Friday, August 27, 2010

The self-told joke

Yesterday Terry Gross chatted with a woman on Fresh Air (NPR): Jane Mayer.

Let me put you wise to reality, Jane Mayer? Whore.

Jane Mayer spent the last decade being a journalist. She pursued real topics like torture.

But she's the woman who wrote the book on Clarence Thomas -- co-wrote actually. And thought that book is probably correct, it is also partisan. And now she's explained that wasn't a misreading or an accident.

She's whored out the good name she'd built by dropping real issues like torture to go nosying around the business of the rich in terms of political donations. To Republicans of course. She didn't do an expose on George Soros.

More and more, those of us not of the two parties (I'm a Green) see what little whores so many Democrats and Republicans are.

Jane, thanks for exposing yourself. Truly. You're a joke now. And you made yourself that.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, August 27, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate continues, the American people continue to see the Iraq War as a mistake and worse, greater attention comes to prolonging the illegal war, who's trying to overthrow Iraq's labor unions, and more.
Last week, Gallup and AP polls were released offering the findings that most Americans are opposed to the Iraq War and feel it should never have been started. Gallup found 53% judge it as a failure, 55% judged it a failure. AP's poll with GfK Roper Public Affairs found that 65% opposed the Iraq War. Now Brian Montopoli (CBS News) reports on CBS' poll (but doesn't explain why the New York Times took a pass) which finds "nearly six in ten say it was a mistake to start the battle in the first place, and most say their country did not accomplish its objectives in Iraq." The number saying it was a mistake is 59% which is in stark contrast to March 2003 when a majority, 69%, stated the US was correct to declare war on Iraq (the US-led invasion began in March 2003) and only 25% of respondents then (March 2003) said it was a mistake. The most telling response is to question eleven:
Do you think the result of the war with Iraq was worth the loss of American lives and other costs of attacking Iraq, or not?
Only 20% of respondents say the war was worth the costs while 72% say it was not worth the costs. Looking at the costs to the US, 72% are, in fact, calling the illegal war a mistake.
57% of Americans believe the Iraq War is going well (don't blame them, blame a media that's forgotten Iraq) and who do they credit for that? Montopoli reports that "one in three say both the Obama and Bush administrations [deserve credit]. Twenty-six percent credit the Bush administration, 20 percent credit the Obama administration, and 19 percent say neither deserves credit." Cynthia English reviews Gallup's latest poll which sureveyed Iraqis and found a five-percent drop in approval of US leadership from 2008 (35%) to 2010 (30%) and an increase in approval of Iraqi leadership during the same time (2008: 28%; 2010: 41%).


