Saturday, January 8, 2011

Six guests only one is a woman -- name that show!

Thursday on NPR's Talk of the Nation, the guests were Robert Kunzig, Richard Harris, Upmanu Lall, Robert Ballard, Jill Pruetz and Michael Nichols. The only female was Jill Pruetz. Six guests, only one was a woman.

Where's the NPR ombudsperson?


She does get paid to do her job, right?

So maybe she should be doing it.

Maybe "Terry Gross' new low (Ann, Ava and C.I.)" should have been written by her and not Ava, C.I. and me?

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

Friday, January 7, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, some movement in Iraq's Parliament, some stalling as well, Robert Gates plays the fool, and more.
Since long before the start of the Iraq War, Iranian dissidents have lived in Iraq. Following the US invasion, the US made these MEK residents of Camp Ashraf -- Iranian refuees who had been in Iraq for decades -- surrender weapons and also put them under US protection. They also extracted a 'promise' from Nouri that he would not move against them. July 28th the world saw what Nouri's 'promises' were actually worth. Since that Nouri-ordered assault in which at least 11 residents died, he's continued to bully the residents. The Women's International Perspective features a post by Elham Fardipour:
My name is Elham Fardipour and I am an Iranian refugee living in Camp Ashraf, Iraq. Not only is Camp Ashraf my home, yet it is also home to 3400 Iranian dissidents, including 1000 women. Many years ago, I joined the nationwide resistance against the Mullahs and came to Camp Ashraf with the goal of bringing freedom to my country, Iran, and saving the lives of Iranian men and women living under the cruelty and suppression of the religious dictatorship ruling Iran, which posses as a serious threat to world peace through its nuclear program and state sponsoring of terrorism. From 1989 to 1993, I lived in the UK studying in the field of electronics. You might be surprised, and ask why a woman alone leaves her life in Europe and cemes to Iraq. However, while witnessing the ruthless suppression of women in Iran, fathers who selling a kidney to make ends meet, the trafficking of 9 year-old girls in Kuwaiti markets, selling eye corneas to pay house mortgage and…, a comfortable and leisured life was no longer tolerable for me.
Following the occupation of Iraq, the responsibility of Ashraf residents' protection was on the shoulders of US forces, under an agreement signed between the US government and each and every resident in Ashraf, continuing until 2009. After the transfer of protection from US forces to the Iraqi government in the beginning of 2009, this camp has been placed under an inhumane siege by Iraqi security forces under the command of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whom has very close ties to the tyrannical regime in Tehran. Camp Ashraf has been placed under an all-out blockade, and the common goal of Tehran's Mullahs and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is to make living conditions for residents intolerable, forcing them to return to Iran where all the Ashraf residents will face definite execution and torture.
Although the blockade, due to the widespread international auspices by human rights organizations and numerous MPs of democratic countries from around the globe, has not reached its final goal of suppressing the camp's residents and having them expelled from Iraq, it has actually caused mental and physical damages to Ashraf residents. It has also brought about restrictions in Ashraf residents' free access to medical services and treatment. As a result, a number of my best friends, due to the Iraqi government's prevention of their access to medical treatment, have lost their lives.
Dar Addustour reports that Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebair declared that the country's consitution does not allow for terrorist organizations and that this would apply to the MEK. As noted in Wednesday's snapshot, Spanish Judge Fernando Andreu is overseeing an international probe (or is supposed to -- who knows if this will be shut down) into the assault on Camp Ashraf. At present, he has ordered Iraq's Lt Gen Abdol Hossein al Shemmari to provide testimony March 8th. Attorney and conservative Allan Gerson (of Gerson International Law Group) writes at The Huffington Post in praise of Spain's decision: "To its credit, Spain takes seriously its law providing for universal jurisdiction of war crimes, recognizing that it can be misused for political ends. Having viewed the attack that occurred at Camp Ashraf in July 2009 as a war crime against protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention, Spain is ready to take action. Were the Spanish court to find that Lt Gen Shemmari had been complicit in war crimes, it could ask for an investigation and prosecution at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. This is good news for all who favor the application of international law to combat and deter gross human rights abuses." Press TV reports that a protest of the MEK took place today. Their report states that there were family members of residents of Camp Ashraf protesting and insisting that residents were being held against their will.

Staying on Iraq and Iran relations,
al-Furat's big story is that WikiLeaks released documents indicates the government of Iran has been providing visiting Iraqi tribal leaders with women for "temporary marriage" "in order to strengthen its influence in Iraq" -- possibly via blackmail since these 'temporary' arrangements are frowned upon in Iraq. Meanwhile Press TV states, "Iran's relations with Iraq entered a new stage with the Iranian caretaker Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi's trip to the latter and warm official and popular reception of the official. Because the unequaled acknowledgment of the visit signals that the ties have reached a heartwarming point." Of course, for most observers, it's Moqtada al-Sadr's Wednesday return to Iraq that really puts that message across. Though it's yet to rival an entrance by Lady Godiva, al-Sadr's entrance is almost as attention getting as the courtroom entrance of Alexis (Joan Collins) on the first episode of the second season of Dynasty. Today on The Diane Rehm Show, Diane discussed al-Sadr's return with Nadia Bilbassy (MBC), Susan Glasser (Foreign Policy) and James Kitfiled (National Journal).
Diane Rehm: We have an old friend coming back to Iraq from his so-called exile in Iran. What has prompted Moqtada al-Sadr to come back to Iraq, Susan?
Susan Glasser: Well you know after months and months of political uncertainty, there's now the formation of a new government in Iraq and I think you have a moment where we're going to see actually whether the Islamic parties in Iraq take the center stage again, whether they make a full throttle sort of challenge to steer the course of the new Iraq. And I'm curious to see what happens. He was greeted as a -- almost a conquering hero in a way.
Nadia Bilbassy: Yeah
James Kitfield: You know this -- I was actually in Iraq in 2004 with a unit that was given orders to capture or kill him and that was rescinded. This guy is virulently anti-American. I think it's less an Islamic issue than a Shi'ite versus Sunni issue. He's very closely aligned with Iran. He's a Shia. He has his militia. But his militia was defeated twice by the Iraqi army so he --
Diane Rehm: Right
James Kitfield: And then he kind of went underground. And his party kind of joined the political process and they won 40 seats. He became a king-maker in this last election and he was able to throw his 40 seats in the coalition with Maliki so Maliki -- the former prime minister is going to be the future prime minister -- so he's a king-maker and that's why I think he returned. He saw that he now, he's going to have, I think, 8 of the three dozen ministries in the new government. So the time is ripe for him to sort of come back and play sort of the political champion of his party. It can't bode very -- I can assure you the Americans and the United States is very worried about his ties to Iran. That's the bad news. The good news is if he -- if he decisively decided to play politics, to try to exert influence through politics, that's probably something we can live with. It's when his militia was a Hezbollah-like armed group --
Diane Rehm: Sure.
James Kitfield: -- outside of politics that he was sort of public enemy number one to the Americans. But he's not -- he's not doing that now.
Diane Rehm: Except that you worry whether it could lead to some sectarian violence.
Nadia Bilbassy: It could. And I think the people who are worried the most are the Sunnis because don't forget that his army, Jaish al-Mahdi, has been responsible for some of the most grotesque, terrible massacres in 2006 and 2007. But you asked, Diane, why he returned? I think he returned because of the blessing of Iran. The day he returned to Najaf as a hero, he visited the grave of Iman Ali and he was surrounded by all of his supporters. And it coincided with a visit of the Iranian Foreign Minister who the Ambassador to Baghdad said that Moqtada al-Sadr is a stabilizing force in Iraq now. Also, he made peace with his old nemesis which is Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Let's not forget that Maliki ordered the security forces to unleash a campaign against his Mahdi army in Basra and almost wiped them out. So he did not forget that. But because of this realliance with Iran and I think he was given also assurance that he's not going to be on trial for a killing of another assassination of another Shi'ite leader, he was allowed to come back. Now his self-imposed exile was for religious reasons. He went to Qom, which is the most revered religious Shi'ite city in Iran to learn because he wants to be an Ayatollah. He did not reach that degree. He's coming back now not as a firebrand rebel trouble maker but as a respected politician who -- as James said, he has forty seats in Parliament, he might have influence. And I think he will give every reason for the Americans to be worried about but I think his argument will be he will influence the Iraqi government in not keeping any American bases after the withdrawal of 2011. And it also demonstrates that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is showing some kind of independence from the Americans to allow somebody so vehemently against the Americans to come back as a hero.
Susan Glasser: Well I think that's the real point that we'll all be looking at this year: At what price did Maliki purchase, in effect, this renewed scene. Remember that came after months and months of months of political stalemate. It was only broken by making what some people -- certainly here -- saw as a deal with the devil. This is the price of that deal. For now they're talking reconciliation. For now they're repositioning Sadr as a political leader and, you know, respected parliamentarian. What happens if Maliki doesn't do his bidding sufficiently? If Iran turns away? If he's too conciliatory towads the Sunnis ? Then I think is when you face the renewed violence, not immediately --
Nadia Bilbassy: Yes.
Susan Glasser (Con't): -- but over the course of this year you face that potential. And I'm glad you spotlighted this issue of the renewed American presence. Things have not worked out as the Americans anticipated they would after the "withdrawal." They expected to maintain a very robust military presence inside Iraq for the foreseeable future but, in fact, you could see that this was not going to be the case and that you may see almost no American military presence after the end of the year --
Nadia Bilbassy: Like South Korea.
Susan Glasser (Con't): -- which would be a big change. Yeah.
James Kitfiled: That is the thing to watch. There are two things to watch. Do the -- because he comes back into the government, do the Sunnis bolt? We haven't seen that yet. If they bolt from the government that's very bad news because that's the sectarian divide that almost plunged the country into civil war. Hasn't happened yet. Allawi's got also a lot of seats and ministries in this new government. So if the Sunnis stay as part of the political process that will be a good sign. If they bolt? Bad sign. Also the American base is an interesting point. And we have 50,000 troops still in Iraq. We did expect that we would negotiate a new Status Of Forces Agreement with Iraq so there would be some residual US presence there because they don't have an army that can really defend their own borders. And they're in a pretty bad neighbourhood. If all the Americans leave at the end that certainly means that our strategic relationship with Iraq will be damanged, it means -- I don't expect that to happen because we have a lot of leverage with them. Basically, their whole arsenal now is American weapons, they need our Air Force, they don't have their own air force, they don't have a navy. So basically watch what happens with the American presence. If it goes down to zero, I take the point, it will be a blow to the strategic relationship.
I would like to pick back up with Nadia next week from another section of the broadcast. But staying on al-Sadr, Aaron C. Davis (Washington Post) reports, "Lawmakers across Iraq's political and ethnic spectrums waited Thursday for word from anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, saying his first address after returning from nearly four years of self-imposed exile in Iran would likely say a lot about his intended approach to Iraq's fragile new government." The speech is supposed to be delivered Saturday. W.G. Dunlop (AFP) reports that Baghdad residents appear split on Moqtada al-Sadr with some highly supportive and others, like Khaled Abdul Rizak, against it. Rizak states, "I am against his return and I am against the government in general -- all of them, including Moqtada al-Sadr are stealing this country." Joel Wing (Musings On Iraq) offers:
What Sadr does next is the big question. He's supposed to make his first address after arriving in Najaf on January 8, to lay out his program. Some early targets for the Sadrist camp are probably finding jobs for their followers through the ministries they control, asserting themselves in parliament, and building up patronage systems to bring in new recruits. Sadr can only hope to build upon his success, as he definitely aspires to be a national leader. He could become a rival to Maliki without holding any official office. That will only happen if the Trend continues to focus upon politics and services. That's always been a problem for Sadr. In 2005 when he tried to join the new government after the U.S. handed over sovereignty, his movement split, and he ended up turning his back on politics to try to win back the street. That backfired as well as his followers became predators on their own people after they'd purged many Sunnis from various neighborhoods across central Iraq.
Azzaman reports that while al-Sadr was making a splash in Iraq Wednesday, former Iraq prime minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari was in Tehran on a visit and that an outstanding warrant exists in Iraq for al-Sadr in the killing of Abdul Majeed al-Kholi. For obvious reasons, Hayder al-Khoei (Guardian) doesn't forget the warrant:

However, there was another thorny issue behind his absence: Sadr is still wanted by the Iraqi judiciary for his alleged involvement in my father's murder eight years ago.
The arrest warrant for Sadr stands to this day as Iraqi judge Raed al-Juhi signed it in April 2004. Juhi is the investigative judge who presided over the first hearing of the Dujail massacre that eventually led to Saddam Hussein's execution in December 2006.
The fact that Sadr was not arrested upon his arrival this week says a lot about Iraq's new government and its claimed dedication to integrity.

Maad Fayad (Asharq Alawsat) reports: "Khoei, the former secretary-general o fthe Imam al-Khoei Foundation in London who was assassinated in 2003 in Najaf has threatened to internationalize this case if the Iraqi judiciary fails to take lega action against Moqtada al-Sadr, whom the family consideres to be 'the prime suspect in the murder of al-Khoei.' Al-Khoei was killed in the holy city of Najaf on 10 April 2003 at the hands of the followers of Moqtada al-Sadr." Today the editorial board of the Christian Science Monitor weighs in on what Iraq 'needs':

The newly formed government in Iraq faces a to-do list as long as the Euphrates River that courses through this bomb-battered country. As tempting as it may be to tackle every need at once -- they all seem so urgent -- Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki must set priorities.
He acknowledges that. But the ministers in his vast "unity government" -- there are 42 cabinet posts -- will undoubtedly have their own agendas. After parliamentary elections last March, it took nine months of negotiation to piece together a government of Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds, announced Dec. 21.
Now the really hard part begins, bettering the lives of the governed. But where to start?

