Thursday, October 13, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, negotiations continue to keep US troops in Iraq, how many troops Gen Lloyd Austin wanted is "classified," will Dennis Kucinich be the only Democratic member of Congress to seriously address the Iraq War, the US military announces another death, three US soldiers are wounded, Sadr City is bombed, and more.
Houston Chronicle reports, "Cheif Warrant Officer James B. Wilke, 38, of Ione, Calif died Oct. 10" in Operation New Dawn. David Burge (El Paso Times) speaks to his wife of fifteen years, Moia Wilke, who states, "We don't know for sure what happened. [. . .] There are no words to explain the love we had. It was way too good to be true. He was the love of my life and I was the love of his, soul mates. We always thought we would be together. Now, nothing makes sense."
Independent Online News reports, "A rocket attack on a United States military base in Iraq's southern Maysan province wounded three American soldiers on Wednesday, a US military spokesperson and an Iraqi security official said." Press TV adds, "According to the reports, emergency vehicles were sent to the military base and helicopters flew overhead. [. . .] The rocket attack comes as two Iraqi soldiers were gunned down at an army checkpoint in the northern city of Mosul late on Wednesday."
For the second day in a row, Baghdad was slammed with bombings. Reuters reports, "Two bomb blasts killed at least 16 people in a mainly Shi'ite Baghdad district on Thursday in the latest in a series of large attacks to hit Iraq's capital in less than a week." It was the Sadr City section of Baghdad, Moqtada al-Sadr's power base. Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) quotes barber Hassan Rahim stating, "We rushed outside the shop and we saw fire and smoke near the houses. I saw dead people on the ground and several burning cars. We helped take the wounded to the hospital until the arrival of the ambulances." Salam Faraj (AFP) adds Iraqi officials state, "women and children were among the casualties, while the interior ministry official said six policemen and three soldiers were among the wounded." Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) updates the death toll to 18 (forty injured) and quotes Sadrist MP Hakim al-Zamili stating, "The security officials don't really care about people and their lives because they live in the heavy protected green zone and they never feel the danger."
Again, this follow's yesterday's Baghdad bombings. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) covers them in "If you think Iraq's secure, read this about Wednesday's violence" in which she notes at least 22 people died and another seventy-four were injured in Baghdad alone. A security official tells Issa, "Amred groups are choosing their targets very carefully. They are targeting members of the security forces and government officials. It is not as random as it used to be. And the way they were able to coordinate so many targets all over the capital indicates one of two things: either they are much more organized than they used to be, with the high possibility of having inside help. Or our security forces are sleeping. And in either case that Maliki has failed to provide security for the people."
In other violence today, Reuters notes a Falluja roadside bombing claimed 2 lives and left five people injured, a Shirqat shootout led to 1 suspect being shot dead, a Shirqat roadside bombing claiming the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and, last night, 1 police officer was shot dead in Baghdad.
With the deadline for the withdrawal all U.S. troops from Iraq less than 100 days away, nobody seems to know whether troops will be allowed to stay, how many, and under what conditions. Even the basic parameters of a possible Iraqi request for a follow-on U.S. military training presence remain largely unknown and caught in the labyrinth of local politics. This uncertainty is snarling planning efforts and has certainly irked Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who famously exhorted Iraq's political leaders to "dammit, make a decision" during his first trip to Baghdad this summer.
Why exactly is a troop decision taking so long? It is certainly a highly sensitive matter, but the deadline was set in 2008 and has hardly sneaked up on anyone.
Why is it taking so long? That's one question. Another is why the American people are kept in the dark on it. Yesterday's snapshot noted a Congressional hearing that was pretty well attended by the press for a Subcommittee hearing. I really haven't seen any reporting on that outside of this community. It was a pretty important hearing with State and Defense represented and the focus being on Iraq (for the last 20 or so minutes, the focus shifted to Iran -- the hearing lasted about one hour and nine minutes). We covered the hearing in yesterday's snapshot and last night Wally covered it in "US House Rep Jason Chaffetz (Wally)" (at Rebecca's site), Kat with "House Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations" and Ava, at Trina's site, with "DoD says it can't talk about Iraq in an open session." And on the topic of the American people being kept in the dark, we'll note this exchange, US House Rep Jason Chaffetz is the Subcomittee Chair and Alexander Vershbos is with the Defense Dept.
Chair Jason Chaffetz: Ambassador Vershbos, let's talk about the number of US troops, what the Iraqis are requesting or authorizing. How many is the president authorizing?
Ambassador Alexander Vershbos: Mr. Chairman, no decisions have been made, uh. Discussions are still ongoing, uh. On the nature of the relationship from which would be derived any --
Chair Jason Chaffetz: So the number of 3,000 to 4,000 troops that we here, is that accurate or inaccurate?