Jim Michaels and Mimi Hall (USA Today) report on USA Today's poll which found 60% expressing the belief that the Iraq War was not worth it. The reporters then survey a variety of people about the war and we'll note this section which includes Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan:
"I don't think there's been any measurable thing that we could cite that this occupation of Iraq has made better. We achieved exactly nothing," says Cindy Sheehan, an anti-war activist. Sheehan says the war made things worse for Iraqis and others.
"My work has gone from trying to stop these wars to trying to alert people to the problems of being subjects of a military empire," she says.
Empire as a shell game? That would require the Orwellian use of language to misdirect the citizens and misidentify what is going on. In other words, that would be Barack Obama calling the military "non-combat" forces and calling bases "outposts" and calling the continuation of the Iraq War the 'end.' Today the Council on Foreign Relations' Bernard Gwertzman interviews the Christian Science Monitor's Jane Arraf.
Bernard Gwertzman: President Obama is planning to give a speech on Iraq next week marking the pullout of U.S. combat troops from the country. Does their departure make a big difference in Iraq?
Jane Arraf: It really doesn't. A lot of that is because it isn't a development that has had much of an impact on the ground. Some have called it a "rebranding" of the conflict, and there is some truth to that. What we've got left are fifty thousand other troops, a substantial number, and a lot of those are actually combat troops. Any brigade here is erady, equipped, and trained for combat. It's just that the mission is changing. So with that many troops on the ground, the latest withdrawals really don't have that much of an impact, particularly since we haven't been seeing the United States in unilateral combat missions since June of last year. As part of the security agreement signed by the Bush administration, the U.S. forces are taking ab ackseat to the Iraqi forces. The bottom line is that nothing will change on September 1. What we're really looking at is what happens as next year's deadline of December 31, 2011, approaches for all the troops to leave.
[. . .]
Bernard Gwertzman: Will the United States be providing long-term air defense? Or is that supposed to end next year too?
Jane Arraf: Everything ends next year, so it really all has to be negotiated. The commanding general in charge of training Iraqi forces told me they are in the midst of negotiating an agreement to allow NATO to continue training. Such an agreement of course to replace the Iraq-U.S. security agreement will actually have to be negotiated by whatever new government is formed. The assumption is that it will be a pro-Western, pro-U.S. government, but that's not a certainty. What if, for instance, the Sadrists have a large role to play in the new government? What if it's a much more Iranian-friendly government than some people are suggesting? They could turn to Iraq for a security agreement.
On public radio today, the security agreement was briefly touched upon. On the second hour of today's The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), Diane was joined by Courtney Kube (NBC News), Moises Naim (El Pais) and David Wood (PoliticsDaily).
Diane Rehm: Let's turn to Iraq. For the first time since the US invasion in 2003, US troop strength in Iraq has dropped below 50,000. Is Iraq prepared to defend itself, Courtney?
Courtney Kube: Well I think you have to remember -- I don't think you'll find many average Iraqis on the street in Baghdad or anywhere in the country that would say that just because Operation Iraqi Freedom is technically ending in a few days, Operation New Dawn begins, US combat forces are out, I don't think the average Iraqi believes that that means a light switch is going to flick off and violence is going to end. The Iraqi security forces are certainly going to be tested in the coming days, weeks, months probably. But the US force that exists there now -- it's still almost 50,000 troops, they're not going anywhere, they're not going any beyond this until next summer.
Diane Rehm: But you did have a wave of coordinated attacks in thirteen cities just --
David Wood: Yeah, just a horrific thing. Mounted apparently by al Qaeda in Iraq, the sort of home grown, foreign directed, Sunni terrorist organization. What was particularly striking, I thought, was that after these bombs went off in these thirteen cities in a two hour period, the Iraqi people rushed in to help and people stoned them and shouted at them and were very angry and yelled: "Why can't you protect us!" And it was, I thought, "Uh-oh." It was a real uh-oh moment because clearly the Iraqi security forces cannot keep this kind of thing from happening.
Diane Rehm: Moises?
Moises Naim: August was the deadliest month for Iraqi security forces in the past three years, at least 265 have been killed in June alone. And if you look at these places where the attacks took place. They bring back names that had gone out of the news. Falludi, Ramadi, Tikrit, Kirkuk, Basra. These were places where we used to talk about them all the time and then they disappeared. This is a way of telling the world and telling Iraqis, we are still here -- on the part of insurgents in Iraq. And explaining the fact that the US troops are leaving is creating -- plus -- the very important backdrop to this story is that Iraq doesn't have a government. They had an election several months ago. That election does not yield a clear result. And now they have been struggling to create a functioning government.
Diane Rehm: How are these 50,000 so-called non-combat troops going to be able to stand back and watch as this kind of desecration happens.
Courtney Kube: Well they won't be standing back at all. I mean 20,000 of those 50,000 are assigned to advise-and-assist brigades that -- Just today, there was an advise-and-assist, some US troops that went out with Iraqi security forces, arrested seven al Qaeda in Iraq suspected members. They won't be sitting back. Almost half of those forces are going to be involved in combat missions, frankly, it's just that they cannot do it alone.There really hasn't been a big change in posture of US forces since last summer, since the US forces were no longer allowed to operate on their own, no longer allowed to conduct missions within Iraqi cities. So the only real difference that we're seeing right now is the numbers are down a little bit, the combat troops that were assigned to, you know, so-called combat brigades are now out and they're now reassigned to advise-and-assist.
Diane Rehm: There is more than a little ambiguety here, David Wood.
David Wood: I think it's deliberate. I want to pick up on something Moises was saying and that was that there's no Iraqi government in power, of course. There's been a lot of political turbulence since March when there were presidential [C.I. note: Parlimentary elections] elections and nobody won a clear majority or enough to put together a government in Parliament. One of the -- one of the upshots of that is that the United States is supposed to be, by law, withdraw all of its military forces from Iraq by December 31st of next year. I think that agreement was made in the last months of the Bush administration with the understanding that it would be renegotiated because, if it were carried out, you wouldn't even be able to have Marine guards at the US Embassy. With no government, you can't regnegotiate it. And the clock is ticking. And al Qaeda in Iraq has noticed and the statement they issued after this bombing was: "The countdown has begun to return Iraq to the embrace of Islam and its Sunnis with God's permission." Pretty chilling stuff.
Diane Rehm: Moises.
Moises Naim: So the story here again is one of calendars versus conditions. There is a political -- a Washington based or a US politics-centered calendar that people are following and then there are realities on the ground. And these two are clashing. The realities on the ground in Iraq are not in synch with deadlines and with timelines and the calendar that has been decided by purely domestic US politics kind of consideration and calculations.
Diane Rehm: So next week President Obama is going to make an Oval Office speech, next Tuesday. What's he expected to say, Moises?
Moises Naim: He's going to confirm two things that may be a bit contradictory. I think. One is that the troops are going out and this was his campaign promise and that Iraq is in better shape than before and so on. But at the same time he's going to claim the continuing support and commitment of the United States to the building of a democratic Iraqi nation.
Staying on the 'end of war' 'treaty' 'requirement,' Gareth Porter (IPS via Dissident Voice) reports, "All indications are that the administration expects to renegotiate the security agreement with the Iraqi government to allow a post-2011 combat presence of up to 10,000 troops, once a new government is formed in Baghdad But Obama, fearing a backlash from anti-war voters in the Democratic Party, who have already become disenchanted with him over Afghanistan, is trying to play down that possibility. Instead, the White House is trying to reassure its anti-war base that the U.S. military role in Iraq is coming to an end." The editorial board for the Seattle Times notes the drawdown is phase one, "Remember, the operative description is Phase One. The departure of all U.S. military is supposed to come at the end of 2011. Do not confuse that goal with an end of U.S. presence or involvement in Iraq. Parsing out the future depends on definitions and interpretations. The exist of designated combat forces still leaves 50,000 American troops in Iraq, with another 79,000 U.S. contractors. Men and women in uniform are essentially replaced by taxpayer supported mercenaries who attract a lot less public attention." Elise Labot (CNN) reports:

For the people of Iraq, the withdrawal of U.S. forces will be largely symbolic. The average Iraqi has not seen U.S. forces since June 2009, when they redeployed to the outskirts of Iraqi cities under the terms of the 2008 security agreement between the United States and Iraq.
Since then, Iraqi forces have been in charge of urban areas: manning most checkpoints, conducting operations against extremists and maintaining law and order.
But for the United States, the transfer from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn is monumental. The handover will put the U.S. State Department in an expanded and indeed unprecedented role, one it is forced to scale back before it even starts due to budget constraints.
Besides, the United States is not actually leaving the country. As Chris Toensing, editor of the Middle East Report (a must-read for understanding the area), points out, there will still be 50,000 troops left behind in an "advisory" capacity.
"The essential realities of the Iraq War remain the same: Iraq is oil-rich and strategically located at the head of the Persian Gulf. Its ruling elites are fractious and weak," Toensing writes. "Our continued troop presence is an insurance policy against disaster for the U.S.-sponsored Iraqi politicians, who would otherwise fear violent overthrow, and the White House, which would otherwise fear Iraq's takeover by unfriendly elements."
A lot of people will be paying for George Bush's folly for a long time to come.
And Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report -- link has text and audio) points out, "In addition to the fantasy reporting, American military and civilian authorities are conducting fantasy arguments behind closed doors about whether the U.S. is going to withdraw all of its military forces, regardless of the nomenclature, by the end 0f 2011 - as required by solemn agreement with the Iraqis. One faction favors deploying a force of up to 10,000 mercenaries, complete with their own armored trucks, air force and missile-firing drones. But powerful figures in the Obama administration say they are confident they can talk the Iraqis into allowing 10,000 uniformed American troops to stay in the country after the deadline. Certainly, billions of dollars in bribes can sometimes work wonders - but U.S. plans for an eternity in Iraq have repeatedly been thwarted by the Iraqi people, themselves."
As Diane and her guests noted, a political stalemate exists currently in Iraq. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 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 5 months and 20 days. Phil Sands (National Newspaper) notes that if the stalemate continues through September 8th, it will then be a half a year since Iraqis voted.
One of the biggest roadblocks for the process -- before, during and after -- has been Ahmad Chalabi. Babak Dehghanpisheh (Newsweek) notes:
Salih Mutlak can only wonder where in Iraq he might find justice. As one of the country's leading Sunni politicians, he was puzzled and angry to learn shortly before this spring's parliamentary elections that the Accountability and Justice Commission had barred him from running, along with roughly 500 other candidates. Prominent Sunni politicians like Mutlak were particularly targeted. So he picked up the phone and called the commission's head, Ahmad Chalabi, who was relaxing in Beirut. "I had nothing to do with it," Chalabi calmly asserted. "Come on, Ahmad," Mutlak persisted. "What does the committee have against me?" Chalabi told him there was a letter showing that Mutlak had cooperated with Saddam Hussein's notorious secret police, the Mukhabarat. "That's nonsense!" Mutlak snapped. Chalabi promised to look into the matter and try to resolve it.
But it was not resolved. With the March elections looming, Mutlak's brother Ibrahim took over the vacant slot -- and won. That didn't stop the commission from stepping in again with dubious authority and disqualifying the substitute candidate retroactively. Today, the fate of Ibrahim Mutlak and a dozen or so other similarly disqualified candidates remains an open question. "It's a disaster that Ahmad Chalabi would have such an influence in this country," says Salih Mutlak. "He wants to bring sectarianism back. He wants to damage the reputation of the Americans. He wants to spoil everything here!"
Michael Christie (Reuters) notes of the stalemate, "But the longer the political impasse continues, the longer it will take to address public anger about poor public services, such as a lack of electricity in the stifling summer heat. The perception may also grow that democracy in Iraq does not work, and Iraqi leaders are incapable of governing, raising the risks of public disturbances, coup attempts and increased meddling by often troublesome neighbours." But the stalemate hasn't prevented targeting of labor unions in Iraq. David Bacon (Truthout) reports:
Early in the morning of July 21 police stormed the offices of the Iraqi Electrical Utility Workers Union in Basra, the poverty-stricken capital of Iraq's oil-rich south. A shamefaced officer told Hashmeya Muhsin, the first woman to head a national union in Iraq, that they'd come to carry out the orders of Electricity Minister Hussain al-Shahristani to shut the union down. As more police arrived, they took the membership records, the files documenting often-atrocious working conditions, the leaflets for demonstrations protesting Basra's agonizing power outages, the computers and the phones. Finally, Muhsin and her coworkers were pushed out and the doors locked.
Shahristani's order prohibits all trade union activity in the plants operated by the ministry, closes union offices, and seizes control of union assets from bank accounts to furniture. The order says the ministry will determine what rights have been given to union officers, and take them all away. Anyone who protests, it says, will be arrested under Iraq's Anti-Terrorism Act of 2005.
So ended seven years in which workers in the region's power plants have fought for the right to organize a legal union, to bargain with the electrical ministry, and to stop the contracting-out and privatization schemes that have threatened their jobs.
The Iraqi government, while it seems paralyzed on many fronts, has unleashed a wave of actions against the country's unions that are intended to take Iraq back to the era when Saddam Hussein prohibited them for most workers, and arrested activists who protested. In just the last few months, the Maliki government has issued arrest warrants for oil union leaders and transferred that union's officers to worksites hundreds of miles from home, prohibited union activity in the oil fields, ports and refineries, forbade unions from collecting dues or opening bank accounts, and even kept leaders from leaving the country to seek support while the government cracks down.