Where to start? How about with the fact that there's no Cabinet still. 42 post. Ten empty. Three filled posts are filled by Nouri al-Maliki (in addition to his holding his post as Prime Minister). Hey, when were those elections? Oh, yeah, March 7th.
What's today, Christian Science Monitor? Uh, January 7th. We're two months away from when Iraq held elections and it's past time for Nouri to have a full cabinet. When he skirted the Constitution last month (December 21st), the assumption was that he was hard at work filling those additional 13 posts. There's been no evidence of that in the weeks that have followed. And it's not as though he hasn't already promised the posts to people (of course, he's promised way more than 13 people the 13 posts -- that does create a problem).
Sabah reports rumors this week that the distribution of the posts is being criticized and that there is a demands that certain ministers be replaced with Tarqi al-Hashimi stating that some are forgetting the national duty to the country. The article is primarily about Parliament and the back and forth bickering there. Dar Addustour also notes the bickering in Parliament over the ministries and attributes it to the National Alliance and Iraiqiya with the National Allaince wanting it to be based on "experience" and not "in accordance with the quota system." In addition, Iraiqya has provided Nouri with a list of nominees for the Minister of Electricity -- a post which they expect Nouri to name by next week. Al Sabaah reports that Parliament has moved forward on some things, such as approving money to pay those who provide tips about terrorists. Dar Addustour adds that the Parliament also changed the British Embassy in Erbil to one for the KRG and that -- "with the principle of reciprocity -- they resolved to open an Iraq consulate in England and they passed legislation to give the Minister of Justice "the power to negotiate and sign" new agreement on civil and criminal matters including regarding extradition between Iraq and the United Arab Emirates. Leila Ahmed ( reports that the Speaker of Parliament, Osama Nujafi, has put on hold (suspended) filling the compensatory seats until the federal courts can make a ruling.
Meanwhile al-Rafidayn reports that Nouri and Iraqiya's Ayad Allawi will meet at the home of Ibrahim al-Jaafair with other leaders to discuss the creation of the National Council -- the body that Allawi is supposed to head and that is supposed to be independent and was the deal maker that allowed Nouri to (almost) put together his Cabinet. Issues to be addressed include the Council's legal value and its powers. The meeting comes amidst rumors that Allawi has withdrawn his support for Nouri's administration.
AFP reports an attack on a police officer's Baghdad home this morning resulting in 5 members of his family being killed. The violence has not faded with the so-called formation of a Cabinet by Nouri al-Maliki. Alsumaria TV reports, "Al Qaeda in Iraq is targeting Christians in their homes after Iraqi authorities increased protection around the minority group's churches, said Lieutenant General Robert Cone, the U.S. deputy commanding general for operations in Iraq. 'Al Qaeda has shifted to try and go after the Christians where they live,' Cone told Reuters." Exactly. (See December 31st entry: "Something to remember about yesterday's attacks is the climate Iraqi Christians in Baghdad (and Mosul) were already living in. Many families had stopped sending their children to school in the weeks following the October 31st attack on Our Lady of Salvation Church, thinking that their homes could provide the safety the government could not.
Turning to the issue of journalistic freedoms, Reporters Without Borders issued the following:
Reporters Without Borders today welcomed the announcement by President of the Kurdistan Democratic Party Massoud Barzani in an interview with the pro-KDP daily Khebat that he is to withdraw a complaint made by his party against two columnists on the non partisan newspaper Awene, Marwan Wrya Qani' and Aras Fatah, over their article that appeared in June 2010, "What did the president of the autonomous region of Kurdistan say?"
The worldwide press freedom organisation, which has several times expressed its concern at a surge in legal proceedings against non-party journalists and media in Iraqi Kurdistan, repeats its support for all initiatives intended to defend freedom of the press in the region.
Tuesday's snapshot included a critique of Peter Maas' bad article in The New Yorker. We're covering it again -- actually running it again.
Tuesday Max Brantley (Arkansas Times) recommended: "Try Peter Mass' reconstruction in the New Yorker of the most famous image of the war in Iraq -- the toppling of a massive statue of Saddam Hussein after troops rolled into Baghdad." US forces assisted Iraqi exiles -- flown in that weekend -- with taking down Saddam Hussein's statue. It was staged and it was always known to be staged by press present. They narrowed the focus of the square for all photos and video to make it appear that a huge crowd was present when, in fact, it was just a few people (US service members and the exiles). Peter Maas really can't state that -- or won't. But he paints a picture of a number of reporters willing to lie to themselves (John F. Burns among them). As usual Glenn Greenwald finds the article earth shattering. I find it revisionary. Let's drop back to NPR's The Bryant Park Project April 9, 2008 (and it has text and audio):
Rachel Martin: Five years ago today, Baghdad fell to the invading forces led by the United States. For many people, the toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad's Firdos Square crystallized the end of his rule, and it's an image that's been broadcast many times in the last five years, over and over. You'll probably see it again today as people remember this grim anniversary. But next time you watch it, bear this in mind.
Nearly four years ago, a Los Angeles Times writer revealed that according to a study of the invasion published by the U.S. Army, the statue toppling was not necessarily the spontaneous event that it appeared to be. David Zucchino is the national correspondent for the LA Times. He first reported that story back in 2004 and he's on the line with us now. Hey, David. Thanks for being with us.
Mr. DAVID ZUCCHINO: (Journalist, Los Angeles Times) Good morning.
MARTIN: Good morning. So David, you were in Baghdad on this day five years ago, but not in Firdos Square. When and how did you hear about that big Saddam Hussein statue falling?
Mr. ZUCCHINO: Well, actually, even though I was in Baghdad that day, I was across the river about a mile or two away and had no idea that was going on, and in fact, the Army troops I was with also had no idea, and I didn't find out about it until several weeks later when I got back to the U.S.
MARTIN: When you found out about it, what was the narrative attached to it?
Mr. ZUCCHINO: My impression was that there was a spontaneous rally by Iraqis and they jumped on the statue and basically pulled it down. I knew there was some U.S. soldiers or Marines in the area, but I was not clear on exactly what their role was, whether they were just providing security or were taking part. It was fairly nebulous.
MARTIN: So you dug up more specifics that cast light on those circumstances surrounding the toppling of the statue. Explain what you found out.
Mr. ZUCCHINO: This was part of a five-hundred-and-some page review, or report, by the Army on the entire invasion, what went wrong and what went right. It was sort of an After Action Report, and this was just sort of a one or two page sideline, almost a footnote.
They had interviewed an Army psychological operations' team leader and he described how a Marine colonel - the Marines were in charge of that area and had just come in, and this Marine colonel had been looking for a target of opportunity, and seized on that statue.
And according to this interview with the psy-ops commander, there were Iraqis milling around the statue, and in fact, had been beating it with sledgehammers and apparently thinking about trying to bring it down, but it was a huge statue and they had no way to do that. So the Marines came up with the idea of bringing in a big recovery vehicle, like a wrecker, and trying to bring it down that way.
Again, the usual TV activists are writing lengthy pieces (I'm not referring to Brantley who just wrote a paragraph) on Maas' bad article. It's ten pages. The New Yorker's long been doing photos -- and were doing it before Tina Brown turned the magazine upside down. Many websites long ago -- and I believe In These Times as well in its print edition -- showed the narrowed version of the photos versus what we'll call "widescreen" option which proved how tiny the turnout was. The New Yorker offers ten long pages with no photos. Maas offers ten long pages where he's never aware of the Psyops report. All these years later. After it was reported on in the Los Angeles Times. After it was covered by NPR and others. All this time later. Maas shows up to talk about scared little journalists like John F. Burns. Was Burnsie really scared or is this itself a Psyops that's supposed to make us feel sorry for Burnsie and think, "He's not a liar, he was just scared." He was there. He lied. Reality.
The TV activists -- they play them on Democracy Now and other programs -- are all glooming on and praising Maas' bad article. In reality, most have ignored the biggest lie about Iraq that was amplified by the media last week. The lie continues to be amplified.

As for whose idea it was to bring down the statue, Maass traces it to a lowly sergeant who, out of the blue, came up with the bright idea all by his lonesome, but there are several holes in Maass's story.

To begin with, long shots of the square show the area around the statue completely blocked off by US tanks, and yet, according to Maass's own account, "a handful of Iraqis had slipped into the square" – at precisely the moment the sergeant asked permission to take the statue down.

Who were these Iraqis? Reading Maass, one would simply assume they were random residents of Baghdad, curiosity seekers out on a lark, but a look at these photos disabuses us of this notion. They were members of the Iraqi National Congress – those now-infamous "heroes in error" – who had played a key role in the "weapons of mass destruction" deception and were being groomed by the neocons to take power in post-Saddam Iraq. Along with their leader, the wanted embezzler and suspected Iranian agent Ahmed Chalabi, 700 INC "fighters" were flown into Nasiriyah by the Pentagon a few days before, and were whisked to Baghdad, where they arrived just in time for their Big Media Moment.

That's a very important point and Justin Raimondo has more in his column.
Ralph Lopez has an important piece of writing at David Swanson's War Is A Crime. Excerpt:
This is an exciting time for the anti-war movement, but also a time to not drop the ball. Support for the war in Afghanistan has been driven down to 34% thanks to peace activist education and opposition, which could be anyone who cares enough to send an informative email to his or her pro-war relative. But how low must it get before Congress stops passing budgets in support of continued military operations? The problem is that the disapproving yet relatively uninformed public is not making the link between the wars and their own representatives, and Obama, without whom the wars could not continue.

Look around you. How many people that you know or work with will roll their eyes and say "What are we even doing there? We should get out" - when asked about our military presence in Afghanistan. How many of these same people, asked about their congressmembers, will say, "he seems like a good guy." An appalling number of Democratic congressmen with purportedly liberal credentials, at least in the eyes of many in their districts, voted for the largest Pentagon budget in history, without debate, last Dec. 17, which passed 341 - 43, and of course will wind up supporting continued military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Among the Democrats voting for war were Rangel, McGovern, and Tonko. Among the few Republicans voting against were Ron Paul and Jeff Flake.

I have also spoken to peace-minded people, Quakers for heavens' sake, who still think Obama is relatively liberal, and have no idea that he has claimed authority to keep a list of Americans to be killed on sight, without a trial. That one always gets them.

The anti-war movement is a little like an electric circuit not making that last connection. It's time to take it, not to the street, but to the doors. We've taken it about as far as we can on the Internet. Fantasy football, the AOL Dancing with the Stars fan page, online poker, and that's about it for a lot of America. Many are not on the peace listserves or read HuffPo. But that doesn't mean they don't care, or wouldn't be surprised at their congressmember's vote.

Robert Gates would just be a sad joke were it not for the fact that the liar/idiot left academia (administration, not teaching) to become Secretary of Defense when Bully Boy Bush nominated him. Idiot or liar, someone else can make that call. But the War Hawk show boated on The NewsHour (PBS) last night and made this ridiculous statement:

And my argument is, ever since World War I, when we have come to the end of wars, we have dramatically reduced our defense spending, cut our military forces, and then ended up in another war. And what we have to understand is, a strong military is a deterrent to war, not a cause of war.

Damn liar or damn fool, he's arguing for a perpetual warfare state. And let's see the US "dramatically rdueced our defense spending." The Korean War is said to have gone from 1950 to 1953.

Military spending by the US in 1951 (first full year of Korean War) was $224.3 million, 1952 it rose to $402.1 million, 1953 it rose to $442.3 million, 1954 (first full year of no official Korean War) it 'drops' to $430.9 million. 1955 sees a 'drop' as well -- to $376.9 million. We call that a 'drop' because? The drop is still higher than the amount spent the first full year of the Korean War (1951, $224.3 million). Until 1965, it never drops below $344 million. (All higher than the first full year of the Korean War). Then, in 1965, it drops or 'drops' to $333.1 million (which is still higher than the first full year of the Korean War). Some historians count 1965 as the start of the war on Vietnam. In other words, spending didn't go down. In reality, after the start of the Korean War, military spending never returned to anything remotely 'normal.' (And it was already too high prior to the Korean War.)

