Thursday on NPR's Talk of the Town, the guests were the military's Todd Nelson, Maria Serio-Melvin, Evan Renz, James Ficke, authors Sandra Cisneros and David Rice, and Mayor Julian Castro. 7 guests, only two were women.
Friday, January 28, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Iraqi women get some press coverage, new numbers are out on Iraqi refugees, Nancy A. Youssef pens a new attack piece in her new role as Judith Miller of 2011, and more.
Starting with Iraqi refugees. Jacques Clement (AFP) reports that the number of Iraqi refugees -- internal and external -- returning fell in 2010. And other than that, you're going to have to ignore AFP. I have no idea why it so confusing to so very many and with Clement, he's reporting breaking news and has that excuse. But many others don't. The UN will be releasing a breakdown of the numbers and that's not going to help either. A number of outlets, even using the official UN breakdown, haven't been able to get it right. PDF format warning, click here to see the numbers for January 2010 through August 2010. External refugees -- Iraqis who left the country -- who came back to Iraq are listed under "Refugees" on the "Returning Iraqis 2010" graph. Furthermore, you're using the "IND" numbers (individuals) and not "FAM" (families). From January through August, 18,240 Iraqis refugees returned to Iraq. UNHCR says the numbers continued to drop in the last months of the year. If we've all followed that, let's return to the AFP article: "According to UNHCR figures, the number of Iraqis returning to their home country peaked in March, with a total of 17,080 returns in the same month Iraq held its second parliamentary polls since dictator Saddam Hussein was ousted." What does that sentence say to you?
It appears to say that 17,080 Iraqi refugees who had left Iraq returned in the month of March. That is incorrect. Go back to the chart. How many Iraqis returned from outside of Iraq? 2450. So where's the 17,080? Look at the number of internally displaced Iraqis (Iraqis in Iraq but not in their own homes) for the month of March: 14,630 were able to return to their homes. You add those two numbers and you'll get 17,080. 17,080 is not the number of Iraqis who returned to Iraq in March. Are reporters not understanding the figures or are they deliberately distorting them? I don't know. We dealt with this last November 28th but we've dealt with it over and over since the start of The Myth of the Great Return. If you're looking for an example of someone who has and does consistently grasp the numbers, Kim Gamel's AP report today is the usual strong work from Gamel who explains, "Most returnees were internally displaced people who had fled to other parts of the country. Only 26,410 returned from Syria, Iran and Jordan and other countries, down from 37,090 in 2009, according to the report."
Alsumaira TV reports, "With the participation of Iraqi and foreign organizations and in the presence of Ambassadors to Iraq and officials from Kurdistan and Baghdad, Arbil hosted a conference on the role of women in building peace and reconciliation in Iraq. The conference criticized the political parties in Iraq and the central government over 'marginalizing' women in the new government." The conference ends today, it was a two-day conference. It was an international conference. And it says a great deal about the English-speaking press, or rather, the lack of coverage does.
Were this a business conference, there would be the financial press covering it as well as write ups in the general press. Were it on cholera or any of the illnesses that so frequently plague Iraq, the health press would cover it and the general press would do a few write ups. Were it on 'security,' the entire press would be ga-ga over it 'reporting' with advertising copy. But when the conference deals with women, where's the press?
If you're late to it, we covered the conference in yesterday's snapshot. Today on Morning Edition (NPR), Kelly McEvers and Isra al Rubeii report on Iraqi women married to 'terrorists' -- dubbed terrorists by the government of Iraq, a government that itself terrorizes its own people. Whether they're forced into the marriage by families or not, it's the women's fault in the eyes of the 'government' of Iraq. Their husband takes an action, well, the women are responsible because they should have known. It's a real damn shame that the US-government installed so many exiles to begin with but it's even more surprising how grossly ignorant the exiles are. Excerpt:
Kelly McEvers: Um Salah says that with her husband now in jail and accused of being a terrorist, she has no money and no hope. While she talks, [her two-year-old son] Salah hangs on her shoulder.
UM SALAH: (Through translator) Sometimes, you know, when she is so much fed up with her situation, she would just pray for God: God, take my life. I mean, okay. I mean, let me die with my son, now.
MCEVERS: Aid groups say there are more than a hundred women like Um Salah in Diyala Province alone. With that in mind, the Iraqi government recently launched an anti-al-Qaida media campaign.
(Soundbite of a video)
Unidentified Man #1: (Foreign language spoken)
Unidentified Man #2: (Foreign language spoken)
Unidentified Man #1: (Foreign language spoken)
MCEVERS: A video showed authorities digging through a bomb-making factory, and it urged women not to marry insurgents. Marry a terrorist, and your children will have no rights, the campaign goes. Marry a terrorist, and you'll be shunned by society.
The program, broadcast on state TV, featured two women who said they were forced to marry foreign fighters.
Unidentified Woman #2: (Foreign language spoken)
MCEVERS: This woman says her uncle arranged a marriage with a Palestinian-born militant from Syria. The man was later killed in a raid by Iraqi troops. About 20 women who once were married to militants have recently been detained. Ministry of Defense spokesman Mohammad al-Askari says he finds it hard to believe that any of them are totally innocent.
So they deny these women social services ensuring the women are punished for crimes they took no part in and the children are raised in situations that breed anger and create future strife -- which is a petri dish brimming with the potential for an endless cycle of violence. Again, it's a real shame that idiots were installed by the US government to run (and ruin) Iraq. In related news, Michael Grossberg (Columbus Dispatch) reports: on Heather Raffo's attempt to give voice to Iraqi women via her play Sounds of Desire:
An Iraqi-American actress and playwright developed an off-Broadway hit by creating nine diverse portraits of Iraqi women.
[. . .]
Raffo, raised in Michigan as a Roman Catholic with an Iraqi father and an American mother, created her characters as composites - culled from dozens of interviews she conducted with Iraqi women and their families. She met the women over more than eight years and on four continents.
"All of them have different points of view about the situation they're living in that are surprising to an American audience," she said.
Among her characters: a girl who wants to attend school but is stuck at home because of the military occupation of her country; a mullaya, a woman who leads the call and response at funerals; a bedouin who ponders a move to London; an expatriate in London; a painter who seeks freedom amid the regime of Saddam Hussein; and a woman in America, with family in Iraq, who watches the war on television.
NCCI: As the former Regional Coordinator for Women for Women International in Iraq, what do you feel are some of the greatest obstacles facing NGOs which operate in the sector of women's rights?
Manal Omar:The biggest challenge is when women become the negotiating chip. One of the titles of my chapters in my book is "Negotiating Chip," because I witnessed too often how women's rights were used during political or social bargaining. For example, you may have high-level Kurdish representatives that believe 100% in women's rights. However, during political debates, or when it's time to vote on a resolution, they will not vote pro-women. When I would challenge them, they often would say that their primary issue is federalization, and as a result, they would strike a deal on a resolution for women if more conservative parties would vote on the resolution of federalization. The second challenge is what I call the "not now" argument. This argument usually states that because of overall violence and instability, it is not an appropriate time to discuss women's issues. I have witnessed how the "not now" easily becomes the "not ever." Women must maximize the window of opportunity to push their rights forward.
NCCI: When was the last time that you were in Iraq? Did you notice any changes in women's status in the country at that time?
Manal Omar:The last time I was in Iraq was December 2010. Unfortunately, during my trip there was the announcement of the new government ministries. It was very sad to see that Iraqi women were not part of the list of ministries at all. Many of the women's organizations I have worked with for the last seven years called me and were in shock to see how Iraqi women continue to lose rights rather than gain them! After the previous elections, there were 6 female ministers; now there are none. Even the Ministry for Women's Affairs has an interim male Minister. This highlights that the challenge facing women is stronger than ever.
NCCI: Who do you consider as the most vulnerable groups of women today in Iraq? What special protection should NGOs and the government seek to provide them with?
