Saturday, September 17, 2011

2 women, 4 men


Two hours and no Iraq. Two hours of mindless chit chat.

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


Friday, September 16, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri still can't play nice with others, a boom in housing construction doesn't lead to lower prices (hmm), peace efforts gear up for next month, and more.
We'll start with an excerpt from Scott Horton (Antiwar Radio) interviewing Kevin Zeese about Come Home America:
Scott Horton: I think that Come Home America is the most important thing in the whole world, why don't you tell everyone about it.
Kevin Zeese: Well Come Home America is an effort to bring people across the political spectrum together if they oppose war, militarism and empire. We don't care what your political views are on other issues, whether you're a Libertarian or a progressive, a liberal or a conservative, a Republican or a Democrat, or an independent or a third party member. We just want to bring people together who oppose war and militarism. We look at the power of the military industrial complex, the control of the Congress and we see that in order for us to be successful in challenging that military machine, we need to unite and put aside our other differences and unite to really work to reduce the political power of the military industrial complex and their minions in Congress.
Scott Horton: It occurs to me that you could probably use millions and millions of dollars, am I right?
Kevin Zeese: I think that's very true. You know the military industrial complex certainly spends hundreds of millions of dollars to control the political process. And we can't compete with them dollar for dollar but I think we can compete with them person for person. I think the more we get out the message about US empire and its negative impact on our national security, on people's lives around the world and on our economy, the more people who will support our views and the stronger we'll -- the quicker we'll end this militarism of our foreign policy.
Let's stay with peace for a bit more. DC Blogger (at Corrente) has justified one hundred one useless politicians over the years, had a real struggle coming to grips with the realities of Barack Obam (Corporatist War Hawk) and is most infamous for useless, "Call this 1-800 number and tell them . . ." I've never said a word about DC Blogger here (or elsewhere). I consider DC Blogger highly inept but that's my opinion and it wasn't necessary to share it. Unless and until DC Blogger becomes the problem. Such as Tuesday when DC Blogger did an offensive post at Corrente where he or she whined and stomped their feet over the actions of real activists. And what appears to have bothered DC Blogger the most was skin color. White was offensive, to DC Blogger who hated the activists because of their skin color. In 2011, if you have to bring in skin color to explain why you don't like someone, I'd argue you have some issues. DC Blogger's attack was joined by trashing from Twig and Lex in the comments. What the hell's going on at Corrente?
The video is street theater. And it has a point and purpose which is to make people think about the Iraq War. They were never rude, the activists, to anyone. They were polite and they smiled. (They could have been rude and it still would have been street theater. I'm sorry but Miss Manners doesn't rule in a movement. A movement is a group of people from all walks of life who will rarely agree 100% on anything other than core statements.) Watch the video here.
Activist: Remember when Barack Obama was a candidate and he inspired so much hope for change by saying things like this?
Barack Obama October, 2007: If we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am president, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank.
Screen shot of a check 'from' Barack Obama for payment of "Priceless" to be made to "Citizens of the World."
INT. BANK OF AMERICA - DAY
Activist: Congratulations Bank of America, Cambridge branch. We come in peace to let you know that you are the winners of a promotion -- a promotion being held by the president of these United States of America who said on the campaign trail --
Barack Obama: We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank.
Activist: Today we are at the Bank of America taking this to the bank. Is there any manager available who's like to pose for a photo op? We just want to know who we should give this to --
Bank employee: Come upstairs, I'm the banking center manager. I'd be happy to take it for you. So take all the pictures you'd like.
Activist: Is the Bank of America not the place to redeem this check? Bring the troops and the money home. Who should I --
Bank employee: Sir, could you please stop disturbing our customers?
Activist: So you're not willing -- you're not willing to bring -- the customer here all have the same check in their hands.
EXT. CITIZENS BANK - DAY
Activist: We went to Bank of America and they could not cash this check. We'd could establish an account here at Citizens Bank, the poetry of that for this priceless amount paid to Citizens of the World, bring the troops hom and redirect money towards human and environmental needs and could I have some popcorn?
Woman's voice: Yes, you can.
Activist: Alright!
INT. CITIZENS BANK - DAY
Bank employee2: We cannot have this.
Camera Operator: Yeah, yeah, we'll just be a minute.
Activist: So who should I give this check to? Who wants to bring the troops home and redirect that money towards human and environmental needs? Is there a local community bank we could go to?
Bank employee2: No, we cannot suggest anything. But you cannot stay in here.
Bank employee 1: Can you please? [He covers camera with his hand.]
INT. CITIBANK - DAY
Bank employee: We could not allow that in the branch.
Activist: We've been to several banks. We've been trying to make a deposit but now we realize that we need to make a withdrawal.
He signs the check on the back.
Activist: Listen the only reason I'm doing this today is because I know there are people out there who know, who feel in their bones that the representative democracy is not working the way it's supposed to. A majority of people want to tax the rich. A majority of the people want the wars to end bring those troops and those dollars home, spend them on environmental and human needs. That's not happening by who you vote for. So that's why I'm trying to redeem Barack Obama's promise and take it to the bank. Now imagine, just think, if one person a day did that, they would just think that that person was crazy and they would ignore him. Imagine if two people a day did that, they might think that they were lovers on a lark and they would have a little laugh. Imagine three -- no, imagine 50 people a day walking to a bank with that check and trying to withdraw all those troops based on Barack Obama, they might think it's a movement. That's what it is. The homecoming October 2011 movement Bring The Troops Home, bring the dollar home, spend it on human needs. Take care of the poor, tax the rich. All you have to do to join me is send me your e-mail [at TheHomecoming 2011@Gmail.com], join me in Freedom Plaza starting October 6th for the protests that will not go home, for the protests that will not go away
The video is both prompoting the October 2011 actions in DC and it's putting the war out there.
It's not any different from what CODEPINK does with regards to the war, the FCC or any number of issues. So I'm not grasping the offense. But I am grasping that the Iraq War doesn't exist at Corrente. They've got someone doing recipes, they've got someone doing plants, they've got someone doing books from time to time, they've got someone singing the praises of the state-owned (and subdued -- see WikiLeaks as well as criticism of the Libyan War coverage) Al Jazeera, they've got lots of stuff. They just don't cover the wars and they specifically refuse to acknowledge the Iraq War. When 15 lives were lost in the Iraq War in the month of June, Corrente didn't lead on the coverage or even do a single post on that topic. And I notice that DC Blogger refuses to tell people what the video is about -- ending the wars. There are a lot of people, please pay attention, who have hearing issues. They will never be able to enjoy a video that is not closed captioned. So all you blogger who think you're so wonderful by posting a link to a video or posting a video, please grasp that we all get that you live in a world where you are supreme and no one you know is challenged or disabled. We get it. How very lucky for you that realities never touched your circle. But that's not how it is for everyone.
So when you post a video, how about grasping that you NEED TO SAY WHAT HAPPENS IN THE VIDEO. Or you need to put a message that says: "If you're deaf or hearing challenged, this site doesn't welcome you and will not include you."
In addition to the deaf and hearing challenged (which does include a huge number of veterans of today's wars) there are people in rural areas who do not have DSL, there are people all over the country who cannot afford DSL, there are people who are still using computers with Windows 98 -- and some of those people are glad to have those computers. I realize that in the world of DC Blogger, no one's ever sick or ill or has any condition and they buy any laptop as soon as it rolls off the assembly line. But considering how often Corrente looks down on the "creative class" and tries to self-present as "of the people," I can't believe I'm having to offer this remedial in human abilities and disabilities, in computers and economics, in rural disadvantages, etc.
Repeating: If you post a video you presumably want people to know what's going on in it. Failure to explain what goes on it cuts you off from a significant part of the audience and that's an audience that does not come back to you once the message is clear that only the well to do and non-disabled are welcome.
It's not a minor point with me. I learned to sign years ago and, as I've noted before, if someone's at a Congressional hearing I attend and I know they can't hear and there's no one there signing, I will sign throughout the entire hearing (while I take notes, yes). [The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee will provide services for challenged and disabled attendees if they are informed the services are needed 3 business days prior to the hearing -- this includes making space for wheel chairs, as well as providing translators/signers, etc. And for those e-mailing, we haven't covered the hearings in the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees because there haven't been any. They resume later this month.]
And when we speak to groups about the wars, that includes groups where I sign and speak and groups where I just sign. And while the bulk of the country didn't watch, refused to watch, the strongest campus protest of the last decade was at Gallaudet. How dare anyone not grasp that, regardless of physical abilities, everyone in this country can make a difference and that, around the country, so many are making a difference but because they don't you fit your filter of 'normal' or 'accepted' or 'just like me!,' you ignore them. I do not believe in forced community service but I do believe a lot of people, particularly those online, would do well to do some community service that put them into contact with people who don't have all the breaks they do.
Were that to happen, they might realize how stupid they looked slamming people because of their skin color. [And before someone e-mails that Betty, Stan or Marcia did it -- Ann or Cedric are more likely to use that technique in roundtables at Third than at their own sites due to what they cover at their sites -- when they call out a White person and make a note of the skin color, it is because that White person has decided they know more about African-Americans than, in fact, African-Americans do. That's the point of Betty, Stan and Marcia calling those people out. It's not "They're white!" It's "that fool is saying this is what it's like to be Black and that fool is White and we don't anyone to speak for us, we can speak for ourselves thank you very much."]
The video was street theater.
It is supposed to attract attention as a video to get the word out on the October protests. Did it succeed? I really wasn't planning to note them. I'm at a distance from a number of people who I feel have not taken accountability for their past misdirections. But I noted the actions today and that's entirely due to that video. Which was funny and to the point. And which brought the issue of the Iraq War into three different banks, forcing it on the employees and the customers in those banks.
Good. The United States government continues the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. If you are a US citizen I don't know where the hell you get off thinking you've earned a pass from having to care or think about the wars your elected government continues.
The video's not the problem.
Colleen Flaherty (Killeen Daily Herald) reports, "Black Hawks hummed over North Fort Hood Thursday as Kansas National Guardsmen rehearsed personnel recovery ahead of their upcoming deployment to Iraq." And some may wonder why are we still deploying US forces to Iraq? But then again, in this country, the reason troops were ever deployed to Iraq wasn't honestly answered. Not by the Bush administration and not by the current one which replaced it. Chris Hinyub (California Independent Voter Network) reports on the US military spending and observes, "Finally, the cost for the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars crossed the $1.25 trillion mark." Matt L. Miller is currently serving in Iraq and he shares his thoughts on the US remaining in Iraq with the Baltimore Sun:
Now I'm no diplomat, but from my foxhole it appears that the U.S. is negotiating with the government of Iraq from a position of weakness. We are deferring to every Iraqi government whim at the expense of our own safety. We literally are permitted only to sit on our enclosed bases and hope that the IRAMs -- improvised rocket-assisted mortars -- don't hit their mark. In other words, we are sitting ducks.
[. . ]
I urge President Obama to take charge of this upside-down situation. He should simply tell the Iraqi government that we are going to operate the way we know how and that they are welcome to participate, or that we are leaving tomorrow. Continuing to serve up Americans as targets while the Iraqis play favorites between us and Iran is not an acceptable course of action.