The US has never dramatically reduced military spending. Has it reduced the number of people serving? Yes, and that never brought the costs back down. But they have reduced numbers when no 'active' war is taking place (post WWII, it's very difficult to call them "declared" wars which requires a declaration of Congress).

Want to save money? End the endless wars. Stop paying thugs and drug lords with US tax payer dollars. Stop using US tax dollars and US citizens to support regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan that degrade and damage their own native populations.

TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Gwen sits around the table chewing the fat. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is "OF SYMBOLS AND MEANING: Or, how to read too much into anything." This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Debra Carmajam. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Tara Setmayer and Genevieve Wood to discuss the week's news on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary. And this week's To The Contrary online exclusive is about NOW vs. Hooters. Turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

The Big Gamble
Lesley Stahl reports on the proliferation of gambling to 38 states and its main attraction, the slot machine, newer versions of which some scientists believe may addict their players. | Watch Video

Silver or Lead
Byron Pitts reports on the murder of the mayor of a Mexican city, where powerful drug gangs seem to be giving authorities a choice of "silver or lead" - join us and we will pay you or don't and we'll kill you. | Watch Video

A Living For The Dead
Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and Elvis are dead and so is Michael Jackson. But as Steve Kroft reports, they are very much alive when it comes to earning money for their estates. | Watch Video

60 Minutes, Sunday, Jan. 9, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Who gets to talk in this nation?

Time to cover Wednesday's Talk Of The Nation (NPR).

For the first segment, Neal Conan brought on 5 guests to talk about the 1st day of Congress and the new Speaker of the House. How many of the guests were women?


Ken Rudin, US House Rep. John Mica, Clarence Page, Bob Michel and Vin Weber. All five were men.

Then it was time to talk surrogates and his guests were Liza Mundy, Melanie Thernstrom and Fie McWilliamss.

Then we got Alan Gribben. So all together 9 guests, 6 were men, 3 were women. There were twice as many men as women.

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

Thursday, January 6, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, military suicides increased at Fort Hood in 2010, the Marines saw an increase in attempted suicides, Moqtada al-Sadr scolds his followers, is Turkey the victor in the Iraq War, and more.
The New KPFA Morning Show airs on KPFA from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. PST Mondays through Fridays. The show has a rotating set of hosts and Thursdays it's Project Censored. Today's show saw Project Censored's Mickey Huff speak with a number of guests about under-the-radar stories. We'll note this section between Huff and Dave Lindorff.
Mickey Huff: We have a few minutes left in this segment, Dave, and earlier you had mentioned the Church Committee and COINTELPRO and, of course, we could do whole shows on those. The Church Committee, Senator Frank Church, came in after Watergate and did a lot of investigating about these types of counterintelligence programs and infilitratration of groups. And this is exactly the kind of thing you're talking about, we've had this massive return. And I don't know how familiar you are with this but one of Obama's appointees to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, a Harvard law professor named Cass Sunstein, is calling for a return to infiltrating groups, disrupting groups --
Dave Lindorff: Yeah, he's horrible. He's horrible.
Mickey Huff: It's funny that you don't hear much though. During the Bush years, you heard a lot of the rattling on the left among progressives about this kind of officious behavior and this -- Really it's been legal since the Patriot Act I suppose although it seems fiercely unconstitutional. But do you have something to say about Sunstein or maybe the silence of progressives about people like Sustein?
Dave Lindorff: Well, yeah. I mean actually, I'm working on getting a contract for a bookto do a Case for Impeachment II and make the argument that this administration is committing the same crimes and some new ones that were impeachable under Bush and are now impeachable under Obama. [Laughing] It's hard to get a publisher, frankly.
Mickey Huff: Yeah and that's my -- and that's sad given how much evidence there is to continue that saga from that book. I mean it's just Part II of all of that. And I know a lot of people -- a lot of progressives and people on the left -- don't want to deal with that and they want to say 'Well it's the lesser of two evils' or 'It's better than not' and so forth. And I suppose that's understandable given what Americans went through for eight years. But we can't turn a blind eye to this and, I mean, the media is just disappeared. There's almost no coverage of this whatsoever. They have one faux controversy after another -- whether it's the birth certificate or whether Obama's a Socialist. And here we have things going on right under our noses -- this cognitive infiltraton problem in particular that you mentioned that we have here with Sunstein. And so there's definitely a lot of work to be done and a lot of things that we should be dealing with
Dave Lindorff: Yeah, I know. I mean, people have to realize this isn't a Democrat or a Republican issue. This is the corporate state that is militarized and it is looking at the American public as the enemy. And I think that's the way that we have to view it. And it's not a matter of you know "Do we not do something because this is a Republican or a Democratic administration so it will be better" -- and it's not better. And every -- We're actually in a ratcheting up with every administration of more and more invasiveness into our lives and more monitoring of our activities.
In Tuesday's snapshot, I mentioned this post by Ruth but there was no link -- Ruth's been covering various KPFA issues this week -- also see here and here.
Turning to military suicides, Jim Turpin (The Rag Blog) reported last October:
Even with the spin from the current administration that the "war is over" in Iraq, it is well known that 50,000 combat-ready troops remain in the country. Add to that a recent deployment of 2,000 troops from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment from Fort Hood in Texas. At present almost 100,000 troops remain in Afghanistan.
With the total number of U.S. military personnel cycling through both Afghanistan and Iraq at almost 1.8 million, and with the RAND corporation estimating that 18% have PTSD (which is deemed low by some experts), this would put the returning numbers with PTSD at 324,000.

A recent article in The New York Times confirms what the organizers of the Killeen-based GI coffeehouse Under the Hood Café have been battling at Fort Hood for the last year and a half: suicides are at the highest point since 2008, with 14 confirmed suicides since the beginning of 2010. In one recent weekend, there were three suicides and one murder-suicide at Fort Hood.
With the population at Fort Hood ranging from 46,000 to 50,000 soldiers at any given time, the rate of suicide is four times the national average, based on Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates of 11.5 suicides per 100,000 people.

Today Bob Grotenhuis (KTSM) reports that there were 22 suicides or suspected suicides at Fort Hood in 2010, "double the number of suicides from 2009 and nearly two-and-a-half times the national average for the same age group." Gregg Zoroya (USA Today) broke the news on the story this morning and noted the record number came "despite a mental health effort aimed at reversing the trend" and, of Fort Hood's population, "Many of the 46,500 soldiers at Fort Hood have returned from war zone or are on their way to them." Fort Hood, in a review of the year 2010 published today, notes, "Deployments, the continual coming and going of military members to and from Fort Hood, remained the 'new normal' at the Great Place in 2010. Just two weeks after the 1st Cavalry Division uncased its colors on Cooper Field announcing the division's return from its third tour of duty in Iraq, III Corps cased its colors Feb. 2 as it became the nucleus of United States Forces - Iraq." On suicide, the year-in-review notes:
Suicide prevention, likewise, remained an important issue for the Army in 2010, as well as here in Central Texas. The key to suicide prevention is engaged leadership, according to senior leaders here.
"We use this term of 'engaged leadership,' in some cases, it requires intrusive leadership to break through some of these little points of insularity that we're finding in our Soldiers and certainly in society," Grimsley told media members at the Resiliency Campus Sept. 29.
"I tell you that every one of these is tragic," he said of the suicides committed in 2010. "The rate is higher than any of us, anybody in a leadership position in the Army wants," he stressed. Grimsley said Fort Hood remains dedicated to the well-being of its force and their families.
"I think we have extraordinary resources at Fort Hood," he said, noting family life onsultants, chaplains, behavioral health specialists and Army Community Services counselors available to Soldiers, civilians and their families, dedicated to the well-being of body, mind and soul.
"The point is," he said, "there are an awful lot of people who are committed to do the right thing."
The Marines also have suicide news this week. Gretel C. Kovach (San Diego Union Tribune) reports, "The number of suicides among active-duty Marines dropped last year for the first time since 2006, plunging 29 percent below 2009's record high, according to preliminary figures released by the Marine Corps. In 2010, 37 Marines committed suicide, compared to 52 in 2009. The latest numbers include nine suspected yet to be confirmed by the Armed Forces Medical Examiner." While the number of suicides has gone down, the Marines saw an increase in 2010 in the number of attempted suicides. The Defense Dept notes, "The military suicide rate has increased steadily over the past five years, exceeding the national average of 11.1 suicides per 100,000 people. The military last year averaged 12.5 suicides per 100,000 according [to] DOD reports." James Coogan (WSWS) offers:
American military personnel are continuing to take their own lives in unprecedented numbers, as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq drag on. By late November, at least 334 members of the armed forces had committed suicide in 2009, more than the 319 who were killed in Afghanistan or the 150 who died in Iraq. While a final figure is not available, the toll of military suicides last year was the worst since records began to be kept in 1980.
The Army, National Guard and Army Reserve lost at least 211 personnel to suicide. More than half of those who took their lives had served in either Iraq or Afghanistan. The Army suicide rate of 20.2 per 100,000 personnel is higher than that registered among males aged 19 to 29, the gender age bracket with the highest rate among the general population. Before 2001, the Army rarely suffered 10 suicides per 100,000 soldiers.
The Navy lost at least 47 active duty personnel in 2009, the Air Force 34 and the Marine Corp, which has been flung into some of the bloodiest fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, 42. The Marine suicide rate has soared since 2001 from 12 to at least 19.5 per 100,000.
For every death, at least five members of the armed forces were hospitalised for attempting to take their life. According to the Navy Times, 2 percent of Army; 2.3 percent of Marines and 3 percent of Navy respondents to the military's own survey of 28,536 members from all branches reported they had attempted suicide at some point. The "Defense Survey of Health-Related Behaviors" also found "dangerous levels" of alcohol abuse and the illicit use of drugs such as pain killers by 12 percent of personnel.
Many soldiers, servicemembers and veterans are not receiving the help they need. Many are taking public stands to highlight the issue. Clare Bayard (ZNET) notes:

They also included the public surrender of an injured AWOL soldier, Army Specialist Jeff Hanks, at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. Hanks went AWOL to resist redeployment to Afghanistan last fall after the military refused to treat him for severe PTSD. Supported by military and civilian allies alike, Hanks and other veterans testified about the military's negligent and often abusive treatment of severely traumatized soldiers seeking care. Hanks decided he wanted to turn himself in publicly to draw attention to these widespread practices. If he is court-martialed, he could face up to two years in prison and a lifetime felony conviction on his record. The Army could also attempt to forcibly deploy him again. At the gates of Ft. Campbell, 25 supporters stood with Hanks as he told his story to reporters. Another AWOL soldier from his unit traveled to join the rally, disclosing similar experiences. One supporter explained that her husband, who is currently deployed, was sent against medical advice.

In the weeks following the November 11 actions, a number of other soldiers gone AWOL from the 101st due to mental health struggles have reached out to Operation Recovery for support.

Visibility and support are important factors influencing not only the morale of traumatized troops and their families, but also the military's treatment of people who go public. Aaron Hughes of IVAW shared with supporters that, "Jeff's command was extremely hostile when he turned himself in on Veterans Day, but after the CBS story aired on Friday, they changed their tune" (Hanks was interviewed by Katie Couric).

Click here for one CBS story (text and video) with links to other CBS coverage of Jeff Hanks. And, like Elaine, let's pair that with an upcoming event by Iraq Veterans Against the War:

February 25, 2011 9:30 - 10:30 am Busboys & Poets, Langston room 14th & V st NW Washington DC This report back will be to answer questions from media and the peace movement about the recent trip back to Iraq by members of Iraq Veterans Against the War. The war is not over but it is not the same as it was in years past. What is the humanitarian situation in Iraq? How can we do reparations and reconciliation work? Speakers are all returning from this delegation and include: Geoff Millard (IVAW) Hart Viges (IVAW) Haider Al-Saedy (
Iraqi Health Now)
Richard Rowely (
Big Noise Films)
That's next month and will hopefully help get across that the Iraq War continues.
Sunday, 2 US soldiers were killed in Iraq. Today, DoD released the following: "The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation New Dawn. They died Jan. 2 in Taji, Iraq, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device. They were assigned to the 1013th Engineer (Sapper) Company of the Pureto Rico Army National Guard, Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. Killed were: Sgt. Jose M. Cintron Rosado, 38, of Vega Alta, Puerto Rico; and Spc. Jose A. Delgado Arroyo, 41, of San Juan, Puerto Rico. For more information, media may contact the Puerto Rico National Guard at 787-289-1474." The deaths bring the total number for US military deaths in the ongoing Iraq War to [PDF format warning] 4435.
Tuesday, Jake Armstrong (Pasadena Weekly) notes, was "day 2,817 of the war in Iraq."
AP notes the Illinois National Guard is preparing to send 75 service members to Iraq. Brian Stanley (Herald News) reports on some of the deployed:

Dennis McWherter has been married for 23 years, his youngest child is 17 and he's got enough experience in law enforcement to head the narcotics unit as a lieutenant with the Joliet Police Department.
Rigoberto Garcia is still in college, he and his girlfriend of two years have considered getting married in the next few years and he wants to work for a local fire department when he completes his paramedic training.

In Iraq, they will be assinged to preserve the rule of the likes of Moqtada al-Sadr who returned to Iraq
yesterday. Alsumaria TV reports, "Head of Al Sadr Front cleric Moqtada Al Sadr returned to Iraq on Wednesday. Al Sadr returned to Najaf after spending three years outside the country in Qumm, Iran. Al Sadr's visit coincides two weeks after the formation of Iraq's new government." Iraq is nothing but a laughing matter to the US State Dept as evidenced by yesterday's briefing. When spokesperson Philip J. Crowley was asked about al-Sadr's return, he declared, "Well it's not for us to be for or against any particular leader or party in Iraq." A response that was met with disbelief and led to shocked remarks and bringing up Saddam Hussein (whom the US government started an illegal war to topple). Crowley thought he was being amusing by declaring, "In the new Iraq." It wasn't funny. It's an ongoing war and possibly the next time any State Dept spokesperson sees a war as a laughing matter, they can sign up for forty hours a week of community service at Walter Reed. Might seeing the wounded make them take war a little more seriously next time?
The Australian hails al-Sadr's return as "the latest example of waning US influence in Iraq" and they quote Kenneth Katzman of the Congressional Research Service stating, "I don't think the US embassy is at all happy about this. Sadr has made the calculation that US influence is low enough that the US is not going to pressure him, or chase him . . . or pressure Maliki to arrest him." al-Hayat reminds that the Basra 2008 Iraqi-US attack on Basra ("Charge of the Knights") had al-Sadr and Nouri al-Maliki on opposite sides of the fence. Paul McGeough (Sydney Morning Herald) adds, "For months after the election Mr Sadr sat on his hands, leaving would-be prime ministers Mr Maliki and Iyad Allawi without the support they needed to form a coalition government. It was only after the intervention of Tehran that a deal was struck in the seventh month of the post-poll stand-off. [. . .] As recently as last year, Mr Sadr's mouthpieces in Iraq were dismissing Mr Maliki as a successor to Saddam and as an American lackey." Kim Sengupta (Belfast Telegraph) notes the 2008 "intense battle" in Basra as well. Strangely these reports from today are still focusing on Basra only. It was also Sadr City or does no one have longterm memory. Protests against the assault on Basra sprang up in the Sadr City section of Baghdad. From the March 25, 2008 snapshot:
Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) reports, "Fighting broke out Tuesday on the streets of Sadr City . . . and the Mahdi Army militia announced it had taken over Iraqi army checkpoints in an escalation of tension with Iraqi government security forces. The sound of gunfire could be heard in Sadr City throughout the morning and Mahdi Army members walked down the streets carrying rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and other weapons in what appeared to be a show of force, accodring to two witnesses." AFP reports that fighting was ongoing in Baghdad, Basra, Kut and Hilla with the clash between Sadr's forces and the US in Baghdad being "the first time since last October". Atul Aneja (The Hindu) explains, "The Iraqi government's decision to establish its hold over the oil city of Basra dominated by Shia armed militias has sparked heavy fighting there" and that "field commanders of the Mahdi army in Najaf ordered to the militia 'to strike the occupiers' and their Iraqi allies." Robin Stringer (Bloomberg News) notes 18 dead and forty wounded from the Basra fighting alone and threats that the actions will go "nationwide."
The following day (Wednesday, March 26, 2008), Leila Fadel (then with McClatchy) appeared on The Diane Rehm Show (NPR) via phone to report on the Basra assault. We'll note this section of the discussion:
Diane Rehm: And Leila, you're in Baghdad what's the situation there right now?
Leila Fadel: Well the Medhi army has done a forced sit-in in all Medhi army neighborhoods and so what has happened is that they sealed off neighborhoods where they have large control and, at gun point, told shopkeepers to close, the kids are not allowed to go to school, in one situtation they evacuated the school that was functioning. In Sadr City there have been violent clashes between Iraqi security forces, US forces and the Medhi army in Sadr City. Sadr officials are saying that at least 20 people have died and a hundred were wounded, among them women and children. But it's unclear what's happening there because it's completely sealed off by the militia.
March 28, 2008, Sudarsan Raghavan and Sholnn Freeman (Washington Post) reported, "U.S. forces in armored vehicles battled Mahdi Army fighters Thursday in the vast Shiite stronghold of Sadr City, and military officials said Friday that U.S. aircraft bombed militant positions in the southern city of Basra, as the American role in a campaign against party-backed militias appeared to expand." Today Xinhua notes, "Many Sadrists viewed Maliki's crackdown as a means to weaken his Shiite rivals and to facilitate the political benchmarks set by the U.S. administrations before the country's provincial elections early in 2009." David Kenner (Foreign Policy) observes, "Some analysts also suggested that his return could be motivated by a desire to retain his preeminence over the movement's leaders in Iraq, who have overseen the party's impressive gains in recent years. 'His party is becoming stronger and bigger, and the need for him to preside over it has grown, especially since there is fear that new leaders within the party could surpass him,' wrote Hazem al-Amin in the Arabic daily al-Hayat." Mohamad Bazzi (Council on Foreign Relations) offers:
Now, Sadr has returned home to play a central part in Iraqi politics and to oversee his movement's transition from a militia force to a powerful political group with forty seats in parliament. But Sadr's ascendance threatens to stoke sectarian tensions in Iraq: His followers were responsible for some of the worst atrocities against Sunnis during the country's recent civil war. Sadr's militia, the Mahdi Army, unleashed death squads that assassinated Sunnis and drove them out of Shiite neighborhoods.
Rania El Gamal and Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) run down possibilities such as whether or not he'll remain in Iraq, if he remains will he attempt to be a political or religious figure, will tensions rise, will sectarian violence return, etc. Anthony Shadid (New York Times) reports that al-Sadr sent a message to his followers today which read, "The lack of discipline of some of you as I performed my religious rituals bothered me and hurt me. Please exercise discipline and refrain from excessive chants and pushing which harms me, others, you, your reputation and the reputation of the Sadr family." This was how he thanked those who greeted him with chants and shout yesterday and today. Leadership's always easier when you don't have to be around your followers. Moqtada al-Sadr seems a little testy for someone who's had years to take a break from his follwers. BBC News adds, "The BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad says that despite his four-year absence, the charismatic Moqtadr Sadr has lost none of his influence on the largely impoverished Shia population of Iraq. But the situation in Iraq has changed since the cleric fled the country after a warrant was issued for his arrest, our correspondent adds." On All Things Considered today, Kelly McEvers reports from Baghdad:
Kelly McEvers: Many analysts say Sadr is looking to style his group as the next Hezbollah, the Shiite militia that now weilds considerable power in Lebanon's government. The reasoning that both groups give for maintaining an armed wing is resistance. In Lebanon, it's resistance against Israel. Here, says Sadr political adviser Balqis al-Khafaji, it's resistance against American troops.
Reuters reports that a Hawija sticky bombing injured a police officer and that an attack on a Mosul church was prevented by the Iraqi military.
In other Iraq news, the PKK is a rebel group which supports a Kurdish homeland. Turkey, the US and others label the PKK a terrorist organization. (Recent WikiLeaks revelations on the PKK suggest that the US government also backs them from time to time.) The Turkish military regularly bombs the mountains of northern Iraq where the PKK has set up bases. Stephen Farrell, Shiho Fukada and Steven Lee Myers (New York Times -- text, numerous photos and video) report from the mountains:

It is not easy to visit the mountainous borderlands of northern Iraq where the Kurdistan Workers' Party operates, but it is not impossible either.
Such is the peculiar position of a group of committed insurgents against Turkish rule in Kurdish lands -- even as Turkey and Iraq seek deeper and deeper ties, through diplomacy and trade, especially with Iraq's semiautonomous Kurdish region.

A few years back when Oliver August and Deborah Haynes (
Times of London) -- among others -- were reporting from the PKK bases in Iraq, Nouri had a meltdown and started threatening to expel any foreign reporters who visited the PKK bases. It's interesting that the New York Times has decided to file this report. This comes as Anthony Shadid files a report on Turkey and its influence in Iraq:

Turkey's influence is greater in northern Iraq and broader, although not deeper, than that of Iran, with its ties to the Shiite leadership, in the rest of the country. While the United States invaded and occupied Iraq, losing more than 4,400 troops there, Turkey now exerts what may prove a more lasting legacy -- so-called soft power, the assertion of influence through culture, education and business.
"This is the trick -- we are very much welcome here," said Ali Riza Ozcoskun, who heads Turkey's consulate in Basra, one of four diplomatic posts it has in Iraq.
Turkey's newfound influence here has played out along an axis that runs roughly from Zakho in the north to Basra, by way of the capital, Baghdad. For a country that once saw the Kurdish region in northern Iraq as a threat, Turkey has embarked on the beginning of what might be called a beautiful friendship.

Shadid's article and other things lead Judah Grunstein to wonder "
Did Turkey Win the Iraq War?" (World Politics Review):

The same can't be said for Turkey, which has also benefitted from the dramatic changes in the region's geostrategic landscape wrought by the Iraq War.
This N.Y. Times article detailing Turkey's enormous and growing trade ties in the Kurdish north, as well as its political influence in Baghdad, is only part of the story. Ankara's opposition to the war, and the Bush administration's obstinacy in pursuing it, in some ways prepared the way for Turkey's rebalancing of its foreign policy approach from a Western-focused alignment to a Turkey-centric strategic hub. And the power vacuum created by the fall of Saddam Hussein, though initially as destabilizing as Ankara had feared and warned, subsequently helped create the space for Turkey to assume the regional role it aspired to.
Turning to the US where Ron Robins asks, "Can US Bankers and Politicians be Truthful?" And the answer may be found in this from David Swanson (at Euro Atlantic Quarterly):
The two parties scream at each other on television quite a lot and attract supporters who come from two very different cultures. But over half of every dollar of income tax in the United States is spent on the military, and that number reliably increases every single year regardless of who is in power.
The Afghan and Iraq wars were launched with overwhelming support from both parties' officials, and the Iraq War with Democratic control of the Senate. In 2006 U.S. voters told exit-pollsters that their primary motivation for electing Democrats to control both houses of Congress was Iraq war opposition, and Congress proceeded in 2007 to escalate the war on Iraq. War opposition also drove the 2008 elections, after which two Democratic houses and a Democratic president in 2009 escalated the war on Afghanistan.
Americans tell pollsters that ending the wars is their second highest priority after repairing the U.S. economy. (How many understand the close relationship between the two, the wars' negative impact on the domestic economy, is not clear.) Majorities think the Afghan and Iraq wars should never have been launched, but majorities supported launching them at the time in 2001 and 2003. Electing Democrats to act on the will of the new majority has been tried and failed, and now the House is going back to Republican control.
There will be no gridlock on matters of war and foreign relations (two areas that are identical in the understanding of the U.S. government, as made clear by the cables leaked to Wikileaks). To the extent that a minority of Democrats in the House will object to anything on the military's agenda, it will not matter as the President and the Republicans are in complete agreement. In fact, Congress may seek to pass a new "Authorization to Use Military Force" that would strengthen any president's unconstitutional power to wage wars, without any purported connection to the crimes of September 11, 2001, as required by the routinely violated AUMF of 2001. The new bill may also license unconstitutional presidential violations of civil liberties during "war time," a state of affairs that is now understood to be without spatial or temporal limit. Republicans are principled supporters of presidential war powers even when they despise the current president.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

4 men, 2 women, it's an NPR orgy

If you missed it, I'm going to cover NPR's Talk Of The Nation for at least six months.

Tuesday on Talk Of The Nation, The show featured Ward Carroll and Captain Rosemary Mariner for the first segment. Then Evgeny Morozov (a man) was on for the second segment regarding the internet. Listener letters followed. Then a segment featuring Kristin Chmela and Dan Slater. The last segment was another man: OK Go's Damian Kulash Jr.

So that was six guests and only two were women. Why does NPR hate women?

