Friday, September 30, 2011

3 women, 3 men

On the first hour of today's Diane Rehm Show, the guests were Laura Meckler, Jackie Calmes and the ass Matt Cooper. On the second hour, it was Peter David, Indira Lakshmanan and Abderrahim Foukara.

Matt Cooper is a cheap liar. Valerie Plame was undercover CIA. She was outed.

What's that got to do with Cooper?

Karl Rove and Scooter Libby fed him that information. He forgot to tell the truth about it until he was summoned before a court.

He covered the story -- the outing of Valerie -- for Time magazine. But, oops, forgot to note his own role in it or his sources or anything.

He's a jerk and not to be trusted.

Ever.

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

Friday, September 30, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, disagreement in Iraq over whether or not Nouri can close the deal alone on extending the US military presence, protests take place across Iraq, US President Barack Obama orders the deaths of two Americans, and more.
"Suddenly the place turned into hell," explains survivor Haider Qahtan to Reuters. It was supposed to be a typical Shi'ite funeral as mourners gathered in Hilla this evening to bury Abdelamir Jaffar al-Khafaji but instead it turned into a bloodbath. Mazin Yahya and Rebecca Santana (AP) report a car bomb exploded outside Nabi Ayub Shi'ite mosque and quote Mohammed Ali who felt the blast inside the mosque, "I heard the blast, then was hit by glass from windows and my hand was bleeding severely. I blame the security forces for such a horrible breach." Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) adds that there was "damage to some civilian vehicles and nearby buildings"; however, the people most harmed were the "mourners heading to a funeral tent near the mosque". Tim Arango and Duraid Adnan (New York Times) report, "Several high-level officials were in attendance, including the leaders of the local court and provincial council. Both officials had just left before a vehicle, which had been parked outside the mosque, exploded. But the son of the local judge, who led the appeals court in the area, was killed." Lara Jakes and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) count 17 dead and forty-eight injured. Citing police officials, Kareem Raheem (Reuters) states 18 died and sixty-three were injured.
Before the Hilla attack, Dar Addustour noted that Parliament will be examining security issues shortly in light of the continued rise in violence. Kurdistan Alliance MP Mahmoud Othman is quoted stating that the security chiefs and Nouri al-Maliki must be called before Parliament to answer about the security breaches throughout the country resulting in the death of "many innocents." After the attack, BBC News notes, "Parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi condemned the attack but blamed failings in the 'security apparatus'." AFP quotes Ali Khafaji who claims to be "astonished at how the explosion happened, because on the way to the funeral there were many police checkpoints." Arango and Adnan quote an unnamed security official who feels there wasn't enough security considering all the "dignitaries in attendance."
Al Mada reports Nouri al-Maliki appeared on Al-Manar TV today and declared no US troops would remain in Iraq, that, as per the SOFA, they will all leave at the end of this year.
. . . except . . .
Nouri said Iraq would keep "trainers" and "experts" and that this is "normal" and "universally" accepted.
So, to translate that into reality, Nouri al-Maliki declared today that the US military will remain in Iraq beyond 2011 and they will be called "trainers" or "experts."
US outlets haven't reported on Nouri's remarks and Al Mada is an Arabic publication. But those needing an English language source on the above can refer to this article by Aswat al-Iraq today which includes:
Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has said on Thursday that the presence of foreign experts and trainers during the purchase of weapons is a natural thing, reiterating that the presence of the US troops in his country would end by end of the current year
"The presence of the American troops is settled and shall end by the end of the current year, according to an agreement between both sides, and there won't remain a single foreign soldier in the country," a statement by the Prime Minister's office reported.
But Prime Minister Maliki said that the "resence of foreign experts and trainers during the process of purchase of weapons is something natural and is followed in other parts of the world."
Al Mada now reports that a meeting next week is expected to resolve the issue of how many US soldiers will remain in Iraq after December 31st. The rumored meeting would be attended, according to unnamed sources, by Jalal Talabani, President of Iraq, as well as leaders of the various political blocs. The issue for Parliament would be the immunity issue. The US government wants immunity for US soldiers. Nouri al-Maliki apparently can't grant it by himself (or prefers not to or hasn't yet figured out how to seize that power) so that would be taken to Parliament. As for the troops being on the ground themselves, it is believed that the Strategic Framework Agreement (signed when the SOFA was) would cover their presence. The article notes that Tareq al-Hashemi, Iraq's Sunni Vice President, declared earlier this week that when Talabani returned to Iraq (he left to take part in the United Nations meetings -- mainly to argue that Iraq needs to be released from Chapter 7, a point the US press pointedly ignored -- Ammar al-Hakim talks about Chapter 7 to Al Mada today) there would be another meet-up at Talabani's residence. Alsumaria TV has a different interpretation of the meet-up:
Iraqi Vice President, Tariq Al Hashemi, declared that President Jalal Talabani will call for a third meeting of political blocs at his return from New York. The meeting however was subject to doubts even before being held.
Hashemi's announcement about Talabani's call for a third meeting seemed to be according to Iraqiya list's desire. Iraqiya MPs stressed the necessity to know the reasons behind State of Law Coalition's failure to commit to last meeting's decisions. This meeting would be the last attempt during the present government's term, MPs
Al Mada speaks with a member of Iraqiya who states that Nouri was to enter into talks with the US government on extending the US military presence; however, he was supposed to brief the political blocs on all negotiations and that the final say was not supposed to be Nouri's. The Iraiqya MP states that Nouri has not briefed the political blocs (that's been stated before by MPs with other political slates and parties as well). State of Law and National Alliance MP Jawad Albzona disagrees over Nouri's power and states that any agreement would not need Parliamentary approval and would be valid just as a contract signed by Nouri and the US. He states it would be valid because Nouri would have identified the need on behalf of security and that would be it (presumably he's saying that's due to Nouri being commander in chief of the military but he doesn't make that point). An unidentified deputy with the Sadr bloc rejects that interpretation and insists that Parliament would have to vote on any agreement. A Sadr MP, Rafi Abd al-Jabbar, is quoted stating that the Sadr bloc rejects US military forces remaining under any name or title (such as the faux term of "trainers").
Who's right?
If by "right" you mean legal, the Strategic Framework Agreement does allow for Iraq to keep US personnel to provide support and training. The SFA covers not only diplomatic and economic realmsbut also security. Though Parliament wasn't interpreting that, in 2008, to mean that US forces could stay on the ground in Iraq beyond 2011 under the SFA, that is what it can allow.
Who's "right" in their debate over what Nouri has or doesn't have the power to do?
If the SFA is accepted -- and it may not be -- as the document that will allow the continued presence of US troops on the ground in Iraq, the only sticking point is the immunity clause. Otherwise, Nouri's actions in the past demonstrate that while he does not have the power in writing to extend the US military presence without the consent of Parliament, he has repeatedly done that and since Parliament has refused to fight back, it is a power he has assumed and the Iraqi courts (already in Nouri's pokets) would be unlikely to rule against him.
If you're late to the party, Nouri becomes prime minister the first time in the spring of 2006. The UN madate covering the continued occupation is running out because it is yearly. Nouri is supposed to get approval from Parliament to renew it. He doesn't bother to. He just renews it on his own. The Parliament notes that the move was illegal and they pass another law to make it 'doubly' illegal. Nouri swears it won't happen again. As 2007 is winding down, Nouri again renews the UN mandate without Parliament's consent or input. Either time, Parliament could have done a vote of no-confidence or taken some serious measure against Nouri. They did not. Though it's not a power the Constitution has given the office of Prime Minister, Nouri has now done it twice and the courts (already friendly to Nouri, to put it mildly) would most likely see the assumed power as one that now belongs to him.
I'm against the illegal war and want all US troops out now. Within these snapshots, my goal is to be honest. If I'm dishonest, there's no reason for anyone to bother reading it. So when we're talking the PKK (as we were recently) and I'm explaining how Turkey has over-reacted and hurt themselves and include that the PKK could damage their own reputation by attacking civilians, I'm aware that the Turkish government could begin rumors or stage such events to discredit the PKK. And certainly they have in some instances in the last two weeks labeled attacks PKK when they weren't PKK attacks. (There are many Kurdish rebel groups fighting for independence. An attack on teachers this week may or may not be the PKK. An event further into northern Turkey last week was not the PKK. And, in fact, the group responsible claimed credit -- and AP was the only outlet to report on that, by the way. A number of US commentators don't know the first thing about the Kurdish resistance and should probably find another topic to gas bag on.) My condern can't be, "How will this be used!!!" That's not my worry, that's not my concern within these snapshots. Equally true, what I'm about to go into doesn't help get US troops out of Iraq. And so maybe I should bite my tongue and hope no one thinks too hard on the issue of immunity?
We don't play it that way, we let the chips fall where they may. As commander in chief of the military, Nouri al-Maliki is responsible for the military. If, in that role, he is allowed to bring in "trainers," then he is allowed to give them immunity.
This should have been obvious to all sides long ago. He either has no power to bring in "trainers" or he has that power and having that power includes providing them with "immunity." What "trainers" would ever come in to work on security issues -- which could mean someone was accidentally killed -- without knowing that the government recognized the "trainers" were there to assist and would not prosecute the "trainers" for carrying out the duties the Iraqi government tasked them with?
If it appears Parliament will balk at the issue of immunity, don't look for that to be a sticking point. Nouri will issue some sort of order (either solo as commander in chief or with the backing of his Cabinet).
It's an important point to raise because if the talks are even semi-public, at some point a gas bag's going to go on Democracy Now! or elsewhere and smugly assert that it doesn't matter because, in the end, Parliament will never approve immunity for US troops. And a lot of people will nod their heads excitedly because it's what we want to hear (the Iraq War finally ends!) and we'll focus on something else and drop our objections only to learn a week or two later that, oops, Parliament wasn't the only way to get immunity for US troops.
Early in the day, protests took place. The Great Iraqi Revolution reports, "A big demonstration came out after Friday prayer today in Wasit condemning the American occupation and refusing to grant occupation forces an extension of their stay under the pretext of 'training'." They note the same was true in Theeqar, in Karbala and in Qadisiya, in Amara.