Ambassador Alexander Vershbos: As I said, there's a lot of things going on in these discussions which predate the announcement of October 4 when the Iraqi leaders took the position they're taking regarding no immunities so obviously the discussions now have taken on a different dimension so beyond-beyond that I really can't say because nothing's been decided. The shape of the relationship will be determined in part by how this issue of status protection is-is addressed. So it's a work in progress. Even as we speak discussions are taking place between our ambassador [James Jeffrey], uh, the commander General Austin, and Iraqi leaders. So it's really difficult to give you more than that today.
Chair Jason Chaffetz: Now there was a report that General Austin had asked for between fourteen and eighteen thousand troops. Is that true?
Ambassador Alexander Vershbos: Again, I-I can't comment on internal deliberations. A lot of different ideas have been
Chair Jason Chaffetz: Wait a second, wait a second --
Ambassador Alexander Vershbos: --tossed around in the last few
Chair Jason Chaffetz: -- do you know what the actual request was?
Ambassador Alexander Vershbos: Uh -- the military leadership was asked to provide a range of options and they've done that and that was the basis on which we engaged the Iraqis and now the discu --
Chair Jason Chaffetz: Do you know what General Austin requested?
Ambassador Alexander Vershbos: I can't talk about that in an open session, Mr. Chairman. It's classified.
As Ava observed, "The number that Lloyd Austin, the top US commander in Iraq, wanted is classified? Classified is supposed to be something that would endanger national security." The American people aren't even allowed to know the numbers tossed around. The White House is completely unresponsive and were the useless gasbags on my side (the left) paying attention at all, they'd be calling out the White House.
Barack got the nomination lying to the American people. He was never the anti-war candidate or even the anti-Iraq War candidate. He was a trashy operator in a boy's style suit to give him a child-like innocence that the current gray hair won't let pull off next year. And because he was such a little boy in grown up clothes, the press couldn't ask him hard questions, like, "Hey, Wet Behind The Ears, why don't you tell us, if you're against the Iraq War, why didn't you ever vote against in the Senate?" He didn't vote against it because before he got to the Senate, he'd decided that the US had to stay. He said that to Elaine and I at a fundraiser when he was running for the Democratic Party nomination. But the press fawned over him -- treating him not unlike Joe Biden's infamous remark that was greeted with such shock and disdain. At what point does the liar get held accountable? "We want to end the war and we want to end it now!" he hollered at one tent revival after another in 2008 to the wild applause of the Cult of St. Barack. He misled the public and not only has he not ended the Iraq War as they believed he promised to do, now he's working to expand it. At what point does he get pressed on that?
With the Iraqi press, it's a rare day that you can't find articles in several papers about the possibilty of the US extending its military stay. But in the US, the press distracts non-stop.
Again to Sean Kane:
The final area of complexity on the troop extension relates to the main schism in Iraqi domestic politics, that is the competition between Prime Minister Maliki's Shiite National Alliance and former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's mainly Sunni Iraqiyya coalition. Virtually every major government and legislative action is now filtered through the prism of which man gains and which loses, including the decision on a U.S. military presence. Such zero-sum politics make compromise difficult, nuanced public discourse based on national interests unlikely, and a major legislative accomplishment such as parliamentary endorsement of a new security cooperation agreement even more challenging (especially since the Parliament just went into recess for six weeks).
This is important because U.S. officials have concluded that parliamentary approval is legally required under the Iraqi constitution for privileges and immunities to be conferred upon any U.S. soldiers acting as trainers.
That's an interesting interpretation (the Nouri and Allawi aspect); however, that second part about parliament? Uh, no. US officials have not concluded that. Defense and State are not in agreement on whether or not a memo of understanding, for instance, signed by Nouri and Barack, would require Parliament's approval. And that's even before you get into the debate about powers as written or powers by custom.
But that's not why we went back to Kane's article. We went back to it because of the very premise of the article. Can you summarize it? "Why won't Iraq agree right away to US troops on their soil?"
That's the standard question and the way the US press reports it. Why isn't the question, "Why is the White House insisting US troops stay on the ground in Iraq?"
If Bush were in the White House, the press could argue (as they're so fond of doing) that reporters don't take positions and they could pretend that was somehow opinion journalism. But Bush isn't in the White House. Barack is. Barack who ran pretending to be against the Iraq War. Barack who pretended he would bring home all US troops from Iraq.
It's not opinion journalism to ask why the candidate is not living up to his promise on the issue that generated so much support for his campaign.
The US press has ignored the White House efforts to extend the US military presence in Iraq as much as it could. When forced to cover it, they will with an article that tosses the question to the Iraqi side when what needs to be asked is:
1) Why is the campaign promise being broken?
2) If it was a "dumb war," why has President Barack Obama continued it for years now?
3) At what point are the American people and their desires going to be factored into any decision on Iraq?
4) How is the US secured by US soldiers remaining in Iraq?
The US press had a million and one excuses for their coverage that sold the war. They swore it would be better someday. We're still waiting for an adult press to emerge in the United States when it comes to Iraq.