Let's stay on Iran for a moment. Iranian dissendents welcomed into Iraq during Saddam Hussein's reign are currently residents of Camp Ashraf. They are protected persons under the Geneva Conventions. The Tehran Times reports that Ammar Hakim, Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq leader, has declared "that the members of the terrorist Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) based in Iraq must leave the country by the end of 2011. Hakim, who travelled to Iran to attend the fifth meeting of the Ahl al-Bayt World Assembly, made the remarks during a meeting with Grand Ayatollah Abdul Karim Mousavi Ardebill in the holy city of Qom on Friday." Is he serious? One would assume so except Press TV reports that he also declared he would "not allow any of them [US troops] to stay in the country" beyond 2011 and "The occupiers must leave before the deadline under the security pact." The US Embassy will have troops in as do all US embassies. (The Marines guard the embassies.) In addition, the militarization of diplomacy means that some troops (maybe 300, maybe more) will remain in Iraq under State Dept control. There will of course be "security contractors" (mercenaries) as well. And the US may keep troops in Iraq under the Defense Dept as well if Nouri and the White House can reach an agreement. In other words, it's very hard to see Hakim's second state as remotely true or even across the street from true. So that calls into question his statement about the Camp Ashraf residents.
Dan Froomkin (Huffington Post) writes about the US Embassy in Baghdad -- the biggest US embassy in the world and 108 acres:
Yet the embassy is turning out to be too small for the swelling retinue of gunmen, gardeners and other workers the State Department considers necessary to provide security and "life support" for the sizable group of diplomats, military advisers and other executive branch officials who will be taking shelter there once the troops withdraw from the country.
The number of personnel under the authority of the U.S. ambassador to Iraq will swell from 8,000 to about 16,000 as the troop presence is drawn down, a State Department official told The Huffington Post. "About 10 percent would be core programmatic staff, 10 percent management and aviation, 30 percent life support contractors -- and 50 percent security," he said.
As part of that increase, the State Department will double its complement of security contractors -- fielding a private army of over 5,000 to guard the embassy and other diplomatic outposts and protect personnel as they travel beyond the fortifications, the official said. Another 3,000 armed guards will protect Office of Security Cooperation personnel, who are responsible for sales and training related to an estimated $13 billion in pending U.S. arms sales, including tanks, squadrons of attack helicopters and 36 F-16s.
In yesterday's snapshot, noted a column by "Peter Van Burn" -- that was my mistake. I said "Burn" while dicating the snapshot. It's Buren. My error and my apologies. We'll again note this from Peter Van Buren (Huffington Post):
In Iraq today, diplomats, military officials, and Washington busybodies are involved in a complex game of maneuvering into place American troops meant to remain in Iraq long past the previously 12/31/2011 negotiated deadline for full withdrawal. Iraq will eventually agree, probably in some semi-passive way, such as calling them trainers, or visiting students, or temps. There will be endless argument over numbers -- should it be 3000 soldiers or 10,000? The debate over whether troops should stay on, or how many should stay, begs the real question: What will all those soldiers do in Iraq?

Iraq has its own governmental issues, to put it mildly. New Sabbah reviews the Kurdish issues with Nouri's government (the failure of Nouri to implement the Erbil Agreement, the proposed oil and gas law, etc.) and notes Nouri's raging that Ayad Allawi (leader of Iraqiya) and Nouri's insistence that Allawi has no place in the current government. Iraqiya's spokesperson tells Al Mada that Allawi is speaking not for himself but for Iraqiya and has the political slate's support. She also notes that the tensions between the blocs have always been present and that current tensions have resulted from the failure to implement the Erbil Agreement. (Iraqiya is a political slate made up of various groups -- primarily Sunni and Shia.)

Meanwhile Aswat al-Iraq speaks with State of Law MP Ali Al-Shalah who deems Allawi "a trouble maker" and insists Allawi is plotting with Saudi Arabia. Aswat al-Iraq notes, "Vice-Premier Saleh al-Mutlaq called on the Iraqi to adopt a national spirit and not follow the rumors that destabilize the country among different Iraqi provinces." This as Aswat al-Iraq also reports, "Ex- Basra Governor Mohammed Musabih al-Wa'ili announced today that the signatures of 20% of Basra population shall be gathered, following Premier Nouri al-Maliki's rejection to establish a region there, pointing out that such rejection is 'constitutional violation'."
Reuters reports "hundreds" protested throughout "Iraq's Sunni Muslim province of Anbar" today as aresult of the arrests of 8 men accused of the Monday killings of 22 Shia pilgrims. Nouri expressed his dismay over the protestors and apparently was most offended by their chant of "We will cut the hand of whoever reaches (across) our borders." Moqtada al-Sadr's protests took place as well. His admirers called it "a huge demonstration." Of course, Prashant Rao (AFP) reports it was "thousands" and that alone would be disappointing since we're talking about Sadr City in Baghdad. Where allegedly 2 million Moqtada supporters live. That's where the protest took place. A couple of thousand out of 2 million-plus isn't significant at all. The Reuters photo with the AFP article demonstrates it was Moqtada's armed militia marching through the streets. Did the people watching the march get (again) counted as protestors? In downtown Baghdad, Tahir Square saw NGOs demonstrating and calling out the attacks and perceived attacks on Iraq from Iran and Kuwait, Aswat al-Iraq reports.
Turning to violence, Reuters notes a Haditha military raid resulted in the death of two suspects and 1 Iraiq military officer (three Iraqi soldiers and one police officer were wounded), a Garma drive by resulted in the death of a police officer "in front of his home," a Jbela car bombing left three people injured and a bomb that immediately followed (after help arrived) left seven peopl injured and, dropping back to last night for the rest, 2 corpses were discovered in Baghdad, a Baghdad attack on police resulted in 2 being killed and two more police officers left injured, two Mosul roadside bombings left nine police officers injured, a Mosul roadside bombing left one Iraqi soldier wounded and 1 corpse was discovered in Mosul.
The violence has made Iraq the source of the largest Middle East displacement since the 1940s. Trudy Rubin (Philadelphia Inquirer via Sacrament Bee) reports:
In July, I wrote about the plight of Iraqis who worked with U.S. soldiers and civilians but face death as "collaborators" when we leave. Their situation remains unresolved.
Congress set up a special program in 2008 to grant these Iraqis 25,000 special immigrant visas (SIVs) over five years. Only 3,629 have been issued thus far; at least 1,500 are pending.
Yet, some Iraqis who have virtually completed the process have been told they must wait an additional eight months while more security checks are conducted.


Iraq's in its second consecutive month of inflation and Mayada Al Askari (Gulf News) interviews Iraq's Undersecretary of the Iraqi Ministry of Housing and Construction to talk about the construction boom in Iraq. (When you bomb a country repeatedly, you do create the need for a construction boom.) Excerpt:

GULF NEWS: How can you be so ambitious about building housing when the infrastructure's main element, electricity, is not available? Buildings -- as an example -- require lifts, electric water pumps, etc. How can communities live without electricity?