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

Wednesday, January 5, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Moqtada al-Sadr returns to Iraq, Span wants answers about the attack on Camp Ashraf, 2 US Senators raise the issue of burn pits, and more.
Friday, we noted: "True or false, there's a feeling in DC that some of Moqtada al-Sadr's supporters can be peeled away with 'incentives' (money) provided Nouri doesn't launch another attack on them. al-Sadr's influence was seen as waning as 2007 ended and 2008 began but then Nouri attacked Basra and then Sadr section of Baghdad elevating Moqtada al-Sadr to new found heights where he appeared a leader as he issued one statement after another from outside Iraq. As always, from outside Iraq. There are no facts that demonstrated al-Sadr's supporters can be peeled away, that is a judgment call that's been made by the US government. That's DC gossip, take it for what it's worth or not." Guess who's back? Aaron C. Davis (Washington Post) reports, "Anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr made a surprise return to Iraq on Wednesday, ending nearly four years of self-imposed exile in Iran." Global Post adds, "A spokesman for the cleric said Sadr would 'address the country' Wednesday night or Thursday morning." Daniel W. Smith, Ben Van Heuvelen, Ben Lando and Iraqi staff (Iraq Oil Report) explain, "The cleric is a staunch nationalist who has called for a review of all oil contracts with foreign oil companies, and has indicated special hostility toward American and British firms. On his website he recently counseled a follower not to accepts a job from a British oil services company because that country had participated in the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq." The April 30th snapshot included this:
UPI reports that Moqtada al-Sadr "has demanded that 'illegal' contracts signed with foreign oil companies in 2009 be negotiated." Nizar Latif (The National Newspaper) adds, "The Sadrists, fervent nationalists although they have been heavily linked with Iran, where their leader is currently based, say the deals break Iraqi laws. The Iraqi oil ministry says the contracts will result in 'more than US $100 billion' (Dh367bn) worth of investment."
Gulf Research Center's Mustafa Alani tells Bloomberg News, "I think he felt the longer he stayed outside the country the more power he will lose and gradually have less control over his group." Which is probably the most accurate statement today. Martin Chulov (Guardian) states Nouri "views [. . . al-Sadr] as an unpredictable and potentially subversive figure." Saad Fakhrildeen and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) add, "In recent weeks, [. . .] some tension has been introduced in the relationship between Maliki and the Sadrists in government. The Sadrists have grumbled that Maliki has not delivered on expected positions. The Sadrists had demanded the post of deputy prime minister and secretary of the cabinet but were thwarted." Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Rebecca Santana (AP) bring up another effect of al-Sadr's return, "His return caused trepidation among many Iraqis, particularly Sunnis who remember vividly the sectarian killings carried out by his militia, the Mahdi Army, and believe he is a tool of Iran." northsunm32 (All Voices) quotes a supporter in Najaf stating, "He is our hero. We sacrificed for him. He said 'No' to the Americans and fought the Americans, and he is brave." By contrast, professor Firas al-Atraqchi (Huffington Post) opines, "The return of Muqtada Al-Sadr, a junior Shia cleric and head of the Mehdi Army militia, from his refuge in Iran to a prominent role in Iraqi politics is not only a sad testimony to the sham democracy in Iraq but also serves a humiliating end to America's adventure here. Unless there is a military coup by nationalists in Iraq or an about-face by Prime Minister Nouri Al-Malliki, Iraqis will live in perpetual fear for the foreseeable future."
Martin Chulov (Guardian) offers, "Sadr had vowed not to return to Iraq until all US forces had left the country. Around 45,000 troops remain [. . .]" Moqtada al-Sadr left the country in part due to one of those miracle arrest warrents that always seem to be in a cabinet drawer, ready to be pulled out and waived around. In fact, Reuters notes al-Sadr "fled Iraq some time in 2006 or 2007 after an arrest warrant was issued for him". BBC News' profile (not yet updated to include news of his return to Iraq) of al-Sadr includes, "An Iraqi judge has released an arrest warrant for Moqtada Sar in connection with the death of a moderate Shi leader, Abdul Majid al-Khoei, in April 2003, just two days after the fallof Baghdad. Moqtada Sadr strongly denies any role in the murder." The warrant was issued in April of 2004. From Patrick Cockburn's book Muqtada Al-Sadr and the Battle for the Future of Iraq:
I though of this small incident when, a few weeks later on March 28 [2004], the U.S. viceroy and head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) Paul Bremer closed al-Hawza for sixty days. I suspected that the U.S. officials in the Green Zone were going to get a bigger reaction than they expected. The reason for the closure of the newspaper was that it had carreid a sermon from Muqtada praising the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York as "a miracle and blessing from God," though the letter handed to the editor said only that it had browken the law on fomenting violence. "Close the rag down," Bremer had said to aides when he read a translation of the offending issue. In his account of this disastrous year ruling Iraq, Bremer shows extreme animus toward Muqtada, descrbing him as "a rabble-rousing Shi'ite cleric" and even comparing him to Hitler. As early as June 2003 he quotes himself as thinking: "Muqtada al-Sadr has the potential of ripping this country apart. We can't let this happen." In the second half of 2033 Bremer repeatedly portrays himself as decrying the timidity of the U.S. military, the CIA, and the British, all of whom hesitated before confronting Muqtada. Their fears were understandable and, as events soon demonstrated, wholly justified. Given the escalating armed resistance by the Sunni community it did not make sense to provoke a Shia uprising at the same time.
For months Bremer hovered on the edge of ordering the arrest of Muqtada and his closest lieutenants for the murder of Sayyid Majid al-Khoei. Iraqi judge Raad Juhi had even issued an arrest warrant for Muqtada in November, saying that he had two eyewitnesses who said they had heard Muqtada give the order for al-Khoei to be killed (the pretense that there was an indpendent Iraqi judiciary operating at the time was never going to cut much ice with Iraqis). Bremer held two beliefs that were dangerously contradictory. For him, Muqtada was at one and the same time a powerful and menacing figure capable of tearing Iraq apart, and so weak that he would tamely submit to arrest, while his following would be too small to make effective protests. Iraqi ministers were struck by the degree of Bremer's hatred and how much he belittled Muqtada. They were told not to refer to the "Mehdi Army" but to call it "Muqtada's militia." Ali Allawi, the highly intelligent independent Islamist who was a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, once tried to explain to Bremer how the Sadrists were the political representatives of the millions of Shia poor. Bremer furiously retorted that he "didn't care a damn about the underclass and what they [the Sadrists] represented."
John Leland and Anthony Shadid (New York Times) report, "On Wednesday, it was unclear whether any criminal charges hung over Mr. Sadr's return. Jawad Khadhum, a Sadrist member of Parliament, said that there was no warrant for the cleric's arrest" and he tells the Times, "That was just from the previous government to target the Sadrists, to take us away from the political process. We proved to everyone that we are an important part in Iraq and the political process."
Kadhim Ajrash and Vivian Salama (Bloomberg News) cites al-Sadr cleric Nazar Mohammed as stating Moqtada al-Sadr had returned to Najaf and note, "A member of al-Sadr's political movement, Qusai al-Suhail, was named first deputy parliamentary speaker in the Iraqi Cabinet last month after the cleric's bloc supported Shiite leader Nuri al-Maliki to continue as prime minister." Hassan Abdul Zahra (AFP) reports, "Sadr, who wore the black turban of a 'sayyid,' or descendent of the Prophet Mohammed, visite the shrine of Iman Ali about 5:00 pm (1400 GMT), with a group of grey-clad bodyguards in tow." Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) adds, "The Sadr movement emerged as one of the kingmakers in Iraqi politics in March, when it won 39 parliamentary seats. The bloc's support played a major role in al-Maliki getting his second term in office." Nizar Latif and Phil Sands (The National) note, "As part of the political deal for its support, hundreds of Sadrist prisoners were freed from jail. The movement was also assured control of seven government ministries, although none of the coveted offices of oil, finance or security fell into its hands."
While many outlets note Moqtada al-Sadr's late support to Nouri this go round and a few note he also backed Nouri for prime minister in 2006, no one's talking about the referendum al-Sadr held. More than anything else, it's going to be an issue if he's back in Iraq for good (this may just be a visit -- Nassir al-Rubaie says it's permanent). March 7, 2010, Iraq held elections. Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya bloc came out with the most votes but Nouri was determined to hold on to the prime minister post. In April, al-Sadr held his own elections to see who his bloc should vote. From the April 7th snapshot:
Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc won 40 seats in the Parliament. Kadhim Ajrash and Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) report that Ibrahim al-Jaafari "won 24 percent of the 428,000 ballots cast in the internal referendum, ahead of al-Sadr's second cousin, Jafar Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, who obtained 23 percent, Sadrist spokesman Salah al-Ubaidi said today in the southern city of Najaf." Al Jazeera notes that Nouri al-Maliki received 10% of the vote and Ayad Allawi 9%. The US military invaded Iraq in March 2003 (and still hasn't left).
When al-Sadr's out of the country, it might not be that much of an issue. But he's back and you can be sure some supporters are wondering, "Why did he tell us that we needed to vote again and that our votes would determine who the bloc supported when that's not what happened?" Nouri is who Moqtada would throw his weight behind starting in August but he wasn't even one of the two top choices among Sadr's supporters. The thing about being the 'returning hero' is that after the parades are over, questions tend to get asked.
Alsumaria TV reports that "Baghdad Operations Command Chief of Staff Brigadier General Hassan Al Baidani affirmed that a series of assassination attempts targeted a number of Interior and Defense Ministries officials. So called Islamic State of Iraq and the League of the Righteous (Asaeb Ahl Al Haq) are behind recent attacks in Iraq, Al Baidani revealed." As officials in various ministries are reportedly targeted, UPI reports that Nouri al-Maliki's continued inability to compile a full Cabinet is "creating major security challenges for the new government" according to Kadhim al-Shimmary of the rival Iraqiya political slate. Iraqiya is calling on Nouri to appoint Ministers of Defense and Electricity. Meanwhile the Cleveland Plain Dealer's editorial board offers:

Now that a new unity government finally has been formed in Baghdad, al-Qaida affiliates that draw strength from Sunni disaffection will become more marginalized. But the country's long period of political instability reinvigorated Sunni radicals, whose internal attacks are intended not just to undermine majority Shiite rule, but also to secure their share of Iraq's rich trade in stolen goods -- in which they're competing with shady Iranian Shiite groups tied to elements of the Iraqi government.