And in Baghdad? Alsumaria News reports that activists gathered in Tahrir Square calling for an end to the occupation and an end to govermnet corruption. They protested the millions spent for Jalal Talabani's New York Visit to the United Nations and they called for unity and the registion of sectarianism. Banners included those that rejected sectarianism, called out the judiciary that protects the corrupt and declared Parliament to be a farce. They noted that the two million spent for Jalal's NYC visit could have been spent within Iraq on needed projects that would benefit the people. The report notes that as much as $7.5 billion may have been wasted in corruption by the government in the last two years -- that should be in US dollars because the oil monies in the article are in dollar figures and not dinars -- and that estimate appears after they note the Transparency International annual reports. I'm not sure where the figure comes from, but it maybe TI's estimate. The Great Iraqi Revolution's Baghdad correspondent reports, "A large number of protestors were unable to access Tahrir Square today as the government forces have cordoned the square and allowed only one entrance point which was in turn controlled by at least forty officers and troops of the government forces. A number of ambulances were also seen in the square which raised suspicions and fears that abductions are planned as has been the practice in previous Fridays.In addition, a number of intelligence officers were deployed atop surrounding buildings, In fact they were seen using binoculars and cameras to document and know the identity of the protestors,. Due to the severity of the measures ,the revolutionary youth were unable to document the protest by videos."
Aswat al-Iraq reports that they also called for improved basic services and condemned attacks on Iraq by other countries, "The demonstrators have demanded to put an end for interferences and violations by Iraq's neighborly states, including Iran, Turkey and Kuwait, demanding the government to take opposite measures against such violations."


"I will sleep in peace. I want to rest so long, and dream of my name written on my grave, dream that my son will come and visit me, even once, my son who does not speak Arabic well. I hope that he will be able to read his father's name, the lover of freedom and its martyr."
He wasn't present at the protests but those are the words of assassinated Iraqi journalist Hadi al-Mahdi. Tim Arango (New York Times) quotes Hadi in a report on how Hadi's death has impacted Iraqis and the way they see the future of their country. Journalist and film director Ali Sumari speaks of having hopes for Iraq as recently as a year ago but now those hopes have vanished. Educator Karema Hashim assumes she will be "killed one day." The International Crisis Group is an NGO and their recent report (covered in a snapshot this week) specifically addressed these issues and specifically addressed Hadi al-Mahdi's assassination. The International Crisis Group stated their Middle East report's section on Iraq, "examines the steady erosion of the credibility of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government resulting from the failure to safeaguard institutions against corruption and abuse." The Iraq section can be found here (that's not PDF, for anyone worried), "Failing Oversight: Iraq's Unchecked Government." Here's the section noting Hadi's assassination:
Even civil society organisations -- confronted by government intimidation in the form of anonymous threats, arrests of political activists and violence, including police brutality -- have proved incapable of placing a check on government. Although the perpetrators have yet to be found, the killing on 9 September 2011 of a prominent journalist and leading organiser of weekly protests against government corruption has contributed to rising fears of the Maliki government's authoritarian streak.
Also noting Hadi's assassination is Yochi J. Dreazen (National Journal) who examines the state of journalism in Iraq:


Instead, Iraq's outlook is more like China's than America's. The onslaught began on Feb. 17 with the unsolved murder of Hilal al-Ahmadi, who focused on government corruption. Seven days later, soldiers stormed the office of the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, the country's sole media-advocacy group. "They wanted to shut us up to clear the way for what they planned to do," says Ziad al-Ajili, the group's director. The troops confiscated hard drives, cameras, and other files.
The next week, tens of thousands of young Iraqis protested the government, modeling themselves on the Arab Spring movements. First, government agents began arresting Iraqi reporters in attendance, confiscating their cameras and notebooks. Having silenced the native chroniclers, security teams swept in, beating scores of demonstrators and using tear gas, water cannons, and bullets to disperse crowds. Nineteen people were killed and several thousand arrested. Ajili estimates that 160 journalists were arrested within five days of the protest. Hundreds of other reporters have been detained or beaten in the months since, he said.
Ali al-Sumery, an editor at the state-owned al-Sabaah newspaper, was arrested on Feb. 25 as he ate lunch with Mehdi and two other Iraqi journalists. Soldiers struck the four men with wooden sticks and the butts of their rifles. The journalists were driven to a bend of the Tigris River where bodies are commonly found. "I thought they were going to kill us," Sumery says. They were interrogated for hours and accused of being Baathists. Bruised and bleeding, they were abruptly released later that evening.

When not targeting journalists, Nouri likes to go after MPs. From the September 22nd snapshot:
Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reports on Moqtada al-Sadr's criticism of Nouri al-Maliki swearing out an arrest warrant for Sabah al-Saadi claiming that criticizing Nouri is a threat to national security (see yesterday's snapshot). al-Sadr has called out the move and compared it to a new dictatorship and issued a call for the government to work on inclusion and not exclusion. Another Al Mada report notes Sadr declaring that Nouri needs to drop this issue and focus on the needed political work. It's noted that the Sadr bloc waited until Moqtada issued a statement to weigh in and that the Kurdish Regional Government President Massoud Barazni declared that the Kurdish bloc would not support a vote to strip al-Saadi of his immunity. As a member of Parliament, Sabah al-Saadi should be immune to Nouri's arrest warrant for the 'crime' of speech. Currently, the warrant exists but cannot be executed due to the immunity members of Parliament have. So in addition to filing charges against al-Saadi, Nouri and State of Law (his political slate) are also attempting to strip a member of Parliament of his immunity.
But that's not all. Nouri has a back up plan. Should the Parliament not agree to strip al-Saadi of his immunity, the warrant will stand through 2014 when al-Saadi's term expires (al-Saadi's decided not to run again or Nouri's made that decision and intends to utilize the Justice and Accountability Commission to keep him from running?) at which point all-Saadi would be a citizen (without immunity) and then the warrant can and will be executed. In addition, Al Mada notes the claim that immunity can be stripped of a member of Parliament if half-plus-one of those in attendance vote in favor of the motion.
For those wondering how an insult, any insult, rises to the level of criminal, this AFP report (in French) explains that Nouri's complaint utilizes a law from the reign of General Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, Article 226 of the 1969 Criminal Code which made it a crime for anyone to insult a member of Parliament, the government, the courts, armed forces, etc.
We'll again note that over the weekend, Al-Badeal noted Nouri's efforts to have Sabah al-Saadi arrested led to a rebuke from the Popular de-Baathification Movement (established in August 2009) which stated it rejects Nouri's efforts and finds them unconstitutional. The Movement also warns that dictatorship isn't born in a day and that they must remain faithful to all of those who died defeating Iraq's previous dictatorship. This Movement is a group that would normally be alligned with Nouri. For example, they keep a blacklist of people that they allege are Ba'athists and publish it online. If he's alarmed this group, he's alarmed pretty much Iraq's entire political spectrum with his moves. Al Mada reports that al-Sudani declared today he does not fear the arrest warrant and it will not silence him from exposing government corruption. Nouri is most upset by a private conversation al-Sudani had with another person which was taped and during which al-Sudani declared that "the end of al-Maliki will be like the end of Saddam Hussein." Nouri's attorney, Tariq Harb, repeats to Al Mada that should Parliament not strip al-Sudani of immunity, they will leave the arrest warrant in place until May 13, 2014 (when the current session of Parliament is supposed to end) and then immediately arrest al-Sudani.
There are a number of problems with Nouri's attorney's view but the most obvious is probably: Don't pin your hopes on May 13, 2014.
What we've seen is that each election takes longer and longer in Iraq. Following the March 7, 2010 elections, the government pretty much stayed in place -- despite their terms being up -- for over eight months as Political Stalemate I continued.
We need to cover two non-Iraq things. First, in Yemen today, two American citizens were killed. Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Kahn were killed by Barack Obama who, in a deliberate distortion of the powers of a US president, ordered a drone attack on them. Their crime?
There is no crime. They're American -- they were American citizens. In the United States, you're not guilty of a crime until you've been convicted of one in a court of law. These are the basics and they're not difficult to grasp unless you're an idiot serving in the US Congress who disgraced yourself today whooping with joy over this attack on US citizenship, attack on the US legal system and attack on the US Constitution -- the last one should especially concern Congress since they take an oath to uphold the Constitution -- clearly not an oath they take very seriously. Or maybe they're just too stupid and ignorant to grasp what they're swearing an oath to? Maybe we need to get some Constitutional tutors to spend time with members of Congress? And this was bi-paristan stupidity -- Democrats joined Republicans in treating this as a joyful moment. And not just Congress. Members of the US military also take an oath to uphold the Constitution. Though Wesley Clark has now retired from the military and from running for office -- he's retired everything but his large mouth -- he is applauding the destruction as well. Let's be clear, Wes, what got bombed by the predator drone was the US Constitution and the US legal system. There's nothing to cheer or applaud there and your gross ignorance on this subject is appalling because I can remember conversations with you about Bush doing similar things back when Bully Boy Bush occupied the White House and you were alarmed that America might slide into a dictatorship.
As usual, one of the few people making the needed points and wading in before it's considered safe is CCR's Michael Ratner who writes about the topic at his blog Just Left. Excerpt:

Is this the world we want? Where the president of the United States can place an American citizen, or anyone else for that matter, living outside a war zone on a targeted assassination list, and then have him murdered by drone strike.

This was the very result we at the Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU feared when we brought a case in US federal court on behalf of Anwar al-Awlaki's father, hoping to prevent this targeted killing. We lost the case on procedural grounds, but the judge considered the implications of the practice as raising "serious questions", asking:

"Can the executive order the assassination of a US citizen without first affording him any form of judicial process whatsoever, based on the mere assertion that he is a dangerous member of a terrorist organisation?"

Michael Ratner is one of the hosts of the radio program Law and Disorder Radio -- a weekly hour long program that airs Monday mornings on WBAI and around the country throughout the week. You can be sure that either this coming Monday or the one after, he and fellow attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) will be exploring the Yemen events because they have huge meaning and it's damn shame members of Congress choose instead to treat it as a football game -- a damn shame but highly illuminating.
September 30, 2011, New York -- Today, in response to the news that a missile attack by an American drone aircraft had killed U.S. citizen Anwar Al-Awlaki in Yemen, the Center for Constitutional Rights, which had previously brought a challenge in federal court to the legality of the authorization to target Al-Awlaki in Yemen, released the following statement:
"The assassination of Anwar Al-Awlaki by American drone attacks is the latest of many affronts to domestic and international law," said Vince Warren, Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. "The targeted assassination program that started under President Bush and expanded under the Obama Administration essentially grants the executive the power to kill any U.S. citizen deemed a threat, without any judicial oversight, or any of the rights afforded by our Constitution. If we allow such gross overreaches of power to continue, we are setting the stage for increasing erosions of civil liberties and the rule of law."
Pardiss Kebriaei, a CCR senior staff attorney, added: "In dismissing our complaint, the district court noted that there were nonetheless 'disturbing questions' raised by the authority being asserted by the United States. There certainly are disturbing questions that need to be asked again, and answered by the U.S. government about the circumstances of the killing and the legal standard that governed it."
Further information on CCR's challenge to targeted killings is online at http://ccrjustice.org/targetedkillings
The Libyan War continues (and US military is now on the ground there). We've been too busy with Iraq to note it. But Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya was an unembedded reporter covering the US military assualt (under the guise of NATO) on the country and we will make time to include an excerpt from his latest, "The War in Libya is a Fraud: Using Human Rights Organizations to Launch Wars" (ICH):

The war against Libya is built on fraud. The United Nations Security Council passed two resolutions against Libya on the basis of unproven claims, specifically that Colonel Muammar Qaddafi was killing his own people in Benghazi. The claim in its exact form was that Qaddafi had ordered Libyan forces to kill 6,000 people in Benghazi. These claims were widely disseminated, but always vaguely explained. It was on the basis of this claim that Libya was referred to the U.N. Security Council at U.N Headquarters in New York City and kicked out of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

False claims about African mercenary armies in Libya and about jet attacks on civilians were also used in a broad media campaign against Libya. These two claims have been sidelined and have become more and more murky. The massacre claims, however, were used in a legal, diplomatic, and military framework to justify NATO's war on the Libyans.

Using Human Rights as a Pretext for War: The LLHR and its Unproven Claims

One of the main sources for the claim that Qaddafi was killing his own people is the Libyan League for Human Rights (LLHR). The LLHR was actually pivotal to getting the U.N. involved through its specific claims in Geneva. On February 21, 2011 the LLHR got the 70 other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to sent letters to the President Obama, E.U. High Representative Catherine Ashton., and the U.N. Secretary-General Ban-ki Moon demanding international action against Libya invoking the "Responsibility to Protect" doctrine. Only 25 members of this coalition actually assert that they are human rights groups.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

4 men, 1 woman

The first hour of today's Diane Rehm Show (NPR) featured the following guests: Ron Pollack, Julie Rovner, Joseph Antos and Larry Leavitt. If we're talking rising health care, why are no nurses present for the discussion? Oh, that's right Diane hates other women. And she already had one on the panel. The second hour was actor John Lithgow.

I was asked in an e-mail about my working out and how it was going?

On Saturdays, I'm on the phone with Wally, Mike and C.I. They're running for an hour and I walk for an hour while they run. During the week, I grab 30 minutes a day of walking at lunch.

I enjoy Saturdays. Not so crazy about work.

How come?

I'm about to hurt somebody's feelings but I don't give a damn.

I've lost 21 pounds since I started this. Now it's noticeable and then some.

But this woman -- who I will call "Jade" -- demands that we all praise her weight loss. And she never says anything nice about the rest of us. In fact, she says rude things about us.

She's like Rasputia in Norbit, especially in the beauty parlor scene.

Now Jade looks like she lost maybe five or six pounds.

And I'm happy with praising someone. But, again, I've lost 21 pounds and she can't even acknowledge it.


And, on top of that, we're in the ladies room yesterday and she's got a problem with a wire on her bra. So she takes off her blouse and is trying to fix it.

And I look over and see some black fabric. Straining.

"Is that Spanx!" I exclaim.

"It's just a girdle," Jade insists.

She hasn't lost a damn pound. She just went out and bought what she's calling a girdle. (It ends right before her rib cage. Is that a girdle? I've never worn one or went shopping for one.)

So she's been rude to all of us, she's said that my best friend must be cheating because you can't tell she's lost weight (in reality, she's lost over close to 30 pounds and it is so obvious, so good for my best friend). But she's been wearing a girdle.

So that's how my workout's been going.