Faleh Al Ammiri: Certainly, the implementation of these projects requires time during which infrastructure and providing the community with electricity will be completed. As for major investment projects, electric power stations will be built to provide such projects with electricity as well as water and sewage systems.

What about paving roads in Iraq, why are there so many projects in this area?

Road networks in Iraq were previously neglected and the whole system is out-of-date as it was overused by the army, but we now have plans to refurbish the system. A renovation of the roads network is currently underway. Weigh stations across the country's provinces were officially announced lately, as overloads are the main reasons behind the recent road damages. There is also the intent to carry out a highway connecting Umm Qasr with the Turkish border, along with other roads connecting the Iraqi cities. Construction of bridges is also part of the plan, however maintaining roads and bridges require users to abide by load limits, and the provinces need to carry out their commitments in this regard.

The minister's not interested in housing people. It's a corruption scam waiting to be turned over as he confesses that "the ministry-run corporation has dozens of factorizes specialising in the production of concrete products including pipes, bridge pillars as well as asphalt, stone breakers and ready-mix factories". That quote right there also answers the question about why the ministry has placed so much emphasis on building roads at a time when Iraqis continue to lack not just reliable electricity but also potable water.

It's a lot easier to keep approving projects that enrich your own budget.

If you doubt it, why is South Korea winning a construction bid in Iraq? Why is any foreigner? Iraq's never suffered from lack of construction workers.

Iraq also suffers not from a lack of concrete. In fact it's a big mob industry in Iraq. But the Ministry's in it too. Hmm. Al Sabaah reports on how Iraq's got all these new houses and housing areas being built and yet the glut hasn't depressed market prices and the homes are so expensive why? Due to the high cost of the construction materials. Seems like that cost could be somewhat controlled if Iraq's Ministry of Housing and Construction were doing it's job -- and that's before you factor in the fact that the Ministry owns many of those construction material producing businesses.

And all of this comes as the Integrity Commission's finding on Iraqi real estate has embarrassed Nouri and forced him to make a move. Al Rafidayn reminds that he's stopped the sale of Iraqi property as a result of the Commission finding fraud and price manipulation by government employees in the real estate market. Nouri's quoted calling out the "corruption and abuse" in his government on this issue. The Commission has also located over a hundred million smuggled out prior to the start of the Iraq War, this would be under Saddam Hussein.


In related news, the Great Iraqi Revolution has released "a document leaked from the Prime Minister's office which orders the recruitment of 1000 nurses and 150 doctors from India and Bengaladesh . . . while there are tens of thousands of unemployed Iraqis who are well qualified for these jobs!!!"
ItalicTurning to the US, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. We'll close with this from her office:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Murray Press Office - (202) 224-2834
Thursday, September 15, 2011 Burr Press Office – (202) 224-3154


Chairman Murray and Ranking Member Burr Call on VA to Provide Answers about Department's Budget Projections

(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Patty Murray and Ranking Member Richard Burr sent a joint letter to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki expressing their concern that VA may not have sufficient resources to adequately address increasing demand for veterans' health care in FY 2012. Chairman Murray and Ranking Member Burr's letter asks VA for specific assurances that VA remains ready and able to provide the health care upon which more and more veterans depend.
The full text of the Senators' letter is below:


The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20420

Dear Secretary Shinseki:

In this time of economic uncertainty, with an increasing number of our servicemembers returning home, the demand for medical care at VA medical centers is certain to grow. This demand, coupled with the lower than expected Medical Care Collections Fund (MCCF) collection rate, and recent reports regarding staffing reductions and emergency budget cuts at certain medical centers, underscores the critical need to ensure resources are being maximized and Department appropriations requests are accurately projected.
We are therefore writing today to confirm that VHA appropriations and carry-over for FY 2012 are on-track to meet the needs of our nation's veterans, so that the care provided to our veterans remains the highest quality.
We understand from your July 21, 2011, sufficiency review of advance appropriations for FY 2012 medical care that the Department's appropriations request was based, in part, upon projected carryover funds and revenues from the MCCF. MCCF collections, along with operational improvements, and cost savings in acquisitions, fee care, and other programs, are key components of budget and operations planning and must be accurately projected.

We also understand that for the first quarter of FY 2011, VHA reported a 12.3 percent variance between its planned and actual collections, in the amount of nearly $100 million. As of second quarter FY 2011, MCCF collections were 8.5 percent below plan and 5.2 percent below the same period last year. Similarly, for third quarter FY 2011, collections remain 5.7 percent below plan. In your July report, you stated that "there remains an element of risk to the sufficiency of the FY 2012 budget" and quoted a June 14, 2011, GAO report:



If the estimated savings for fiscal years 2012 and 2013 do not materialize and VA receives appropriations in the amount requested by the President, VA may have to make difficult trade-offs to manage within the resources provided.



Such difficult trade-offs are evident throughout the VA health care system. We understand, for example, that the Indianapolis VAMC faced an $18 million budget shortfall at the start of FY 2011. Against this backdrop, and challenged by an unprecedented demand for services from veterans, the medical center reduced expenditures and slowed the hiring of additional and replacement staff. Similarly, the Tampa VAMC continues to take steps to address a budget deficit that is currently near $17 million and has been as high as $47.5 million this fiscal year. Such steps have included a reduction in staffing through attrition by 111 positions, and cuts from lab services, mental health programs and education funds. Each of these actions, while fiscally sound, could have an adverse impact on patient care quality.

As we enter into FY 2012, it is imperative that VHA remains ready and able to provide the quality medical care upon which our veterans depend. Accordingly, we ask that you detail for us your plan to increase MCCF collections, so that collections goals in FY 2012 are met. Additionally, please address whether there are budgetary shortfall risks at VISNs or medical centers for FY 2012. Are VHA appropriations and carryover on-track to meet VHA needs? Finally, do you anticipate that VISNs and medical centers will be able to meet budgetary obligations without having to significantly draw upon reserve funds?

Thank you for providing this information to us. Ours is a shared mission to safeguard the health and well-being of our nation's veterans and we look forward to working with you to this end.

Sincerely,

Patty Murray
Chairman


Richard Burr
Ranking Member

###

Meghan Roh

Deputy Press Secretary

Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray

@SenMurrayPress

202-224-2834

Get Updates from Senator Murray

Thursday, September 15, 2011

1 man, 4 women

The first hour of today's Diane Rehm Show (NPR) was medical but we got three women as guests because it had to do with . . . the vagina area, the cervix. I have no problem with vaginas (I have one of my own -- drum roll) but I think it's rather telling that we have to be on that topic to get more women than men on Diane's show and even then Diane needs to invite a man, hence Peter Sprigg was a guest along with Roberta DeBiasi, Liz Azabo and Renata Sanders. By the way, two of those women were doctors. Lis is a reporter and the man? He's with the right-wing Family Research Council. As usual, women had to move mountains to be booked but all a man had to do to be a guest on Diane's show was be born with a penis.



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


Thursday, September 15, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri is still out to get his political opponents, more on NPR's blame-the-public-for-us-not-covering-the-wars, John Walsh and Mike Ferner exchange words, Iraqi women remain under attack, the UN is concerned about outsourcing to contractors, and more.
John Walsh has a set of ethics that he sticks to. Good for him. And because of that we're opening the snapshot with him. Yesterday's snapshot included an excerpt from his report about the Veterans for Peace resolution on impeachment and praising the grassroots while calling out leadership. Leadership now wants to attack Walsh. Mike Ferner responds to Walsh here and Walsh has the first two replies in the comments. Here's John Walsh replying to Fener's attack (I'm using the term "attack" and that's what it was):
Let us look at them one at a time. Ferner's first contention is that the resolution passed in 2004 was not aimed at Bush but the incoming president whoever he might be. Thus the impeachment rally at which Ferner spoke in 2005, he implies, might have been an Impeach Kerry rally. But we will never know that since Kerry, who was like Obama pro-war, did not get elected. We do know that when a Democrat, Obama, was elected, the Board of VFP opposed an impeachment resolution in 2009 and 2010 until the rank and file rebellion was successful in 2011. So for Ferner to say "We owe no allegiance to party -- none," does not fit the facts -- unless the allegiance is to Obama and not the Dems in general. But it amounts to the same thing. To imply that he and others were as enthusiastic about an impeachment resolution aimed at Obama as one aimed at Bush is disingenuous at best. In a similar vein, Ferner points out that he did not speak on the floor of the convention against the resolution in 2011 but he neglects to mention that he opposed such a resolution for over two years. And he does not even make clear where he stands on it now. Are you for it now or against it, Mike? And why do you neglect to state your position?