Manal Omar:The most vulnerable groups would be women heads of households; this usually means widows, divorcés, or unmarried women. They do not have the access or mobility than men generally have. They are often more vulnerable in times of limited security and have less access to income. A lack of security remains the primary obstacle limiting women's ability to attain economic self-sufficiency. Naturally, women in that category who are either internally displaced people (IDPs) or refugees in neighbouring countries are at twice the riskk. NGOs should focus on programs that are accessible for these women. The best programs will not be able to succeed if women are not able to come, and that is often the case with the vulnerable women. They have very limited mobility. The more the program is available with limited transportation time and costs, the more accessible it will be for these groups. Overall, the Iraqi government is still the primary duty bearer and should have programs targeting the most vulnerable groups. These programs should be easy to access, with minimum bureaucracy and clear application steps.
There are also calls from the National Alliance for the process to be speeded up and for more women to be named with the latter calls being led by the Virtue Party's Kamilp Moussawi who notes that the last Cabinet had 7 women ministers. In addition, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has received a letter from female MPs formally protesting the marginalization of women in the Cabinet. As noted last Wednesday, among the female MPs protesting the inequality is Ala Talabani, Jalal's niece.
Last week and this week, Iraq's been slammed by bombings. Yesterday, Baghdad was slammed with bombings, the most violent of which appears to have targeted a funeral. AP notes that the death toll in that bombing has risen to 51 with one-hundred-and-twenty-three more people left injured. Liz Sly and Ali Qeis (Washington Post) report, "In scenes of chaos after the blast, enraged residents and mourners threw rocks at police to prevent them from reaching the site. When Iraqi army reinforcements arrived, a small group of gunmen hiding in a nearby building shot at them, prompting the soldiers to open fire over the heads of the crowd, according to an official with the army's Baghdad operations command, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the media." War News Radio spoke to the New York Times John Leland about Monday's attacks. Excerpt:
John Leland: Well it's hard to draw too many conclusions on just a couple of days. The attacks of today were on Shi'ite pilgrims walking towards Karbala which they do every year and have for the last seven years, since the fall of Saddam Hussein because Saddam had banned that march and every year they're attacked. So the fact that there are these attacks on them -- and to an extent, yesterday as well -- you know, it is, to some extent, to be expected.
Aaron Moser: Although some violence can be understood as part of a cyclical sectarian conflict, Leland thinks that other types of new violence are more concerning.
John Leland: The attack of earlier in the week --- the several attacks earlier in the week on security forces are presenting a different kind of subtleties. If the insurgency or whoever is doing this, he is able to mount sustained attacks on security forces. That causes huge problems for the country and does bring back echoes of the bad old days of 2005, 2006, 2007.
As one attack after another continues, one would think Nouri would start appointing people for the posts of Minister of Defense, Minister of the Interior and National Security Minister. However, Nouri's apparently comfortable going on and filling each one. A number of deals were made by Nouri to build a power-sharing coalition. The deals promised too much (if you only have 2x, you can't promise to provide 150x and even creating additional Cabinet posts out of whole cloth -- which Nouri has done -- won't allow him to honor all the deals made). Iraqiya, which received the most votes in the March 7th vote, was promised many things. They'd hoped to have a number of Cabinte posts. They'd hope to have Falah al-Naqib appointed as Minister of Defense. Barring that, they wanted Iskandar Wattout. Ayas Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reports that Falah al-Naqib is out as a nominee and that everyone believes the post of Minister of the Interior will go to Aqil Turaihi (member of Nouri's Dawa political party).
Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing injured three people (two were police officers), a Baghdad roadside bombing injured one person, 1 "employee of the Public Integrity Commission" was shot dead in Baghdad and, dropping back to yesterday, a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left four more injured.
Turning to news of basic services, Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Yahya Barzanji (AP) report on Abdul-Rahman Mustafa, Governor of Tamim Province, and his decision to stop supplying Baghdad with electricity while his capital (Kirkuk) makes do with less than four hours of electricity each day. Marwan Ibrahim (AFP) adds, "Rizgar Ali, chairman of Kirkuk's provincial council, said the procedure of separating from the national grid was completed on Tuesday evening." An unnamed US embassy official expresses concern and remind, "We saw riots last summer . . . that's a concern." Al Rafidayn terms it a "secession" and notes local demonstrators ("dozens") protested between Kirkuk and Erbil over the fact that they have daily power outages in excess of twenty hours. Al Sabaah reports that Monday saw over 1,000 people demonstrate in Diyala Province's Khan Bani Saad over the poor services and the deterioration of edcation offered -- on the latter, specific complaints include that the sole school was so small and "built with mud" and has over 1300 students enrolled in it.
Sir Gus told the inquiry that the Blair government had fewer Cabinet meetings than his immediate predecessors and his successors as prime ministers because he took a "certain view" about what could be achieved through collective decisions. Asked why this was the case, Sir Gus said he believed the prime minister had concerns about how watertight discussions in Cabinet would be.
While O'Donnell wasted plenty of time talking about Afghanistan (it's not the "Afghanistan Inquiry"), he did offer a few revelations and sketch out that, hiding behind claims of 'the press will find out,' Tony Blair kept many key leaders uninformed and underinformed during the decision making process. Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) notes that O'Donnell stated that Blair shouldn't have kept his Cabinet in the dark that the Attorney General had serious doubts that the Iraq War could be legal without a second resolution from the United Nations (there was no second resolution, for those late to the party) and emphasizes this quote: "The ministerial code is very clear about the need, when the attorney general gives written advice, the full text of that advice should be attached [to cabinet papers]." Rosa Prince (Telegraph of London) adds, "Giving evidence before the Iraq Inquiry, Sir Gus O'Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, said that the former prime minister did not consider cabinet meetings to be a 'safe place' where disagreements could be aired in private."
The Iraq Inquiry is taking place in London. It is the latest examination by the British into the Iraq War. The US has not provided even one solid investigation. Nor has Australia. Those three countries were the primary players/criminals in the illegal war. Chris Doran (On Line Opinion) argues for an inquiry to take place in Australia:
The Howard Government's decision to not only support but to participate in the invasion was not, as we all vividly remember, without significant opposition. Howard was warned repeatedly that a military invasion of Iraq was illegal and would contravene the United Nation's charter. Countless experts refuted alleged intelligence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and ties to Al Queda; many warned that invading Iraq would only inflame anti-western radical Islamic sentiment. And Australians took to the streets in mass protests not seen since the previous national debacle of following the US blindly into a brutal and unjust war in Vietnam. We now know of course that there were no WMD's or ties to Al Queda; even more importantly, we know that Howard, Bush, and Blair knew at the time that there was no evidence. Put simply, they lied. The British Chilcot Inquiry has largely focused on the legality of the invasion, and what then British Prime Minister Tony Blair knew, and when he knew it. This is somewhat of a moot point; the leaked Downing Street memo of July 2002 established that Blair knew then that the US had already decided to invade, and that the UN Security Council debate and attempt to secure a new resolution justifying force was all theatre. But it is not nor should it be a moot point for Australia. As revealed in the 2006 Cole Inquiry into the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) kickback scandal, in early 2002 John Dauth, then Australia's ambassador to the United Nations, told AWB Chairman Trevor Flugge that US military action to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein was inevitable, and that Australia would support and participate in such action. Flugge then dutifully reported this to the AWB Board of Directors on February 27, 2002. And so AWB was given advance notice of the Howard Government's intention to participate militarily a full year before the invasion took place and well before any sort of informed debate had begun. Issues of legality, justice, the rule of law, and innocent civilian lives clearly never entered into the decision making process, but Australia's wheat exports to Iraq did. That revelation alone should have prompted an Inquiry years ago. An excellent starting question for John Howard testifying at an independent Inquiry would be why and how his Government had already decided a year in advance to participate in an invasion.
We support Bradley Manning. Who? 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. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 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 at Quantico in Virginia, under military lock and key and still not allowed to speak to the press. Paul Courson (CNN) notes Bradley is a suspect and, "He has not admitted guilt in either incident, his supporters say."
What does that mean?
