,000 of those who have returned have filed for disability compensation.

John Hockenberry: And that's a huge fraction.

Linda Blimes: I mean, that is huge fraction because --

John Hockenberry: It's 20%.

Linda Blimes: Well it's more than that because half of the troops are still deployed.

John Hockenberry: There you go.

Linda Blimes: So it's about 40%.

John Hockenberry: Wow.

Linda Blimes: And the vast majority of these claims will be approved and the government will be paying out benefits for many decades.

Lynn Sherr: And you're saying that figure is not counted in up front? That's a -- that's a lag figure?

Linda Blimes: That is a lag figure, that's a good way of putting it. That is not counted up front. Even though we know from previous wars that the peak year for paying out disability payment comes many, many decades later. But in this war we have fortunately a much higher survival rate, so that means we have a much higher rate of those who are wounded or for whom something happens to them during their period of service.

PRI's The Takeaway continues their week-long look at Iraq tomorrow with a focus on the Kurdistan region. Staying on the topic of Iraq War veterans, Bradley Manning. Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Philip Shenon (Daily Beast) reported last month that the US government is attempting to track down WikiLeaks' Julian Assange. This month, the military charged Manning. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported last month that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning is now in Virginia, under military lock and key and still not allowed to speak to the press. The Bradley Manning Support Network is organizing a rally for this Sunday (at noon) outside the Quantico Marine Corps Base when Bradley's being held. Military Families Speak out has issued the following press release:


August 3, 2010


CONTACT:
Mike Ferner, Veterans For Peace, 419-729-7273
Deb Forter, Military Families Speak Out, 617-983-0710
Jose Vasquez, Iraq Veterans Against the War, 917-587-3334
As organizations, we represent veterans and military families. We have personally carried the burden of the war in Afghanistan, along with wars past. We are glad that the truth about the war is getting out to the public with the recent 92,000 documents on Wikileaks. Hopefully, this will inspire a massive outcry against this war that is wreaking so much destruction to our exhausted and demoralized troops and their families while draining our national coffers. Obama administration officials are trying to spin events in their favor. Their words must be carefully examined. On the one hand, in an effort to downplay the significance of the release, we are told the documents contain no new information. On the other hand, some high ranking members of the U.S. military are trying to: 1) intimidate anyone else from doing the same thing and 2) turn public opinion against whoever leaked the current documents. Towards those goals, we are told that grievous harm will surely come to many Afghans and U.S. military personnel -- if not now then certainly later. A more damning statement could hardly be imagined than this one from Admiral Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "The truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family." While we certainly do not wish to see one additional person put at risk in this tragic, wrongheaded war, we must state the following as clearly as we can. As veterans and families with members in the military, we consider statements like Admiral Mullen's to be nothing more than calculated attempts to turn public attention away from the real problem – the ongoing occupation of Afghanistan that has already caused the deaths and injuries of many thousands of innocent people all the while millions of Americans are jobless and face foreclosure or eviction. This suffering in Afghanistan and this bleeding at home will continue as long as our troops remain in that country. Congress must stop funding this war. We must bring our troops home now, take care of them properly when they return and pay to rebuild the damage we have caused to Afghanistan.
# # #
Veterans For Peace is a national organization in its 25th year, with military service members from WWII and every conflict and period since then. Military Families Speak Out is an organization of people opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who have relatives or loved ones who are currently in the military or who have served in the military since the fall of 2002. Iraq Veterans Against the War is a national organization comprised of active duty, guard, and reserve troops and veterans who have served since 9/11. We call for immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, reparations to the people of those countries, and full benefits for returning service members.


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