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


Thursday, September 29, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, another US solder dies in Iraq making it five for the month (according to the Pentagon's count), Kirkuk gets slammed by a bombing, Nouri makes a read-between-my-lines statement, Political Stalemate II continues, and more.
Al Mada reports Nouri al-Maliki appeared on Al-Manar TV today and declared no US troops would remain in Iraq, that, as per the SOFA, they will all leave at the end of this year.
. . . except . . .
Nouri said Iraq would keep "trainers" and "experts" and that this is "normal" and "universally" accepted.
So, to translate that into reality, Nouri al-Maliki declared today that the US military will remain in Iraq beyond 2011 and they will be called "trainers" or "experts."
Al Mada reports that Iraqiya is stating that Nouri has kept secret his talks with the United States, kept secret from other Iraqis, and that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi confirms that Parliament has been absent from the negotiations. Al Mada notes that August 2nd, at Jalal Talabani's house and agreed to begin neogtiations.
A Kirkuk bombing leaves destruction in its wake. MSNBC offers a photo essay featuring the work of Marwan Ibrahim (AFP - Getty Images). Images include a woman who works at the bank the bombing took place in front of with blood on her face, a police officer carrying a small boy who has blood flowing from a head wound. AP video shows as many as four huge plumes of smoke, people fleeing and attempts to put out fires. DPA notes, "The car bomb attack was carried out as a group of policemen were queueing up to get their salaries at a bank in central Kirkuk, said the sources." Mustafa Mahmoud, Muhanad Mohammed, Patrick Markey and Karolina Tagaris (Reuters) report it was a suicide bombing, "The bomber drove his car into the bank premises, damaging nearby buildings and setting parked vehicles on fire in the city center, local authorities said." Aswat al-Iraq quotes Dr. Siddiq Omar, Kirkuk Health Department's Director-General, stating, "The final result of the suicide attack that took place close to the 1st June Bank in central Kirkuk on Thursday has reached 3 killed and 79 injured." It's said the dead are 2 women and 1 man. Al Mada states most of the injured are police recruits and notes Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi states there needs to be an investigation into the breach of security behind the bombing.
In addition, Reuters notes a Tarmiya mortar attack claimed the life of 1 Iraqi solder and left two more injured, 1 Ministry of the Interior employee was shot dead in Baghdad (his driver was injured), 1 police officer was shot dead and another was left injured and, last night, in an attack on a Baghdad military checkpoint left one Iraqi soldier injured. AP adds that "an employee for Iraq's government-run TV channel died Thursday." (At Antiwar.com, Margaret Griffis counts 14 Iraqis reported dead. And, FYI, Margaret would do well to note "alleged" when presenting charges of kidnapping against someone or some group -- especially a group prone to communicate with the press about various actions. We may pick up on that tomorrow, I'm rushing today.) On the issue of journalists, Aswat al-Iraq reports, "The Press Freedoms Observatory in Baghdad has condemned the detention of the Corrsepondent of al-Sharqiya TV Satellite Channel, Minas Gharib, in west Baghdad's Abu-Ghuraib district on Thursday. The Observatory stressed in a statement, copy of which was received by Aswat al-Iraq news agency that 'an Army checkpoint had prevented al-Sharqiya Channel's team to head towards Abu-Ghuraib's Hamdaniya area, detaining its correspondent, Minas Gharib'."
A US soldier died today. AFP states, "The last US soldier to be killed in Iraq died on July 15 in the southern province of Basra, according to independent website www.icasualties.org. Three American soldiers have died since then, but all in 'non-hostile' incidents."
First off, that silly website -- I'm not even going there. Second, today's death makes 5 deaths this month. But let's drop back to July because we don't insult the memories of the fallen by pretending one war death matters more than others. (And AFP is dead wrong when they say that since July 15th, three US soldiers have died?) July 18th military announces a death and July 20th the soldier is identified as Mark A. Cofield. That was the last reported death for July and on July 21st, we noted the count was 4477 US military personnel killed in the Iraq War -- and that's the Pentagon's official count. Unlike AFP, we're aware that every death matters. Unlike AFP, we're aware that Cofield's death left a lot of people mourning. We don't draw the line that the press -- apparently untouched by tragedy -- does.
In August, we are told, no US soldiers died. In September? No announcement's made but September 9th's official Pentagon count increases by one (and we've got the screen snap).
September 15th it increases by one again (and we've got the screen snap). September 22nd it increases by one (and we've got the screen snap) which should be Staff Sgt Estevan Altamirano who died Sept. 18th in Tikrit. A soldier died September 22nd, Andy C. Morales. He's not included until the most recent count (click here -- and we've already screen snapped it and will include it tonight). And don't give me any crap about that being today's death. The Pentagon released that count at ten this morning and they're not supposed to up the county until after they've notified the immediate family. So Andy C. Morales was four. Which means, counting today's death, five have died this month. I'm sorry that was too much work for the press -- work they are paid to do. Do you realize that in other wars -- talk to reporters who covered them -- they were required to keep their own counts? (Today only AP keeps their own count of US troops killed.)
5 have died this month and one was laid to rest yesterday. Melissa Correa (KRGV) reports, "The Valley came out to honor Staff Sgt. Estevan Altamirano, the Edcouch soldier who died Sept. 16 following a patrol in Iraq. The soldier's wife says he was cleaning out his weapon when it accidentally went off." Gail Burkhardt (Monitor -- link has text and video) adds:

Altamirano's immediate and extended family attended the funeral along with friends, soldiers, teachers and veterans. Altamirano had a daughter, Leandra, and two stepdaughters Kayla and Anaya, with his wife, Pamela. He also had two sons, Justin and Dominic, from his first marriage.
Altamirano's stepdaughter Kayla Martinez, 16, presented a slideshow of family photos.
"I love him and he was a wonderful man," she said, her voice wavering. "And there is no one who will ever be like him."

Erika Flores (Action 4 News) covers the funeral in this video report.
In Iraq, Dar Addustour notes Moqtada al-Sadr issued a statement denouncing federalism and aimed at the Kurds insistence that Article 140 be followed. Article 140 is Article 140 of the Constitution. It shouldn't require a battle to be followed. But Moqtada and others don't honor or respect the Constitution apparently. Article 140 provides the agreed upon measure for determining what to do with Kirkuk -- oil-rich and disputed -- and a census and referendum were supposed to have taken place no later than the end of 2007. Moqtada al-Sadr and others who disrespect the Constitution are why it has not taken place. Let's quote:
Article 140:
First: The executive authority shall undertake the necessary steps to complete the implementation of the requirements of all subparagraphs of Article 58 of the Transitional Administrative Law.
Second: The resposnibility upon the executive branch of the Iraqi Transitional Government stipulated in Article 58 of the Transitional Administrative Law shall extend and continue to the executive authority elected in accordance with this Constitution, provided that it accomplishes completely (normalization and census and concludes with a referendum in Kirkuk and other disputed territories to determine the will of their citizens), by a date not to exceed the 31st of December 2007.
And, PDF warning, click here for the Iraqi Constitution at the UN website. That's what the Constitution states. The time to object was before it went into the Constitution. Now it's the law of the land. It was agreed to. It needs to be followed. Nouri should have done that in his first term. His failure to follow the Constitution should have prevented him from being named for a second term as Prime Minister. New Sabah reports Nouri's Cabinet issued a statement declaring that the issue must be resolved and that a group of people including the Ministers of Defense, Interior, Agriculture and Property along with a Kurdish rep should decide the outstanding issue. Right away people should be objecting. There is no Minister of Defense or Minister of Interior. "Acting" positions are not approved by the Parliament, therefore there is no protection the Parliament can offer those persons. They serve at the whim of the prime minister. So you've got one Kurd on the panel, you've got two of Nouri's puppets, Izzedine al-Dawla who is a Sunni (Minister of Agriculture), etc. And the issue being decided is whether Kirkuk goes with the surrounding areas of the KRG or goes with the central government. And only one Kurd's on the panel? Does anyone even want to pretend that Kirkuk would be decided fairly in Nouri's arrangement?
To this proposal and to Moqtad al-Sadr's remarks, New Sabah reports a Kurdish spokesperson has insisted that the only way to resolve this issue is as outlined in Article 140 of the Constitution.
Meanwhile Patrick Cockburn (Independent) observes:

The Iraqi government is seeking to silence critics who accuse it of rampant corruption by removing officials who try to prosecute racketeers and intimidating politicians and journalists who support them.
This month alone it has forced the head of its anti-corruption watchdog to resign. And a prominent Iraqi journalist, who had been threatened for leading anti-government protests, was shot dead in his home in Baghdad.
There is growing anger that the ruling elite is stealing or embezzling much of the country's $2bn (£1.3bn) a week in oil revenues, depleting funding for electricity, water, health care, housing, education and even rubbish collection.

Tuesday's snapshot included, "The International Crisis Group has released a new Middle East report which, in the section on Iraq, 'examines the steady erosion of the credibility of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government resulting from the failure to safeaguard institutions against corruption and abuse.' The Iraq section can be found here (that's not PDF, for anyone worried), 'Failing Oversight: Iraq's Unchecked Government.' Corruption is common place in Iraq, the report notes [. . .]" Al Mada attempts to get reactions from Iraqi political blocs. State of Law mumbles a great deal but Abdul Salam al-Maliki keeps calling it a UN report -- it's not a UN report. He also complains about the 'long' recommendations. Six recommendations for the government of Iraq are too many? Has he even read the report? Here's what taxed an al-Maliki:


RECOMMENDATIONS

To the Government of Iraq and to the Council of Representatives:

1. Strengthen the anti-corruption framework to allow for greater and more effective cooperation and coordination between the various state institutions involved in combating corruption, specifically by:

a) allowing all anti-corruption and audit officials to refer criminal matters directly to the courts;

b) guaranteeing the independence of the Inspectors General from government ministers, in particular by providing that ministers and the prime minister play no role in inspectors' recruitment and dismissal;

c) formalising cooperation between oversight agencies by requiring them, notably the Inspectors General, to adopt standard operating procedures;

d) increasing each oversight institution's training budget to develop skills necessary to carry out auditing and investigatory missions independently of other institutions; and

e) passing effective witness protection legislation and ensuring public access to government information.