It means we don't link to Nancy A. Youssef's article for McClatchy Newspapers. Why not? Go through our archives, do a search of this site with "The Diane Rehm Show" and "Nancy A. Youssef" and "Bradley Manning" as key terms. Nancy has been on a one-woman witch hunt with regards to Bradley. She has repeatedly convicted him on air on The Diane Rehm Show -- not just once, not just twice, not just three times. She has done this over and over and over. (Though a guest on today's show, she didn't discuss Bradley -- they were obsessed with Egypt -- which had already been an hour long topic on Thursday's Diane Rehm Show but still became the thrust of today's international hour.) Nancy is also very close to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
A number of outlets are putting the claims in Nancy's bad article out there and treating them as fact. Let's review it. (If you must read it, the title is "Probe: Army ignored warnings over soldier" and you can Google that.) Nancy knows about an Army report -- how? Her friends she leaves unnamed. (But I can name them.) This report is the result of an investigation, she says, and it found unflattering things about Bradley. She says. And she can say so, she says, because she has "two military officials familiar with investigation" (but not the report?) who talked to her. Once upon a time, you had to have three sources. Always wonder about unsourced claims with two sources. Though she hasn't seen the report, Nancy yacks on and on about the report -- when not -- FOR NO NATURAL REASON -- bringing in Major Nidal Hasan. That's your clue that Nancy's gone skinny dipping in a cesspool she wants to pass off as journalism. Hasan shot dead many at Fort Hood. So Nance just wants to bring him into the article for . . . local color? Extra seasoning? She knows what she's doing and she knows it's not journalism.
You've been repeatedly warned about McClatchy of late and about Nancy in particular who is sending off alarms at McClatchy. What she's done is write a smear-job, she has not reported. For her friends in the Defense Dept, she has attacked Bradley in an unsourced article that doesn't pass the smell test. There is a term for it, "yellow journalism." She should be ashamed of herself and everyone running with the claims she's making in this article needs to ask how they think they're helping Bradley?
They also should note that Nancy made no effort to get a comment from Bradley's attorney. While painting Bradley in an unflattering light throughout her article, she never tries for a quote, she only repeats what her Defense 'chums' and . . . tell her. She's becoming the new Judith Miller and that's her fault but also the fault of a lot of people who should have been calling her out months ago but let her slide and slide.
TV notes. Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen are Naftali Bendavid (Wall St. Journal), Jackie Calmes (New York Times), Susan Davis (National Journal) and John Dickerson (CBS News). Gwen's latest column is " Date Night: Or Why the Best Part of the State of the Union Address Wasn't the Speech." Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Sam Bennett, Cari Dominguez, Kristen Soltis and Patricia Sosa to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. Online, it provides an extra segment, a discussion about Rick Santorum's remarks about Barack Obama. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
WikiLeaks Julian Assange, the controversial founder of WikiLeaks, speaks to Steve Kroft about the U.S. attempt to indict him on criminal charges and the torrent of criticism aimed at him for publishing classified documents. (This is a double-length segment.)
In Search of the Jaguar "60 Minutes" went in search of the most elusive of all of nature's big cats, the jaguar, and captured amazing footage of them in the Brazilian jungle. Bob Simon reports. | Watch Video
Sunday, Jan. 30, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
Radio notes. The Diane Rehm Show begins airing on most NPR stations (and begins streaming online live) at 10:00 am EST. The first hour, domestic hour, Diane's panelists include Chris Cillizza (Washington Post), Jeanne Cummings (Politico) and Clarence Page (Chicago Tribune). The second hour, international hour, her panelists include Michele Kelemen (NPR), David Sanger (New York Times) and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers). Diane's broadcast are archived and can be streamed online at no charge.
On Wednesday's Talk of the Nation (NPR), the guests were Ken Rudin, US House Rep. Chris Chocola, US House Rep. Judy Chu, M.L. Schultze, Jeff Daly, Cynthia Mabry, April Vangesen and the one and only Kathy Bates now starring in Harry's Law.
Eight guests and five were women. Mark the calendar's this is probably once in a lifetime.
Thursday, January 27, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Baghdad is slammed with bombings, a conference is held focusing on Iraqi women, more bad news for Tony Blair out of the Iraq Inquiry, the US government's mistreatment (torture) of Bradley Manning does not go unnoticed, and more.
Today Baghdad was slammed with bombings. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports, "Three people were killed and 14 others injured Thursday morning when three bombs exploded in different neighborhoods in Baghdad, the Interior Ministry said." All three were roadside bombings and Hamid Ahmed (AP) also reported on those bombings. However, those bombings were soon dwarfed by another Baghdad bombing. BBC News reports a Baghdad car bombing "near a funeral ceremony" has claimed at least 30 lives and left approximately fifty more people injured. Last week, waves of bombings began targeting various cities in Iraq and that has continued this week (Baghdad, Tikrit, Karbala, etc). Ned Parker and Salar Jaff (Los Angeles Times) provide this context, "The explosion was the fifth major attack in the last 10 days, leaving a death toll of nearly 200 people. The relentless pace of bombings was something the country has not seen in more than two years."
BBC, like many others, had to update the death toll throughout the day, including when it reached 37 and to note that, "Angry mourners attacked police who rushed to the scene, accusing them of failing to provide protection." Laith Hammoudi and Shashank Bangali (McClatchy Newspapers) report, "Perhaps inspired by the protest movement that's sweeping the Arab world, demonstrators fired guns in the air, hurled stones and shouted curses at police officers who responed to the scene of the funeral attack, residents said." Al Mada notes that roads leading into that section of Baghdad (Shula) were immediately closed. Laith Hammoudi and Shashank Bangali (McClatchy Newspapers) note that before that happened the demonstrators made clear that their anger was "that Iraqi police had allowed the attack, because Shaula is relatively small and has only one entrance" and that the police, faced with the crowd, withdrew. Al Jazeera reports, "The military sent in soldiers to restore order." Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) adds, "Iraqi troops have since sealed off the area, and have ordered residents to stay in their homes. There is as yet no indication of the number of casualties in the post bombing clashes, nor any claim of responsibility for the bombing itself."
Of the funeral bombing, Reuters adds, "Iraq's deputy health minister Khamis al-Saad said 35 people were killed and 65 wounded. An official at a hospital gave the same death toll after the explosion in the Shula district, a former stronghold of anti-US cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, but now thought to be controlled by a violent splinter group called Asaib al-Haq." Al Jazeera reports, "The military sent in soldiers to restore order." Ammar Karim (AFP) notes, "Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered the arrest of the area's security chief, army Lieutenant Colonel Ahmed al-Obeidi, in the immediate aftermath of the attack." Al Rafidayn calls it "the deadliest blast in the capital of Iraq for months" and they note, "Witnesses said the bomber blew himself up in a mourning tent filled with mourners and relatives [. . .] in the Shula district of Baghdad, which was formerly a stronghold of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is believed to be now under the control of the League of the Righteous splinter group that advocated violence." Al Mada states the Baghdad police released a press statement that the car bombing at the funeral had resulted in a death toll of 60 with ninety people injured.
Meanwhile Basaer News reports the "so-called Baghdad Operations Command" has declared that it will have completed construction on the Baghad security fence this year and that there will be "cameras and observation towers" throughout Baghdad. The newspaper notes the fence is constructed "under the pretext of control in a security situation which has remained uncontrollable" and is being rammed through "regradless of the problems it causes citizens." In other 'defense' news, Ahmed al-Zubaidi (Iraqhurr.org) reports Nouri and his Cabinet have agreed to purchase 18 F16 fighter aircraft from the US in order to strengthen the air force fleet that they hope to be functioning within two to three years. The 18 are "part of a plan by the Iraqi Air Force to buy an estimated 96 F16 airplanes from the US over the next ten years."
Abdel Hamid Zebair (Iraqhurr.org) reports that members of Iraq's Parliament and the Kurdistan Regional Government's Parliament are taking part in an international conference in Erbil which started today and focuses on "the role of women in peace-building, reconciliation and accountability in Iraq." Aswat al-Iraq adds that the conference ends tomorrow and is being attended by "international female personalities and a number of world activists in women affairs and representatives of international organizations." No Peace Without Justice explains:
The International Conference, which is the culmination of a long programme of reconciliation and accountability related advocacy and research undertaken by the organisers, both in Iraq and abroad, will be a major international event and represent a significant step towards securing Iraqi women an equitable voice within their country's political, judicial, economic, and other public institutions. Achieving these aims, and thereby promoting and mainstreaming gender equality within Iraq's ongoing reconciliation and accountability process, is one of the preconditions of its success.