US House Rep Dennis Kucinich: Hi. I'm Congressman Dennis Kucinich, To my brothers and sisters with Occupy Wall Street and around the nation who are fighting for economic justice, let's not forget the wars. Nine years ago, the House of Representatives authorized the war on Iraq based on lies. Those who would rewrite history today would have us believe that we were fooled into thinking that Saddam Hussein was a threat and had something to do with 9-11. That's not true. We were not fooled. We were lied to. Lied to by those who wanted the war for their own personal financial gains. Nine years ago, I analyzed the authorization for military force in Iraq and it was obvious based on information freely available that it was based on lies. I'll put a link to that analysis below. We were not fooled. We were lied to. It's now obvious to even the most fervent war profiteer that the war in Iraq was a mistake. Iraq was not pursuing Weapons of Mass Destruction, had nothing to do with 9-11, was not a threat to the United States, so why have we stayed in Iraq so long when we know it's a lie? Why did we see an estimated a million Iraqi civilians die? We know war profits have soared. Wall Street favorites like Haliburton, KBR, Bechtel, DynCorp, Northrup Grumman, General Electric and General Dynamics do very well when we spend money on war. Halliburton's stock price rose 600% between October 7, 2002 and June 30, 2008, the end of the quarter before the financial crisis. The war in Iraq may end up costing as much as $5 trillion dollars, and we have sacrificed the lives of 4,473 brave Americans and tens of thousands of our troops have been injured. The money spent for war could have spent on education, creating green jobs and rebuilding our infrastructure. It's time to end these wars. It's time we got some of our money back. We should implement an excise tax on the profiteers who have gained so much from a war based on lies. Keep Occupying Wall Street and I will keep occupying Congress.
With all the money wasted, with all the US lives wasted, with all the Iraqis murdered, and with no functioning government and Little Nouri as the new Saddam, exactly why should US tax payers support another day of this illegal war?
At what point does that question get asked? Maybe if Helen Thomas were still in the White House pool but, of course, the whole point of running her out of the pool was to avoid those important questions and instead to banter with the White House like, this week, when Jay Carney apologizes for showing well after the press-conference-in-two-minutes, he declares something came up and the alleged best and brightest in DC quickly shout out 'jokes' about was it his lunch they came up?
It's good to know that while they fail to inform the American people and while the US is still engaged in endless war, the DC press corps does find time to get their yucks on.
The Palm Beach Post pretends to ask the important questions about the US military remaining in Iraq. Pretends because their 'on the one hand' for staying is that if Iran takes over Iraq, "it would be bad for him [Barack] politically -- not to mention any actual increased risk of global terror." Yes, those are the stakes, Barack's image. In that case, let's kill another one million Iraqis (is it up to two million yet?) and send another nearly 5,000 US troops to their death because what really matters is not what Barack does, but how he looks. That really is why the United States was created, right? To ensure that one day Barack's image would be protected. The paper's readers are smarter than the journalists who work for the paper as evidenced by the poll -- 80% say no to US troops staying in Iraq. Yes, it's a small poll but maybe the paper doesn't have a lot of readers?
More than 550,000 children in some of the most vulnerable districts of Iraq will benefit from a United Nations-backed school feeding programme that seeks not only to improve their nutrition but also to encourage poor families to send their children to school in the first place.
The joint programme launched by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the Iraqi education ministry will provide a fortified midday snack to primary schoolchildren at some 1,800 schools in 24 districts over the 2011-2012 academic year.
Yes, that is good on the part of the UN. Good for the UN! Yea, for them. But what about Iraq? The press office notes that nearly 8 million Iraqis live below the poverty line.
What's the current government scandal in Iraq?
Jalal Talabani's visit to New York to speak at the UN and how it cost the Iraqi government $2 million dollars. If they've got two million dollars (and they do) to spend on Jalal's visit, then they should have enough money to feed all the children in Iraq without help from the UN (which would allow the UN to focus their resources on other countries -- countries that aren't awash in oil billions each year).
That's how corrupt the government is. They will spend $2 million dollars for the ceremonial president to travel to NYC and back but when it comes to feeding their own, they want the UN to provide assistance. Everyone's benefitting from the Iraqi oil billions . . . except the Iraqi people.
In the US, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and her office issues the following:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Murray Press Office
Wednesday, October 12, 2011 (202) 224-2834
Chairman Murray's Statement on Passage of House Veterans Employment Bill
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, released the following statement on House passage of the VOW Act, a bill to address veterans unemployment sponsored by House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman, Rep. Jeff Miller. Chairman Murray first introduced legislation in this Congress to help put veterans to work with the Hiring Heroes Act, which passed Senator Murray's Committee unanimously on June 29th and is awaiting action on the Senate floor.
"I look forward to working with Chairman Miller to build around both of our efforts to start putting veterans to work. This is an issue that should transcend partisanship and remind us that doing right by our veterans always comes first. We have made tremendous investments in training and supporting those in uniform and simply patting them on the back for their service and sending them into the working world alone isn't good enough. We must improve the opportunities and resources available to our veterans to help them find the dignity and financial security that a job helps provide."