That's the section I want to focus on in order to add a bit too. To me, the thing that stands out is Mike Ferner's lack of honesty regarding 2004 and today. If you're not familiar with what was voted on, click here for Mike Ferner's 2004 piece at Antiwar.com. You'll see that the resolution passed demanded "the next president announce, within 10 days of taking office, that he will withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq within 60 days" -- excuse me, did Barack do that? No, he didn't. Did VFP do anything about it? No. And I believe that the "within 60 days" was a national resolution passed and remains a standing national resolution for VFP. So leadership failed to carry out the resolution membership passed. How did that happen?
It happened because VFP national leadership wanted to play footsie with the Obama White House. And they still want to. John Walsh is right to question the issue of allegiance especially when today at Antiwar.com Ferner writes:
But more importantly, what he made no mention of was the spirited debate, before and at the convention, about why to vote yes or no. It cannot be simplified into a debate between principled members who campaigned to "do the right thing" and those who didn't want to offend Democrats or were afraid of looking like racists. It was this: in order to live up to our Statement of Purpose, how can we strategically join forces with those most likely to be our natural allies so we can gain the political power needed to stop war? Viewed in that light, the story of this resolution looks a little different.
First off, Ferner himself writes he "was not present for the debate" earlier in his attack. So if he wasn't present, he probably shouldn't be characterizing it as "spirited" or not. Second, those against war do not "strategically join forces" with anyone not willing to end wars. Ferner's justifying playing footsie. If you're an anti-war group, the one thing you can't compromise on, the one thing you can't 'finesse' is your anti-war stance. If you do so, you're no longer an anti-war group. It was an issue, indeed, of doing the right thing or the wrong thing as defined by the stated goal of the movement: Ending the war. To pretend otherwise is to indulge in lying and expecting everyone to humor you.
John Walsh's piece highlighted yesterday was accurate. And I prefer it's alleged "drama" to Ferner's melodrama, paranoia and self-justifying lies. Walsh concludes his replies with this:
Finally, Phil Restino, who submitted the impeachment resolution, has also written thus to me about the history of the votes on impeachment which provides some insight into the thinking and behavior of the leadership: "As far as I know personally, the only member of Veterans For Peace's national leadership during the 2009, 2010 and 2011 votes on the impeachment of Obama resolution to vote in favor of it was current national president Elliott Adams who told me on the telephone a couple-few months ago that he voted for the resolution at the 2010 convention but would vote against the resolution at the 2011 convention out of concern that VFP's passage of an impeach Obama resolution would risk VFP being labeled as racists. If there were any others in the national leadership who voted in favor of the impeachment resolution in any of those years, then Mike Ferner himself would have to be asked to tell you that information."
Instead of nitpicking, Ferner should be proud of his organization for taking a step that others have not. There are many "leaders" in the peace movement who have been similarly hypocritical when it comes to Bush versus Obama. Ferner should simply admit his error and say he has changed -- if indeed he has. And if so, he should express gratitude to the rank and file who have saved him from continued hypocrisy and dragged him into a principled position on Obama's impeachment. That is better than trying to weasel out of a two-year record of hypocrisy. Again as I said in the article in praise of VFP, "much to its credit VFP has led the way" -- out of a swamp of blindness when it comes to war making by Obama and the Dems.
That really says it all. Moving from one denial to another, today the US embassy offers its official response to an item in Wednesday's news cycle. Yesterday, we noted:

The big story in Iraqi newspapers today is on the US withdrawal or 'withdrawal.' Supposedly all US forces would leave Iraq at the end of December 2011. Al Rafidayn is one of the papers reporting that a meeting at the United Nations Mission in Baghdad a few days prior found the UN being informed by Iraqis and the US (James Jeffrey, US Ambassador to Iraq, is said to have represented the American side) that the US would pull soldiers due to leave Iraq because their tour of duty was up but that was it and it was a "formality" because, in fact, the US and Iraq had entered an agreement allowing US forces to remain in Iraq. This alleged agreement is a temporary one that would allow the US and Iraq more time to negotiate the details of a US presence beyond 2011. It would last six months. Dar Addustour also reports on this alleged temporary agreement that's been made.

Dar Addustour reports
that a denial was issued by the US Embassy in Baghdad's spokesperson Micahel McClellan who denies the existence of an agreement and notes that discussions are ongoing. Aswat al-Iraq also quotes from the statement and they note, "Different Iraqi political forces have not expressed clear positions towards the said cause, but some politicians have expressed support for the presence of some American troops, till the completion of the potential of the Iraqi security forces for few more years." As negotiations continue, the US government's backup plan is the weaponization of diplomacy, shoving any remaining soldiers and contractors (remaining and new) under the State Dept umbrella. Yesterday the Chair-Rapporteur of the UN Working Group, Faiza Patel, declared that reliance on contracting security tasks puts human rights at risk:

The three countries present different aspects of the problem, with Iraq a major theatre of operations by private military and security companies; South Africa a major source of people with extensive military skills and experience unwilling or unable to find jobs since the end of apartheid in 1994; and Equatorial Guinea the scene of a 2004 coup attempt involving mercenaries.
The panel, whose full title is the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, noted in its report on Iraq that incidents involving private military and security companies there had dropped since the killing of 17 civilians and wounding of 20 others in Nissour Square in Baghdad by employees of the United States security company Blackwater in 2007.

The immunity issue (immunity granted) also continues to present problems. At Dar Addustour's home page currently there is a poll regarding US troops and immunity. Greta Van Susteren (On The Record with Greta Van Susteren, Fox News) anticipates a White House announcement noting US troops are leaving Iraq with a small number remaining and imagines this receiving applause:
While he draws down the troops…he is, per the AP, ADDING 8000 PRIVATE SECURITY CONTRACTORS to do the job done that would be done by our leaving military.
Do you have any idea how much MORE EXPENSIVE it is to send private security contractors than to have our troops do the job? If the President thinks we need 8000 people there to provide continued security, why not use our military (cheaper) instead of hiring private contractors? You and I both know why…
When the President makes his announcement about troop withdrawal, listen very carefully to see if he tells you the whole story and that includes how many contractors doing security work (military) are already there, how much it costs, how many more we are sending with the drawdown and that cost.

While some silly fools (pro-war Matthew Ygelsias who 'turned' and now mocks the pro-war set as if he wasn't one of them) waste massive amounts of time, Peter Van Burn (Huffington Post) gets to the point:
In Iraq today, diplomats, military officials, and Washington busybodies are involved in a complex game of maneuvering into place American troops meant to remain in Iraq long past the previously 12/31/2011 negotiated deadline for full withdrawal. Iraq will eventually agree, probably in some semi-passive way, such as calling them trainers, or visiting students, or temps. There will be endless argument over numbers -- should it be 3000 soldiers or 10,000? The debate over whether troops should stay on, or how many should stay, begs the real question: What will all those soldiers do in Iraq?
Will the White House be forced to provide real answers at any point or will silly fools like continue to run interference for them allowing them to be left off the hook? Not everyone gives War Criminals and their enablers a pass. Linda Greene interviews Cindy Sheehan for the Bloomington Alternative ahead of Cindy's visit to speak, October 5th, 7 p.m., at the First United Church in Bloomington. We'll note this section:

BA: What were your politics like before you got involved in peace and justice activities?