The Conference aims to provide a venue for high-level political discussions involving Iraqi politicians, policy makers, civil society activists, and other opinion leaders, as well as international experts from across the world with first-hand experience of promoting women's rights and organising women's organisations in the pursuit of positive social change. Most importantly, the Conference will provide a wide range of Iraqi women's groups and participants with a very significant opportunity to work together and organise in pursuit of their common goals of protecting and promoting the rights of women in Iraq, and leading their country's ongoing accountability and reconciliation process. The recommendations for institutional, legislative, and organisational reform that will emerge from the Conference will provide a crucial foundation for future initiatives promoting gender equality, and consolidate progress towards securing an inclusive democratic future for Iraq on the basis of comprehensive accountability and reconciliation. The organisers aim to repeat this event in Baghdad next year.
Abdulla Sabri (AK News) notes that the conference comes as Nouri al-Maliki faces criticism over "the lack of women" in his Cabinet. Iraq Daily Times points out, "Only one woman was named to Maliki's 42-member cabinet, sparking an outcry in a country that once was a beacon for women's rights in the Arab world and adding to an ongoing struggle over the identity of the new Iraq. Whether this fledgling nation becomes a liberal democracy or an Islamist-led patriarchy might well be judged by the place it affords its women."
Bill Keller, executive editor of the New York Times and a past guest of ours, is publishing a detailed account in the Sunday magazine of the Times' relationship with Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange. The Times was one of several news outlets that reported on diplomatic cables given to them by Wikileaks.
It's all part of a controversial new chapter in the history of the First Amendment and its limits. Some U.S. lawmakers have called for Assange's prosecution. The real-world blowback from the leaked cables stretches all the way to the Arab world, where anti-government sentiment in places like Tunisia and Yemen has been fomented by cables that were damning of their leaders. (See our memorable show in which John Perry Barlow and John Negroponte debated issues around secrecy.)
John Hockenberry: How has this relationship evolved to one of enough credibility for the Times and the Guardian to proceed?
Bill Keller: Uhm. Well, we -- We sort of knew from the get-go -- because WikiLeaks had already started to establish a profile -- that this was going to be a tricky relationship. You know, sources -- You don't get to pick your sources, they tend to come to you with complications, agendas of their own. So you -- You know what you really do is foces on the material. Is it -- Is it genuine? Is it legit? Is it newsworthy? And what he brought to the Guardian and the Times and Der Spiegel and a few other papers ultimately was the real deal. I mean -- And genuinely, I think, important.
Celeste Headlee: Bill Keller, there is a lot of talk -- and I imagine there will be studies to come over the motives and agendas of Julian Assange. This is a man who, obviously, seems to like privacy of his of his own in terms of his own address. But many people say he's motivated by an agenda against the US government. Does that change the motivations or the missions of WikiLeaks?
Bill Keller: I -- I mean, he clearly has a strong distaste for the US government, regards it as more a force for evil than for good in the world. And that's one factor in why he's developed such a kind of large, cult following -- particularly in parts of Europe where the United States is resented for throwing its weight around too much. And that's certainly added an extra layer of caution in dealing with WikiLeaks and the material. But you know I think he came into believing that one effect of all this transperancy would be to embarrass and compromise the United States. At one point he called for [US Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton to resign in shame. In fact, a lot of people have been surprised that particularly the documents that relate to the State Dept show diplomates behaving in pretty compentent and-and well motivated ways.
From WikiLeaks to 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. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 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 at Quantico in Virginia, under military lock and key and still not allowed to speak to the press. Paul Courson (CNN) notes Bradley is a suspect and, "He has not admitted guilt in either incident, his supporters say." Amnesty International's Program Directo fo the Americas Regional Program, Susan Lee, sent the following open letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week:
I am writing to express concern about the conditions under which Private First Class (PFC) Bradley Manning is detained at the Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia. We are informed that, since July 2010, PFC Manning has been confined for 23 hours a day to a single cell, measuring around 72 square feet (6.7 square metres) and equipped only with a bed, toilet and sink. There is no window to the outside, the only view being on to a corridor through the barred doors of his cell. All meals are taken in his cell, which we are told has no chair or table. He has no association or contact with other pre-trial detainees and he is allowed to exercise, alone, for just one hour a day, in a day-room or outside. He has access to a television which is placed in the corridor for limited periods of the day. However, he is reportedly not permitted to keep personal possessions in his cell, apart from one book and magazine at a time. Although he may write and receive correspondence, writing is allowed only at an allotted time during the day and he is not allowed to keep such materials in his cell. We understand that PFC Manning's restrictive conditions of confinement are due to his classification as a maximum custody detainee. This classification also means that -- unlike medium security detainees -- he is shackled at the hands and legs during approved social and family visits, despite all such visits at the facility being non-contact. He is also shackled during attorney visits at the facility. We further understand that PFC Manning, as a maximum custody detainee, is denied the opportunity for a work assignment which would allow him to be out of his cell for most of the day. The United Nations (UN) Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMR), which are internationally recognized guiding principles, provide inter alia that "Untried prisoners shall always be offered opportunity to work" should they wish to undertake such activity (SMR Section C, rule 89). PFC Manning is also being held under a Prevention of Injury (POI) assignment, which means that he is subjected to further restrictions. These include checks by guards every five minutes and a bar on his sleeping during the day. He is required to remain visible at all times, including during night checks. His POI status has resulted in his being deprived of sheets and a separate pillow, causing uncomfortable sleeping conditions; his discomfort is reportedly exacerbated by the fact that he is required to sleep only in boxer shorts and has suffered chafing of his bare skin from the blankets. We are concerned that no formal reasons have been provided to PFC Manning for either his maximux security classification or the POI assignment and that efforts by his counsel to challenge these assignments through administrative procedures have thus far failed to elicit a response. We are further concerned that he reportedly remains under POI despite a recommendation by the military psychiatrist overseeing his treatment that such an assignment is no longer necessary.
Amnesty International recognizes that it may sometimes be necessary to segregate prisoners for disciplinary or security purposes. However, the restrictions imposed in PFC Manning's case appear to be unnecessarily harsh and punitive, in view of the fact that he has no history of violence or disciplinary infractions and that he is a pre-trial detainee not yet convicted of any offence. The conditions under which PFC Manning is held appear to breach the USA's obligations under international standards and treaties, including Article 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which the USA ratified in 1992 and which states that "all persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person". The UN Human Rights Committee, the ICCPR monitoring body, has noted in its General Comment on Article 10 that persons deprived of their liberty may not be "subjected to any hardship or constraint other than that resulting from the deprivation of liberty; respect for the dignity of such persons must be guaranteed under the same conditions as for that of free persons . . . .". The harsh conditions imposed on PFC Manning also undermine the principle of the presumption of innocence, which should be taken into account in the treatment of any person under arrest or awaiting trial. We are concerned that the effects of isolation and prolonged cellular confinement -- which evidence suggests can cause psychological impairment, including depression, anxiety and loss of oncentration -- may, further, undermine his ability to assist in his defence and thus his right to a fair trial. In view of the concerns raised, we urge you to review the conditions under which PFC Manning is confined at the Quantico naval brig and take effective measures to ensure that he is no longer held in 23 hour cellular confinement or subjected to other undue restrictions.
The corrosive, solitary confinement being inflicted upon PFC Bradley Manning in the Quantico, Va., brig is no exceptional torture devised exclusively for him. Across the length and breadth of the Great American Prison State, the world's largest, with its 2.4-million captives stuffed into 5,000 overcrowded lock-ups, some 25,000 other inmates are suffering a like fate of sadistic isolation in so-called supermax prisons, where they are being systematically reduced to veritable human vegetables. To destroy Manning as a human being, the Pentagon for the past seven months has barred him from exercising in his cell, and to inhibit his sleep denies him a pillow and sheet and allows him only a scratchy blanket, according to Heather Brooke of "Common Dreams" (January 26th.) He is awakened each day at five a.m. and may not sleep until 8 p.m. The lights of his cell are always on and he is harassed every five minutes by guards who ask him if he is okay and to which he must respond verbally. Stalin's goons called this sort of endless torture the "conveyor belt."