2. Pass political party legislation requiring parties to display financial transparency and publish detailed annual accounts, including all sources of income and expenditures.

3. Reform the Council of Representatives' bylaws, including by removing administrative matters from the speaker's prerogatives, facilitating the formulation of legislative bills and accelerating the lawmaking process.

4. Streamline the legislative process by:

a) clarifying and strengthening the working relationship between institutions involved in the preparation of new legislation;

b) clarifying each institution's role; and

c) establishing clear lines of communication between these institutions.

5. Reform the Council of Representatives' oversight function to focus on policy implementation through the questioning of senior technocrats and administrative officers rather than politicians.

6. Enact a law that would prevent the head of the Higher Judicial Council from occupying the position of chief justice, and protect the Supreme Court's independence by forbidding any political interference.

Al Rafidayn notes that the same MP insisted that the report harms Iraq's prestige and sovereignty while sending negative signals making it easier for regional neighbors to interfere in Iraq. In other news, New Sabah reports Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi issued a statement yesterday declaring that the national partnership has not been achived and that Nouri's vision of partnership does not include allowing others to take part in decision making. al-Hashemi stressed this isn't about filling vacancies in "the legislative, executive or judicial branch, it is about the administration of state and decisions regarding the future of Iraq -- its independence and its unity. al-Hashemi's remarks indicate that he sees some disrespect of Jalal Talabani by Nouri al-Maliki. Talabani is the president of Iraq. al-Hashemi points out that Article 67 lists the president's powers and that the presidency is the upper part of the executive branch and that the Constitution gives the president the power to name the prime minister. Al Mada speaks with State of Law's MP Hadi Yasiri who is of the belief that the problems between the blocs is temporary and that the problem between Nouri and the Kurds is like a cloud of fog which is just going to vanish over the next few days.
On the issue of the Parliament, New Sabah reports that the 325 member body has had all 325 members in a session only once, for the official certification of the election results. In addition, at least 25% of the Members of Parliament do not know each other, a large percentage do not know the names of their fellow MPs. The paper also reveals attendance fraud. Some MPs sign in but do not attend the actual hearings or debate but instead sign the attendance register and then go to the cafeteria.
Turning to American insanity, Chris Hill. The Pig Pen Ambassador was Barack's first US ambassador to Iraq. He was a disaster. That he would be was obvious at his March 25, 2009 confirmation hearing where he referred to Kirkuk as an old fashioned land dispute. He failed to grasp the issues, he also failed to grasp that there was more than Sunni and Shia in Iraq (the Kurds being only one of many other populations in Iraq). At CNN, Hill showed up this week with a lot of nonsense which, yet again, reduced Iraq to a land of only Shia and Sunni. He wanted to talk the "arab Spring" but had no knowledge of what had been going on in Iraq during that time period. (Iraq had protesters. Nouri ordered his forces to attack them, kidnap them.) Hill has the nerve to type: "Indeed, one wonders how much more progress Iraq would have made had the Saudis [sic] had spent more time and money supporting Iraq rathern than denouncing it." Yeah, that was always the problem with the illegal war, that Saudi Arabia didn't step up more.
If Hill had a brain, he'd realize that lack of Saudi support (alleged or real) was not the problem, the problem was the US invasion and ongoing occupation. But how typical of the mind set that says all problems are the problems of someone else. As long as Saudi Arabia can be scapegoated for the Iraq War, the US government can pretend like its own motives were pure and noble and that they could have worked.
A new book proves just how false that belief is, Peter Van Buren's We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People (American Empire Project) which hit bookstore on Tuesday. The State Dept employee reports on his year in Iraq (2009). From Peter Van Buren essay "Checkbook Diplomacy" (Foreign Policy):
In 2009, the State Department sent me to Iraq for a year as part of the civilian surge deployed to backstop the more muscular military one. At the head of a six-person Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), I was assigned to spend U.S. government money creating projects that would lift the local economy and lure young men away from the dead-end opportunities of al Qaeda. I was to empower women, turning them into entrepreneurs and handing them a future instead of a suicide vest. This was newfangled hearts and minds, as practiced with a lavish checkbook and supervised by a skittish embassy looking for "victory" anywhere it could be found. We really did believe money could buy us love and win the war.
The work was done by amateurs like me, sent to Iraq on one-year tours without guidance or training, and eager to create photogenic success stories that would get us all promoted. No idea was too bizarre, too gimmicky, or too pointless for us hearts-and-minders: We actually preferred handing out croissants and children's calendars to tackling tough issues like health care or civic services. One month it might be guaranteed-to-fail small businesses like car washes and brake repair shops in an economy struggling just to take a breath; the next, an Arabic translation of Macbeth, with some of Saddam Hussein's henchmen in bad-guy roles. As one Iraqi told me at a U.S.-funded art show in Dora, one of the most violent suburbs of Baghdad, "It is like I am standing naked in a room with a big hat on my head. Everyone comes in and helps put flowers and ribbons on my hat, but no one seems to notice that I am naked."
While Peter Van Buren was in Iraq, for the bulk of that year (though not at the start), who was the person in charge of the diplomatic mission? That would have been the Pig Pen Ambassador himself Chris Hill.
Moving to the US Congress, Tom Kacich (News-Gazette) reports on a Decatur townhall US House Rep Tim Johnson held yesterday. The Republican Congressman was once seen as at odds with the people he represented due to his call for an end to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. But last night he got a round of applause for the opinion which shocked in 2007. Johnson acknowledged that some might disagree with him but that the costs are rising and "close to 4 trillion dollars" will be the price tag at the end of the wars despite the fact that the wars have not made America "one iota safer because we're losing thousands of American men and women, and hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in Afghanistan and Libya and Iraq. I have consistently voted in appropriation after appropriation and bill after bill to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya." Kacich notes that those present burst into applause at that statement.
Consistency is something Cindy Sheehan has long shown. She is against the wars. It doesn't matter which party wants to continue them, she'll call those elected officials out. She has stayed true to what she believes in. 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.
Again, that's October 5th.
E-mails are coming in about the October events. Why am I not noting them? When one of the participants mentioned Iraq to get the word out, I not only noted the event, I defended him and his action. See the September 16th "Iraq snapshot." And what are you reading right now? The IRAQ snapshot. On the October 2011 webpage, it yammers away about Afghanistan and a host of other issues. The Iraq War isn't mentioned once. Not only is this the IRAQ snapshot but if I decry Real Media ignoring Iraq why the hell would I promote a half-assed event that doesn't even mention Iraq while wanting to whine about the cost of the Afghanistan War. (Iraq has been a lot costlier -- in blood and in money.)
I'll give Kat's BFF Kevin Zeese a link, because he's her BFF, but read his post "This quagmire sees no end and is not only destroying Afghanistan and killing civilians . . ." blah, blah, blah. Where's Iraq, Kev? Where's Iraq? Actually, I'll give Kev a tip too, FIX THE WEBSITE. That link to his post at the Come Home America website? Goes to the main page. They don't have links to their individual blog posts. Since they're largely ignored at this point, it's not a problem. But should someone ever want to steer a reader to a specific page, they need individual web addresses.
Here's another tip. Prepare to be mocked by the media. Does no one know a damn thing about messaging? You're a grab bag of issues at a time when supposedly we're supposed to be streamlining and focused? However, when you can't be original -- 'Bring Tahrir Square to DC!' -- I guess streamlining is the least of your issues. World Can't Wait brings Raed Jar-Jar Blinks in on a conference call tonight as an Iraq War expert. The same Jar-Jar who told us that the Iraq War ends at the end of this year. Love Debra Sweet but I'm not interested in garbage. In fact, let me be really clear here, I wanted to shut down this site after the 2008 election. That was the announced plan in the summer of 2005 and I noted that I didn't believe the Iraq War would be over by then. Why couldn't I shut it down? A number of minor reasons but the major reason was everyone dropped Iraq with fools like Raed insisted the SOFA meant all US forces left Iraq at the end of 2011. We're getting there now and we're seeing that what I said and was demonized for was correct and what Raed said was a pack of lies. Those who didn't lie just ran from the topic of Iraq and acted like the war was over, like the dying stopped, as if Iraqis now lived in peace and happiness and were so lucky to have had the US drop by for a (never ending) visit. I'm sick of being online (as sick of it as those who don't like me are of me being online). Why would I put myself through the hell of being online and then turn around and note events that negate all the work done here since the 2008 election? I'm not in the mood. Medea Benjamin tries to drag Iraq into the October events but does so with a column that pretends Barack Obama has less say than Dianne Feinstein or John McCain -- neither of whom is commander in chief of the military. I'm not interested in that crap. I'm tired of the nonsense.
As C.G. Estabrook rightly observes at CounterPunch, "The first task of the anti-war movement in 2011 is to overcome its co-option by the Democrats in the elections of 2005 and 2008, and dispel the propaganda fog of the Obama administration. Obama's killing in the Mideast and Africa is more widespread, efficient, and brutal than Bush's ever was, but the policy remains what it has been more than a generation. The anti-war movement must make that clear to the American people -- and that it's being done in our name."
I'm not here to promote your little feel-good events or to hand you a gold star because today you said two weak words of criticism about Barack.
And please note Antiwar.com did not run from Iraq. I'm referring to left outlets. But to be clear, in the columns, in the reports, in the blog posts and on Antiwar Radio, Iraq never disappeared. The Progressive and The Nation can't make the same claims.
Though I have no interest in promoting an event that forgets the Iraq War, I have no problem again noting Military Families Speak Out has an action alert calling for an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan:
With Congress back in session and the budget debates continuing, there are a lot of opportunities to make our voices heard and take action to end the wars and bring the troops home now. Read below for opportunities to write to your Congressional Representatives, make suggestions to the Super Committee, and take action in Washington DC and locally.