At the U.S. Embassy, the largest in the world, an official says mildly, "We're looking into it. We hope that everybody resolves their differences in an amicable way." Meanwhile, however, while the U.S. command withdraws combat troops from many areas, it is beefing up the military and private-security apparatus it maintains to protect the wave of foreign oil companies coming into Basra to exploit the wealth of Iraq's oil fields.
David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award.
Overnight, violence continued in Iraq. Reuters notes a Baaj attack in which 2 Iraqi soldiers and 1 Iraqi military officer were shot dead, a Falluja roadside bombing apparently targeting police which wounded seven people and was followed by a second bombing when police arrived (wounding three) and a Shirqat attack on Sahwa which led to two Sahwa being killed and four more injured. AFP reminds, "When full control of the Sahwa passed from the US military to the Iraqi government in April last year, Baghdad promised to integrate 20 percent of its men into the police or army, and find civil service jobs for many others. But 52,000 are still waiting for new employment." Reuters notes today's violence included a Kirkuk home invasion in which 1 child was slaughtered and three members of the child's family were left injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 1 life and injured four more people, a Mosul roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left another person injured, a Mosul mortar attack injured one adult male and the corpse of a Christian male was discovered in Mosul (the man had been kidnapped earlier in the week).
Turning to England, Mark Stone (Sky News) observes of the British inquiry into the Iraq War, "At the top of that list, surely, is the civilian death toll. I wrote about it on this blog last month. There was an expectation then that the subject would be raised with ex-Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram. It was. For about a minute. Other than that, it's hardly been mentioned." Ian Dunt (Politics) reports that Iraq Body Count (IBC) -- infamous for undercounting the dead in Iraq -- has hurled insults at the Iraq Inquiry, labeling it both "flawed" and "derisory" and has released their correspondent with Committee Chair John Chilcot in which they advocate for the inquiry to (quoting from correspondence) "fully and properly investigate Iraq casualties" and Dunt closes by noting that the Inquiry will go to Iraq. Only they "won't." They may. That was always the point. Chilcott has made two public statements about that. They would like to, they hope to. Whether they go or not, nothing is concrete at this point. Jonathan Steele (Guardian) grasps that reality, "The five-person Chilcot inquiry team plans to visit Iraq briefly in the next few weeks but the IBS says this appears to be 'an afterthought'." Channel 4 News adds, "Iraq Body Count (IBC) co-founder John Sloboda told Channel 4 News: 'Some of the deaths and injuries caused must have been breaches of British and international law, so some sort of judicial inquiry would seem to be in order'."
Meanwhile, Professor Robert Jensen (at Dissident Voice) explores the ethical issues and implications:
The legal case is straightforward: Neither invasion had the necessary approval of the United Nations Security Council, and neither was a response to an imminent attack. In both cases, U.S. officials pretended to engage in diplomacy but demanded war. Under international law and the U.S. Constitution (Article 6 is clear that "all Treaties made," such as the UN Charter, are "the supreme Law of the Land"), both invasions were illegal.
The moral case is also clear: U.S. officials' claims that the invasions were necessary to protect us from terrorism or locate weapons of mass destruction were never plausible and have been exposed as lies. The world is a more dangerous place today than it was in 2001, when sensible changes in U.S. foreign policy and vigorous law enforcement in collaboration with other nations could have made us safer.
The people who bear the greatest legal and moral responsibility for these crimes are the politicians who send the military to war and the generals who plan the actions, and it may seem unfair to deny the front-line service personnel the label of "hero" when they did their duty as they understood it. But this talk of heroism is part of the way we avoid politics and deny the unpleasant fact that these are imperial wars. U.S. military forces are in the Middle East and Central Asia not to bring freedom but to extend and deepen U.S. power in a region home to the world's most important energy resources. The nation exercising control there increases its influence over the global economy, and despite all the U.S. propaganda, the world realizes we have tens of thousands of troops on the ground because of those oil and gas reserves.
While Jensen attempts to explore the complexities, Mr. Pretty Lies Barack Obama is already reducing it all to a simplistic bumper sticker -- one full of lies -- such as today's claim that Americans are "safer" as a result of the Iraq War. Notice that only a War Hawk or a War Whore can sell and spin an illegal war. The Cult of St. Barack damn well better decide which Barry is: a War Hawk or a War Whore. He certainly isn't a truth teller. We need to highlight two today who told the truth about the illegal war. First up, Justin Raimondo's "All Lies, All The Time" (Antiwar.com):
This farcical "withdrawal," which amounts to merely increasing the number of mercenaries in the region, is a complete fabrication, motivated by pure politics and an infinite faith in the cluelessness of the Average Joe, who is too busy looking for a job to care. As to what they'll do when the insurgency starts to rise again, not to worry: no one will notice but the soldiers in the field. Surely the American media won't be so rude as to point it out, unless the Green Zone goes up in flames and they have to evacuate stragglers by helicopter as they did in Vietnam. In that case, the visuals would be too good to pass up.
Everything that comes out of this administration, from its pronouncements on the overseas front to its own unemployment numbers, is a lie: it's all lies, all the time. Even in small matters, the default is a fib, such as in the case of the Pentagon's denial that it was ever in touch with WikiLeaks about minimizing the alleged damage done by the next Afghanistan document dump. After all, why would WikiLeaks make up such a story? The feds just want the documents "expunged," thank you. I doubt they really believe it's possible to "expunge" the Afghan war logs from the internet. If so, they are dumber than anyone has so far imagined. And so much for the myth that the Pentagon really cares about any danger to Afghan informants, who might be compromised by the release of more documents: Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have given them their chance to safeguard the identities of US collaborators, and the Pentagon flat out rejected it. So be it.