We regard Manning as an American hero and will celebrate his alleged actions, raise awareness of his condition, and challenge his shameless mistreatment at the hands of the United States Department of Defense by dedicating a spring bicycle tour through the American South to honor Bradley Manning, tell his story, and raise funds for his legal defense.
March 21st - April 8th: The Rebel With A Cause Bicycle Tour
On March 21, 2011, we will embark on a 444 mile bicycle ride along the Natchez Trace beginning in Natchez MS and arriving in Nashville TN on April 8, 2011. We will be speaking and performing at dozens of places along the Trace, focusing on Manning's narrative and raising money for his legal defense.
The Ride is public, and we invite veterans, artists, and other supporters to join us for however long they wish. Potential participants should have a suitable bicycle, appropriate clothing, resources for food, a personal tent and sleeping bag, and the time. We will average 50 miles each day we ride and take a couple of days off in-between longer jaunts. We will be camping primarily between cities in the beautiful parks along the Trace.
April 9th & 10th: Bradley Manning Solidarity Weekend
If you are unable to ride with us, we encourage you to produce an independent event in your community on April 9th and /or 10th, the same weekend we arrive in Nashville, as part of Bradley Manning Solidarity Weekend (BMSW)!
BMSW is a call to socially conscious artists and organizers across the country and world to propel Bradley Manning to pop-culture status through artistic expression before he goes to trial.
The war in Iraq occupied no more space in President Obama's State of the Union address than it has in his administration's foreign policy: not exactly a footnote, but no longer the contentious, consuming, convulsive center of all attention.
Iraq came up only briefly in the 46th minute of a speech that lasted just over an hour, but his five sentences and 72 words amounted to a declaration of victory, if a subdued one.
"Look to Iraq," he said, using the experience here under his presidency as an example of the restoration of American standing in the world, "where nearly 100,000 of our brave men and women have left with their heads held high."
Nearly 50,000 troops remain, but American combat patrols have ended, he said, and violence is down, though the last week has seen a particularly bloody spike in bombings and violence that has killed scores of people across the country.
When he finally got around to discussing the two wars that eat up billions of tax dollars and that have killed or maimed thousands of young men and women, he spoke as if these conflicts are just another wonderful American program for progress and peace. He mentioned 100,000 troops returned from Iraq, but neglected to mention the 50,000 who remain. He mentioned how our civilians "will forge a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people,'' but did not explain that they can only move about the country in a military convoy. If, or when, we leave that devastated country, we will leave it with millions of unemployed, angry people who cannot possibly contribute to their own security, let alone ours.
On the issue of Barack and his wars, KPFA's Ann Garrison reported at Global Research that, "Two years ago, on January 20, 2009, Barack Obama [. . .] invaded the Democratic Republic of Congo, the heart of Africa, on his Inauguration Day. Most Americans, including those who campaigned hardest for Obama, would have a hard time making sense of this, or of the military forces involved." Garrison filed a report for KPFA's Weekend News Sunday where she intereviewed Keith Harmon Snow and has provided an audio link of that as well as a transcript that goes beyond the broadcast segment -- they are at San Francisco Bay View and Global Research. Excerpt:
KPFA/Ann Garrison: So what sense does it make to say that Barack Obama invaded Congo, the heart of Africa, on his Inauguration Day?
Keith Harmon Snow: The U.S.-backed military invasion of Jan. 20, 2009, included U.S. military commanders, special forces, military advisers, technicians and other U.S. military personnel, and it involved weaponry supplied by the U.S. and Britain.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: Can you explain the CNDP militia and the significance of its integration into the Congolese army, the FARDC, on Jan. 20, 2009?
Keith Harmon Snow: First, the name CNDP -- Congress for the Defense of the People – couldn't be further from the truth. The CNDP was a Rwandan Tutsi-based militia that was created by Rwandan war criminals who had infiltrated Eastern Congo, infiltrated troops into Eastern Congo, and mobilized, armed and economically empowered Rwandan Tutsi civilians who had infiltrated Eastern Congo in recent years and in recent decades. There was a tripartite agreement between Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame, Ugandan dictator Yoweri Museveni, and the president of Congo -- another Rwandan, Joseph Kabila -- which worked behind the massive propaganda of "peace talks" to advance the military campaign to infiltrate and control Eastern Congo. By quote "integrating" these Rwandan militia elements into the Congolese National Army, the Rwandan program was advanced through a kind of Trojan horse operation.
And now we're moving over to England where the Iraq Inquiry continued to taking public testimony and heard today from Adm Michael Boyce who was UK Defense Chief from 2001 to 2003. The Committee members -- especially Usha Prashar -- hit upon a January 15, 2003 briefing repeatedly. As with 2002, he was led to believe that the plan for Iraq was not regime change and even March of 2003 -- shortly before the war began -- he didn't feel that was what Tony Blair was aiming for. He did plan for a possible invasion and testified that was drawn up as a possibility and he did so after Tony Blair and George W. Bush had their April 2002 meet-up in Crawford, Texas. This is in direct conflict with Tony Blair's testimony last week that his Cabinet knew the score.
In Iraq, Christians have been under assault throughout the war but the latest wave of attacks began October 31st with the attack on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad. We'll close with this from US House Rep Frank Wolf's office:
Washington, D.C. - In the wake of increasing violence, targeted attacks and heightened discrimination against Christians in Iraq and Egypt, and persistent concerns in Afghanistan and Pakistan, among other nations, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) today introduced bipartisan legislation calling for the creation of a special envoy at the U.S. State Department for religious minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia.
Wolf, co-chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, is long recognized as a voice for the persecuted around the world. He said threats against religious minorities have been increasing in recent months and that the United States has an obligation to speak out for the voiceless, to develop policies to protect and preserve these communities, and to prioritize these issues in our broader foreign policy.
"If the international community fails to speak out, the prospects for religious pluralism and tolerance in the region are bleak," Wolf said in introducing the bill. "President Ronald Reagan once said that the U.S. Constitution is a 'covenant that we have made not only with ourselves, but with all of mankind.'''
Last week, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission held a hearing on the recent spate of attacks and the ongoing persecution of Christians in Iraq and Egypt. Commission members heard testimony about the increasing sectarian tensions in the two countries and the need for greater U.S. attention to the plight of religious minorities.
Iraq and Egypt are not an anomaly, Wolf said. Other religious minorities, including the Ahmadis, Baha'is, Zoroastrians and Jews, are under increasing pressure in the region. Last year the Pew Forum released a report on global restrictions on religion which found that "nearly 70 percent of the world's 6.8 billion people live in countries with high restrictions on religion, the brunt of which often falls on religious minorities."
Wolf, along with Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), also co-chairs the Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus, and they have long pressed the State Department to develop a comprehensive policy to address the unique needs of the ancient ethno-religious faith communities in Iraq, a policy which recognizes that these indigenous communities are not simply the victims of generalized violence in Iraq but are facing targeted violence which is forcing them to flee the lands they've inhabited for centuries.
In addition to numerous letters to the State Department seeking to elevate these issues globally and ensure that U.S. embassies are "islands of freedom" in the midst of repression, Wolf has also written church leaders in the West urging them to speak out on behalf of the persecuted globally.
This public radio program featured 7 guests and not one was a woman.
Someone asked me what my hope was with this or the pieces I've written (and hopefully will continue to write) with Ava and C.I.?
My hope is that women will get outraged. We're trained to get outraged at the right. And to consider the left our friend. I was not a Hillary supporter. I'm a Green and have supported Ralph Nader in 2000, 2004 and 2008. But I was digusted with the sexist attacks on Hillary. I was especially bothered that they began appearing at Ralph Nader's site in the comments while he was running for president.
It was disgusting.
Women need to grasp that the left gives lip service, but they clearly are ready to stab us in the back when it works for them.
So where does that leave us? Me it still leaves on the left. But it leads me to study and figure out who I can trust and who I can't.