CS: If you had asked me this before my son was killed, I would have said that I was very liberal, very left-wing, but that's just because of the community I live in, where being a Democrat is thought of as liberal and left-wing. I always voted Democrat because I believed that was the right thing to do. After my son was killed and after these Democratic politicians in Congress betrayed the antiwar movement, betrayed the working people over and over and over again, and even though I was uninformed and undereducated about these things before Casey was killed, I realized the two-party system really is just a fraud, and people invest all their time, energy and money where we the people have the least amount of effects. It's the corporations, it's the lobbyists, it's the robber class that really control politics in this country, and we can actually have a political system in this country that's responsible to the people. We have to start from the bottom up, not the top down.
On this week's Cindy Sheehan Soapbox radio program, Cindy spoke with Iraqi-American activist Dr. Dahlia Wasfi. They caught up at the start of the interview with Cindy noting Dahlia had gotten married since they'd last seen each other and Dahlia observed that "in the midst of all this madness, I found a soul mate who has the same conviction that I try to have." And Cindy noting she now had three grandkids (a fourth was born over the weekend).
Dahlia Wasfi: This is the same thing I observed with my family overseas in Iraq is that this is what -- they -they continue to live their lives. If they waited for things to get better, to move on, they would never stop waiting. And so the next generation is being born and they do the best they can for their families and they as well trying to make a better future for those kids. That's what comes to mind as you talk about sort-of rebuilding your own life.
Cindy Sheehan: Well also it is the anniversary, the tenth anniversary of 9-11, I'm like fed up to my eyebrows with how the US was attacked on 9-11 and we were attacked because the terrorists hate our freedom and our democracy and our way of life and they want to attack our way of life. Well, you know, if that was true, they did a really good job. There's very little talk about the people outside the US whose lives have been destroyed by whatever happened on 9-11and you don't hear their stories and how needlessly and tragically their lives have been effected by what happened on that day so that's why I wanted to invite you on because you're a very eloquent critic of US policy but you're also very eloquent in describing your Iraqi roots and what's happening to the people in that country so I just want you to today talk about that. Talk about the connection between 9-11 and Iraq and what the US did ostensibly there but what really happened there and what's still happening. Iraq has basically fallen off the face of the earth. It might as well not even exist because we don't talk about it at all.
Dahlia Wasfi: Right.
Cindy Sheehan: And Dick Cheney said it's better, it's a better place, you know, they have a democray now and blah, blah, blah. And you know, I wish I believed in hell so I would know that Dick Cheney was going there soon but, you know, I don't think that's happening. So Dahlia, give us the Iraqi perspective on this.
Dahlia Wasfi: Well I so appreciate, I too, I really, I promise I'm not going to forget what's happening on Sunday, I'm not going to forget the anniversary, I don't need any more reminders, but I know more are coming. But, absolutely, I can tell from my personal experience. And I was born in New York, we lived in Iraq when I was little and then we left when I was five-years-old. So except for a few years in there, I'm born and raised here, I don't even speak Arabic. I know from the few months I spent with my family what they have to endure on a daily basis which is really something that I could not consistently deal with. They're much stronger than I think I'll ever dream to be. But what happened on September 11, 2001, once it was clear sort of what was being built up and I knew no matter who was responsible that Arabs and Muslims were going to be blamed in this country because that's just par for the course. It happened after the Oklahoma City bombing and pretty much anytime. It happened recently with what happened in Norway, that the first suspect was and must be a Muslim suspect. This is -- we're the go to people. And while there still needs to be a genuine investigation [into 9-11] as far I'm concerned and many others -- we still don't know exactly what happened that day -- I knew that the next hits coming were going to be racists. And I certainly didn't face what others faced in this country. I mean a lot of people, a lot of people died in this country after 9-11 because they were seen to be, they looked Muslim, they looked Arab. And then what came afterwards was our assault on Afghanistan the people of Afghanistan had nothing to do with September 11th. And the assault on Iraq which started -- the planning for that began on September 13, 2011 --
Dahlia Wasfi: 2001! Thank you. Two days after 9-11, 2001. And this was, it's very clear. I think the number is 965 times the Bush administration lied about numerous things including supposed ties between Iraq and 9-11. And the outcome today for Iraqis is their lives will never be the same. There's over a million people dead. Over five and a half million refugees. And that's 20% of Iraq's 27 million population. From what my cousins have told me, there is no one who has been untouched. Everybody knows somebody who has been killed -- either a victim of the violence that we brought to Iraq or a victim of the destruction of the infrastructure and the health care system. And then, on top of all of that, which returning veterans are suffering the consequences from as well, is our use of depleted uranium which is -- basically it's radioactive metal that vaporizes into dust and this contaminates the air and the sand and the water supply for Iraqis and it's in the air that occupying forces are breathing in so this is a gift of cancer for the next four and a half billion years. And still with that knowledge, in spite of being keenly aware of the weapons we've used and the effects on the future generations which is most vividly being demonstrated in the city of Falluja after two major seiges in 2004, Iraqis, they continue forward. Again, like, you know trying to do day to day things, put their lives back together. But what the sense that I get to this day is that they want an end to the occupation. It's very simple.
They were discussing the radiation and Aswat al-Iraq reported September 11th, "A woman has given birth of a 'distorted' child, with one eye and no nose in a Karbala hospital coming from district, where several cancer cases were register, the Director of Women and Delivery Hospital in Karbala city said on Saturday." Reuters notes a Falluja car bombing claimed 1 life and, dropping back to last night, a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed the life of a police officer.
And while NPR can only blame the American public for the lack of Iraq War coverage, Eleanor Hall knows better and indicates so right at the top of a segment in her program (The World Today with Eleanor Hall, Australia's ABC -- link is text and audio), "But heading overseas now, as the Afghan government and the international community try to work out how to react to yesterday's brazen attack on Kabul, violence in Iraq is getting less attention. That may be because the Australian and US governments have now officially withdrawn combat troops from Iraq, but that doesn't mean the place is stable." Here's an excerpt from her conversation with Lydia Khalil.
ELEANOR HALL: Just how fragile is Iraq?

LYDIA KHALIL: Iraq is fragile right now. It's not as unstable as it was in 2006 and 2007 but its government, the Maliki coalition, is really being held by a string. The situation is very tenuous, there's opposition parties in parliament who are opposed to Maliki and right now it's very difficult to get legislation past, major legislation is needed in order to move the country forward. So the Iraqi government can't really handle a series of major attacks like we saw in August.
In 'safe' and 'improved' Iraq, life for women hasn't improved. Rebecca Murray (IPS) reports:
When a middle-aged mother took a taxi alone from Baghdad to Nasiriyah, about 300 kilometres south earlier this year, her 20-year-old driver stopped on the way, pulled her to the side of the road and raped her. And that began a telling legal struggle.
"She is not a simple case," says Hanaa Edwar, head of the Iraqi rights-based Al-Amal Association, established in Baghdad after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
"She came from an affluent family, held a professional job, and told her family about the rape. They had the police arrest the driver," Edwar says. "Then she came to us for legal help. She said, 'I want my rights back, and what he has done to me, he will do to others. I want this perpetrator punished'."
The rape victim lost her case. "The judge had a male mentality. They think you should not make a scandal, but be silent. He prompted the accused with questions like, 'You did this when you were drunk -- yes?' This is how they intimidate," Edwar said. "Now we are making an appeal."
The Al-Amal Association is one of a handful of women's advocates in Iraq fighting for female equality in marriage and divorce, and opposing a draconian penal code that favours perpetrators of domestic abuse and of honour killings within households.
And Iraq continues to face serious problems regarding government -- not that you'd know it from listening to NPR which can condemn listeners for not knowing what's happening in Iraq but can't actually provide coverage from Iraq these days (see yesterday's snapshot). Al Mada reports on the continued tensions between Nouri al-Maliki and Ayad Allawi with Nouri going on Alsumaria TV to repeat his charge that Allawi is not fit to be part of the government process. State of Law then parrots their leader (Nouri) and asserts claims that Nouri, as commander of the armed forces (that's what they cite), can determine who and who is not fit to serve in the government. It's a bit like the purges in the name of de-Ba'athification done by the Justice and Accountability Commission on Nouri's behalf in 2010 to knock out Nouri's political opponents only this time Nouri's claiming (and State of Law's agreeing) that he has the right himself to ban whomever he wants. Alsumaria TV quotes Nouri stating, "Head of Al Iraiqya list is no longer a tolerated participant in the political process." Stop for a moment and grasp that Ayad Allawi represents Iraqiya and that Iraqiya, not State of Law, came in first in the March 2010 elections, that Iraqiya (not State of Law) should have had first crack at the prime minister post. And now Nouri's saying the leader of the most popular (judging by votes in the most recent election) party's leader can't be part of the political process.

Next up, he may start banning Kurds. Al Rafidayn reports that the Kurds continue to object to the oil and draft bill he's proposing and to the refusal to follow the Erbil Agreement. They've now declared that they won't even send a delegation to Baghdad for discussions until he indicates that they will be received well and participants in the Kurdish meeting state that the meeting was to send a message to Nouri about the need to implement the Erbil Agreement. Today's Zaman runs an unsigned and unsourced article about an article another Turkish paper (Taraf) ran which claims the KRG has granted approval to the Turkish government "for a cross-border operation" and states this follows meeting where "Kurdish officials gathered with US and British officials, as well as with the PKK." I am neither fluent nor functional in Kurdish so I asked a friend who is and she notes that Today's Zaman article is much, much longer than the "article" in Taraf which she states is a single paragraph of nine sentences. She also notes that details in Today's Zaman which are implied to be in the Taraf article are not in the Taraf article "including the assertion about helicopters being used."
And as a reminder of how bad things remain in Iraq, Dar Addustour reports the country's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari wants the Arab Summit to be held in Baghdad. And though that stated desire may distract a few, for most it will just remind that the Arab League was supposed to hold their summit in Iraq last year and did not. Due to the lack of safety. Despite Zebari claiming it would take place. Despite Zebari insisting it was just postponed.

Meanwhile Aseel Kami (Reuters) reported yesterday on the stop-gap measures Nouri al-Maliki used over the summer to give the appearance that issues were being addressed. The measures are described as "short term fixes" and scapegoats with the fired Minister of Electricity being an example of the latter. Tomorrow Iraq's First Lady Moqtada al-Sadr is scheduled to hold his pro-government stroke-fest. Dar Addustour reminds that Moqtada wants you to support the demands of government. It's good to know that Moqtada's no longer wasting his time on the people and now focused solely on his man Nouri al-Maliki. Now come on, is it going to take a pregnancy scare to get these two love birds properly hitched?
During Nouri al-Maliki's first term as prime minister, his deputy prime minister was Dr. Rozh Shaways (also spelled Ruz Nuri Shawis and Roz Nuri Shawis). The Kurdish politician remains his deputy prime minister today. This may change. Dar Addustour reports US State Dept cable from June 2005 released by WikiLeaks reveal that the brother of hte deputy prime minister joined with Iraqi business people in smuggling hundreds of millions of dollars out of Iraq and into Jordan. Al Rafidayn reports on it at length here.