Tell Congress it's time to end the Iraq War, not prolong it

Earlier this summer Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Walter Jones (R-NC) asked their colleagues to sign a letter to the President urging him to bring all the troops home by the end of the year. MFSO in turn, asked our members to support them by urging their own representatives to sign this letter.

Continuing her efforts towards finally, truly ending the war in Iraq, Congresswoman Lee has written as a bill: HR 27577, the Iraq Withdrawal Accountability Act of 2011, which would require the removal of all US troops and contractors from Iraq on or before the promised deadline December 31 2011. It has reached 37 cosponsors to date. Click here to learn more and send an email to your Representative.

Flood the Super Committee Deficit Reduction Suggestion Box!

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (aka "The Super Committee") has been meeting to come up with the next round of budget cuts. Despite the many examples of obscene military waste on outdated equipment, fraud and negligence, it is despicable that some on Capitol Hill are talking about cutting veterans benefits and raising Tricare rates. Servicemembers, veterans, and military families have suffered enough. The Super Committee needs to hear from us: End the wars and cuts military waste, not veteran's benefits. Click here
to tell them what you think should be cut.

Take Action to End the Wars

On October 6th & 7th, people will be taking action in DC and across the country to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, whether you're lobbying Congress, occupying Freedom Plaza, or building solidarity with the communities impacted by the War on Terror.
  • On October 6th there will be a national call-in day to Congress demanding an end to the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan. We will send out more information about this next week along with talking points.
  • Make an appointment to meet with your Representative or their staff on October 6th or 7th, either in their DC or home district office. Our Representatives need to hear from military families! Click here to find your Representative's contact information.
  • Join us in DC! MFSO is organizing a unique event on October 7th called War Voices, a forum bringing together veterans and military families with Afghan civilians and community and economic justice organizers and artists to reflect on a decade of war. Click here to find out more.
  • Many MFSO members will also be participating in the occupation of Freedom Plaza starting on October 6th. Click here for more info and to read MFSO's statement on this protest.
On behalf of MFSO,
Jack Amoureux, Rosanna Cambron, Debbie Carruth, Rosalie Donatelli, Sarah Fuhro, Adele Kubein, Jeff Merrick, Diane Santoriello, Larry Syverson, Katy Zatsick -- MFSO Board of Directors
Nancy Lessin and Charley Richardson – MFSO Co-Founders
Oskar Castro, Samantha Miller, Liz Rocci, and Clarissa Rogers -- MFSO Staff

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

5 men, 3 women

The first hour of today's Diane Rehm Show (NPR) featured Alkman Granitsas, Scheherazade Rehman, David Smick, Patrick Welter and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The second hour was Gardiner Harris, Peggy Ann Brown and Lisa Page.

I am happy that Heart is up for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; however, I wish Cher was on the short list but they overlooked her again.

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


Wednesday, September 28, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, details emerge of an alleged agreement between two political blocs in Iraq, Military Familes Speak Out offers a new effort to end the wars, an Iraqi woman wins a peace award, the UN awards grant money to help Iraqi women who are the victims of domestic abuse, and more.
Thursday on the Lawyer's Guild with Jim Lafferty (KPFK), Mike Prysner of March Forward! explained why he and others would be demonstrating with A.N.S.W.E.R. outside the House of Blues in Los Angeles this past Monday while Barack Obama was staging his fund raiser. We'll note this from the explanation.
Mike Prysner: Sure. Well we know the President Obama came into office on the heels of the much hated Bush administration in a widespread popular repudiation of both the domestic and foreign policy of the right-wing reactionary Bush administration. And so, let's take a look today and see what exactly has changed. First looking at the war in Iraq, the widely unpopular war in Iraq, you know, the one that President Obama said we could take to the bank the fact that he would end the war once he came into office? That's continuing to take the lives of US troops and Iraqi civilians every single day. And his first appointment, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, his first act as Secretary of Defense was to go to Iraq and pressure the Iraqi government to extend the withdrawal deadline that's set for December 31, 2011. Meaning that this unpopular occupation that so many turned against, that we were promised would end, is set to continue indefinitely.
Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari remains in the US. AP reports that he declared yesterday that his feeling is there will be US soldiers in Iraq beyond 2011 under the billing of 'trainers.' Zebari is quoted stating, "I think we will get an agreement on training. How many trainers will remain in Iraq is not that important. It's the commitment that is very important." What's really going on is better reported by Al Sabaah. Iraq wants out of Chapter 7. That's why they moved to the SOFA and left the UN mandate to begin with. Zebari remains in the US to press the White House on that issue, removing Iraq from Chapter 7. Al Sabaah reports that with US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman at his side, Zebari made the case for ending Chapter 7 to the UN yesterday. The topic of the US military remaining in Iraq beyond 2011 was discussed on Press TV (link has text and video):
Press TV: Giving the fact that Saudi Arabia is obviously one of United States strongest allies, so could it be a possibility that on the surface maybe, like the Security of States comes out and says that Saudi Arabia has to stop funding these terrorists, but then we see that this continues and of course one of the outcomes is the consequence which puts into question this withdrawal of US troops. So could Saudi Arabia and the United States be in cohort in this together?

Moussawi: Well absolutely no. I mean when you take the bottom line of the American policy and when you see that the Americans are striving and doing their best in order to continue, to be present in the Iraqi soil, to continue their withdrawal, to extend their presence over there, then you know that this will be an effective tour for them when you have the ruins, the killings, the destruction is taking place on largest scale. This would put the Iraqis, and it is a way to push the Iraqis into despair, into frustration and to beg the Americans to stay there because they cannot manage the whole thing by themselves. This is a kind of pressure. This is a kind of political pressure paid for by the blood of the Iraqi innocents, the Iraqi martyrs, the women, the men and the military as well. You are talking about civilians, you are talking about combination of wars, you are talking about civilians and military people that are being the target of this kind of terrorist attacks and I believe this is going to boil down into the American interest. I cannot see in any way that the Americans are going to exercise any pressure against those terrorists or against any regional power that might support them to stop doing that, whether Saudi Arabia or not if this has been the situation.
Military Families Speak Out has an action alert calling for an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan:
With Congress back in session and the budget debates continuing, there are a lot of opportunities to make our voices heard and take action to end the wars and bring the troops home now. Read below for opportunities to write to your Congressional Representatives, make suggestions to the Super Committee, and take action in Washington DC and locally.

Tell Congress it's time to end the Iraq War, not prolong it

Earlier this summer Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Walter Jones (R-NC) asked their colleagues to sign a letter to the President urging him to bring all the troops home by the end of the year. MFSO in turn, asked our members to support them by urging their own representatives to sign this letter.

Continuing her efforts towards finally, truly ending the war in Iraq, Congresswoman Lee has written as a bill: HR 27577, the Iraq Withdrawal Accountability Act of 2011, which would require the removal of all US troops and contractors from Iraq on or before the promised deadline December 31 2011. It has reached 37 cosponsors to date. Click here to learn more and send an email to your Representative.

Flood the Super Committee Deficit Reduction Suggestion Box!

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (aka "The Super Committee") has been meeting to come up with the next round of budget cuts. Despite the many examples of obscene military waste on outdated equipment, fraud and negligence, it is despicable that some on Capitol Hill are talking about cutting veterans benefits and raising Tricare rates. Servicemembers, veterans, and military families have suffered enough. The Super Committee needs to hear from us: End the wars and cuts military waste, not veteran's benefits. Click here
to tell them what you think should be cut.