And if enough women start realizing what's going on, we may be able to force some changes in representation.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri ignores the plight of Iraqi widows, Nouri looks the other way as illegal marriages involving one man and multiple wives take place, more bad news for Tony Blair out of the Iraq Inquiry, and more.
We'll get to Iraq in a moment but we'll start with community. Last night, Marcia's "Dandelion Salad pushes abortion lies" and Rebecca's "dandelion salad pimps abortion lies and islamophobia" went up. They are correct. There will be no correction from them. Dandelion Salad wants Marcia to issue a correction. She's not going to. Dandelion Salad wants Marcia to post a comment at Dandelion Salad. That won't happen either. Martha's passed on that Vanessa e-mailed and is outraged that a comment she left at Dandelion Salad calling out that post was edited by Dandelion Salad so that anyone reading her comment cannot follow what she's saying. There will be no correction from Marcia, from Rebecca and certainly not from me. At the backup site -- where Rebecca, Cedric and myself cross-post -- Rocket has attempted to leave comments. Sorry, Rocket. We don't do comments. But I'll give you one here: "I knew Anais Nin, you didn't and you can shut your damn mouth about her." (Rebecca also knew Anais and so did Elaine.) I love that a man who never knew Anais Nin wants to lecture me about her. I love that. That's the thing about certain men, not having any facts at all has never prevented then from rushing to weigh in.
Marcia and Rebecca both plan to address the topic tonight. I checked with them to make sure their points didn't include what I wanted to call out. The man who wrote the offensive article? Rocket? He's even more offensive in his comments, specifically his January 25th 4:03 pm comment:
i agree. that is why woman needs to look at these daring role models of old. not look to these career uppity woman that snuff their own children out to get ahead in life.
That comment by that man Rocket reeks of sexism. Do not type that -- as Rocket did -- and then claim you're not a right-winger. You are a right winger. You may not know it, but when you write tropes like that, you are a right winger and you're a sexist pig so why don't you oink-oink-oink all the way home? I'm really getting sick of men attacking women to begin with. I'm getting even sicker of men who think they're experts on either abortion or feminism when they so clearly don't know what they're speaking of. Mary Wollstonecraft (mentioned by Rocket in another comment to his own article) dying in child birth does not prove a damn thing except that the birth (her second) went wrong. That was in 1797. Shall we now go back to the surgeries men had in 1797? Hey, how about a moratorium on open heart surgery because I'm sure we can round up some men from 1797 who were opposed to cutting of any kind, let alone surgery. And, of course, all prostate procedures should be on hold as well. Stay out of my doctor's examination room and I'll stay out of yours.
Rocket wants to claim he's not a right winger. Rebecca's already demonstrated that his main link is to an organization that feels Jesus is the only true God and all others are false -- and that's on the organization's about page. Most would say, "Yeah, right wing source." True also of the church sources and it is right-wing to dictate a religous 'morality' on anyone else's life so that rules out Consistent Life. Ron Paul? He's right-wing.
Dandelion Salad will not be linked to again community wide because it presents as left and it just one more site selling out women's rights. Now we will link to Antiwar.com which is a right-wing site. But they're not hiding what they are. And if they go off on abortion, I really don't care. But I do care about these people on the left who are so quick to sell out women's rights. We have always called that out at this site and we always will. You can click on this March 2, 2005 entry for one example. I don't have time for the lefties repeating right-wing lies and spin. Dandelion Salad has demonstrated it is not a site that believes in equality and it will never be linked to again -- a community wide ban. I also offer my apologies for having linked to it before. I had no idea that they weren't left and that they attacked the rights of women. We do not support attacks on women's rights. We never have, we never will. As for Feminists for Life, long called out by Rebecca, we'll note this from Katha Pollitt's 2005 column on the group:
Can you be a feminist and be against abortion? Feminists for Life claims to be both, and if you listen long enough to its voluble and likable president, Serrin Foster, you might almost think it's true. FFL is on a major publicity roll these days, because Jane Roberts, wife of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, is a pro bono legal adviser, former officer and significant donor (she gave between $1,000 and $2,499 in 2003). When I caught up with Foster at the end of a long day that included an hour on NPR's On Point, she talked a blue and quite amusing streak, and although it can be hard to follow an aria that swoops from Susan B. Anthony to telecommuting to water pollution, while never quite answering the actual question, I'm sure she means every word of it. How can you argue with FFL's contention that America does not give pregnant women and mothers the support they need? Feminists, the prochoice kind, have been saying this for years. So far as I can tell, FFL is the only "prolife" organization that talks about women's rights to work and education and the need to make both more compatible with motherhood. It has helped bring housing for mothers and children to Georgetown University and supports the Violence Against Women Act; Foster reminded me that she and I had been on the same side in the mid-1990s in opposing family caps, the denial of additional benefits to women who had more children while on welfare. Why, she wondered, couldn't we all just work together to "help pregnant women"?
[. . .]
Exposing the constraints on women's choices, however, is only one side of feminism. The other is acknowledging women as moral agents, trusting women to decide what is best for themselves. For FFL there's only one right decision: Have that baby. And since women's moral judgment cannot be trusted, abortion must be outlawed, whatever the consequences for women's lives and health--for rape victims and 12-year-olds and 50-year-olds, women carrying Tay-Sachs fetuses and women at risk of heart attack or stroke, women who have all the children they can handle and women who don't want children at all. FFL argues that abortion harms women--that's why it clings to the outdated cancer claims. But it would oppose abortion just as strongly if it prevented breast cancer, filled every woman's heart with joy, lowered the national deficit and found Jimmy Hoffa. That's because they aren't really feminists -- a feminist could not force another woman to bear a child, any more than she could turn a pregnant teenager out into a snowstorm. They are fetalists.
Again, that's from Katha Pollitt's 2005 column. If you suffered through the garbage up at Dandelion Salad, especially make a point to cleanse yourself by reading Katha.
And if you don't like abortion? Don't have one. And for most of the pro-life crowd, including writer Rocket, that's not too difficult since they're men. But if you're a woman and don't want an abortion, you don't have one. It's that simple. They want to bring up (under "see") China and the government forcing a woman to have an abortion. (Just one woman forced?) China does not have a monster government that decided one day, "How can we screw over our citizens?" China implemented that policy due to population concerns. Population concerns could likely end up being one of the biggest concerns of the 21st century throughout the world. Which means other countries could do the same as China. Could it happen in the US? Not currently.
Currently, the law of the land is that an abortion is a woman's decision. It is not the government's decision. It is the woman in question and only she can decide. However, if these idiots who want to repeal Roe v. Wade get their way, they're saying that government can outrank a woman and say "NO" on abortion. Any government that has the power to say "NO" also has the power to say "YES." So if you're truly concerned that the US might some day try to force women to have abortions, then you'd be doing everything you could to support Roe v. Wade because that law prevents the government from deciding on abortion. That's reality. And it's only difficult to grasp if you're one of those who sets out to destroy women's rights and women's lives.
Last night US President Barack Obama took to the airwaves again and delivered a "State of the Union" address -- either to flaunt his ignorance or his ability to lie with a straight face, you be the judge. Alsumaria TV notes, "In the annual State of the Union address, US President Barack Obama praised the progress made in Iraq in the political process and the new government formation." The government really wasn't formed. If the Constitution were followed to the letter and intent, Nouri wouldn't be prime minister. He didn't form a Cabinet, he left spots empty and filled 3 himself. That's not what the Constitution allows. But with pressure from the US government, the Iraqi Parliament waived him through. Over a month later and he still hasn't filled that Cabinet. It's less tha two months away from the one-year anniversary of the March 7th elections and Iraq still doesn't have a full Cabinet.
In a month that's not yet ended but has already seen more spectacular bombings than Iraq's seen in one month in a long, long time, even though the death toll for this (ongoing) month has already passed the official toll for last month, Barack wanted to stand up last night and insist that violence was down.