It's true that Iraqis suffered under the brutal rule of Saddam Hussein but his overthrow did not lead to a better life for Iraqis. "I am not a political person, but I know that under Saddam Hussein, we had electricity, clean drinking water, a healthcare system that was the envy of the Arab world and free education through college," Iraqi pharmacist Dr. Entisar Al-Arabi told me. "I have five children and every time I had a baby, I was entitled to a year of paid maternity leave. I owned a pharmacy and I could close up shop as late as I chose because the streets were safe. Today there is no security and Iraqis have terrible shortages of everything--electricity, food, water, medicines, even gasoline. Most of the educated people have fled the country, and those who remain look back longingly to the days of Saddam Hussein."

Dr. Al-Arabi has joined the ranks of the nearly four million Iraqi refugees, many of whom are now living in increasingly desperate circumstances in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and around the world. Undocumented, most are not allowed to work and are forced to take extremely low paying, illegal jobs or rely on the UN and charities to survive. The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has reported a disturbing spike in the sex trafficking of Iraqi women.

There were many truth tellers and that was a great thing. This week, we've attempted to highlight some each day but there wasn't room on Thursday.
TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Charles Babbington (AP), Eamon Javers (CNBC), Karen Tumulty (Washington Post) and Pete Williams (NBC News) join Gwen around the table. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is "Why We Love It When the President Goes Away." This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Karen Czarnecki, Kim Gandy, Christina Hoff Sommers and Avis Jones-DeWeever on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And this week's To The Contrary online extra is an exploration of whether or not there's any link between sex and schoolwork. Need To Know is PBS' new program covering current events. This week's hour long broadcast airs Fridays on most PBS stations -- but check local listings -- and it explores hydraulic fracturing and the salmonella egg outbreak. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
Stealing America's Secrets
"60 Minutes" has obtained an FBI videotape showing a Defense Department employee selling secrets to a Chinese spy that offers a rare glimpse into the secretive world of espionage and illustrates how China's spying may pose the biggest espionage threat to the U.S. Scott Pelley reports. | Watch Video

The Bloom Box
Large corporations in California have been secretly testing a new device that can generate power on the spot, without being connected to the electric grid. They're saying it's efficient, clean, and saves them money. Will we have one in every home someday? Lesley Stahl reports. | Watch Video

Birdmen
In the latest craze that has killed several extreme sports enthusiasts, men don wing-suits, jump off mountaintops and glide down at speeds approaching 140 miles per hour. Steve Kroft reports. | Watch Video

60 Minutes, Sunday, August 29, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fresh balance and LGBT in the army

Yesterday on Fresh Air (NPR), the program was split in half -- 20 minutes or so to a female guest, 20 minutes or so to a male guest. It's a shame they can't do that all the time. It's not like the bulk of Terry's male guests are anyone we're dying to hear from. Oh look, it's a rocker who had one hit over thirty years ago and the band broke up long, long ago but he gets the full hour from Terry.

Yesterday, C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" and Marcia's "Survey spouses about working with gay service members?" covered the Pentagon's latest attempt to spit on the LGBT community. Instead of repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell and letting gays and lesbians serve openly, Barack decided his campaign promise be damned, he'll take a survey. The survey has the Marines threatening disruption and I'm guessing worse if the policy is repealed. And? The Pengaton just sent out another survey. This one to the husbands and wives of military members to ask how they feel? As C.I. wondered, what's next? The cable guy? The dry cleaner?

So it's really offensive. And it's typical of Barack to kick the can and avoid doing what he promised to do. Michelle Garcia (The Advocate) reports:

The Pentagon's Comprehensive Review Working Group on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" will meet with the Servicemembers United's Military Partners Forum September 16 after military leaders released a survey last week to 150,000 families to learn their concerns over lifting "don't ask, don't tell."

They damn well need to do that after they insulted the same-sex partners of LGBT service members. And I'm getting really sick of the way gay Americans are being treated by our government as if they are less than US citizens. It's past time for full equality. Barack needs to get off his candy ass and repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