Iraqi Christians have been targeted throughout the Iraq War. The latest wave of attacks on Iraqi Christians began October 31st with the assault on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad. Irfan Husain (Dawn) notes: "In Iraq, a church full of Christians was taken over on Oct 31, with nearly fifty killed. In the resulting atmosphere of fear and sorrow, hardly any Iraqi Christians celebrated Christmas publicly. As it is, around half the million-strong Christian population has fled persecution and violence at the hands of the majority." Elias Sakr (Daily Star) writes of the targeting of Christians across the MidEast:

Lebanese political leaders called Monday on Arab states to outline a united strategy to promote the role of Christians across the Arab world, with the head of the Kataeb (Phalange) Party describing extremist attacks against Middle Eastern Christians as "genocide."
Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt said New Year's suicide bombing of a Coptic church in Egypt that killed 21 people was part of a larger plot to divide the Arab world.
Jumblatt called on Egypt to boost the political participation of Christians in state institutions in a bid to counter attempts to spark strife and tamper with civil peace.
"This a criminal act that aims to shake stability with suspicious fingerprints seeking to foment strife and spread organized chaos," Jumblatt said.
The 56-year-old organization Open Doors released their [PDF format warning] "2011 World Watch List" today documenting the countries in which they find Christians to be the most persecuted in. Last year's number eighth placed Mauritania has been kicked out of the top ten by the 'biggest gainer' Iraq which moved from number seventeen in the 2010 report to number eight in this year's report. Peter Elliott (Everday Christian) quotes Open Doors' Paul Estabrooks stating, "Our perspective is that what is happening in Iraq is just one more example of Islamic extremism that can be seen in Pakistan right through the Middle East to Morocco. Much of it is the perception that America is leading another crusade against them. The interesting thing is there is in-fighting between their groups as well. The targeting of Christians has been really heightened since the Iraq War and it's continuing on. It's almost like an ethnic cleansing or a religious cleansing that's going on. It's like they want to get rid of them because they remind them too much of the decadent West."
In today's violence, Reuters notes a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed 1 life and left another person injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing injured three people, a second Baghdad sticky bombing left two people injured, a Taji roadside bombing left three Iranian pilgrims wounded, 1 person was injured in a Mosul drive-by shooting and 1 employee of the Ministry of Housing and Reconstruction was shot dead in Baghdad.
Today Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi visited Baghdad where he met with Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari as well as with Nouri al-Maliki. The Daily Times reports Zebair declared, "Our constitution doesn't allow any organisation to be on our land and attack our neighbours, and we are committed to that." Publicly, the issue of salt water was not commented on but may have been addressed in either of the private meetings. Furat News reported last month that the Minister of Water Resources had told Iran that they must stop polluting the waters with salt, that salt water is entering Iraq from Iran and that the Swaib River must be protected. Al Swaib River brings in the marshes and the Al Swaib Farm in Basra is a restoration project. It is known that they discussed the MEK.
Since long before the start of the Iraq War, Iranian dissidents have lived in Iraq. Following the US invasion, the US made these MEK residents of Camp Ashraf -- Iranian refuees who had been in Iraq for decades -- surrender weapons and also put them under US protection. They also extracted a 'promise' from Nouri that he would not move against them. July 28th the world saw what Nouri's 'promises' were actually worth. Since that Nouri-ordered assault in which at least 11 residents died, he's continued to bully the residents.

Fiona Govan (Telegraph of London)reports, "A Spanish judge has opened an investigation into alleged human rights abuses by Iraqi authorities at a camp for Iranian refugees in July 2009, the first international probe of its kind since the fall of Saddam. Spain's National Court number 4 ruled in favour of opening an investigation into a complaint filed by victims of a raid by Iraqi soldiers and police on the Ashraf camp which left 11 people dead and dozens injured." Ciaran Giles (AP) adds that Judge Fernando Andreu is calling on testimony to begin March 8th in Madrid and has issued a court write for Iraq's Lt Gen Abdol Hossein al Shemmari to provide testimony. BBC News notes, "Judge Andreu said that the Geneva Convention applied to the case, as it addresses the protection of civilians in wartime. Another factor was that Iraq was not investigating the incident properly, he added." AFP quotes al-Shemmari stating, "I am innocent. The force that entered the camp came from Baghdad, and they were an army force, not from the police. After they entered the camp, they asked Diyala police to establish a police station in the camp, and this is what we did."

Turning to the US Senate, Andrew Tilghman (Army Times) reports that Senators Bill Nelson and Charles Schumer have sent a letter to US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stating that those service members in Iraq and Afghanistan who may be exposed to the fumes from the burnpits should be given respirator masks: "If the use of burn pits is a military necessity in a particular circumstance, military regulations should require that protective respirator masks be made available and shall be provided to all troops within range of being exposed to these potential toxins. These masks can, at a minimum, serve to mitigate the harm being cause by these burn pits and, thus, potentially prevent tragic cases like the death of Sgt. [William] McKenna." On the death of Sgt McKenna, his nephew posted the following at Leftovers Community Raiding:
Hey guys, I know this isn't really the place for this but I am really trying to get the word out on what happened to my Uncle who pasted away 12-28-10.

He served two tours in Iraq, and after an IED blew off his helmet and almost killed him he was medically discharged with a brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. A few months later it was discovered he had cancer and it was ruled as an illness obtained from chemicals exposed to while in Iraq. My Aunt quit her job to help take care of her husband, for over a year getting chemo,radation, blood transfussions, and much more. He finally past away and the Army is not helping with the cost of the burial because he wasn't active duty when he died.

There are a lot of things my Aunt is trying to change in the future to help people that end up just like my Uncle Bill. She is trying to get people that are discharged, but have an life threatening illness full benfits as if they were still active duty.

If my Uncle was active duty when the cancer killed him (he would still be active duty but was forced to be medically discharged) his wife and two young children would be able to receive $100,000 plus burial expencess. Since he is not active duty my Aunt will get $2,000. The burial alone is going to cost over $12,000 and she is praying that enough kind people will donate, even $5 a person, in order to put my Uncle to rest.

I have been trying to get the word spread through all means possible, and it has been spreading pretty good on facebook. If you have a facebook account could you please help by updating your status to the links below?

Please take the time to read this story, I know it's right after the holidays and we're all short on cash but if there's anyway you could donate, even a buck or two, it would help a widow and her two young children to put their husband and dad to rest.

Thank you all for reading and God Bless!

Damangron - Ron Tappen

Here's the link to the story posted by the local Tampa News :

There's an address at the end of that story where donations can be sent.
And we'll note this from the office of the Chair of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Daniel Akaka:


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, President Barack Obama signed into law the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010. The bill was introduced by Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI) last year to make improvements to the education benefit for veterans:

"The young men and women in the Armed Forces provide an incredible service to our nation," said Senator Akaka, a World War II veteran who attended college on the original GI Bill. "With the signing of this bill, young veterans will now have an easier time utilizing the education benefits they have earned. I applaud President Obama and my colleagues in Congress for enacting this important legislation."

The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act (S. 3447) provides for a streamlined, less complex, and more equitable program for veterans who have served on active duty since September 11, 2001.

The new law expands the number of eligible veterans by including a group of National Guard/Reserves veterans who were inadvertently omitted from the original legislation in 2008. It increases educational opportunities by paying benefits for on-job and vocational training. It also provides an annual $1,000 book allowance to service members training while on active duty.

S. 3447 was passed by the Senate on December 13, 2010, and approved by the House of Representatives on December 16.


Monday we noted Oakland Mayor Jean Quan was sworn in. David Bacon (Political Affairs) reports, "Oakland Mayor Jean Quan walked through the city on her inauguration day. She is the first Chinese American woman elected mayor. She started at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center in Chinatown. She then stopped at the Asian Resource Gallery, which featured an exhibit of posters curated by Greg Morizumi, from the Third World Strike at the University of California and political movements in the Asian American community since the 1960s. Mayor Quan designed one of the posters in the exhibit, protesting the beating death of Vincent Chin." David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award.