We've heard this sort of lying before from George W. Bush. Barack only demonstrated last night that he was worse than even Bush. Congratulations to the White House for that proud moment. NPR analyzed the speech, Tom Gjelten taking the Iraq and Afghanistan part, "But the level of violence in Iraq remains high, and the seeds of renewed sectarian strife and political instability have been planted with the return to Iraq of Moqtada al-Sadr, whose Iran-backed Shiite militia was responsible for much anti-Sunni violence in earlier years."
A top U.S. oversight office has recommended that the United States halt further funding for a $26 million education academy for senior Iraqi security officials after discovering that the Iraqi government had never agreed to operate or maintain the facility. The United States has spent more than $13 million on the project.
Barack declared, "Look to Iraq, where nearly 100,000 of our brave men and women have left with their heads held high; where American combat patrols have ended; violence has come down; and a new government has been formed. This year, our civilians will forge a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people, while we finish the job of bringing our troops out of Iraq. America's commitment has been kept; the Iraq War is coming to an end." And ignored that he is actively seeking an extension to the SOFA and that the back up plan is to switch the military over to the US diplomatic staff in Iraq and call that a 'pullout.'
Since the supposed end of combat operations in Iraq last summer, 18 U.S. troops and at least 649 Iraqi civilians have been killed. According to many analysts, Obama will likely maintain 5 U.S. bases and 50,000 troops in Iraq indefinetly.1 According to the National Priorities Project, U.S. taxpayers will contribute $65 billion to the war in Iraq, money that could instead pay for over 1 million jobs, or 13.4 million people receiving low-income health care.2 President Obama stated that troops would start coming home from Afghanistan this July, but Pat Alviso, who's son is currently serving in Afghanistan, asks: "The withdrawal may start in July, but when will it end? My son is in Afghanistan now, and almost 30,000 more troops are scheduled to deploy before July. When will they come home?" She continued, "If President Obama, wants to keep his promise of 'shaping a world that favors peace and prosperity,' he needs to bring my son and all the troops home now -- and take care of them when they get here." The president also made sweeping promises about improving education, health care, clean energy, and creating jobs. However, at the same time he is proposing a 5-year freeze in domestic spending, with only minor cuts to the military budget. "My community is suffering from cuts to health care, failing schools, and a rising unemployment rate. My husband was discharged from the Army in Nov. 2010. He is 75% disabled now and just had his 3rd operation. He is not able to work. His unemployment benefits have been cut, and his disability pay does not cover our expenses. I am working full time, but can not make ends meet." said MFSO member Tammara Rosenleaf from Montana. "Congress and the President may clap to show their gratitude, but I'd rather be able to actually pay my bills." Members of Military Families Speak Out and Gold Star Families Speak Out are available for interviews about the State of the Union. If you are looking for a family with a specific story, please contact Samantha Miller, MFSO's Communications Coordinator -- Samantha@mfso.org or 818-419-6994
President Obama says he wants a freeze in non-security, discretionary spending. In the unlikely event that happens, it won't really matter, because to make a real dent in the deficit, it's necessary to cut spending on the military and entitlements. The president promised big government in the past, and he delivered. I expect more of the same.
However, Obama has truly been a hypocrite on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a candidate, he promised to end them. Tonight we heard more hollow promises. The fact is, as president, he has kept those wars going, and has greatly escalated the war in Afghanistan. As a percentage of GDP, military spending is higher now than it was during any year of the George W. Bush administration.
Unlike President Obama, Libertarians would bring our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan, and reduce the military budget.
The Green Party response to the speech included: "The White House and Congress can reduce the deficit drastically by ending the wars and occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq, cutting military spending and the number of US bases on foreign soil, and taxing the wealthy so that they pay their fair share. Future meltdowns can be averted by breaking up the "too big to fail" financial firms into smaller locally-based companies. The Green Party's goal of a decentralized economy, based on Main Street rather the Wall Street, will restore economic stability and security to the US." Iraq Veterans Against the War:
President Obama grossly understated the heavy toll that the Afghanistan and Iraq wars are baring on troops and the economy. The Afghanistan War is now the longest war in U.S. history. Military healthcare costs are rising at twice the rate of the national average and occupy a major chunk of the Pentagon budget (USA Today 4/25/10). 2009 was the first year since recordkeeping began that mental health disorders were the major cause of hospitalization (USA Today 5/16/10), a grim symbol of compounding trauma. Obama declared in his speech that veterans are returning home "with heads held high," a fable not reflected in the record suicide rates.
"President Obama, do you really think we are holding our heads high as we are watching our brothers and sisters suffer and commit suicide because they aren't getting the care they deserve? Troops need more than a long pause for applause, they need to be treated like humans," said Maggie Martin of IVAW, two-time Iraq veteran.
Veterans of IVAW are currently leading a campaign, Operation Recovery, launched in October to end the military's widespread practice of deploying traumatized troops back into battle. By heeding their call the President would back his promise of cutting healthcare costs. He would lower unemployment for veterans and help begin a process of national healing.
"Soldiers are being forced to redeploy into combat without receiving treatment for wounds suffered during previous combat tours. Military Sexual Trauma, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Traumatic Brain Injury are spiraling out of control as a result, with unacceptable human and financial costs," said Jose Vasquez, who served 14 years in the United States Army and is now the Executive Director of Iraq Veterans Against the War.
Unemployment is another high cost of multiple redeployments and inadequate care. A January report released by the Bureau of Labor statistics shows recent veterans have an almost 12% unemployment rate -- 2.3% higher than the national average. Mental and physical wounds suffered during combat make it more difficult for veterans to find jobs or start their own businesses.
"The president said withdrawal from Afghanistan will start in July, but when will it end? Let's bring all the troops home immediately and invest in the care they have earned," said Zach Choate, Afghanistan War veteran and IVAW member.
Athony Fest: Mike Gravel, the worst of the recession is over?
Mike Gravel: No, not at all. Depends upon who you're talking about. The worst of the recession is over for Wall Street because they're prospering. They're the ones that got all the bailout -- not, not the average citizen who's unemployed, so, no, not at all. And just listen to the rhetoric. He's saying, you know, we can't spend money, we've got to make cuts.' Where are they going to make the cuts? Discretionary spending is only 12% of the budget. That leaves out defense. And, of course, this joke that they're going to cut the defense budget, the Republicans will fight that tooth and nail and the Democrats will cave as they normally do.
Adrienne Lauby: Mike Gravel, this is Adrienne Lauby. I want to talk about this, this rhetorical line I hear it so much: "Families sacrifice to live within their means, they deserve a government who does the same thing." And he's just about to cut the things that keep families above water.
Mike Gravel: Adrienne, it's - it boggles the mind that rational people can stand up and tell you that they're going to cut the budget and they're going to spend more to bring the infrastructure and the nation up to a competative level in the world.That just doesn't make any sense. And yet they do it with a straight face, they applaud. They're going to cut ear marks? Don't hold your breath on that one.
Mike Gravel ran for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 2008 and has talked of running for the nomination again in 2012. Hillary Is 44 offers their take of the speech here.
Like the worst lies of Bully Boy Bush, Barack talked 'progress' in Iraq last night. Roula Ayoubi (BBC News) reports on Hanan, a single mother with three children whose husband was killed in the Iraq War. A divorced man proposed to her. She accepted. They married. She found out he was still with his first wife. That's deceit and trickery and illegal in Iraq. Polygamy, sadly, is legal with a judge's permission. Despite it being illegal -- as is genital mutilation -- it still goes on in Iraq -- as does genital mutilation. Ayoubi reports:
Nada Ibrahim, a member of parliament, supports the idea of polygamous marriage in principle - as long as a husband treats his wives "with justice".
However, she also believes that the government should provide more support for widows, to make it easier for them to survive without men.
"Widows are often young and don't have jobs, health insurance or social security. We shouldn't encourage them only to get married," she says.
Hana Edwar of the Amal charity also believes that the government should help widows financially to enable them to decide their own fate. She's firmly opposed to polygamous marriage.
"It's about women's dignity," she says. "Women need to be educated about their rights."
Women in illegal second marriages are often "in an inferior situation where they are unprotected and prone to abuse by men", she adds.