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

Thursday, August 26, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Sahwa is targeted today, the new US Ambassador to Iraq pounds the (new) war drums, the political stalemate continues, Iraqis weigh in on the drawdown, peace activists take a stand, and more.
Yesterday, Iraq was slammed with bombings and Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) counts 92 dead from violence with 379 more people left injured. The press consensus yesterday appeared to be that security personnel were the primary targets of yesterday's violence. Violence continues today. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports a Baquba attack today has claimed 6 lives. The target? Sahwa members. Sahwa, also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq," are fighters (mainly Sunni -- but according to Gen David Petraeus's April 2008 Congressional testimonies, not exclusively Sunni) who were paid by the US military to stop attacking US military equipment and US military personnel. In 2008, as Congressional members began to get vocal about the financial cost of Sahwa (approximately $300 per member per month with over 96,000 Sahwa), the transition to Iraq's government or 'government' out of Baghdad picking up the bill was supposed to take place. Despite claims in November and again in early 2009, as late as the summer of 2009, the US was still footing the bill regularly for many Sahwa. Despite claims by Nouri that he would absorb a number of Sahwa (about 20%) into Iraq's security forces, that really didn't come to be and Sahwa members began waiting weeks and weeks for late monthly payments and then came the targeting of them, followed by attempts to disarm them, followed by more targeting.
Al Jazeera puts the number dead at 8 (cites police sources for the number) and notes that 52,000 Sahwa continue to remain unemployed/unabsorbed into Nouri's 'new Iraq." Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) notes that al-Iraqiyah TV is reporting 8 deaths as well and reminds, "The U.S. hailed the decision of its Sunni Muslim members to turn against al-Qaeda as a key to a country-wide decline in attacks about a year later." The Morning Star also reports 8 dead and states that the bombing "killed four of the guards immeidately before gunmen reportedly finished off the survivors." Reuters adds, "A second simultaneous assault on another Sunni militia group in the same province was thwarted, with one attacker killed and two arrested, Interior Ministry and provincial officials said." AFP quotes police Cpt Firas al-Dulaimi stating, "Several members of al-Qaeda attacked a Sahwa office when nine people were inside. Six Sahwa were killed, two were wounded and one was unhurt."
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 8 Sahwa killed in the attack and also notes a Diyala Province bombing in which 2 Iraqi soldiers were killed and two more were wounded. Reuters notes an Abu Saida clash in which 1 person was killed and two more were arrested as they attempt to assault Sahwa, a Mosul car bombing which injured Nezhat Ali of the Turkmen Front as well as five other people, a Hawija roadside bombing which injured one person and, dropping back to Wednesday night for the rest, a Mosul bombing which injured one adult and one child and Kirkuk attack in which one person was wounded in a shooting.
Meanwhile Arthur MacMillan (AFP) reports on Sahwa Sahwa reaction to the news of the drawdown which is fear in light of the targeting leading Sahwa's Samarra commander Majid Hassan to ask, "If our houses are being attacked and destroyed by the terrorists even before the withdrawal, what will happen to us when the US forces leave?" For Morning Edition (NPR), Mike Shuster files a report about other reactions to the waves of violence.
Mike Shuster: They did the bombings because of the Americans, said Abu Salman at his butcher shop in the Karada neighborhood of Baghdad. They claim that when the Americans leave, there will be more bombs in Iraq. Abu Mohammed, a construction worker, agreed. "They do think the Americans are weaker now, so let's do it," he said. Abu Salman added, "They are getting stronger because there's no government and there's no protection in the street."
Meanwhile the Arab Times reports on a poll by Asharq Research Centre which surveyed 1,150 Iraqis (18 and older) from August 15th through 23rd and found:
* 59.8% stated that the it wasn't the right time for US forces to leave; 39.5% felt it was
* 53.1% did not agree that "combat" operations should end August 31st; 46.2% did agree
* 51% felt the drawdown would have a negative effect; 25.8% felt it would be positive
* Does Barack Obama care about the situation in Iraq? No = 41.9%; Yes = 39.8%; don't know = 15.5%
Bobby Ghosh (Time magazine) observes, "The attacks exposed as a fiction the Obama administration's long-standing claim that the Iraqi forces were ready and able to take over from U.S. troops. While that claim may have played well with war-weary Americans, Iraqis have never been fooled: only last week, the commander of the Iraq military said his forces would not be fully ready until 2020. The bombings don't automatically mean all (or even much) of Iraq is once again in the grip of the insurgency. But they suggest the country is in for a great deal more violence in the months ahead." The Hindu adds, "The spate of murderous attacks in cities across the whole of Iraq over the last 10 days has taken the August 2010 death toll to 535, with nearly 400 wounded. This exceeds the July total of 500 deaths; the authorities attribute the bombings to Sunni-militant followers of al-Qaeda. Only one attacker was stopped in advance: in Mosul, Iraqi soldiers spotted and killed a suicide bomber before he could blow his car up. Above all, the intensified attacks show how little control the United States and the Iraqi authorities have."
Surveying the landscape, The Economist offers, "American commanders were quick to remind Iraqi and American audiences this week that their troops could still return to patrolling the streets if needed. That is meant to be reassuring, and to a growing number of Iraqis it is. But it does not address the underlying problem, namely the inability of the Iraqi state to function effectively, including running the police. Many Iraqis expect the police to respond to the latest attacks by hiding behind even more sandbags and blast walls." March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 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 5 months and 19 days. Phil Sands (National Newspaper) notes that if the stalemate continues through September 8th, it will then be a half a year since Iraqis voted.