Take Action to End the Wars

On October 6th & 7th, people will be taking action in DC and across the country to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, whether you're lobbying Congress, occupying Freedom Plaza, or building solidarity with the communities impacted by the War on Terror.
  • On October 6th there will be a national call-in day to Congress demanding an end to the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan. We will send out more information about this next week along with talking points.
  • Make an appointment to meet with your Representative or their staff on October 6th or 7th, either in their DC or home district office. Our Representatives need to hear from military families! Click here to find your Representative's contact information.
  • Join us in DC! MFSO is organizing a unique event on October 7th called War Voices, a forum bringing together veterans and military families with Afghan civilians and community and economic justice organizers and artists to reflect on a decade of war. Click here to find out more.
  • Many MFSO members will also be participating in the occupation of Freedom Plaza starting on October 6th. Click here for more info and to read MFSO's statement on this protest.
On behalf of MFSO,
Jack Amoureux, Rosanna Cambron, Debbie Carruth, Rosalie Donatelli, Sarah Fuhro, Adele Kubein, Jeff Merrick, Diane Santoriello, Larry Syverson, Katy Zatsick -- MFSO Board of Directors
Nancy Lessin and Charley Richardson – MFSO Co-Founders
Oskar Castro, Samantha Miller, Liz Rocci, and Clarissa Rogers -- MFSO Staff
And, as Mike Prysner noted, as the war continues, so does the dying. In Iraq today, AP reports a Baghad home invasion of a Sahwa member ("Awakening," "Sons Of Iraq") in which five of his family members were killed. Aswat al-Iraq notes that in addition to the 5 killed, seven more were left wounded, a Kirkuk bombing claimed the lives of 2 men, and last night an armed attack in Baghdad left 1person dead and one police officer injured. Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports a Ramadi car bombing claimed 2 lives and left a third person injured, 1 person was shot dead in front of his Hibhib home
Meanwhile in Iraq the political split continues. Dar Addustour reports that the Kurdish delegation did not go to Baghdad yesterday as reported. Al Mada adds that the delegation is not expected to arrive this week and the earliest they would go to Baghdad. Aswat al-Iraq reports, "The Kurdish Coalition has decided to send two negotiating delegations to Baghdad to work in two main axis, one to discuss the problems of the political parties and the other to discuss the differences between the Arbil government and the central government in Baghdad, Member of the Kurdistan Coalition, Mahmoud Othman said on Wednesday." The three main issues of dispute are (1) Nouri al-Maliki's failure to implement/follow the Erbil Agreement (which he agreed to in order to stay on as prime minister), (2) Nouri's proposed oil & gas law which circumvents a 2007 agreement and would allow Baghdad to raid existing (discovered) oil and gas fields in the KRG and (3) Nouri's failure to follow Article 140 of the Constitution which required a census and referendum by the end of 2007 to settle the issue of the disputed and oil-rich Kirkuk. Jaza Mohammed (niqash) offers a breakdown on Nouri's proposed oil and gas law:
The first draft of a federal oil and gas law was formulated by the Iraqi cabinet in 2007. Although it was the subject of much debate and was never passed by the Iraqi parliament, that version did give regional powers, such as those in the semi-autonomous state of Iraqi Kurdistan, at least partial authority over the oil reserves in their own area.
However in early September, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki approved a new formulation of the same law and again, has sent it to parliament for approval.
Several important, and potentially even more controversial, things changed in this version.
The draft law makes a national Iraqi oil company the ultimate authority in the formulation of policies, orders on procedures for drilling and production and in the signing of deals with investors. The council heading the Iraqi National Oil Company (or INOC) would have control over all the oil fields that are already producing crude.
This means the council at the top of the INOC gets a lot more authority -- under the old version of the law, the council could only draw up policies and issue instructions.
The INOC would also get authority over the bidding for almost all of Iraq's oil and gas fields; previously they were only able to conduct auctions on new -- read: undiscovered, undeveloped -- fields.
The new draft of the law also eliminates an important clause that said that the INOC's authority must include representation from Shiite Muslim parties, Sunni Muslim parties and from the Kurdish sector. It also reserves a seat on the council for the deputy prime minister for energy -- currently this is Hussein al-Shahristani, well known as a close ally of al-Maliki's.
None of this has gone down well with Kurdish politicians, both in Baghdad and in their own semi-autonomous state of Iraqi Kurdistan. Who owns the oil fields inside the Kurdish region, which has its own government and its own legislation, has long been a contentious issue between the Arab government in Baghdad and the Kurdish one in Erbil.
Aswat al-Iraq notes, "The President of Kurdistan Region, Massoud Barzani, had presented an initiative to settle the political crisis in Iraq, including the formation of an 8 - 12 member committee, representing different political blocs to begin talks to form the new government and to settle the suspended differences, and to hold extensive meetings for the leaders of the political forces to settle the issue of the three Presidencies." Mohammad Akef Jamal (Gulf News) examines the tensions and finds:
The tense situation between Erbil and Baghdad has reached new heights, leading to an exchange of accusations regarding fundamental issues such as the oil and gas law and the Erbil agreement, which paved the way for the establishment of the current government. There is also the Article 140 of the constitution, which the Kurds insist on applying regarding Kirkuk.
These relations have reached an unprecedented low, especially after the Jordanian government ignored the capital Baghdad, sending Maarouf Al Bikheet, Jordan's Prime Minister, to visit Erbil instead.
Another source of concern is the tension between Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens in Kirkuk, with the approaching US withdrawal from the governorate and increasing fears of violence.
The insistence of Turkmens in Kirkuk to establish a military force to protect themselves after a systematic campaign to assassinate their elites is also cause for concern, although the Turkmen say they need this force as they have given up on the government that is incapable of protecting them.
Aswat al-Iraq adds, "A legislature in al-Iraqiya Coalition has said on Wednesday that the Coalition's Chairman, Iyad Allawi, had held talks with the President of Kurdistan Region, Massoud Barzani, to reach a joint vision to withdraw trust from the government of Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, denying that the motive of the meeting 'had been to bargain on the problems of Kirkuk, as the Arab Community in the Province claimed'."
"The results of our 63 billion dollars -- of which portion I spent several millions, I'm proud to say -- ironically was that most of that money was spent for us not for them," Peter Van Buren explained to John Hockenberry (PRI's The Takeaway) yesterday. "The money was spent for propaganda projects, for show good projects, for feel good things. But I'm afraid in terms of helping the Iraqis, they still lack water, sewer services, electricity, the basics of life. I'm afraid we did not do our job."
Peter Van Buren is a State Dept employee and the author of the new book We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People (American Empire Project) which hit bookstore shelves yesterday. Peter Van Buren's book charts 2009, not the more distant past, not the Bush era. As a result of truth telling about what went on in Iraq under Barack, the administration has been targeting Van Buren. From his "Freedom Isn't Free at the State Department" (TomDispatch via Truthout):

On the same day that more than 250,000 unredacted State Department cables hemorrhaged out onto the Internet, I was interrogated for the first time in my 23-year State Department career by State's Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) and told I was under investigation for allegedly disclosing classified information. The evidence of my crime? A posting on my blog from the previous month that included a link to a WikiLeaks document already available elsewhere on the Web.
As we sat in a small, gray, windowless room, resplendent with a two-way mirror, multiple ceiling-mounted cameras, and iron rungs on the table to which handcuffs could be attached, the two DS agents stated that the inclusion of that link amounted to disclosing classified material. In other words, a link to a document posted by who-knows-who on a public website available at this moment to anyone in the world was the legal equivalent of me stealing a Top Secret report, hiding it under my coat, and passing it to a Chinese spy in a dark alley.


Peter Van Buren and Tom Engelhardt connect the targeting of Van Buren with the targeting of others in the alleged era of Obama Openess in "WikiLeaked at the State Department" (Antiwar.com):

It's hardly a secret at this late date that, while the Obama administration arrived in office promoting "a new standard of openness" in government, in practice it's cast not sunshine, but a penumbra of gloom over the workings of Washington. Talk about a closed and punitive crew. Its Justice Department has notoriously gone after government whistleblowers and leakers, launching significantly more (largely unsuccessful) prosecutions than any of Obama's predecessors. His people lit out with particular ferocity after WikiLeaks, and specifically Bradley Manning, the young Army private accused of passing enormous caches of Army and State Department documents to that website. In the process, the administration developed special forms of pre-punishment to torment him while he was confined, still uncharged, at a Marine brig in Quantico, Va. (It also went to ludicrous lengths to bar government officials, workers, contractors, the military, and anyone else linked to them from reading the leaked documents to which everyone else on Earth already had access.)