Your first clue that there's a problem? Qualifying your okay of a man having multiple wives with as long as he treats them "with justice." Right there, you see the imbalance. It's not a coming together of equal partners and the wife (second, third, fourth, whatever) is dependant upon the husband for 'justice.' To listen to a report on the issue, click here for Woman's Hour (BBC Radio). In 2006, Joshua Partlow (Washington Post) explained, "Iraq this year has $337 million to disburse from the fund for all welfare cases, not just widows, in a program that covers 500,000 people. A widow with no children is eligible for $34 a month from the government, while the maximum monthly disbursement is $81 for a widow with five or more children -- neither amount enough to escape from poverty." Also in 2006, Dahr Jamail and Ali Al-Fadhily (IPS) reported on the issue and they quoted Haja Saadiya Hussein who explained, "I had to pay a lot of money as bribes to government officials in order to get the monthly support payment, and that is not enough to support my big family. Americans killed my husband last year near a checkpoint, and now I have to work as a servant in government officials' houses to earn a living for my six children. I have stopped them going to school, to cut my expenses." Nouri could have dealt with these issues (first story from July 2006, second from December 2006 -- Nouri became prime minister in April of 2006). He never addressed it. Well, you're saying, now he's got his second term and maybe he can do a study on the issue? In February 2009, Timothy Williams (New York Times) reported that "commissions" were studying the issue. It's two years later. Are they still studying the issue? Timothy Williams noted "roughly one in six" Iraqi widows receives goverment assistance and that was "currently about $50 a month and additional $12 per child" in a country where "a five-liter container of gasoline, used for cars as well as home generators, is about $4." In March 2009, Oxfam International released "In Her Own Words: Iraqi women talka bout their greatest concerns and challenges," a survey of 1,700 Iraqi women -- approximately 60% of whom say that security is their first concern, the next grouping (55%) explain that they have been direct or indirect victims of violence since the US invasion began and the same percentage states "they were displaced at least once since 2003." Other findings included almost "25% of women had no daily access to drinking women & half of those who did have daily access to water said it was not potable; 69% said access to water was worse or the same as it was in 2006 & 2007" and "40% of women with children reported that their sons and daughters were not attending school." On the latter issue, "30% of those with children said they could not reach school without security threats." We'll note this section of the 19-page report:
In early 2009, reports of improved security in Iraq, and even a return to 'normality,' began appearing in the media. Similar reports of diminished suicide bombs and other violent indiscriminate attacks emerged at the time of the initial data collection last year. However insecurity remains in many provinces including Baghdad, Kirkuk and Nineveh where small-scale attacks, assassination and kidnappings continue. Women in particular are less safe now than at any other time during the conflict or in the years before.
Beyond security, the overwhelming concern women voiced was extreme difficulty accessing basic servics such as clean water, electricity and adequate shelter despite billions of US dollars that have been spent in the effort to rehabilitate damaged or destroyed infrastructure. Availability of essentials such as water, sanitation and health care is far below national averages. Both the Iraqi organization and researcher that carried out the survey and analyzed its findings corroborated that the overall cchallenges facing women and the Iraqi population as a whole remained the same in early 2009 as they did in the second half of 2008 when the date presented in this paper was collected.
The report notes, "As compared with 2007, 40% felt their security situation was worsening in 2008, 38% said it was improving and the remainder said it had not changes; as compared with 2006; 43% said it was worse, 34% said it was better & 22% said it had not changed." Oxfam calls for a dramatic increase in investments from donor countries to rebuild Iraq's "basic and social services sectors" and notes "The women of Iraq have been caught in the grip of a silent emergency for the past six years."
The key moments for Kyle were all anomalies, moments when the narratives were ruptured, when he confronted the reality of his situation beyond the denial and repression of military culture. One of the most significant anomalies for Kyle occurred during the last few months of his tour, when his unit was sent down to the southern suburbs of Mosul: Kyle's platoon lived at a combat out-post and, like all residences, someone had to take out the trash. The trouble came in that the trash contained a lot of edible food (mirroring US waste patterns). Kyle recollects that a good portion of the food was sealed in cellophane packaging, or in unopened boxes. There were whole loafs of bread, bruised but edible fruits and vegetables, and other food. Disposal comprised of dousing the trash (i.e. food) in JP8 fuel and setting it on fire.
As Kyle witnessed on his first trash detail, Iraqi children came from all over to try to salvage what food they could. The first time it happened, Kyle's platoon wasn't sure how to handle the situation, and allowed the children to take what was left after the fire had decimated much of it-but after the incident, they were given strict orders to bar children from taking food from the garbage.
"It was like something from the Twilight Zone," he relates. "The children were starving. They knew that the food was coming out, and they'd come from the desert hills a kilometer away." He related the story:
They would get closer and closer and as the distance between us shorten their cries got louder. We would push them back and intimidate them as they screamed and cried for the perfectly good packaged food goods that us soldiers deemed unworthy for our stomachs but edible food nonetheless. I hated doing the trash detail with a passion and seeing the poor children suffer. Our own American tax money burned in a fire pit, while Iraqi children-who we were supposed to be helping-were begging for our trash.
That's what he saw. How could Nouri avoid seeing the same suffering? How could he avoid helping Iraq's children and widows? Because it's cheaper to allow the law to be broken by allowing men to take multiple wives. Or for that matter, allowing "temporary marriage" (the man gets to have sex with the woman but doesn't have to remain married to her -- it's really cohabitatioon -- briefly or for a longer period -- but the men call it temporary marriage because it allows them to pretend they're living 'righteous' lives). The experiences in Iraq changed Kyle, he became a Buddhist. It's amazing the impact the war had him when you grasp how little it has impacted Nouri. About the only thing it's done for Nouri is increase his greed.
Like his greed, the violence never vanishes. Reuters notes a Mosul mortar attack claimed the life of 1 person and left another injured and that 1 person was shot dead in Mosul; however, the big news is the targeting of various officials and groups today such as Foreign Affairs Ministry employee Jamal Satar shot dead in Baghdad, Foreign Affairs Ministry employee Jabar Mukhtar shot dead in another part of Baghdad, an employee of the National Security Ministry shot dead in Baghdad and 1 Sahwa member shot dead in Tarmiya.
Two former cabinet secretaries – the country's most senior civil servants – mounted a devastating critique of the way Blair handled the run-up to war. The cabinet were trapped in a position where they had to agree to attack Iraq or bring down the prime minister, the inquiry heard.
Today's witnesses disputed Blair's claim to the inquiry last Friday that cabinet ministers might not have seen official papers but would have known about plans from the media. "None of those key [Whitehall] papers were presented to the cabinet so I do not accept the former prime minister's claim they knew the score ... That isn't borne out by what actually happened," said Lord Turnbull, then cabinet secretary.
Alex Barker (Financial Times of London) observes Turnbull testified that the Cabinet was denied "key documents" and the cabinet did not realize "the likelihood of military action against Iraq" in 2002. AFP reports that Lauren Booth, Blair's sister-in-law, has weighed in that Tony Blair is a War Criminal:
Asked whether Blair should be arrested and sent to the International Court of Justice in The Hague for war crimes, Booth replied: "Absolutely. He misled the British people and took Britain to war on a lie." The conflict in Iraq was "an offence", she told reporters after a speech at a Malaysian university, saying it was organised well in advance between Blair and the United States leadership. Booth has been a vocal opponent of the war in Iraq, and a supporter of the Palestinian cause, and in 2008 travelled with other activists to Gaza by ship to protest against Israel's blockade of the territory.
Britain's special representative in Baghdad warned the government that US military tactics and policies in post-invasion Iraq "made the situation worse", a classified document released by the Chilcot inquiry reveals.
The document's author, Sir David Richmond, a former top diplomat, told the inquiry yesterday that the failure to stop looting after the fall of Baghdad - dismissed by Donald Rumsfeld, then US defence secretary, in his notorious phrase "stuff happens" - was "disastrous".
He told the inquiry: "It was crime and kidnapping. A virus of insecurity and instability was let loose".
BBC News emphasizes this from the document: "What might have been an uneasy acquiesence was too often turned into anger and resentment by military tactics which were heavy-handed and disdainful of the Iraqis." The document was sent June 28, 2004 and [PDF format warning] click here to read it in full.