While the stalemate goes on, the US Ambassador -- new US Ambassador -- to Iraq, James Jeffrey is getting 'comfortable.' You've been advised to pay attention to his background ("national security") and to who's running things on the US side now. If you have, you'll find the report by Michael Christie and Jon Hemming (Reuters) not at all surprising, if you haven't, your jaw may drop. War with/on Iran can't just spring up, it has to be sold. Today Jeffrey informed the reporters that "he believed groups backed by Iran were responsible for a quarter of U.S. casualties in the Iraq war but that Tehran was not as infuential in Iraq as thought." Give the 'diplomat' time, he'll offer more 'thoughts' and 'beliefs' and watch the way they skew.
As Kat explained last night, "First off, Margaret Warner (The NewsHour, PBS) is in Iraq and if you have a question about the war, you can write her and there going to pick through the questions." The NewsHour notes: "You can e-mail your question, name and hometown to follow@newshour.org or send a tweet to @NewsHour. We'll collect questions for a few days, and Margaret will answer as many as she can here on The Rundown."
In the US, Marisa Guthrie (Broadcast & Cable) reports, "On Aug. 31, President Obama will deliver a primetime speech from the Oval Office about the end of combat operations in Iraq. The speech, which will be about 15 minutes long, will begin at 8 p.m ET. All of the major networks will carry it live. Diane Sawyer will anchor ABC's coverage of the speech. She'll be joined by George Stephanopoulos. Brian Williams will anchor NBC's coverage, and Harry Smith will be on hand for CBS' coverage. Fox, which has on occasion demurred in handing over prime-time for the President's addresses, also will carry the speech live." The drawdown didn't end the Iraq War and repeating the lie it did effects many. Ann Rubin (KSDK) reports some soldiers in Iraq are afraid their pay is going to be cut as a result of the creative terminology the spin is pushing. US House Rep Russ Carnahan tells Rubin, "The bottom line is they're in a dangerous part of the world, but we've got to continue to do everything we can to be sure they get that support." Meanwhile Jarrod Wise (KXAN) reports that 800 members of the Texas Army National Guard's 36th Infantry Division are preparing to deploy to Iraq where they will be stationed in Basra and the 800 include people like Bank of America's Charles Clemons and police officer Stephanie Dugan. Jennie Huerta (KVUE) adds that the 800 head to Fort Lewis at the end of next month and will be in Iraq following Thanksgiving for what "is only the second major deployment of the 36th Infantry Division headquarters since World War II, when the T-Patch soldiers were the first American troops to land in Europe." Nikasha Dicks (Augusta Chronicle) notes that the 63rd Expeditionary Signal Battalion's Bravo Company had a send-off ceremony on Saturday as Bravo Company prepares for a year-long deployment in Iraq and quotes Colen Ortiz whose husband Sgt Ortiz is among those deploying, "The very first three [deployments], I just had to worry about myself. Now I have someone else to worry about." Colen Ortiz "is expecting the couple's first child in October." Heath Druzin (Stars and Stripes) explains, "On Sept. 1, the date the U.S. mission in Iraq officially changes, troops will still patrol the dusty fringes of this violent insurgent stronghold. They may raid the house of a suspected terrorist. They will continue to face the ever-present danger of roadside bombs. What they won't do is conduct combat operations, at least on paper." At least on paper. The Iraq War didn't end and won't end September 1st.
Early Monday morning, a major action took place as a group of activists joined in an action to block a troop deployment at Fort Hood in Texas. They chanted and held a huge banner "TELL THE BRASS: KISS MY ASS YOUR FAMILY NEEDS YOU MORE." The group was originally longer but the time on Sunday for the troops to leave in their bus was repeatedly changed. It left early in the morning and several dedicated activists were still present. Stephen C. Webster was present to report for Raw Story (and was among those harassed by the police) amd reports that the activists managed to halt the deployment "for approximately 10 seconds while police and military personnel shoved them out of the road," that those participating feel it was a success (it was, my opinion) and that "not a single one of them was arrested." One of those participating in the action was Matthis Chiroux who explains (along with others at the link) why he participated:
I am a former Army sergeant and war resister. I was press-ganged into the Army by the Alabama Juvenile "Justice" System in 2002. While in the military, I occupied the nations of Japan and Germany for more than four years, with shorter tours in the Philippines and Afghanistan.
I was a Public Affairs noncommissioned officer specializing in strategic communications. In reality, I was a propaganda artist. I was discharged honorably to the Individual Ready Reserve in 2007.
While I have always been against the war in Iraq, I began resisting it actively in 2008, after I received mobilization orders for a year-long deployment to Iraq. I refused those orders in Congress in May of 2008, calling my orders illegal and unconstitutional. I believed appealing to Congress would end the war. When 13 Members signed a letter of support for my decision and sent it to Bush, I thought we had won a victory for peace. This was more than two years ago. The president has changed, and the wars and destruction drag on.
Today, I am blocking the deployment of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment with my fellow vets and military family members because the wars will continue to victimize our communities until we halt this bloody machine from within. I am putting my body on the line in solidarity with the people of the Middle East, whose bodies have been shot, burned, tortured, raped, and violated by our men and women in and out of uniform. I cannot willfully allow Americans in uniform to put their lives and the lives of Iraqis in jeopardy for a crime. We are here because we have a responsibility to ourselves as veterans and as humans of the world. I will not rest until my people, ALL PEOPLE, are free.
The others participating who write of their actions are Bobby Whittenberg-James, Crystal Colon and Cynthia Thomas. Monday, World Can't Wait reported, "Five peace activists successfully blockaded six buses carrying Fort Hood Soldiers deploying to Iraq outside Fort Hood's Clarke gate this morning at around 4 a.m." Alice Embree (The Rag Blog) reports:
Under darkness at about 4 a.m. this morning, buses carrying the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment (3rd ACR) to planes were stopped by a group of five protesters that included two Iraq veterans, one Afghanistan veteran, and one military spouse whose husband had been deployed to Iraq three times.