Eight years after the fall of Saddam, Iraq has yet to pass a hydrocarbons law, let alone come up with a coherent spending plan for its oil wealth. Meanwhile neoliberal Todd Moss writes at The Huffington Post:

So how could Iraq manage its oil? One idea (and readers of this blog will be shocked to hear) is a universal dividend paid to all Iraqis. Colleagues Nancy Birdsall and Arvind Subramanian proposed just this idea back in 2004 as a way to try to create accountability. The idea of an Alaska-style dividend for Iraq was starting to catch on, for example, this NY Times oped by Steven Clemons, proposals from Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and even former Alaskan governor and dividend godfather Jay Hammond tried to export his grand experiment to Baghdad. Given the political and security climate of the time, the idea was thought too radical.
Is it time to think again about an Iraqi dividend? In a new CGD working paper, "Iraq's Last Window: Diffusing the Risks of a Petro-State," Johnny West asks precisely this question. West, a longtime journalist in the Middle East and founder of OpenOil, identifies a new opportunity for direct distribution of Iraqi oil rents in the planned production expansion over the next five years: [blah, blah, blah]

You know what, Todd? Iraqis have had oil longer than you've dreamed up ways to steal it. So why you don't you sit your tired ass down and let the Iraqi people decide what they want to do? It's not your right to decide for them. If you find a proposal that Iraqis are making and want to champion it, go for it. But otherwise take your big nose back to American business and quit trying to 'suggest' (tell) Iraqis what they need to do. It's their oil. It's not your oil. Your wants and hopes don't really mean a thing and it's a real shame that you and your Center for Global Development (a neoliberal lab of rape and theft) have been wrongly encouraged to believe anyone needs your 'help.' Why is Todd so 'concerned' and 'helpful'? Because the theft of Iraqi oil hasn't happened yet. And Todd knows his proposal of throwing a few pennies at a population in crisis might sell better now than earlier. Al Rafidayn notes that the White House has warned big oil to hold off on bidding currently as a result of "ambiguity" in Iraq's oil policies.



All of those stories and so many more and none of them aired on NPR. But, as noted in yesterday's snapshot, All Things Considered managed to blame Americans for the lack of Iraq coverage. We're dropping back to it (a) for transition to another topic and (b) because I was limited yesterday as I rushed to dictate the snapshot before the report aired. In addition to yesterday's criticism, we'll note these problems with the report or 'report.' Jackie Northam, at the top, declares, "Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, says support for the invasion of Afghanistan was sky-high, around 90 percent, and developments were closely followed by a large number of people. Kohut says since then, the public has been slowly disengaging from the war." And he offers some figures and says it's the same with Iraq.
Since when has news ever been what the public supports? The public didn't support BP's Gulf Oil Disaster but it was news. It doesn't matter whether the public supports a war or not, it's news. I've never supported the Iraq War but we manage to cover it every day, don't we? At the top, Pew and Northam are blaming the lack of coverage on the fact that Americans don't support the war. Wow. If that were the basis for the judgment, I don't believe the world would know the names Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Outside of a mental case like G. Gordon Liddy, who in the world would support Watergate?
Apparently Jackie and Pew have confused "popularity" and "hot topics" with what is actually news and that may be the saddest thing about Northam's report.
Then she moves on to West Point's Army Col Matthew Moten who insists "that the public has other issues on its mind" such as the economy, the federal deficit, etc. You mean the issues on the public's mind are the ones -- novel concept here -- that the news media actually reports on?
Then CATO's Christopher Preble declares that there's no "heroic victory" to the current wars and there's no "skin in the game" -- really? The United States is billions and billions of dollars in debt. Largely due to these wars. I think there's plenty of "skin in the game" -- but Jackie Northam ignores that in her report, never mentions it.
As for the media -- the ones actually responsible for what the public can follow and can't? Jackie gives them a single sentence in the last seconds of her report: "Many cash-strapped news agencies have pulled back on their coverage." Really, Jackie?
Have they? Didn't ABC News shut down their Iraq operation at the end of 2008? Didn't other networks follow suit? Wasn't the claim that they were going to focus on Afghanistan?
One single sentence notes that the public has less reports on Iraq because the "news agencies have pulled back on their coverage." Jackie Northam should be ashamed of herself. And we're not done.
CATO's Christopher Preble is brought on because -- well ask Jackie. A pollster, a right-wing (CATO) and a military historian at West Point. I'm not seeing anybody for peace in this report and maybe that's the point.
It's not that the war became "unpopular," is it, NPR? It's that the peace movement was winning. And when you couldn't whore and Steve Inskeep couldn't puff out his chest with on air bravado nobody really gave a damn about the wars that they whored so hard to sell. Isn't that the actual closer to the reality of why the wars vanished from the coverage?
In her report or 'report,' Jackie Northam declares after that single sentence on the media, "And the two conflicts barely cause a ripple on the campaign trail, especially among Republican presidential candidates, says the CATO's Preble."
As opposed to who, Jackie? Democratic presidential candidates?
And the reality is that the GOP candidates do talk about the war. They're not asked about it very often by reporters and certainly not by moderators in debates. Again, that's a media issue.
Ron Paul regularly brings up the wars and has done so in the GOP debates -- Ron Paul has done so, not the moderator. Jon Huntsman has also raised the issue. Council on Foreign Relations' James M. Lindsay notes (at CNN) this from Time's interview with Texas Governor Rick Perry who is also seeking the GOP presidential nomination:
I think we need to try to move our men and women home as soon as we can. Not just in Afghanistan, but in Iraq as well. And we've got to continually reassess our objectives. We need to make strategic decisions based on consultation with our military leaders on the ground, rather than just some arbitrary political promises.
Our objective should be clear. We've got to support the Afghan national security forces as they transition into the role of being the stable and appropriate force to sustain that country. Our overall objective has to be to serve that process and to drive out those who would do harm to our country. I think we've done that in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have substantial ways to continue to put the pressure on the bad guys, if you will, and I don't think keeping a large force of United States uniform military in Afghanistan for a long period of time is particularly in the interest of the U.S., or for that matter, in Afghani interest.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

4 men, 1 woman

Today on The Diane Rehm Show, the first hour was Quil Lawrence, Lawrence Korb, James Kitfield and Ronald Neumann. The topic was Afghanistan. And clearly, in Diane's world, women aren't qualified to discuss Afghanistan. All of her guests were male, did you notice?

The second hour was Michaelle Jean.

Have you noticed that the Black Agenda Report website is still down?

Me too.

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


Wednesday, September 14, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri lashes out at Allawi, rumors fly that the US and Iraq have already signed an agreement, Kurdish lawmakers continue to demand the Erbil Agreement be honored, John Walsh reports on major and under-reported news, and more.
In her latest column, Phyllis Bennis (Register Citizen) observes:

No U.S. troops were killed in Iraq last month. So why aren't we celebrating? Because the war isn't over yet and it costs way too much -- in Iraqi lives and our money.
With so much attention and so many billions of our tax dollars shifting from Iraq to the devastating and ever more expensive war in Afghanistan, it's too easy to forget that there are still almost 50,000 U.S. troops occupying Iraq. We're still paying almost $50 billion just this year for the Iraq War. And while we don't hear about it very often, too many Iraqis are still being killed.
No, we don't hear about it very often.
And now that's supposed to be our fault and not the media's.
Today on All Things Considered (NPR), Jackie Northam reports on a supposed lack of interest on the part of Americans in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars using Pew's Andew Kohut and insisting that only 25% forllowing the Afghanistan War and approximately the same number following the Iraq War is due to lack of interest.
Really?
I have absolutely no interest in any number of items -- for example, who Sarah Palin slept with or didn't sleep with in the 80s is of no conern to me -- but I can't escape this crap that passes for "news" at news sites and on news channels.
But I can very easily escape coverage of Iraq because it so seldom exists. Look at NPR and tell me where's the Iraq coverage?
And don't point to running Associated Press stories at the NPR website. That's embarrassing and shameful. NPR shouldn't have to resort to AP to cover Iraq. According to the 2011 fiscal year budget, Iraq should have been covered a lot more. Want to explain where the budgeted money went cause it sure as hell didn't go to covering Iraq. And the decision to repeatedly send Kelly McEvers to Syria for that non-story was a waste of money which damn well better be not be coming out of the Iraq budget. Does it take a Congressional hearing (maybe it does) to find out how National "Public" Radio spends the funds from listeners and the funds from tax payers?
If only 25% of the people in this country are following the wars that goes to the media, not to the people. They do not control what, for example, NPR chooses to air and what it chooses to ignore. The report is an embarrassment made all the more embarrassing by NPR's own refusal to cover Iraq. The NPR report attempts to ape a much better report that Michael Calderone filed for The Huffington Post on Friday. His actual report noted the lack of coverage of the wars and how they'd fallen off the radar. It featured quotes from news people like Dan Rather stating, "It's really unconscionable to have the nation fighting two major wars, Iraq and Afghanistan, and have the dearth of coverage we now have." Martha Raddatz (ABC News) explaining that she's been to Iraq 20 times during the war to report on it but not one of those visits took place in 2011. She states, "That tells you something." It certainly says a great deal about what the networks (broadcast, cable, radio) elect to cover. From Calderone's article:
Jane Arraf, who covers Iraq for Al Jazeera English and the Christian Science Monitor and previously did so for CNN and NBC News, says the number of jouranlsits stationed in Baghdad is clearly dwindling. Araf should know, considering that several journalists who've had their passports stamped in Iraq many times describe her as the longest-serving foreign correspondent in the country. "It's a bit depressing," she said. "A lot of major networks don't keep correspondents there."
Please understand that it takes a lot of nerve for NPR to ignore Iraq to begin with but to then turn around and broadcast a report blaming Americnas for not following coverage -- coverage that's not provided -- takes even more nerve.
Iraq is yet again slammed with violence, not that NPR filed a report on it today. They didn't have time and apparently the Iraq money in the FY 2011 was spent on something else. Annie Gowen (Washington Post) notes the biggest cause of deaths today has been a car bombing in Babel Province outside a restaurant. Among the dead are 3 children. Reuters notes the death toll is currently 15 with thirty-six injured. Habib al-Zubaidi (Reuters) quotes restraunt worker Tahsin Mahmoud stating, "I was in the kitchen when suddenly I heard a blast. I heard loud screams, and the sound of people running. I left the kitchen and went outside to see people covered in blood, lying on the ground. It took a long time for Iraqi security forces to reach the scene." Lara Jakes (AP) adds, "Associated Press video of the scene showed charred, crumpled cars outside the eatery that was pained orange and purple. Small groups of men stood ankle-deep in the wreckage." Haroon Siddique (Guardian) notes another bombing, at a Habaniya army base, has resulted in the deaths of 15 Iraqi soldiers with twenty more left injured. Reuters reports 2 Iraqi soldiers were killed in the Habaniya bombing (ten injured), 4 people were shot dead outside Iskandariya, a Baghdad car bombing left three people injured, a Mosul roadside bombing left one person injured and a man was injured in Kirkuk escaping from people who were trying to kidnap him. Yasir Ghazi (New York Times) adds that 3 corpses were discovered in Babil Province today, Shi'ites whose "hands were tired and they had multiple gunshot wounds". In an update, Ghazi notes that a Baghdad police checkpoint was attacked and 2 police officers were left dead while a third was injured. Ghazi notes Monday's assault on Shi'ite pilgrims. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports of that Monday assault in which 22 Shi'ite pilgrims were killed:


The gunmen ordered the 15 women and children aboard the bus to get off, then drove away with the men, reports indicate.
The men's bodies, including that of the Syrian driver, were found 140 miles away, about 40 miles from the town of Nukhaib.
Each had been shot in the back of the head, said an Iraqi security officials who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the incident.


Dar Addustour notes the large reward being offered to find the culprits. And Nouri has sent the military in to find the killers. 22 deaths is very sad. But other non-Shia groups in Iraq can be forgiven for noting that attacks on their own communities never resulted in huge awards or Nouri's swift response. (And that topic popped up on Arab social media yesterday and continues to percolate.)
Dropping back to the September 8th snapshot:
Al Rafidayn reports on a doctor's funeral Monday in Kirkuk -- Dr. Yildirim Abbas Dmarja and his brother -- in a killing that is part of a wave of targeting doctors and other professionals in Iraq. This targeting also includes kidnappings. The Director General of Health in Kirkuk is leading a call for the government to provide protection for doctors. It is estimated that over a million and a half dollars (US equivalent) have been paid by families to kidnappers of doctors. Al Sabaah notes that Wednesday also saw a sit-in at a Kirkuk hospital as doctors and medical staff demanded protection from the ongoing violence. They also demanded that those responsible be brought to justice.
Today Al Mada reports on an Iraqi surgeon who, with his family, has fled to Malaysia who will not be returning to Iraq due to the continued violence and won't allow his named used in the article out of fear for his family's safety. Six years ago, he was dragged from his car in Baghdad, kidnapped and held for three weeks until a ransom fee was paid after which he was tossed on the side of a street. The article notes the "brain drain" that took place in waves in Iraq and how doctors are among the refugees who are the least likely to return to Iraq once they flee the country due to safety concerns.
Anna Fifield (Financial Times of London) reports that negotiations continue between the Iraq and US governments over US troops remaining in Iraq beyond 2011 and Fifield does what few does, notes Nouri was given the authority by the political blocs to conduct negotiations. She also speaks with Iraq's Ambassador to the US, Samir Sumaida'ie who states that "there is a political process in Iraq and things take time. Our political circumstances are constraining and can only move at a certain pace."
Last month Josh Rogin (Foreign Policy) interviewed the ambassador who declared, "The principle that there will be some military presence [in Iraq beyond 2011] to help train Iraqi military and police has been largely agreed upon. [. . .] You'll see it when you see it. Americans want everything now or yesterday. We don't do it like this. We do it in our own sweet time."
The big story in Iraqi newspapers today is on the US withdrawal or 'withdrawal.' Supposedly all US forces would leave Iraq at the end of December 2011. Al Rafidayn is one of the papers reporting that a meeting at the United Nations Mission in Baghdad a few days prior found the UN being informed by Iraqis and the US (James Jeffrey, US Ambassador to Iraq, is said to have represented the American side) that the US would pull soldiers due to leave Iraq because their tour of duty was up but that was it and it was a "formality" because, in fact, the US and Iraq had entered an agreement allowing US forces to remain in Iraq. This alleged agreement is a temporary one that would allow the US and Iraq more time to negotiate the details of a US presence beyond 2011. It would last six months. Dar Addustour also reports on this alleged temporary agreement that's been made.

Staying on the topic of what may happen, Antiwar Radio, Scott Horton spoke with the Independent's Patrick Cockburn. We're going to ingnore the bulk of the interview here to instead zoom in on why Scott Horton hopes that Nouri al-Maliki is jerking the US around. al-Maliki may very well be. But on at least two other broadcasts dealing with Iraq, he's voiced that hope and in his discussion with Cockburn, he finally explained what he was referring to (bases in 2008). I disagree with his take and will note that after. But it's a big point to him so we'll jump in there.
Scott Horton: Okay, so in early 2008, you were the one who broke the story that the negotiations on -- for the Status Of Forces Agreement after the expiration of the UN mandate at the end of 2008, the American side began, their negotiating position was, 'We want 56 permanent bases and then throughout the rest of the year -- that I guess was in the spring, early spring of 2008 -- throughout the rest of the year, Maliki, the way I understand it, the way I remember it, Patrick, was Maliki said was, 'Okay, okay, I'm going to try to get you as many bases as I can,' and he basically pretended to try the whole time but always reluctantly reporting back that, 'I'm sorry, I just can't get the rest of the government to go along with it so you're going to end up having no permanent bases at all.' And I was wondering if you think it's possible that that's what's going on here now with the invitation for a few thousand or ten thousand troops to stay --
Patrick Cockburn: Sure.
Scott Horton: -- in Iraq. He's pretending, but he doesn't really need us anymore, does he?
So that's why Scott Horton hopes (hopes, not believes, he's made that very clear in repeated broadcasts) Nouri is currently jerking the US around.
Now we're going to look at what he said and I'm pulling out "after the expiration of the UN madate at the end of 2008" because I don't know what that's supposed to mean. Iraq had already notified the UN that they did not wish to renew the mandate. That is why England quickly negotiated their own treaty with Iraq and why the US began work on a treaty (the SOFA). As the SOFA presented a problem, Democrats in Congress did float, as late as August 2008, that Iraq might need to pursue another (one year) UN mandate. I don't know what he's getting at, so I'm stripping that out of Scott Horton's statement.
So we're left with:
Okay, so in early 2008, you were the one who broke the story that the negotiations on -- for the Status Of Forces Agreement [. . .], the American side began, their negotiating position was, 'We want 56 permanent bases and then throughout the rest of the year -- that I guess was in the spring, early spring of 2008 -- throughout the rest of the year, Maliki, the way I understand it, the way I remember it, Patrick, was Maliki said was, 'Okay, okay, I'm going to try to get you as many bases as I can,' and he basically pretended to try the whole time but always reluctantly reporting back that, 'I'm sorry, I just can't get the rest of the government to go along with it so you're going to end up having no permanent bases at all.'
Patrick was reporting in June of 2008 -- June 5th and 6th. Click here for the 6th article. So Scott Horton is crediting Nouri with the smarts to be deceptive but he thinks the Bush administration was too pure for duplicity? The US government does not go into negotiations with, "This is what we want. We hope you agree." They go in with a number of distractions. The Bush administration kept Nouri focused on the bases (and Nouri may have realized this) to distract from what they wanted with regards to the US Embassy in Baghdad. Long before Patrick Cockburn was reporting this, Democratic Congressional leaders had learned of a request on bases. Then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made clear that the opposition building against the SOFA (over the Bush administration's stated intent not to bring it before the Senate for approval) would explode if permanent bases were part of the deal. (Pelosi was already feeling the sting of criticism for her comments in the 8th District that "nothing lasts forever" and was very sensitive to this issue in terms of it being a personal liability to her.) They were told that the US was not seriously pursuing bases.
That was a bargaining tool that would be tossed by the wayside, its main purpose was to distract from the embassy -- whose size was becoming a very big issue in Iraq and in the US. I've never understood why Scott Horton had so much faith in Nouri's ability to one up the US government. He explained it and I do understand what he's basing it on -- and he may be right -- but that's not how I interpret the same events because I was repeatedly told in 2008, by various Congress members, about the objection leadership had lodged to permanent bases and what the reply was. And because the reply was in keeping with the empire nature of the US. Who has ever come out on top in a deal with the US? (China may yet.) Not the Native Americans. For a little while, it appeared Panama might have. When we (briefly) returned their canal.
In my interpretation of events, I'm willing to allow that Nouri may have known the bases request was a MacGuffin but pretended to have bargaining power with other Iraqis -- as in, "They want these bases and we'll stand up to them on that. So let's give them . . ." But, no, Nouri did not deprive the US government of permanent military bases in Iraq. That was not the goal from the US side.
Scott Horton may be right that Nouri is jerking the US around but I will strongly disagree with the notion that the bases request in 2008 was anything but a pawn quickly sacrificed by US negotiators to get their long term goals for the US embassy (the true military base in Iraq). And I'll even note that in 2008, a State Dept friend insisted the sprawling embassy had to be that way because the US government did not want another hostage situation (similar to the Iranian crisis). I didn't buy that as the excuse for the size of the embassy but I will note that justification was noted.
Scott Horton also has this hope for Moqtada al-Sadr sending the US packing. At one point in the interview, Patrick Cockburn (sounding very weary -- I don't know if that's from being under the weather or what) says, "Yeah" when Scott states that Moqtada's had the same position since 2003.
And I think at least some listening will say, "Yes, and he's never done anything." Dilip Hiro's done a strong job documenting Moqtada al-Sadr. Pages 279 and 280 of Hiro's Secrets and Lies are must reading to understanding Moqtada. Some of it is covered in the "What Makes Moqtada tick?" section of this Tom Paine article by Hiro in 2007. Again, Scott Horton could be 100% correct on both issues or partially correct on both or off the mark on one or both. I could certainly be wrong as well (and have been many times before) but that's where he stands and why.
While the issue of withdrawal remains up in the air, Tony Cappaccio (Bloomberg News) reports, "Iraq is 'very close' to signing a letter of intent to buy up to 36 Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) F-16 jets, said the senior U.S. Air Force general in that country." The Telegraph of London notes, "Any deal would be worth billions of dollars and take years to implement, as it would require the manufacture of the aircraft and the training of pilots."
Finally baby
The truth has come down now
Take a listen to your spirit
It's crying out loud.
-- "I Don't Want to Know," written by Stevie Nicks, first appears on Fleetwood Mac's Rumors
Monday Aswat al-Iraq reported, "An official in the former U.S. President's Administration, George Bush, has said [. . .] that one of the important strategic necessities for the presence of the U.S. forces in Iraq is 'the west's need for oil with suitable prices,' considering the number agreed upon for those forces is not enough and does not satisfy its motive'." The former official is Meghan O'Sullivan and her Washington Post column's entitled "Why U.S. troops should stay in Iraq." Her remarks on oil include:

Finally, and most compelling, there is the role that Iraq may play in averting a major global energy crisis in the coming years. The world economic recession eased pressure on global oil supplies and provided relief from the climbing energy prices of 2007 and 2008. But a quiet trend of 2010 was that growth in global oil consumption grew at the second-fastest rate ever, 2.8 percent, while growth in global crude oil production lagged behind at 2.5 percent. If demand continues to outgrow supply, it will be only a few short years before global spare capacity of oil -- one of the indicators most closely tied to prices -- gets dangerously low, and jittery markets push prices up and up. Assuming the world escapes another dip in economic growth, this outcome would probably materialize even without any additional geopolitical hiccups, such as political unrest in Saudi Arabia or a military confrontation with Iran.
Al Kamen (Washington Post) notes today:

Industry and international experts expect Iraqi oil production to nearly double in the next decade from 2.5 million barrels a day to almost 5 million barrels, she notes. So "if lessons from Iraq's experience help stabilize the region" and Iraq remains "willing to cooperate with the United States publicly and privately" and its oil "help[s] the world avoid another energy crisis," then "some may recalculate the strategic ledger on the U.S. intervention in Iraq."
So Operation Iraqi Freedom was really about the oil after all? Who knew?
Meanwhile Al Mada reports that a meeting of Kurdistan officials and law makers yesterday resulted in what's being called "one last chance" for Nouri's government. The "last chance" is a delegation that's being sent to meet in Baghdad and raise the issues of the proposed oil and gas law, Article 140 of the Constitution (which guaranteed a census and referendum on Kirkuk by the end of 2007, Nouri is now four years in violation of the Constitution)and other issues. If they do not feel Baghdad is taking these issues seriously and taking steps to address them, the partnership is supposed to be dissolved (Kurds withdraw confidence in the government). Further embarrassing Nouri are the public threats Turkey began making yesterday of launching a ground invasion in northern Iraq. Al Mada notes that Nouri has been forced to issue a statement proclaiming Iraq's sovereignty and claiming Iraq can (and will?) defend its borders. Lale Kemal (Todays Zaman) notes, "It is a pity that a process the Turkish government initiated in 2009 that includes talks with the PKK to find a political solution to the Kurdish question has been deadlocked and replaced by military methods." In addition, Al Mada reports that Iraq has just entered it's second consecutive month of inflation.

With all those problems going on it might seem as if Nouri would lay low and not invite further problems. But maybe he has huge faith in the I Love Nouri demonstration First Lady of Iraq Moqtada al-Sadr has planned for Friday? Al Rafidayn reports Nouri has staged a major tantrum and declared that Ayad Allawi is not fit to take part in the government.

Who?

March 7, 2010, Iraq held elections. Nouri's political slate (State of Law) came in second. Iraqyia -- headed by Ayad Allawi -- came in first. Nouri refused to give up the post of prime minister. The White House backed him because he promised to keep US troops. Samantha Power was the fierce advocate to continue backing Nouri.

The Erbil Agreement ended Political Stalemate I and was hammered out by the US and various political blocs in Iraq. Nouri was allowed to stay on as prime minister, Ayad Allawi was promised he'd head a new, independent security council. Nouri took the prime minister post but trashed the rest of the agreement. (Kurds are demanding that the Erbil Agreement be followed and threatening to make it public in full.) He and Allawi are opponents, to put it mildly. He is most likely enraged (this time) by a just published interview. From yesterday's snapshot:

Asharq al-Awsat interviews Ayad Allawi (Iraiqya leader who's been meeting with the Kurdish leaders -- Iraqiya won the March 7, 2010 elections) and their first question for him is about his recent comments that there was a need for early elections and a need for a vote of no confidence on Nouri al-Maliki, has his opinion changed? He replies that nothing has changed and unless the Erbil Agreement is followed, as KRG President Barzani is insisting, then early elections need to be held. He states that they should be transparent and follow the election laws. (They put it is either/or. Allawi rejects that in his first answer and again near the end of the interview when he explains that first you do the vote of no-confidence in the current government and then you move to early elections.) Asked if he doesn't find it strange that 8 years after the end of Saddam Hussein's regime, Iraqi decisions are still spoken of in light of what the US wants or what Iran wants, Allawi replies that it is clear the government (Nouri) was negotiating with Iran on how to form a government -- down to the smallest details. He states that when he met with Bashar al-Assad, president of Syria [presumably in 2010], al-Assad stated he would be speaking with Iranian officials and what was the response to Adel Abdul al-Mahdi being prime minister. The point is to indicate that Iran was being catered to. (I'm sure the US was as well, however, Allawi focuses on Iran.) Adel Abdul al-Mahdi was, until recently, one of Iraq's two vice presidents. He's a member of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council. Big Oil supported him in 2006 for prime minister and they also wanted him in 2010. His announcement that he was resigning as vice president earlier this year may have been setting up another run for prime minister.
Allawi states that the Erbil Agreement needs to be implemented, that the meet-up in Erbil and the agreement itself took place in a spirit to work together for Iraq and build something sincere but now "the other party" [the unnamed is Nouri] repeatedly finds excuses not to implement. Asked if the problem is the agreement, Allawi clearly states that the problem is "the other party" and that the agreement is clear. He rejects the notion of one-party rule and specifically names Nouri when rejecting it, stating that this is a private scheme of "Maliki" and not something with wide support even within Dawa (Dawa is Nouri's political party, State of Law is the slate Nouri ran with).
In the US, John Walsh has an important story at Antiwar.com's Blog on Veterans for Peace voting to impeach Barack "for war crimes" at last month's convention in Portland, Oregon. From the article:
The VFP resolution is stark testimony that [David] Swanson is dead wrong and that the tide is turning against the war criminal Obama even among his most faithful followers. A call for impeachment, whatever the prospects for success, makes crystal clear that the antiwar community regards the President as a criminal -- whether that President is Bush or Obama. And it puts a stop to the nasty tactic of shutting up impeachment advocates by calling them racists.
The impeachment resolution is modeled on another that VFP passed some years ago calling for impeachment of Bush. The anti-Obama resolution merits reading in full here. It has telling additions to the one targeting Bush. It opens thus: "Whereas, President Obama, on 19 March 2011, committed a criminal act by ordering the U.S. military to war in Libya without first obtaining the consent of the U.S. Congress in a direct violation of the U.S. Constitution." Bush told lies to get us into war. Such is his arrogance that Obama, acting in the Democratic tradition of Harry S. Truman in the Korean war, did not even bother to lie. He simply went ahead and trampled on the Constitution without pretense.

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