"The Americans did more harm than good," Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq's Yanar Mohammed explains . "Under Saddam, women were educated." Yesterday Aswat al-Iraq reported, "Iraq's Council of Ministers has issued an instruction for the approval of the Agreement to Eliminate all Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the National Plan for Human Rights in Iraq". So all these years after the destruction of women's rights in Iraq, a committee's going to be created to explore the issue. Over the summer, Michael Gibb (Huffington Post UK) wrote about a conference in Iraq:
Despite a quota system that guarantees them [women] a quarter of all parliamentary seats, they were angered by their limited representation in the Cabinet and in key parliamentary committees mandated to shape Iraq's future through, for example, the distribution of its oil wealth. As in Libya, they also highlighted the neglected potential contribution women can make to the process of reconciliation in Iraq.
The conference took place in January. The women had much to be displeased with. Nouri al-Maliki announced his Cabinet December 21st by December 23rd a number of groups were voicing displeasure. From that day's snapshot:
One group speaking out is women. Bushra Juhi and Qassmi Abdul-Zahra (AP) report, "Iraq's female lawmakers are furious that only one member of the country's new Cabinet is a woman and are demanding better representation in a government that otherwise has been praised by the international community for bringing together the country's religious sects and political parties." As noted Tuesday, though represenation in Parliament is addressed in Iraq's Constitution, there is nothing to address women serving in the Cabinet. Aseel Kami (Reuters) notes one of the most damning aspects of Nouri's chosen men -- a man is heaing the Ministry of Women's Affairs. Iraqiya's spokesperson Maysoon Damluji states, "There are really good women who could do wel . . . they cannot be neglected and marginalized." Al-Amal's Hanaa Edwar states, "They call it a national (power) sharing government. So where is the sharing? Do they want to take us back to the era of the harem? Do they want to take us back to the dark ages, when women were used only for pleasure." Deborah Amos (NPR's All Things Considered) reports that a struggle is going on between secular impulses and fundamentalist ones. Gallery owner Qasim Sabti states, "We know it's fighting between the religious foolish man and the civilization man. We know we are fighting like Gandhi, and this is a new language in Iraqi life. We have no guns. We do not believe in this kind of fighting." Deborah Amos is the author of Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East.
The criticism barely made a difference. Nouri finally found a woman he could appoint to his Cabinet by the time the conference started -- one woman . . . in his 42 member Cabinet.
The Role of Women in Peace-Building, Reconciliation and Accountabiliy in Iraq was a two-day conference held in Erbil. Over 300 Iraqis attended the conference -- including journalists, judges, ativists and MPs. Fayaa Zein El Aabedin, Itab Al Douri, Ghada Al Aamili, Samira Abdullah, Jwan Akram Ameen, Shayo Askari, Fatina Baban, Hanaa Edward, Manal Finjan, Yonadim Kana, Madiha Al Mousawi, Aayda Al Taee, Pascale Warda and Bushra Zweini made up the conference's Drafting Committee. The Conference came up with 67 recommendations. That was in January of this year.
While Nouri elected to ignore women, Sister Martha Ann Kirk listened to them. Blanca Morales (Waging Nonviolence) reports:
"We have had wars and wars and more wars," said one woman. Though peace has yet to be found in northern Iraq, these women's words and friendship give glimpses of hope. Another woman said that the best thing she has been learning from the Fezalar schools is not to hate. "Hate is a prison," she said.
Kirk says: "We need to see the faces of children -- our human brothers and sisters, so that we may build a future together that gives their children and our children a chance to develop a world of hope and compassion."
Kirk's photo exhibit -- titled "Iraqi Women of Three Generations: Challenges, Education, and Hopes for Peace" -- will be shown in Austin at the St. Edward's University Library from October 1 to 28.
Today the Executive Director of UN Women, Michelle Bachelet, announced over 30 countries that had received "grants from the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women" including Iraq where the grant will go towards "increasing the access of women survivors of violence to medical and legal services". Earlier this month, Sonali Kolhatkar (Uprising Radio) spoke with the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq's Houzan Mahmoud. Excerpt.
Sonali Kolhatkar: Now that the occupation is still ongoing, it is supposed to be wrapping up this December, tell us how the war has impacted Iraqi women's rights. There have been reports saying that literacy rates and employment rates among Iraqi women have dropped precipitously in just the last few years. How did that happens as a result of the US occupation?
Houzan Mahmoud: Well you know you can imagine that this society has been so highly brutalized for three decades at least -- under Saddam as well as American allied intervention militarily. I mean, Iraq was turned into a military zone, everything was militarized. There are all these kinds of weapons used against the civilians. Plus women were actually the first casualties of the war. You know, they lost jobs, they lost their family members -- husbands, brothers. And they have no one. The government doesn't really care about all these people who have no jobs, who have no homes to live in. You have a huge number of women being trafficked both internally and externally for prostitution in trafficking. The government doesn't even do anything about that. So -- And plus, the Islamic groups, Shi'ite political groups, have gained power as well as in opposition. They are reinforcing the most strict and conservative norms in the society and particularly against women forcing them to wear burqas and hijabs It is really -- As I said, women lost even those basic rights they had before.
On the subject of trafficking, June 27th, the US State Dept issued their Trafficking in Person Report 2011. From the section on Iraq:
Iraqi women and girls are subjected to conditions of trafficking within the country and in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Iran, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia for forced prostituion and sexual exploitation within households. Women are lured into forced prostitution through false promises of work. Women are also subjected to involuntary servitude through forced marriages, often as payment of a debt, and women who flee such marriages are often more vulnerable to being subjected to further forced labor or sexual servitude. One NGO reports that recruiters rape women and girls on film and blackmail them into prostitution or recruit them in prisons by posting bail and then holding them in situations of debt bondage in prostitution. Some women and children are forced by family members intor prostitution to escape desperate economic circumstances, to pay debts, or to resolve disputes between families. NGOs report that these women are often prostituted in private residences, brothels, restaurants, and places of entertainment. Some women and girls are trafficked within Iraq for the purpose of sexual exploitation through the use of temporary marriages (muta'a), by which the family of the girl receives money in the form of a dowry in exchange for permission to marry the girl for a limited period of time. Some Iraqi parents have reportedly collaborated with traffickers to leave children at the Iraqi side of the border with Syria with the expectation that traffickers will arrange for them forged documents to enter Syria and employment in a nightclub. The lare population of internally displaced persons and refugees moving within Iraq and across its borders are particularly at risk fo being trafficked.
And Iraqi women face problems throughout the country. Earlier this month, Rebecca Murray filed a major report for IPS on the rights of Iraqi women and last week, Nawzad Mahmoud (Rudaw) reported, "Female leaders and high-ranking civil servants in Iraqi Kurdistan have been removed from their posts and replaced by men in recent months, raising concerns that women are losing power in government. Women's rights organizations cheered a Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) initiative to appoint women to ministerial, mayoral and other key decision-making posts over the past several years. However, Sulaimani province, which had three women mayors in mid-sized cities, now has no female mayors and the number of female heads of municipalities and department general-directors are on decline." OWFI's Kayt C. Peck will be speaking this Sunday in Lubbock, Texas at the First Unitarian Universalist Church (2801 42nd Street) in an event open to the public. The topic will be Iraqi women. Still on the topic of Iraqi women, September 14th the International Peace Bureau announced that one of the two winners of this year's Sean MacBride Peace Prize was Hanaa Edwar:
Born 1946 in Basra, Iraq, Hanaa Edwar became an activist already as a student. She joined the Iraqi Women's League while very young, and was arrested after the Ba'athist-led coup in 1963. Escaping from prison, she moved to Germany to represent the Iraqi Women's League at the Women's International Democratic Federation in the 1970s.
After this period she moved to Lebanon and then Syria, and became a strong activist in the struggle against the dicatorship. She also joined the resistance movement in Iraqi Kurdistan for three years, but not in a military position. Forced to migrate again, she formed the Iraqi Al-Amal Association. This was located first in Damascus, and then from 1996 the organization settled in Erbil, Kurdistan. After the fall of the regime in 2003 she moved the head office to Baghdad.
Hanna's name has become synonymous with the defence of human rights, with a long track record of activities. She has been instrumental in the formation of the Iraqi Women's Network, made up of more than 80 organizations. One of her most recent campaigns was lodging a law suit at the High Court of Iraq against the Speaker of Parliament for acting unconstitutionally to hinder the formation of a government after the last election. This campaign became known as the Civil Initiative for the Preservation of the Constitution. Her action at the Human Rights Conference in Baghdad on 5 June 2011, to defend civil society organizations and to demand the release of four arrested young people, highlighted the increased attacks on civil liberties in general in Iraq. Her protest led to the release of four youths.
IPB's Co-President Tomas Magnusson comments: "Hanaa Edwar is an extraordinary woman activist, well-known in the whole of Iraq for her strong positions in the slow moving process among politicians. She is brave, and under constant threats to her life, but not slowing down in any way her mission. She is a most worthy laureate, determined and energetic, with an impressive record of activities to strengthen human rights and democracy, to develop civil society, and to defend women's rights. She has been an outspoken and tireless challenger of the ruling parties, the Ba'athists and male-dominated politics in general."
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