The Fort Hood Disobeys group clambered down from a highway overpass where supporters held banners and signs. Holding banners that said, "Occupation is a Crime" and "Please Don't Make the Same Mistake We Did. RESIST NOW," the protesters spread across Clarke Road. Police with automatic weapons and dogs beat them out of the roadway. They were not arrested.
You can find photos of the action taken by Malachi Muncey here, photos by Jeff Zavala here, Cindy Beringer (US Socialist Worker) quotes attorney James Branum stating, "The most amazing thing was troops in buses raising clinched fists as buses drove by the protest. Solidarity!"
In a video Jeff Zavala made about the issue several of the activists share their thoughts. This is an excerpt:
Geoff Gernant: I think it's important people resist the occupations -- the illegal occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. And I think it's important to do that in a such way that it's the people themselves resisting in a direct action and not doing something like lobbying Congress or writing letters to Congressmen or relying on politicians to do something -- which they've shown that they're not willing to do which is end this war. We all need to start doing, actively opposing it ourselves. And I've been involved in activsim here, Under The Hood, for like a year or so.

Crystal Colon: Because I think it's time that people do something about these wars. I don't feel like there's enough support for the wars in the American population. But there aren't enough people actually getting out there and doing something about it, trying to stop it. And I want to be one of the people that goes out there and says, you know, "This is exactly what I think, this is how I feel about this and I am going to try and stop you from doing this anyway I possibly can. I came out to Under The Hood -- I've been here since June for two months just organizing around Fort Hood, doing all the protests that we've done, like the one at the East Gate and the Col Allen banner that we made specifically for the 3rd ACR. I just really want these soldiers to know that this is not something that they have to do because I know if someone would have done this for me when I was in, I wouldn't have gone back a second time. I probably wouldn't have gone the first time if someone would have done this for me back in '06. So I really just want soldiers to know there's support for them out there, that what they're feeling -- If they're feeling like this is not what they want to do, this is against their moral values and it's against their feelings and they feel like this is not the right thing for them to do, we are there to support them and that's what I want them to see.
Bobby Whittenberg: War in our time always kills innocent civilians, it kills children, it kills women and it destroys families both in the Middle East and here in the United States. The United States has always been predatory, has always been violent -- a country built on the land of slaughtered Native people. It was built by slaves. The United States is always killing innocent people to take things that do not belong to them. I do not lend my consent to the actions of the United States government. I'm here today to say no more. A lot of us have just been talking and, you know, holding signs -- that's great. But we decided that it's time that we moved beyond that and what we're planning is totally non-violent but it's definitely a sign to say that we've had enough and that we can't trust the politicians, the capitalists to end these wars because they make them more wealthy and consolidate their power. So if we want to see any change, we have to do it ourselves. They always say, if you want something done right, do it yourself. Right? That's what we're doing, do it yourself.

New York State Green Party US Senate Candidate Cecile Lawrence Says that the War in Iraq Continues Despite Fanfare over departure of "last" Combat Troops

New York State peace and social justice activist Cecile Lawrence and Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate remembers being amazed at former President Bush's advice to Americans after planes hit the towers at the bottom of Manhattan that we all should go shopping.
Less than two years later, the U.S. attacked Iraq in an invasion dubbed "Shock and Awe." Major cities in Iraq were later bombed into the Middle Ages, as at least one commentator put it.
Dr. Lawrence, running for the seat to which Kisten Gillibrand was appointed by Governor Paterson last year, is aghast at the likelihood that the Obama administration is playing with words by announcing that he's ending the war in Iraq with the departure from that country of the last full Army combat brigade. With 50,000 members of the U.S. military to remain in Iraq, Lawrence is convinced that the war continues but just under a new label.
Lawrence added that every since Kirsten Gillibrand was appointed Senator, she has regularly voted for more funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
From Lawrence's perspective, this move of some military out of Iraq is a game of smoke and mirrors. According to the State Department the numbers of private security guards will be massively increased and a "small army" of contractors will remain. Lawrence noted that a member of the military commented, "Combat operations is a sort of relative term." Lawrence also noted that the American people have no clear picture of the roles of these private security guards and contractors, who are highly specialized and well trained. Their private status excludes them from the scrutiny that troops would have. Lawrence agrees with the conclusion that this move is simply a privatization of the occupation.
Lastly, on another topics, Alexandra Tweten explores suffrage in "The Echoes of Suffrage" (Ms. magazine) which is fitting considering today. Women's Voices, Women's Vote explains:
Today is Equality Day, the celebration of the adoption of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which granted women the right to vote. Join the celebration by registering to vote, or by encouraging the women in your life to register to vote.

Did You Know?

Ninety years ago, one mother's plea to her son helped pass the 19th Amendment by one vote and gave American women the vote. After thirty-five of the necessary thirty-six states had ratified the amendment, the battle came to Nashville, Tennessee. One young legislator, 24 year-old Harry Burns, had previously voted with the anti-suffrage forces. But a telegram from his mother urging him to vote for the amendment and for suffrage made the difference. Burns broke a 48 to 48 tie making Tennessee the 36th and deciding state to ratify. One vote does matter. Your vote matters. Today, even though women turnout at equal or great numbers than men on election day, more than one in four American women is still not registered to vote. If you're one of them, celebrate Equality Day today by visting Women's Voices. Women's Vote website and
registering to vote. If you are already registered, use your voice to talk to five women you know about the importance of voting.

Read more on Equality Day from
Women's Voices. Women Vote President Page Gardner on Huffington Post.

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